You Don’t Know If God Exists…Or Doesn’t Exist

Friend of the blog and Yale philosopher Keith DeRose has a fascinating interview up at the NYTimes’s The Stone. On the heels of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s admission that he sometimes doubts the existence of God, Keith argues that no one knows whether God exists.

But, more politically unpopular these days, he argues just as strongly that atheists cannot prove — indeed, don’t even know — that God doesn’t exist:

The thought that God exists does strike many atheists as bizarre. But, in contrast to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, there are all of these theists and agnostics who do not find the thought of God’s existence bizarre, and I really think they ruin our atheist friends’ hopes for easy knowledge here. The basic point is that, when there are many other apparently sensible people who disagree with you, you need a good argument to claim that you know they’re wrong.

Keith’s point is that atheists can’t simply write off belief in a God because they find such a belief bizarre. That’s not a counter-argument.

[Read more...]

Remember When Yoga Was Bad?

The yogis at Solomon's Porch.

The yogis at Solomon’s Porch.

Last night in yoga, I couldn’t help but smile. I know I’m supposed to be totally and completely focused on the moment — and I was — but I was also thinking about the past. When I wrote The Sacred Way, editors and Zondervan made me take out two passages: one that mentioned drinking a beer, and one that referred to a yoga pose. (It didn’t matter that the pose I mentioned was in the context of a spiritual retreat led by Zondervan partner, Youth Specialties and Mike Yaconelli.) No yoga. No way.

Then, of course, Doug went on CNN to debate John MacArthur about yoga, seen above. At the time, Doug had done yoga, but I wouldn’t say it was a part of his daily life. Well, it is now, and his wife Shelley runs a non-profit yoga studio at Solomon’s Porch (she’s at the center of the photo above). And I take yoga classes a couple times a week at Life Time Fitness.

[Read more...]

A Grammatical PSA

Are you in seminary? Starting grad school this fall? If so, here are some hints to make your professors more happier as they grade your papers:

  • Avoid the subjunctive mood.
  • Avoid the passive voice.
  • Don’t use “scare quotes.”
  • Punctuation goes inside of quote marks. See above.
  • Book titles are italicized, not underlined or in quote marks.
  • Always use a serif font.
  • Always use the Oxford Comma.
  • Only a single space between sentences. Unless you’re using a typewriter. Which you aren’t.
  • Don’t capitalize words that are not proper nouns.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming. :-)

Official Seminary Response

As a blogger, one never knows. Most posts are crickets. Sometimes, a post captures the attention of an audience and goes a bit viral. That’s what happened to last week’s post about the three major Protestant seminaries in the Twin Cities (though the traffic to that post still paled in comparison to the previous posts on Driscoll and Pannenberg).

There’s been conversation online about that post, and a fair amount of criticism of what I wrote (you can see the pros and cons in the comments to the original post). Fair enough. Many have seen my bigger point that the seminary landscape is shifting, while some have taken issue with my numbers. It’s a fair criticism. But we’re all shooting in the dark a bit, since I’m using anecdotal evidence about this fall’s matriculations, and others are referring to publicly available data from past years, from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).

The only way that we could really know about this year’s numbers is from the respective schools, so I reached out to each of the three schools and invited them to write a response. United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities did not respond. Bethel Seminary wrote to tell me that my numbers were incorrect, but they did not send an official response. United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities told me they would not be submitting an official response. Luther Seminary responded. The following is from Carrie Carroll, vice president of enrollment at Luther: [Read more...]

Jesus’ Death, God’s Culpability

Marc Chagall's "Yellow Crucifixion," which hung on Jürgen Moltmann's wall as he wrote The Crucified God.

Marc Chagall’s “Yellow Crucifixion,” which hung on Jürgen Moltmann’s wall as he wrote The Crucified God.

I spent the summer revising and rewriting Did God Kill Jesus? That meant that the subject of Jesus’ death was front-of-mind much of the time. Even as I mowed the lawn or biked to work, I was thinking about this.

My editor has expressed some trepidation over the question. Of course, God didn’t kill Jesus, in the sense that God didn’t pound the nails into his wrists and hoist the cross upright. But even if God stood aside and allowed to happen, God is somehow responsible, right?

(Which reminds me of Richard Pryor’s famous bit. God’s invited to a dinner party on Earth, but before he leaves, he asks, “Hey, can I see my son?”

“Oh, um, shit, we cruficified him.”

“What?!?”)

[Read more...]

Be the First To Get DID GOD KILL JESUS? #DGKJ

If you’d like to know about my new book, Did God Kill Jesus?, before the throngs and the hordes, sign up on this form (only an email address is required).

Here’s a taste of what you’ll read in that book: [Read more...]

A Tale of Three Seminaries

Twin Cities seminaries

The Twin Cities boasts three Protestant seminaries (forgive me if I don’t consider John Piper’s unaccredited school a seminary in full standing). They are Luther Seminary, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, and Bethel Seminary. And I think that the rising and falling fortunes of these three can tell us something interesting about the landscape of the church in America today. [Disclosure: I teach at United, I am part of a Templeton grant at Luther, and I once made out with a girl in the trees behind Bethel. I have friends who teach at all three.]

Luther Seminary was initially founded in 1917 as the merger of three Norwegian Lutheran seminaries. Another merger with Augsburg Seminary (also Norwegian) happened in 1963, and yet another merger in 1976 with Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary (English) led to Luther Northwestern Seminary. In 1994, they simplified the name to Luther Seminary. Luther is the largest of the eight seminaries of the ELCA denomination — with incoming classes of well over 100 — but it has recently fallen on hard times. Due to falling enrollment and financial mismanagement, the president and CFO were let go and many faculty and staff were laid off.

United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities was also formed by a merger. In 1957, the United Church of Christ denomination was formed out of the merger of a couple denoms, and in 1962, UTS was founded as the merger of Yankton School of Theology (German Congregational) and Mission House (German Reformed). In the 1970s and 80s, UTS was at the forefront of liberalism, particularly feminist theology, and was among the first seminaries to enroll openly gay students. But their star faded, and in the last few years, incoming classes were in the low 30s. Today it serves primarily UCC, UMC, and UUA students.

Bethel Seminary was initially founded in Chicago in 1871. In 1914, it was acquired by the Baptist General Conference denomination and moved to Minnesota. Always evangelical in its outlook, Bethel made news in the 1990s when professors John Piper and Greg Boyd squared off, resulting in Boyd’s resignation and Piper’s withdrawal from Bethel and the BGC. In its heyday, Bethel was welcoming over 200 new students every year, but recently they’ve laid off all of their church historians as well as several other faculty members.

Here’s the interesting part:

[Read more...]

Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928-2014)

Wolfhart Pannenberg—In Memoriam

by Philip Clayton

Wolfhart Pannenberg

Wolfhart Pannenberg in 1983

Wolfhart Pannenberg has often been called the greatest theologian of the second half of the 20th century. With his death Friday, the world has lost a brilliant interpreter of Christianity, and I have lost the mentor who molded me as a scholar, theologian, and person.

In the 1950s, when Pannenberg was a doctoral student in Heidelberg, Karl Barth dominated the theological stage. In order to counteract Barth’s overemphasis on salvation history (Heilsgeschichte), Pannenberg redefined revelation as “universal history” (Universalgeschichte). A few years later he published a major Christology (Jesus—God and Man) that established him as the world’s leading defender of “theology from below.”

Over the next 30 years, Pannenberg extended this program to philosophy, the religion/science debate, the dialogue across the world religions, and to every corner of theology. He had the most encyclopedic mind I have ever encountered. You need only to read around a bit in his multi-volume Basic Questions in Theology to be stunned by the range and depth of his scholarship. John Cobb once quipped, “I saw that Pannenberg was able to encompass the entire range of knowledge within his own mind. Realizing that I could never match this achievement, I decided it would take a lifetime of working with my doctoral students to cover as many topics.”

[Read more...]

Some Thoughts About Mark Driscoll

KOMO News

There were a couple things that I couldn’t avoid, even with my self-imposed internet sabbatical. One was the ice-bucket challenge. The other was the ongoing saga of Mark Driscoll.

I’ve written about Mark plenty here, and I’ve detailed his early involvement with the emergent movement in one of my books. Mark and I never knew each other all that well. I got the impression that he looked down on me because in our “Group of 20,” I was the lone youth pastor. Just about everyone else had planted a church of their own.

Those were heady days. Cover articles on Christianity Today and Christian Century within a year of each other — that’s rare. Television coverage on ABC and PBS. Articles in the New York Times. Speaking gigs, book contracts, conferences. That shit can go to your head.

Let’s be honest. It did.

[Read more...]

DID GOD KILL JESUS? Update [VIDEO] #DGKJ

Here’s a short video I shot to update you on the forthcoming book:


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