Media

As Christians in the modern West, we often minimize our resurrection hope when we minimize the profound loss in death. Resurrection hope is radically good news. But we miss its power when push the reality of our mortality to the sidelines. I recall a recent conversation with a pastor who serves in a church made up exclusively of persons in their 20s and 30s. He emphasized, rightly, that the Kingdom of God has come among us, and we are to be involved in the Kingdom of God now. But he realized that after several years at the church, they had never talked about death, or life after death -- it's "here and now" rather than "life after death." If that is the case, what is our "resurrection hope" besides a call to be involved in the Kingdom in the present? That is good as far as it goes. As long as one...

The Church’s Witness in the Midst of Dying and Death Often Christians inhabit a theological vision guided by instrumental outcomes – a growth in the evangelistic and social outreach of the church, a revitalization of community and discipleship. But what happens to the church’s witness when all of our grand plans and visions for change stop short against the brick wall of death? In this lecture, I reflect upon the way in which death, although the last enemy to be destroyed through Christ, also has the possibility of exposing the nature of a Christian hope which goes beyond trusting in our own efforts and plans. https://vimeo.com/156274041 I delivered the lecture at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the "Theology and Ministry" lecture series, dedicated to Carl Henry. It includes many of my recent reflections since the publication of Rejoicing of Lament. In particular, I revisit the significance of the Old Testament witness to human mortality in light of...

In the fall, I spoke in chapel at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, preaching on Colossians 3:1-4 -- a passage which seems particularly significant in this season of Lent, as we seek to remember that we were created from dust, and to dust we shall return, and yet our true hope which is now hidden will one day be made manifest when the resurrected Christ, who is our true life, will appear! "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. "                                            ...

God's work sometimes leads to strange stories. Last night, I was privileged to hear the whole of Handel's Messiah in a local church. Parts of it are so familiar that the drama of the Messiah can take us off guard. What comes right after the "Hallelujah" Chorus, in a section devoted to the Christian life in light of the resurrection? Is it a song about one victor piled upon another? It is a song of expectation, of waiting, of hope -- like in this season of Advent. "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth." But after this line declaring hope in God, the next one is: "And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God." These quotes from Job 19:25-26 remind us that though God's promise is great, and our bodies are very good; yet our bodies...

Is Medicine Our Master? I've been doing quite a bit of reflecting upon the meaning of our mortality as Christians in our contemporary cultural moment. Some of it has been preparing for the Carl Henry lecture that I will deliver at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School on October 21, entitled: "Hope for Mortals: The Church’s Witness in the Midst of Dying and Death." Click here for details. One book that I've found very helpful in giving a portrait of how dying in the contemporary West has been turned into a medical experience is Atul Gawande's Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. Gawande is a Harvard surgeon, and a keen observer of the way in which our society has increasing asked for medicine to "fix" an "unfixable" problem: our mortality. It is a profound meditation upon the gift, yet limits, of medicine. This has influenced my recent reflections upon the meaning of mortality...

Christian Wiman and I have an odd kinship: we were both diagnosed with incurable cancers at the age of 39. Our cancers are very similar, so we can talk shop about chemo, side effects and the bizarre experience of hearing that our lifespan has likely been chopped by decades. We're both parents of young children. And we've both written about our Christian faith in light of our cancer journey -- with Wiman, My Bright Abyss, and with me, Rejoicing in Lament. A few months ago we discussed incurable cancer together as part of an event at Western Theological Seminary. Christian is a poet (former editor of Poetry Magazine), and I am a theologian. In our books, we both turn to poetry in our season of suffering and theological reflection. Christian turned to George Herbert and a score of contemporary poets. I turned to the poetry of the Psalms and Job. Why did we turn to poetry?...

Click here for Brock Tozer's Wednesday Bookmark interview with J. Todd Billings, author of Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ....