The Triumph of Hope Over Fear

Dear Mr. Lough:

I found your last letter both informative and encouraging. I also noticed something else as I was reading it, and I’d like to comment on that before we go further in this series.

In the past—and I base this comment on my experience as your student a few years ago—I think your responses to my questions would have been far more… well… for lack of a better word, academic. Frankly, that’s what I was expecting. Something like the lectures you used to give—carefully structured, logical, filled with scripture references to support your point. But that’s not really what you have been doing in your response to my questions, is it? Continue reading

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Salvation in the Here and Now

Well, Mr. Lough…

I am more than a little intrigued by the final paragraphs in your last letter, so if that was your intention, you succeeded admirably. As you know, a description of human salvation like the one you summarized there is at the very heart of evangelical Christianity. Aren’t you concerned that raising questions about something as basic as how to understand the idea of salvation and how to relate to Jesus as savior will further weaken your ties to the evangelical community? Continue reading

What Exactly Is The Gospel? (Part Two)

Dear Kathryn:

I’m sure that my last letter raised more questions than it answered with regard to the way I define the term “gospel” these days. For that reason, I wanted to get this follow-up letter off to you with dispatch.

I don’t mean to suggest that everybody gets to define the word for himself or herself. What I do mean is that it’s possible we have not fully understood the meaning of the word in its original context in the New Testament, specifically in those first four books that we call “the Gospels.” Continue reading

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

I Do What I Can

There is very little I can do about anything these days. I have no wealth, and I own no property. Financially, my net worth is roughly zero. I have no power and an extremely limited sphere of influence. Seven years without a paying job will do that.

I do have a loving wife who has stood by me without complaint for more than forty-two years, even when things have been really rough and our circumstances difficult to comprehend. I also have an eight-year-old grandson, whom I adore, and a beautiful daughter who is making me proud as a hard-working nurse and single mom. I am trying to do everything I can to pour myself into their lives and to use my limited means and resources to help make their lives richer. Their happiness is my reward. Continue reading

The View from the Other Side

I’ve recently begun to think of my life as a long train ride to a destination about which I know very little for certain, but my impression is that it is a good place to go. Arrival time is not announced, but the older we passengers get, the more the conductor encourages us to be ready to disembark at any time.

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One thing I’ve noticed. For most of this journey so far, I could observe the passing countryside through the windows on one side of the train only. The windows on the other side were obscured in some way. I could see movement through them, but the images appeared blurred or distorted. Continue reading

A New Direction in Simple, Practical Faith

Have you ever noticed that, when you first identify with a new group and adopt its beliefs and tenets as your own, the members of that group commend you for your wisdom and discernment? Later, when your experience and careful consideration lead you to change 1your mind about one or more elements of the group’s shared beliefs, you are regarded as having somehow lost your ability to be wise and discerning. Instead, you have apparently succumbed to influences that have led you into error.

Or, as a friend of mine put it, “I was a prophet right up to the moment I became a heretic.” Continue reading