Norman Wirzba’s Way of Love (2016): A Book Review

Wirzba, Norman. Way of Love: Recovering the Heart of Christianity New York: HarperOne, 2016. (238 pages + notes & index)


Now available on Amazon.com.

As the subtitle suggests, Duke University Professor Norman Wirzba seeks to remind his readers that love is the heart of Christianity. I do not say at the heart but is the heart because Christian community is rooted in love as revealed in Jesus Christ. And this incarnate love—this incarnate lover— ought to be the driving force behind Christian witness and practice. As the body of Christ, the Church, exists in a world mired in and, indeed, enamoured by sin, followers must regularly be called back to the way of love and Wirzba’s book is one of those calls.

Way of Love is first a letter to the churches. Like the letters of the Apostles that make up the bulk of the New Testament, this letter contains admonishment, encouragement, and a call to keep Christ and therefore love as the heart and goal of what we as followers say and do. In this sense, Wirzba is not telling us something new but telling us the “old, old, story” again in a new and refreshing way. Continue reading “Norman Wirzba’s Way of Love (2016): A Book Review”

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How Ken Ham & Answers in Genesis Led Me to Accept Evolutionary Theory

Ken Ham and the folks at Answers in Genesis (AIG) often suggest that what leads people, including biblical scholars, to propose interpretations of the early chapters of Genesis that differ from a “literal” interpretation of Genesis akin to AIG‘s own is a desire to conform their understanding of Scripture (and doctrine) to modern scientific theories, i.e. “deep time”, the Big Bang, and, of course, the theory of evolution. In other words, the suggestion is that beliefs about evolution and the age of the universe not only precede but drive Christians to seek alternate interpretations of the early chapters of Genesis that better accommodate modern scientific theories.

The polemical and apologetic narrative usually sounds something like the following from a 2011 post condemning the work of Wheaton College professor John Walton:

Why are we seeing more and more bizarre and elitist ideas (e.g., William Dembski—see previous blog post for details) coming out of Christian academia? I believe it is a form of academic pride, largely from academic peer pressure, because these people ultimately “loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

Continue reading “How Ken Ham & Answers in Genesis Led Me to Accept Evolutionary Theory”

Star Wars: The Spirit Awakens — A Letter to Preachers and Apologists

Rest assured, this post contains no Force Awakens spoilers. I haven’t seen it yet. It does contain spoilers for episodes I-III. So, if you are Amish, you may not want to read this post.

The Star Wars films shaped my childhood imagination. They nurtured in me a sense of right and wrong. They gave me a meaningful vocabulary for good and evil. Lucas’s images of the light side and the dark side opened my eyes to a battle being waged daily in the world that I could see on the evening news, in the playground, and even in my own heart and mind. This imaginative world gave me a sense of responsiblity and the hope that I could overcome the darkness within in me, that I could choose. Eventually, these films gave me my first glimpse of grace and redemption.

Yet, the Christians in my life missed this opportunity to speak to me and who knows how many others. They failed to speak to me in my language. They failed to translate the Gospel, to use my vocabulary. They did not see the Spirit of Christ already at work. The Spirit went before them like the pillar of fire in the darkness. But all they could say to me was “The Spirit of God is not like the force in Star Wars.

My family did not attend church regularly. Nevertheless, it seems like every time I entered a church for the next decade or so. I was told that God was not like the force in Star Wars. In the instant they got my attention, they lost it. If your god, is not like the force in Star Wars, then that’s too bad for your god. The force is awesome! Continue reading “Star Wars: The Spirit Awakens — A Letter to Preachers and Apologists”

Humanity was not made for Scripture but Scripture for Humanity

Following from the idea of sola scriptura (scripture alone), many Christians, primarily those coming out of the Protestant traditions, have come to think that if people will just read the Bible they will become followers of Christ. That is, they seem to suggest that acceptance of the Bible as an authoritative text for life precedes acceptance of Christ Jesus as Lord and Savio(u)r.

In convincing the world of this basic though generally erroneous assumption, we Protestants have unfortunately been quite successful. I am reminded of this through my recent interactions with non-Christians of various kinds.

To witness our success, take some time to listen to how non-Christians portray Christianity. For a moment, you might see yourself as in a mirror, it may be a funhouse mirror but it is a mirror, nonetheless.

When you do take time to listen, to ask questions, to create space for your neighbo(u)r to give voice to their ideas, frustrations, fears, dreams, desires, and concerns, I think you will hear what I hear quite consistently. That is, in the distortions of the funhouse mirror, this view of the authority of Scripture is an accurate reflection of what they hear from Christians. Continue reading “Humanity was not made for Scripture but Scripture for Humanity”

How to Teach Genesis 1  – Part I: Don’t Begin with “In the Beginning . . . “

Given that my post How to Teach Genesis 1 in 30 Minutes remains one of my most popular posts, I thought my readers (new and old) might appreciate a little more detail and a slower walk through the process.

While my previous post was aimed at a single session, this series will hopefully aid those who teach introductory or survey courses either in an academic or church setting.

Related Posts: Why Seven Days?Review of Michael Cosby’s Interpreting Biblical LiteratureHave Sex and Eat: The First Two CommandmentsWhen is a Snake not Merely a Snake?Review: Pete Enn’s Inspiration & Incarnation 1

Mistakes to Avoid:

Mistake 1. Beginning with Genesis

Do not begin with Genesis. As I have stated elsewhere, I think the majority of textbooks and biblical overview courses make a pedagogical error in beginning with “In the beginning . . . ” In any other subject, you teach the basics first before you jump into the really difficult material. You don’t jump into Hamlet before you teach grammar and the basics of poetry.

What’s a rhyme? What’s a simile? What’s a metaphor? Am I reading a comedy or a tragedy? If Romeo & Juliet is really a love story, then why do they die in the end? If Hamlet is a tragedy, why are there so many funny moments? Is that another dirty joke? Err, I mean, Is that more ribald humor? How come the clowns aren’t funny? Continue reading “How to Teach Genesis 1  – Part I: Don’t Begin with “In the Beginning . . . “”

What Motivates N.T. Wright? Well, Why not Ask Him? So, I Did.

A Brief Interview with N.T. Wright

As I was writing my previous post, What Motivates Ken Ham? or What AiG Gets Wrong about N.T. Wright, I thought to myself maybe I should just ask Dr. Wright myself.

I wonder if the folks at Answers in Genesis have thought of this radical off the wall approach to dialogue. Do the writers at AiG consider actually engaging in conversation with the scholars that they so readily judge and condemn? I have it on good authority that Wright and other scholars do receive mail from Young Earthers, hate mail, that is.

In my view, scholarship is engaging in an ongoing conversation. Conversation requires listening and responding. Moreover, as the word itself suggests true conversation allows for the possibility of conversion. That is, when one enters into a conversation it is possible that you or your conversation partner may have a change of mind. (see “The Discipline of Study” in Richard Foster’s The Celebration of Discipline) In Academics, this dialogue is often carried out by reading one another’s writings and seriously engaging with and responding to each other’s arguments and thoughts.

Now, I have met Wright a few times at Regent College and at Society of Biblical Literature meetings. He likely does not remember me but we do have some mutual friends who could vouch for me. So, I re-introduced myself and asked him the following questions:

1. What motivates you to engage the Academy?

2. What motivated you to accept the theory of evolution (if indeed you have)? Continue reading “What Motivates N.T. Wright? Well, Why not Ask Him? So, I Did.”

Dear Abe: Bronze Age Advice for Post-Modern Times

Dear Abe,

Recently, my wife and I moved to a new town to look for work. My wife is very beautiful. The other day, I noticed a local business owner checking her out. Is there anyway I can turn this into a job opportunity?

Sincerely,

Married in Memphis Continue reading “Dear Abe: Bronze Age Advice for Post-Modern Times”

Seminary = Cemetery

Having spent many years studying and working in Christian Graduate School setting I have heard the Seminary/Cemetery play on words many times from students, professors, and churchgoers.
“Oh, my son is off to cemetary to study the Bible.”

While, for the most part, in my experience, the reference to Seminary as Cemetery was made as a friendly jest with no ill intent. That is, my fellow Christians respect those who dedicate their time and energy to the hard work of studying Scripture and Theology. (Yes, it is hard work. Have you ever learned a foreign language?)

Nevertheless, usually in less overt forms, I too have experienced resistance and suspicion with respect to my “expertise” in theology and biblical studies. I suspect one question spoken or unspoken to be something like, “Why does anyone need to study and go to school to understand Christianity? After all, Christianity is a simple faith that is available to all.” Now, I think this question is a good question. When asked, I have an answer. So did the second century theologian, Irenaeus. Continue reading “Seminary = Cemetery”

Book Review: Inspiration and Incarnation (Chapter 3: The Old Testament and Theological Diversity)

In this chapter on theological diversity in the Old Testament, Peter Enns offers an engaging and helpful introduction to what most biblical scholars Christian and non-Christian have come to recognize as simply being the nature of the Old Testament. Moreover, for many of us with strong commitments to the authority of Scripture, the recognition of theological diversity in the OT has not only enriched our understading of the Scriptures themselves but of the God who inspired them including what it might mean to be creatively inspired by the Creator.  There are three key aspects to Enns chapter on diversity in the OT.

  1. The Old Testament is not a flat text. It is a textured text. Not all books can be read in the same way and some work needs to be done to understand the different genres in the Old Testament.
  2. The books of the OT were written in differing time periods and show signs of being edited to some degree and therefore to some degree there is evidence of the develoopment and revision of thought over time and according to chaning circumstances.
  3. And related to the latter, there are ongoing arguments, discussion, and unresolved tensions within texts and between texts of the Old Testament. (Some of these tension are resolved by and in Christ Jesus.)
  4. Continue reading “Book Review: Inspiration and Incarnation (Chapter 3: The Old Testament and Theological Diversity)”

An Unhappy Marriage I (or Atheists are from Mars and Young Earthers are from well Earth apparently)

By entering into the discussion of origins and the Bible, I am not particularly interested in addressing those who are actively promoting Young Earth Creationism. Rather, my intended audience consists of those who want to consider these questions and are open to the possibility that other options presented by confessing Christians who are experts in their fields may be viable alternatives to the stark either/or position proferred by people like Ken Ham.

However, as one can imagine, venturing into this conversation sometimes involves attempting to “converse” with YE evangelists on one side and the evangelistic atheists that YECs fear on the other side. What neither of these “groups” realize is how similar they really are. They are in a symbiotic relationship with one another but it is an unhealthy relationship. While they feed off one antother, like parasites they suck the life out of the rest of us and out of the Christianity, Science, and Reason they claim to defend. Continue reading “An Unhappy Marriage I (or Atheists are from Mars and Young Earthers are from well Earth apparently)”