The various endings of the Gospel of Mark (part 1)


Mark’s Gospel seems like a rough first draft, like the work of someone racing to get everything down on paper as quickly as possible. That’s reflected in the book’s abrupt ending, where it just sort of stops, mid-story. That ending was so frustrating for some later Christians that they felt compelled to give the book a proper conclusion, and now it has more endings that Peter Jackson’s “Return of the King.” [Read more...]

She leaves her fingerprints everywhere


Some good news from Lancaster County — or, if you’re Republican candidate Ben Carson, evidence of insidious “political correctness” in Amish country. Plus: A nickname for the ages; farewell to Rick Perry; Cardinal Burke and Homeland Security; Countee Cullen; and how a theologian gets more interesting when he stops needing to satisfy people who can never be satisfied. [Read more...]

Liberation and apocalypse in a country song


The piped-in music at the Big Box has been playing country music this week, leading to the following reflection on two distinct visions of liberation in the work of popular theologian Martina McBride. And, because I’ve read too many InterVarsity Press books over the years, I have included a list of questions for further discussion. [Read more...]

New Horizons


We live in a world of boundaries that seem as inconceivably vast as the distances of the solar system. We have rules and roles and they stunt our imaginations, turning us into small people with small thoughts about a small God. Pentecost blows away those rules and roles and boundaries. [Read more...]

It’s Heresy Sunday — don’t fall for the trap


The doctrine of the Trinity is a mystery. Or, more specifically, it’s an attempt at articulating mystery. You’re expected to affirm it, but anything you try to say beyond that can and will be used against you to convict you of heresy. It’s a trap, an efficient machine for the manufacture of “heresies” — with “heresy” there being defined as a failure to define the infinite in the way that orthodoxy supposes it has somehow managed to do. [Read more...]

First contact and ‘the great disillusionment’

My God ... it's full of stars.

We humans from earth have been looking up at the stars and thinking about the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial life for a very long time. The best of this speculation — whether in stories or in more scholarly non-fiction — builds on this long tradition. Thus when Carl Sagan had Ellie Arroway and her father say, “If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space,” he was borrowing from the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1541-1601) who argued, in Burton’s paraphrase, “that he will never believe those great and huge bodies were made to no other use than this that we perceive, to illuminate the earth, a point insensible in respect of the whole.” [Read more...]

Niebuhr and Aristotle and Jay Smooth


You can learn a lot about ethics and human nature from reading the collected works of Reinhold Niebuhr, plus the Nicomachean Ethics, and, say, Stanley Hauerwas and Alasdair MacIntyre. Or you can just watch this five-minute video from Jay Smooth, which sums it all up and stitches it together quite nicely. [Read more...]

The devil has been in twice as many movies as Jesus (and how that has changed our theology)


Vincent Price is theologically significant. Price wore a devilish goatee that made him look like Satan. How do we know that’s what Satan looks like? We learned it from Vincent Price — and from a thousand other pop-culture and folk-culture figures preceding him. [Read more...]