Why I like Pope Francis’ “God of surprises”

APTOPIX Italy Pope Epiphany

It's little secret that progressive evangelicals like me have a huge crush on Pope Francis and probably project a lot of unmerited wishful thinking onto him. The Roman church's recent synod on the family revealed among other things how little power Francis actually has to impose change by fiat. I respect him for patiently seeking a consensus among the stuffy bishops he's surrounded by. It took many generations for the church to finally admit that Copernicus was right and give up geocentrism. It … [Read more...]

Where I’m actually coming from as a progressive evangelical


One of my most valuable conversation partners on the Internet is a conservative Calvinist campus minister named Derek Rishmawy. In some ways, we are the opposite, since I'm a progressive Wesleyan campus minister, but I think we both recognize in each other a genuine zeal for God's truth. I have a lot of respect for Derek, and when we do actually agree on something, I usually do a happy dance because I feel like I'm on very solid ground. In any case, just as I speculate about the hidden … [Read more...]

When cis-het men play God: evangelical transphobia and the idolatry of gender


Last week, Russell Moore wrote a column for The Gospel Coalition called "Joan or John?" about how to handle the "sin" of transgender identity in your congregation. His column presents the made-up scenario of a transgender woman tearfully approaching a pastor to repent of her sex change. It's a textbook display of the breathtaking presumptuousness of cisgendered heterosexual males who judge people with lives they are clueless about by making false analogies with the sin in their own lives. … [Read more...]

Is God arbitrary? (my point of contention with conservative evangelicals)


Is there anything that God asks us to do for no other reason than because he's God and he said so? I suspect that how you answer this question reflects whether or not you are a conservative evangelical. Because I believe that God is perfectly benevolent, I presume that everything God asks us to do is for our own good, whether collectively or individually. My hunch is that this makes God sound too "humanistic" for a conservative evangelical, whose main concern is defending God's sovereignty. Can … [Read more...]

How mental illness made me a pastor

nami walk

Today my son Matthew and I participated in a walk with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). According to Matthew, it was technically a "parade" instead of just a "walk" because a brass band led the march. Mental illness has had a decisive role in shaping my vocation as a pastor. Many of my insights into the human condition come from my experience of severe depression and anxiety throughout most of my twenties. So I wanted to share some of these insights as my contribution to mental … [Read more...]

When Martin Luther King, Jr. clashed with the Via Media Methodists

Paul Hardin

On first glance, making an analogy between anyone and one of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s adversaries is akin to tripping Godwin's Law by comparing someone to Hitler. Because MLK was always absolutely right and perfect and above all criticism and anybody who ever disagreed with him was a mean and evil racist. Except that's not real history. When Martin Luther King, Jr. and his entourage descended on Birmingham, Alabama in early 1963, a group of well-intentioned white clergy leaders including … [Read more...]

“Against you alone have I sinned” (the solipsism of evangelical morality)


"Against you alone have I sinned." These words from Psalm 51:4 are attributed to the Israelite king David speaking to God after he knocked up another man's wife and had that man betrayed and murdered on the battlefield. Many evangelical pastors have praised this verse for how it names sin, but I consider it to be one of the most morally problematic verses in the Bible. It does do a very good job of encapsulating the solipsistic morality that I grew up with as an evangelical, in which sin had … [Read more...]

Cock-blocking and rape culture

the boot

It's one of those phrases you know not to use in mixed company. But there's a code of honor among heterosexual young adult men at bars and parties. To use nineties parlance, when another man is "busting a move" or "getting his mack on" with a woman, you don't interfere. Because that's "cock-blocking." And I have no idea why it wasn't completely obvious to me before that this unspoken law of young adult male sexual "ethics" is a cornerstone of rape culture. … [Read more...]

Three arguments for Biblical inerrancy that need to be retired

bible beater

One of the most important books I read in seminary was evangelical Old Testament scholar Peter Enns' Incarnation and Inspiration, which offers a way of understanding the Bible in which its authority can be respected even if some of the stories it tells are not historical events. Peter Enns just released another book called The Bible Tells Me So that has the Biblical inerrantists in a tizzy. For a long time, I've been wanting to name and repudiate three of the more frustrating arguments that … [Read more...]

Do you deserve to be crucified for your sin?

vader cross cropped flat

This past week, Brian Zahnd and Michael Brown held a debate on the penal substitution atonement theory. While I tend to be on Brian's side of the debate, I'm not willing to throw penal substitution completely out of the window. The concept of penal substitution has a whole lot of slippage within it. There's a stark difference between saying that the cross was in one aspect a punishment that Jesus suffered for the sake of humanity's salvation and saying that Jesus suffered the punishment that e … [Read more...]