Freedom of Religious Expression in Jeopardy?

The Supreme Court handed down a ruling today that should interest religious groups operating on college campuses in particular and in a broader context as well. The Christian Legal Society was denied official recognition by the University of California’s law school in San Francisco.

What was the deciding factor in the Supreme Court’s ruling—the school’s policy concerning campus organizations. It essentially limits official recognition by the criteria that groups may not reject anyone because of sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or other criteria protected under federal and state law.

The main point of debate is whether or not it is discrimination to preclude individuals from membership based upon sexual orientation. This is a point on which the Supreme Court’s decision did not specifically address. The group is distinctly a Christian organization and therefore, should have no appeal to those of other religious beliefs or those with sexual orientations contrary to the groups expressed beliefs. My question is this, if this were a Muslim, Jewish, or etc. group, would the decision have been the same? I venture to think not.

I would like to hear your thoughts on two points:

(1) Do you think it is discrimination for this group to limit membership to those of like belief resulting in non-heterosexuals being precluded from membership?

(2) Do you think this a serious blow to religious expression?
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Book Review: Too Soon to Say Goodbye

Susan Titus Osborn, Kosman, Karen L., and Gordon, Jeenie. Too Soon to Say Goodbye: Healing and Hope for Victims and Survivors of Suicide. Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2010, 205pp.

This book deals in depth with the many aspects of suicide. It dives into the tide of emotions which engulfs those who attempt and/or commit suicide as well as the emotions of those friends and loved ones involved in that persons life. The book contains twelve chapters that take you along the journey of understanding suicide to healing and living life freely once again.

As I read this book, I couldn’t help but be drawn into it because the authors use stories of persons who committed suicide and the stories of their loved ones living in the wake of such a great and tragic blow to their life. It captivated me as my heart ached for each person as they told their story. The book brings excellent understanding on how to minister to those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one by suicide—highlighting those things we often say that do more harm than good. Just as importantly, it explains how we move on and neglect to continue ministering even when they are still grieving and hurting. By far though, my favorite aspect of this book was the little sections titles “Words from Jeenie.” In these sections, Jeenie gives tidbits about possible motivations for suicide, stages of grief, and realities of life for those experiencing the loss. Even if someone didn’t want to read the entire book, much could be gained simply by thumbing through and reading these sections alone.

As great as this book is, I must warn you that it deals with a very depressing topic and you will most likely find yourself experiencing a lot of different emotions—from depression to sorrow to astonishment and down the line. If you are someone who has personally dealt with suicide or the loss of a loved one by suicide, this book will most certainly bring out all of those emotions you experienced when you first began dealing with your grief. For those who are not strong in their emotional stability, I would recommend that you plan to have something happy and uplifting planned for the times following your reading of this book.

All in all, this was a very well written book discussing a subject that has become taboo in American culture. However, it is a subject in desperate need of attention as this is something which affects such a large portion of our population.

You can purchase this book at or from the WMU Store.

I received this book free from New Hope Publishers as part of their New Hope Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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Are there really “lost books” of the Bible?

What are the “lost books”?

Over the last few years, there has been quite a bit of discussion regarding writings that have been deemed “the lost books of the Bible.” But is this really a good characterization of these books? What are the books? Were they ever included among the other writings of the Bible? These are all valid questions that surface when one begins to consider this discussion of whether or not these books hold a rightful place in the canon of Scripture.

There are really two categories into which the books fall—Old Testament and New Testament. No surprise there huh? Those books which would fall into the Old Testament are collectively known as the Apocrypha and those which would fall into the New Testament are known as the Gnostic Gospels.

The Apocrypha includes the following 15 books: 1 & 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, Song of Three Youths, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, the Prayer of Manasseh, and 1 & 2 Maccabbees. These books were written during what is commonly known as the intertestamental period, which was roughly from 300 BC – 100 BC.

The Gnostic Gospels are a much broader group of books of which there is no standard list in the sense of a canon. However, some of the more popular books from this group include The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Philip, The Gospel of Mary, The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles, and The Sophia of Jesus Christ. These books were written anywhere from 100 AD – 800 AD.

Were these books originally in the Bible and then lost?

Let me first introduce you to why many of these books are even considered to have been lost. For centuries, the only Scriptural writings known for the New Testament were the 27 which appear in the Bible today. It was not until the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts that anyone even wondered about “lost books” of the Bible. Why, you might ask? It is because this discovery contained many of the books which are now known as the Gnostic Gospels. Before this discovery, there was no real question about the canon of Scripture being purposefully altered.

In fact, the very names given to these two groups tell much about why they are not contained in the canon of Scripture. Apocrypha is a Greek word which translated to English would roughly mean “hidden” or “hard/difficult to understand.” This is very similar to what the word Gnostic or Gnosis means. Gnosis is also a Greek word which means “knowledge.” It came to describe a religious sect that viewed knowledge in a very peculiar manner. They viewed knowledge as a means to the supernatural. Basically, as they gained knowledge they would become more divine. This was not just any knowledge however; it had to be a special knowledge which was taught to you by those who already possessed the higher knowledge. The leaders held the special/higher knowledge and taught it to their initiates/disciples/students in little bits as the leaders deemed the students were ready and able to handle it.

The Apocrypha and the Gnostic Gospels were also never placed in the canon of Scripture because they failed to meet the criteria of which the rest of the books did meet. For the Old Testament, the number one criterion to be considered for inscripturation was prophetic authorship. Along with this was the question of whether or not the prophet was confirmed by an act of God. Furthermore, the Jews did not accept these books as canonical.

The case against the Gnostic Gospels is very similar. All of the Gnostic Gospels were written after the death of the apostles, which was the first criteria for acceptance into the canon—either direct apostolic authorship or apostolic approval. Another criterion was whether they were considered Scripture by the early church, which they were not. Furthermore, they contain teachings which are directly contrary to those books that are considered to be Scripture.

How should these books be characterized?

The books contained in the Apocrypha should not simply be discarded as useless simply because they are not Scripture. They contain some very valuable perspectives and information that add much to the understanding of Scripture. These books add much to understanding what happened during the intertestamental period in terms of Jewish history and religion. For example, 1 and 2 Maccabbees records the history of the Jewish revolt against Antiochus Epiphanies, which resulted in the Jews gaining their independence back for some time. The Apocryphal writings are a great source of information that is just not Scripture—much like a modern-day commentary on the Bible can be a great source of information but is not on par with the Bible.

The Gnostic Gospels, however, fall into a much different realm. In general, they do not contain historical information about Christianity or its development. Most attempt to demonstrate that Jesus was Divine but was not human. In doing this, they incorporate many strange teachings that are completely contrary to what the rest of the New Testament teaches. I still would not say that they need to be discarded because they add much to the understanding of the beliefs of the Gnostics.

In short, there are no lost books of the Bible, we are not missing critical parts of the Bible, nor was the canon of Scripture selected to meet the specific beliefs of a select few leaders of the church. The canon of 66 books we possess today is the same canon the early Christians possessed by 100 AD. So don’t worry about your Bible missing books, they’re all there!
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