God Has Died…And He Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life

Engaging great content at Christianity21. (Courtney Perry)

I’m at Christianity21 this week, a gathering produced by Doug Pagitt, Sarah Cunningham, and Your Favorite Blogger. We’re one day in, and it’s been awesome. One of the great things about this event is that there’s no theme, and there are 21 gifted speakers, so we never really know what magic will happen in the chemistry between the talks.

They don’t all agree, but they do tend to dovetail with one another. Yesterday, Jonathan Merritt led off the opening session with a challenge to follow God’s call and listen to the unlikely ways that God speaks. Paul Raushenbush went next with a call for conservatives and liberals to rediscover the social gospel. Noel Castellanos told us five things we can do to engage with people and the gospel. And Nadia Bolz-Weber told us ten things she’s learned about being a pastor and church planter.

In the next session, Kent Dobson gave an amazing reflection on the absence of God, Sarah Lefton challenged us to engage Christians in biblical literacy in the way that she has challenged Jews, Mike Foster reminded us how everyone needs to be loved, and Romal Tune told us that the church needs to compete with gangs for the youth of LA.

In between, we had a couple dozen 7-minute talks by attendees from around the country. Today more talks. And tomorrow, even more, including my call to recover apocalyptic language for the church. Check back here for updates.

Arguing with Atheists

There’s a very big difference between, on the one hand, making a theological, philosophical, or scientific argument for the existence of God and, on the other hand, making a personal statement about why you still believe in God despite your doubts. Those are two very different types of communication.

I am keenly aware of the difference. I’ve written many posts here that are the former, and I’ve got an entire chapter already written for a forthcoming book that is along those lines, arguing with Aquinas’s famous “Five Ways.”

Yesterday’s post was surely not that. Yesterday’s post was the latter, an honest accounting of one of the several reasons that I continue to profess faith in God, in spite of the fact that I am beset with doubt.

But the biggest atheist blogger in the world picked it up, mocked it, told his readers that I had made the worst argument for the existence of God that he’d ever read, and pointed them here. They came, they told me I’m an idiot, and they left. (It’s shocking — shocking, I tell you! — that atheists don’t find one of my reasons for belief compelling.) I don’t imagine they’ll be back anytime soon.

So it goes in the blogosphere these days.

For those of you still reading, I was simply trying to say this: One of the reasons that I continue to have faith is that so many in the world do; so many — the vast majority, by anyone’s reckoning — that I cannot help but pay attention to that. I don’t think that all those people who believe in the divine, and all the billions who’ve preceded us on this plant who have believed similarly, are stupid lemmings. I think their belief deserves enough respect that I cannot shuck it off so very easily.

Take it or leave it. But I stand by it.

“Why Are You Still a Christian?”

Faith and doubt coexist for Jay Bakker.

That was the question asked to me yesterday by a dear friend as we drove to lunch. And it’s a good one.

As I’ve written recently, I’m disheartened by the number of friends of mine who are no longer theists. The latest is Ryan Bell, who is starting a Year Without God (I blame AJ Jacobs for all the “Year Of…” madness; I think that meme has pretty much run its course). Ryan is a former pastor, and now a former instructor at Fuller Seminary and Azusa Pacific University. (In a post about being let go from those positions, he says that Christian institutions of higher learning are afraid of faculty asking tough questions. I have not found that to be the case at Fuller, though I do have my concerns about other schools. Fuller has continued to employ me in spite of the objections raised by several high profile alumni.) Is Ryan really living as an atheist for the year? Some atheists don’t think so.

But back to the question my friend asked me. As someone beset with doubts, she wondered what it is that keeps me Christian. I have several answers to the question — many of which relate specifically to Jesus of Nazareth — but here’s the one reason that’s most significant to me these days:

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Be It Resolved…

There seems to be some hand wringing and teeth gnashing and garment rending in the leftie Christian blogosphere as the year winds down today. Some people are quitting things, while others are pulling in one million pageviews in a day (good for you, Adam!). In other news, dogs and cats are sleeping together. Etc.

Meanwhile, I’m coming off of a month of amazing times of travel, hunting, kids, cooking…and not enough writing. Not nearly enough writing. My book deadline is tomorrow, and I’ll miss it. But the book absolutely needs to get done by the end of January — it will release in Lent, 2015. In other writing commitments, I’ve got a chapter of a book due February 1 (attention, Baker Books, I’ll be late on that one, too). And then I’ll be writing an ebook, A Better Eucharist, to come out on Holy Week.

I’ve got a talk to prep for Christianity21 next week, and a sermon for House of Mercy later in January.

That’s a lot of content to churn out, and I lack the team of research assistants on which “Pastor Mark Driscoll” relies.

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Top Five Posts of 2013

On Friday, I highlighted some of the stats for the year at Theoblogy. Now it’s time for the big reveal. I’ve got some legacy posts that still get tons of hits, so this list won’t include those. Here are the top 2013 posts for traffic:

5. Premarital Sex — Maybe It’s Not So Bad

4. Rachel Held Evans: A Woman’s Voice

3. It’s Time for a Schism Regarding Women in the Church

2. Rob Bell Calls “Bullshit” on Christian Radio

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The Year at Theoblogy

It’s been a great year here at Theoblogy, and I thank you for reading. Visits, unique visitors, and pageviews were all up over 20% from 2012, and we crossed one million pageviews for the first time. That’s very gratifying.

The average visit lasted 1:50, which seems like an eternity on the internet.

Forty percent of you were new visitors this year.

Chrome is your favorite browser, followed by Safari and Firefox.

You’re about half Windows users, and half Mac.

Facebook is the biggest referrer, followed by Twitter. After the social sites and my own site, the biggest referrer was Rachel Held Evans (thanks, Rach!).

After “Tony Jones” and “Tony Jones blog,” other search terms that led you here were “Rob Bell” and “Don Piper” and “Problems in America.” Among the more random search terms: [Read more...]

My 2013 Predictions = Meh

I didn’t do so great on my three predictions for the Year in Religion 2013:

For the past several years, I’ve appeared on Doug Pagitt Radio to make my annual predictions for the upcoming year in religion. You can judge my prognostication abilities for yourself:

2012 Predictions

2011 Predictions

2010 Predictions 

Looking back, it seems that I’m batting about .500. Not bad (for a baseball player).

But I struck out in 2013: here are my predictions for the Year in Religion 2013. Read them, grade me, and leave your own predictions in the comments below. I’ll post my predictions for 2014 before the end of the year.

The First Christmas Sermon Ever Preached

As a Christmas tradition, I repost this, the first Christmas sermon ever recorded:

John “Golden Mouth” Chrysostom preached the first known Christmas sermon in AD 386 (the same year that Augustine converted to Christianity — what a year!).  In this case, the first is the best.  It both beautifully written and theologically profound. How I would have loved to have heard him deliver it!  I commend it for your reading in the next couple of days.

BEHOLD a new and wondrous mystery. My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn.  The Angels sing.  The Archangels blend their voice in harmony.  The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise.  The Seraphim exalt His glory.  All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven.  He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of justice.  And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields.  For He willed, He had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God.  This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not.  For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His.  Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.

Read the rest: The First Christmas Sermon.

Happy Christmas, From Mine to Yours

God’s Uniqueness, Part Two (Incarnation) [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

In Part One of this Question That Haunts Christianity, I wrote about God as creator. Today I turn my attention to the Incarnation as something that displays God’s ontological uniqueness. As a reminder, the question came from reader Pat, and it concerns a contentious post by Roger Olson:

Last week, I read Roger Olson’s attack on process theology, and then I saw your tweet on the controversy:

I, too, am attracted to relational and process theologies, but I’ve struggled with the feeling I get from process that God is not really very special, that God’s not unique. That’s why your tweet got my attention, so my question is this: Is God ontologically unique from the rest of creation?

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