There’s been plenty of chatter in the theological blogosphere over David Bentley Hart’s provocative new book That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation, which argues forcefully that for God to be truly God, all things must ultimately be reconciled to Him. Much can be—and has been—said already about the merits of Hart’s argument (my own review is coming out in Ad Fontes in a few weeks). But as I’ve reflected on the
“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
“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
“This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit” (Amos 8:1 NRSV). A couple summers ago we took a family vacation to the Indiana Dunes. We had a great time playing on the beach and climbing dune mountains at the local state park, while also hiking trails and observing bird life at the national lakeshore (which was recently upgraded to our nation’s newest national park). On our last morning in the area,
Abraham, my eldest, my firstborn, the one who taught me that I have enough goodness in me to help produce life. I love you. I want you to know that—and I want to live my life in a way that you have no question that this is true—that I will do everything in my feeble, human frailty to show that I love you and that there is nothing you can do that would make my
When we commune with another, we forget self. We are opened to transformation. Change appears on the horizon of ego. It has deemed itself insulate, indomitable—impermeable to all that derails continuity. Yet in beginning and end, life is a gift. We receive our being from another. And we must all give up our being to another, placed under the care of those who will lead us where we do not want to go (John 21:18).
Over the last few years, following my grandparents’ decision to downsize and move into an assisted-living community, my family has been sorting through a treasure trove of documents to piece together our ancestors’ story. As we’ve explored the letters and records left behind by our forerunners, perhaps the most prominent theme that comes through is their deep commitment to their Lutheran faith. In fact, we think they originally fled Europe in search of religious freedom
Jordan Peele’s latest movie, Us, is an intense horror film that confronts issues of duality, identity, sameness, otherness, sin, and judgment, just to name a few. Part of what makes Us so rich is not just its carefully crafted storytelling, but its strategy of navigating weighty topics from different approaches: philosophical, social, psychological, and theological. This makes Us an excellent resource for theological reflection, with theological claims that are as bold as they are relevant.
In 1996, the independent Scottish band Belle & Sebastian released their second full-length album, If You’re Feeling Sinister. More than twenty years later, Sinister is still revered as one of the greatest albums of the 90’s—ranking alongside notable alternative rock acts such as Beck, Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, and Nirvana. While the aforementioned bands were known for their use of heavily distorted electric guitars, Belle and Sebastian crafted a gentler tone, reminiscent of 60’s era folk-rock
Sin is a complicated subject. Not only do theologians disagree as to what sin actually is, but Christians seem to be confused as to what is actually “sinful” anymore. Homosexuality, for instance, seems to be the hot topic in our time. However, I believe most of our confusion today stems from the forgotten reality that sin is, and always has been, a subjective experience for man; so it is this aspect of sin that I wish
Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad is a beautiful and devastating novel that centers on Cora, a slave in mid-nineteenth-century Georgia, as she tries to escape to freedom. This book has been the recipient of plenty of awards, including the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. While I’m no literary scholar, this book seems to deserve the praise it’s received. The Underground Railroad doesn’t pull any punches. The first chapter begins with a harrowing depiction of the
I was recently perusing the latest edition of JAAR (Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 86 ) and was reminded of why I have been, shall I say, pessimistic about the current practice of so-called academic theology. Still, all is not without hope. And this recent article—a cause for such hope in my estimation— has put me in mind to write my own few lines about the subject of theology and the academy.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins (Psalm 25:16-18; NRSV). Preachers on television constantly promise their viewers lives of health, wealth, and welfare. If you are sick, you will be healed. If you are struggling financially, a material blessing is headed your way. If
Purgatory and the Playboy: Remembering Hugh Hefner Two weeks ago today, Hugh Hefner died at the age of 91. Almost immediately, writers rallied to denounce (or acclaim) the fraudulent idea of his “legacy.” What he left behind him can be called a legacy only in the same sense as the aftermath of a disaster. My hope is that his life’s work, like that of the Marquis de Sade, will fade to the point that while
From the same screen come blessings and cursing Like our mouths, they are backlit by hell-fire And fueled by a tube of passion that colors everything We like to look at the likenesses but not be the likeness And we try not to see the prototype looking back at us As we gaze deeply into flesh lit by flames of passion Do your kids really watch Veggietales on that thing? Do you message your mother
Time dawned and chaos was made order, man came alive within a garden’s border, within the garden’s border man died when he disobeyed God and bowed to pride. Darkness and chaos twined the world ’round, but with the curse a promise was found, up would grow a tender young shoot; A King would rise from Jesse’s root. A King would rise like light in the dark, One unbranded by sin’s cruel mark, to free his
If “God so loved the world” (John 3:16) and “desires that all be saved” (2 Tim 2:4), how are Christians to make sense of hell? Is hell undoubtedly eternal (as passages like Matt 25:41 suggest), or is it possible that God’s Love will eventually conquer even the staunchest of resisting wills? What is the role of doctrine about hell in living the Christian life, in training new Christians, or in proclaiming the Gospel? Today our
Why art thou not cast down, o my soul, Why art thine eyes not flowing as rivers after the winter thaw, washing away thine every stain and uncleanness? Thou liest with unplucked eyes and uncircumcised arms and unquenched passions for the unquenchable fire. If a thou burnest a candle from both ends thou art in timeless darkness. Why, o my soul, dost thou not sleep in peace, since thou eatest the bread of idleness? Instead,
Saying that the last few months in America have been horrific and tragic is an understatement. America is, once again, confronted with the needless deaths of innocent people. The racial tensions in America have been laid bare for all to see again, whether we acknowledge them or not. But where do we go from here? I want to say what so many have already said before, and are still saying today, but is all too
“Why does God permit human beings to suffer and die?” There is no simple or easy answer to this question. Perhaps the best response is to pray, with Jesus Christ: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22:42). Our Lord experienced the groaning of creation (Rom 8:22). He shed immortality and impassibility to take the form of a servant (Phil 2:7), to identify