As we prepare our reading lists for 2019, let us take this opportunity to remind ourselves of perhaps the most significant book that Christians—all the way from the casual reader to the master’s level seminary student—have almost completely forgotten about. Continue reading “The Most Significant Book Christians Have Forgotten About”
The church has always been a counter-cultural witness to the world. We normally think of the church’s witness in her preaching and good works, and rightly so. But sometimes, it’s her very structure and polity which bear witness to God’s kingdom here in this world.
We see this in the story of the Mill Yard Seventh Day Baptist Church in the 19th century. Founded in the 1600s this church had dwindled just to seven women by the 1820s, and they were without a minister. Continue reading “The Mill Yard Women and the Counter-Cultural Witness of the Church”
Sometimes in an attempt to counter messages about self-esteem and body-shaming that ignore God we forget to acknowledge the beauty and goodness of the human body altogether. This kind of accidental Gnosticism can be especially harming for teenage girls who are constantly thinking about their bodies but are only taught two responses: one that makes them obsess even more about beauty by telling them to find meaning in themselves, and the other that makes them feel silly or sinful for struggling with body image in the first place but with no way to move forward other than trying to ignore their bad feelings and hope they go away. Continue reading “Girls, Body Image, and Theological Poetry: Lucy Hutchinson on the Beauty of the Human Body”
In Luke 2:25-32, the biblical character Simeon is an old man waiting on the promise of the Messiah. He has placed himself in the Temple which he rightly assumes to be the best possible location to maintain a daily lookout for the deliverer. It is in the course of this relentless vigil that Joseph, Mary, and a very young baby Jesus cross paths with this singular man “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” In a Rafiki action that was sure to shock the nativity family, Simeon takes the child and declares: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation.” His faithful persistence had been rewarded with personal peace. Continue reading “Finding Peace in Faithfulness”
In 711, a Muslim army invaded and conquered most of what is now Spain and Portugal. What followed was an intermittent and complex season of warfare and crusade known today as the Reconquest, or Reconquista as Christian Kingdoms to the north and east fought to recapture these regions. The movement spanned generations and continued even after the last Muslim kingdom fell in 1492 as the remnants of Islam were prosecuted and expelled. Despite all of its political and social underpinning, the Spanish Reconquista was equally an ideological conquest fueled by a robust crusade theology. While physical armies fought and conquered, the true crusade was one of ideology.
Folquet de Marselha (1150-1231) is a fascinating figure. Though certainly not modern in his theology and philosophy, his multifaceted professions and rise to prominence have an almost modern tenor. “A troubadour, then a Cistercian monk, and finally Archbishop of Toulouse (1205-31),”he is a fine case study of the theological perspectives of reconquest and crusade during the period. His basic message offers the pragmatic observation that fighting Muslims in Spain would spare the crusaders the risks experienced during a long, Mediterranean Sea voyage to the Holy Land. However, it is his new addition to the already familiar doctrine of earning one’s salvation through fighting for God that tells us how highly he valued the crusade in Spain.
In a bizarre hermeneutic, if also an effective sales tactic, Folquet argues that the initial Muslim conquest of Spain was actually a positive action instituted by the providence of God to bring about salvation for those who would fight in the crusade.Claiming the event was an act of greater grace than the death of Christ on the cross since it offered a means of direct salvation, the archbishop broke new ground in soteriology to be sure.While his sentiments are not widely repeated among his contemporaries, the fact that he is not criticized for this teaching and the mere fact that this idea is a possible extrapolation of the theology of the time demonstrates not only the unique interpretations of medieval theology regarding salvation but also the true belief that the Church was indeed operating as the strong right arm of the Almighty Himself.
Years ago I worked as a full-time nanny for newborn twins during the first year of their lives. When I think back to this time, I remember being so tired and stressed and alone—not just because taking care of twins can be hard, but also because my anxiety and depression were starting to get worse at this time—and I wonder how much it would have helped to read quality resources on nurturing children. I’m not a mother myself, but so much of what I see seems too cliché to do justice to the deep and complex emotions and decisions involved in motherhood. Continue reading “Lucy Hutchinson’s Theological Reflections on Motherhood”
Charles Spurgeon lived during a time of theological upheaval. A new theology had come over from Germany which disguised itself as Christianity, and yet was “no more Christianity than chalk is cheese.” For in it, “the Atonement is scouted, the inspiration of Scripture is derided, the Holy Spirit is degraded into an influence, the punishment of sin is turned into fiction, and the resurrection into a myth.” Spurgeon would give himself to fighting this new theology in the best way he knew how: planting vibrant, gospel-preaching churches. Continue reading “Spurgeon’s Church Planting Strategy”