Cotton Candy or Wine? A Review of Water to Wine

By on Jan 28, 2016

Every year the same book comes out. It tells us to be radical, to get serious about Christianity, to be followers and not fans. It is usually written by a famous evangelical pastor. It usually sells well.   There was a time when I devoured these books. I couldn’t get enough of them. I still think there is some kernel of truth in these books, but I’ve come to realize that I could not get enough of them because they were cotton-candy. They hit the tongue and make grand promises but evaporate before you even have time to chew. So you take bite after bite, book after book, hoping the next bite will finally satisfy, will finally change things. But it won’t. Long term, it produces indigestion.   So if you’re tired of cotton-candy indigestion, tired of sporadic spasms of passion that perpetually and predictably flame out, heed the invitation:   “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come...

Is Faith Bad for Art? A U2 Case Study

By on Jan 5, 2016

Last year, The New Yorker featured an interesting piece on U2 called “The Church of U2.” It came on the heels of their new album (Songs of Innocence) and is a must read for any fan. It examines U2’s deep but conflicted relationship with Christian faith, suggesting it’s the prime source of their artistic genius.   The article gets particularly interesting toward the end as the writer begins to not so subtly make the case that the quality of U2’s music began to dip when the band matured in their faith:   “U2’s best songs were written during these years—roughly from 1986, when they began recording “The Joshua Tree,” to 1997, the year “Pop” (which is actually very good) was released. But there was a problem: the songs depended for their power on the dramatization of Bono’s ambivalence about God…   U2 have continued to write songs of doubt (“Wake Up Dead Man,” off...

Romans 13, N.T. Wright, and a Christian Response to Paris

By on Nov 23, 2015

  A clip is circulating of Robert Jeffress, pastor of FBC Dallas, using Romans 13 to argue that the Christian response to the Paris attacks is “borders and bombs” (see it here). I had a few people ask me about it and it got me curious about Romans 13, so I went back to my trusty New Interpreter’s Bible to see what the trusty N.T. Wright has to say about it. Below is a summary of Wright’s commentary, with a few reflections on them and Jeffress’ comments in light of them.   Wright argues that, despite some understandable arguments to the contrary, Romans 13 is in fact a general statement about ruling authorities. In essence, in this time between the times where God’s new world is on its way but not quite here, government is something God has put in place to preserve some measure of justice and order and to prevent the world from falling into complete anarchy and...

Monergism: Maybe True, Definitely Unnecessary

By on Oct 3, 2015

Monergism (“one work”) is the belief that God works alone in salvation. It’s usually set against synergism, which is the belief that while God alone does everything in working for our salvation, humans must cooperate with grace in some form or fashion (the cooperation itself, of course, possible only because of grace).   Monergism is an integral part of Reformed soteriology, because without it Reformed folks feel humans could boast in their salvation and steal God’s glory—two unpardonable sins. As James Montgomery Boice has said it, those who reject monergism cannot give God alone the glory: “They cannot say ‘to God alone be the glory,’ because they insist on mixing human power or ability with the response to gospel grace.”[1] One gets the sense that for many, monergism is not only true but also necessarily true.   I’ve discussed monergism in other places (in my book in...

Skeptics Welcome 2: Job Saved My Life

By on Aug 10, 2015

The book of Job saved my life. I’m only half-joking.   As I mentioned previously, I was in college and the bigness of the world came crashing in on me, and through a series of events I still can’t completely explain, my faith just got up and slowly walked out on me. It was as if a fog of doubt and confusion came creeping over me, suffocating my faith little by little. And I went months without going to church, months without uttering a single prayer, months without reading a single word from the Bible…except for Job.   We meet Job in chapter 1 and basically learn that he’s a great guy who’s doing everything right and everything is wonderful in his world. But that all changes when Satan burns Job’s world to the ground. This is Job 1-2. Satan destroys everything Job holds dear—his family, his health, his wealth—and Job response is remarkable and yet, curious. You’ve heard...