Category Archives: Jesus

Grace: Transactional or Transformational?

Exod 2:24; Judg 2:16; Luke 17:12-19

This time of year means preparation for facing first year students. Most have never engaged in rigorous academic study of the Bible. They come to seminary as I came to my undergraduate religion major, innocently expecting that the Bible says what they have always thought it said and that serious study of it will only confirm what they Continue reading Grace: Transactional or Transformational?

“Unto the ends of the earth”

Acts 1:8

The story of the early church as told in the book of Acts testifies to the tenacity of tribalism as a major force in human society.  A prominent strand of biblical tradition traceable to the call of Abraham and his descendants to serve as the means for God to bring blessing to all the families of the earth (Gen 12:1-3), through the prophetic call for Israel to shine as light Continue reading “Unto the ends of the earth”

An Easter Confession

“Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29 and par.)

Yesterday churches across the world experienced the highest attendance levels that they will experience all year.  Attendance next Sunday, at least in the West, however, will confirm the trends indicated in the surveys about religion and the statistics concerning denominational decline.  For many reasons, some clearly identifiable and others

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“In whom I am well pleased”

Mark 1:11; Matt 3:17; Luke 3:22

As I write, it is Tuesday of Holy Week and the world seems to be coming apart all around me – terrorism in Belgium, turmoil in American politics, and troubled people on every horizon.  People want political answers to what they perceive to be political threats; they want forceful measures to deal with destructive forces.  People are angry and afraid.  Can

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Poor Happens

And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” (John 9:2 NAS)

Poverty is not (proof of) sin.  Poverty is not a character flaw.  Poverty happens to people.

John’s Gospel records an episode in Jesus’ ministry in which his disciples revealed their sadly respectable conventionality.  Two prominent strands of theological tradition running throughout the Old Testament converged in their question concerning the identity of the sinner responsible for an unfortunate man’s blindness.

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The Sovereignty of God and the Sears Catalog

On Genesis 17

Some years ago, Dennis came to my office to talk about how his study of the Bible had reshaped his understanding of God.  He related an episode in his life just a few years earlier involving the purchase of a swing set for his young daughter.  His church background had emphasized the sovereignty of God, including the notion that God’s

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“Outside Agitators”

In the previous entry in this blog, I argued that the most profitable approach to reading prophetic literature involves a variety of “pattern recognition.”  Yesterday, the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, I took the opportunity to re-read Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” his famed “I Have a Dream” speech, and the concluding chapter of his

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Let us make God in our image and according to our likeness

“The chief end of [humankind] is to glorify God.”

The Westminster Shorter Catechism

Readers of the Bible will recognize the title of this entry as a paraphrase of Genesis 1:26, the statement of God’s intention to create humankind.  The paraphrase echoes a position often taken by critics of religion (Sigmund Freud, and more recently Christopher Kitchens, Richard Dawkins, and others), namely, that human beings simply project a super-human

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Christmas Prophecy

Christmas disturbs me this year.  Usually, I hear in the Christmas story the announcement that the prophetic insight encapsulated in the phrase “Immanu-el (Hebrew, “God is with us”; Isa 7:14; Matt 1:23) has found ultimate expression in the birth of a child. Christmas usually reminds me that God wants communion with human beings, created in God’s image, to such a degree that God was willing come to us as an infant child.  Christmas usually reminds me that we do not have to speculate about the character of the God, mysterious and majestic, who created the universe.  Instead, God so desires to reveal

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