An Expression of Fallenness

January 4th, 2021

A weird and sad expression of my fallenness is the fact that though I am far, far less holy than God is, I am also more judgmental.

A Critical Key

December 31st, 2020

I am learning that a critical key to spiritual growth is the realization that your sin is worse than you imagine and that God’s grace is greater than you imagine.

 

Invisible Hand

December 7th, 2020

If we’re going to reflect upon the promises and pitfalls of Capitalism in light of the Gospel, we’re going to have distinguish the Hand of God from the Invisible Hand. To distill and paraphrase Catholic Social Teaching recently renewed in the words of Pope Francis, society must not serve markets, markets must serve the common good.

Covid 19 & The Communion of Saints

March 20th, 2020

I and the church I belong to are complying with the government’s request that non-essential gatherings discontinue until the end of March, but it has me wondering at what point I should perhaps not continue to comply. I say this because I was a bit alarmed at how readily church gatherings were placed in the non-essential category. I get that I am wading into contested ecclesiological waters (belief about the nature of the church), but there are a number of us who have been living in the tension between the call to obey the authorities, and the call to not forsake the gathering of the brethren. When push comes to shove, I know I must obey God rather than men, but it’s not always clear when the civil authorities are placing Christians in a dichotomy where they have to choose.

Before continuing to develop this tension, I want to clarify that I believe our leaders should be respected, and it should be acknowledged that they are making hard decisions. Along with this, the call from leadership to restrict large gatherings, due to the threat of Covid 19, aligns with the biblical call to love our neighbors, which complicates the tension. But, having made these qualifications, I want to express my concern because gathering for worship is not merely a community event of people who happen to have the same religious beliefs. It is a metaphysical moment when the Body of Christ is made corporate at the local level, because it is the gracious encounter wherein the people of God are renewed and reconstituted through hearing God’s word publicly read, hearing the Word preached, and receiving the body and blood of Christ through Communion. As far as I understand, according to the Scriptures and the Tradition of Faith, gathering for worship is an essential part of Christian existence, and failure to do so, particularly in an ongoing sustained manner, is a practical capitulation to Gnosticism (a belief in the insignificance of matter, and corporate realities) which is a belief the church fought hard against in its early years, and this matters because Gnosticism denies the very essence of Christian faith (God fully becoming human, the significance of Jesus bodily offering himself on the cross, the significance of the resurrection). Connecting all this to ecclesiology, a people scattered, even if connected via media platforms, does not proclaim in word and deed that the resurrected Christ is Lord.

Where We Remain Undeveloped

December 25th, 2019

One implication of the Son of God being born as one of us is that the fullness of God was present in the undeveloped state of a baby, which further means that the fullness of God can be present in all those places where we remain undeveloped.

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“For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved.” -St. Gregory of Nazianzus

 

A Wonderful Plan

March 11th, 2019

Anyone remember the evangelism trope, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?” I’ll be honest, I don’t know if this is coming from the snarky part of me or not, but I was thinking that a better presentation would be “God loves you and wants to kill you…  and raise you up in his Son, and outside of that all your plans are going to perish!”

Should I start making some tracts???

Grace to Be His

February 5th, 2019

The purpose of grace is to not make you better but to make you His. A person who is a wretch but who rushes to meet God in his wretchedness is far better than a “righteous” person who manages well enough without God. We were made for intimacy, not for righteousness. Righteousness matters, but as the fruit of intimacy, for through the cross God has embraced our wretchedness and made it the path by which we come to intimately know his gracious work meeting us in the broken, twisted, and resistant contours of our soul. It seems to me that inverting the relationship of intimacy and righteousness is the root problem of religion, and the essence of much that impairs the Church’s witness and ministry to the world.

What Are Evangelicals Afraid of Losing?

September 10th, 2018

To my beloved brothers and sisters who voted for Trump, and to those who can’t imagine why anyone would, I invite you to read this heart-searching article. In the hopes of enticing you, I offer the following highlights…
  • If an election can cause us to lose everything, what is it exactly that we have in the first place?
  • It’s not when we’re fed to lions that we lose everything; it’s when we preach another gospel.
  • And yet, [in] swinging from triumphalism to seething despair, many pastors are conveying to the wider, watching public a faith in political power that stands in sharp opposition to everything we say we believe in.
  • Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and a long period afterward that would be marked simultaneously by persecution and expansion of his kingdom. How? Armed with nothing more than his gospel, baptism, and the Supper, fueled by the freedom of grace and love of all people, the low and the high, who need to hear this saving message.
For my brief take, I have long been concerned that many of my brothers and sisters seem to uncritically rejoice over the fact that “we have a man in office” who is going to preserve religious rights, and who is going to install judges that will favor a conservative social agenda, and yet in the process we’ve made concessions that deeply undermines our vision regarding what it is to be truly and fully human, and have compromised our capacity to share the Gospel with integrity. To clarify where I’m coming from with respect to the broad umbrella of Christianity, many of you know that I don’t typically refer to myself as Evangelical, and tend to adopt the label “orthodox,” but that said, I do have many convictions that align with historic Evangelicalism. Regarding politics, I am registered as an Independent, and my voting over the years has reflected this. Moreover, during this past presidential season I didn’t vote for either Trump or Clinton. You can chalk this up to whatever fault you want on my part, but when I got to the voting booth I was overwhelmed with a sense of despair about both candidates, and honestly, the whole of our political system and culture. In many ways this season has made it clear that I am a resident alien in America, for I am quite convinced that Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world. I am equally convinced, however, that this conviction doesn’t allow me to escape or retreat from the world, for though Christ’s Kingdom is not of the world, it is certainly for the world. In this spirit, one of the ways I try to engage the culture is through conversations in my small sphere of influence, conversations for which this article can be a catalyst.

Read, heed, and be enlightened…

What Are Evangelicals Afraid of Losing?

 

Across The Divide

June 4th, 2018

Recently the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. As I’ve read a few articles across the political spectrum it seems clear to me that this decision is not definitive regarding issues related to Freedom of Religion and LGBT rights. Instead, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of this particular man and the particular circumstances surrounding his decision, as well as decisions made in the lower court. There are still a number of battles before us that will hopefully force our nation to think deeply about a whole host of interrelated issues.

In reading these articles, I was reminded of similar case wherein a lady baker was sued by a gay couple for likewise refusing to do their wedding cake. In that instance this lady had an ongoing relationship with the couple, and made them cakes for various occasions, but she could not in good conscience do their wedding cake because of her religious convictions regarding the nature of marriage. In that instance, it seemed to me that this lady did not have animus toward the couple, was genuinely friends with them, or at lest genuinely friendly, and was willing to affirm them as individuals, having made cakes for birthdays and other events that celebrated accomplishments. However, her affirmation fell short of contributing to their wedding, which for many Christians is a religious rite, even a sacrament. It seemed to me that this lady embodied a gospel tension in that she apparently had a genuine relationship with the couple, affirmed them as persons, but she did not affirm their understanding of marriage, nor did she affirm their identity as centrally and primarily determined by their same-sex orientation. As I look at this lady’s case I see an example about how we might process this issue of prejudice and civil rights.

If this lady had refused service to this couple merely because they were gay, it would seem quite clear that this lady is violating civil rights and thus civil action against her is warranted. However, this lady did not refuse such service. Instead, she specifically refused to make a cake for their wedding for although she did not reject them as persons, she does reject their understanding of the nature of marriage. Of course, one could argue that her response is a form of prejudice, but likewise, one could argue that her response is not about refusing to acknowledge the full personhood of another, but rather about how certain institutions in our culture are shaped and defined. As I indicated above, how we understand her response is going to be determined by underlying presuppositions that rarely surface in our cultural debate about this matter.

I presented the above lady’s actions as exemplary, as well as a case that can help us draw a line between civil rights abuse and free exercise of religion. Of course my assessment of this lady’s case is shaped by a set of presuppositions that a number of my readers don’t subscribe to. I make this point, because as I have mulled over this issue, and what the recent Supreme Court decision indicates, it seems to me that we, as a nation, are going to have to engage in some serious thinking about the following issues: the nature of persons, the nature of sexuality, the foundation of human dignity, and the nature of rights and how seemingly competing rights can be coordinated for the ordering of society. In this thinking endeavor, we are going to have to likewise address the nature of legitimate authority as this hits upon what sources we can draw upon to answer questions related to the different areas of inquiry I just mentioned. And guess what, the issue of legitimate authority is foundational and presuppositional. It is deep, in fact all of this is deep and complex, and it doesn’t readily lend itself to being processed through media soundbites, social media memes, and the limited format of the evening news. Yes, there are people across the spectrum who are thinking deeply, and with appropriate complexity, but I don’t think they dominate our culture’s discourse about this issue.

Of course, we can always just continue on our current general course of flattening what is deep, narrowing what is wide, creating a caricature of our interlocutors, and slinging sh*t across the divide.

On Fig Leaves

May 25th, 2018

Is Morality the fig leaves of the fallen?