Why are there dirty stories in the Bible?

Anyone who's read the Bible to children or come at it with some naivety knows it contains many tricky passages. Cough. Judah and Tamar. Cough. A reader who's spent any time in the text has his or her own list of stories that are risqué, possibly even revolting. Why would the holy authors include these stories in the Bible? Writing one of the very first Christian commentaries on Scripture, Hippolytus of Rome answered the question this way: As the divine writings are not respecters of … [Read more...]

My problem with ‘Life of Pi’

Life of Pi

Megan and I finally got around to watching Life of Pi. It's a beautifully filmed and extravagant spectacle, but it didn't work for us. When I first expressed my disappointment, I received several negative reactions. It's a movie that seems either to resonate deeply or not at all. Here's where it failed for me. Pi's survival adrift on the Pacific makes for gripping drama, all the more because he shares his lifeboat with an untamed Bengal tiger and also briefly with a wounded zebra, hyena, and … [Read more...]

The harrowing of hell and the victory of Christ

Icon of the Resurrection

We read in the Apostle's Creed that Jesus “descended into hell.” Some Christians today are unsure about this idea, but it is an ancient and venerable belief of the church. We commemorate this descent on Holy Saturday, the somber sabbath following Christ's great labor on the cross. While his body rested in Joseph's crypt, the Lord entered hades. In this event we call the harrowing of hell, Christ entered not as victim, but as victor. He came to raze the place. There in the realm of the … [Read more...]

Does God stack the deck against us?

stacked deck

There is a curious passage in Matthew's gospel in which Jesus rebukes several cities. "Woe unto you, Chorazin!" he said, repeating the same for nearby Bethsaida and Capernaum (11.21, 23). Why? Because Jesus had performed miracles in each city and they ignored the wonders. They observed the miracles and did not repent. They failed to respond as they should have. But can we blame them? Right after upbraiding these cities, Jesus thanked God for hiding "these things from the wise and … [Read more...]

Sen. Mark Kirk, his angels, and ours

Angel fresco

Having suffered a life-threatening stroke, Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk laid in his hospital bed unconscious and plugged into IVs and monitors. In what he described as possibly a dream or the side effect of his drugs, he suddenly became aware of angels -- three of them -- standing by. "You want to come with us?" they asked. "No," he said, "I'll hold off." With that, he woke up. Kirk recently told his story to the Chicago Daily Herald as he was preparing to return to the Senate after … [Read more...]

Why apostolic tradition matters, part 2

Irenaeus of Lyons

It seems that every time a supposedly "lost gospel" is unearthed the media hypes it as if it were the Second Coming. Invariably, these texts contradict the received understanding of the church. The most recent example is the so-called Gospel of Jesus's Wife. The scrap of parchment, published to great fanfare but quickly shown to be fake, purportedly demonstrated belief among early Christians that Jesus was married. Before that you'll recall the froth and frenzy around the 2006 publication … [Read more...]

Why apostolic tradition matters, part 1

St. Paul the Apostle

How do know if a particular doctrine is true or false? What defines the boundaries of orthodoxy? We're not the first believers to face these questions. Within a generation of Christ’s death and resurrection, the church broke free from the orbit of Jerusalem and swerved into the path of the Gentile world and its bewildering array of pantheons, temples, astrologists, sorcerers, philosophers, and mystery cults. Some of the interactions proved beneficial. In Cities of God, Rodney Stark … [Read more...]


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