“Revolt of the Masses” First Things Lecture invitation

  I am pleased to announce the third annual Austin Graduate School of Theology – First Things Lecture, to be held in Austin, Texas, on Monday, September 11, 2017 at 7 p.m.  This year’s speaker will be Patrick Deneen.  Deneen is an Associate Professor of Political Science and holds the David A. Potenziani Chair of Constitutional Studies at the University of Notre Dame.  Deneen will be speaking on “The War of All against All: The New Aristocracy and the Revolt of the Masses.”  He writes, “In his 1995 book The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, Christopher Lasch described the rise of … [Read more...]

Politics, the Professor (or Preacher, or Pastor), and the Person in the Pew

This paper was presented at the Christian Scholars’ Conference on the campus of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, in a session on 8 June 2017 on the topic “Bridging the Divide: Addressing the Gap between the Church and the Academy,” convened by Brandon Pierce of the Church of Christ in Stamford, Connecticut, and Paul Watson of the Cole Mill Road Church of Christ in Durham, North Carolina.  I am grateful for the invitation to present the paper and for the encouraging response of conference attendees, including those of differing political persuasions. My reflections today mainly concern one narrow aspect of the gap between … [Read more...]

How Idolatry Might Creep in During Your 4th of July

 Many of us, as American citizens, will enjoy the festivities of the 4th of July. This national celebration of liberty and independence was foreseen by one of the founding fathers, John Adams. Much of what he anticipated for the national holiday came to pass and continues to be observed in communities across the country. In two previous blog posts about the 4th of July (first one here and second here), I mused about the difference between patriotism and nationalism. Based on what I have witnessed in some church worship services, I drew on a concern expressed well by Richard Lischer. He lobbied for the removal of the American flag … [Read more...]

3 Challenges of the Church after “Gay Marriage” Law

In order to  set out the challenge of kingdom living  at this time consider the following: The kingdom of God has come in Jesus Christ the Lord right in on top of the kingdoms of this world. We live in the tension of the “now and the not yet” of the kingdom of God. This means the  U. S. Constitution  is not our  Bible; the pledge of allegiance does not replace or even rival the confession “Jesus is Lord;” the U.S.  is not  the  light-filled church community sitting on the hill; the Declaration of Independence is not our call to discipleship; we do not live to pursue happiness, but to pursue the kingdom. … [Read more...]

A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation

In the months leading up to its March 14 release and since, Rod Dreher’s book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation has attracted considerable attention. The book takes its title from the reference to Benedict of Nursia (author of the Benedictine Rule about AD 540, and thereby “founder of Western monasticism”) in the rather somber conclusion to Alisdair MacIntyre’s famous (for an academic book) After Virtue, originally written in 1980 (quotation from the third edition, p. 263): … [Read more...]

Helping Veterans on the Road to Healing

At the risk of oversimplifying, Christians have at their disposal at least three ethical views concerning the use of force, namely, pacifism, Christian realism, and the just war tradition.  To be sure each of these views has various shades.  There are pacifists with just war sympathies, just warriors with realist tendencies, etc.  The issues surrounding the ethical use of force, or if the use of force is even ethical at all, are both highly nuanced and very important.  The debates between the various proponents of these views in academia have become rather complex and, at times, nasty.  One simply needs to do a search … [Read more...]

Words of Hope for Seasons of Distress + Free Registration for Sermon Seminar

  Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord (2 Timothy 1:1-2). The sun broke bright and clear over Washington, D.C. on the morning of January 20, 1961. The ground was covered with eight inches of snow that had fallen the night before. It was bitterly cold, but the day was bathed in a bright aura. The sunlight reflected off the snow and the marble buildings of the nation’s capital. At noon John F. Kennedy took the oath of office and became the 35th president of the … [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...]

Being Children of Light

There’s an old trade secret among preachers. The word is that there are three topics any of which will ensure an audience. If you want to draw a crowd, you can preach on sex, on the end times, and on will there be sex in the end times? The religious mania over imagining and predicting the future is well known today. We even have TV series that turn on popular conceptions. Evidently, some in Paul’s churches would have understood the attraction – they might have even tuned in. But this impulse isn’t unique either to religious groups or to one particular age. It’s a human thing. … [Read more...]

Christmas, a Sign of Hope (and a free book from us!)

Road trips during the Christmas season have become notorious for crowded highways and frustrated travelers. One website warned, “Wherever you’re heading, if you’re traveling during the holiday season, you need to realize that everyone else in the world is, too.” In terms of holiday travel, Mary and Joseph covered a few miles during what is commonly thought of as the first Christmas. Luke, in his gospel, reports that the couple traveled from their home in Nazareth to the ancestral home in Bethlehem, then on to Jerusalem for several days, and finally back home to Nazareth. To make it more exciting, the return trip was with the newborn Jesus … [Read more...]