Epiphany: One of us

If you look at the calendar for the coming week you'll see this word written in on Thursday: "Epiphany." That seems strange. Epiphanies don't seem like the sort of thing one can schedule ahead of time and plan for like that. "Good meeting, Jim, let's meet again tomorrow to finish up." "Fine, just let me check my ... Oh, no, sorry. Thursday's no good. I've got an epiphany Thursday." "Hmm, well how about Friday?" "Depends, Bob. … [Read more...]

The Language of Religion I

"The language of religion," Atrios writes, is "something I don't understand. It's gibberish to me. When people start invoking religion in discussing issues they may as well be talking Martian. I'm not being insulting here, I'm just saying it's utterly meaningless to me personally." And of course there's no reason such language should be meaningful to him. Sectarian language isn't much use when trying to communicate with people outside of the … [Read more...]


When you find a story particularly impenetrable, confusing or disconcerting, sometimes it helps to retell it. This particular story was itself a retelling of an older story (the new version left out the whale because people seemed to find that episode too distracting). - - - - - - - - - - - - So this crazy rich guy out on the Main Line is getting ready for his daughter's wedding. It's a big deal -- one of those extravagant old-money blow-outs at his estate out there off of St. … [Read more...]

Human readers

(One last thing on Niebuhr, then we'll move on, I promise.) Reinhold Niebuhr is regarded as a "Neo-Orthodox" theologian. The "neo" there doesn't mean that he presented a new orthodoxy, but refers rather to the way that his profound consideration of sin and human nature was a reassertion of the classic biblical and Augustinian views. On a lot of other matters, however, Niebuhr was anything but orthodox.* He did not believe in the resurrection -- of Christ or of … [Read more...]

Only human

"Good pitching will beat good hitting any time, and vice versa." -- Bob Veale Some interesting discussion recently in comments about human nature, specifically around the perennial question: Are people basically good? That's a perennial question, but perhaps not a very helpful one. The answer we Christians give is "Yes." And also "No." The Yes part has to do, in part, with the "imago Dei" -- the image of God. Each and every person, we believe, is … [Read more...]

Opposites attract, Part II

Early 20th-century idealism was based on an overly optimistic assessment of human nature. As such it received support from some of the "modern" and "liberal" theologians and church leaders of the time. This view of human nature wasn't compatible with the Christian view, and was resoundingly demolished after the fact by the Neo-orthodox theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. But this idealism was also rooted in the eschatology of early 20th-century America. You can't get much … [Read more...]

Opposites attract, Part I

I've been trying to reconcile two things that I don't think can be reconciled, which means, really, I guess I've been trying to figure out what it means that these two things can't be reconciled.You've probably heard of PNAC -- the Project for the New American Century. The think tank desribes itself as "A neoconservative organization supporting greater American militarization, challenging hostile governments, advancing democratic and economic freedom, and promoting American hegemony in the … [Read more...]

Evangelism as Hospitality

"Practice hospitality." Romans 12:13 Fuller seminary's J. Dudley Woodberry makes a distinction between "proselytizing" and what he calls "gracious evangelism." This distinction seems etymologically valid. To "proselytize" is to create converts. To evangelize is to share the evangel -- the "good news." Proselytizing has acquired new legal baggage in recent years, which is one reason for Woodberry to distance himself from the term. Now that … [Read more...]