January 20, 2019

Does God “Embrace All People Regardless…?” Not very long ago I was invited to sign a “declaration” crafted by a group of noted American religious scholars and leaders that condemns racism and other forms of bigotry and calls for American Christians to oppose public policies and behaviors—both public and private—that work to the detriment of disadvantaged, oppressed, marginalized people. Hundreds of scholars and religious leaders signed it. I don’t think that I did. (The list of signatories is so long… Read more

January 17, 2019

Is There Anything New Under the Sun? (Return to Discussion of “INC”) My previous (most recently preceding) blog post about the so-called “INC” phenomenon has set off a conversation (almost a debate) about whether INC is really new or, as I argue, just a new manifestation of something old. If you are joining here and don’t know what “INC” refers to, please look back to the previous blog post here. It was entitled “A Newish American Church Phenomenon: INC (Independent… Read more

January 13, 2019

A Newish American Church Phenomenon: INC (Independent Network Christianity) I learned the name of this relatively new phenomenon via a review of the 2017 book The Rise of Network Christianity (OUP, 2017) by sociologists Brad Christerson and Richard Flory by James K. A. Smith. The review was published in the Los Angeles Review of Books and can be found at https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/how-to-find-god-on-youtube/. The review’s title is “How to Find God (on YouTube).” Christerson and Flory have given this phenomenon a name:… Read more

January 10, 2019

The “Judge Judged in Our Place”: Substitutionary Atonement Reclaimed Over the years of teaching theology I have discovered that many young, ardent, passionate Christians are rebelling against traditional evangelical understandings of the atoning death of Jesus Christ without fully understanding them. Often, even usually, conversation reveals that their ideas of substitutionary atonement are distorted. This distortion often arises from sermon illustrations and folk religion.   Without wanting to enshrine substitutionary atonement as the only way of understanding the work of… Read more

January 7, 2019

“Something There Is That Doesn’t Love a Wall” The poem “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost was first published in 1914. The first line is the title of this blog essay. Some of us older folks will remember the outrage in Western Europe and North America, especially, when The Democratic Republic of Germany (communist East Germany) built an ugly wall to keep East Berliners in and West Berliners (and others) out. Two U.S. presidents stood near the wall and called for… Read more

January 4, 2019

Empathy Is Good; Justice Is Better In a way, this is “Part 3” of an ongoing series of blog posts about the foundation for ethics. The question with which I began two essays ago was whether or not human rights depend on a transcendent reality “above” nature. Of course, all along (and I mean all along!) I have been arguing here that this is the case—namely that ethical and moral absolutes (not necessarily “rules”) must have some source and foundation… Read more

January 2, 2019

Follow Up to Previous Post: Was Slavery Always Morally and Ethically Wrong Even When It Was Legal? My immediately preceding post here asked about a foundation for human rights. I argued there that some vision of transcendence is necessary to establish and maintain human rights; human rights cannot be constructed socially and remain absolute. Human rights are discovered, not constructed. (Of course there are rights so-called that are socially constructed but I am not asking about those. I am talking… Read more

December 31, 2018

What Is the Foundation (If Any) of Human Rights? We hear much talk (in Western cultures especially) about “human rights.” People tend to take it for granted that human beings, at least those already born, have certain “inalienable” rights. The American Declaration of Independence declares inalienable human rights to include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Over the centuries, however, many more basic and inalienable human rights have been discovered. Some are debatable; some are taken for granted. They… Read more

December 28, 2018

Did Jesus “Sort” People? According to a mainline Protestant pastor, writing a guest column in a local newspaper, there is “overwhelming evidence” that Jesus did not require faith statements from individuals. The essay is pointedly against “sorting” people—even within churches. According to this seminary-trained pastor, Jesus simply accepted people with love and so should the churches. Atheists and agnostics are mentioned—as people who should be included within churches. The thrust of the column, as I interpret it, is that Jesus… Read more

December 24, 2018

What Do We Owe the Dead? A Question of Ethics A couple years ago I purchased a volume of essays and sermons by one of my favorite 19th century Christian theologians—Horace Bushnell. (I have written about him here before.) The volume is well over a century old but in good condition. One of the sermons in the book is titled “What Do We Owe the Dead?” It was preached at the dedication of a Civil War memorial and cemetery. My… Read more

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