Thank God for the Dalai Lama.

For all of orthodox Christianity’s differences in belief from the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism, we share many things in common. One of the things I admire most is his profound compassionate care for all of existence, most notably, his supreme regard for humanity. Such compassionate care is on full display in his volume, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality (New York: Harmony Books, 2005). In his essay titled “Ethics and the New Genetics,” he… Read more

Aristotle and Luther: On Justice, Virtue and the Reformation of Values

Do we become just by doing just things or by being made just? This is a key question in view of Aristotle and Luther. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle writes that “by doing just things we become just.”[1] Luther took an opposing stance: we become good by being made good. Luther had harsh words for Aristotle’s Ethics.[2] According to Luther in his “Disputation Against Scholastic Theology,” the fallen will is not free to choose the good; it will bear bad… Read more

Grateful for the Dead

Editors’ Note: This article is part of the Public Square on Remembering Our Dead: Ancestors, Rituals, Relics. Read other perspectives from the Patheos community here. Are you grateful for the dead—any dead? One of the major holidays in Japan is Obon or Bon. The holiday celebration centers on honoring one’s ancestors who are believed to return home during the celebration in mid-August of every year. People in Japan don’t walk away from the dead. There is a living bond or connection. The picture… Read more

Kyogen Carlson: Bridge-Builder over Troubled Waters

Zen Buddhist priest Kyogen Carlson (1948-2014) was a bridge-builder. He built bridges of understanding and respect over the dirty, murky, troubled waters of our nation’s culture wars. It is a deep irony that a man with such an open heart and mind died of a massive heart attack. Whether one knew him or not, each person owes him a debt of mindfulness for what he risked and accomplished. Among other related practices, he helped bring liberal Buddhists and conservative Evangelical… Read more

What’s Behind Jesus’ Mask?

What’s behind Jesus’ mask? Jesus. Jesus is not a mode that a divine “nameless, faceless, omni-being”[1] puts on and takes off. What we see in Jesus is what we get with his Father. Together with the Spirit, they share the divine name in the sacred story of life (See Matthew 28:19). The Father’s actions through the interpersonal mediation of the Son and Spirit in history reveal the eternal triune being of the one God. As I have written elsewhere, “God… Read more

Are All Moral Problems Mental? Reflections on Christianity and Hinduism

What is the problem of our human condition? What is the solution? Many views of human nature can be set forth in terms of answering these questions. Historic Christianity and Hinduism answer these questions very differently. The ultimate problem of human nature for many, if not all, orthodox Christians is moral separation from God and one another. The ultimate problem for Hinduism is mental or psychological.[1] While one can never truly separate moral and mental issues from one another, this… Read more

Sola Scriptura, Not Solitary Confinement

Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) does not mean and should not entail solitary confinement of the Bible from church tradition or reason. Rather, the phrase entails that the Bible is the final written authority in all matters pertaining to the church’s faith and practice (See this helpful introduction to the subject in Lutheran theology). For example, in his 95 Theses of 1517, Martin Luther challenged the use of “indulgences” granted by papal authority (See for example thesis 21 and thesis 27… Read more

We Are On Trial: Reflections on Kafka and The Bible

We are on trial. Unlike Franz Kafka’s Trial, the divine Judge revealed in the Bible issues particular laws by which to abide and specific charges and verdicts of guilt and/or innocence. The divine Judge also discloses his identity rather than hide in the shadows during court proceedings. In our day, many people find laws oppressive. Laws can be oppressive, when society operates like the one in Kafka’s Trial. The legal system in Kafka’s work is nebulous and open to distortion… Read more

Social Darwinism, Richard Dawkins and Down syndrome

People often wrongly connect Darwin’s doctrine of the survival of the biological fittest, including reproduction, with superiority in other spheres, such as morality, intellect, aesthetics, and spirituality. If anything, the moral to Darwin’s ethical stance is that people should have big families, wherein the children reach adulthood. What is termed Social Darwinism should probably be labeled Social Spencerism, following Herbert Spencer’s social philosophy. Darwin did not fully accept Social Darwinism or “eugenics,” which was coined by Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton… Read more

Gated Communities and the Visible/Invisible Church

I struggle with those gated communities and that form of gated community thinking where people associate only with people of their own ideological and cultural bent. Such isolation. I also struggle with churches that function as gated communities of various kinds. Perhaps some churches exclude people of other ethnicities, economic brackets, those with “disabilities,” the elderly or young or singles, the vibrant or dying, or those with different worship styles,  personality types, hobbies, IQ’s, and political perspectives. The list goes… Read more

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