Does doctrine inspire love? (more fallout from @renovatuspastor’s sermon)

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

Five C’s of Christian Mansplanation

I witnessed a conversation on facebook last night where one of these young, restless, well informed Christian guys was being a mansplaining stereotype of himself. There is a particular form of Christian thought that causes people (usually men because of how we’re wired but occasionally women) to think they’re experts in the faith after maybe a couple of years of serious Bible study. Their expertise then gives them the duty to “mansplain” Christianity, e.g. do things like ask patronizing, predictable rhetorical questions of complete strangers in social media in order to help them become experts in Christianity too. This morning while taking a bath, I thought of five C’s that characterize Christian mansplanation: clarity, conclusiveness, conformity, commodity, and control. Continue reading

Looking Back on 2012: Jan-Feb

I figured I would end 2012 by reviewing a selection of my posts from throughout the year chronologically, starting with 10 posts from January and February, which I have listed below with a brief description for each of them. These don’t necessarily have any ranking to them; they are just the ten that first jumped out at me for being either popular or important. Continue reading

Reformation Day & Augustine’s hermeneutical standard of love

When the Reformation happened in the 1500’s, there were very different assumptions in place about who had the authority to interpret scripture. The Biblical “literalism” that evangelical America takes for granted today was not at all the standard. It’s important for evangelicals to recognize that “literalism” is not a claim about the authority of scripture, but about the authority of the interpreter. It concerns whether I need a priest to interpret the Bible for me (which would be a conservative position) or if I can open the Bible to any given verse and interpret it for myself (which is not a conservative but a populist claim). Both Martin Luther and John Calvin relied heavily in their treatises on the work of 4th century theologian Augustine to make their case for breaking with Roman Catholic tradition. Their argument was conservative (the present church has strayed from an apostolic orthodoxy in the past) rather than populist (screw tradition; I have the authority to read the Bible for myself). One way to describe the crisis of Biblical interpretation today is that the evangelical descendents of the Reformation have betrayed the original Reformers with the populism of Biblical “literalism”; we need to return to the heremeneutical standard of the master-theologian to whom Luther and Calvin tethered their thinking.

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Unity in the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:1-16)

As part of our celebration of World Communion Sunday this weekend at Burke United Methodist Church, we had as our guest preacher Pastor Medardo Serrano of the Centro de Formacion Gran Comision, a Hispanic congregation that meets in our church building. I translated for Medardo, so I wanted to share some of the points that he made in his sermon along with a little bit of my own commentary. The text he preached from was Ephesians 4:1-16. The topic was “walking in Christian unity.” Medardo split the text into three parts: the attitudes that create unity (vv. 1-3), the doctrines of unity (vv. 4-6), and the diversity within the unity (vv. 7-16).

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“Not many of you should become bloggers.” [James 3]

James 3 opens with a statement that often makes me squirm: “Not many of you should become teachers.” Often this passage is used to say that Christians shouldn’t teach until their theological opinions are without error (“Your questions are welcome at our church, but if you want to become a leader, you need to have [our] answers instead of [your] questions”). I’ve had people question whether I should be teaching. I’ve been criticized for sharing my raw ideas on this blog before they are fully developed. My nomination for a ministry leadership role in college was challenged because I didn’t interpret Genesis literally. I’ve had people tell me I’m not preaching the gospel because I didn’t reduce it to Bill Bright’s Four Spiritual Laws. What’s really interesting though regarding James 3 is it actually doesn’t say anything about theological correctness. Not that obedience to the truth is unimportant, but James is exhorting his readers in this context not to be Christian teachers unless they can stop badmouthing other people. And that is tremendously hard to do in our social media world where meme-spinning is so addictive and nothing is more tempting to a blogger trying to get hits and build a platform than to write a blistering, controversial hit job that can “set a great forest on fire” (James 3:5). Continue reading