“I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine”: Bob Dylan in an MTD Age

One would be hard-pressed to determine the meaning of Bob Dylan’s song, “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.” The lyrics are mysterious and haunting. Dylan sings of dreaming about St. Augustine. Which one? St. Augustine of Hippo, the great African theologian and bishop? Augustine the missionary to Britain who became the very first Archbishop of Canterbury? What does the blanket stand for? Why is Augustine wearing a coat of solid gold? Why the reference to there being no martyr among the kings and quee … [Read more...]

Will the Real Holy Spirit Please Stand Up? Discerning the Holy Spirit from the Spirit of the Age

The American television panel game show To Tell the Truth features three people claiming to be the same person, two of whom were pretenders. In the show, four celebrities try to discern which of the three is telling the truth. At the end of the show the real person is asked to stand up and be identified: “Will the real [person’s name] please stand up?” To Tell the Truth has aired in various incantations since 1956. The 2016 version will air on June 14.I wish a similar show would run for disce … [Read more...]

God Plays Favorites. How Fair Is That?

In his reflections on Psalm 2, John Calvin speaks of the nations’ rebellion and rejection of God’s Anointed One, the Messiah or Christ, whom Calvin believes is Jesus. Calvin asserts that although “the Lord shall have for a time apparently taken no notice of the malpractices of those who oppose the rule of his Son, he will suddenly change his course, and show that he regards nothing with greater abhorrence than such presumption.”[1] Calvin references Jesus’ words in John’s Gospel: “Anyone who does … [Read more...]

Is It a Fundamental Human Right to Live off God’s Grace as Borrowed Capital with No Intent of Paying Back?

Is it a fundamental human right to live off God’s grace as borrowed capital with no intent of paying back? Often, we live as if God will be gracious to us, no matter how we live. Voltaire, the deistic critique of orthodox Christianity in the 18th century, was reported to have quipped, “God will forgive; it’s his business.” Is it? How do we know? Was Voltaire living in light of borrowed capital from the Christian tradition he rejected without paying tribute?Voltaire was likely far more cogniza … [Read more...]

Sola Scriptura & Solitary Confinement

“Sola Scriptura”—Martin Luther’s teaching of Scripture alone—does not signify solitary confinement, but that the Bible is the fundamental written authority for the church’s life in service to Christ.[1] While tradition has an important place to play, it must never eclipse Scripture, no matter how close they are related.The Lutheran pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, took quite seriously Scripture’s call to live together in community. The written Word must take on flesh and blood exis … [Read more...]

God Is Just and Righteous. But Who Cares?

How important would it be to you that a therapist you are seeing or a butler or bellhop who serves you were guilty of tax evasion or cheating on their spouse? As long as the therapist or butler/bellhop weren’t cheating you, would that be okay? What about God? As long as a God who cheats others weren't cheating you, would that be okay?How did God come into the picture? According to sociologist of religion Christian Smith, many young people, who espouse a form of “Moralistic Therapeutic Dei … [Read more...]

How Can the Bible Be Right If It Makes Us Feel Oh So Wrong? God’s Word Is the Inconvenient Truth.

In our moralistic, therapeutic deistic age, one often hears "If it feels right, it must be right." If feeling determines rightness, the Bible must be wrong—at least much of the time. Fortunately, not everyone agrees at every turn with this assessment.Here I am reminded of John Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie, where he and his poodle Charlie set off on a cross-country journey in his truck. Soon after beginning the trek in New York, they stop in Vermont on a Sunday morning. Steinbeck decides t … [Read more...]