Defending absolutes

In our culture today, to believe in -- much less confess and defend -- absolutes is deemed arrogant. To insist that something is one way and not another provokes charges of egotism, presumption, and superiority. That's tricky for Christians because we absolutely believe in absolutes. … [Read more...]

The cult of agreeableness

Joel Osteen's disturbing inability to say that Mormonism is something other than Christian reflects a particular affliction from which our culture suffers. I'm not sure what to call it other than the cult of agreeableness, a widespread tendency to avoid disagreement, conflict, and contradiction whenever possible, a disposition to never draw hard lines for fear that we'll upset or make ourselves unattractive by the action. … [Read more...]

The kindergarten rules

kindergarten rules

Here are some lessons you're supposed to learn as a child that will definitely serve you when you're older: Don't touch that. Say please. Use your words. Say your prayers. Don't beat up the little guys; they might grow up bigger than you. Play nice. If you break the rules, it won't go well. When you've done something wrong, you should go to your room and think about what you've done. Don't sit with your stinky stuff too long; it'll cause a rash. You're not as clever as you … [Read more...]

Looking for the absent God

quapan, Flickr

The early Christians and later patristic writers read the Old Testament with a view to Christ. They saw his shadow in the law, the prophets, and the writings like Psalms. They also saw him in the Song of Solomon, seeing in the Hebrew love poem a picture of Christ and the church. … [Read more...]

Faith as I saw it in Uganda

I knew the sound the second I heard it, a loud sustained cry, undulating but strong. “Is that the call to prayer?” I asked Eva, a Christian woman operating a small crafts shop. “It is for Muslims,” she said. … [Read more...]

Testing in the Christian life

MforMarcus, Flickr

My son Fionn held up two toy cars. "Which one is faster?" he asked. I gave him my answer and he said, "No. Neither is faster. It depends on who is driving them." Trick question. I confess to being a little irritated in that moment by this answer. "Then why ask me which one?" I asked. Oblivious to my irritation, Fionn answered with a question: "What's the point of a test if you don't learn something?" That's an interesting answer. We are used to thinking of tests as a way to measure what … [Read more...]

Why Mormons aren’t Christians

Angel Moroni

For the last generation Mormons have tried to mainstream themselves. The popular "I am a Mormon" ad campaign is part of that effort, but it's only the most recent manifestation of a long public-relations campaign. For the last few decades the Mormon Church has presented its adherents as good-neighborly types: friendly, moral, familial. But the family-down-the-street strategy is only part of the job. The Mormons have also actively worked to make their beliefs appear within the pale of orthodox … [Read more...]

On judging Joel Osteen

On judging Joel Osteen

It turns out that criticizing Joel Osteen ruffles feathers. Perhaps this shouldn't surprise. His congregation is more than forty-thousand strong, his sermons air worldwide, and his book sales are stratospheric. He's got more than a few fans available to take offense at someone holding his feet to the fire. In response to my piece Friday, "The insufferable Joel Osteen," several people said that I was "judging" Osteen, which is a considerable no-no. I was told I should be ashamed and that I … [Read more...]

The insufferable Joel Osteen

Every Day a Friday

Few things rub me the wrong way as much as poseurs masquerading as pastors. If that sounds unduly harsh, forgive me, but I don't think this is undue. Al Mohler recently published a piece on Joel Osteen's equation of Mormonism with evangelical and Catholic Christianity. … [Read more...]

Patched, not discarded

isaacbowen, Flickr

A soldier came upon a monk and asked him if a repentant man would be received by God. He was worried that God might reject him. "Would you discard your coat if it were torn?" asked the monk. "No," said the man, perhaps at that moment grasping the garment. "I'd patch it and keep wearing it." "If you would take such care of your coat," said the monk, "won't God show even greater care for his own image, which you are?" How often are we the soldier, sincere but afraid that God will … [Read more...]

Love and bear it

Love and bear it

To grin and bear something means to tolerate it, put on a happy face and ride out the discomfort. After all, it'll be over soon enough. That's a perfectly practical way to deal with half the difficulties in life. But what if you could manage to respond with love instead of mere tolerance or reluctant acquiescence? What areas of life might improve with the switch -- work, family, everything maybe? … [Read more...]

Consumer Christianity

Consumer Christianity

How was your church service last week? Were the songs good, the pastor polished, the message on-point? In the name of upping the quality of pastoral work, a new website in Germany now allows parishioners to rate their priest's performance in several categories, including worship, credibility, work with youth and seniors, and having his "Finger on the Pulse." Even without such an app, we often create our personal ad hoc Angie's Lists, evaluating the service and its various officiants … [Read more...]


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