Periodicals

New strategies for interpreting Scripture turn out to be not so new—and deepen our life in Christ. J. Todd Billings, Christianity Today, October 2011 Awide range of voices claims that a crisis of biblical interpretation is taking place. But contrary to many pundits, the crisis does not simply involve a decline in the Bible's authority. Even when the Bible is turned to as the authority, it's not necessarily interpreted Christianly. Consider, for example, a recent Christian bestseller that offers a "Bible diet." The book claims to enable better concentration, improve appearance, increase energy, and reverse the process of "accelerated aging." To want to improve your appearance and energy level, do you have to be interested in knowing God or Jesus? Of course not. There is nothing intrinsically Christian about the advice. Similar trends appear in Christian books that promise biblical solutions for success in finances, relationships, and family. These books can help Christians see implications...

  “Calvin's Comeback? The Irresistible Reformer” by J. Todd Billings According to a Time magazine article earlier this year, the "New Calvinism" is one of "ten ideas changing the world right now" (March 23). The New Calvinists cited include megachurch pastor and author John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis; R. Albert Mohler Jr., head of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, who has remade the seminary according to a Calvinist agenda; and raw, hip pastor-author Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. The New Calvinism is found in the doctrinal commentary on Web sites like Between Two Worlds, in the notes to the ESV (English Standard Version) Study Bible (World Magazine's 2009 Book of the Year) and in the popular "Passion" conferences featuring the tunes of the David Crowder Band. The New Calvinism movement has reclaimed Puritans like John Owen and Jonathan Edwards. Indeed, in New Calvinist circles, you may...

How can Christian live out the commands of Mathew 25 - without the pity? "I was just at church, and they were praying for the homeless," Larry said, holding the day's belongings in a bag beside him. As the subway screeched to a halt, I heard him quip, "I decided that I should pray for the housed." Larry was sick of handouts, sick of condescension. To Larry, as a longtime guest at the homeless shelter at which I worked, Christian compassion seemed like little more than a masquerade, a power trip for those fortunate enough to be in the seat of the "giver" rather than the "receiver." Larry's complaint about Christian compassion resonates with Friedrich Nietzsche's depiction in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Through the voice of Zarathustra, Nietzsche diagnoses Christian compassion as "pity"—a belittling, demeaning approach to the sufferer that shames rather than restores. Sufferers do not want pity, according to Nietzsche; they don't...

We jettison 'nonessential' theology at our own peril By J. Todd Billings IN A RECENT ecumenical meeting of Christian leaders discussing, theology and worship, two evangelical representatives expressed a shared dilemma: How should they integrate concerns for justice and care for the poor into worship? One complained that modern praise songs do not speak about these issues. Given their nondenominational backgrounds, they were not sure where to turn for help. These evangelicals hit one roadblock that arises when "mere Christianity" severs our ties to theological traditions. At its best, mere Christianity can be summed up by the proverb frequently attributed to Augustine: "In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, charity." Mere Christianity should also remind us to celebrate the oneness of all believers, united through our one head, Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:15). However, mere Christianity will disappoint when it becomes a substitute for the Christian faith: At its worst, mere Christianity shifts...

(meditations on Gregory of Nyssa's "On Virginity") by J. Todd Billings Regeneration Quarterly, 8:2, Winter 2002 No one actually wants to be a virgin. At least that's what you'd think from surfing the channels of popular culture. A virgin wandered onto the set of Seinfeld a few years ago, and after getting over her initial shock, Elaine kindly reached out to her over lunch, filling her in on the rules of casual sex. Virgins are all but silent in the debates of contemporary sexual politics. It is easy to get the sense that just as it is one's right to drink Pepsi and drive a sleek new car, it is one's right to get laid every now and then. It's healthy, isn't it? Good exercise. Invigorating. There is, of course, a counter-movement in conservative Protestant churches, led by parachurch bishop Josh McDowell, that aims at convincing teens to wait until marriage for sex. But let's...