I knew it was coming: the Piper tweet, this time quoting Job in response to the Oklahoma tornado. As the dean of the neo-Calvinist movement, John Piper likes to push the envelope with his commentary on God’s role in natural disasters. He did it about a year ago when tornadoes hit the midwest. In 2007 after the Minneapolis bridge collapsed, he wrote that he and his daughter discussed how God must have done it so the people of Minneapolis would fear Him because our sin against God is “an outrage ten thousand times worse than the collapse of the 35W bridge.” Piper would say that he’s just being Biblical and that it shouldn’t be surprising that speaking Biblically would make people feel uncomfortable. So how do we talk about God’s role in tragedies?
Sometimes you hear songs that only your eyes know how to talk about. I’ve spent all day talking with my eyes as I listen to a very beautiful album of songs by Zach Sobiech, a kid who died of cancer yesterday after recording an album in the final months of his life. Zach formed a band called A Firm Handshake with his lifelong friend Sammy Brown when he learned that he had less than a year to live. I’ve spent time that I don’t have trying and failing to summon up the right combination of adjectives to describe his music about living richly in the shadow of death. Continue reading
To prepare for Pentecost, I’ve been reading Pentecostal theologian Amos Yong’s The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh. Yong argues for a “pneumatological soteriology” (Spirit-centered account of salvation) that “would be in contrast to soteriologies that tend to bifurcate the work of Christ and of the Spirit… articulated by Protestant scholasticism… [in which] Christ provides salvation objectively (e.g., in justification) and the Spirit accomplishes salvation subjectively (e.g., in sanctification)” (82). In the prophecy from Joel that Peter quotes on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, God makes an incredible promise: “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” What if this statement is taken as the centerpiece of God’s salvation of humanity and the world? What if the salvation made possible through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ finds its full expression in the perpetual Pentecost poured out by the Holy Spirit? Continue reading
You may have noticed that an eery looking emblem recently appeared on my blog with some Greek and Hebrew along with a reference to 1 Corinthians 1:28, one of my favorite verses in the Bible: “He has chosen the despised ones and those who are not to bring to nothing the things that are.” Several nights ago, I got into a casual conversation with my blogger friends Zach Hoag and T.C. Moore. We decided to join forces in some fashion under the banner of “The Despised Ones.” We made a logo and invited some friends to join us, whatever it is that we will end up doing. Continue reading
Because I like to go against the grain, I wanted to try to stick up for Tony Jones (or sympathetically deconstruct him?) since he’s taken a lot of heat (here, here, here, here) in the progressive Christian blogosphere lately for his exhibition of white male privilege, most recently a rant about “being called a racist.” I’m less interested in arguing with anyone else’s criticisms or reflections which have generally been useful and thoughtful than I am in looking more deeply at the specific context that got Tony into trouble for better diagnostic and learning purposes. Basically, the “emergent” theology that appeals to post-evangelicals who grow up in a privileged context is very different than the theology that attracts the poor in the Global South, with whom emergent post-evangelicals desperately want to be in solidarity and whose theological dissonance is a huge source of anxiety. This is what I would call the white emergentsia’s “Pentecostal problem.” Continue reading
Several months ago, someone from the United Methodist communications office emailed me to see if I could blog about the Methodist “Imagine No Malaria” campaign. She gave me statistics about how many kids in Africa die from malaria each year and tried to make a case for it being an important enough issue for me to write about. To my discredit, I didn’t take her up on the offer. Why? Because campaigns against malaria and the other quiet, methodical ways that God’s people change the world aren’t sexy enough. They just don’t get blog hits the way that scandals do! But this weekend, Methodist churches around the world will be doing a coordinated missions push called Change the World in which the world will be changed through hundreds of thousands of humble, unglamorous acts of Christian servanthood, even if people like me aren’t paying attention because we’re wrapped up in our favorite scandals. Continue reading
I just came across this video from Nathan Blanc, a 19 year old Israeli who has refused the mandatory time of service in the Israeli military because of his objection to the occupation of Palestine. Israeli law does not allow for conscientious objectors so they are sent to prison if they refuse to serve. Hear what he has to say and judge for yourself, and then check out this link to an article about other Israeli youth who are picking prison over occupation.
There has never been a time when somebody in our government was not misbehaving in some kind of way, whether it’s overthrowing democratically elected presidents of other countries or tailoring legislation to fill the pockets of campaign donors. The latest misbehavior has involved the surveillance of the Associated Press by the Justice Department as part of an investigation of leaks of classified information and the targeted scrutiny of conservative political “non-profits” by the IRS. The sad irony in these incidents is that the government is behaving undemocratically and very clumsily in response to issues that are legitimately undermining our democracy. Continue reading
The latest theater in the Methodist proxy war over homosexuality has involved attacks here and here on the “so-called” Wesleyan quadrilateral. It’s really painful to me to see the “so-called” adjective being added to it.To me, the quadrilateral is one of the jewels of Wesleyan theology regardless of its derivative status. I don’t see it as a method of Biblical interpretation per se, but rather open honesty about what everyone really does when they interpret the Bible using the plain meaning of the text itself, the church’s interpretive tradition, our deductive reason, and the meta-rational intuitions of our experience. The conservatives don’t like “experience” because it’s not something they can pin down and adjudicate decisively. But to drop-kick “experience” from Biblical interpretation is really to say that the Holy Spirit is not allowed to speak to us outside of the Biblical text. It’s very apropos for us to be having this conversation on the eve of Pentecost.
In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt traces the history of European anti-Semitism through its many decades stewing as an ideology that became normative. It was like a dormant ideological virus until the right social catalyst transformed it into genocide: the economic devastation and social upheaval of Eastern Europe after the first World War and then the Great Depression. I’m genuinely concerned that the escalating anti-government rhetoric within the US is functioning similarly as a viral ideology that will turn bloody given the right social catalyst. This question will offend some people, but I think it’s my duty to ask it. If you say you’re collecting guns to protect yourself from government tyranny and you call the current president a tyrant, at what point are you going to start shooting? Continue reading