May 3, 2020

Toxic Religion Last evening my wife and I watched Dateline (May 1, 2020)—an American “news magazine” television program that usually focuses on crimes with mysteries attached to them. “Whodonit?” If there’s an answer, it’s usually “the husband” or “the boyfriend.” (For me, after a while, the similarity between all these American TV crime shows gets boring. If I say “the husband” or “the boyfriend” at the beginning of the program I’m almost always right about who turns out to be… Read more

April 28, 2020

What Is “Prayer?” Very few subjects provoke my thoughts more than prayer. Of course, praying is more important than thinking about praying. But, setting that truth aside, I turn to a theology of prayer because I have encountered so much confusion about prayer among even evangelical Christians. No theologians has influenced my own thoughts about prayer more than the late Donald Bloesch (d. 2010). In fact, I would say that no single theologian influenced me more than he did. I… Read more

April 24, 2020

“Unchurching”   I recently viewed a Youtube video of a TedTalk given at Palo Alto College by Richard Jacobsen. Here is the whole title: Unchurching: The Exodus from Institutional Forms of Church|Richard Jadobson|TEDxPalo Alto College. (I am not sure if copying and pasting that URL will work simply because I don’t know where the spaces are. So type it into Youtube’s search box.) I also heard the following statistic (not from Jacobson): During the 1950s approximately 3% of Americans claimed… Read more

April 20, 2020

What Makes a Group of People “Church?” Part 2 Let’s get something out of the way—right away—to head off a predictable but unwelcome response. I have studied American churches for many years. I am the editor (really author) of the 14th edition of the Handbook of American Denominations in the United States (Abingdon Press). I have studied and visited literally hundreds of “Christian” churches over the years and been a faithful attender—often member and sometimes leader—of about thirteen individual congregations…. Read more

April 17, 2020

What Makes a Group of People “Church?” Part 1 Let’s get something out of the way—right away—to head off a predictable but unwelcome response. I have studied American churches for many years. I am the editor (really author) of the 14th edition of the Handbook of American Denominations in the United States (Abingdon Press). I have studied and visited literally hundreds of “Christian” churches over the years and been a faithful attender—often member and sometimes leader—of about thirteen individual congregations…. Read more

April 12, 2020

Christianity and Economics For good reason economics is traditionally labeled “the dismal science.” Even the best economists in the world radically disagree with each other about how best to predict a society’s economic future and how best to program its distribution of goods so as to promote universal well-being. One reason for that is radically differing presuppositions about wealth (defined here as the “goods” of a society). For example, is wealth limited or can it grow? Is distributive justice a… Read more

April 9, 2020

Calvinism Is Impossible Obviously by “impossible” I don’t mean it doesn’t exist. Here I am using the word “impossible” in a very unusual sense, but one I borrow from Calvinist theologian Charles Hodge (1797-1878). Hodge was by most accounts the most influential American conservative Protestant theologian of the nineteenth century and a convinced and somewhat aggressive Calvinist. His three volume Systematic Theology (1871-1873) is still in publication well over a century after it was first published. I doubt it ever… Read more

April 4, 2020

Where Is God in This Pandemic?   Several people have asked me “Where is God in this pandemic?” One person rather pointedly put me on the spot and said “You’re a theologian; you ought to know.” I understand that. If anyone ought to know, I ought to know. But, of course, that question and statement could mean two different things. One is where is God in this particular disaster, this particular pandemic, out of all disasters and epidemics? The other… Read more

April 1, 2020

“This World Is Not My Home” A Reminder to Evangelical Christians I know what some evangelicals’ and others’ immediate reaction will be. I have taught it myself. “The old gospel song ‘This World Is Not My Home’ ought to be left behind because it leads to neglect of the biblical mandate to take care of this world in this “time between the times.” I can’t quote all the words here, but for those of you who don’t know, this gospel… Read more

March 28, 2020

The “Ultimate” and the “Penultimate”: An Important Distinction in Christian Ethics Lately I’ve been re-reading Bonhoeffer’s Ethics. It’s a collection of essays edited by Bonhoeffer’s good friend and protégé Eberhard Bethge. Many of the essays were found after Bonhoeffer’s death. Some of them were hidden in his parents’ attic and others were buried in their backyard. Bethge collected them and put them some kind of order, although, as many commentators and reviewers have mentioned, the order seems odd. But my… Read more




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