A Fear of Geese

Dear Kathryn:

I’d like to pick up where I left off in my last letter, if I may, and to do that I’m going to draw on a blog post I published a year and a half ago. It’s pertinent, especially in the current political climate. I hope it’s also helpful.

The nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once said that being subjected to verbal criticism on a regular basis—what he called the martyrdom of ridicule—is much like being trampled to death by geese. Continue reading

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What Exactly Is The Gospel? (Part One)

Dear Mr. Lough:

You have referred several times to evangelical Christianity in this exchange of emails. You’ve made it clear that, although evangelicalism was the context for your early Christian formation, you no longer share some of the movement’s foundational presuppositions. In your last letter, however, you said something I had not heard before, and it raised a question I’d like to pursue.

You wrote, “Despite my belief that evangelicalism has lost its way and is flailing around in a confused state of self-misperception, I pray for the movement’s recovery of the gospel of the kingdom.” Could you say a bit more about that? Continue reading

Circumstances Can Alter Perception

Dear Mr. Lough:

In your most recent letter, you somewhat sidestepped the question of whether you consider yourself a liberal (just kidding, I know exactly what you meant) :-), but it still raised some additional questions. I pose them now as follow-up, if I may.

First, I know how much it hurt you to lose your job as a teacher, but do you think you would be where you are today if you hadn’t? Second, have you ever considered that you might have formed some of your current positions and opinions as a reactionary response to that unpleasant situation? And finally, when I had you as a teacher, you spoke very critically of a number of well-known liberal scholars and writers. Have you changed your opinion about any or all of them? Continue reading

“Mr. Lough, Are You a Liberal?”

Dear Mr. Lough:

So, let me see if I follow the line of thought you introduced in yesterday’s letter. One point in particular intrigues me. You say that “evangelicalism is the product of modernism.” I had always thought the two were diametrically opposed schools of thought. If I understand what you were saying, however, it seems that, while evangelicalism operates with a different set of presuppositions from modernism, it uses some of the same methodology to make a case for the version of Christianity it represents. Right? Continue reading

The Evidence of Right Belief (The Road to Easter, #9)

Dear Kathryn:

I wasn’t planning to write again until I heard back from you, but the wheels just kept turning after I pressed “send” on yesterday’s letter. Here, then, is a bit more of my thinking about the dynamics of belief, the characteristics of truth, and the marks of authentic faith.

I need to say at the outset that there is nothing scientific about my observations here. It is mainly just a gut response from a guy who has been around the track (or up and down the field, or choose your own metaphor) for a lot of years and has drawn some conclusions from that experience. Continue reading

The Subjective Dimension in Change (On the Road to Easter, #4)

Dear Kathryn:

Before I go further in defining the parameters and describing the particulars of the change in my thinking over the past few years, I want to address one other factor that contributes to the process and experience of change: the subjective dimension. Simply put, we never make a significant change in our beliefs or practices until we feel the need for change. We will never take the risks associated with change until we are convinced, rather more instinctually than intellectually, that change is desirable, possible, and maybe even necessary.

At least that has certainly been true for me. I am today open to the possibility of truth in ideas and concepts that, only a few years ago, I regarded with derision and dismissed with prejudice. My thinking began to change when my circumstances changed, and I was no longer bound emotionally to an earlier pattern of thought and behavior. Continue reading

How Do We Measure the Goodness of God?

Almost every day, one or more of my Facebook friends will post a status update reporting that something good that has happened to them—they got the job, or the test results came back negative, or a family member escaped injury in a serious accident. In most cases, these reports of good fortune include a reference to the goodness of God and an expression of thanks for the blessing of God’s favor.

I have to admit I am troubled by those posts. Oh, I’m happy for their good fortune. God knows there is too much bad news in the world. It’s always heartening to hear of conditions that are improving and circumstances that are not as serious as had been supposed. Good news is always welcome. Continue reading