November 27, 2021

You and I were made to praise something beyond our understanding. To desire someone that lives both in and beyond our daily activities. This is the meaning of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. It’s also the meaning of the Christian story of the cleansing of the temple: the day when Jesus celebrated Hanukkah.  Maccabees and the Worship Offense You can read the origin of Hanukkah in books of the Maccabees. Maccabees is the story of a massive Jewish revolt. Alexander… Read more

November 24, 2021

Is theology small-minded? Does it, I mean, depend on a limited perspective? That’s an assumption that shows up often in science fiction. Basically: the more we know, the less we believe. I’ve recently finished reading Frank Herbert’s Dune—yes, I’m one of those who finally read the book because the movie was coming out. I haven’t seen it yet, and won’t spoil anything from the story. But it’s got me thinking about theology and perspective again. What does a grand cosmic… Read more

November 20, 2021

All Things in Relation to God The goal of all Christian doctrine is to name and perceive “all things in relation to God, not only as their source but also as their goal, and as the origin of all form and character.” With this bold opening, my friend Andrew Davison launches his nearly 400-page tome of systematic theology.  That “in relation to” phrase forms the center of his vision. To put it simply: participating in God is the beginning and… Read more

November 17, 2021

Thought and Song When revivalists—traveling preachers— would come to my childhood church for a special series of weekend services, they would always come with a song evangelist. The implication I suppose was that singing was as much a part of reviving our souls as was hearing the words of the Bible interpreted to us in a sermon. My dad would get annoyed when the singer would hold out a high note for a long time in an effort to get… Read more

November 13, 2021

Therefore the mind finds metaphor. … How I see better what is there after sitting quietly with what is not. –Jeanne Murray Walker, “At the Ocean” The poet is one who makes. It’s right there in the word, poesis, so it’s no use denying it. Poets picks up pieces of language, they give them a new rhythm and resonance, and so make a new meaning. But could the poet also be one who discovers what’s truly there? Does the poet… Read more

November 10, 2021

The Humility Trap  There is a character trap close to the surface of the Christian life. Like most people, Christians honor excellence. We award bravery, generosity, and skill, and appreciate when those awards come to us. We also place a high value on humility. I call this a character trap because of where the tension between excellence and humility can lead. Should I aim to be deserving of honor, and then pretend to think I’m not? False humility collides with… Read more

November 6, 2021

If the Genesis story is to be believed, the toughest part of being human is accepting limit as gift. That’s how I read the Eden story. God invited them to a long and slow journey toward theosis, the Greek word for growing into God’s image and likeness. But “long” and “slow” are the operative modalities. “Brief” and “immediate” seem so much more attractive to us. “If you eat this, you will be like God…” The Trouble with Limit My limitations are… Read more

November 3, 2021

This fall Baylor University Press was generous enough to publish my third book, one I call Leaving Emmaus: A New Departure in Christian Theology. Today’s column will give a little introduction to the book for those afflicted—as I am—with too many things to read. I’ll stick with interpreting the title in this 800 word post. Then you can decide whether that makes you want to read the book, or glad you haven’t bothered.  A New Departure? That subtitle gave me—and the colleagues… Read more

October 30, 2021

“I couldn’t paint a Christ that was not in my soul.” -Mikhailov, in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina  Though Lev Tolstoy was no great theologian, he was a bold one. Perhaps at times a bit overbold or self-assured, on my reading. I say that not because of his conclusions, but because he rarely shows interest in the theological ideas of… well, anyone whose name is not Tolstoy. Still: bold. Some of his boldest inquiries come in Anna Karenina.  That may seem like… Read more

October 27, 2021

Many, even most, of the Psalms bring the reader to a moment when the energy, emotion, and perspective shifts. Shuv is the Hebrew root. Metanoia in the ancient Greek translation. The moment of a turning.  Psalm 64 performs this conversion moment abruptly, like those lawn mowers that advertise a low turning radius. In this case, we were driving toward resentment, then suddenly we’re rejoicing. How did that happen? When Life Merits Resentment Resentment is my word, not the Psalmist’s. But it seems… Read more

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