Monthly Archives: September 2008

The Doctrine of Humanity

Are human beings fundamentally bad, overwhelmingly dominated by the powers of sin and evil?  Or are weat our core good, capable of responding faithfully to God and of living with care and compassion toward others? How we answer these questions will have a great impact on our broader theology and on our expectations for our social relationships.

In my essay, “The Doctrine of Humanity,” I present the case for a quite optimistic view of humanity–based on biblical teaching and, especially, the life and teaching of Jesus.  Jesus is our model for being human, and the Bible has the full expectation that, in spite of our very real tendencies toward sin and selfishness, we are capable of following the example Jesus sets.

This essay is the seventh in a series that examines core Christian doctrines, consistently asking what shape they should take if they are articulated in light of Jesus.

Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals

During this “political” season, characterized by powerful and wealthy people seeking to exploit our system to expand their power and wealth, this book by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals, comes as a very welcome breath of fresh air.

As is likely obvious by the title and the publisher (Zondervan), Jesus for President, is written by two young Christians aimed at a Christian audience.  And this book needs to be read by Christians.  However, many people of good will who have written off Christian faith may find this book an eye-opener and inspiration.

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James J. Sheehan. Where Have All the Soldiers Gone? The Transformation of Modern Europe.

One of the remarkable dynamics of the past century has been the evolution of Western Europe from the scene of some of humankind’s most destructive wars to a place where now warfare seems almost unthinkable. Stanford University historian James J. Sheehan gives us an explanation of this dramatic change in Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?: The Transformation of Modern Europe.  Sheehan presents a carefully articulated, sober account of the exhaustion of European people as a consequence of the unthinkable destruction they visited on themselves–and their ability finally to begin to move decisively away from war as a way of life.

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The Doctrine of Scripture

For many Christians, the doctrine of Scripture takes priority over the actual content of Scripture.  One consequence of this approach is to minimize the life and teaching of Jesus as the core of our theology.

In my essay, “The Doctrine of Scripture,” I reflect on the significance of making God’s revelation of Godself in Jesus central for our understanding of the Bible.  I suggest that seeing Jesus as central to the Bible then provides an angle of perception for discerning other expressions of God’s self-revelation.

This essay is the sixth in a series that examines core Christian doctrines, consistently asking what shape they should take if they are articulated in light of Jesus.

The Book of Revelation as a resource for peace

Often, the Book of Revelation is presented as being about these weird visions of violence and vengeance–where God models retaliation and hatred for enemies.

My article, How does Revelation speak today? (published in The Mennonite, September 2, 2008), presents the book of Revelation as being a “revelation” of Jesus’ persevering love as the model for Christians–in contrast to  views of Revelation that see it being about vengeance and violence.

The Doctrine of Creation

Is a self-conscious doctrine of creation compatible with a belief that pacifism is a central Christian conviction?  Is it possible to construct an Anabaptist doctrine of creation, given how dominated that arena of thought has been by Reformed views?  In my essay on “The Doctrine of Creation,” I argue that indeed love and creation go together–along with an understanding of justice that sees the concerns of justice being the work to bring healing to brokenness in our world (“restorative justice”).

This essay is the fifth in a series that examines core Christian doctrines, consistently asking what shape they should take if they are articulated in light of Jesus.

The Lamb’s Way of Victory #5

In Revelation six, we get the first of several extended visions in the book that portray a series of plagues that wreak death and destruction on earth.  Then, in Revelation seven we get another vision of the people of God (from all tribes and nations) worshiping God and the Lamb–these are the ones who trust in God instead of the Beast.  I believe that these two visions portray important elements in life in the past and present, not only life in the future.  John the Seer means for us to recognize that we must choose which vision more accurately presents the deepest reality.  Should we worship (that is, live our lives in trust in the Lamb’s way of peace) or should we join with the forces of violence since they determine reality?  In my sermon, “Trusting God in the Real World,” I juxtapose the two visions and argue that the vision of celebration should determine how we understand the world–and inspire us to practice justice- and peace-making in service to the victorious Lamb.