Balance at the Top of Fuller Seminary [Book Week]

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I’m going to focus on books this week — some that I’ve read, some that I am reading.

When Richard Mouw announced his retirement from the presidency of Fuller Theological Seminary, I was nervous. I’m both an alumnus and a part-time employee of Fuller, and I’m very much a product of that place. In face, I’d say that who I am as a theologian is much more a reflection of Fuller (M.Div.) than of Princeton (Ph.D.). That’s as much because of my time of life (mid-20s vs. mid-30s) when I matriculated at each school.

Mouw was an emissary of evangelicalism, establishing dialogues with Mormons, Muslims, and others. He engaged in the religion-and-science debates, and he regularly debated fellow PC(USA) leaders who were more liberal than he. Although Mouw is fiercely Reformed (in the Kuyperian sense), he was always relatively generous and civil with his evangelicalism (marriage equality being one notable exception).

So when he was leaving, and Fuller was looking for his successor, I wondered who could fill that chair with the same generous spirit. Because, honestly, a moderate evangelical leader is hard to find these days.

As I reported at the time, I was pleased to hear that Mark Labberton was chosen to lead Fuller. In my previous encounters with Mark, he was just the kind of generous, centrist evangelical who embodies what Fuller should be on the landscape of American Christianity. And now, with his first book since assuming that job, we know a bit more about Labberton’s vision.

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2013 Theoblogy Predictions [VIDEO]

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).

So, without further ado, here are my predictions for the Year in Religion 2013:

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Richard Mouw, Timothy Dalrymple, Same Sex Marriage, and the Common Good

It seems that I disagree with Tim Dalrymple on lots and lots of stuff. Nevertheless, it’s been interesting watching him publicly wrestle with the question of whether his evangelical abhorrence of gay sex should be codified in anti-same-sex-marriage laws. First, he asked, Is it time for evangelicals to stop opposing gay marriage?

the question at hand is not whether we should abandon the historical Christian teaching on marriage.  The question is whether we should contend for laws and regulations that give this vision of marriage the sanction of government.  And to make one more distinction: the question is not whether Christians have the right to promote their views, just like everyone else does, and to support or oppose laws on any grounds they wish, including religious grounds.  There’s nothing categorically wrong with supporting laws and politicians who recognize and affirm what marriage actually is, even if your view of marriage is religiously informed.  The question, rather, is whether it is still wise to press for American law to recognize only heterosexual unions.

There are about a million and one caveats in that post. Tim knew he was going to be hammered by his fellow evangelicals. He furthered his questions and clarification in a second post, Ten things I believe about evanvelicals and same-sex marriage:

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Best Advent Hymns

In seminary, I took a class from then-provost-now-president Richard Mouw. He began every class with a meditation on and then singing of a hymn, which he prefaced with the statement that much of the best theology of the history of the church is archived in our hymnody. (I could add that some of the church’s worst theology is also catalogued there.)

Sure, “A Mighty Fortress” is good, if you’re into that kind of thing. And there’s a plethora of Easter hymns that joyously proclaim resurrection. But I’ve always thought that the hymns of Advent are the most theologically articulate and nuanced in the corpus of hymnody.

That was reaffirmed to me last night when, breaking from the tradition of not singing cover songs, we at Solomon’s Porch sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” in which we find this beautiful verse:

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