Showing posts from September, 2015

Francis and Trump: Opposites Competing for the American Soul

John ThatamanilABC Religion and Ethics 28 Sep 2015
Donald Trump and Pope Francis are incarnations of the kind of power to which they appeal. To choose between them is to make a basic human decision about the shape of a worthy life. Credit: Aristide Economopoulos / Sean Rayford / Getty Images
The two most popular figures in American life in recent weeks are polar opposites: Pope Francis and Donald Trump.
Trump is a favourite candidate of white nationalists and xenophobes. The Pope, by contrast, speaks tirelessly on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, immigrants and the planet - "our common home."
The Pope points away from himself and to the needs of others. Trump constantly points to himself. Trump has no platform save Trump. His core message is, "I am great. I will make the nation over in my own image, and so it too will be great again."

History and Bible: Do They Align?

Posted By: Greg Boyd

To begin, it is significant that when Jesus and the authors of the NT referred to their sacred writings as “God-breathed,” they were referring to the writings that had been handed down to them. So too, the text that the Church has always confessed to be “God-breathed” has been the canon she received. Never has the “God-breathed” nature of the text been affixed to oral or written versions of the biblical material that preceded the written text. For this and other reasons, I find that the “God-breathed” status and divine authority of Scripture attaches to its final canonical form. This alone is the text we are called to wrestle with, with the ultimate goal of discerning how any given passage bears witness to the faithful and merciful covenantal God who was definitively revealed in Christ. This means, among other things, that our estimation of a passage’s “God-breathed” nature and/or its divine authority should not hinge upon anything like historical-critical…

If Only Ann Coulter Had a Reason to worry

By | September 25, 2015
The steady drumbeat of criticisms aimed at Pope Francis from the conservative American commentariat continue to accumulate. Following George Will’s scurrilous column of last week, Rich Lowry of America’s main conservative journal, National Review, similarly weighed in to condemn the pope’s poor grasp of economics, echoing a set of now well-worn talking points that lead one to suspect that a memo has gone out to leading conservatives in order to launch a coordinated attack.

The pope has not departed from longstanding Catholic teaching on the immorality of an economic system grounded in greed and self-interest, a position established  in 1891 with Pope Leo XIII’s first social encyclical, De Rerum Novarum.


Jesus Wants Us to be Served

Jesus Wants us to Be ServedPosted by Jared Byas on September 22, 2015 in Jared ByasChristian faith and life2 Comments

In a few days, a friend of mine gets out of jail. We and two other couples we are dear friends with, will be splitting up housing, meals, rides, and job hunting to support him over the next three months.
This seems pretty Jesus-y, yes?

“The Son of Man came to serve (διακονέω), not to be served.” –Matthew 20:28

Well, lately, I’m not so sure. Because there’s something that feeds my ego when I help. So I’ve been thinking about the context of this passage. Two of the disciples get their mama (at least we assume this by the reaction of the other ten) to ask Jesus if they can be in power when Jesus becomes King.
Jesus responds this way: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,and whoever wants to be first must be y…

Does Anybody Really Kknow What Time It Is?

I’m dating myself, I know, by using an old song from the rock group Chicago as a title. But it still works, I think. Knowing what time it is, knowing, that is, who we are, where we are, and how we’re supposed to live in that time is crucial to living with coherence and integrity. And I contend that by and large the North American church has not and does not now what time it is for us.
This is not primarily a sociological or historical question (though both are involved in various ways). No, it is a theological question. In fact, it is an apocalyptic question.
C. S. Lewis sets the context (or time) in which the church lives. “Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage” [C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 45-46]. We, the church, living in the light of God’s great and final attack on the world …

We are justified by faith - or so the story goes

by | Sep 19, 2015 | Hermeneutics, Theology | 0 Comments

People who take the trouble to think of themselves as “Protestant”—as heirs of the Reformation—are likely to be of the view that the doctrine of justification by faith sits right at the heart of their religious identity. But what sort of thing is “justification by faith”? What does it look like? What does it do? In an interview on the Gospel Coalition website Tom Schreiner provides a standard definition:
Justification by faith alone means that we stand in the right before God by faith instead of on the basis of our works. In the classical Protestant formulation of the doctrine, justification doesn’t mean make righteous, but rather declare righteous…. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us by faith so that our forgiveness of sins and righteousness are gifts of God. The doctrine explains how a person is saved. It has no real application outside of this basic existential requirement. It doesn’t connect with a…

Why "Applying" Christianity to One's Life Just Won't Work

The former (application) feels like we’re trying to add something to life from the outside-in. The latter (relationship) flows naturally from the inside-out.
The former follows only for pragmatic reasons. The latter is an expression of life.
The former doesn’t require relationship. The latter assumes it.
The former views principles as good things that will make life better – as in good advice. The latter views the story of Jesus as good news that changes the very course of one’s entire life.
The former picks and chooses principles based on personal preference. The latter sees the entire Jesus-story as an all-encompassing, ethos-shaping lifestyle.
The former can lead to moralism that demands we follow a system of rules and obligations. The latter leads to adopting a posture of grace and mercy towards oneself and others.

Why the Gospel is Way Better than Better than We Ever Imagined

We don’t confuse the basis of the gospel with its benefits.
The gospel is the announcement of Jesus victory through cross and resurrection over the powers of sin, evil, and death which distorted God’s creation and creatures into deathly parodies of what they were intended to be. This is the “good news”! Forgiveness, new life, assurance, reconciliation – are the benefits of the gospel which we receive only on the basis of the gospel.
In other words, the gospel is that “Jesus is Victor” (Karl Barth) not that we can have our sins forgiven and be assured of our place in heaven. Confusion here results in a false gospel, a truncated vision, and stunted Christin existence.
It’s not about our going to heaven but heaven coming to earth.
The dualism of spiritual (immaterial) and material which privileges the former as better than or superior to the latter which weigh’s down, hinders, is inferior to, temporary, or not as important as the former has no place in the Christian gospel. Jesus’ victory r…

A Refugee Crisis Made in America

Will the U.S. accept responsibility for the humanitarian consequences of Washington-manufactured wars? By Philip Giraldi • September 11, 2015

Procyk Radek /
On April 29th, 2008 I had a Saul on the Road to Damascus moment. I had flipped open the Washington Post and there, on the front page, was a color photo of a two year old Iraqi boy named Ali Hussein being pulled from the rubble of a house that had been destroyed by American missiles. The little boy was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and had on his feet flip-flops. His head was hanging back at an angle that told the viewer immediately that he was dead.

Four days later on May 3rd a letter by a Dunn Loring Virginia woman named Valerie Murphy was printed by the Post. Murphy complained that the Iraqi child victim photo should not have been run in the paper because it would “stir up opposition to the war and feed anti-US sentiment.” I suppose the newspaper thought it was being impartial in printing the woman’s letter, thou…

Mary Magdalene - 21st Century North American Christian?

Institutionalism and irrelevance are two charges regularly levied against the church in our time in North America. Without the proper nuancing here, let me accept these charges as by and large legitimate. I came of age in the sixties and seventies when our basic institutions and arbiters of the “American way of life” were subjected to withering suspicion and critique. And they have never recovered from this crisis of legitimacy.
We cannot live without institutions. Nor, it seems, can we live with them. With the flowering of individual autonomy in the sixties and seventies a perpetual anti-institutionalism was (and is) inevitable. Even if we believe in theory that it takes a village to raise a child, in reality we resist submitting to or acknowledging the influence of the village with everything in us. To this degree anti-institutionalism is a function of North American hyper-individualism and a view of freedom gone to seed.
However, there comes a time when institutions fail to nurture a…

Father, Son and Michael Jordan? Gatorade's Image of the Trinity

by Adam Johnson on September 8, 2015

You have likely heard several bad images of the Trinity. Ice, water and steam are one in that they are all water, but three states. There are three leaves to a clover, but one clover…. There are any number of such images, each offering an incomplete and largely unhelpful instance combining threeness and oneness. Ultimately, of course, each of these images depends on one or more largely heretical assumptions which undermine the benefit of the image. The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, the Trinity cannot be explained by creation. On the other hand, the Trinity is what does the explaining–it is the basic reality, the living premise, which serves as the foundation for understanding everything which it has brought into existence.

All that changed, however, in 2002, with Gatorade’s foray into the doctrine of the Trinity, offering us what I take to be the most complete and helpful image for the doctrine currently found under the sun.


Living in the Tragic Gap

Living in the Tragic Gap
September 2, 2015
by Sylvia Keesmaat

A sermon on Romans 8 preached at Wine Before Beer
21 July, 2015
How did they hear it
those early followers
of Jesus?
The ones who lived in Rome,
as slaves to the wealthy.
The destitute stoneworkers,
tile workers,
women and men,
some homeless,
some housed, just.
Jews from the ghettos.
the few Greeks from the hillsides,
with slaves of their own.
How did they hear
the gospel of Jesus?
The words of new life,
life in the Spirit?

What Happened to the Moral Center of American Capitalism?

Posted on Sep 7, 2015 By Robert Reich

Shutterstock This post originally ran on Robert Reich’s website.
An economy depends fundamentally on public morality; some shared standards about what sorts of activities are impermissible because they so fundamentally violate trust that they threaten to undermine the social fabric.

It is ironic that at a time the Republican presidential candidates and state legislators are furiously focusing on private morality – what people do in their bedrooms, contraception, abortion, gay marriage – we are experiencing a far more significant crisis in public morality.

We’ve witnessed over the last two decades in the United States a steady decline in the willingness of people in leading positions in the private sector – on Wall Street and in large corporations especially – to maintain minimum standards of public morality. They seek the highest profits and highest compensation for themselves regardle…

Is Progress Good for Humanity?

Rethinking the narrative of economic development, with sustainability in mind
Jeremy Caradonna
Sep 9, 2014The stock narrative of the Industrial Revolution is one of moral and economic progress. Indeed, economic progress is cast as moral progress.

The story tends to go something like this: Inventors, economists, and statesmen in Western Europe dreamed up a new industrialized world. Fueled by the optimism and scientific know-how of the Enlightenment, a series of heroic men—James Watt, Adam Smith, William Huskisson, and so on—fought back against the stultifying effects of regulated economies, irrational laws and customs, and a traditional guild structure that quashed innovation. By the mid-19th century, they had managed to implement a laissez-faire (“free”) economy that ran on new machines and was centered around modern factories and an urban working class. It was a long and difficult process, but this revolution eventually brought Europeans to a new plateau of civilization. In the end, Eu…

You Don't Mean a Thing

Fr. Stephen Freeman8 Comments
I have continued to meditate this past week on the quote from Stanley Hauerwas that I shared previously:
The project of modernity was to produce people who believe they should have no story except the story they choose when they had no story. Such a story is called a story of freedom – institutionalized economically as capitalism and politically as democracy. That story, and the institutions that embody it, is the enemy we must attack through Christian preaching.
There is an assumption within our contemporary world that the life we bring into this world doesn’t mean a thing, at least, not at the start. Meaning is something the individual must create for himself/herself. It is, we think, a version of freedom. We are told that if we come into this world with our meaning already established as a given, then we can never be free. Autonomy, being “self-ruled,” is the heart of our contemporary delusion. We have seen this taken to extremes in the recent past. Funda…

The Trump Appeal: Why Immigration May Be the Definiinf Issue of the 21st Century

Michael BrendanDougherty
REUTERS/Ben Brewer August 31, 2015

There was once a fanciful idea that the internet and all its attendant technologies of cheap communication would reverse the pattern of urbanization in developed countries. Some people still believe this: People could telecommute to work while enjoying the comforts of the small towns and country roads of their childhood. A few people, in fact, do this. But the for the most part the opposite phenomenon is playing out. The information age is the age of moving people. And if that's true, Donald Trump is just the first manifestation of a new era in global politics.

The information age makes it very easy for a small town kid to find an apartment, a job, and a social network in the big cities and growth areas. It also allows him to stay connected with friends at home. In other words, it lowers the price of moving and the cost of leaving. It reduces the feeling of disorientation in new places, while allowing people to still belon…

Karl Barth's Three Words to Atheism

Posted by W. Travis McMaken

Kimlyn J. Bender, Confessing Christ for Church and World: Studies in Modern Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014). The first “word” is “The Word of God in Jesus Christ” (p. 272). This has to do with Christian particularity. Bender reminds his readers – by way of Barth – that any Christian response to atheism must be properly Christian, and not vaguely theist: “Theism may appear as a proper response to a growing atheistic secularism, but for Barth, such was fool’s gold. Theism may be an appealing alternative to a generic secularism for those who lament the loss of so-called Christian culture, but generic theism is helpless before a true idolatry” (p. 273).
The second “word” is “A Word of Judgment” (p. 273). Here Bender draws on Barth’s criticism of religion to make the point that atheism is “but a new form of religion, which is itself a very old form of idolatry” (p. 273). This is why the p…
A Purpose-filled LifeFr. Stephen FreemanLeave a Comment The project of modernity was to produce people who believe they should have no story except the story they choose when they had no story. Such a story is called a story of freedom – institutionalized economically as capitalism and politically as democracy. That story, and the institutions that embody it, is the enemy we must attack through Christian preaching. Stanley Hauerwas, “Sanctify Them in the Truth,” 197-198. +++ The chart I am sharing with this post came to my attention through my newsfeed on social media. It is an outstanding example of how the modern world understands the meaning and role of the individual. It is, on its surface, a guide towards “purpose.” And, as can be seen, purpose is composed of the intersection of what we love, what the world needs, what we’re good at, and what we can pay for. It is a map of a “responsible” version of the American Dream. It is also an illustration of the false understanding of what it…