Periodicals

What does it mean to live as mortal creatures? It is a timeless question, but the answers will vary greatly depending upon the era and place in which you live. Atul Gawande gives an extremely illuminating account of the contemporary opportunities and challenges for living as mortal creatures in his book, Being Mortal. I wrote an engagement with the book in Comment Magazine -- you can read from it below, or click here for the full article:   Why is the experiment of turning dying into a medical experience failing? When medicine becomes the heroic master over human life rather than its servant, it crowds out the space otherwise filled by family and faith communities. Gawande contrasts our current practice of dying in institutions with the practices in India as his grandfather faced death. His grandfather displayed the characteristic Indian pattern of dying: he lived with his extended family as an elder—seen as a source...

In our suffering, we find comfort in God's impassibility Note: This last week, First Things Magazine opened an article of mine for non-subscribers that was published in December of 2014. It includes material that was adapted from chapter nine of Rejoicing in Lament. I focus upon Christ's lament on the cross as the culmination of all biblical laments. In the end, I make that case that a commonly misunderstood doctrine -- divine impassibility -- can provide deep comfort to the suffering. This is a section from that article. When Christ on the cross laments with the Psalmist, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” his desolation means that when we pray this ourselves, we are not in a free fall, even when it feels that way. We can utter a cry of unspeakable anguish and yet maintain a profound hope, because, in Christ, God himself has taken on our human suffering, including our alienation...

As Christians, we often pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in the hospital. This is as it should be. But how do we pray? And how do we pray when we are in the hospital bed ourselves? I've reflected a lot on these questions since my cancer diagnosis 3.5 years ago. It has not been in the abstract, but has related to my own praying, and praying for others. In the fall, Leadership Journal asked for me to address the question of how to pray for those with incurable conditions, in particular. You can find my article in response here. This last week, I published a book review of a small book which takes on the question in a more general sense: how God meets us in the hospital, and how to pray in that context. The book is John Piper's newest, Lessons from a Hospital Bed. On the one hand,...

 When disaster hits, it does not feel or look like God the King is ordaining what is right. The words of Psalm 102 stung, but they were nevertheless my prayer. The Lord “has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days. ‘O my God,’ I say, ‘do not take me away at the midpoint of my life, you whose years endure throughout all generations.’” My wife and I had just celebrated our tenth anniversary and were the proud parents of lively 1- and 3-year-olds. But then I was diagnosed with cancer. A lethal cancer. An incurable cancer. The psalms of lament soon became a companion to myself and others traveling that journey with me—as all of our emotions of grief, anger, and alienation were brought before the Lord. “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Ps. 13:1). After discovering that the...

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. –C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses In my theology classes, I often assign works from 4th- and 5th-century theologians debating about Christ and the trinity. These theologians stand in awe before the reality of the Triune God – they stutter with words of poetry and praise as they worship Christ the Lord. They meditate on the astonishing scriptural truth that we have been made adopted sons and daughters of the Almighty King, through the power of the...

Loss. A car accident -- with a "recovery" expected to last five years. Maybe ten. Maybe for the rest of this mortal life. Poverty -- not just for a year, but for generations. One generation after another. Obsession -- always needing another dozen Facebook likes, a new drug, a new "god" that leaves one hungry for more. Response to problems like these often comes in one form: advice. Do this, don't do that. Here are the steps to healing and success. Our own day has seen a revival of short, pithy proverbs -- with advice about "five steps to be happy" or "six ways to financial security" going viral through social media. Often, the way that Christians approach the Bible fits the same mold: we approach the Bible as a divine self-help manual, with a collection of Bible verses to give us advice to help us live healthier, happier lives. Indeed, good advice is a...

What if our mission is not to 'be Jesus' to other cultures, but to join with the Holy Spirit? By J. Todd Billings In recent decades, scores of books, manuals, and websites advocating "incarnational ministry" have encouraged Christians to move beyond ministry at a distance and to "incarnate" and immerse themselves into local cultures. Some give a step-by-step "incarnation process" for Christians crossing cultures. Some call us to become incarnate by "being Jesus" to those around us. Indeed, many of these resources display valuable insights into relational and cross-cultural ministry. But there are serious problems at the core of most approaches to "incarnational ministry"—problems with biblical, theological, and practical implications. I encountered these problems myself as a practitioner of "incarnational ministry." At a Christian college, I was told that just as God became flesh in a particular culture 2,000 years ago, my job was to become "incarnate" in another culture. Eight months later,...

In what way is "union with Christ" a sum of the gospel? For an exploration of that and related questions, check out this interview posted December 15, 2011 with Trevin Wax about Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church. For a link to the article click here....