The savior who made us relevant to His mission (Acts 1:6-11)

jesus-ascension

I preached this weekend about the ascension of Christ. As I shared in a blog post earlier in the week, I think it’s important to consider why Jesus ascended to heaven instead of sticking around in visible fleshly form in His immortal body. The dialogue between Jesus and His disciples in Acts 1:6-11 helps to shed light on why His ascension was part of God’s plan. Below I’m sharing the sermon audio along with a written summary:

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God’s grace in 4 stick figure drawings

We had the first session of our new member class today. During the first class, we do introductions and give a primer on Methodist theology. We had the fortunate problem of having too many people in the class so our introductions took up all but 15 minutes. I didn’t want us to leave having only done introductions, so I tried to explain in 15 minutes and 4 stick figure drawings the three kinds of grace we talk about in Methodism: prevenient, sanctifying, and justification, along with the Christian perfection that God’s grace draws us toward. The way I’ve illustrated it is a bit individualistic (which of course I would have criticized if someone else had done it ;-)). I’m interested in hearing your feedback and suggestions for improvement. Continue reading

Canonical fidelity vs. empirical integrity (feminist theology and other challenges)

I just read a chapter in Adam Kotsko’s Politics of Redemption which engages feminist critiques of the cross. One aspect of the feminist theology I have encountered that makes me squirm as an evangelical is its willingness to toss out pieces of the Biblical canon if they seem to promote misogyny. I am willing to read the Bible with the same liberationist agenda that Jesus and Paul both had, but I consider myself bound to the epistemic foundation of canonical fidelity, meaning that I don’t throw anything out, even when God tells Joshua to slaughter all the women and children of some Canaanite city or when the Levite in Judges 19 pulls a Jeffrey Dahmer on his concubine. Biblical authority is a line in the sand for me, but given that, to what degree am I accountable to what I would call empirical integrity? Do I owe any responsibility to the reality that I share with people who aren’t interpreting it through my canonical filter? Continue reading

Are Mormons Christian?

There’s been a lot of conversation in the blogosphere about whether or not Mormons should be called Christian. From what I understand, Mormonism is currently the fastest growing American belief system, even more fruitful perhaps than independent megachurchianism. Some people say that Mormons should be called Christians because they call themselves Christians. That was the argument of my American Christianity professor Grant Wacker. Others say that their unorthodox views about the Trinity, the afterlife, and the distinction between humanity and divinity put them outside the bounds of Christianity proper. I didn’t have time to do a whole lot of research beyond the level of summarizing wikipedia, but I figured that my theological training might be helpful to picking through the terminology and comparing it with the rest of Christianity. I’m not going to give a conclusive answer on whether I think Mormons are “in” or “out.” But I thought I would analyze several aspects of their beliefs, trying to be as fair and objective as possible (and if you’re a Mormon reading this, please correct me if I’ve gotten something wrong!). Continue reading

In the name of the Thinktank, Consultant, & Bubble sheet

The United Methodist Church is about to have a very significant international meeting called the General Conference where major changes are being considered that a lot of pastors like me are anxious about. I’m actually most concerned about an initiative that has already been adopted called “Vital Congregations.” Depending on the outcome of other proposals, Vital Congregations has the potential to do to the United Methodist Church what “No Child Left Behind” did to the public school classroom where I taught. I am not trying to impugn the motives or hard work of those who developed it. I’m sure that they were prayerful about it, and I imagine they sang praise songs to open their meetings and hopefully looked to the Bible for guidance (and not just the reports of church consultant industry thinktanks). But the way this initiative is being communicated makes it sound like United Methodism has replaced Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with a new Trinity –the Thinktank, the Consultant, and the Bubble Sheet. Continue reading