Human Sexuality and Holy Marriage

I concluded in yesterday’s post that marriage is in deep trouble as a social institution in Western culture. After centuries of development, and developing legal support, the institution is now falling apart in a little more than one generation. This tragic loss has little, or nothing, to do with the same-sex debate that is raging at the moment.

I ended yesterday’s post by giving three purposes for marriage as I understand the ancient faith tradition of the Christian church and the fairly straightforward teaching of Holy Scripture on this subject. I begin today by saying that marriage is a rich, reimages-1warding and holy thing. God gave me a wife in order to bless me and to call me to deep love. I am called to intimacy with this amazing person so that I am deeply prepared for eternity and the romance and bliss of my eternal marriage with Christ (cf. Ephesians 5:21-33).

Jesus said that in heaven there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage. But the closest thing on earth to the joy of heaven is a deep,

Radical Love and Kingdom Generosity (2)

imagesYesterday, I suggested that Luke 6 provides a pattern for how we can live extravagant, generous lives rooted in the love and mercy of God himself. This sixth chapter of Luke has often pushed me to deeper resolve to follow Jesus in his radical love. Let me illustrate this by commenting on a few particular words of our Lord in Luke 6:37-38. I have often prayed over these words and felt it was a great text to teach the liberal giving of our financial support for Christ’s church. I believe it does encourage this practice but I believe it encourages so much more than this when it is deeply considered in meditative prayer. Here are the words of our Lord that I refer to:

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will

Radical Love and Kingdom Generosity (1)

At the very heart of the kingdom message of Jesus is a call to radical love that will not easily go away under convenient readings of the text, readings that fit comfortably with our way of treating people in a modern “Christendom” culture.

We encounter this radical teaching in many parts of the Gospels but no text has redefined my life and actions, time and time again, quite like what I have read in Luke 6. Here is the portion of the sixth chapter that I wish to draw your attention to today:

27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what

FDR's Holocaust Legacy – A Lesson in the Failure of Moral Courage

imagesPresident Franklin D. Roosevelt was, and still is, one of most admired and esteemed presidents in American history. I grew up hearing a lot of good things about FDR. I also heard some bad things from those who felt the “New Deal” created the modern welfare system with all its contested problems. One thing is certain, FDR’s name was esteemed by most scholars and ordinary Americans who lived through the Depression and the Second World War. Rarely could you get a serious taker for a critical debate on FDR’s accomplishments, at least not among those who loved and adored him as a president.

When FDR died on April 12, 1945, Americans grieved deeply as a nation. His picture hung in millions of homes. He was lionized by multitudes and is still considered by a large number of people to be one of our five best presidents. Amazingly, he is the only president to have served three full terms in office. He had just been elected to a fourth term less than six months before he died. (Constitutionally no

Why Politics Matters and How We Got the Wrong End of the Stick (3)

The liberal church’s response, against the backdrop of the social presumptions that I discussed in yesterday’s blog, has very often been a weak-kneed call for “peace with images-2justice.” Hauerwas and Willimon (photo at left) put it this way: “Most of our social activism is formed on the presumption that God is superfluous to the formation of a world of peace with justice. Fortunately, we are powerful people who, because we live in a democracy, are free to use out power. It is all up to us” (Resident Aliens, 36).

The problem with this liberal response is that it is formed on the general presumption that we are not actually active participants in God’s continuing history of creation and redemption. Does the Bible teach that war and injustice arise because we have taken matters into our own hands? So what is wrong with the thinking of the National Council of Churches when it responds to peace and justice issues in a way that has become so common that it is entirely predictable?

Why can’t the National Council

Why Politics Matters and How We Got the Wrong End of the Stick (2)

It has become our unquestioned assumption, in the modern American context, that we have the “right’ to develop our potential to the fullest extent possible. This assumption is constantly fed by pop-psychology and a goodly number of new unexamined religious ideas. We are a culture in love with power and the power we love is our own to be very precise. The only ultimate check on this personal “right” is the “rights of others.” We live, after all, in a democracy. Whether we are politically liberal, conservative or moderate (all slippery and notoriously difficult terms to define in our present context) we generally believe that it is our God-given right to change the leadership of our nation, state or local community. We then translate this idea of political rights into our everyday lives. Because we deeply cherish, without questioning why this is so, our personal freedom to have and use power we then assume that all good communities, including religious communities, should be built on the assumption that a good society, or a good church, encourages us to express our views and seek to make changes

Payback: How We Understand Debt and Revenge

The famous Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood defines the subject of her book “Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth” — which originated as the 2008 Massey Lectures in Toronto — as “one of the most worrisome and puzzling things I know: that peculiar nexus where money, narrative or story, and religious belief intersect, often with explosive force.” In a wide-ranging history of debt Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood investigates the many meanings of debt through the ages, from ancient times to the current global financial meltdown. With all that has transpired in the United States in the past few decades many of us wonder: how could we have let such a collapse happen? How old or inevitable is this human pattern of debt? Payback is an imaginative, topical and insightful reconsideration of our ideas of ownership and debt.

Ms. Atwood is a brilliant writer and this particular work is filled with insights that I found most unsettling when I saw Jennifer Baichwal’s documentary version of the story, also titled Payback, which was inspired by Ms. Atwood’s book. (The film and book title should not

The Stain That Stays: How Should We Respond to the Sexual Misconduct of Pastors/Leaders?

9781857925838What should happen to pastors who fall into sexual misconduct? Should they return, repentant, to their pulpits/leadership within weeks or months – or should they return at all?

Around the world sexual misconduct is defeating ministers and destroying ministries. As the numbers of fallen leaders grow it is crucial to know what should happen to them – for their good and for the good of the Church. Does the Bible and church history give us any help with these kinds of questions?

In the 1990s, when sexual misconduct among some rather well-known evangelical pastors in America reached major proportions, I began to question the practices of various churches and organizations in how they handled a major moral problem. I also studied abundant evidence that suggested this problem was massive in scale and scope. Very few were interested then but the evidence I gave then has only grown more obvious over time. We have a crisis

By |May 11th, 2012|Categories: Ethics, Sexuality|

Justice, the Kingdom of God and Reading the Bible

A recent article on the Christianity Today web site brought considerable surprise to many. The article revealed that a recent poll sponsored by LifeWay Research found that owning a Bible is quite different from reading it. Most polls, surveys, and studies that have examined the Bible's influence in America have looked at views of its inspiration and various methods of interpretation. Gallup, for example, has routinely asked Americans how literally the Bible should be taken. But almost no research has looked into what happens when people actually read the Bible. This new research, conducted by Baylor University, indicates that reading the Bible on one's own makes a real difference but the difference is one that some did not see coming.

4679625-man-reading-bible First, frequent Bible reading does have some predictable effects. It increases opposition to abortion as well as to homosexual unions. It also boosts a belief that science helps reveal God's glory. It also diminishes hopes that science will eventually solve humanity's problems. But unlike some other religious

“God’s Preferential Option for the Poor”

Over the last two centuries wealth has grown in the West. Now it spreads to other parts of the world through a growing globalized economic system. I am a huge proponent of this growth and believe one way of addressing the issues of poverty is through global business and the growth of education and jobs that go along with it. At the same time there are serious dangers associated with wealth, especially in the absence of true virtue.

The Poor Yesterday I referred to the way modern Western Christians began to read the Bible statements about the poor metaphorically once wealth increased and more Christians had more income. This problem has resulted in a number of aberrant responses, one of which was Latin American liberation theology.

I refer often to recently published The Cape Town Commitment. I believe it is the most important global mission statement in the twenty-first century. Here is an important excerpt, addressing the dangers of prosperity emphasis from the West, taken from Section IIE

By |July 28th, 2011|Categories: Ethics, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Poverty|