The Greatness of the Anglican Church

It is easy to beat up on the Anglican Communion these days, and especially its American wing, the Episcopal Church. But we ought to keep in mind that the Anglican Church has been a remarkable 500-year experiment in combining the best of the Christian heritage with the distinctive insights of the Protestant Reformation. Anglicans have blessed the larger Christian community in many ways. The chief reason that the Anglican Church continues to deserve our respect and supportive prayers is that it has been a remarkable effective missionary church. And rumors of its death may be greatly exaggerated.

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The Future of Jesus in Asia

The brand of Christianity that is making headway in Asia—among animists, Buddhists and Muslims alike—is the old-fashioned, classic version that worships its founder as none less than God in human form. This is the only version of Christianity with the power, the grace and the finality to meet the needs, and claim the costly allegiance, of people around the world. There is simply no future for the innocuous alternative Jesus of the religious pluralists.

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The Real Challenge to Marriage

Traditional marriage—you know, one man-one woman, life-long lovers and best friends, faithful and true until death do them part—still looks good, in a wistful, nostalgic kind of way, but it’s under threat in America today. The fiftieth wedding anniversary may go the way of the dinosaur, ocean-caught salmon and the SUV. But the greatest challenge to marriage today is neither feminism nor gay rights. It’s us.

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Does Gay Marriage Threaten the Gospel?

The California Supreme Court has decided that gay couples should be allowed to wed. The decision went into effect last month (June 2008). Not surprisingly many of my fellow evangelicals are up in arms. Does gay marriage threaten the proclamation of the Gospel? Some are claiming that it does. I doubt it.

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The Fading Legacy of Jonathan Edwards

Last weekend we attended a family wedding reception in New England. Checking things out beforehand on MapQuest, I was ecstatic to discover that we would be just fifteen miles from Northampton, Massachusetts, the one-time home of Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), America’s greatest-ever theologian. That’s where we discovered the vestiges of a colonial romance, and also learned a lesson about how history sometimes moves on.

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The Discipline of Remembering

Looking ahead is good; but looking back is important too. This Memorial Day I think again of my great-uncle, a young soldier who died from an enemy bullet that lodged in his heart. I bear his name, and his monogrammed gold cuff-links (with our shared initials) sit in a small box at my bedside. It deepens my desire to live well whenever I remember that my freedom was bought with a price, and did not come cheap. The discipline of remembering keeps all of us grateful.

But remembering also brings wisdom. This Memorial Day my thoughts also drift across the Pacific to a rocky fortress at the mouth of Manila Bay in the Philippines. Corregidor Island was the Gibraltar of South-East Asia, and the last piece of soil defended by American and Filipino troops prior to the complete Japanese conquest of the Philippine islands in 1942.

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Subverting Excellence: The Balaam’s Donkey Argument

The June 2008 issue of The Atlantic contains an article entitled “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower,” a biting piece by an anonymous “professor X” who toils as an adjunct instructor at what he calls “a college of last resort.” The students he teaches, he claims, chose his particular college “not on the U.S. News & World Report rankings but on Mapquest” (p. 69). As an instructor obliged to grade student work, he feels squashed in the collision between two societal forces: the expectation that pretty well everyone should go to college, and the reality that only some have the capacity to meet university-level expectations. Especially in schools big on marketing, and ambitious to grow, the pressure on professors to validate sub-standard work is almost overwhelming. I am grateful to be employed by a seminary that has valued high holistic standards, but all of higher education is feeling the pressure to dumb things down these days.

Every church and academic institution I know is officially committed to excellence. But for many the pursuit of excellence is just a cliché. There is no substantive commitment or achievement behind the marketing and branding rhetoric. “Good enough” more accurately describes their true disposition. That’s because achieving excellence at anything—rising above the mediocre and commonplace—is agonizingly difficult at the best of times. But the drive toward excellence is even more seriously sabotaged when people buy the Balaam’s donkey argument.

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A Mother’s Legacy: Bitterness Begone

I feel blessed whenever I remember my mother. She was a godly mentor and a wise woman. She died of nasty cancer nine years ago, and I especially miss her every time Mother’s Day rolls around. But she left a wonderful legacy, and part of it is how she responded to hurtful people and painful experiences. She refused to allow them to make her bitter. She had an inexhaustible capacity to keep on loving people anyway.

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The Dilemma of a Certain Pilgrim: To Stay or Leave the Church

It is an uphill battle being an evangelical and a gender egalitarian. As an evangelical I believe Scripture is authoritative. As an egalitarian, I hold that the full equality of women and men is not a concession to be cleverly wrestled from Scripture, but the goal toward which its inspired contents actually point.

Why is the struggle for equality still so difficult? Lots of reasons, but one of them may be this. In most conservative evangelical churches, and in their largest theological society (the membership of which is about ninety-eight percent male), the “gender issue” is essentially an exegetical debate, an intellectual exercise, an occasion for sparring. There is not a lot of visceral pain, and there are never any tears. The bombs are dropped from high altitude.

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StrengthsFinder: Look before You Leap

StrengthsFinder is a new assessment device that is enjoying blockbuster popularity. It is based on the philosophy of Walt Disney’s cartoon rabbit Thumper, who famously opined, in the movie Bambi (1942), “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say nothing at all.” StrengthsFinder is being marketed as a powerful instrument for quickly (please take a few minutes to fill out this questionnaire) clarifying who you are, what you’re good at, and the tremendous potential that lies hidden within you. Despite all the hype, Christian folk would be wise to look before they leap.

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