11 Sep 2020

Ruth as Hero: Responding to David Justice’s ‘Ruth: Model Minority’

The book of Ruth is the Bible’s only bucolic idyll and, as the great Hebrew scholar Robert Alter says, “one of the few truly successful stories in any literature that concentrates almost exclusively on good people.” It is, he concludes, “one of literature’s most touching stories with a happy ending” (vol. 3, 621, 624). Yet, despite its apparent superficiality, the book is deep, complex, and difficult. The most jarring moment is when Naomi advises her

7
21 Aug 2020

Ruth: The Model Minority?

The story of Ruth is well known in Western culture even outside of Christian circles. Ruth’s pledge of loyalty—“Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die there will I be buried.”1—is eloquent and memorable for its passion and fierce loyalty. I have been familiar with this story for some time, but recently re-read it

0
A large suburban house with professional landscaping
19 Aug 2020

The Pandemic and the Experience of Vanity

The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,     vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil     at which they toil under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes,     but the earth remains forever. (Ecclesiastes 1:1-4 NRSV) A month or two ago, I was speaking with a friend about the extra personal time I gain working at home.

0
07 Aug 2020

What’s Worse Than the Devil You Know?

One of my favorite movie characters is Gus Portokalos, the patriarch in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Gus’s defining characteristic is his extreme devotion to his homeland, which is summed up in his famous line: “There are two kinds of people in this world: Greeks, and everyone else who wish they was Greek.” I love this joke because it perfectly encapsulates one of the essential characteristics of the human condition: we view the world as

1
05 Aug 2020

The Wrath of God Revealed

The basic meaning of the verb ‘to reveal’ is something like, ‘to make known, to disclose, to bring to attention, to lay open.’ There are a couple of ways that we use the term, one obvious, the other a bit more subtle. Take, for example, the sentence, “the clouds drifted eastward, revealing the full brilliance of the sun.” That’s the typical way we use the word. Something hidden becomes manifest; something unclear is shown more

0
31 Jul 2020

What Beauty Lurks in the Hearts of Men? Thoughts on Premium Bibles and the Men Who Love Them

My father still remembers listening to old episodes of The Shadow, a popular radio program about a mysterious crime fighter with the unique ability to cloud human minds and render himself invisible. When the mood strikes him, my dad will imitate the gruff voice and ominous laugh of the hero and regale us with the famous opening lines of the “Detective Story” radio hour: “What evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

3
20 Jul 2020

Why the Historian Is Indispensable to Christianity

If the average Christian were asked to identify the essential roles in Christianity and pre-Christian Judaism, he or she would probably name the pastor, the apostle, the prophet, the priest, and perhaps also the king. Depending on the person’s denominational affiliation, he or she might mention the pope or the musician or the nun. Few members of any denomination, I think, would mention the historian—a figure lamentably seen by many as merely providing additional support

0
Locked ballot box used in Carson, North Dakota on October 30, 1940. Photo courtesy National Archives and Records Administration. (USDA)
06 Jul 2020

The Right to Not Vote

If you’ve ever been to a neighborhood association meeting or a church committee meeting, you’ve observed something close to true direct democracy. When a decision needs to be made, a vote is taken. All those in favor of the proposition say, “Aye.” All those opposed say, “Nay.” Everyone gets a say, and the simple majority wins. It’s an effective way to do things on a small scale. However, this is nearly impossible on a larger

0
04 May 2020

The Pandemic and the Wrath of God

In dark moments, I have sometimes wondered whether, when disaster struck, I might lose my faith. Perhaps my God of unbounded kindness would fall away in the face of crisis—shown to be phantom conjured up by an over-hopeful imagination—sand leave me alone in the universe. Yet as it has turned out, the real danger was of this God morphing into a god of wrath, his face twisting into stern, unfamiliar expressions. In this midst of

22
01 Apr 2020

Contextual Theology, part I

I recently wrote a minimal critique of one aspect of the contextualized theology of Jürgen Moltmann. This engendered an article-sized rejoinder comment. I would like to thank Chris Warne for the time he spent crafting his comments. It was clearly a labor of love. The substance of the comments, however, I found somewhat less beneficial. For example, to Chris’s challenging me to show where Moltmann has deviated from the tradition, need I do more than

0
24 Feb 2020

Further Thoughts on Keeping the KJV

A few months ago, I penned a piece encouraging contemporary Christians not to abandon the distinctive—if somewhat arcane—lyricism of the King James Bible. In the course of my argument, I mentioned Mark Ward’s recent book Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible, which argues that the modern church should migrate toward the use of more accessible translations. Ward himself was gracious enough to show up in the comments section of that piece,

3
30 Jan 2020

Jeremiah and the Burden of Being

Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth! a man of strife and contention to all the land! Because I bore your name, O LORD, God of hosts. I did not sit celebrating in the circle of merrymakers; Under the weight of your hand I sat alone because you filled me with indignation. Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook,

2
Bust of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
22 Jan 2020

Bonhoeffer’s Cheap Grace

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace (The Cost of Discipleship, 43). The opening chapter of The Cost of Discipleship features Dietrich Bonhoeffer in some of his best form as a writer. His use of paradox, irony, hyperbole, exaggeration, and sarcasm makes this one of the wittiest criticisms of popular Christian theology ever written. It also can make it hard to understand and follow for the

0
Image of a Bible on a shelf.
13 Dec 2019

The Bible Project

About three years ago I was scrolling through my YouTube recommendations feed, looking for new and interesting videos. Since I regularly view biblical and theological content, my feed often contains helpful resources (along with videos on college football or live music). As I scrolled, one particular video thumbnail caught my attention. The thumbnail contained an aesthetically pleasing animated image of Job. I clicked on the video and had my first exposure to The Bible Project.

1
02 Dec 2019

Ken Ham, Richard Dawkins, and Me

Ken Ham and I are tight. By that, I mean that I’ve never met him, but I’ve seen him speak multiple times, read a lot of what he’s written, and I’ve visited him (well, I went to the Creation Museum several times). Maybe I’m more of a Ken Ham stalker than anything else. Regardless, over my formative years I became rather familiar with his brand of Young Earth Creationism (YEC)1 in the Christian elementary and

1
21 Oct 2019

Don’t Kick the KJV

Over the last few years, there’s been a spate of critiques in the evangelical world (most noticeably, in my assessment, from the broadly Reformed camp) of the continuing use by Christians of the King James Version—the venerable biblical translation that the West has known and loved since its first publication. Perhaps the best example of this line of criticism is Mark Ward’s book Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible—a comprehensive polemic

2
Indigo bunting in a field at sunset
14 Oct 2019

Trusting in God

“Some who think they trust in God actually sin against hope because they do not use the will and the judgment He has given them. Of what use is it for me to hope in grace if I dare not make the act of will that corresponds with grace? How do I profit by abandoning myself passively to His will if I lack the strength of will to obey His commands? Therefore, if I trust

0
A brick building with the word "work" on the side.
20 Sep 2019

The Work of Faith

“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 NRSV). Paul’s second missionary journey began as an excursion to revisit churches planted throughout Asia Minor on his first missionary journey (Acts 15:36). Along the way, the Spirit of God gave Paul

0
Triumph of Judas Maccabeus
09 Sep 2019

Maccabees in the New Testament

My last article presented several of Jesus’ teachings from the Wisdom of Sirach and noted the fact that Matthew’s gospel paid particular attention to those teachings. While Wisdom of Sirach had only a limited impact on the New Testament, the history of the Maccabees affected first century Judaism so strongly that our Protestant avoidance of 1st and 2nd Maccabees has enabled serious errors in some of our most central doctrines. Like Sirach, 1st and 2nd

0
Image of hospital building
19 Aug 2019

Idols of Modern Society

“When Israel was a child, I loved him,     and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them,     the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals,     and offering incense to idols.” (Hosea 11:1-2 NRSV) The prophets Hosea and Amos were active during roughly the same era in the history of ancient Israel (8th century BCE). Both prophesied primarily to the northern kingdom of Israel during a time of

0