In March, I fasted from blogging for Lent. April and May of 2012 were dominated by thoughts about our United Methodist General Conference. There was also a series of violent tornadoes that John Piper decided to interpret as God’s wrath against America for homosexuality or abortion (I can’t remember which one). Since homosexuality dominated the conversation around General Conference, I wrote a few pieces about it, striving to be both faithful to scripture and faithful to people I love who are gay. I also preached a sermon comparing and contrasting the uniformity and top-down vision of the Tower of Babel with the chaos of Pentecost. So here are the 10 from April and May. Continue reading
“I struggled with it for a long time, but then I came to realize that life is a gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.” That’s the quote from Richard Mourdock that lit the blogosphere on fire. So what’s going on here? Is it misogyny, poor taste, or bad theology, or some combination of all three? It really depends upon how we define misogyny. I don’t think this quote proves that Richard Mourdock hates women; I have no reason to think he isn’t a perfectly humble and compassionate gentleman to all the women in his life. But I do think that his bad theology caused him to think in abstract, ideological terms about a delicate issue with the result that he said something in extremely poor taste that does real emotional violence to the rape victims who read it. And since I’m a theologian, I’m going to focus on the theology. Continue reading
Is God’s goal for humanity communion or correctness? The way you answer that question will determine your understanding of atonement, orthodoxy, holiness, Biblical interpretation, and just about every other major issue within Christian thought. Does Jesus’ cross serves the purpose of imputing perfect correctness to imperfect people or creating peace and reconciliation between otherwise irreconcilable people? That is the distinction. For the purpose of this piece, I want to define correctness very specifically as a way of thinking about behavior and opinions in which there is one right answer and the goal is absolute uniformity. Righteousness is different from correctness; its absolute would be perfect love for God and neighbor which would not necessarily result in identical decisions being made in the same circumstances but a perfect disposition for making these decisions. I believe that a certain threshold of correctness is important for the sake of establishing communion between God’s people, but if correctness means chasing after an elusive goal of absolute ideological conformity, then it is a source of schism in the body of Christ and as such a heretical pursuit.
I’ve often wondered if the same thing that makes violent video games appealing is why young evangelical guys are so infatuated with penal substitution theology. I figure a scary bad- !@#$%^&* God is cool for the same reason that the loud wet smack of a linebacker knocking the wind out of a quarterback is cool (I was that linebacker once).
I imagine it’s no surprise that a Methodist pastor would consider the dean of the Neo-Calvinist movement, John Piper, to be a theological adversary. Followers of John Wesley and John Calvin have been arguing for centuries. But there’s a basic difference between Piper and someone like the fundamentalist rock star Pat Robertson. Robertson has said so many outlandish things that I can’t take him seriously. My only concern with Robertson is that every time he gets in the news, thousands of non-believers make up their minds more thoroughly that they will never consider Christianity. My concern with Piper is that he might be right about God, because he is right on a number of things, but it’s sometimes hard to fathom how the God I know and love is the same God who talks to John Piper. Then Piper said something last month that made me stop taking him seriously except as a threat to Christian evangelism. Continue reading
I’ve decided to take a risk and share truthfully about a phase in my Christian life that I have been afraid to talk about. There’s been a lot of debate in the evangelical blogosphere about the appropriateness of female pastors. Mark Driscoll suggested that British evangelicals are failing because they have female pastors. More recently, Rachel Held Evans asked for Christian men to share their thoughts on John Piper’s assertion that “God has given a Christianity a masculine feel.” I’ve got scriptural arguments for why I support women in ministry, but I’ve found before that making appeals to the Bible doesn’t change “Biblical” minds who have already figured everything out and barricaded themselves behind their proof-texts. So I thought instead that I would share a real life story about Pastor Cheri, my first female pastor. I was only at her church for about nine months, but she had a decisive influence on my Christian identity. Continue reading
Along with fellow bloggers Kurt Willems and Carson Clark, I have been contemplating my identity as an evangelical who is at odds with many other Christians that identify themselves as evangelical. I’m sure someone is snickering that this is the sort of thing that a privileged white Jesus nerd with too much time on his hands would pontificate about. Anyway, I’ve decided not to call the Christians I’ve been beefing with all my life evangelicals anymore. Since the word fundamentalist has apparently gone out of circulation, I’ve decided to rename them anathematicals. Let me explain. Continue reading