an outlet of encouragement, explanation, and exhortation

Category: Theology (Page 1 of 5)

Needing Christ

One thing I knew by this time: I needed Christ and not merely His religion… The Bible says that God does not wait for me to merit His love but heaps it upon me without my deserving it. It says also that there is neither male nor female in Christ… How good, how indescribably good! What good news for me a woman, a woman born in India among Brahmans who hold out no hope for me and the like of me! The Bible declares that Christ did not reserve this great salvation for a particular caste or sex.

Pandita Ramabai, An Honourable Heritage: The Pandita Ramabai Story in her Own Words (eBook: Community Christian Ministries, 2019), pp. 27, 28, 30-31.

About that “rapture” stuff… It’s not in the Bible.

Skye Jethani gives a very quick and fairly thorough debunking of a contemporary, mostly American misunderstanding of end times. What so many American Christians believe about a “rapture” isn’t in the Bible and wasn’t taught by Christians before recent times in North America. Of course, he takes much flak for his video in which he gives accurate Christian teaching on this topic, even though he is simply explaining what Christian scholars have long known to be the meaning of the various passages in scripture which some believe support the idea of the rapture. Check it out here.

Skye Jethani got so many comments (many apparently from people who didn’t actually watch the video!) that he did a follow-up podcast with a couple of Christian teachers, Mike Bird and Mike Erre in which they give even more background and demonstrate how a rapture is inconsistent with scripture.

If that’s not enough for you, here’s a brief article by New Testament scholar N.T. Wright called Farewell to the Rapture.

Recommending Two Books by Esau McCaulley

I just finished reading How Far to the Promised Land: One Black Family’s Story of Hope and Survival in the American South by Esau McCaulley. It is a deeply redemptive American story that our culture sorely needs. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is not only the narrative that we need today in our culture and church; it is superbly well-written. It is the best thing I’ve read this year. McCaulley writes in the form of a memoir provoked by his need to give the eulogy at his father’s funeral, and also by his desire to pass on a true family history to his children. Along the way, his commentary on American culture is compelling, with fine illustrative examples.

Some time ago, I also read McCaulley’s Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope. I also had an extremely positive reaction to this book. At the time, I wrote to a friend that Chapter 6 was the finest piece of Christian writing and thinking that I’ve read in a long, long time. It was profound, biblical, encouraging, and powerful – a really fine example of Christian thinking and communication for today. As a Quaker Christian, I found his perspectives resonating strongly – his title is apropos. It convinced me, at the time, that I’d want to read pretty much anything McCaulley writes! (I should have written this recommendation years ago. Better late than never.)

I am finding Esau McCaulley to be one of the most gifted writers of our time. His writing is a gift God gives particularly to the American church of our day, and to American culture more generally. Highest recommendation.

Notes for Hot Topics – The Bible and Sex

This weeks message is on the Bible and Sex. Here are links to some of the resources that I used and that you may be interested in pursuing for more information.

Matthew Vines is a well-known gay Christian activist and speaker. He is known for a viral YouTube video, entitled The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality, and for his speaking and writing to re-interpret the Bible so as to leave room for same-sex relationships for faithful Christians. There is a transcript of his Youtube video that I found very useful in pursuing study. Vines doesn’t so much present new arguments as effectively use social media to publicize scriptural interpretation that was little known before. He usefully converys the various approaches to scripture that are employed to support committed same-sex relationships as an option for a Christian marriage.

Joshua Gonnerman, a Phd student in Historical Theology who calls himself a Gay Christian, wrote an article rebutting Vines’ arguments. In this article, he refers to Elizabeth Scalia’s article entitled Homosexuality: A Call to Otherness? that many find helpful. Gonnerman also wrote powerfully on the churches failure to be family for gay people.

There are a number of links to other resources that one can trace from the articles and websites above. The Spiritual Friendship website is a place of links to good resources and frank discussion around issues related to sexuality.

I’ve appreciated the insights of Sam Allberry over the years. He has a website. He is an effective public speaker and popular writer more than a scholar.

Robert Gagnon is one of the most accomplished scholars focused on Paul’s letters in the Bible and sexual issues. He has a website. Gagnon is thorough to a fault. Reading him is like reading a commentary! (The Kindle version of his book The Bible and Homosexual Practice has 667 pages.) He also wrote a book with Dan O. Via entitled Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views where his consideration is only 58 pages. Via’s opposing argument is only 39 pages. Then each gives a response to the other. The first of the “top reviews” of this book on Amazon can give you a taste of what you would find in the book. A couple of years ago I worked my way through the audio and some assigned reading for Gagnon’s Regent College course The Bible, Homosexuality, and Sexual Ethics and decided I didn’t need to tackle the books.

If you want a very, very simple overview of the interpretations of scripture related to same-sex issues, consider the New York Times article Debating Bible Verses on Homosexuality. The article Evangelicals Open Door to Debate on Gay Rights is a useful introduction to the current state of affairs among evangelical Christians.

Edward J. Carnell on Fundamentalism

In his book The Case for Orthodox Theology, Edward J. Carnell commented on the difference between orthodox Christianity and fundamentalism, and identified tendencies of fundamentalism of any stripe. I am reminded of these characteristics of fundamentalism in the context of various contemporary political and social controversies when I listen to advocates of various positions – even positions with which I may agree! Present day discourse is so… absolutist? I’ll leave further application of that thought to the reader, however.

Critics also brand orthodoxy as fundamentalism, but in doing so they act in bad taste. Not only is it unfair to identify a position with its worst elements, but the critics of fundamentalism often manifest the very attitudes that they are trying to expose. The mentality of fundamentalism is by no means an exclusive property of orthodoxy. Its attitudes are found in every branch of Christendom: the quest for negative status, the elevation of minor issues to a place of major importance, the use of social mores as a norm of virtue, the toleration of one’s own prejudice but not the prejudice of others, the confusion of the church with a denomination, and the avoidance of prophetic scrutiny by using the Word of God as an instrument of self-security but not self-criticism.

The mentality of fundamentalism comes into being whenever a believer is unwilling to trace the effects of original sin in his own life. And where is the believer who is wholly delivered from this habit? This is why no one understands fundamentalism until he understands the degree to which he himself is tinctured by the attitudes of fundamentalism.

The Case for Orthodox Theology by Edward J. Carnell, (c) 1959, by W. L. Jenkins, The Westminster Press, p. 141.

On Women in the Church and in Marriage

In the past I wrote a series of posts considering biblical teaching on women in the church and in marriage. Several people have asked me about this recently so I thought I’d make the posts easy to find by adding a page that serves as a table of contents for these posts, and linking to it. And now, in 2023, the “Hot Topics” message Church teaching about Women refers to these articles yet again, so I am republishing.

In a nutshell, I argue that God created humans, male and female, to stand as peers in carrying his image. God often calls women into leadership and teaching ministry. It is God’s call that makes a leader or teacher or preacher in His church – nothing less will do. And no human organization can rightly oppose what God does. Regarding marriage, I argue that the best plan for marriage is a partnership of mutual submission under the headship of Christ.

I mention the Bible Project as a valuable resource on the creation narratives in Genesis, both podcasts and videos. One particular video on human identity may be helpful. There is another, older video by Tim Mackie video that you may find helpful. The Bible Project is a tremendous resource!

Last Sunday I mentioned trends in American higher education in which more women were attending college than in the past. Here are some statistics over the last 50 years.

A recently published, excellent new book, Tell Her Story: How Women Led, Taught, and Ministered in the Early Church, by scholar Nijay Gupta, lives up to the description in its title. This is a very helpful book – highly recommended!

Some Articles I (may or may not) refer to in my “Hot Topics – Abortion” Message

Here are links to some of the articles I mention in my “Hot Topics” message on abortion (also available as the LBFC Weekly Sermons podcast). Or perhaps these are things I should have mentioned, depending on which version you hear/watch.

One helpful article was David Novak’s What Does the Bible Say about Abortion. Novak is speaking about Jewish scripture with the word “Bible” in his title. Novak explains how a number of passages from Jewish scripture are mis-used and clarifies good interpretations.

Kristin Kobes Du Mez is interviewed on All Things Considered regarding how abortion became a mobilizing issue for the religious right. She discusses the polarization and politicization of the abortion issue. For a longer read with much more detailed scholarship, try her book Jesus and John Wayne. I’ve written a bit more on Kristen Kobes Du Mez here. In a similar vein, Beth Allison Barr’s The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth might be helpful.

Sarah Williams wrote a remarkable book about deciding to carry her daughter Cerian to term, shocking medical staff and professional colleagues. The recently rewritten edition is entitled Perfectly Human – Nine Months with Cerian. I first read this book and handed many copies out to others some years ago when it was first published as The Shaming of the Strong: The Challenge of an Unborn Life. It is a powerful book that you may find difficult to put down once you begin reading. While this book is easy to read for a general audience, Sarah Williams is a first-rate scholar that I first encountered through classes she taught at Regent College in Vancouver, BC. Her classes Marriage, Sex, and Family in Historical Perspective and another with the boring-sounding title Church and State in the Modern World are remarkably insightful; I learned a lot! Anything Sarah Williams does is bound to be top-notch and worth your attention.

Also, I wrote a series of short articles on women in the church and marriage on this blog some years ago that you can access here.

What is Thy only comfort in life and death?

That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ…

from the Heidelberg Catechism, Day 1

I found those words at the beginning of the catechetical response to be encouraging. Of course, there is more detail to the complete answer in the catechism. Catechisms tend to be wordy! (Not that I object to the rest of the response…)

Q. What is Thy only comfort in life and death?

A. That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

I recorded a message related to this thought for January 15, 2023, after returning from a family trip to Ireland.

For an historical Quaker catechism, check out Barclay’s Catechism here (Quaker Heritage Press) or here (Google Books) or here (Wikisource).

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