A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Saturday, March 11, 2023

The Myth of the Good Old Days

The Israelites called it manna; it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations in order that they may see the food with which I fed you in the wilderness when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.” And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the Lord, to be kept throughout your generations.” Just as the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the covenant, for safekeeping. The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a habitable land; they ate manna, until they came to the border of the land of Canaan (Exodus 16:31-35).

Years ago Christian singer, the late Keith Green wrote a song about the Israelites wanting to go back to Egypt because they deemed that slavery in Egypt was not as bad as life in the wilderness of Sinai.

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Believing Is Seeing: The Character of Virtue-- A Conversation with Stanley Hauerwas

On this episode of "Seeing Is Believing," Allan interviews Stanley Hauerwas on his book, The Character of Virtue: Letters to a Godson. Among the topics discussed, Stanley wonders if Protestantism still makes sense, and he asks Allan why he remains a United Methodist.



Monday, February 27, 2023

The Character of Virtue

This review is a preview of the podcast/videocast conversation I had with Stanley Hauerwas that will be posted this Thursday (03.03.2023). I will publish the link in my usual places.
Stanley Hauerwas' book, The Character of Virtue: Letters to a Godson is an important read in the times in which we find ourselves. I am drawn to this book for two reasons: First, as a pastor for thirty-eight years who baptized many children and spoken with lots of godparents, I was so pleased to see how seriously Stanley took this profound role to nurture his Godson through his wisdom and presence. I wish I would have had this resource when I was a pastor. I would have given a copy to every godparent I encountered.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Calmly Considered: Does Social Security Have a Future?

On this episode of Calmly Considered, Michael and Allan discuss the sustainability of Social Security and the necessity of seeking the common good.



Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The Wesleyan Way: Revival-- Real or Ridiculous?

On this episode of The Wesleyan Way, Allan interviews Rev. Dr. Ben Witherington III on the phenomenon of religious revival and specifically the 2023 awakening taking place at Asbury University in Wilmore, KY.  What is revival? Is it something to take seriously as a movement of the Holy Spirit, or should it be dismissed as emotional hype?

Rev. Dr. Ben Witherington III is Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland. He is the author of over sixty book and many, many essays and articles. One of his most recent works is Who God Is: Meditations on the Character of Our God.



Monday, February 13, 2023

Some Ponderments on Revival

I have been reflecting the past few days on the revival or divine visitation at Asbury University (story here) and other such visitations, I offer some thoughts.

1) Many have been saying in response to what is happening in Wilmore that they hope it will bear fruit. Yes, such awakenings should bear fruit, but let's be honest and acknowledge that some (not all) have said that as a way of throwing shade at this week's event because the university does not hold the "right" position on certain issues, and therefore God's hand in it might be questionable. I have yet to discover any human litmus test for God to visit God's people in an awakening way. That gives me hope that I may be so visited. Sadly, we are in a time when politics in particular has grabbed center stage in such an unhealthy way, the validity of every event has become (as one person has said) a Rorschach test on which we project our own values.

Matthew-- A Good Holiness Theologian

A superficial reading of the New Testament reveals clearly that the faith of the first Christians in Jesus was integrated with their understanding of their Scriptures-- the Old Testament. Although many continue to do so, there is no responsible interpretation of the New Testament that pits Old against New, law against grace, or embraces Spirit apart from law.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says,
 ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (5:17-19).
The first thing Jesus says is that he has not abolished the law or the prophets. It is important to emphasize the two together. It has become a standard shibboleth in some mainline and evangelical circles today to pit the prophets against the law as if the two are antithetical. Once in conversation with a fellow pastor about biblical interpretation he said to me in response to a point I had just made, "But that's the law, not the prophets." Such a statement would have made no sense to Jesus.

Thursday, February 09, 2023

Courageous Conversations: Abortion-- Toward a Better Understanding

In this episode of "Courageous Conversations," Allan converses with Joy Moore and Michael Gorman on the subject of abortion. How can Christians offer a more robust understanding of abortion that moves beyond the pitting of rights against each other? How does Christian doctrine inform the discussion? If the church is an alternative to the way of society, how do Christians utilized their unique witness to be an incarnational presence to women in difficult pregnancies and the unborn children they carry? How does abortion affect ethnic minorities?

Rev. Dr. Joy J. Moore is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and is the Professor of Biblical Preaching at  Luther Seminary in St. Paul Minnesota. She participates in two weekly podcasts: "Sermon Brainwave," a conversation on the Revised Common Lectionary readings for the coming Sunday and "I Love to Tell the Story," a conversation on the Narrative Lectionary readings for the coming Sunday.

Dr. Michael J. Gorman holds the Raymond E. Brown Chair in Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary's Seminary & University in Baltimore, Maryland. He has written many books including Reading Revelation Responsibly and Paul, a New Covenant Jew: Rethinking Pauline Theology. His Amazon author page has a full listing of his publications.



Tuesday, February 07, 2023

In Praise of Small Books

I'm a big reader and I have read more than my fair share of big books over the years-- five hundred, six hundred, and more pages. Of course, I have read smaller books as well. I have published several books, but have never written one that would be considered large. The largest book I authored-- my doctoral dissertation-- was a little over three hundred pages, but the six other books are shorter, three of them under a hundred pages. While lengthy books are necessary, so are shorter works and this post is written in praise of the latter.

Friday, January 27, 2023

"Bible Believing" Christians Ignoring Scripture: The Immigrant

You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this Deuteronomy 24:17-18).

It has become increasingly obvious to me over the years that the Christians in America who insist most persistently that the Bible is central for faith and life and how important it is to have a “biblical worldview” (however defined) are alarmingly the ones most untethered from the biblical text. In other words, many of these Christians theoretically embrace the the importance of Scripture, but it does not figure seriously in shaping their views on moral issues. Several studies done by Barna and Pew Forum over the years confirm this. I am in agreement with Stanley Hauerwas that a high percentage of Christians in America are more American than Christian. The former is more influential on their values than the latter.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Calmly Considered: The Sport of Gambling-- Should Christians Take the Bet?

In this episode of "Calmly Considered," Michael and Allan discuss the rise of betting on sports in America and gambling in general. Does legalized gambling boost the economy? What are the challenges gambling presents to communities? Is it appropriate for Christians to gamble?



Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Holiness of Heart and Life

My latest booklet will be published next week. Pre-order is available below.

Pre-order is available here.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

The Wesleyan Way: Methodist Beginnings Through the Eyes of Women

In this episode of "The Wesleyan Way," we interview Rev. Dr. Donna L. Fowler-Marchant on her book Mothers in Israel: Methodist Beginnings Through the Eyes of Women. Rev. Fowler has done Methodism a great service in writing this book. She demonstrates that women were indeed the backbone of the earliest Methodist movement. These Mothers in Israel as they were called (if you want to know why, read the book) from Suzanna Wesley, the mother of John and Charles to Sarah Crosby and others had a formative impact on the first generation of Methodists. Their influence is seen to this day.



Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Yes, The Church Leaks a Whole Lot, But It's Still the Best Thing Afloat

There's an old story that I and more than a few preachers have used in a sermon at one time or another-- that Noah's Ark was not a very pleasant place to be during the flood with the smelly animals and the stale air and being cooped up with no place to go. But as difficult it must have been for Noah and his family, the Ark was still the best thing afloat at the time.

It is an obvious observation-- the church is far from perfect. That is not an excuse; it is just a fact. And while we the church need to be going on to perfection, such perfection continues to elude us this side of the Second Coming. The church is a very leaky boat.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Calmly Considered: 2022 Review, 2023 Preview

In this last episode of 2022, Michael and Allan review some of the happenings of 2022 and think ahead to 2023. Among the topics discussed are Ukraine, politics, the economy, immigration and the current worker shortage, scientific discoveries, and the all important prediction of who will win the Super Bowl.



Saturday, December 24, 2022

The God of Christmas Is an Embarrassment

Yes, you read the title of this post correctly. The God of Christmas is an embarrassment. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has no self-respect. The God who comes to us in Jesus Christ is unconcerned about his reputation.

Christmas is proof that God will stoop as low as is necessary... and I mean really low... to get what God wants. In Jesus Christ, God has come into the muck and the mire of the human situation to roll around in the dirt with us humans in order to rescue us from the muck and the mire. Instead of coming into this world in the royal garb worn only in a palace, this God chooses to be born to nobody peasants in a nowhere backwater town. The announcement of his birth is made to lowly, smelly shepherds, and the star appears to some far off pagans... magi... who were astrologers, horoscope readers, no less.