In Defense of Religious Extremism

Last Thursday, Russia’s Supreme Court banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization on the grounds that they were an “extremist” organization.It’s not completely clear what their precise violations were, but the state-owned TASS news agency reports that prosecutors cited Jehovah’s Witnesses for opposing blood transfusions, “controlling” their members, and “insisting on their own exclusiveness, which … contradicts the law on resistance to extremist activity.” A Law Library of Congress report exp … [Read More...]

Faith & Fidelity: Part 5, The Purpose of Faith

This is the final post in a series of reflections sparked by Matt Bates's new book, Salvation by Allegiance Alone. I haven't tried in this series to provide a comprehensive overview of the book; instead I've shared various thoughts it has inspired. Most of these thoughts have centered around the first five chapters of the book, which explore the meaning of the word "faith" (Greek pistis) and argue that "allegiance" is the better overarching word for the concept of pistis.More than asking … [Read More...]

Our Books Are Here! (As Are All Our Other Earthly Possessions)

I was hoping to publish the last post in my Faith & Fidelity series this week, but life got very hectic very quickly, and that post will probably have to wait till next week.On Monday afternoon we got word that our belongings from South Africa would be delivered on Wednesday. We had known this was a possibility, but we had expected them to take longer clearing customs. Tuesday was a mad scramble to build bookshelves and clean cupboard to make room for everything. The movers arrived with … [Read More...]

Faith & Fidelity: Part 4, Battling Lust and Learning to See

I’ve been sharing my reflections on faith and fidelity in a series of posts sparked by Matthew Bates’s book Salvation By Allegiance Alone. In the last post, I departed from the book somewhat to explore the way that belief leads to obedience, and that obedience in turn leads to deeper belief. This post is about some of my own experience with that process, so I encourage you to read that post first. My struggle with pornography I thought about posting this separately from this series on faith and … [Read More...]

Faith & Fidelity: Part 3, The Upward Spiral of Faith

This is the third in a series of reflections on faith and fidelity, sparked by Matthew Bates’s new book Salvation by Allegiance Alone. In the first post, I wrote about Bates’s central thesis: that “faith” (Greek pistis) in the New Testament refers primarily to allegiance to Jesus as Lord and King, rather than intellectual belief. This isn’t to say that Bates dismisses belief altogether; he writes that allegiance has three dimensions, and the first of these is “mental affirmation that the gospel i … [Read More...]

Faith & Fidelity: Part 2, What Should We Believe?

This is the second in a series of posts on the connection between belief and faithfulness, sparked by Matthew Bates’s new book Salvation by Allegiance Alone. In the first post I explored the book’s primary thesis: that the overarching meaning of “faith” (Greek pistis) in the New Testament is allegiance to Jesus as Lord and King, rather than belief as an intellectual assent.Bates doesn’t suggest that “pistis” never means “belief,” or that faith as belief is unimportant. He identifies three dim … [Read More...]

Faith & Fidelity: Part 1, Allegiance vs. Faith

I’ve recently been reading Matthew Bates’s excellent new book, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, and I plan to write a series of blog posts on some ideas the book has sparked for me. This won't be an exhaustive overview, and some posts might only be tangentially connected to the book's content, but I do hope to interact with the book's main message.Bates’s primary argument in the book is that the English word “faith” (Greek pistis), which implies primarily belief and secondarily trust, fails to … [Read More...]

The Answers to All Your Questions

I've added a Frequently Asked Questions page to the blog! It's currently not showing up in the tabs, but hopefully that will be fixed shortly. For now, you can think of this link as providing super classified access to top secret information.(Image copyright: convisum / 123RF Stock Photo) … [Read More...]

The Best Things: The Kempton Project

(See previous Best Things here.) This week’s Best Thing might not be particularly relevant for anyone with only a passing interest in Swedenborg, but for anyone wanting to dig deeper into New Church interpretation of Scripture, it’s indispensable. The Kempton Project: What is it? The Kempton Project itself is an effort to create a faithful translation of the Old and New Testaments guided by New Church doctrinal principles. The New Church has a fairly unusual position on Scripture: we believe th … [Read More...]

Small-town Faith Comes to Broadway in “Come From Away”

Scene: a frightened man from Africa on a bus with his wife in rural Newfoundland, being taken to who-knows-where from a plane that landed far from its destination. They come to a camp full of people in military uniforms. The bus driver stops, and motions for the passengers to get off the bus. The man doesn't move. He does not understand the bus driver's language. He does not trust him. And then the bus driver points to the Bible that the man's wife is clutching. She hands it to him nervously. He … [Read More...]