Not too long ago I had an interesting conversation with a long lost friend who had become an atheist. As we reminisced long-forgotten memories we also had to talk about faith and unfaith. Both of us grew up in a fundamentalist faith community and it was during that time that we had met. We lost touch, but over the years, at different times and in different ways, both of us distanced ourselves from the faith we once belonged to. Unlike my friend, though, I decided not to become an atheist, though the option is always open to me as a genuine possibility.
Why is it so hard to overcome racism? It is strange that in a world where most people tend to agree that racism is a bad thing, there is still is so much left of it. It is incomprehensible that in our civilized societies the specter of fascism is looming again. Most people don’t want to be racist, so why are so many driven by racist motivations of hatred for the racial other? Apparently declaring it a thing of the past is not enough. Education is barely making enough of an impression in order to train us to be good citizens.
I’ve been an evangelical Christian all of my life. Though I’ve drifted away from much of what goes under the flag of evangelicalism certain emphases of the movement will remain dear to me. One of these is the centrality of the person and work of Jesus Christ. For evangelicals, the personal relationship with Christ matters more than anything. It starts with the question whether one has accepted Jesus Christ as savior and lord in one’s life. The direct unmitigated relationship with Christ is at the center of the evangelical experience. I still resonate with what theologians call a Christocentric emphasis. It’s all about Christ; nothing else matters.
When the word theology is mentioned people either have no idea what you are talking about or they think you’re talking about something religious. This week I listened to the new album by A Perfect Circle and their songs TalkTalk and The Doomed spoke to me. Theologically! This band illustrates some aspects of what I mean by public theology.
Actually, I don’t believe in predestination. We are not robots! I hate predestination and consider it one of the great heretical ideas that have crept into Christian theology, first by the philosophically inclined medieval theologians, but then, in a horribly amplified version of the doctrine, by way of the Calvinists and their double predestination (some are destined for salvation and some for damnation). Through their ardent labor, millions have lived in agony about their whereabouts in the afterlife and have seen, in the misery of their earthly conditions, a sure sign of the divine determination to ransack and haunt them all the way from a hellish earth to a fiery hell.
A Devotional on the Cross
Imagine a cross. The cross has a vertical pole and a crossbar. It is not hard to imagine the vertical pole representing the dynamic between below and above. Christ was nailed to that cross. He hung suspended between heaven and earth, deserted by the dwellers of both. In Christ reconciled with God, Christians the world over are participants in that vertical dimension. The connection with God has been established. The vertical pole represents the relationship with God. They also have a responsibility in the horizontal.
A few years ago, I saw a post on Facebook that asserted that what makes Christianity stand out from other religions is that Christian have a personal relationship with God. It irked me and I was ready to fire off a response but I stopped with my fingers hovering over the keyboard. There was no point in getting broiled in yet another fruitless Facebook dispute.
This article was published a few years ago as two shorter articles at Relevant.com.
Waking Up to A Non-Christian World
We live in weird times. Almost every day we are shell-shocked with news about terrorist attacks and the international export of islamic terrorism through ISIS’ worldwide network. While we ask ourselves where all this is going, some politicians tell us we can no longer trust our muslim neighbor. They also tell us we should build walls to protect us from villains crossing our southern border. And as we wonder what to make of such calls, we are surprised to find evangelical leaders rallying in support of those that make these claims, all in name of the culture war we’re engaged in as Christians.
Today I will tell a little more about what I want with this blog. It is my hope to initiate an impietist tradition. As you can perhaps guess, impietism is something like the opposite of pietism, the well-known movement of personal devotion and sincerity of faith within 18th century Lutheranism. In truth, the difference is actually more subtle, since the Pietists got a couple things right. My impietism is intended for the degenerate, for those who feel like they are un-born-again. So let’s have a little impietist talk.
The Apostle John tells us that before Jesus was arrested he prayed the following words, part of a longer prayer: “…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. (…) so that they may be brought to complete unity.” What has come of Jesus’ prayer?
The unity Jesus prays for is connected to both the unity that he and the Father have and to the task that is set before the believers (“Then the world will know that you sent me”). In theological parlance this means that unity is connected with the Trinitarian nature of God (that is, God as a trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit) as well as the mission of God, the so-called missio Dei in the world.