Sin Is Not A Legal Problem – Athanasius and the Atonement

I often struggle when people speak of their “sins.” Indeed, it is not unusual to be asked, “Is ___ a sin?” The question always makes me feel like a lawyer. Imagine that, instead of a doctor, you have a lawyer whom you consult for your medical problems. You are having trouble breathing. You’re short of breath and occasionally you cough up blood. You go to your doctor (lawyer) and he examines you.…

The Context of Faith

Shortly after moving to this side of the Smoky Mountains (the Tennesee side rather than the South Carolina side), I began to notice that the local dialect differed from my own. It was rounder, somehow, less nasal, but still with very strong “r’s.” Local phrases could also be puzzling. “I don’t care to,” for example, is used to mean, “I don’t mind.” It is deeply counter-intuitive, and sounds as though it means…

Reading Scripture in the Kingdom

  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (Joh 3:6) It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. (Joh 6:63) Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. (1Co 15:50) The convenience…

Reading by the Light of Christ

  Let us suppose that you have heard the story of Jesus, in a fairly bare form, nothing like as complete as any of the gospels – just a general outline. And then let us suppose that the only Scriptures you have access to are the Old Testament. You have never seen a New Testament and do not have its phrases in your mind. And then let us suppose that you sit…

Judgment with a Mixed Bag

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago Solzhenitsyn puts his finger on the…

An Unnecessary Salvation

One of the oddest thoughts to have crept its way into the Christian mind is the notion of what is “necessary to salvation.” The simple questions within the New Testament, “What must we do to be saved?” quickly become the stuff of bumper-stickers and a reduced version of Christianity unable to sustain a genuine spiritual life. In my seminary years (Anglican), I had a professor who stated that he did not believe…

Conversations with a Flatlander

I have been engaged in what appears to be a useless conversation. I’m having a private email chat with an atheist/materialist who insists that there are no miracles – everything can be explained by “natural” means and that the world will be better off when everyone finally agrees this is true. He is a crusader. I have no explanations or apologies for the conversation and know that it will end soon with…

The Hidden Gospel

There is a genre of Scriptural writings that are described as “apocalyptic.” The book of Revelation, in Greek, is called “The Apocalypse.” Ezekiel and Daniel also have very strong passages described as apocalyptic. The term is very straightforward: it means “revealing what is hidden.” These books are described as “making known hidden things,” because their message is disguised under rather outlandish descriptions: beasts with ten horns, heavenly cities, and buildings that come…

From the Beginning – True Authorial Intent

I read a discussion concerning my earlier article on allegory in which someone identified himself as a writer. He stated that if a reader saw something in his writing that he had not intended, then either he or his reader had failed. His statement is an extreme example of what is called “authorial intent”: what the author intends for the reader to see is indeed what the reader sees. Of course, no…

Reading Beneath the Words

The relationship between Old and New Testaments is much less straightforward than most people realize. A majority of Christians, particularly in our contemporary world, probably assume that their relationship is mostly historical, that the Old Testament is about things that happened before Christ while the New Testament speaks of Christ Himself and things that come later. That is “sort of” true, but not the real story. The New Testament does not so…