Showing posts from 2015

Romans 13 Doesn’t Tell Christians to Kill their Enemy

December 30, 2015 by Preston Sprinkle1 Comment

It’s fascinating (one might say disturbing) to see how each person’s political context shapes his or her understanding of Romans 13. Christians living in North Korea or Burma tend to read Romans 13 differently than Americans do. Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, and other “Christian” dictators have celebrated the passage as their divine ticket to execute justice on whomever they deemed enemies of the state. Not more than a generation ago, Romans 13 was hailed as the charter for apartheid in South Africa. American Christian leaders did the same during the years of slavery and segregation. If the state mandates that blacks can’t drink from the same water fountain as whites, it very well has the divine right to do so, according to certain interpretations Romans 13.
Most people today would see such a view of Romans 13 as going a bit too far. But only a bit. Theologian and scholar Wayne Grudem, for instance, says that the “sword in the hand of good govern…

Tolkien, THE FORCE AWAKENS, and the Sadness of Expanded Universes

Gerry Canavan (some spoilers near the end of the post, though I try to be vague)

Not long after completing The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien briefly began work on a sequel called The New Shadow,set 100 to 150 years later during the reign of Aragorn’s son Eldarion. (The main link between the two stories is the minor character Beregond, the noble but disgraced soldier of Gondor whose son, Borlas, would have been a major character in The New Shadow.) The New Shadow reveals that the eucatastrophic fairy-tale ending of The Return of the King was extremely short-lived; with the Elves and the Wizards gone from Middle-earth, the Dwarves moving underground, and the Hobbits now isolated in what amounts to an enclave in the Shire, Men are quickly falling back into their old bad habits. In fact the Men of Gondor already seem to have forgotten much of the details of the War of the Ring, even though it remains in living memory: they seem not to remember, or take seriously, the fact that they once…

Christmas Autopsy: 5 Thoughts about the Death of Christmas

Frederick Schmidt The war on Christmas has become an annual topic of conversation. This year The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger even declared that Christmas is dead.
Is it time for an autopsy?

Scanning the store windows up and down New York’s Fifth Avenue, Henninger chronicled the ways in which major commercial outlets had erased even the most sentimental traces of Christmas from their windows, replacing Santa Claus and his elves with palm readers; the Roman god, Neptune; and the inebriated and seductive images of holiday revelers.  Only Macy’s, Henninger notes, held out and featured Charlie Brown and the gang.

Do these developments suggest a trend, or what Henninger describes as the “de-sanctification” of Christmas?  Probably. But it is perilously easy to overestimate the significance of New York ad agencies and window dressers.

Would Christian leaders be well advised to pay attention to what is happening in the culture around them?  Sure.

Read more at…

An Apocalyptic Advent

Seth Richardson
on December 23, 2015

This year, I’m dreaming of an apocalyptic Advent. I need fresh imagination for what God is doing in the waiting and hoping everyone keeps talking about, and I think it’s apocalyptic.
That’s what Advent is, after all – the church’s choice to participate in the arrival, and then proleptic unfolding, of that Great Cataclysm: the Incarnation of the Son of God. In that Great Cataclysm, the Son unveiled God and made himknown – at once answering, disrupting, and transforming the aching hope for deliverance. Yes, apocalyptic.
Advent doesn’t really do much unless it’s apocalyptic. If Advent isn’t apocalyptic, then nothing ever changes. Advent is like the uncle who circles around once a year and stumbles into our living room. The routine feels a bit different from normal, but mostly predictable. It’s easy to put things back together like they were before, after he leaves.

Wishing you all a happy and revolutionary Christmas!

Andrew Perriman
Tue, 22/12/2015 - 17:57 

According to the tradition that has been passed down to us, Christmas is the time of year when we celebrate God coming to earth in lowly human form to save humankind from sin and death. The glory of the deity has been laid aside, the radiant godhead has been veiled in flesh, the creator of all things has been pleased to dwell as man with man for a while, God-with-us, Immanuel, so that there may be peace on earth, so that God and sinners may be reconciled, so that the sons (and daughters) of earth may experience a second birth and die no more, etc.
That coming is dressed in the robes and regalia of Jewish kingship. The incarnate deity is the newborn king, born in Bethlehem of David’s line. But this is little more than circumstantial detail; the essence of the story is theological rather than political, metaphysical rather than historical. Even O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, perhaps the most Jewish of carols, has in view the dispelling of death’s dark sh…

No, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Did Not Try to Kill Adolf Hitler

Dr. Joseph McGarry

When people think about the Bonhoeffer’s life and involvement in the resistance, the flow of logic goes something like this:
a) Dietrich Bonhoeffer worked for the Abwehr, and was recruited there by his brother in law, Hans von Dohnányi. b) Members of the Abwehr’s leadership (specifically Hans Oster, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, and Dohnányi) actively planned attempts on Hitler’s life. c) When the “Zossen files” were discovered in September 1944 (after the failure of the 20 July plot) von Dohnányi was clearly implicated in assassination planning, and the rest of the Abwehr by extension. Therefore, everyone associated with these files was executed for treason against the Reich. Generally, it is then assumed that— because Bonhoeffer was executed with these other people who actively planned Hitler’s assassination—Bonhoeffer himself was actively involved as well.
Unfortunately, it is this assumption that scholars have again and again called an overstatement of the evidence. Som…

It’s Not About the Baby

Posted by debra dean murphy

I’ve never liked the phrase “Jesus is the reason for the season.” It’s fine with me when people write “Xmas” instead of “Christmas.” I think the “war on Christmas” is falsely-hyped nonsense. It’s hard to square the militancy and sheer meanness of those who insist on keeping Christ in Christmas with the Prince of Peace and the celebration of his birth.  Three thoughts: 1. It’s not about the baby. Read more at

Please: Don’t Respect My Beliefs

December 18, 2015 by Marc

Respect for other beliefs, tolerance of other religions, acceptance of other cultures — these doctrines are usually sugar-sweet forms of violence. This seems to me the only adequate explanation as to why our age is simultaneously respectful and racist; liberal and segregated; proud of diversity and incapable of actually enjoying diverse company outside of mandatorily diverse institutions — a schizophrenic personality that imagines itself open to the Other in all her differences while fearing, more than most things, any actual contact with the Other.
When someone tells me that they respect my Catholicism and my “right to believe what I want,” or that, while not agreeing with me, they celebrate the diverse viewpoint my “cherished religious convictions” bring to the community — this usually indicates that they have stripped, reduced, and re-fashioned me into an image they can bear.
See, I came declaring myself a Believer in that obnoxious, loudmouth pride unique to…

The Narrative-Historical Hermeneutic of Andrew Perriman

For some years now in books and blog posts Andrew Perriman has been developing what he calls a Narrative-Historical Hermeneutic. His book Re: Mission sketches the biblical story from this perspective. His post at gives a list of the benefits he finds in following this approach. In his post today “This changes everything” Perriman provides a convenient glossary of terms and concepts as they appear from the perspective of his Narrative-Historical Hermeneutic. In some respects, Perriman is extending the approach of N. T. Wright by taking the underlying narrative of the biblical story in a fully historical direction (see “Eschatological Horizons” below). In other respects, it demands a radical rethink of our theology (evangelical in Perriman’s case, though his rethink takes him well outside the bounds of what most would accept as evangelica…

Confessing Trinity

(by Peter J. Leithart 12.15.15)

The point of Trinitarian theology is not simply that there are three instead of one. We can’t just plug our pre-conceptions about God into the Trinity, and say that now we are Trinitarian. We can’t assume Deism, the idea that God is a watchmaker who leaves the world to run on its own, and then say that we are Trinitarian because we believe in three watchmakers. We can’t assume that God is sheer power like Allah, and then say we are Trinitarian because we believe in three Allahs and not just one.  To confess the Trinity is not merely to confess a number, but to confess that the true God is a certain kind of God. What kind of God? For Paul, the answer to that question has everything to do with Jesus. Read more at

Just Drop the Blanket: The Moment You Never Noticed in A Charlie Brown Christmas

Jason Soroskijasonsoroski.wordpress.com201514 DecCOMMENTS27

This week A Charlie Brown Christmas aired on national prime time television for the 50th time. In a world where the latest greatest technology is outdated in a matter of months, and social media trends come and go in a matter of days, 50 years of anything becomes quite meaningful.

I am a fan of all things nostalgic and all things Christmas, and so when the two are combined I am hooked, and the Charlie Brown Christmas special falls squarely into that category.

I was in the first grade back when they still performed Christmas pageants in schools (less than 50 years, but still a very long time ago), and our class performed a version of the Charlie Brown Christmas. Since I was kind of a bookworm and already had a blue blanket, I was chosen to play the part of Linus. As Linus, I memorized Luke 2:8-14, and that Scripture has been hidden in my heart ever since.

But while working so diligently to learn those lines, there is one impo…
Nonviolence in the Face of ISIS?
By Micah Bales 03-04-2015 
A couple of folks I really respect – Kate Gould of Friends Committee on National Legislation (aka, the Quaker Lobby), and Jim Wallis of Sojourners – were recently on the O’Reilly Factor. For those of you who don’t watch cable news, this is a television program where Bill O’Reilly basically screams at people and incites hatred of anything non-white, non-rich, and non-Republican. I normally don’t watch the show. But when I heard that Kate and Jim were going to be talking, I tuned in.
I knew almost immediately this wasn’t going to be good. It’s Bill’s program, so he gets to frame the question. Here’s what he asks: Do Christian pacifists have a solution for stopping ISIS?
It’s the wrong question.
O’Reilly knows it’s the wrong question, and that’s why he’s asking it. Both Gould and Wallis attempt to answer his question directly and rationally. Gould presents an argument for diplomatic measures to curb ISIS’ support. Wallis tries to exp…

Waiting for the Messiah

December 14, 2015J. R. Daniel Kirk

Advent is a time of waiting. And it is the time leading up to the celebration of Jesus’ birth. This might create the mistaken impression that Advent is time when we sit around waiting for the Messiah to be born. That’s not it. Though we are waiting for the Messiah. Advent is a time when we sit between the first and second comings of the Messiah. It’s the time that we look forward to the time when every tear will be dried, every wound healed, every prisoner set free–because we remember that the Messiah has already appeared as the tear-drier, the wound-healer, the liberator of the oppressed.

What Would Jesus Conceal and Carry?

Written by Nijay Gupta
on December 11, 2015

By now most of us are quite well acquainted with the Dr. Jerry Falwell Jr.’s comments concluding a convocation service at Liberty University last week. Seth Richardson first wrote about these comments here at Missio Alliance in his article, “How Jerry Falwell Jr. Helps Me Repent.” Pastor Rich Villodas also offered some Advent-oriented reflections on this episode in his article, “Advent, Herod, and Liberty University.”  Yet there is another angle from which it’s important to consider these comments, given how Falwell and others have sought to defend them. This has to do with biblical interpretation, and the relevant lines from his address are these:
“I’ve always thought if more good people had concealed carry permits we could end those Muslims before they walked in… Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”
And what lesson would that be? And is that lesson a Jesus-lesson? This takes us back to WWJD, what would Jesus do, or better ye…

The Blood of American Christianity Will Be The Seed Of The Church

December 9, 2015 by Benjamin L. Corey Leave a Comment

It’s a funny thing what makes Christianity grow and flourish. In the Second Century, Tertullian (one of the early Christian theologians), wrote in Apologeticus that the “blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” For the first few hundred years of our faith, Christianity was an illegal cult of nonviolent enemy lovers who were systematically slaughtered by the powers that be, even though they refused to fight back. Dying instead of fighting had an interesting effect: it caused the growth of the church to explode. Thus, Tertullian argued that death is the very thing that makes the church to grow. We still see this principle play out today. For example, if we look to China, we see a place where there is systematic persecution of Christians, yet an explosion of Christianity to the point they are on pace to become the largest Christian nation in the world. We often call the Kingdom of Jesus an “upside-down” Kingdom because it operates…

The Holiday of Advent: Consumerism and Learning to Re-Tell Time

By | December 7, 2015 In school my son has learned to measure time. In being taught this skill he has now been given another way in which to make sense of his reality.

This struck me the last time I went to Chicago for my studies. When I had left, my son asked my wife, “How long will daddy be away?” She replied, “He’s gone for a week.” At which point he went into his room and burst into tears. He understood what a “week” was and for a six-year-old a week can feel like an eternity.

This is juxtaposed to the previous trip where he asked the same question. Upon being given the answer he simply gave me a hug and went off to play. This occurred at a point where he did not have the conceptual tools to understand what a “week” was. It meant nothing to him. I could have said 1000 years and I would’ve received the same reaction.


What does God think of you?

God thinks of you as the royal priest he created you to be serving in his temple-palace of creation. God has never thought of you as anything else. Even in rebellion against him, denying or ignoring your royal priesthood, he has never accepted or thought of you in terms of what you have become, sinners, but always in terms of who he made you to be. Of course he knows you have gone wrong and that this has to dealt with. And God has done that in Christ – once for all time! And having done it, he never thinks of us in terms of sin and failure again. Only as his beloved children, children of the Great King, royal siblings, those to whom he has entrusted and equipped for the protection and care of his creation.

When you next look in the mirror, behold there this you – not whatever other you you may believe yourself to be! For this is the true you, the real you, the you God created you to be.
And if you don’t believe me, maybe these wise words of the great theologian Karl Barth will help:
December 16, 2014
What Psychology Says About Materialism and the Holidays
Six questions for materialism expert Tim Kasser, PhD
Reporters/editors/producers note: The following feature was produced by the American Psychological Association. You may reprint it in its entirety or in part. We only request that you credit APA as the source. We also have a photograph of Kasser for reprinting.
Would the holidays be the same without some materialism in the mix? In today’s consumer society, what does it mean to be materialistic, and is that necessarily a bad thing? Psychologists have conducted research that has helped answer those questions and many more.

APA recently asked Kasser the following questions:  
APA: What does it mean to be materialistic and why is it generally viewed in a negative light? Why are some people materialistic and others not?
Read more at

How Do You Tell the Biblical Story? A Proposal

Everything in the life of the church starts, ends, and depends every step of the way on identity, God’s identity. And from that flows the church’s identity.
God’s identity is confirmed in Consummation, adumbrated in Creation, and fully revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.
1.In creation, God inaugurated the realization of his dream – a community of humans to call his people and with whom he could live forever in loving fellowship on the creation.
2.Humanity’s rebellion trashed that dream and put humanity and creation in mortal disarray.
Good established order – rebellious trashed disorder: the original revolution.
3.The rightful king, now the ruler in exile, begins a counter-revolutionary campaign of reclamation and restoration to subvert what humanity has become and demonstrate what God always wanted.
In reclamation and restoration, God is a subversive counter-revolutionary.
4.In covenant with Abraham and Sarah God calls them to be his subversive counter-revolutionary people (universal family).