What I read about when I read Rob Bell

Any book of theology that starts with a epigraph by Tom Waits is arguably worth looking at. Such is Rob Bell's What We Talk About When We Talk About God.Since the 2011 publication of Love Wins, Bell's name has doubled as a lighting rod, the controversy having merely cooled, not diminished. I have no interest in revisiting that here. Nor do I have any interest in writing a negative review of his newest, aspects of which certainly could use the discerning squint of a jeweler's eye.Here I want … [Read more...]

Sen. Mark Kirk, his angels, and ours

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...]

Angels and the promise of a bigger world

Some people want the Bible to be untrue. Mmm, scratch that. Some people desperately want the Bible to be untrue. This desire can manifest in a number of ways, including finding ways of explaining scriptural accounts that undermine the witness of the text.One of my favorite examples of this is the scholar who announced in 2002 that the visions of the prophet Ezekiel were the product of epilepsy, not the revelation of God. Can't be divine, so it must be . . . a disorder . . . yeah, that's the … [Read more...]

Angels in the architecture

Paul Simon's song "You Can Call Me Al" speaks of a man who sees "angels in the architecture." The man's vision is notable and different. He's "a foreign man," as the lyric goes, meaning that normal folk like you and me don't see anything in the architecture but building supplies. So who has the better vision?The word supernatural is a new one, at least relatively so. It started circulating around the middle of the sixteenth century, before scientific skepticism blew into vogue. It was an … [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 discarded difference

In his book The Discarded Image, C.S. Lewis explains how the medieval worldview came to be, what shaped its vices, virtues, and values. Two tributaries fed the medieval mind, Greco-Roman Paganism and Christianity, and the two streams, brackish and sweet, often mingled.Here’s Lewis: “In a prolonged war the troops on both sides may imitate one another’s methods and catch one another’s epidemics; they may even occasionally fraternise. So in this period. The conflict between the old and the new r … [Read more...]