Category: Evangelicalism

Atonement - Cross

Sermon: Swallowing a Camel

I’m not really going out of my way to blog anymore with life pretty hectic, but I realized I should share a modified sermon I gave a months ago. There was another section that went further into atonement, but in my opinion it didn’t work very well, cramming too much into the last 5 minutes of a 20 minute sermon, so I cut that out here.

The Texts

Amos 5:18-24

Matthew 23

The Question

When I was younger, I wondered why Jesus was killed. I grew up in a moderate evangelical church, so I was given a big theological explanation of why Jesus died – penal substitution – but not why he was killed. I was a naïve white kid who generally thought that people got what they deserved in terms of justice from the state, so an innocent man receiving a brutal death penalty was tough to wrap my head around. Why would the religious leaders and the political leaders of Jesus’ day want to kill him, and how did they get away with it, if Jesus lived this perfect sinless life? Nobody else seemed to be curious about that question, or at least they didn’t talk about it. This was before I really started caring about theology, so it mostly sat in the back of my mind for years, but I don’t think the question ever fully went away.

Complete Idiot's Guide to Evangelical Christianity

Allegiance to a Label

Complete Idiot's Guide to Evangelical ChristianityLinguistics 101: language changes. Language assigns words or phrases as a way to communicate different ideas. These ideas are not fixed for eternity. English is very different today than it was 1000 years ago. Before that, there were several source languages that became English. Even today, we are adding new words and phrases every year. Language is inherently arbitrary, with the exception of onomatopoeia. That’s just how language works.

This is significant for me when talking about questions like why I don’t identify as an “evangelical” anymore. Yes, I used to. And yes, by most historical definitions, I would probably still qualify. In the 18th and 19th centuries, even the first half of the 20th, “evangelical” was the majority of Christians. It meant something specific about how you approached the Bible: as authority but something that must be studied and wrestled with. It was the middle ground between liberals who assumed that the Bible was fundamentally untrustworthy and fundamentalists who refused to ask any questions, preferring to retrench in what their tradition had told them.

WikiGodPod: Our Stories Shaping God

Faith Turning Points

WikiGodPod: Our Stories Shaping GodRecently I was talking about stuff on WikiGodPod, a podcast out of the Greater Toronto Area (I live close to the GTA in Kitchener) centred around our stories and how that shapes how we understand God. I’m not somebody who speaks well without preparation, so the potential questions were sent in advance and I spent a few hours the night before and morning of planning. I figure since I already spent those hours writing notes, I may as well clean them up a bit and publish them here.

Mark’s next question for me was:

What were major turning points in terms of faith and God?

New Direction Canada

Internalizing Hate Messages

New Direction CanadaAs we head up to a MennoNerds interview with New Direction Canada, including Executive Director Wendy Gritter, I’d like to share another few quotes from her work Generous Spaciousness. In this one, she shares a story as part of a discussion about our images of God.

One day during Christian family camp, my twelve-year-old son told me what had happened that morning in chapel. He said that the leader had talked about the concubine from the book of Judges. (If you recall, this story is about the men of a village demanding an old man to allow them to sexually violate a [male] stranger who was visiting him. Rather than complying with the demand to send a man out to experience such violation, the two men sent out the man’s concubine. She is gang raped all night, crawls to the door in the morning, collapses, and dies on the threshold.) As you might imagine, I was horrified. Apparently, this youth pastor had talked about accounts of sin throughout the Old Testament, beginning with Adam and Eve and particularly highlighting the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the concubine. My son said the leader talked about how he never dreamed when he was a kid that there would be a time when homosexuality would be accepted – but not it was.

Undiluted by Benjamin Corey

I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy of Undiluted by fellow MennoNerd Benjamin Corey. The goal of the book is to help us reclaim an understanding of Jesus and Christian faith that has not been diluted by our culture. In my estimation, it does a great job of accomplishing this goal.

General Impressions

It is a very readable book. That much will stand out right away. I spaced my reading out simply because of a busy summer, but I’m sure doing it in a day or at least a weekend wouldn’t have been challenging. That’s an important quality for a book with this one’s goal. To be more specific, each chapter essentially begins more as a memoir and then shifts to a more general discussion of Jesus’ life and teachings on the topic.

Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans

You’d think if you’ve seen how often I’ve tagged Rachel Held Evans in various posts that I would have read her first book Evolving in Monkey Town, the one that largely brought her the fame to be one of the most influential voices among post-conservative evangelicals. But I hadn’t until just recently, when it was re-released as Faith Unraveled. While the first title is definitely more fun, the new one is clearly more accurate. The book doesn’t really have anything to do with evolution other than that she grew up in the town famous for the Scopes trial.


When news broke months ago that leaders of Sovereign Grace Ministries, a neo-Reformed chain/mini-denomination/franchise/whatever label they use, were being charged with abusing children and covering it up. Neo-Reformed websites either ignored the charges entirely or published something to the effect of “we stand by our leaders,” refusing to take any steps whatsoever. Now the trial has happened and the verdict came down guilty, which isn’t a surprise considering how rare false accusations are. In and of itself, this is a huge problem. I’m not suggesting they rush to condemn the alleged abusers, but they should at least be making sure they create a safe space and never assume that the allegations are false to hold on to your power.

Recapping the World Vision Schism

I’m inclined to agree with many others like Zach Hoag and Ben Corey in saying that the recent 48 hour span of events surrounding World Vision has changed evangelicalism. I’m going to try to recap the events and the consequences as succinctly as I can:

Confusing Legalism and Justice

Yesterday World Vision made a statement that they would now hire married gay men and lesbian women. Made complete sense to me. Even if I didn’t approve of sanctioning their marriages in a church, I can’t see why I wouldn’t welcome a LGBTQ person who would help in the Kingdom work my organisation was doing. Our policy at the Bible Society, for example, is that you have to support our mission statement and have to be in good standing at a church… doesn’t matter which one. We don’t try to keep people out who have different perspectives because honestly that would make our work far less effective.

The Anger

But apparently a lot of American evangelicals aren’t like me on this point. They’ve announced that they sadly have to cancel their child sponsorship. Yes, they often phrase it as that they have to. World Vision has forced them to stop helping children in need, at least in this way (I acknowledge many will sponsor with another organisation instead, eventually, after complaining for a while and a lot of needless hassle for everyone involved).

Seeing these kind of tweets was probably the angriest I have been at other Christians. It isn’t too often that you’ll catch me swearing on here or really anywhere else, but how fucked up do you have to be to prioritize keeping gay people from having jobs over keeping children alive?