Year in Review: 2013

joshToday is the last day of regular classes here at Northwest University, and with it comes the end of my blogging year.  I’ll be back again in January on a regular basis, but until then, here’s my ten most popular blog posts of 2013.  Thanks for reading and commenting this past year!

10.  “A Pentecostal Tension“: Concerning the prosperity gospel.

9.  “No Country for Old Men“: A pope’s resignation.

8.  “The Pentecostal as Mystic“: Reading the Bible with the Holy Spirit.

7.  “Union with God in the Everyday“: Christian living and the Spirit of God.

6.  “The Life of the College Professor“: A brief aside on serving as a happy-2013-wishes-from-2ndskiesforexjudge for a student film competition.

5.  “Concerning Megan Fox and the Holy Spirit“: Any ideas why this one was so popular?

4.  “It’s Your Funeral“: Thoughts on a theology of marriage.

3.  “The Idolatry of Family“: Can you love them too much?

2.  “Strange Fire is God’s Fire“: Contra John Piper

and my top post of the year (by far)…..

1.  “Paying the Piper“: Thinking through the controversy over Pastor Steven Furtick’s expensive house.

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Things I Would Like to See (Part VIII)

science-fiction-illustration-13Normally when I opine about “things I would like to see,” I spend a little time with Google to make sure what I’m asking for doesn’t already exist.  I’m a little busy today, so I’ll forgo that luxury.  Besides, I have the feeling that if what I’m asking for already existed, I would have some idea (plus, dear readers, if I’m wrong I’m sure you’ll let me know*).

So, what is this dream?  A science-fiction Bible.  What I mean by this is a retelling of the grand narrative of Scripture mediated through the science fiction idiom.  As a fan of both literary worlds, I am intrigued by the possibilities.

I realize there are difficulties in putting such a work together, not the least of which is the accusation of heresy.  Any creative type of translation like this would naturally be a few steps away from the literal text, which in turn would make space-jesusthe author’s role in interpretation somewhat important.  All the same, I’m not look for a rote, by-the-numbers repeat of every episode in the biblical narrative coated in a thin science fiction veneer.  What I’d be interested in reading would be much different: a space opera of the Bible, with all the weight that idea entails.

The story of the Bible (or parts thereof) has already undergone adaptation in a number of ways: a modern paraphrase (The Message), a musical (Godspell), a children’s fantasy (The Chronicles of Narnia), talking vegetables (VeggieTales), an epic poem (Paradise Lost), a mythic retelling (The Singer) and more.  Why not science fiction?  As a work of literature it would be a fascinating undertaking, original.0and–thinking in terms of the Christian faith–might be an interesting new way for believers and nonbelievers alike to consider the power of the story of God..

When I think of some of the great achievements in the science fiction world–Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, the work of Ursula K. LeGuin, Orson Scott Card and the Ender books, Kim Stanley Robinson and the Mars trilogy, and so much more–all of these are powerful stories wrapped together with some big ideas.  So: what if we took what I consider to be some of the most profound ideas in the universe and brought them together in this literary form?

I’m no science fiction author, but there are times when even I consider what it would be like to write such a work.  Challenging, yes.  But it could be powerful.  Call me crazy, but it is another of the things I’d like to see.

*A friend has reminded me of C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, which is exactly the kind of thing I’m thinking of here.  What I’d like to see, then, is a thorough-going walkthrough of the entire narrative arc of Scripture similar to this.

The Best We Can Do

K75213BERNINI 3When the word humanism is used in modern parlance, it is often with reference to what is known as “secular humanism.”  As an ideology that rejects religious claims in favor of humanity on its own, secular humanism is very much opposed to orthodox Christianity.  For what it is worth, I’m not a fan.

And yet there is another side to humanism that isn’t secular at all.  During the age of the Renaissance, what we might call Christian humanism–the recognition of the image of God in humanity and celebration of all the skill God has given us–was both religious in orientation and achieved great accomplishments.  This striving for greatness while maintaining awareness of the source of such greatness makes sense.  Though not all of this time period would have subscribed to such an approach, in the religious and philosophical climate of the era it makes some sense.

I realize that traditional Christian teaching–especially in the Reformed mode–has always sought to remind us of our finitude and depravity.  That our efforts are ashes and dust compared to the majesty of God.  I get that.  However, I also know that if we are really people into whom God has breathed God’s very Spirit, this means something too.  That’s why I’m a Christian humanist.  adam-creation-sistine-chapel-19645421

I reflected on some of this over the past summer.  My wife and I were blessed to be able to travel to Italy in July.  While there, we experienced cities like Florence and Rome–places where the Renaissance and its elevation of human abilities in art, architecture, and so much more held sway.  As we stood before some of the greatest artwork in human history or entered the St. Peter’s Basilica, (the largest church in Christendom), I became aware of one undeniable fact.  This was the best we can do.  Literally.  We often talk about better and worse, good or bad.  But not always do we have the opportunity to observe or be a part of the best.  Standing in the Sistine Chapel?  This was the best humanity has done.  Think about that.  Amazing.

shakespearebig_2278393bAnd we don’t have to travel overseas to experience all of this.  Literature can transcend geographical boundaries, and reading the best of it can be open to us so easily.  The Olympics will be before us in a few short months, elevating the abilities and potential of the human form.  Recorded music of almost any type is often near-free and readily available through the Internet.  And, though the effect is sometimes much diminished, even the visual arts and architecture can be experienced through a computer screen.

We have the opportunity to enjoy, without exaggeration, some of the greatest accomplishments in human history.

So when you get a chance, reserve some time to be a humanist.  Take a look at or read or experience some of the best we can do.  Soak it in.  And–of course–celebrate the imago Dei it represents, and remember to Whom it all points.

Votes for Women

womens_suffrage-combined_alonzo_lopezIt took nineteen amendments to the United States Constitution for our country to get around to it, but in 1920 women were granted the right to vote throughout our country.  The text is simple:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.  Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

With its passage, the Nineteenth Amendment made the last great legal change to suffrage in the United States.  Now–at least legally–our country guaranteed the right to vote for all adults.  To be sure, women’s ability to vote had been available to various degrees in different states before 1920, but it was only with this amendment that it was made universal.

Less than 100 years on, it is difficult to think that there was a point at Votes_for_womenwhich approximately 50% of the national population was not guaranteed full voting rights.  So customary has voting become–almost pedestrian–that we fail to realize how unique an opportunity it is, historically speaking.  And it isn’t just that women have been guaranteed suffrage for only 93 years, but that for almost anyone it has been a rare thing throughout all of human existence.

While there is a sense in which an individual human being always has at least some say over parts of their life and being, we also know that this ability can at times be severely proscribed, almost to the point of sheer non-existence.  Not being allowed to vote is one of the ways this has historically been accomplished.  Women, certain races, non-property owners, commoners, and anyone outside of the palace or royal chambers have all be excluded from such political rights over time.  It has only been the slow march of our society away from the blood clan/warrior-chieftain mentality towards the Modern idea of the individual that advancements in this area have been made.  Once begun, they moved forward with marked rapidity.

Full suffrage for only the past century or so out of all the centuries of human existence.  That’s something to think about.

Some-voters-change-their--006Yet even in the face of this optimism and triumph, we must also acknowledge that simply providing someone the right to vote does not mean that they then control all aspects of their destiny.  Suffrage–for any of us–carries with it both the potential for increased personal agency in this world even as it means that we must contend with the agency of others (individually and collectively) that may at times be arrayed against us.  Not to mention all of things that are out of anyone’s control.

Though I would never want to relinquish my right to vote, understanding the limits of that ability are important.  So then: votes for women?  Absolutely.  I’m thankful to live in this relatively small sliver of history where such things is possible.  But: are votes all that women (or any of us) need?  Not by a long shot.