I Don’t Want to Die Alone

Dear Mr. Lough:

Thank you so much for your last two letters in which you shared a thoughtful and heartfelt response to my question about how you would define the gospel. The more I have thought about what you wrote, the more I appreciate not only what you shared but also the courage it takes to change your mind about such important matters at this point in your career.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting that you are old or that your ministry is over. I only mean that it is unusual to observe such dramatic change in perception in anybody, much less someone who has spent a lifetime in pursuit of a very different vision. Continue reading

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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

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 Biggest Change I’ve Made (On the Road to Easter, #8)

Dear Mr. Lough:

Thank you for sharing with me your current thinking about the place of the Bible in the life of the Christian and the church. I will need some time to ponder all that you wrote, but I have already found it helpful and thought-provoking. So, let me ask you this. Would you say that your attitude toward the Bible is the area where you have experienced the greatest change in the past ten years? If not, would you care to say what does fit that description?

Peace, Kathryn. Continue reading

The Role of the Bible in the Church of the Future (On the Road to Easter, #7)

Dear Kathryn:

I know you are eager to explore some of the specific topics and issues where my current thinking shows marked change from the positions I held a few years ago. I am too. Before we go there, however, just a bit more about the change in my attitude toward the Bible.

The Bible, especially the New Testament, is really the church’s book. The church produced it, in the sense that real human beings, presumably active in the life of the early church, wrote the documents that have been compiled into the form we have today. They each wrote at a particular moment in history, and their thinking was shaped by the political, religious, and cultural influences of their day. Continue reading

What Kind of a Book is the Bible? (On the Road to Easter, #6)

Dear Mr. Lough:

Monday’s note was extremely helpful. It explained a lot to me about the direction and content of your thought and writing these days. What Would Jesus Do? It’s simple, succinct, elegant, and yet comprehensive in its own way. But it also raises a follow-up question, if I may. How do we know for sure what Jesus would do?

I mean, he lived two thousand years ago in a culture far different from ours. Yes, we have the Gospels that tell us most of what we know about the life and teaching of Jesus. But if all we need to do is read what the Gospels tell us about what Jesus said and did, why is there so much disagreement, even among Christians, about what it means to follow the example of Jesus today. Continue reading