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To the Religious Prosecutors of Error

“Men may differ from each other in many religious opinions, and yet all may retain the essentials of Christianity; men may sometimes eagerly dispute, and yet not differ much from one another: the rigorous prosecutors of error should, therefore, enlighten their zeal with knowledge, and temper their orthodoxy with charity; that charity without which orthodoxy is vain.”

Samuel Johnson, The Works of Samuel Johnson (New York: Collins and Hannay, 1825), pp. 413-414.

Toward a Pentecostal Hermeneutics (Wheaton Theology Conference 5)

After hearing a detailed explanation of the 15 steps necessary for studying the Bible, a student noticed that the professor hadn’t said anything about the role of the Holy Spirit. Somewhat confused given that most Christians affirm the doctrine of illumination–the idea the the Spirit is somehow at work with Christians enabling them to hear and understand God’s Word properly–the student asked, ”Where is the Holy Spirit in all this?”

His response: “Everywhere.”

Was that a profound insight into the fact that reading the Bible properly is a necessarily Spirit-infused task, or was that just pietistic jargon designed to cover up the fact that the professor really doesn’t believe the Spirit has anything to do with exegesis?

Leggere alimenta la mente

That’s the question Kevin Vanhoozer used to introduce a fascinating paper on the role of the Spirit in hermeneutics at the recent Wheaton Theology Conference. And his real target was on developing greater clarity about what it means to say that the Spirit “illumines” us when we read the Bible. Does it really make a difference? If so, in what way?

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Flotsam and jetsam (4/23)

written language

Good Reads

  • What the Bible Belt Stereotypes Don’t Tell You: It was easy to avoid my questions about God and faith, because in my community and in my circles, spiritual conversations simply didn’t take place. Relocating to Nebraska, however, brought my struggles with faith to the forefront and forced me to face my deep doubt head-on for the first time in 20 years. (Hermeneutics)
  • What Hollywood gets wrong about heaven:  In Scripture, when mortals catch a premature glimpse of God’s glory, they react in remarkably similar ways. They tremble. They cower. They go mute. The ones who can manage speech express despair (or “woe” to use the King James English) and become convinced they are about to die. Fainters abound. (CNN Belief)
  • Why You Need to Stop Bragging about How Busy You Are:  Schulte had bought into a “culture of busy.” That is, a work environment where logging in long hours and complaining about not having any time in the day is considered a status symbol and a sign of success. (Fast Company)

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Book giveaway: Theology Questions Everyone Asks

Theology-Questions-Ev-4044If you’re looking for an excellent resource for dealing with some of the most common questions in theology, I have a book for you. Actually, I have three of them. One for each of three lucky winners. So read on or scroll to the bottom of the post to sign up.

In Theology Questions Everyone Asks (IVP, 2014), the theology faculty at Wheaton College worked together to address the questions they encounter most frequently in the classroom. And they do so clearly, engagingly, and thoughtfully. (Observant readers will notice that I’m not in the book. That could be interpreted as yet another attempt to keep the new guy down. Or it could be because they wrote the book before I got here. I’ll let you decide.) Here’s the endorsement from Tom McCall (Trinity) to whet your appetite.

Some of the most penetrating and intriguing theological questions are the ones asked not by professional theologians but by sincere students and laypersons. Helpful answers to such questions are not, alas, as common as we might think. Thankfully, in Theology Questions Everyone Asks, we get some real-truth answers to go with real-life questions.

And here’s a short video trailer for the book.

Like I said, I have three copies of the book to give away. If you’re interested, just enter below. (I won’t use the email addresses for anything other than this giveaway.) And be a good servant of the kingdom and pass news about the giveaway to anyone you think might be interested.

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The Death and Recovery of Systematic Theology

It’s not unusual these days to find people questioning whether we should be doing systematic theology at all. Isn’t that an outmoded way of thinking, one that was effectively killed off by postmodern concerns about “metanarratives” and “totalizing discourses”?

god sexuality selfThat’s the issue Sarah Coakley tackles in the first chapter of her new book God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay ‘On the Trinity’ (Cambridge, 2013). Since this is the first volume in her projected new systematic theology, which promises to be one of the more interesting and creative systematic endeavors in quite some time, it makes sense for her to take some time to explain why she thinks that systematic theology is still worth doing. Along the way, she offers a fascinating overview of several objections to systematic theology, the state of systematic theology today, and why she thinks that a renewed emphasis on ascetic practice can and should lead systematic theology forward from here. 

Let’s see what she means.

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Flotsam and jetsam (4/21)

toilet paper

Good Reads

  • Fundamentalist Arguments against Fundamentalism:  Biblical fundamentalism, Ehrman contends, is simply wrong. Therefore, he reasons, the Bible really can’t be trusted. There is just one problem with this conclusion — it is flawed at its very core. (Craig Evans)
  • If a Student Says Homosexuality Is a Sin in School, Is It Bullying? Anger has been building up on both sides,” said Haynes. “On the conservative Christian side, they see this as being used to inappropriately hush up kids. But the reality is that this speech does trigger a lot of emotion, and for some people on [the other] side, we’ve come to a place where kids talking about homosexuality being sinful [is considered] unacceptable in public schools. (The Atlantic)
  • 12 Things I Want To Hear My Students Say:  The magic of learning isn’t in its finite and concrete inputs and outputs, but rather its abstractions–the confrontation between a thinker and the stimulus around them. This suggests that we look for something other than correct answers–little light bulbs coming on–to soothe us as educators. (TeachThought)
  • Why We Need Monks: Because consecrated religious stand in opposition to so many of the modern world’s common conceits, their existence is almost utterly inconceivable to us. This unintelligibility is, in part, a tragic effect of the major loss of religious life over the past half-century. And this countercultural witness is precisely why we need a renewed monasticism today. (Fare Forward)

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A Prayer for Sunday (St. Anselm)

anselmOne of the great minds of the medieval church,  St. Anselm of Canterbury served as a monk in northern France for more than thirty years before becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury. Best known for his treatise on the doctrine of the atonement (Cur Deus Homo), Anselm was also a key figure in the Investiture Controversy, an important clash between church and state that helped define medieval Europe.

Anselm died on April 21, 1109. In honor of his amazing life and ministry, this Sunday’s prayer comes from him.

Teach me to seek you,
and reveal yourself to me as I seek:
For unless you instruct me
I cannot seek you,
and unless you reveal yourself
I cannot find you.
Let me seek you in desiring you:
let me desire you in seeking you.
Let me find you in loving you:
let me love you in finding you.

Saturday Morning Fun…Best Flight Attendant Ever

If you’re one of the few who hasn’t seen this yet, check out what has to be the funniest pre-flight announcement ever.

Flotsam and jetsam (4/18)

no dogs

Good Reads

  • No, All Christian Content Shouldn’t Be Free:  I understand the desire to get resources into the hands of those who can’t afford them. The impulse to break down financial barriers so  people can hear the gospel and so God’s people can grow is good. I’m thankful for all of the free content, readily available online and elsewhere. But there point we must understand is that good content always has a cost. (Daniel Darling)
  • Top 10 tips for atheists this Easter: I doubt there are any strong scientific, philosophical or historical arguments against Christianity. Most of those in current circulation are nowhere near as persuasive as New Atheism imagines. Contemporary sceptics would do well to drop them. Paradoxically, I do think Christianity is vulnerable at precisely the points of its own emphases. (The Drum)

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The Growth of Global Pentecostalism (Wheaton Theology Conference 4)

Conceptual composite arrowAfter a slight hiatus so I could slip some actual teaching in, we’re back to reviewing some of the sessions from the recent Wheaton Theology Conference. And this we’ll focus on a paper that took a slightly different approach. Rather than focusing on theological issues, Allan Anderson looked at facts and trends relative to the growth of pentecostalism around the world.

What’s a “Pentecostal”?

Before you can talk about the growth of pentecostalism, of course, you need some kind of definition about what qualifies as “pentecostal.” And Anderson started with a rather broad definition, including people in four categories:

  • The “classic Pentecostal” denominations (e.g. Assemblies of God)
  • Independent churches (i.e. church that are not affiliated with pentecostal denominations but that affirm key pentecostal doctrines and practices)
  • “Charismatic” churches (i.e. those that are part of non-pentecostal denominations but that affirm key pentecostal doctrines and practices)
  • Independent megachurches (this apparently received its own category because of the growth and global influence of such churches)

Anderson’s stats about global pentecostalism, then, summarize information about Christians in all four categories.

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