Gimmicks and God

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I have a confession to make. In my former life as a Baptist youth evangelist, I did some things of which I am not now particularly proud. For example, on one occasion I dressed up like the devil and went to the local high school, where I told the students just arriving for class that day not to . . . . Continue Reading »

The Neglected God

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Some years ago Nils A. Dahl wrote that God may be the “neglected factor in New Testament theology.” Destructive biblical criticism, exemplified for years in the work of the so-called Jesus Seminar, eviscerates the gospel narratives of all theological power and leaves us, at best, with a Jesus made in our own image—political agitator, cynic sage, new age guru, etc. The words of weeping Mary in John 20:13 are appropriate: “They have taken my Lord away, . . . and I don’t know where they have put him.” But the Jesus of the Gospels cannot be confined to the straitjacket of such pseudo-scholarly speculation. He bursts through those Scriptures today just as he rose bodily from the grave that first Easter morning. Continue Reading »

A Thicker Kind of Mere

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I am an avid reader and an occasional contributor to the magazine Touchstone, a periodical that describes itself as “a journal of mere Christianity.” Touchstone provides a forum where Christians of various backgrounds—Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox—can speak candidly with one another on the basis of a shared commitment to the Great Tradition of Christian faith as revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the classic creeds of the early church.The term “mere Christianity,” of course, was made famous by C. S. Lewis, whose book of that title is among the most influential religious volumes of the past one hundred years. Since 2001, more than 3.5 million copies of Mere Christianity have been sold in English alone, with many more translated into most of the world’s languages, including Chinese. We think of C. S. Lewis as an apologist, but he was also an evangelist. Many sceptics and unbelievers have come to faith in Jesus Christ by reading C. S. Lewis. One of these was the late Charles W. Colson. “I opened Mere Christianity,” Colson said, “and found myself face-to-face with an intellect so disciplined, so lucid, so relentlessly logical that I was glad I never had to face him in a court of law. . . . As I read, I could feel a flush coming to my face and a curious burning sensation. . . .Lewis’s words seemed to pound straight at me.” Continue Reading »

Doctrix Teresa: A Churchly Theologian

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This year marks the five hundredth anniversary of the birth of Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, best known to history as St. Teresa of Ávila. A sixteenth-century Spanish reformer and spiritual writer, in 1970 she became the first female named as a Doctor of the Catholic Church. A friend and devotee of St. John of the Cross, Teresa is often depicted as the patron saint of Catholic Reformation spirituality. In recent years, a number of Protestant thinkers have begun to study Teresa, not only as a famous mystic but as a genuine theologian in her own right. One of these is Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who published a book about Teresa in 1991. Another is Elizabeth Newman, a Baptist ecumenical theologian, whose 2012 book, Attending the Wounds on Christ’s Body: Teresa’s Scriptural Vision, examines Teresa’s theology and spirituality with special attention to what all Christians, Protestants no less than Catholics, can learn from her about Christian unity today. Continue Reading »

The Sweet Torture of Sunday Morning

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On Easter Sunday afternoon, the Reverend Gardner Calvin Taylor, age ninety-six, slipped away from this world to a better one, for “a taller town than Rome and an older place than Eden,” as he was wont to refer to heaven. His passing marks the end of an era in the history of the American pulpit. Often called the “dean of black preachers,” in reality Taylor transcended racial, social, and denominational categories. At his death, tributes poured in from all across the spectrum—from President Obama to conservative Southern Baptists. What made Gardner Taylor so great? Continue Reading »

The Fierce Christ of Easter Faith

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Yesterday, on Easter Sunday, many sermons were preached from John 11 on Jesus’s raising of Lazarus of Bethany from the dead. John 11:25-26 is one of the great resurrection texts of the New Testament. The Book of Common Prayer includes it in the “Order for the Burial of the Dead”: “I am the . . . . Continue Reading »

George Herbert in Lent

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The Anglican pastor and poet George Herbert died of tuberculosis on March 1, 1633, just one month shy of his fortieth birthday. Like his famous contemporary and friend John Donne and his nineteenth-century American echo Emily Dickinson, Herbert did not publish his poems during his lifetime. From . . . . Continue Reading »

Introduction to the First ECT Statement

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In 1534, Abbot Paul Bachmann published a virulent anti-Protestant booklet entitled “A Punch in the Mouth for the Lutheran Lying Wide-Gaping Throats.” Not to be outdone, the Protestant court chaplain, Jerome Rauscher, responded with a treatise of his own, titled “One Hundred Select, Great, Shameless, Fat, Well-Swilled, Stinking, Papistical Lies.” Continue Reading »

Reading Luke with the Reformers

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When Archbishop Thomas Cranmer published the first edition of the Book of Common Prayer in 1549, he included this prayer as a collect for the Feast Day of Saint Luke:Almighty God, who called Luke the Physician—whose praise is in his Gospel—to be a physician of the soul: May it please you by the . . . . Continue Reading »

When Africa Bleeds

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Seldom in recent memory has the Western world seemed more united than on January 11, 2015, when an estimated 1.5 million people, including forty-four world leaders, flooded the streets of Paris to protest the atrocities carried out by Islamist terrorists at the offices of the French weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Who can forget the impressive show of unity—with the notable absence of the top constitutional officers of the United States—as Christian, Jewish, and Muslim lead Continue Reading »