As someone who has spent considerable time exploring numerous christian traditions, I’ve developed a reputation as a guy who can point spiritual nomads in the right direction. People know I don’t have a “team” to which I’m loyal and am trying to recruit. That’s why they occasionally come to me asking what christian tradition, or specific denomination within a broader tradition, they should consider exploring. My focus in those situations is first and foremost getting to know the person well. Read more
Preface: This is Part I in a 2-part blog series.
Contrary to the historic Myth many of us have been taught, it was extremely rare in the first three centuries of church history–prior to Constantine–that Christians were systematically persecuted.11.In Part II I will distinguish between a Myth and a myth. By that I mean identified as followers of Jesus, hunted down, and slaughtered due to their religious beliefs.22.Like what is presently happening in Mosul, Iraq. Read more
This evening I received a heartfelt email from someone who’s weary and considering pulling the plug on his/her ordination process in the Anglican Church in North America. It has been a hellish experience that keeps dragging on and on with no end in sight. The end of the email contained a number of specific questions. With a few edits, here are the questions along with my responses: Read more
As someone who majored in History and has studied a great deal of historiographical methods, I cannot stand when people say, “You’re on the wrong side of history.” Rather than unpack that myself, I’ll defer to a pair of excellent quotes by Matthew Schmitz and N.T. Wright, respectively: Read more
C.S. Lewis continues to be one of my favorite authors, but I’d be lying if I said The Four Loves ranked high on my list. To be perfectly honest it was far and away the most difficult work I’ve ever read by Lewis. I found the introduction arduous, which (admittedly) probably says more about the reader than the author. Likewise, I found chapter 1 more than a little laborious. Thankfully, I felt there was a a marked improvement beginning in chapter 2. Overall it’s definitively not my favorite Lewis book, but keep that in perspective. It’s because I love Lewis so much. Below are the “stars in the margins,” which I put next to quotes I want to share. There are 28. They’re listed below.
Introduction Read more
Am I a feminist? For starters let’s define the term. Read more
I’d like to make something clear. University Abbey is a “haven for thoughtful faith where doubt is welcome.” That’s our new tagline. We intentionally welcome people of (nearly) all political persuasion, whether conservative or progressive, libertarian or socialist. Read more
Obama is not the worst president in our country’s history.
W. was not the worst president in our country’s history.
Clinton was not the worst president in this country’s history.
H.W. Bush was not the worst president in our country’s history.
Reagan was not the worst president in this country’s history. Read more
I’m a big ol’ fan of people being vocal about their ideas, concerns, suggestions, and the like. Yet apathy is not an option. One of my life philosophies is that if you speak up, you’d also better step up. It’s like an algebra equation. The two sides had better match (or at least be aspiring to match). Two examples will illustrate the point. Read more
In 1996 Tupac Shakur released “I Ain’t Mad at Cha.” It’s a song about his peers who made decisions that set them on different paths. Tupac understood why they chose what they did. In the lyrics he expresses harboring no ill will toward them. Looking back on the arc of his life and his impending death, I see it as a song that both reflected and created healing.11.Though they inhabited separate worlds, he’d come to peace with their separation. I know it’s more than a little odd to reference Tupac in the context of my feelings about the Anglican Church in North America, but that’s exactly how I feel. Yet I’d like to dig into this on a meta-level. Read more
At least a dozen times already I’ve been asked what I think about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. It seems the progressives are irate, the conservatives are euphoric, and there’s not much of a moderate outlook being voiced. At least that’s been my experience. For the time being, I have five brief thoughts: Read more
W.R. Inge once wrote, “A nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry and a common fear of its neighbors.”1.This is the sixth annual, reformatted “Debunking the Fourth” post. From the title alone it’s clear that the content is provocative. Mere shock value has never been my intention, though. Rather, my aim is the relentless pursuit of truth as a means of worshiping and honoring God. As a student of history, I’ve heard and read a lot of things that don’t comport with the conservative, pro-America stance to which so many of my fellow evangelicals hold. I love these people and count many of them as dear friends, family, and mentors. That, and not a desire to be argumentative, is why I’m worried about the widespread misunderstanding of the historical realities surrounding the American Revolution. Whether willful or ignorant, the propagation of these erroneous claims is not only deceptive, but has real potential to damage our witness. Since we Christians profess to be people of the truth, it follows that there are times in which we need to be confronted by unpleasant facts that will force us to reconsider our beliefs, opinions, perspectives, and ways of thinking. There have been plenty of times I’ve been in this position, and I can definitively say that I’m a better man and Christian for it. My hope is that the content below will positively challenge people’s perceptions of our country’s origins and that we would all worship our God through the cultivation of our minds. One need look no further than the American Revolution to see that this claim has merit. This week a lot of American Christians are experiencing a patriotic fervor that’s premised upon historical falsehoods concerning our country’s origin. Let’s correct some of those misconceptions, shedding light on the Top 10 most unsightly facts that most of these folks haven’t heard, or refuse to acknowledge, about our country’s war for independence: Read more
I find myself intensely skeptical of anyone who appeals to direct, personal revelation from God on a frequent basis. That includes laity and clergy alike. In my opinion, phrases like “God told me”, “the Spirit placed it on my heart”, and “I received a word from the Lord” absolutely have their place in the christian life.11.This is because I wholeheartedly believe in such active, tangible work by the Holy Spirit. Yet continual appeal to them gives me pause. Read more
Over the past several years I’ve been slowly reconsidering the spirituality of space. Back in my fundamentalist, Pentecostal days I was imbued with a strong belief in it. The spiritual realm was overt and tangible. I was taught to ground my faith in, and focus my energy on, the battles of spiritual warfare: good vs. evil, angels vs. demons, Christians vs. pagans, etc. Read more
Ministry. I don’t like that word–or at least that form of the word. It’s because I’ve heard it used carelessly too many times. It always stresses me out. It makes me think of the Marthas of the world who are continually busy doing stuff but seldom just spend time with people. Especially when people use the definite article in front of it (“the ministry”), I think of busybodies who are continually planning for the future and struggle to simply be present in the moment. I do like the word “minister,” though. Read more
Well, this is difficult and emotional, but it’s official. I’m removing my fan commitment to the Minnesota Timberwolves and pledging it to the San Antonio Spurs. The T-Wolves will always have a warm place in my heart, but I’m now a Spurs fan. Here are the 12 reasons why: Read more
Whenever I tell someone I’m a blogger, I make a point of carefully observing their verbal and non-verbal response. In my experience, there are three general outlooks. Read more
This evening I sent the following email to a friend and mentor who I highly respect. I’d be curious whether my readers agree or disagree with my thesis. Thoughtful feedback is welcome in the comment section. Read more
Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s 1955 book, Gift from the Sea, is written by a woman and to women. Having just read it, I have five thoughts about that. First, there have always been ways in which I don’t fit the mold of the typical American dude. I tend to be intensely self-aware and am quite in touch with my feelings, which experience suggests separates me from most of my male peers. Second, in my opinion men would do well to learn more from women. There are many things to be gleaned that simply are not naturally on our radar. Third, American society has definitely changed since the mid-’50s. Thankfully it seems men are more receptive to books like this than they were in the past. Fourth, men would do well to read books like this just to understand. Not to argue about which way is best, but simply to understand where women are coming from. Lastly, while the book is certainly written from a more feminine perspective, I for one didn’t find it overly emotive. The author did a terrific job of seamlessly weaving together the emotional life, the contemplative life, the spiritual life, and the behavioral life. All that being said, the quotes below are the “stars in the margins.” That means they were my favorite quotes that I wanted to share. Read more
As University Abbey’s campus pastor I’ve intentioned to provide spiritual formation that has a strong social conscience. That’s why our Evening Prayer liturgy has specific concern for the less fortunate. Together we pray, “Provide for the homeless, the hungry, and the destitute.” Read more
University Abbey aspires to be “a grace-filled community where no question is off-limits and civility is the norm.” As its campus pastor, I’ve made a concerted (albeit imperfect) effort to help cultivate that “grace-filled” culture. Read more
This past winter and spring were rough. Read more
Stars in the Margins: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s ‘Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community’
I have a love-hate relationship with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. When I agree with him, I passionately agree with him. When I disagree with him, I passionately disagree with him. He offers readers a vast wealth of spiritual wisdom and practical counsel. That’s especially the case if you consider his short years. At the same time, he’s definitely far more pious than I am and more strongly influenced by 17th century Pietism. We also part ways in that Bonhoeffer was a biblicist whereas I definitely am not. I love Scripture and firmly believe in continual biblical saturation, but the Bible is not the be-all, end-all of the christian life. As believers we must never go far from Scripture, but neither should we dwell exclusively on Scripture. In my opinion, Bonhoeffer commits the common evangelical error of nearly treating God’s Word like the fourth person of the Trinity. Again, it’s a love-hate thing. That being said, the quotes below are those I love in Bonhoeffer’s Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community. Read more
As a ridiculously slow reader, I try to get the most out of what I am able to read. Over the years I’ve found I retain content better when I write in my books, so my method is to put brackets around portions I find insightful or particularly well-written and stars in the margins beside quotes I want to share. Below are my stars in the margins for Philip Yancey’s 1998 book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? For those who’ve not read him, Yancey has an extraordinary skill in offering profound insights in an accessible way. This whole book is a prime example, which is why I highly recommend it to just about every Christian. Read more
There are numerous reasons I’ve stuck with my dumb phone years into the smartphone revolution. Not only are flip phones smaller, cheaper, more durable, easier to use, immune to butt dials, and have better battery life, they effectively inhibit my generation’s phone addiction. I simply don’t want to be the stereotypical Millennial who reaches for his or her phone the first thing after waking and the last thing before bed as well as chronically checking it during all conscious hours.11.I’ve read troubling scientific reports that confirmed my hunch that such habits actually rewire the brain, over the long-term reducing attention span and impairing critical thinking among other things. It ain’t a pretty picture. Read more
I’ve recently been reading Philip Yancey’s highly recommended book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? In it Yancey suggests, “The past must be remembered before it can be overcome.” I heartily agree. Forgiveness can be given by the wronged without the offender’s admission of wrongdoing, but make no mistake. There can be no reconciliation between the two without that admission. Read more
I’ve always loved this quote from The Simpsons:
The one true church: the Western Branch of American, Reformed Presbylutheranism. – Reverend Timothy Lovejoy
My primary concern the vast majority of the time is not being right, building unity, or advancing a cause. All things being equal, my primary concern is usually the truth. Read more
One of of my favorite quotes comes from Richard Mouw. He suggests, “Too often in life we proceed with a hermeneutic of self-assuredness and criticism of those for whom we disagree rather than a hermeneutic of self-criticism and grace for others.” This philosophy is near and dear to my heart. Over the years I’ve learned to put my implicit trust only in those who consistently exhibit a spirit of self-criticism and grace toward others. Read more
I’ve listened to all The Beatles’ albums but had never gone through them in a comparative fashion that explored their artistic development. So, I decided to remedy the problem. Over the past three days I chronologically listened through the core catalogue of the original 12 albums released in their native UK, then I ranked ‘em. As one who most certainly is not a musical connoisseur, my ranking has little to do with artistic originality, production value, cultural significance, or the like. My single criterion was this: What did I enjoy listening to the most? In the videos below I’ve tried to provide the vinyl version whenever possible because, let’s face it, they sound better that way. Read more
In the historic traditions of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Anglicanism, the priest is ordinarily addressed with the title “Father.” So, for example, “Fr. John” or “Fr. Doe.” The term is one of respect, speaking to the man’s role in providing shepherding as a spiritual father. Over the past couple years, however, I’ve undergone a substantial change in perspective. Read more
To use a 1992 Mighty Ducks reference, the NCAA is a bunch of cake-eaters. It’s now approaching $1,000,000,000 per year in revenue. Keep in mind that figure doesn’t include the revenue made by academic conferences and individual universities. This helps explain why the Bleacher Report is identifying the fair market value of college football players and basketball players at $178,000 and $375,000 per year, respectively. Meanwhile, just yesterday the NCAA announced that it’s allowing unlimited meals and snacks to ensure student-athletes aren’t going to bed hungry. This while its president, Mark Emmert, is paid nearly $1,600,000 annually. Gee, thanks for your abundant generosity. Read more
Dear Baby Boomers,
Let’s get something straight right away. The purpose of this post isn’t to create nor further any generational conflict. Quite the opposite. The purpose is to facilitate understanding. In fact, I for one have long felt like a man born out of time. There are many ways in which I resonate more with your Baby Boomer generation than I do my own Millennial generation.11.There’s a reason I’ve studied so much of that period of American history, love Forrest Gump, The Wonder Years is one of my all-time favorite TV shows, and I’ve listened to so much ’60s music. Read more
I don’t think all christian community needs to be spontaneous. I do think removing some elements of American busyness and programitization in order to simply spend lots of time with people is indispensable to healthy christian community. It’s Jesus’ model of discipleship and I don’t think there’s any substitute in any cultural context.11.It’s one of those transcendent human elements that’s true in every culture. Human beings are social creatures. It’s how we’re hard-wired. There’s no substitute. Read more
Last spring a small group of us here at Baylor University started doing Celtic Evening Prayer followed by board games every Tuesday night. It was an informal weekly gathering of friends. By the time summer rolled around we were mixing it up, alternating every other week between Evening Prayer and paper discussions. This community evolved into and became University Abbey. The group has grown and Evening Prayer has been expanded to include Lectio Divina, the Apostles’ Creed, informal prayer, and some more historical elements, but that alternating two-week format has remained a fixture. This past week, however, we tried something new. As I explained in last Sunday’s blog post, we set aside this past Tuesday night for a social experiment. Read more
The truth is that I naturally assume the good majority of people are morons. For some it appears they’re wired that way but for most it appears to be a willful, self-inflicted condition. I’ve cultivated an intentional habit of giving the benefit of the doubt whenever there’s any indication there might be good reason to hope, but experience has taught me it’s wise to proceed with initial skepticism.11.In the immortal words of Dubbya, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee–I know it’s in Texas, it’s probably in Tennessee–that says fool me once, shame on… shame on you… you fool me you can’t get fooled again.” It’s not because I have a low view of people. Quite the opposite, it’s because I have a high view of their potential. I think ordinary folks are intellectually capable of a whole heckuva lot more than they’re given credit for and what is ordinarily expected of them. Read more
Life as a human is beautiful. Life as a human is traumatic. We’re creatures who are made in God’s image, but in all ways marred by the fall. We’re living in a period of redemptive history in which God’s Kingdom has already been inaugurated, but hasn’t yet been fully manifest. Human nature being what it is and this epoch being what it is, it’s an inevitability that we’re all going to experience the paradoxical realities of life and death.11.And also peace and conflict, grace and condemnation, hope and despair, joy and fear, rest and exhaustion. Read more