Theology

Category Archives: Theology

Learning to Love Better

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, which means that love is in the air.

Or is it?

I ask the question because I’m convinced that love is one of the more widely defined–and misunderstood–concepts in our culture. And I’m far from the first person to point out that this time of year doesn’t always lend itself to the clearest thinking on the subject.

So when you get right down to it, what does it mean to love someone in God’s eyes?

Crossing Explainer: What is Advent?

If you’ve spent much time around a church during the holiday season, you’re probably heard the term “Advent” several times. But beyond associating the word with the Christmas season, many of us might not have the clearest idea of its significance.

Our English word “Advent” comes from the Latin adventus, which is a translation of the Greek term parousia, meaning “coming” or “arrival.” Western Christians have historically observed Advent during the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.

But what specifically are we observing? To sum it up briefly, Advent is a season of expectation. In it, we turn our attention to the coming of Christ. And to do so, we look both backward and forward.

Help! What Do I Do When I Don’t Understand the Bible?

thumb_41rJJE82O7L_1024Anybody who’s ever read the Bible for any length of time has experienced it. You’re reading along, understanding things well enough. But then, like Han Solo getting hit with a tractor beam aboard the Millennium Falcon, you come across a verse or passage that pulls you up short. “Wait, what did that say?” you ask yourself. Did someone interrupt your regularly scheduled English programming with an alien language? Or maybe it’s an image or metaphor that you simply don’t understand. Or it could be that you comprehend the words just fine, but you can hardly believe that they say what you think they say. In any case, confusion sets in, often soon followed by frustration. And you walk away, less confident in your ability to read the Bible, and less motivated to do so.

Of course all this is understandable. The Bible was written over a period of many centuries, by several different human authors, in three different ancient languages and in a host of different historical contexts. There’s bound to be a few things that trip us up. So what to do when you find yourself in this situation? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Crossing Explainer: Seven Important Things You Need to Know About the Bible

IMG_23141. The Bible was written by many different human authors.

Like classic Russian novels, the Bible is bigger than most books. But unlike Russian novels, it has more than one human author. In fact, a great many authors, including some of the more familiar names to the Christian faith, like Moses, David, Peter, John, and Paul, have written several of its 66 individual books. But this isn’t just a piece of Bible trivia. Those different authors wrote in different historical situations, using different vocabulary and writing styles—all of which helps to explain why one part of the Bible reads differently than the next.

2. The Bible has one ultimate Author.

We’re not given many details on how he did it, but we’re clearly assured that he did: behind the various human writers, each writing in their own voice, stands God himself as the ultimate author (see 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21). This means that the Bible exhibits his trustworthiness and carries his authority. It also leads to the next point.

Thinking (Christianly) About Politics

It’s that season again. I don’t mean winter. I mean the political season. Last night, Iowa kicked off the long primary/caucus gauntlet (grueling for both candidates and voters?), which will culminate several months from now in a national election. And if we aren’t already thinking along these lines, it’s a good reminder that we as Christians have a responsibility to think through how our faith should inform our understanding of and involvement with politics.

That’s not inventing a link that isn’t there, it’s just being biblical. Consider just one passage of many we could use to make the point:

Seven Quick Thoughts on Praying with Your Kids

Most of us probably think it’s a good idea, at least in theory, to pray with our kids at bedtime. But we may be unsure of what we should pray with them about. Or we may think we sound like one of those particularly annoying toys that repeats the same phrases over and over again. Not to mention all the times when we’re dog-tired or the kids are on the verge of meltdown because they’ve stayed up way too late for one reason or another. And in my house at least, there’s three of the little buggers, which in itself can make the hill look that much higher to climb. So yes, there are plenty of things that might discourage us from turning something good in theory into our actual practice.

With all that in mind, here are a few things to remember as we consider praying for our kids. I’ve thought of bedtime specifically as I’ve written these, but I think they’re relevant for most other times as well.

The One Thing We Might Overlook in Someone Becoming a Christian

What does it take for a person to become a Christian? Certainly a recognition of one’s need for grace and forgiveness, and an understanding and acceptance of what Jesus accomplished. But we might overlook another ingredient that’s often necessary:

5 Good Reads

For the post-holiday rest of your week: a roundup of five articles worth reading and considering, with a sample quote from each. (Note that inclusion here means each piece is helpful, not that I agree with everything in every article!)

The United States of Ambivalence: Celebrating the Founding of Imperfect Freedom
Thomas Kidd, Desiring God
“Ambivalence” is not such a bad posture for Christians to adopt toward America, however. We have always had reasons to celebrate and reasons to lament America’s history.

This Pro-Life Talk at Google Headquarters Was a Hit
Catholic News Agency
A pro-life activist walks into Google’s headquarters and delivers a speech so compelling that within 24 hours, the online video of it surpassed a similar speech given by the head of Planned Parenthood. It may sound like the start to a far-fetched joke, but on April 20th, pro-life speaker and activist Stephanie Gray did just that.

Psychology Today Article Recognizes Crossing Member

Leigh Shaffer, a member here at The Crossing, was the subject of a recent article in Psychology Today. It begins this way:

Dr. Leigh Shaffer is a dear friend and colleague whose health has not been good lately. He has borne his illness as he has conducted himself throughout his life, with much grace, humility, and dignity. I wanted to take this opportunity to write a note of gratitude for my time with Leigh, as he has been an inspiration to me.

Leigh is an academic. He spent many years as a professor of psychology before moving to Columbia with his wife Barbara. He is also a committed Christian, having participated in various teaching and ministry roles throughout his life. Both of these aspects of Leigh’s life feature prominently in the article, which was authored by George Mason psychology professor Gregg Henriques. In reading Henriques’ “letter of deep appreciation” for his friend, I was struck by a handful of things that can teach and encourage us:

U.S. Senators Characterize a Central Christian Belief as “Indefensible” and “Violation of the Public Trust”

If you stated publically that believing in Jesus Christ is necessary for the true worship of God, do you think there would be any repercussions?

In the case of Russell Vought, it meant two U.S. senators questioning his fitness for a job in the federal government. Vought has been nominated for the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, and during his recent confirmation hearing, he came under fire as a result of his role in a previous controversy at Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian institution and Vought’s alma mater.

In December of 2015, Wheaton political science professor Larycia Hawkins made news for a Facebook post in which she wrote, “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.” In response, Vought wrote an article in which he argued that “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.”

Those are undoubtedly strong words, but in terms of representing historic, orthodox Christian belief, Vought’s position is anything but controversial. Christians have held to this doctrine for nearly two millennia, based on the teaching of Jesus himself. For example, in John 14:6 Jesus famously states, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And consider another famous passage, along with the verses that immediately follow: