Believe it or Not, People Still Go to Church for the Preaching

The primary reason people give for going to church may surprise you: Good preaching and teaching.At least, that's what Gallup found in a recent poll (March 2017).The poll listed common activities of church, asking respondents whether they rank as a major factor, a minor factor, or not a factor, in their reason for attending church or other place of worship.Sermons and teaching ranks highest in importance. 76% said it was a major factor, whereas music ("good choir, praise band, … [Read more...]

The Virgin Birth and Christianity: Is it All Or Nothing?

Not long ago, I assumed my spot in my favorite coffee shop to work on final edits for A Complicated Pregnancy (subtitle yet to be decided), my forthcoming book about the virgin birth.I overheard two college-aged students discussing religion.The young man was a tried and true skeptic of religion, with a particular distaste for Christianity. He laid out a series of popular skeptical arguments against Christianity—and against religion in general.Religion is an opiate for the masses! … [Read more...]

The Resurrection Revealed Jesus as Divine (Pannenberg)

The resurrection revealed that Jesus of Nazareth was the divine Son of God.Wolfhart Pannenberg develops this thought in his now classic text Jesus -- God and Man.  His approach stands as a prominent example of a “Christology from below,” as opposed to a “Christology from above,”  because he begins reflection on Jesus from the concrete, particular, historical life of Jesus—who in that life shows himself over time to be not just Jesus the carpenter but also he divine Son of God. The "eterna … [Read more...]

Did Christ Die for Non-Human Animals?

Good Friday reflections on the cross usually focus on the significance of Christ's death for humans.Christ died for you and for me. Or even, Christ died for the world--with the world taken in an abstract sense or as a cipher for all human beings.But why shouldn't the "world" include all living creatures? Why shouldn't it include non-human animals? Your dog, your cat, your parrot? The chipmunk tunneling under your house?In short, if human beings are in need of Christ's atonement, … [Read more...]

Four Ways to Interpret the “Rock,” the Foundation of Jesus’ Church

In Matthew 16, Simon (soon to be renamed "Peter") makes his famous declaration that Jesus is "the Messiah, the Son of the Living God." As is often pointed out with Peter, this is one of the few times he gets something right.Jesus' response is more famous yet: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail ag … [Read more...]

The Problem with Seminary? Seven Big Tensions in Curriculum Revision

I recently attended an ATS (Association of Theological Schools) meeting of mid-career faculty where we discussed some of the daunting challenges seminaries face.We heard about some creative initiatives some seminaries are trying out, and shared our own strategies for moving forward in an increasingly difficult era for theological education.Seminaries feel mounting pressure to justify our existence because, over the past two decades, a rising number of seminaries has competed for a … [Read more...]

The Fundamentalist Heresy: Jesus was a Superhuman Person

I haven't blogged much lately. The reason for that is I've been finishing a draft of my book on the issue of the virgin birth (more technically: virginal conception). I'll be saying more about that book in days to come.Through the process of writing this book I'm come to appreciate the humanity of Jesus in a much more powerful way. I've realized how much my evangelical background had instilled in me a picture of Jesus as divine -- as the eternal Son of God, the Word, the Logos, the … [Read more...]

A Big Problem with Intelligent Design: “Don’t Look at My Bad Side”

"Intelligent Design" is a theory, a theology really, that claims that the complexity, beauty, order, or "irreducible complexity" of creation couldn't have occurred randomly. The apparent "intelligence" of creation itself demands that we posit an intelligent designer.It's a contemporary spin on a older argument, articulated with sophisticated by William Paley. Paley's "divine clock-maker" argument for a Creator of the universe was based on the premise that, just as the existence of … [Read more...]

“Persistent” Elizabeth Warren Just Enacted one of Jesus’ Parables

I opened up today to discover this huge headline: "Nevertheless, She Persisted"These were the words of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, explaining his invocation of Rule 19, a rule that disallows senators from "impugning" another senator.The "she" is, of course, Elizabeth Warren, who had delivered an impassioned speech against the nomination of Jeff Sessions. In her speech, Warren read from a 1986 letter from the late Coretta Scott King, MLK Jrs widow, in which Martin … [Read more...]

A “Case for Christ” Movie? On the Problem with Apologetics

A few weeks ago I went to see Silence, the Scorcese film (based on the novel by Shushaku Endo) about Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in Japan during a period when Japanese Christians faced martyrdom for converting.During the previews, I was startled out of my comfortable seat by a preview of an upcoming film called The Case for Christ. For anyone who might not recognize the title (which is to say anyone who didn't grow up evangelical Christian in the 80s or 90s), The Case for Christ is a … [Read more...]