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The Neuroethicist Strikes Again

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An Ode to Envy

What is jealousy? What drives us to envy others? Why do we all seem to find jealousy both detestable and secretly enjoyable at the same time? And why is jealousy such a prominent theme in most of our greatest literature?

jealousy jealous envy envious

These are the questions Parul Seghal explores in this eloquent lecture (video below). As she says, “Jealousy baffles me. It’s so mysterious, and it’s so pervasive.” And in thirteen minutes, she offers a brilliant analysis of the intersection between jealousy, literature, knowledge, and relationship.

Here are some highlights that I found particularly valuable:

1. The best analysts of jealousy are novelists

If you’re not yet convinced why it’s important to read fiction, listen to what Seghal has to say about jealousy in literature.

“I’ve never read a study that can parse to me its loneliness, or its longevity, or its grim thrill. For that we have to go to fiction. Because the novel is the lab that has studied jealousy in every possible configuration.”

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Could Jesus Be “Mostly” Divine?

Most Christians know you’re supposed to say that Jesus is divine. After all, you’ve got the Trinity, so you know you have to connect the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in some way. And you’ve probably heard that Jesus needs to be divine for salvation to work. It might be tragic for some random human to get crucified, but it’s hardly going to save the world. If Jesus is going to accomplish our salvation, he has to be divine.

But what if he was just mostly divine?

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That’s the question I received in an email from a friend the other day. He knew perfectly well that the gospel doesn’t work unless the Son is divine, but he still wanted to know if mostly divine was good enough.

Princess Bride Theology

If you’re like me, anytime “mostly X” comes up in conversation, you hear echoes of Miracle Max from The Princess Bride. And I can imagine how the relevant christological conversation might have unfolded:

Inigo Montoya: He’s divine. He can’t be otherwise.

Miracle Max: Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only mostly divine. There’s a big difference between mostly divine and all divine. Mostly divine is slightly not-divine. With all divine, well, with all divine there’s usually only one thing you can do.

Inigo: What’s that?

Miracle Max: Go through your clothes and look for loose change to tithe.

Okay, maybe it wouldn’t have gone quite like that. But you get the point. Does it make sense to draw a distinction between “all divine” and “mostly divine,” affirming only the latter of the Son?

This approach would seem to have some real advantages. On the one hand, you’re still saying that the Son is divine. So you don’t seem to have any problems affirming that he is the Savior of the world. Since he’s not as divine as the Father, though, you have a neat way of distinguishing the Son from the Father, thus avoiding all the complex logical problems those goofy trinitarians face. 

Mostly divine. Sounds good.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in John MacArthur’s Opening Address

John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference enters its third and final day today, continuing to stir things up with its message that the modern “Charismatic Movement” is not just wrong, but badly wrong, dangerously wrong. And MacArthur’s opening address kicked things off with a bang, but one that needs a closer look.


I wasn’t sure that I was going to weigh in on the conference, since plenty of people have already done so. But most of the coverage I’ve seen so far falls into one of two categories: (1) basic summary and (2) strong critique. What I haven’t seen is anyone try to comment on both the good and the bad in the conference. So that’s what I’m going to try here, which means I’ll probably just succeed in annoying everyone. But that’s what I like to do anyway.

The quotes in this post will come from the transcript amazingly compiled on the fly by Mike Riccardi. So the quotes may not be 100% accurate, though they look pretty close. You’ll have to wait until they release the audio/video if you want to double-check everything.

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Developing a Doctrine or Transforming a Tradition: A Review of the Quest for the Trinity

One of the most remarkable features of twentieth century theology was its emphasis on the doctrine of the Trinity as one of the most central and important aspects of Christian theology. The Trinity isn’t some abstract and speculative idea that we can discard in favor of the more important and practical aspects of the Christian faith. According to many modern theologians, what we believe about the Trinity shapes Christian faith and ministry.

quest for the trinityThat all sounds great. But in his new book, The Quest for the Trinity: The Doctrine of God in Scripture, History and Modernity (IVP, 2012), Steve Holmes argues that there’s a lot more to the story. These modern theologians haven’t just reemphasized the importance of the Trinity. Along the way, they have reconstructed it, subtly changing the doctrine in ways that run contrary to what the church has always believed.

This outstanding resource should be in the “must read” category for anyone wanting to understand the doctrine of the Trinity and/or the contemporary theological scene.

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The Story of the Spirit from Beginning to End

For many Christians, the Spirit of God is a relative latecomer to the biblical story, not doing much until the New Testament. He doesn’t really begin to shine until after Pentecost. So if you want to learn about the Spirit, start reading in Acts.

But that clearly isn’t the case. Although the New Testament says some amazing things about the Spirit, you simply can’t understand or appreciate those statements deeply enough without the rest of the story. And it’s a story that begins in Genesis.

We’ve done a good job in recent years emphasizing that you can’t understand the story of Christ without the Old Testament, now it’s time to do the same for the Spirit.

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Rather than just summarize the story of the Spirit in my own words, though, I started playing around with whether you could do it with a selective reading, letting the Bible speak for itself. The idea was to come up with something that (1) could be read in just a few minutes, (2) would make sense of the whole story of the Spirit, (3) could be read without inserting explanations (although everything in here could obviously be discussed further), (4) could be used as a public reading, and (5) doesn’t use any verse(s) inappropriately. That last point is important but tricky given that a selective reading like this necessarily uses individual passages outside their normal contexts. But let’s see what we can do.

Here’s what I came up with. Let me know if you think it’s missing anything essential to the story, but remember that we’re trying to keep this relatively brief.

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Nothing New Under the Sun: Theological Novelty and Heresy

It’s always a little sad when you run across someone who is excited about some theological concept they just came across, thinking that it will revolutionize the way people think about God or themselves, and you have to point out that it’s actually an ancient heresy that the church considered and rejected long ago.

That’s the gist of this cartoon: “new” theological ideas are almost always simple repetitions of older heresies. There’s nothing new under the sun, right?

Not quite. At first, I thought this comic was just funny. Then I thought again. Scroll down to see what I mean.

theological novelty

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Selfless Saint or Arrogant Jerk? A Church Search Dilemma

body of christ (300x300)If the church is a body, I’m definitely a mouth. I’d like to believe that I’m a brain — the one that gets all the smarts and makes all the decisions — but in reality I’m more of a mouth: I talk when I should be listening, and I don’t like to get my hands dirty. Of course, that’s because a mouth doesn’t really have hands. But you get the point.

And Paul says that a healthy church needs to have all the body parts. After all, a mouth is pretty pointless without at least a few ears around. And if we were all eyes, we’d always be getting stuff in our eyes, probably from rolling around on the ground all the time, and we wouldn’t have any fingers to get it out, which would be super annoying.

So we need variety in the body. I get that.

The Question

But here’s my question. When you’re looking for a new church, should you consider whether a church already has people with your particular gifts, focusing on churches where there seems to more of a need in areas where you can make a real contribution, or should you just find the best church around you and trust that God will find a way to use you there?

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When Is My Child Old Enough to Get Baptized?

My daughter has never known a time when she did not believe in Jesus, she loves going to church, and she isn’t shy about telling people that she loves God. As far as she can tell, she’s always been a Christian.

But she hasn’t been baptized.

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Our Journey

My wife and I have had many conversations about when we should encourage her to get baptized. Those of you who are from traditions that baptize infants may not appreciate the significance of this issue. But those of us who believe that baptism is for those who have made a personal confession of faith, it gets a little tricky.

What is faith?

What makes it personal?

How do you know?

Questions like these defy easy answers.

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The Name of God, an Audible Sacrament

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What’s in a name? Is a name just an arbitrary collection of letters, a pragmatic tool for distinguishing one thing from another? Or do names run deeper, capturing something essential about the thing named? Do names matter?

Does it make a difference if we’re talking about God’s name?

That’s the question R. Kendall Soulen raises at the beginning of his book The Divine Name(s) and the Holy Trinity: Distinguishing the Voices. Before he spends an entire book looking at God’s name in the Bible, Soulen wants to know if names even matter all that much.

Can we just call God whatever we want?

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