Yom Kippur: What does atonement mean?

heart w bandaidToday is Yom Kippur, Judaism’s day of atonement. It’s a day for fasting, repentance, and healing. Atonement is a concept that Christianity inherited from Judaism. Jesus’ cross is our Yom Kippur for our sins. The Hebrew word kippur means most literally “to cover.” In English, atonement is a compound of three words: at-one-ment. So what is being made “at one” with atonement? And how does being “covered” by something make us “at one”? 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

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

Dinesh D’Souza and the revelation of God’s wrath

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor 13:6). That is the fault-line that I try to follow whenever I write about a public figure’s sin, especially a brother in Christ. Delighting in evil is cynicism; rejoicing with the truth is prophecy. I am often a cynic rather than a prophet, and I have a very difficult time discerning between the two. Dinesh D’Souza is someone towards whom I feel a lot of wrath, some of which God has put into my heart and some of which is my sinful flesh. D’Souza has been a key player in what I call the outrage industrial complex, the group of pundits and professional hyperventilators who have seduced a large number of evangelical Christians with a form of ideological pornography that has poisoned the witness of our church. So I think it’s legitimate to say that I “rejoiced with the truth” to learn that D’Souza was caught attending a family values conference with his mistress and forced to resign his presidency of King’s College as a result. And I think that events like this are how God reveals His wrath against His people so that they can repent of misrepresenting Him before He has to up the ante. Continue reading

Tim Keller and the false binary of love and holiness

I have learned a lot from Tim Keller. His books Prodigal God and Generous Justice are two of the most important books I have read. So I signed up for his sermon podcast recently. The first sermon I listened to was about spiritual warfare, based on Ephesians 6. There was a lot of good content, but there was one thing that disappointed me: the way that Tim Keller puts God’s love and God’s holiness in binary opposition to one another and oversimplifies each of their definitions. I realize that he would be more nuanced and theologically precise in a book rather than a sermon for seekers who need things to be kept simple. But I think that this impoverished presentation of the concept of holiness is one of the biggest problems that plagues neo-Reformed theology today. Continue reading

Holiness and the fear of God (Isaiah 6)

Today I preached at the iglesia evangélica dominicana de Sosua here in the Dominican Republic on one of my favorite texts in the Bible: Isaiah 6. I’ve always seen the story of Isaiah’s call as a model for how God calls each of us. It also illuminates the importance of the fear of God and its relationship to holiness. Before Isaiah can come to the place where he says, “Here am I; send me,” he has to go through the overwhelming encounter with God’s presence that causes him to say, “Woe is me! I am lost.” He is able to respond to God’s call with authenticity because he feared God first. Continue reading

Why we need more than a therapist God

I’ve been reading through Stanley Hauerwas’ Working with Words. I just read an essay in which he gives a great summary of the problem with moralistic therapeutic deism: “God becomes that great OK who tells us we are OK and… we should tell others they are OK.” In other words, God’s “I love you” is twisted into “I approve of everything you do.” Having argued for a more therapeutic understanding of holiness ( that God is more interested in healing than retribution), I thought I should distinguish that from the view that God is our “yes man therapist who approves of everything we do.

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The Name that Shakes the Earth

Sermon preached 1/14/2012 at Burke UMC LifeSign
Text: Isaiah 6:1-8

Do you have a place that’s sacred to you? My sacred place is a lake outside of Charlottesville called Sugar Hollow. I went there every weekend when I was in college at UVA. It’s surrounded on three sides by mountains. There’s a black sand beach on which I’ve taken many naps. Whenever I go back to my favorite lake, I get a feeling in my heart as I drive up the steep hill next to the dam before the lake opens out in front of me. It always makes my jaw drop when I see the lake again, because it’s the most beautiful place in my world. Continue reading