Category: Church History

Why We Like the Sacrificial God

Continuing where I left off yesterday, why would we choose the Sacrificial God? According to Kevin Miller’s (biased) analysis, this version of God leads us toward negative attitudes of ourselves and others and is clearly out of line with the character of God as revealed in Jesus. But many keep being drawn to this God anyway and we should seek to understand why.

The first one is obvious:

For starters, because we have been led to believe it is the only faithful reading of the Bible. We have been taken hostage by a theological system that not only indoctrinates us with a toxic view of God, it effectively inoculates us against anyone who might come along to liberate us from it, placating us with sayings like “God’s ways are not our ways” and warning us about “false prophets” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” It’s the worst of all possible worlds.

God’s Presence Outside of Scripture

Rachel Held Evans recently gave a great rebuke to a blog post by Tim Challies that was riddled with errors on many ways. His basic claim was that Christians should have Scripture and nothing else. As Rachel did, I want to be clear that this is not an attack on Challies; it is a disagreement with a lot of the statements that he made in that particular post. It was historically inaccurate on several points and it was oblivious to what Scripture says about itself, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Here are some of the highlights from Rachel:

I have no idea where Challies got the idea that “mysticism was once regarded as an alternative to evangelical Christianity.”

While it is true that the Reformers occasionally used the word “evangelical” in their writings, most historians locate the roots of evangelicalism solidly within Wesley’s Methodism in England and in the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries. Evangelicalism was, at its heart, a movement, influenced not only by a strong emphasis on the authority of Scripture but also by a lively, impassioned, and deeply personal spirituality—an eclectic, ecumenical mix of elements from Pietism, Presbyterianism, Puritanism, and Pentecostalism. Evangelicalism’s mothers and fathers were mystically-inclined Christians like John Wesley, Jonathan and Sarah Edwards, William J.


History Lesson: Why Not All Bibles are the Same

In one of those random bits of trivia from Sunday School as a child, I learned that the Bible has 66 books. It wasn’t until I was about 18 that I realized it wasn’t that simple thanks to, believe it or not, The Bible for Dummies. In case you aren’t aware, Protestant Bibles are 66 books, but Catholic Bibles have more and if you throw in various Eastern Orthodox churches you get a few more minor variations. Why?

This may be hard to swallow for certain evangelicals who picture God dropping the Bible from heaven one day a couple thousand years ago complete with everything we need for every detail of our lives. If you’re in that camp, you’re probably not reading this blog anyway, but just in case, this is your warning that you’ll probably think I’m a terrible liberal heretic.

Gender - Male and Female Gummy

Church History Matters: Contextual Theology

I have a pet peeve in a lot of conversations with other Christians (particularly but not exclusively conservative Protestants): most Christians seem to be not only completely oblivious to their history but also don’t think that there’s any reason to change that.

Even conservative Christians will usually admit that the Bible has context. They don’t necessarily try to understand it before concluding the absolute truth for all time from the text, but they will usually admit it is theoretically there when they are asked. They don’t, however, admit that theological development of the past 2000 years – in other words, how we’ve interpreted the Bible – also all came from a context.


Scripture and the Authority of God by N.T. Wright (Part 1)

In an oddity of my life and research, I’ve consistently loved everything I encountered of N.T. Wright but only actually read one other book of his from start to finish before now (Simply Christian). Scripture and the Authority of God is one of a few that I have had around for a while but hadn’t read until now. So a few weeks ago I decided to work my way through it and I was definitely not disappointed. As a leading biblical scholar, a work by N.T. Wright on how to read the Bible was bound to be a complex but very important read. Out of necessity, this post and its follow-up post are going to be very simplistic in comparison. Please read the book to dig into it deeper because I think it is something that every Christian can benefit from.

Defining Authority

Here’s the central idea of the book: the phrase “authority of Scripture” only makes sense if it is shorthand for “authority of God exercised through Scripture.” Many, particularly in Evangelical Protestantism, want to treat the Bible as the ultimate authority in and of itself. They’re well-meaning and I don’t mean this as any kind of attack but for a variety of reasons this really doesn’t work and is nothing short of idolatry.

Menno Simons on True Evangelical Faith

This is a great quote from Menno Simons, after who Mennonites take their name, on what he considers the necessary parts of evangelical faith. Whether he would still use the term evangelical today with all its baggage is debatable – the concept of evangelicalism being equated to political conservativism, as one example, would make him roll in his grave – but it is interesting that this is what it meant to him 500 years ago when the term had very different connotations.

For true evangelical faith is of such a nature that it cannot lay dormant; but manifests itself in all righteousness and works of love; it dies unto flesh and blood; destroys all forbidden lusts and desires; cordially seeks, serves and fears God; clothes the naked; feeds the hungry; consoles the afflicted; shelters the miserable; aids and consoles all the oppressed; returns good for evil; serves those that injure it; prays for those that persecute it; teaches, admonishes and reproves with the Word of the Lord; seeks that which is lost; binds up that which is wounded; heals that which is diseased and saves that which is sound. The persecution, suffering and anxiety which befalls it for the sake of the truth of the Lord, is to it a glorious joy and consolation.

The Fundamentals

The word “fundamentalist,” like so many other Christian descriptors, is one that most people don’t really know how to define. Some define it in terms of attitude to say that fundamentalists are those who aggressively push their understanding of the faith on those who don’t agree and then condemn them to Hell if they continue to disagree. Consequently, some basically define fundamentalist as “crazy.” Or some define in terms of their conservative political position, believing that they must retain the Christian morality of the nation on certain issues (same-sex marriage and abortion usually are the big two). Others start to get a little closer to a more technically-correct definition by equating fundamentalist with theologically conservative, holding to some set of traditional beliefs often as defined within their own tradition.

N.T. Wright on Postmodernity

Among other great videos in this interview of N.T. (Tom) Wright, check out this one discussing postmodernity’s place in history. It provides some great context of the modern movement that sometimes Christians, especially those on the extreme conservative or liberal edges, equate to being the same as Christianity.

The line at the end sums it up really well:

Post-modernity is about announcing the Doctrine of the Fall to arrogant modernity. But the Fall is never the last word. The task of the church today could be summed up as ‘How do we now announce the Doctrine of Redemption?

Puritan vs Pietist Evangelicals

Roger E. OlsonThis is a really interesting idea that I’d never thought of but immediately made complete sense to me. I grabbed the idea from this blog from An Anabaptist in Perth who picked it up from a book by Roger Olson. When we think of evangelicalism, we primarily mean two different traditions, not one. The one which dominates the American news and so we most often tie to the term evangelicalism is that which derives from Puritanism. This is what we typically refer to as “conservative”. This also makes sense historically for why evangelical is usually equated to conservative in the United States but not really anywhere else, since the Puritans largely settled in the US. But some parts of evangelicalism as we have it today derived not from the Puritans but from the Pietists. What’s the difference?

Jim the Anabaptist Fireman

This has shown up a couple of times recently on my Google+ with my saved Anabaptist search. The comments that go with it usually find it hilarious. I’m not sure I get the humour, but maybe that’s just because I think their presentation of Anabaptist theology is quite ignorant. I’m assuming it was done in an attempt at humour so I’m not holding it against them or anything, but it is clearly an adventure in missing the point if they are trying to say something theological with it.