The Politics of the Beatitudes


A few weeks ago, I had the benefit of hearing Mark Allan Powell present his lecture “Jesus Takes Sides: The Beatitudes as God’s Apology“. It was not the first time I heard his particular interpretation of Jesus’ words. However, I had not realized that he was the first to suggest that interpretation.

Over the centuries, most have tried to hold all eight verses together, suggesting that all of them point toward some kind of spiritual virtue in those that are blessed. Dr. Powell makes the case that there are two sets of four. The first is about groups of people who are in some way oppressed. The second group parallels the first as those who choose to side with the oppressed. (See the video here.)

Following the recent election of Donald Trump as President, I expressed my reservations about the same on Facebook using the Beatitudes. For each verse, I asked a question of us as a society. These verses should challenge us at all times, but especially so now. As President-Elect Trump continues to pick cabinet members who represent values quite opposite the Beatitudes, I want to repost and reserve those same thoughts here for later reflection. While many have put out calls to “give them a chance”, I am inclined to take all of these men at their word. They have already acted and spoken clearly, and we should take them seriously.

By contrast, we need to choose whose blessing we desire and whom we will choose to bless:
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Advent Questions

Advent Candles

Having grown up in the Baptist tradition, it took me many years to fully appreciate the depth of the Church Calendar. For starters, the Christmas Season begins with Christmas Day and continues for 12 days (thus the song). Right now, Christians everywhere are entering the Advent Season in anticipation and preparation for Christmas.

Advent is celebrated with four candles; one additional candle being lit each Sunday before Christmas. It starts with darkness and moves toward increasing light. Doubt leads us to faith as key questions carry us forward. Quiet desperation for God invites us to come and see “God With Us”. In many ways, Advent and Christmas mark the “New Year” for the Church. Continue reading

The Power of the Share – An Experiment with Social Media

This is my wife’s blog. She is doing the usual social media experiment…or is she? Feel free to look at her other posts as well.

Parenting a Teenage Tornado

As I was scrolling through Facebook the other day, I saw a shared picture.  Like many I have seen before, it was of a teacher holding up a sign that asked for people to like and share their picture so their students would understand the power of social media.  This one was slightly different though, it also said “so they can understand that we all have the power to change the world”.  Do we though?  Does liking and sharing a post on social media allow us to change the world…….well, it could…..if people were actually paying attention.

Like many of you, I have seen these types of posts for years.  Almost all of them have traveled the globe with thousands of likes attached.  Never have I seen them with a message other than the initial like and share request.  It is easy for someone to hit that share button, but…

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On Astro-Theology and Pseudo-Scholarship


So a friend of mine recently brought to my attention a video about “Astro-Theology 101.” In it, the claim is made that Christianity is merely an expression of pagan astrological mythology, and that the apostles themselves knew in advance that they were not telling an actual biography of Jesus. (You may view the video for yourself here.)

I have a long-time interest in reviewing and understanding a wide variety of pseudo-scholarship in both science and religion, so I watched it while I was waiting for the Late Show to come on. What makes this video so powerful is the authoritative voice of the narrator, the use of half-truths, and then threading everything together with a kind of logic all its own. Continue reading

What Does Resurrection Mean on a “Monday”?

Flower Cross

So frequently, we miss the context. It shouldn’t surprise us, because it was a different time and a different place. We just need to be mindful of it.

We know that Jesus wasn’t buried for three full days and three full nights. By Hebrew reckoning, a part of a day counted as a day. Jesus was hung on a cross and crucified on what we know to be “Good Friday.” We talk about it cheerfully now, but it took a long time for Christians to celebrate the cross, as we do today. This was a most shameful and violent way to die! Continue reading

On Feasting and Friending

Harry Potter Great Feast

Feast or famine.

That was a common refrain when I was on staff with InterVarsity. It was critical for any new staff member to focus on making friends locally and to get involved with a church. Any ministry demands personal support, but itinerant college work can be especially demanding.

No matter how much effort we put into it, we had a special kind of fellowship as staff. Most of us did not live near each other. We saw each other extensively a few times each year for student retreats and staff meetings. For the long stretches between, we fasted. Those days and nights we could be together, we were an intimate family. Even when we came together from completely different regions, we knew we were “related” in a special way. Continue reading

So Now What?

Lamp Path

The challenge in attributing reasons behind big decisions is this: when circumstances change, you are pressed to re-evaluate what you are doing and why. In my last post, I mentioned that Steve Hayner was a big reason for me applying to work at Columbia Theological Seminary. It’s quite easy to ask myself, “So now what?”

I believe it was Steve who told a story about Paul Little at a staff gathering in New York. Paul was a well known leader in InterVarsity who wrote a well-known booklet for InterVarsity Press called Affirming the Will of God. Paul was offered a huge opportunity to work for another organization and was torn between staying with InterVarsity and going on to something new. One morning, he walked into the office of Dr. John Alexander, the president of InterVarsity at that time. He was clearly frustrated, Continue reading