Ash Wednesday: Death and Repentance

Ash Wednesday (this year, March 5th) is the first day of the season of Lent. In liturgical churches, it begins with a vivid reminder of death. As the words “Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return” are said, Christians are marked on their foreheads with ashes in the shape of the cross. The words echo language from the funeral liturgy, “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.”Death is one of the primary themes of Lent. Each of us will die. None of us gets out of here alive. A friend tol … [Read more...]

Amos Continued

This blog supplements my previous “Amos and American Christianity.” If you read that first, this blog will make more sense to you.Amos’s radical criticism of the way the powerful and wealthy of his time and place had structured their social world in their own self-interest got him in trouble with the powers that ruled his world.Amos 7.10-17 contains one of the Bible’s most vivid encounters between the ruling elites of the ancient world and “the Word of the Lord.” Only the stories of Mo … [Read more...]

Amos and American Christianity

I have been thinking a lot lately about what I wish every Christian knew. On my list: I wish all Christians, especially American Christians, knew the book of Amos.My reasons are both personal and more than personal. Amos was responsible for one of the three major conversions in my life. Two were intellectual and religious: a conversion to the study of religion and an experiential conversion to the conviction that God is real. The third was political: from the conservative political … [Read more...]

The Bible and Mysticism

I am very much enjoying and valuing the conversation about my recent blog about the Bible and what it is and is not. I am especially interested in the comments about mystical experiences and how they (or the lack of them) affect understandings of the Bible.Mysticism and mystical experiences can be defined in a very narrow or broader sense of the word. In the narrow sense, they are relatively few and might be dismissed, by religious and non-religious people alike, as aberrations and not … [Read more...]

What the Bible Is

An alert to readers of the “Progressive Christian” Faith Stream who do not often read the “Evangelical” Faith Stream: if you are interested in Christian conflict about the Bible (what it is, and whether it is inerrant and to be interpreted literally), you should regularly visit Peter Enns’ blog.From within the evangelical stream of Christianity, he often challenges both inerrancy and literalism. His blogs consistently draw a large number of responses that provide a window into how many conser … [Read more...]

Memories, Conversions, and Convictions

The triad named in the title of this blog has been illuminating as I have reflected about the stages of my life as a Christian. The meaning of memories is obvious, especially our memories of growing up, going back to childhood and continuing into young adulthood and beyond.Conversions are about major changes in our orientation toward life. Not just changes like a new job or geographical move or marriage or divorce or retirement. Those can leave us unchanged, even as they sometimes … [Read more...]

Postscript to “Christmas, Jesus and Caesar”

I just posted a reply to some comments made in response to one of Peter Enns’ recent blogs on Patheos’s evangelical faith channel ( I believe it was called "Forgotten Jesus" - but I have not checked). For those of you who don’t know his blog, I commend it highly.Because my reply is also relevant to the discussion of Jesus and Caesar that is happening on my blog-site, I post it here as well:A brief response to those who have raised the question whether Jesus was "really divine," "actually … [Read more...]