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...]

God’s triune sovereignty as provider, victim, and rebel

I've been dragging my heels on writing this post because referring to God as a "victim" and "rebel" elicited a fierce visceral reaction and pile-on from my conservative evangelical friends on Twitter a couple of weekends ago. But I had a realization the other week as I was contemplating the way that evangelicals like me end up with a banal "Mr. Rogers God" despite the best efforts of our youth pastors to make God appear as mean and strict as they possibly can. Basically, I think the problem is … [Read more...]

Klingon Christians and their gospel coalitions

In a recent post, Peter Enns writes about a certain type of Christian who doesn't feel right unless they are "contending for the gospel." Though Enns was talking specifically about the neo-reformed movement and the Gospel Coalition in particular, I think there is a type of Christian found throughout different theological traditions whose zeal for doctrinal correctness is their most defining attribute. Since it's not just the Calvinists who are like this, I wanted to propose Klingon Christian as … [Read more...]

Did we crucify Jesus or did God? (Using @ScotMcKnight to bludgeon bad atonement theory)

Scot McKnight had a very interesting post last week concerning a recently popular"scapegoat" atonement theory about Jesus' cross based on the cultural theory of French philosopher Rene Girard. The scapegoat theory's basic idea is that God the Father doesn't demand Jesus' blood as the price for humanity's sin, but that we humans needed Jesus to be our scapegoat so that we could be liberated from our sin. McKnight contends that the Girardian view doesn't count as an atonement theory because in his … [Read more...]

What legacy have we inherited? Reflections on “12 Years A Slave.”

My wife and I watched "12 Years A Slave" this weekend. Needless to say, it was a hard movie to watch. As a pastor, what pained me the most were the parts where the slave-master would read self-serving passages out of the Bible to his slaves to put the stamp of God's word on his authority as a master. I remember reading in Frederick Douglas's autobiography that the crueler a master was, the more scripture he would quote. It made me wonder about the theological legacy we've inherited in white … [Read more...]

Isaiah 7 & 53: should prophecies be prooftexts?

My great-grandfather Luther Weigle [pictured here] was the dean of Yale Divinity School and chair of the translation committee for the original RSV Bible. He incurred the fury of the fundamentalists when he chose to translate the Hebrew word almah in Isaiah 7:14 as "young woman" instead of "virgin." They actually burned RSV Bibles and sent the ashes to him in the mail. The reason? Isaiah 7:14 is referenced by Matthew's gospel as an explanation for Jesus' virgin birth. But Isaiah 7:14 also refers … [Read more...]

The God of no compromise and the government shutdown

For many of us who grew up evangelical, the word "compromise" has always been a bad word. It means to allow non-Christian values and influences to corrupt your devotion to Biblical truth. Frank Schaeffer, the son of the evangelical leader who started the modern Religious Right, claims that our government shutdown and its Tea Party architects cannot be understood apart from this fundamental characteristic of the evangelical ethos. Insofar as the Tea Party is an evangelical phenomenon, I think he … [Read more...]

The God who wants us to be friends #sermon #podcast

For the second weekend of our sermon series "Love Actually," we talked about philia, the form of love that is friendship. James 4:4 says, "Friendship with the world is enmity with God." When I was young, I presumed that becoming Christian meant most fundamentally leaving your old friends behind. You showed Jesus that He was number one by who you were willing to stop hanging out with. Since that time, I've come to understand James 4:4 differently. "The world" does not describe a group of people … [Read more...]

Why the dream has been deferred

You can't say the N word anymore. You get sued if you racially discriminate in your hiring process. White kids grow up listening to rap music and (if they're not too "Christian") going to public school with the black kids. We have a black president. How dare you say that racism still exists in America? Right? White people are very defensive and paranoid about racism, which has come to mean little more than saying "politically incorrect" things when you're drunk or otherwise off-guard and getting … [Read more...]

A new metaphor for thinking about heaven and hell

I've been reading a very stimulating and provocative book by Pauline Biblical scholar Michael Gorman called Inhabiting the Cruciform God. Gorman argues that the central point Paul has to make is that Jesus' cross reveals the nature of God and that the way we are justified and reconciled to God is by joining Him in His cruciform existence. Gorman claims that to Paul, God is not the triumphalist emperor/military hero that popular American evangelicalism wants Him to be, but rather someone whose … [Read more...]