Beatitudes, Not Platitudes shows that the Beatitudes are not overused, well-worn answers to the question, “What would Jesus do?” Rather, they are undervalued and hardly touched claims that transform our destinies. More than spiritual nuggets for personal devotion, practical advice, or propositions to be believed, the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 envision and entail a reorientation of the good life in view of Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus’ teachings reveal to us that living our best purpose-driven life now involves dying to self… Read more

I believe one of the reasons why we find so little civility in American culture today is because we are not secure as a society. Reigning metaphors and stories that tie us together are disintegrating in many contexts, giving way to internal chaos and external conflict. We are tempted in such contexts to pull back and take refuge in partisan factions politically, religiously, racially, and in other ways. While there is a need for affinities and solidarity with people of… Read more

Have you ever come across a spider web still under construction? So it was with Jonathan Edwards’s theological and ethical system at the time of his death. It was still under construction. Edwards tragically died at the height of his intellectual powers. He had recently left the Indian mission in Stockbridge, MA and was installed as the new president of the College of New Jersey (known today as Princeton University). The cause of his death was complications resulting from a… Read more

How do you build a global missional movement rather than a monument? More precisely, how do you become a vehicle through whom God builds Jesus’ missional movement? Here is the first of three not-so-easy, but all-important steps: First, be open to change. This principle stands in contrast to those monumental last words that destroy missional movements: “We’ve never done it that way before.” While it is not the case that every form of change is a good thing, a lack… Read more

How many spider webs have you seen? Do you find a beautiful symmetry in each design? I don’t find such symmetry in every spider web I see. Some are asymmetrical. Some are exceptionally messy. Now, in light of what we said of Jonathan Edwards’s fascination with spiders (refer here to the first part of this mini-series by the same title), some might consider his theology the equivalent of an asymmetrical spider web. Why is that? Take for example Edwards’s sermon… Read more

How often do you carefully read the church bulletin or listen to closing announcements? If the answer is “not often” or “never,” then you will probably miss the import of Hebrews chapter 13. The closing words might read like announcements at the close of a service, but they are missional action steps for God’s kingdom’s mission advance. Thomas Long puts it this way: …the sermon is being followed by the announcements and the “joys and concerns.” As is the case… Read more

On most accounts, Jonathan Edwards is considered one of America’s greatest intellectuals and spiritual influences. Here I am reminded of historian George Marsden’s claim that American history “recounted without its religious history of Edwards is like Moby Dick without the whale.”[1] I have been residing in one of Edwards’ stomping grounds this spring, New Haven, Connecticut. Edwards graduated from Yale University and served as a tutor here. The divinity school at Yale houses a center in his honor and a… Read more

I have heard reports of how difficult it is to run Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon. (Refer to “Just How Bad Is Heartbreak Hill?”) Appearing at mile 20, it comes late in the race. Runners need to prepare well for this leg of the journey so they can make it the rest of the way. While the writer of Hebrews does not have Boston’s Heartbreak Hill in mind, the author is thinking about a race involving a grueling obstacle… Read more

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s[1] posthumously published work Letters and Papers from Prison receives mixed reviews from various quarters, including Evangelical Christians. I do not think it is only ‘death-of-God’ interpretive moves by liberals like Bishop John A.T. Robinson, William Hamilton, Thomas J.J. Altizer and others, or his associations with neo-orthodox and liberal theological figures,[2] that lead to Evangelical wariness in many quarters. Given our particular theo-political imagination and Weltanschauung,[3] we also struggle with Bonhoeffer’s affirmation of the Christian God as weak, secular… Read more

I grew up in a Protestant tradition that took seriously Luther’s declaration “faith alone.” We are saved by faith alone, and not by faith plus works. Luther did not deny the importance of works. Good works flow from union with Jesus through faith in God’s Word as God’s love is poured out into our hearts through the Spirit. Just as Luther did not deny works with his emphasis on faith alone, he did not deny the importance of the Christian… Read more

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