My new blogging home

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I've been quiet here for the past month or so, but I'm still writing! I got a new job with a wonderful organization called Westar (in addition to my usual rabble rousing as minister and professor!) and it's been keeping me busy. The organization is the home of impressive Biblical scholarship and their mission is to bridge the gap between the academy and the culture. I have read and followed the work of some of their scholars for years so it is truly an honor to be working there as the Director of Marketing and Digital Education. 

All that to say that while a lot of my job entails the day-to-day marketing operations, I also spend a decent amount of time writing, developing new media platforms for their work, and creating digital content with their roster of scholars. You can find my writing for Westar here, where I've written recently about the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Las Vegas terror attack, the Colin Kaepernick controversy, and more to come. 

It's not too late to defend DACA

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I've been a little quiet on my site, but it's not for lack of writing! I've been making my way around the interwebs, and prepping for conference presentations, new opportunities, and writing where and when I can. 

One new endeavor is a regular spot writing for The Resistance Prays. Started by a fellow alum of my seminary, these daily email newsletters focus on a piece of news and then give people biblical, prayerful ways to respond.  

My latest letter focuses on the impending threat to DACA, and what we can do now to defend it - while reminding ourselves that as people of the Christian faith, we have a long line of spiritual ancestors who know what it's like to be "strangers in a strange land." 

You can sign up for the daily letter here

Omnipotence and other theological ... mistakes?

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I mentioned almost exactly a year ago that I would be writing an essay for a book in response to one of my favorite modern theologians, Tom Oord. His book, The Uncontrolling Love of God, examines new concepts in Free Will and Open Theism. The book of essays -- called Uncontrolling Love - contains responses to his work from a number of different perspectives. 

The book came out earlier this month and of course I'm super excited to see my name in print! As part of the launch efforts, I did a Facebook live video where I primarily talked about how we can re-imagine some of the "traditional" conceptions of God - such as omnipotence, omniscience, determinism, etc. - in light of Uncontrolling Love. You don't have to be logged into Facebook, or have a Facebook account to watch it. And I hope you'll give it a listen! 

Guest Post: The Gospel is not good news for all

I’ve been operating under a false assumption. An unexamined theology, of my own making, that I have been forced to confront: The gospel is good news, but it is not good news for all. At least not in the way we want it to be.

"Good news for all" is often understood to mean "we are free to live an unexamined life." Free to prop up our self-serving theology with Scripture, twisted to support any endeavor we pursue.

I have done this. The church as I know it has done this. White Christianity has done this. And I am convicted to say that the gospel is, for many of us, not good news. Its very essence is a message we probably aren’t going to like. But I know with a certainty — beyond my own doubt and fear of repercussion or implication — that it’s a message the white, wealthy, comfortable church in America needs to hear.

I’ve been operating under a false assumption. An unexamined theology, of my own making, that I have been forced to confront: The gospel is good news, but it is not good news for all. At least not in the way we want it to be. "Good news for all" is often understood to mean "we are free to live an unexamined life." Free to prop up our self-serving theology with Scripture, twisted to support any endeavor we pursue. I have done this. The church as I know it has done this. White Christianity has done this. And I am convicted to say that the gospel is, for many of us, not good news. Its very essence is a message we probably aren’t going to like. But I know with a certainty — beyond my own doubt and fear of repercussion or implication — that it’s a message the white, wealthy, comfortable church in America needs to hear.

Read more in my latest post, up on Sojourners.

Guest Post: We make our faith by walking

What is the great commission? It's a universal call to do the work of Jesus' gospel, living and speaking it out. Read in context, it's also an antidote to doubt. Did you know that right before the disciples are told to "go into all the world," many of them are doubting the resurrected Christ?! And yet, Jesus calls them into the message of the kingdom: to speaking, and teaching, and even leading. 

The great commission provides powerful evidence that doubt can exist alongside faith, and that we can be mobilized to put that faith into action in spite of - or maybe even because of - our doubt. My latest sermon, in blog form, is up on Women in Theology

Guest Post: Against Keeping the peace

I had the incredible opportunity to write a piece for Christianity Today about how peace, as we often understand it, may actually not be the most loving response to the people we care about. 

 

We live in an age of sharp division. According to the Pew Research Center, an “overwhelming majority” of Americans (86%) believe the country is more politically divided than it has ever been before. These political and ideological differences aren’t merely a matter of red or blue states; these same sharp divisions exist within many families, potentially alienating parents from children, sisters from brothers. When we disagree with those we love about some of our most closely held beliefs, must keeping the peace always mean keeping quiet?

You can read more here.

Troubling Texts: I am the way

Since the beginning of organized religion, people have been claiming that their way is the only way. In this famous passage from John, Jesus appears to do the same thing. He says: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to God except through me” (John 14:6). This text is simultaneously used to bolster claims of Christian exclusivity, meanwhile causing concern for people who believe God’s truth is revealed inside and outside of Christianity. 

 

In Jesus’ own words, is he substantiating a view that Christianity is the only way to God? Our combination of in-the-weeds interpretation and over-arching scriptural themes can help us here. This is another challenging passage when held up to the scriptural themes we’ve focused on: order, love, justice, renewal.

 

As a traditional statement of the exclusivity of Christianity, it’s hard to see where love and renewal might be experienced. Perhaps there is an element of order and justice for people who are willfully disregarding Jesus’ invitation to life in God. But even then we are forced to come back around to our other themes and, I think, admit that this seems a bit vindictive in light of God’s word revealing God’s heart for love and renewal. 

 

So let’s get a bit into the weeds with some context. 

 

IN Judaism, but not OF Judaism

 

Scholars think that the Johanine audience was a close-knit community of Jews who had come to confess Jesus as Messiah … but they were still active and participating in the Jewish community, perhaps trying to convince people of Jesus’ salvation. John was written within and to this group: Jews who were now following Jesus.

 

After the destruction of the temple in AD 70, scholars think this group of people was expelled from Jewish community, which would have resulted in deep feelings of social, religious, economic, and familial dislocation. Although John is sometimes criticized for only being concerned with the community of Christ-followers, it’s understandable given the history of the audience. 

 

Read with these circumstances in mind, John 14:6 is perhaps more about an appeal for unity within an oppressed community, than it is a statement of exclusion.

 

The way to God is God

 

Broadening our view out to the wider textual context brings further clarity. This is Jesus’ farewell to the disciples, a group of people who (at least on their good days!) already believed. Jesus assures them that he must leave to prepare a place for them (with many rooms!), but that he, God, and the spirit will be with them. He encourages the disciples that through love, they already know what to do: love Jesus, and act in that love as Jesus acted. This will bring them to relationship with God. 

 

Which, perhaps, is what this passage is actually about, when put in the context of the original audience and the Johanine early church: Relationship. It’s may not be about other religions at all, or even about salvation. It’s about Jesus inviting those who follow him to relate to God through him. 

 

Author Steve McSwain puts it in a way I find particularly helpful: Jesus is saying, “If you believe anything, believe not WORDS but the WAY to Life itself. My way ... will guide you into the Eternal. In fact, you cannot separate the way to God from God herself. The way to God IS God.”

 

Another way I think about it is this: beyond being a literal, 33-year-old person who walked and talked among us (something I do think is true, and beautiful) Jesus was the divine in-breaking of God, ultimate Love, the Word, good news. He was, is, and will be earth-altering Love that dwells in us and around us, calling us to a place of right relationship while nurturing our brokenness. Wherever we see these things taking place, Jesus is there reconciling creation to divine Love. 

 

Faith accompanied by action

 

Like in so many other passages, when we really drill down, and simultaneously take a birds-eye view we see a call to action: a call to right relationship, to follow Jesus on the way, to live the life he laid out, and embody the truth we claim. We get to know God though Jesus who, like he told his disciples, is God-in-action. We find Jesus in so many places. Understood this way, I think we can flip this passage from being a statement of exclusivity, to a statement of inclusion. And this, perhaps, is one of the most beautiful threads of scripture.