Here Comes the Sun

Dear Kathryn:

It has been five days since my last letter to you. In that time, you have sent three notes to me, and I wanted to let you know that I received them. Each one posed thoughtful questions with regard to my current views on important issues, and I thank you for sending them.

In response to my two letters in which I tried to answer the question “What exactly is the Gospel?” you asked me to say more about how I understand the term “salvation.” You wondered what I believe was accomplished through the death of Jesus on the cross, and you asked what I now believe about hell as a place of conscious torment and punishment for those who die in their unbelief. Those questions were all in the first of your three recent notes. 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

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

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

Our Debt To St. Patrick

Like most Americans my age, I was introduced to the word Celtic as the name of Boston’s NBA franchise.  About twenty years ago, however, like most Americans my age, I learned two things.  First, the Boston team has been mispronouncing its own name (it should be “Keltic,” not “Seltic”).  And second, whatevCeltic-Tribes-in-Europeer the word Celtic meant, it had gained enormous popularity and commercial success.  Wherever I went, I ran into something Celtic—Celtic music, Celtic crosses, Celtic art and jewelry, Celtic spirituality.  Although the craze is subsiding a bit by now, the past twenty-five years have been mainly a boom time for all things Celtic.

In the centuries before Christ, the Celts occupied much of what is now central Europe, extending into Spain in the west and Turkey in the east. Many scholars believe that the Galatians, to whom Paul addressed his New Testament letter, were a part of this Celtic people group.

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All We Lack Is The Will

According to Wikipedia,

World Vision International is an Evangelical Christian relief, development, and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. Inspired by Christian values, they are dedicated to working with the world’s most vulnerable people. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender.

Ever since I was a child, I have known about the work of World Vision. I remember, as a young adolescent growing up in the hills of southern West Virginia, poring over the pictures and the articles in the World Vision magazine as soon as it arrived every month. In those days, not long after World Vision came into existence in 1950 as the outgrowth of the vision of Bob Pierce, their work focused mainly on caring for the needs of children in South Korea who were orphaned as a result of World War II and the Korean Conflict. Continue reading

The Wrong Way Around

DC MallLast fall, I attended a conference in Washington, DC. I traveled between my (less expensive) hotel and the conference venue on the Metro, Washington’s subway system. I love riding the Metro, even though this once-state-of-the-art means of mass transit needs some upgrading and refurbishing. I get to the DC area so infrequently, however, that I need to re-learn the procedures for buying tickets, boarding the trains, reading the system map, etc., each time I visit.

On my last trip, I was returning to my hotel at the end of a long, tiring day. As I attempted to move through the Metro turnstile at Dupont Circle, the machine refused to accept my ticket. I reinserted it several times. The turnstile would not budge, and a line was forming behind me. I was flummoxed.

Continue reading