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

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Is Pope Francis a universalist heretic?

Oh mercy! The evangelicals have so wanted to make peace with the Catholics, because they make for such great allies in the culture wars. They’re not just anti-abortion; they’re anti-condom! So we’ve tried to overlook the whole Mary thing. But then they elected this pope who washes the feet of criminals. And he says negative things about capitalism. And now he says that non-Christians are capable of doing good and are in fact redeemed by Christ. Is Pope Francis a flaming universalist heretic?

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Don’t disdain the pragmatic and aesthetic sides of the gospel

This is going to be a short one. I just want to make an appeal for what I would call the pragmatic and aesthetic sides of the gospel. In classical Western discourse, there are three ultimate forms of value that we can assign to an idea: truth, goodness, and beauty. In our modern era of science and logic, truth has been privileged to the exclusion of goodness and beauty. This particularly takes place when we’re talking about the Christian gospel. Continue reading

Wisdom from Henri de Lubac, part 2

I have been reading off and on through Catholic theologian Henri de Lubac’s Paradoxes of Faith for the past few weeks. It’s structured in a really unique way. It has chapters, but each chapter is basically a collection of 30 or so eclectic thoughts on a theme ranging from one sentence long to about one and a half pages. It’s a great thing to read when you’re somewhere you can’t concentrate super-hard to follow an intricate trajectory of thought for 100 pages or something. So I highly recommend it. This time I’m probably going to try to quote De Lubac more and do less commentary because he says so many thought-provoking things that desperately need to be heard in the church today. De Lubac was actually a huge influence on Pope Benedict (which honestly I find a little hard to believe because he’s so feisty). Continue reading

The real battle: demons vs. sacraments

What does the battle between good and evil look like? Who or what evil entities are we supposed to fight against? When I was a young social justice activist, the Bible verse I pulled out for an answer to this question was Ephesians 6:12, where Paul writes, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers.” Instead of seeing the battle of good and evil in terms of concrete, identifiable adversaries on a battlefield, I figured our battle as Christians was against “the system” which victimized oppressors and oppressed alike. I used to get annoyed with “spiritualized” interpretations of this verse, in which normally charismatic Christians argued that Paul was talking about demons and evil spirits and not things like the stock market, the prison industrial complex, etc. However, I have since come to the conclusion that my charismatic friends had a deeper insight than I had appreciated. Continue reading