The Good Place
At the beginning of The Good Place, Eleanor Shellstrop finds herself in the afterlife. She’s welcomed by the mysterious Michael, who explains her demise and proceeds to show her around the Good Place while answering her many questions about what’s happening and who was right about the whole heaven and hell thing. And while the show goes on for four excellent seasons, it never really leaves this moment behind, the moment of wonder about what
Tell Me the Same Old Story
I once received an e-mail from a former parishioner. Catherine had been a star student in my youth group, and she was now enrolled in a fine Roman Catholic liberal arts college. I was delighted to hear from her, but alas, she wasn’t writing to catch up. She was having a crisis of faith, and she needed to talk. Her letter painted a candid picture of how her faith had run aground. She had taken
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
How to Approach Difficult Bible Passages
As a teacher, I am regularly asked about Bible passages and the theology they convey. Sometimes the questions are straightforward; other times, not so much. Just last week, for example, as I was innocently trying to lead our community group through Romans 8:18-30, I was asked how to interpret verses 29-30 in light of that not-at-all-discussed-among-Christians topic of Predestination and Freewill. It happens. The vast majority of the time, I am more than happy to
On Baptism (Part II)
This post continues my reflections on baptism, focusing on the covenantal and sacramental aspects of Christian baptism. Covenantal Theology Those beginning an exploration of historic baptismal theology will almost immediately run into the concept of covenantal theology. As commonly defined, a covenant is a formal agreement made between God and humans, typically one that only God is capable of upholding in its entirety. Christians of various stripes will interpret covenants and their implications differently, but,
On Baptism (Part I)
Baptism has been on my mind lately, not only because there are some intriguing conversations taking place in the blogging world about baptism and American Christianity, but also because a member of my family is being baptized soon. In this two-part article, I offer some reflections on baptism, beginning in this post with the Bible and history and wrapping up with some musings on covenant and sacrament in the next. Baptism in the Acts of
Is Sola Scriptura Really a Disagreement?
I’ve been enjoying a collaborative book titled “Three Views on Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism,” a book full of meaningful dialogue across Christian traditions. In it, Bradley Nassif offers the perspective that Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism are highly compatible. Nassif is Eastern Orthodox and appears to bear the approval of Antiochian Eastern Orthodox hierarchy (even though he does not enjoy unanimous agreement among all of the Eastern Orthodox). Within his broader argument1 for compatibility between these two
“Fear Not,” Or, How I Learned to Love the Book of Revelation
By Blake Hartung The last book of the Bible, the Revelation (or Apocalypse) of John, has been a consistent source of mystery and bewilderment for Christians since its composition in the last decade of the first century. This is of course, shouldn’t be too surprising; we are, after all, talking about the book that has given us such bizarre tableaux as a pregnant woman clothed in the sun pursued by a dragon, four colorful horsemen,
How To Be orthodox With A Small “o” – Part 1
About six months ago I took part in a conversation with a dear Protestant friend and mentor of mine, who likes to give me a hard time about being Orthodox – as she does with believers from any tradition – for the sake of light-hearted controversy. She was saying that, when it comes to beliefs and doctrine, what is important is that one be orthodox – with a small ‘o.’ I completely agree with her
Why the Fall Makes No Sense
A Baffling Story Christians need a coherent account of the Fall, but our forebears have not given us one. If they had, 20th century biblical scholars would not have written things like this: “The sheer irrationality of the command, not to eat of the tree, and of the threat to deprive of life if it was eaten, has had great effect on the history of understanding. . . . God . . . is placed
What Day Did Jesus Die?
“When students are first introduced to the historical, as opposed to a devotional, study of the Bible, one of the first things they are forced to grapple with is that the biblical text, whether Old Testament or New Testament, is chock full of discrepancies, many of them irreconcilable…. In some cases seemingly trivial points of difference can actually have an enormous significance for the interpretation of a book or the reconstruction of the history of