Calling for Total Transparency by Churches

Recently I was chatting with a Christian magazine editor and the subject of the "nones" (about which I recently blogged) came up. The question on everyone's mind is, of course, how to attract "nones" back to church or at least how to keep millennials (many of who are perceived as abandoning church altogether) in the churches. One strategy that's floating around is to hide, or at least not talk about, sin and repentance because supposedly millennials have no particular feelings of guilt. This … [Read more...]

Criteria for Recognizing a Religious Sect as a “Cult”

Note: If you are pressed for time and cannot read the whole essay below, feel free to skip to the end where I list 10 criteria. The essay describes my own history of interest in and research about "cults" and new/alternative religious groups.Developing Criteria for Recognizing a Religious Sect as a “Cult”Many religious scholars eschew the word “cult” or, if they use it at all, relegate it to extreme cases of religious groups that practice or threaten to practice violence. “Extreme tension … [Read more...]

How Seriously Should We Take the Phenomenon of “The Nones?”

How Seriously Should We Take the Phenomenon of “The Nones?”According to a recent Pew-funded study of American religion, the percentage of Americans who claim to have no religious affiliation is growing. Many people are disturbed by this. Here I’d like to muse a bit about that.First, who are the “we” in the title of this blog post? “We” are American Christians, especially American Christians who take the Christian faith seriously and believe it. To be more specific, “we” are evangelical Ch … [Read more...]

Is God “A Being” Or “Being Itself?”

I grew up thinking of God, the God of the Bible, the "Christian God," as "a being"--at the top of a great chain of beings but with a clear gulf fixed between him and everything else down the chain. The gulf was crossable only from God's side and had to do with the fact that only God is eternal and uncreated. Everything else in the chain was below God and created by God. The gulf was widened by the fall of angels and humans. This picture of God and everything seemed self-evident in Scripture. I … [Read more...]

Invitation to Participate Here: Stories about Contemporary New Testament Churches

Recently I posted an essay here about "Living Theology" ending with some comments about my own desire to find and experience true New Testament Christianity as it was in the times of the apostles. That reveals my own bias toward ecclesiastical Restorationism. That is the belief that the "job" of the church in every age and place is to restore the New Testament church as much as possible. Most people know, and I readily acknowledge, that such an effort must take contemporary culture into account, … [Read more...]

“Living Theology: Knowing and Following Our Resurrected Lord” (Spiritual Warfare)

“Living Theology: Knowing and Following Our Resurrected Lord” This is a talk I gave at the recent MissioAlliance Gathering in Alexandria, Virginia. The forum topic was “Living Theology: Knowing and Following Our Resurrected Lord.” (The theme of the Gathering this year was “Resurrection Life.”) I was one member of a panel; each member gave his or her own talk on the topic. I was the first to speak; two panel members used some of their time to disagree with my talk. After the “talk” (e … [Read more...]

Is God Also Our Mother?

Is God Also Our Mother?This debate over appropriate language for God has been going on for at least half a century now. Some Christians struggle with calling God “Father” for three reasons. First, some say addressing God as Father reinforces patriarchy—the idea that males have the right to rule over and dominate females (and males with less status and power). (Yes, I know, some have expanded the term “patriarchy” to include all forms of social hierarchy.) Second, some say they and others have … [Read more...]