In 1978, it became clear to my director of studies at Christ’s College—a little-known, shy, heavily-bearded young Anglican theologian named Rowan Williams—that I had no clue about how to take a Cambridge University tripos examination in theology. That’s not quite right. I knew how to take it. I just didn’t know how to succeed in it. So Rowan Williams sent me to the equally young chaplain of Downing College, Cambridge, a New Testament scholar named N. T. (or Tom) Wright…. Read more

What’s the most cherished verse of the Bible? For many Christians, it has to be John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It’s so popular that it has season tickets to sporting events. If you watch football, you’ll see it, with its own placard, right there behind the goal post: JOHN 3:16. (I didn’t happen to see it at the… Read more

So Daniel Kirk has set the terms of the discussion in the wrong way. He tells me I’m either a sycophant or a hero, a bootlicker or a brave new faculty member. Crazy, huh? And I didn’t side with anyone. Read more

Would someone want to join me here, in my interior, in my soul, and cozy up for an evening, munching chocolate (yes, chocolate in Lent, at least in my soul) chip cookies in front of a sizzling fire? Does my soul invite people in? Or would people come to my soul and say, “Gotta go!” Read more

We walked in, waited a bit in line, looking at this strange species of human: the gun-toting Texan. The tall man at the desk, which had about thirty pistols in a glass case, was both affable and dead serious, all at once. We told him we’d just moved to Dallas from Seattle in August. So he said, “Well, the first thing you need to do is find a church.” Read more

Monday through Wednesday find me buried in classes and teaching, so I didn’t receive word of Phyllis Tickle’s death until this afternoon. I did not know Phyllis personally—face to face—but, as many no doubt will tell you, I felt like I knew her personally. So I do what many of the authors Phyllis Tickle championed behind the scenes do: I write. I write to honor her. I called Phyllis one Friday evening a few years back to talk about some… Read more

What then characterizes a Spirit-filled church? Not the swaying or swagger of people in motion. Not the pouring out of emotion. Certainly not leaders engaged in self-promotion. Not even people headed in the right direction. What characterizes a Spirit-filled church is a penchant for demotion. Why? Because the Spirit inspires the content of a cruciform message. Read more

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians doesn’t contain, then, what we hope it promises: a durable, balanced presentation of the Holy Spirit. When we close the book on the letter, we see that Paul may have stanched the bleeding—the peaceable tenor of 2 Corinthians tells us that Paul’s letter may have done the trick, plus the church at Corinth was considerably stronger and more stable a generation later, when Clement, bishop of Rome, wrote a letter to them—but we still see the stitches, sewn hastily to save the body and perhaps the soul of the church. Read more

Why solve with community effort what could otherwise be resolved by a gunshot to the head, right? Read more

The pope and I agree. He’s in very good company! (Okay, I’ll admit, it goes the other way, too.) What do we agree about? How to prepare a sermon. Here’s the backstory to how I know Pope Francis and I agree. I wrote this week to Susan Stabile, a law professor and Faculty Fellow of Spiritual Life at the University of St. Thomas. Susan had written an endorsement for Forty Days with the Holy Spirit followed by a fine blog post. I wrote… Read more

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