Writings by Dr. Blair

An Atheist’s Advice

A Sermon by Dr. Ralph Blair at City Church, New York on June 22, 2003

An atheist’s advice? Here it is: Christians should be Christians. That was the advice of at least one atheist. Back in 1948, French Dominicans asked existentialist Albert Camus to talk on the topic: “What Do Unbelievers Expect of Christians?” His remarkable response was that Christians should take their Christian faith more seriously than many do – and not in terms of mere “abstraction.” This philosopher who spent his life fighting nihilism and totalitarianism said that Christians should “speak out, loud and clear … in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest man” as to the truth of their Christian witness.

This was in the same year that another honest unbeliever, Eric Blair, wrote his prophetic novel against the totalitarian utopias of Stalinism, Nazism, capitalist excess and the welfare state – all of which were foolishly embraced by Christians who failed to grasp the depths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Blair, whose 100th birthday was 12 days ago, wrote the book under his Read more →

On Evangelical Faith and Homosexuality

A Lecture at Princeton Theological Seminary
March 21, 2003

What’s so immediately evident is this: Of all Christians, Evangelicals have perhaps the most difficulty integrating any expression of homosexuality with Christian faith. But here’s what’s not so immediately evident: Of all Christians, Evangelicals should have the least difficulty integrating at least some expression of homosexuality with Christian faith.

Why do so many Evangelicals have such difficulty? Perhaps it’s because they tend to take neither sin nor the evangel as seriously as they say they do? They would not have such difficulty if they but took sin and the evangel as seriously as they ought.

Evangelicals say that sin is so horrible that it cost Jesus his life on the cross. And it is so horrible. And it did cost Jesus his life. Jesus went to the cross to atone for the horror of this Read more →

Blessed Assurance

for The City Church, New York on March 9, 2003

As I mentioned, today is the birthday of Phoebe Palmer Knapp. It was 130 years ago, in the Knapp mansion on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, that she first played her new hymn tune for her friend, the blind poet, Fanny Crosby. “What does this tune say, Fanny?,” she asked. Her friend answered with no hesitation: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!,” and she went on to write the rest of it.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Both women knew just what that meant, though they came from very different backgrounds. One was born to New York’s high society and married the founder of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The other was born to a hardscrabble life up in Putnam County and now lived among black servants and day laborers in a tenement down at Varick and Canal Streets. But they both belonged to Jesus. They both belonged to Jesus, to whom, in Fanny’s words, they submitted in perfect delight, in whose Spirit they were Read more →

Plain Christianity

A Study Series for The City Church, New York, Winter, 2002

By Dr. Ralph Blair

Introduction

Three weeks ago I was in California for a wedding. On Sunday morning, I was taken to Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral where “never is heard a discouraging word.” At least that’s the intention at the palace of “possibility thinking.”

The choir sang Charles Wesley’s glorious hymn, “O For a Thousand Tongues To Sing My Great Redeemer’s Praise.” Accompanied by the massive pipe organ and full orchestra, it was an inspiring sound of praise. For that hymn, Wesley had written these lines: “Jesus, the Name that charms our fears, / That bids our sorrows cease; / ‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears, / ‘Tis life, and health, and peace.” But in Schuller’s so-called “Positive Christianity,” Wesley’s biblical theology gets sanitized. They are no longer “sinner’s ears” but “listener’s ears” where the name of Jesus sounds as music. But in singing of “My Great Redeemer’s Praise,” what am I then redeemed from? Isn’t it in the ear of one who knows himself or herself to be a sinner in need of salvation that the name of Jesus – Redeemer – is music? It is sin from which we’re saved. And, of course, there was no confession of sin at the Crystal Cathedral. As Dr. Boyd has reminded us, many churches these days consider a confession of sin to be “a downer.” Schuller does. He vows never to address his congregation as sinners. Well that’s a downer. Without a realistic diagnosis there’s no realistic remedy. If sin brings one down – as it does – the confession of that sin should be anything but “a downer.” Read more →

Our Only Comfort

Our Only Comfort Our Only Comfort in Life and in Death
Meditations in The Heidelberg Catechism

Dr. Ralph Blair

The City Church, New York, October 6, 13, 20, 27, 2002

FIRST LESSON

The interruption of everyday life by sudden death and destruction was never as massive here in America as on 9/11 a year ago. And yet, fewer than half of Americans polled by Barna Research reported that religious faith was the key – or even a key – resource in coping with the attacks. George Barna rightly concludes that this finding “says something about the spiritual complacency of the American public.” Read more →

The Best Parent and Friend of Lesbians and Gays

Dr. Ralph Blair’s Remarks to Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City, September 8, 2002

Turning to the Bible in a discussion of homosexuality, we don’t have to begin with those few verses that are misused to abuse homosexuals. (You may read my analysis of those verses in The Bible is an Empty Closet.) Instead, we can begin at the beginning.

For Christians, it all started when the Trinity of Love we Christians know as the Triune God said: “Let us make human beings in our image.” [Gen. 1:26] That’s when we were given the gift of life and life together – life with God and life with one another. So, as a Bible scholar puts it, “The Trinitarian sociality of God is the basis for true creaturely sociality. The desire we have for union … — whether the union of solidarity, or of friendship, or of intimacy, or of sexual intercourse – is a desire which expresses the divine nature within us.” [Stephen Barton] That Divine Team who is the Trinity creates us for teamwork, too. And the gift of desire for a teamed togetherness is given to homosexuals no less than to heterosexuals.
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Jesus Christ is Lord! So What!

An expanded version of the Keynote address delivered by Dr. Ralph Blair at the Eastern and Western connECtions 2002.

INTRODUCTION

“Jesus Christ is Lord!” So what! There’s no more foolish non sequitur than that. Yet among so many Christians, there’s no more frequent folly. Of course, among non-Christians, this dismissive statement seems no non sequitur. As Paul said: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ [and really mean it] unless he or she is prompted by God’s Holy Spirit.” (I Cor 12:3)

“So What!” That’s the least of the interjections of indifference. “Yeah, well, so?” “Whatever!” They get rougher, more hostile. “Who cares?” “Who gives a damn?” “Who gives a shit?” Shall I go on? Christians usually don’t go on from there. And, of course, Christians don’t actually say: “Jesus Christ is Lord! So what?” No. With eyes closed and hands aloft, Christians sing the praise chorus, “He is Lord.” And with eyes shut against that truth and a hands-off policy to what is proclaimed, we lead our lives to suit ourselves. For too many, instead of following through on Christ’s Lordship – there’s a flaking out in the fantasies of our own lord- and ladyships. For all practical purposes, it’s not: “Jesus Christ is Lord!” Forever! It’s “Jesus Christ is Lord!” Whatever! Read more →

The Matchless Match: How to Achieve Sexual Intimacy

A Workshop Presentation for the Western ConnECtion2002 at Chapman University in Orange, California, July 26, 2002

Half a hundred summer connECtions have come and gone since that first one in 1980. My keynote address that summer was entitled: “Getting Close: Steps Toward Intimacy.” I said: “I am going to begin with a neglected passage from Ecclesiastes 4.” And I read this Scripture: “Then I looked again at all the injustice that goes on in this world. The oppressed were crying, and no one would help them. No one would help them because their oppressors had power on their side. … Here is one who lives alone. This person has no children, no sister or brother, yet this person is always working, never satisfied with the income. For whom is this person working so hard and denying self any pleasure? This is useless, too – and a miserable way to live. Two are better-off than one, because together they can work more effectively. If one of them falls down, the other can help the person up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help. If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself? Two can resist an attack that would defeat one alone.” [Ecclesiastes 1:1 and 4:8-12]

Those old lines are poignant. And even with the intervening millennia and all the cultural changes from the ancient Middle East to the advent of Western romance from the Middle Ages Read more →

Moneyism

New York, July 21, 2002

“Eternity” is for sale, and so is “Truth” – as high fashion fragrances from Calvin Klein. And they’re not cheap. That’s the point. And these bottled ego-builders are the least of the luxuries available to those who think they need such things.

A New York Times advertising supplement on “The New Luxury” assures us that “The ego builder’s soul mate is the person who pays an outrageous price for the ultimate product … [and that] to most ego-driven people, it’s important that everyone else know that they own the best, whether it’s the biggest ranch or the car with the longest hood.” According to this Read more →

Signs of Jonah

A Sermon Preached at City Church, New York, June 23, 2002

What do you think is America’s No. 1-selling children’s video? It’s a Bible story starring a talking tomato and cucumber. And in October, more than a thousand big screens across the country will be showing the VeggieTales version of Jonah and the Whale.

But a sermon on “Jonah and the Whale?” This stuff of tacky tchotchkes and bubble bath for kids? A sermon on a silly story about a guy who gets swallowed by a whale? And any Bible Quiz nerd knows it wasn’t a whale anyway. It was a “big fish.” So – don’t “save the whale” part. But then it’s a silly story about a guy who gets swallowed by a big fish. So it still sounds far-fetched, even – dare we say – fishy. Sounds like something right out of The National Enquirer! Read more →

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