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God Speaks From the Burning Bush

From my daily Bible reading:

IF“Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”” — Exodus 3:3-5 NRSV. 

“Despite Moses’ earlier failures and exile in Midian, Moses encounters God on God’s mountain in the form of a fiery bush. God declares the intent to deliver Israel from Egypt and commissions Moses as ambassador. This encounter is powerful and dynamic as Moses meets the real presence of the God of Israel. Yet the narrative is relational and conversational. The action moves forward in response to Moses’ five objections about God’s commissioning him. God remains resolute in his calling of Moses, but the dialogue displays patience with Moses. The implication is clear: the God of Israel is profoundly relational. God desires vital relationships with God’s people. Part of God’s relational character is self-giving nature: God reveals elements of his character and nature in response to Moses’ inquiries. Moreover, this text offers reflection on the nature of a divine call. Moses is needed for the service of God. There will be profound loss in God’s plan without Moses, but God’s call here is not primarily coercive” (more…)

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God Heard Their Groaning

From my daily Bible reading:

IFAfter a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.” — Exodus 2:23-25 NRSV.

“God remembered his covenant. God’s covenant is God’s engagement; he had promised to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give their posterity a land flowing with milk and honey, &c. They are now under the most oppressive bondage, and this was the most proper time for God to show them his mercy and power in fulfilling his promise. This is all that is meant by God’s remembering his covenant, for it was now that he began to give it its effect.” (more…)

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Thomas Oord Solves the Problem of Evil

Thomas Jay Oord

Thomas Jay Oord

Thomas Jay Oord has a new book coming out in December of this year: The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence. I’ve been reading a pre-publication version of the book and I can tell you that it is well written, engaging and well worth reading.

Dr. Oord is the best known theologian in the Church of the Nazarene — a conservative denomination in the Wesleyan tradition. He has written and edited several books including: The Nature of Love: A Theology, Defining Love: A Philosophical, Scientific, and Theological Engagement, Renovating Holiness, The Polkinghorne Reader: Science, Faith, and the Search for Meaning, Creation Made Free: Open Theology Engaging Science, and many others. He is a well known advocate of Open Theism — which he calls Open and Relational theology.

I have been appreciative of Dr. Oord’s work for some time — because of his interest in the issues at the interface of science and theology — and because of his commitment to the Wesleyan tradition. I’ve always been a bit reluctant to fully embrace Open Theism but that may just be my own intransigence. Certainly there are many advantages to this point of view — which Dr. Oord ably demonstrates in his new book. (more…)

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The Collapse of the Pannenberg Project?

Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928-2014)

Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928-2014)

Recently I posted these remarks about the theological developments in the thought of F. LeRon Shults and Philip Clayton — two gifted theologians who were also students of Wolfhart Pannenberg:

This also seems to signal the total collapse of Wolfhart Pannenberg’s theological program. In light of the developments in the thought of his students, Philip Clayton and F. LeRon Shults, it now appears that it eventuates in either a flaccid Christian neo-liberalism (see: The Predicament of Belief: Science, Philosophy, and Faith) or outright atheism (Theology after the Birth of God: Atheist Conceptions in Cognition and Culture). What Pannenberg intended as a call for Christians to engage in the realms of science and learning has become either a strategic retreat or a complete reversal.

I got a little push-back on this (which I appreciate) and I thought it might be good to say a little more about what I mean by this. (more…)

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Mercy, Not Sacrifice

From my daily Bible reading:

IFBut when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”” — Matthew 9:12-13 NRSV.

They that be whole need not a physician. A common proverb, which none could either misunderstand or misapply. Of it the reader may make the following use:—1. Jesus Christ represents himself here as the sovereign Physician of souls. 2. That all stand in need of his healing power. 3. That men must acknowledge their spiritual maladies, and the need they have of his mercy, in order to be healed by him. 4. That it is the most inveterate and dangerous disease the soul can be afflicted with to imagine itself whole, when the sting of death, which is sin, has pierced it through in every part, infusing its poison every where. (more…)

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Ben Witherington on “Rapture Theology”

I have written on the topic of “Rapture Theology” — more properly called Dispensationalism — before. But, in case you doubt my perspective — or want further reinforcement of it — here are some videos from the Asbury Theological Seminary’s Seedbed that discuss this topic.

Dr. Ben Witherington III, a well known conservative New Testament scholar discusses the history of Dispensationalism and it’s interpretation of Scripture. I have included three videos by Dr. Witherington.

Where Did Rapture Theology Come From?


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The Sermon on the Mount

From my daily Bible reading:

IF“Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching,  for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” —  Matthew 7:28-29 NRSV.

“Wesley preached extensively on the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5–7), calling the teaching of Jesus found within it “the sum of all true religion” (Sermon 21: “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount,” §I.1). The church’s history of applying the sermon to the Christian life has fallen between two positions: first, as an ethic for the kingdom of God to be fulfilled in the future heaven; and second, as a description for the way things should be now in the present church age. This dual distinction has also led some to identify with Matthew’s more spiritualized teaching of the sermon (“happy are people who are hopeless,” 5:3) and others with Luke’s more sociopolitical expression (“Happy are you who are poor,” 6:20). For John Wesley, the Sermon on the Mount was to be a backdrop for the social ethic of the New Creation, and he used it to support the Christian’s involvement in building the Kingdom of God on earth as well as in heaven.” (more…)

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An Atheist Theologian

One of my (formerly) favorite writers on philosophical theology has become an atheist.

And, I’m not altogether sure how I feel about that.

411Rqlp-VNL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In the early part of June I was at a get together for a couple I know from the church we attend. There were a lot of people there and I got into conversation with some of them. In one of those conversations I recommended  (as I often have) the writings of F. LeRon Shults, who teaches theology in Norway and has written several books I have read and appreciated. (The ones I’ve read are: The Postfoundationalist Task of Theology, Faces of Forgiveness, Transforming Spirituality, Reforming the Doctrine of God.) I’ve got two more titles on my Kindle — which I was going to read — but now I’m not so sure. If I am remembering correctly, in Reforming the Doctrine of God Shults identified himself as being both “evangelical” and “reformed.” I’m okay with the “evangelical” part — especially since there is a rather broad tent for some of us who like that designation — and quite a bit less so with the “reformed” part. Nevertheless, I’ve never felt any hesitation recommending his writings.

The incident in June  struck me funny the next day — when I discovered that Shults had since written two (quite expensive) books advocating atheism. (They are: Theology after the Birth of God: Atheist Conceptions in Cognition and Culture and Iconoclastic Theology: Gilles Deleuze and the Secretion of Atheism.) It struck me funny because I figured either (1.) I’ll never be at a gathering of people I know from church where I recommend his books again (which is a bit sad), or, (2.) I’ll never again be at a gathering of people I know from church (that is to say: I may need new friends). (more…)

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Pouring Out the Soul Unto God

From my daily Bible reading:

IFAnd whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” — Matthew 6:5-6 NRSV.

“προσευχη, prayer, is compounded of προς with, and ευχη a vow, because to pray right, a man binds himself to God, as by a vow, to live to his glory, if he will grant him his grace, &c. ευχομαι signifies to pour out prayers or vows, from ευ well, and χέω, I pour out; probably alluding to the offerings or libations which were poured out before, or on the altar. A proper idea of prayer is, a pouring out of the soul unto God, as a free-will offering, solemnly and eternally dedicated to him, accompanied with the most earnest desire that it may know, love, and serve him alone. He that comes thus to God will ever be heard and blessed. Prayer is the language of dependence; he who prays not, is endeavoring to live independently of God: this was the first curse, and continues to be the great curse of mankind. In the beginning, Satan said, Eat this fruit; ye shall then be as God; i. e. ye shall be independent: the man hearkened to his voice, sin entered into the world, and notwithstanding the full manifestation of the deception, the ruinous system is still pursued; man will, if possible, live independently of God; hence he either prays not at all, or uses the language without the spirit of prayer. (more…)

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Love Your Enemies

From my daily Bible reading:

IF“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” — Matthew 5:43-48 NRSV.

Love your enemies. This is the most sublime piece of morality ever given to man. Has it appeared unreasonable and absurd to some? It has. And why? Because it is natural to man to avenge himself, and plague those who plague him; and he will ever find abundant excuse for his conduct, in the repeated evils he receives from others; for men are naturally hostile to each other. Jesus Christ design’s to make men happy. Now he is necessarily miserable who hates another. Our Lord prohibits that only which, from its nature, is opposed to man’s happiness. This is therefore one of the most reasonable precepts in the universe. But who can obey it? None but he who has the mind of Christ. But I have it not. Seek it from God; it is that kingdom of heaven which Christ came to establish upon earth. See on chap. iii. 2. This one precept is a sufficient proof of the holiness of the Gospel, and of the truth of the Christian religion. Every false religion flatters man, and accommodates itself to his pride and his passions. None but God could have imposed a yoke so contrary to self-love; and nothing but the supreme eternal love can enable men to practice a precept so insupportable to corrupt nature. Sentiments like this are found among Asiatic writers, and in select cases were strongly applied; but as a general command this was never given by them, or any other people. It is not an absolute command in any of the books which they consider to be Divinely inspired.” (more…)

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Jesus’ Baptism

From my daily Bible Reading: 

IFThen Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.” — Matthew 3:13-15 NRSV.

“John is immediately aware of Jesus’ identity and insists on his own inferiority (v. 14). He acknowledges the honor of Jesus and thereby maintains his own honor. Although this major event (i.e., Jesus’ baptism) does not “fulfill” Scripture, it is a fulfillment of “righteousness,” a term that can also be translated as “justice,” a major theme in Matthew (5:6, 10, 20; 6:1, 33). This is no routine baptism (v. 16); revelatory signs accompany it, including open heavens and the Spirit’s descent (implying God’s own approval of Jesus). It is not clear here that anyone other than Jesus witnesses the Spirit’s descent, but the announcement of the heavenly voice is in the third person, suggesting a wider audience (v. 17). Note that God acknowledges Jesus as “my Son” in preparation for the testing of Jesus as Son of God (4:1–11).” (more…)

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A Savior

From my daily Bible reading:

IFShe will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” — Matthew 1:21 (NRSV).

JESUS. The same as Joshua, יהושע Yehoshua, from ישע yasha, he saved, delivered, put in a state of safety. See on Exod. xiii. 9; Num. xiii. 16….

This shall be his great business in the world: the great errand on which he is come, viz. to make an atonement for, and to destroy, sin: deliverance from all the power, guilt, and pollution of sin, is the privilege of every believer in Christ Jesus. Less than this is not spoken of in the Gospel; and less than this would be unbecoming the Gospel. The perfection of the Gospel system is not that it makes allowances for sin, but that it makes an atonement for it: not that it tolerates sin, but that it destroys it.

— Comments by Adam Clarke (1762-1832).

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Jacob’s Blessings

From my daily Bible readings:

IF“Then Jacob called his sons, and said: “Gather around, that I may tell you what will happen to you in days to come. Assemble and hear, O sons of Jacob; listen to Israel your father.”” — Genesis 49:1-2 (NRSV)

Jacob offers a fierce blessing to his sons. His words of reproach, counsel, and comfort cut and soothe with the clarity of truth and anticipate the future as cast from his sons’ characters. This is a powerful activity shared from parents to children, children to parents, and among friends as well! When said with loving and righteous intention, the blessing of truth-telling invokes the powers of forgiveness, empowerment, and transformation.

When words of blessing are intoned at the end of a worship service, truth is invoked — we are claimed as God’s own with all the responsibility and grace that entails.”

— Comments from The Wesley Study Bible.

This great man was now one hundred and forty-seven years of age; though his body, by the waste of time, was greatly enfeebled, yet with a mind in perfect vigor, and a hope full of immortality, he calls his numerous family together, all of them in their utmost state of prosperity, and gives them his last counsels, and his dying blessing. His declarations show that the secret of the Lord was with him, and that his candle shone bright upon his tabernacle. Having finished his work, with perfect possession of all his faculties, and being determined that while he was able to help himself none should be called in to assist, (which was one of the grand characteristics of his life,) he, with that dignity which became a great man and a man of God stretched himself upon his bed, and rather appears to have conquered death than to have suffered it. Who, seeing the end of this illustrious patriarch, can help exclaiming, There is none like the God of Jeshurun! Let Jacob’s God be my God! Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his! Reader, God is still the same: and though he may not make thee as great as was Jacob, yet he is ready to make thee as good; and, whatever thy past life may have been, to crown thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies, that thy end also may be peace.

— Comments by Adam Clarke (1760-1832).

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A House of Prayer for All Nations

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In Mark 11 we read that when Jesus entered Jerusalem — that final time — he “entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.” It was a provocative thing to do. Mark tells us that this incident is one of the primary reasons the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus. It was a strong protest against the way religious service was being conducted.

And, then come these remarkable words:

He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

And, as I read this passage I say to myself: if that was the case then, how much more now! Our various places of worship — wherever they may be — are intended to be places of prayer for all people. They are meant to point to God. They are meant to bring people into connection with God. They are meant for all people. Is that what they are? (more…)

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Reflections on the Song of Solomon

“The voice of my beloved! Look, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice. My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” (Song of Solomon 2:8-13, NRSV).


It seems strange to some people that words like these are found in the Bible. It goes against what we think we know of the Bible.

These words are from a book of the Bible few people know about. This little book of the Hebrew Bible is variously called ” Song of Solomon” or “Song of Songs.” It is a long poem about erotic love. Really, it seems to be a collection of poems that have been brought together into one. A church group would not want to do a verse-by-verse study of this book because of the frankly erotic imagery in the book.

It’s about sex. It has at least an R rating. (more…)

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