The Letter and Spirit of Biblical Interpretation: A New Book

When people have asked me what I am reading about, or which course I am teaching this fall, or what my most recent book is about, and my answer is the “history of interpretation,” I have noticed a facial expression that, as a historical theologian, I have become accustomed to seeing.  Their look, or sometimes their accompanying explanation of it, conveys the message that both history and interpretation are sufficiently boring on their own, and the combination of the two must be dreadful.  To ask about the history of biblical interpretation, however, is to ponder very important questions for our own day. … [Read more...]

My Reformation Day Dream: The Catholic Council that Never Was

  “O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions.  Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly Union and Concord: that, as there is but one Body, and one Spirit, and one Hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may henceforth be all of one heart, and of one soul, united in one holy bond of Truth and Peace, of Faith and Charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you: through Jesus Christ our Lord.  … [Read more...]

Calvinism and Its Implications

In a blog post earlier this year in which I discussed the resurgence of Calvinism and what we might learn from Calvinism, it occurred to me that I never really defined Calvinism.  So, for those who don’t know or simply need a reminder, perhaps a description of Calvinism is in order, followed by a brief summary of some of its more problematic implications.      … [Read more...]

Download New Issue of Christian Studies Journal

From the early days of the Restoration Movement, Churches of Christ and Christian Churches distinguished themselves from their near neighbors on the American frontier with a noticeably robust ecclesiology, reflected in, among other things, the theology and practice of baptism.  Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott’s “high” view of baptism stood out in the context of the Second Great Awakening, wherein salvation often came to be connected to a subjective experience of the Holy Spirit that was externally manifest in ways other than baptism.  For evangelists like Charles Finney, someone could respond by approaching the “anxious … [Read more...]

Black Friday and Blue Laws: What’s Lost in Post-Constantinianism

Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon argue in Resident Aliens that the opening of the movie theater in their hometown on Sundays represented the end of Christendom, and the beginning of an opportunity for “real” Christianity to emerge from the shadow of Constantinianism. This insight is important, and there can be no doubt that the end of “blue laws” at least embodies the shift in epoch experienced as these United States transitioned from a society structured around the edifice of the religion called “Christianity” to a secular, market-driven social structure. Is this a good thing, though? … [Read more...]

Making “THE CHURCH’S FAITH” my faith

As one of the newer online faculty at Austin Grad, I do not come with a lack of experience in online courses.  I have taught and continue to teach online courses for two other seminaries.  What is distinctive and thoroughly delightful about teaching online here is 1) the size of the classes and 2) the extreme relevance of the material.  First, my classes here have always been small.  The advantages of this are obvious.  Not only does this afford more time to thoroughly grade all assignments (the students may not see this as a plus), but all of us come to know each other as friends and are able to share our struggles … [Read more...]

Arminianism in Brazil

In August I had the pleasure of visiting Brazil.  Although it was my fourth time in Brazil, it was my first time to be invited for what amounted to a book tour.  Here’s how it happened. Recently, there has been a resurgence of Arminianism in Brazil.  Wait.  Let me back up a bit.  For the past few years, there has been a resurgence of Calvinism in evangelicalism.  (This is something I intend to discuss in later posts.)  This resurgence of Calvinism has reached Latin America, including Brazil.  And wherever “five-point Calvinism” goes, resistance to it follows close behind.  Thus, the resurgence of … [Read more...]

Christian Civil Disobedience

When Christianity appeared on the scene in the ancient Mediterranean world, its pagan residents were suspicious about this new faith.  Of their many concerns, perhaps the deepest fear was that Christians were socially subversive, that they were, as the Thessalonian mob put it, “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).  Good social order, from the family unit all the way up to the Empire itself, was felt to be threatened by a group of people who marginalized physical family and king in favor of spiritual family and King. This is why the New Testament and early Christian apologetic writings go out of the way to show that Christians … [Read more...]

Why Different Christian Denominations?

At the beginning of each semester, I like to start my church history survey course by asking the students what they hope to learn in this course.  What burning questions are they wanting to answer?  Besides the obvious goal of fulfilling a degree requirement, what motivates them in their study of church history?  Perhaps the most common answer I get in response is the following query: “Why are there so many different Christian denominations?”  People want to know how we got from the apparently unified church of the first century to the present situation of hundreds of denominations.  The short answer to this question … [Read more...]

Get Your *Free* New Issue of Christian Studies Journal

Historically, outsiders to Churches of Christ have noticed the great unity and uniformity of faith and practice that characterize our fellowship. As Frank Mead put it, in his classic Handbook of Denominations in the United States, “Since the status of [their] institutions is unofficial, none authorized to speak for the entire church, their conformity in ideas and teachings is all the more remarkable.”  That is, despite the lack of institutional, denominational superstructure or adherence to a written confessional standard, Churches of Christ have traditionally maintained a surprisingly strong sense of identity. This common identity is … [Read more...]