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...]

“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...]

Teach us to want: the quest to transcend evangelical moralism


"I was beginning to confidently believe that the only way of discerning what God wanted me to do was, in every case, to find the path that seemed least desirable and most difficult." These words, from Jen Pollock Michel's Teach Us To Want, capture the curse of evangelical moralism, the assumption that the only way to ensure that I'm obeying God is to do the opposite of what I want to do. Michel's book is an attempt to get past this moralism by learning how to want things that are good and … [Read more...]

Why do Islamic fundamentalists sound so much like Christian ones?

Today I stumbled across a blog post written by a Malaysian Muslim named Farouk defending the concept of "human rights" which Malaysian prime minster Najib Razak accused of being "against Islam" in a recent speech. One of the reasons that the Islamic fundamentalists condemn "human rights" is because the actual phrase for "human rights," huquq an-naas in Arabic, doesn't appear in the Koran. So Farouk's argument in defense of human rights involves making a derivative case from overarching themes in … [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...]

Are you a pilgrim or a tourist? (Hebrews 11:8-16) #sermon #podcast

Growing up in the church, I would often hear the phrase, "We're just pilgrims passing through," usually in response to someone's passion for changing the world. It means that since this is not our "true home" (heaven is), we shouldn't worry about what happens to our world other than keeping our family safe. Hebrews 11 talks about the Israelite patriarchs who "confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth" (v. 13), not because they considered earthly life irrelevant compared to … [Read more...]