Will Preach for Hunt

pheasants

I spent last weekend in Huron, South Dakota. This is the second year in a row that I’ve hunted there and preached at Grace Episcopal Church, the result of a pleading post that I put up last year. The people there are fantastic — hospitable, warm, and friendly. I attended the “High Noon” lunch at the Masonic Lodge, I hunted with the town lawyers, a guy who works for the gas company, and my host, who is a land manager. And he’s so much more.

All that, I think, will be reflected on in a book I’ve just started writing on the spirituality of hunting and the outdoors life. If you want your faith community to make the book, invite me to hunt! ;-)

This week, I’m headed to the meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, plus one day at the Evangelical Theological Society. If you’re going to be at any of those gatherings, track me down for a coffee or beer/whisky. I also hope to liveblog some of the sessions I’m attending, so theology nerds can really nerd out.

If you are going to AAR/SBL, be sure to attend the Homebrewed Christianity Live event on Friday night, where Tripp and I will be making a major announcement.

Am I Afraid of Atheism?

Revolution Church — which was founded by Jay Bakker and has followed him from Phoenix to Atlanta to New York City to its present home in Minneapolis — is a unique faith community. Yes, it’s small (at least in person; its online footprint, via the podcast, is much larger). But the people who attend are there for something that very few churches offer, and that’s brutal, unadulterated honesty. That’s what Jay brings each week, and that’s what those who attend are hoping for.

I cannot claim to be as honest or humble as Jay, but when he asks me to guest preach, I try to get in touch with my Inner Jay. That’s what I did last Sunday, in a talk entitled, “Should We Be Afraid of Atheism.”

Jay talks openly about his doubts. Several times, I’ve heard him admit at Revolution that he doubts daily whether God exists. At many churches, this would be disconcerting (see, for example, where the Archbishop of Canterbury admits his own doubts), but at Revolution, that’s the very thing that people come to hear.

I, too, doubt God’s existence — though less today than I used to. But that’s not what I talked about last Sunday. Instead, I talked about the doubts of others, and whether atheism is part of the legacy of the emerging church movement.

[Read more...]

With Mark Driscoll Gone, We’ve Only Got John Piper To Show Us the Insanity of Hypercalvinism

John Piper

John Piper

John Piper has done a 180 on cancer. That’s according to T.C. Moore at Theological Graffiti, who has smartly tracked Piper’s flip. Here’s the deal:

On the eve of his own surgery for prostate cancer in 2006, Piper called cancer a “gift from God.” He scolded fellow cancer-sufferers not to “waste their cancer” by ignoring God’s design of it. In other words, if you’ve got cancer, God wants you to have cancer.

But recently, Piper joined the evangelical chorus in criticizing Brittany Maynard for ending her own life before cancer killed her. In that post, Piper wrote that cancer “opposes the ultimate goodness that God designed for this creation. It is an enemy.”

So, which is it? Is cancer a gift from God that is part of God’s design, or is it an enemy that is not part of God’s design? It seems that Piper doesn’t know. That’s because his theological position is completely untenable.

[Read more...]

Theology for the People

tftp_Twitter_Header3

As you may recall, I had a bit of a job transition this summer. After spending several years at sparkhouse, a division of Augsburg Fortress, and seeing the Animate series to completion, I got a month-long respite to finish my book. Then, after Labor Day, I joined Fortress Press as senior acquisitions editor.

Fortress Press has a long and distinguished history. Of late, like all publishers, the leadership of FP has had to make choices about how to move forward efficiently. The foci over the last several years has been theology, biblical studies, and reference works. These were good choices it seems, for Fortress has countered industry trends and grown significantly. For example, the number of titles released per year has doubled, to over 100, in just the past five years.

[Read more...]

What We Can Learn from the Failures of Rome

The ruins of the Temple of Saturn (the columns date from 43 BCE) in the Roman Forum. Photo by Courtney Perry.

The ruins of the Temple of Saturn (the columns date from 42 BCE) in the Roman Forum. Photo by Courtney Perry.

As I expected, Christianity’s cultured despisers (many of them from within) took great offense at my daring to suggest that the Roman Empire was not unmitigated evil. Instead, I suggested that the legacy of Rome is ambivalent — good and bad. (As David Sessions brilliantly showed yesterday, hot-takes are swallowing the Christian blogosphere, on both left and right. Facebook and Twitter hot-takers gleefully troll me anytime I write a post that offends their sensibilities. This now comes with the territory of blogging.)

Nevertheless, anyone with a modicum of common sense cannot help but be impressed with the feats of the Romans, especially as you stroll through the modern city that is built upon the ruins of the empire.

And yes, they are ruins, because Rome fell, and it fell hard.

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In Praise of Empires

Courtney and I are in Rome this week, compliments of Focus Features and A Different Drummer, to visit the set of a movie based on Anne Rice’s novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. We are embargoed from writing anything about the movie (yet), but my fifteenth trip to the Eternal City has brought on some thoughts.

Among Christianity’s critics from within — especially my own tribe of progressive Protestants — it’s fashionable to disparage empire at every turn. Empire, it seems, is responsible for everything that ails our faith.

Oh, and Constantine was an asshat.

As it turns out, that’s not exactly true.

[Read more...]

The Emerging Church Is What It Says It Is

Malaysia Emerging

On Friday I covered the first of two articles by political scientists Ryan P. Burge of Eastern Illinois University and Paul Djupe of Denison University. In that article, they used their research to show that emergent are not universally liberal, as opponents claim, but are really rather diverse when it comes to politics and theology.

Today I turn to their second article, “Emergent Church Practices in America: Inclusion and Deliberation in American Congregations,” published in the Review of Religious Research. Here’s the abstract of the article: [Read more...]

Study Shows Emergent Is Not As Liberal As You Thought

Photo by Courtney Perry

Photo by Courtney Perry

Just when you thought emergent was dead, scholars are showing that it’s very much alive and kicking. I will soon write about the excellent full-length book, The Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emerging Christianity by Gerardo Marti and Gladys Ganiel. That book came out earlier this year.

Now, two political scientists — Ryan P. Burge of Eastern Illinois University and Paul Djupe of Denison University — have co-authored two academic articles about the Emerging Church. Each article shows some fascinating insights into the movement, and each upsets some of what we think we know. I’ll post about one today and the other on Monday.

[Read more...]

Doctrine DOES Change

Pope Francis arrives at the Synod on the family.

Over the last two weeks, Pope Francis made some courageous steps in dragging the Catholic Church into the 21st century. First, he called a Synod to discuss non-traditional family arrangements, including divorces, those raising children outside of wedlock, and gays and lesbians. Then he began the synod by telling the assembled bishops to speak their minds honestly, not holding anything back.

Halfway through the synod, the Vatican released a provisional report on what they were discussing, and it contained language so welcoming to gays and lesbians that it ignited a global debate. After another week, the final report was released, and it lacked much of the language that welcomed gays, lesbians, and those who choose to raise children without getting married. Andrew Sullivan called it, “Two steps forward, one step back.”

What has most surprised Sullivan and others who watch the Vatican closely is that instead of just releasing the final report, the entire report was released — including the defeated paragraphs — along with the vote tally for each paragraph. This kind of transparency from the Catholic magisterium is a revolution itself, and its possible significance should not be underestimated.

Sullivan concludes his post on the Synod, [Read more...]

Nadia Brings Queers, Gays, and Lesbians To an Evangelical Party

The above video was posted by Nadia on her Facebook page (If you can’t see it, click on “Post” above; WordPress doesn’t always load Facebook videos correctly). It’s her submission to The Nines, a online “conference” hosted by Leadership Network. In their request for submissions, LN wrote this:

There is no greater and faster shift in culture today than the swing towards the acceptance of same-sex marriage. Church leaders need to determine the right path moving forward; loving and ministering to the LGBT community, while at the same time holding-fast to a theological position (held by most)  that prohibits the practice of homosexuality.

So, as you can see, Nadia is cutting against the grain on this.

Kudos, friend.


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