Today is the 221st anniversary of the birth of John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States, on January 25, 1790. Now, I’m sure you haven’t given a lot of thought to ol’ Jawn (best known as the back half of “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too!”, he  succeeded William Henry Harrison upon the latter’s death in office one month after inauguration), but he has an extraordinary legacy: he has living grandchildren. According to Yahoo News:

So, how is it possible that a former president who died 150 years ago would still have direct descendents [sic–he means grandchildren–DSF] alive today? As it turns out, the Tyler men were known for fathering children late in life. And that math is pretty outstanding when added up:

John Tyler was born in 1790. He became the 10th president of the United States in 1841 after William Henry Harrison died in office. Tyler fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler in 1853, at age 63.  Then, at the age of 71, Lyon Gardiner Tyler fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1924 and four years later at age 75, Harrison Ruffin Tyler. Both men are still alive today.

Think about that: John Tyler was born less than ten years after the end of the Revolutionary War, less than three years after the ratification of the Constitution, less than a year ater the inauguration of George Washington as our first president. That man has living grandsons, one of whom is only seven years younger than Ron Paul, who is running for president today. Incredible.

One of my very favorite figures from all of church history is the 4th century Patriarch of Alexandria, Athanasius. Back when I had a column in the monthly magazine of the Moravian Church, I called it “The Annals of Athanasius.” When I took up writing a blog I called Ecumenical Insanity, I wrote under the pseudonym of Athanasius. The archbishop of the great Egyptian city is a hero to anyone who values orthodoxy and recognizes the need to fight for it when it is under attack in the church catholic.

Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy has a piece in Touchstone about the great saint entitled “Contra Mundum Redux,” and I recommend it for your perusal. A couple of highlights:

One of my favorite descriptions of Athanasius comes from Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,which devoted several chapters to the Arian controversy. No fan of Christianity, Gibbon nonetheless lavished his admiration on the zealous bishop of Alexandria who nearly single-handedly championed theological orthodoxy when it seemed all of Christendom was succumbing to Arius’s alternative brand of religion….

Athanasius was expelled from his throne five times and spent 20 years as an exile or a fugitive. Yet almost every province of the Roman empire was “successively witness to his merit, and his sufferings in the cause of the Homoousion [the doctrine of Christ’s co-substantiality with the Father], which he considered as the sole pleasure and business, as the duty, and as the glory, of his life.” …

Whether from his bishop’s throne or from an obscure hiding place, Athanasius never compromised on the essentials or fell silent, his writings penetrating the far reaches of the empire even when the bishop himself was elusive. Although Arianism would endure beyond the life of Athanasius, its ultimate defeat within Christendom was achieved only because of his witness and exertions, operating under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whose full deity, along with that of the Son and of the Father, was the unfailing guidepost to the ostracized but never despairing bishop.

Tooley offers thirteen “attributes” of Athanasius for emulation in the modern-day fight against heresy and apostasy, along with a concluding lesson. It’s a needed reminder of what’s needed in church leaders today. Joe Bob says check it out.

…this is true, it could potentially constitute an extremely important find. If not, well, nothing’s changed. The BBC reports:

They could be the earliest Christian writing in existence, surviving almost 2,000 years in a Jordanian cave. They could, just possibly, change our understanding of how Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and how Christianity was born.

A group of 70 or so “books”, each with between five and 15 lead leaves bound by lead rings, was apparently discovered in a remote arid valley in northern Jordan somewhere between 2005 and 2007.

A flash flood had exposed two niches inside the cave, one of them marked with a menorah or candlestick, the ancient Jewish religious symbol.

A Jordanian Bedouin opened these plugs, and what he found inside might constitute extremely rare relics of early Christianity.

The director of the Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, says the books might have been made by followers of Jesus in the few decades immediately following his crucifixion.

“They will really match, and perhaps be more significant than, the Dead Sea Scrolls,” says Mr Saad.

“Maybe it will lead to further interpretation and authenticity checks of the material, but the initial information is very encouraging, and it seems that we are looking at a very important and significant discovery, maybe the most important discovery in the history of archaeology.”

Read it all. The reporting is not stellar–for instance, the article refers to the expression “I shall walk uprightly” as being in the Book of Revelation, which it isn’t–and I don’t quite get the significance of some of the stuff that is being trumpeted. For instance:

One of the few people to see the collection is David Elkington, a scholar of ancient religious archaeology who is heading a British team trying to get the lead books safely into a Jordanian museum.

Mr Elkington says the relics feature signs that early Christians would have interpreted as indicating Jesus, shown side-by-side with others they would have regarded as representing the presence of God.

“It’s talking about the coming of the messiah,” he says.

“In the upper square [of one of the book covers] we have the seven-branch menorah, which Jews were utterly forbidden to represent because it resided in the holiest place in the Temple in the presence of God.

“So we have the coming of the messiah to approach the holy of holies, in other words to get legitimacy from God.”

I’ve never heard of an association between the menorah and the Messiah, and the prohibition on depicting the menorah only came about after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, so the issue of dating for these books becomes crucial for this claim. Anyway, we’ll all have to wait and see what the experts come up with, and especially for the books to be translated (they could contain nothing more fascinating than Mrs. Moskowitz’s recipe for latkas). But the potential for something earth-shaking is there.

(Via Stand Firm.)

November 9, 1989 is one of those dates that will be forever etched in the historical memory of humanity. It was the day that the Berlin Wall was breached by the people of East Germany, the symbolic culmination of months of demonstrations and activism (led, in significant measure, by the Protestant churches) aimed at bringing down totalitarian rule and eventually reuniting the two Germanies. It was scenes like this that stirred people’s souls across the globe:


If you had told me on January 1, 1983 that within ten years Eastern Europe would be free, Germany would be one united country, and the Soviet Union would have disintegrated, I’d have said you were crazy. Amazing.