I had a good discussion yesterday with my pastor covenant group about our discernment process as a church in the wake of the Frank Schaefer trial and controversy. I know that I got a little hot-headed in the debate online so I wanted to offer more circumspect reflections. I believe that each disciple of Jesus Christ not only has the right but actually the duty to contribute to the ongoing living interpretive tradition of our faith. Some Christians think that the Bible doesn’t require any interpretation, but I contend that the way we interpret it is by living it and sharing our testimony with each other. Continue reading
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the disconnect between our public posturing as Christians and our actual behavior. I wrote last week about the difference between talking tough about sin in our public gestures and actually having tough conversations about our own sin in accountable relationships. Well today I’m confronted by the gap between the way I talk about reading the Bible and what really happens when I read it. Or at least today when I read all 8 of the weekly and daily Lectionary passages (Old Testament, Psalm, gospel, and epistle for each), God didn’t give me a word in any of them and that makes me doubt not God’s existence per se but whether I have the right expectations for what His book actually does. Continue reading
It’s probably not best practice for a preacher to say this publicly, but my sermon this weekend was pretty awful. I think it’s because I’ve psyched myself out thinking that my congregation isn’t interested in the esoteric, mystical theological nerdiness that I care about, so I got tangled up in knots trying to figure out how to craft a relevant message instead of listening to what God had given me to say, which is why it never came together. So first I wanted to say I’m sorry to anyone who was there. And I wanted to try to write now what I should have pulled together more coherently before I stood up in front of God’s people. What I wanted to say in my sermon is that the Bible is so much more than a reference manual or a rulebook; the reason it’s called “God-breathed” is because God wants to use it to make our existence inspired, which means to live in the freedom and delight of His breath.
Well I got into a twitter argument with a young Calvinist named John following his response to some of my retweets of Jonathan Martin’s sermon “Playing God” this past Sunday. It was one of those petty affairs where I was nitpicking his “objections,” which I could have at least partly agreed with if I were listening charitably, because of my need to hear him concede a point to me without qualification. He said something that I trashed at the time which I wanted to consider more thoughtfully now: “If your doctrine is sound, you will love deeply.” So interrogating this statement is the focus of my second riff on morality, truth, Biblical interpretation, etc, in light of Genesis 3’s provocative claim that the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is paradoxically the poisonous foundation for human sin. Continue reading
In seminary, I learned to think of truth as a symphony rather than a single voice or instrument. The goal is not to get everyone to play the exact same note with the exact same instrument; the goal is to enter into harmony with each others’ instruments so that we can become God’s song. It’s not the absolute relativism of playing our own autonomous songs; that would be a disastrous cacophony of sound. Rather, we are all playing our own particular improvisational variations on God’s melody. God designs the harmonic that we have been created to inhabit by helping us appropriate a particular set of experiences of His grace and by tattooing certain verses in His word onto our hearts over the course of our lives. Though there are tons of scripture passages that have touched me, five in particular define the gospel I was given to proclaim. The first I’m going to cover is 1 Corinthians 1:28: “God chose the base things, the despised ones and those who are not, to reduce to nothing things that are.” Continue reading
Two weeks ago, Jonathan Martin kicked off his “Both And” sermon series on Biblical interpretation by looking at the story of Acts 15, when the Jerusalem church officially decided that circumcision would not be required of the Gentiles. Jonathan titled his sermon “Spirit, Word, Community” after the three components of spiritual discernment that are in play in this passage. These are similar to the four aspects of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. What is interesting and scandalous about Acts 15 is that the charismatic witness of the Holy Spirit (i.e. experience) has a much greater role to play for the church than scripture itself. Continue reading
The latest movement in neo-patriarchal evangelicaldom is a call for women to return to covering their heads in worship per the instructions of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11. The movement’s website features a quote from neo-Calvinist scholar R.C. Sproul: “The wearing of fabric head coverings in worship was universally the practice of Christian women until the twentieth century. What happened? Did we suddenly find some biblical truth to which the saints for thousands of years were blind? Or were our biblical views of women gradually eroded by the modern feminist movement that has infiltrated the Church…?” Do you think Sproul is right? If not, what would you say to Sproul and on what authority would you justify your response? Continue reading
Renovatus Church has just started an awesome sermon series on how to read the Bible that will be either tremendously liberating or offensive for you to hear, depending on what kind of Christian you are. This week, Jonathan Martin shared the pulpit with Dr. Chris Green, a theology professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary, to talk about what ought to happen to us when we read Bible stories that make God look ugly and arbitrary, like when He chooses one brother over another in the Old Testament or orders genocide. Jonathan and Chris argue that we’re reading it wrong if we don’t feel any sympathy for the people who get hurt, because the point is not merely to learn information about God but to gain the heart of Christ.
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “weightier matters of the law”? It sounds like they would be the parts of the Bible that are hard for a modern world to accept. Evangelical Christians in our time tend to litmus-test their faith according to their loyalty to what they see as the “weightier” parts of the Bible that clash with modern sensibilities, whether it’s young Earth creationism, the eternal conscious torment of hell, a complementarian account of gender, or opposition to homosexuality, to name the top four. But what does Jesus say are the “weightier matters of the law” in Matthew 23:23? Continue reading
There has been so much extra-Biblical speculation about the implications of the Garden of Eden story that it’s very hard to read the story on its own terms. When I was a kid, I couldn’t get over how ridiculous it was for God to be mad enough to burn billions of people in hell over a stupid apple. Well, it would be ridiculous if that were the truth. But if we read the actual text of Genesis 3, it offers us a brilliant allegorical illustration of the loss of innocence and trust that every human being goes through and which God is . A written summary for last weekend’s sermon is below. Here is the audio: Continue reading