This week, the United Methodist Church put a pastor on trial named Frank Schaefer for officiating at the wedding of his gay son. The judge, retired bishop Al Gwinn, ruled out as inadmissible any defense arguments based on scripture or other sections of the Book of Discipline, reasoning that only “the facts” of what Schaefer did were relevant to determining the verdict. While I understand the rationale and practical limitations that necessitate this approach to justice, I do not think it does justice to justice. The promise that we receive in scripture is that God judges according to the heart. Hebrews 4:12-13 says: “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” Continue reading
At our church staff meeting today, we looked at this reading from Matthew 11:25-30:
At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Continue reading
“He has chosen the lowly things of this world: the despised ones and those who are not, to bring to nothing the things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:28). It isn’t just my heart’s tattoo; I really believe it’s one of the most important prophecies of the Bible. Jesus was the ultimate despised one, a king whose reign is defined precisely by his utter social rejection. When we are truly saved, we become despised ones with Jesus, being “crucified together with Christ” so that “it is no longer [we] who live but Christ who lives in [us]” (Galatians 2:19-20). What are we saved from? Legitimacy, which is “friendship with the world [and] enmity with God” (James 4:4), since it is a declaration of independence from God. How do the despised ones that Paul describes “bring to nothing the things that are”? By destroying the categories of legitimacy constructed by the normal majority (a.k.a. “the world”) as a substitute for reliance on God’s mercy.
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
I’m working through the fourth chapter of Greg Boyd’s God At War, in which he talks about the existence of other “gods,” or supernatural powers, beside the one God we worship. He makes a distinction between philosophical monotheism, which affirms that there are no autonomous supernatural beings besides God, and what N.T. Wright terms creational monotheism, that there is only one eternal creator but this does not preclude the existence of other supernatural beings. Continue reading
Postmodern thinkers sometimes settle for deconstructing the motives of their critics instead of making defensible arguments. Unfortunately, a recent Mere Orthodoxy piece exhibited this behavior, promising to explain why the American suburbs are a good, wholesome place, but focusing its energy on developing a caricature of suburbia’s critics as “urban gentry and intelligentsia.” I’ve used that rhetorical trick before: Bob criticizes X; Bob is a snobby aristocrat; therefore everyone who criticizes X is a snobby aristocrat. Well, I’m not an urban gentry. I’m a suburban pastor. And there are things about the suburbia where I live that hinder people from entering the kingdom of God. Continue reading
What I learned from last night’s final presidential debate (which was the first one I watched) is that the way you “win” mostly has to do with how long you can talk without taking a breath or how willing you are to yell “Liar, liar, pants on fire” while the other guy is in the middle of what he’s saying. The fundamental thing Romney and Obama agreed on is the importance of projecting strength in US foreign policy. “Strength” seems to be defined as not apologizing for anything the US has done in the past and making sure that other nations understand that the US knows what’s best for them. I realize we live in a secular nation-state, but I am really bothered by how thoroughly un-Biblical that way of thinking is. Whether or not it’s effective foreign policy from a realpolitik perspective, the Bible calls us to integrity, not strength.
Everyone else is writing about the “crisis” of American Christianity so I figured I’d add my own two cents. Andrew Sullivan wants us to cut up our Bibles and follow “Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a simpler, purer, apolitical Christianity.” Ross Douthat writes that the problem is we’ve been overrun by heresies. Christian Piatt claims that young adults are “leaving the church to follow Jesus.” I think that underneath the prosperity gospel, the ideological echo chamber, and the shallow, therapeutic Jesus-as-boyfriend theology considered by all three of these writers are two basic idolatries — opinion and relationship — which have filled the gap created by the loss of a sacramental understanding of Christ’s body within popular American evangelical Christianity. Continue reading