Is the Resurrection essential to Christian belief?

Just 42 percent of Americans identify the resurrection of Jesus as the point of Easter, according to a 2010 Barna survey, and only 2 percent “describe Easter as the most important holiday of their faith.” I find this astounding. The Resurrection is the faith. A Christian faith not centered on the Resurrection is not fully Christian. “If Christ is not risen,” said Paul, “then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Cor 15.14). If the grave… Read more

Irenaeus on the purpose of Christ’s passion

As we reflect today on the events of Great and Holy Friday, observe Christ’s descent into Hades, and look forward to his paschal triumph, here’s a passage adapted from Irenaeus’ Against Heresies worth considering: The Lord suffered that he might bring those who have wandered from the Father back to knowledge and to his fellowship. Having thus suffered and bestowing the knowledge of the Father, the Lord conferred salvation upon us. His passion gave rise to strength and power. For… Read more

How internet porn explains the decline of American faith

Since the early 1990s, there has been a significant uptick in Americans abandoning their faith. After crunching the numbers, one researcher says contributing factors such as upbringing and education only explain part of the increase. What about the rest? After controlling for variables like income, environment, and so on, computer scientist Allen Downey of Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts found 25 percent of the decline can be correlated with Internet access. More Web, less faith. Why? Here’s Downey’s stab… Read more

That curious time when every pope wore a beard

Owing to both papal and canonical disapproval, beards have been underrepresented in the Latin church. Whereas Orthodox hierarchs have long been barbate and bushy, Latin clerics have typically preferred naked cheeks and smooth chins. The Catholic Encyclopedia offers some background for this bias, but it’s fun to consider a period when this prejudice was sorely tested. By my reading of things, it all starts with the papal election of 1455. The conclave had whittled down its options, and one of… Read more

‘Without embittering and embarrassing others’

After the World Vision dustup last week and personal and professional confrontations, it’s good for me to return to a prayer I try to offer as often as I recall it. “Teach me to act firmly and wisely,” it goes, “without embittering and embarrassing others.” That can be a tall order, especially these days when important controversies take place without the benefit of in-person conversation and connection. I’ve been praying that prayer with varying degrees of effectiveness since late 2008… Read more

Does the adulterous woman belong in your Bible?

The story of the adulterous woman, found in the Gospel of John, is a tricky text. The current scholarly consensus is that the account found in John 7.53-8.11 is not original to John, and modern translations often bracket the story and flag it as dubious. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the NKVJ, NIV, ESV, and the NRSV. Only the NKJV really attempts a defense of the story. These brackets, however, don’t go far enough, according to Owen Strachan. Rather than… Read more

Revenge and the simplistic morality of Hollywood

Last week I watched Silverado with my son, Fionn. It’s one of the greatest westerns ever made. But something bothers me about the flick, something that recurs in many movies. In short, revenge as a moral good. Movies tend to turn on rather simplistic morality, which is understandable since the whole drama must be condensed to roughly the same amount of time we spend in the bathroom each week. As a result, we tend to get whatever morality is quickest… Read more

Christianity: Use only as directed

In Graham Greene’s novel The Third Man, people suffer and die because of diluted penicillin purchased on the black market in postwar Vienna. American Christianity is suffering a similar fate, though our diluted faith is practiced in the open for all to see. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat raised the issue by pointing to the conundrum of Bible no-no’s flourishing in the Bible Belt. Social scientists affirm the positive connection between religion and several measures of personal and community… Read more

What’s missing in our conversation about marriage decline

In all the conversations around the decline of marriage I wonder if we are paying enough attention to the old-fashioned concept of sacraments. Christians have traditionally understood marriage as more than mere contract, more than mutual agreement, more than partnership. The church understands marriage to be a sacrament. That is to say, though not exclusively, a dispensation of God’s grace for the transformation of the recipient. The endgame with sacraments is union with God by growing in Christ. Look for… Read more

One resource every pastor, scholar, and student needs

I’ve had about a week to thumb through InterVarsity Press’s magisterial Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity, though I’ve only digested a fraction of its 3,000-plus pages. With the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture and Ancient Christian Texts, IVP has become an important source for patristic studies in English. The arrival of the EAC only cements that appraisal. Every pastor, scholar, student, and hobbyist (like me!) needs it — or at least easy access. The material is, as you would hope, exhaustive…. Read more