In the winter of 1936, Dietrich Bonhoeffer delivered a series of lectures on the theme of pastoral care to the seminarians under his direction at the underground seminary at Finkenwalde. Bonhoeffer concluded this course of lectures by reflecting on the need for pastoral care for pastoral counselors. Interestingly, Bonhoeffer suggests that “another source of trouble for the serious pastor is his own theology” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 14, ed. H.G. Barker and M.S. Brocker (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 590). Continue reading Bonhoeffer on the Danger of Theology
I’ve been working my way through the book of Judges in anticipation of preaching at a Toronto-area church that is in the midst of working its way through the book. The book of Judges, with its many “texts of terror” (to cite the term coined by Phyllis Trible) presents numerous hermeneutical challenges for the preacher. Yesterday, I was confronted by the infamous, story of Jephthah’s daughter. Continue reading An Overlooked Lenten Figure
The following sermon was preached several years ago on Ash Wednesday. Perhaps the most interesting thing about it is the text on which the sermon is based – Daniel 9:1-19. Daniel 9 is not a traditional Ash Wednesday text, but the resonances between the text and the day are significant and stirring.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the day that Christians have historically set aside to face up to their mortality and to repent of their sin. Now this doesn’t mean that Ash Wednesday is the only day of the year when Christians can humbly acknowledge their frailty and their failure to live into the fullness of God’s intentions for their lives, but if we didn’t set aside Ash Wednesday for this purpose, it is unlikely that we would set aside any time at all. For the broader culture we find ourselves in is built on the refusal to acknowledge the presence of death and the reality of sin. So I commend you for making the effort to be here tonight. Your presence signifies that you recognize that the Lord desires to do something for us far more important than making us comfortable. He desires to make us holy. Continue reading “In Sackcloth and Ashes”: A Sermon for Ash Wednesday
My systematic theology students are reading Kevin Vanhoozer’s recent work Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014). In the chapter they are reading in preparation for our next class, Vanhoozer speaks of the importance of doctrine for correctly identifying Christ and allowing Christians to grow in Christ’s image. To put it in the terms of Vanhoozer’s prevailing theatrical metaphor, the chapter is about how we learn and become our part in the great cosmic drama of salvation. At one point Vanhoozer introduces an evocative quote from the writings of C.S. Lewis: Continue reading Lewis and “Little Christs”
“Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.” As far as opening lines of a book review go, this zinger by Terry Eagleton has to be among the best ever committed to paper. Sadly for Dawkins, it also appears to be true. Continue reading The Arrogance of Ignorance (Some Thoughts on the “New Atheists”)
The question of the existence of the devil is a notoriously difficult theological problem. On the one hand, as Carl Braaten has observed, “True Christianity is stuck with the Devil, like it or not” (“Powers in Conflict: Christ and the Devil,” in Sin, Death, and the Devil, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 96). The devil is a recurring character in the narrative of Scripture. He is described in the New Testament as, among other things, the “prince of this world” (John 12:31), as one who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), and as “the strong man” whose house Jesus has come to plunder (Mark 3:27). To excise all of the references to the devil from Scripture would leave many holes in the pages of our Bibles. Continue reading The Devil Goes Prime Time