Four Reasons Evangelicals Should Still Read Karl Barth

During my first year of seminary I discovered Karl Barth. He was grappling with theological challenges that were new to me, he was operating within a theological tradition that was largely foreign to me (names like Ritschl, von Harnack, etc. meant nothing to me at that time), and there was an aura about his approach to theology that felt reverent and profound. I became intensely interested. Many an afternoon of 2006 and 2007 was spent struggling through Romans and Church Dogmatics—and then onto the secondary literature, especially Bruce McCormack. With enough distance from that episode now to have some critical…

8 Ways to Find Sermon Illustrations

Every preacher knows the feeling of needing an illustration, but not having anything handy. Even if you have good systems for capturing and filing illustrations, you will inevitably have moments where nothing is in your notes, and you cannot think of anything spontaneously. I know some people are against illustrations, and certainly they can be abused. For instance, we can be tempted to rely on illustrations too much out of a desire to make our sermons more engaging or emotional. But I’m convinced that there is also a way to go about illustrating that is honoring the text of Scripture,…

Pastors Should Like People (Not Just Love Them)

Affection should be a part of ministry. It was for Paul: “I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:8) “being affectionately desirous of you … because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 1:8). Affection isn’t quite identical to kindness or even love. In these verses, for instance, affection involves yearning (Philippians 1:8), desire, and dearness (1 Thessalonians 1:8). Put it this way: to do ministry well, you need to not only love people, but like them. You need to give your heart to them. But amidst the strains and seasons of ministry, it is easy for affection…

Why We Misunderstand the Beatific Vision

I’ve been reading Hans Boersma’s helpful and interesting book Seeing God: The Beatific Vision in Christian Tradition (Eerdmans 2018). For a while I’ve been wanting to learn more about this intriguing and often neglected doctrine, so now I’m finally getting around to it. The beatific vision is widespread throughout the early and medieval church, East and West, and into Protestantism (especially the Reformed tradition). Yet many evangelical today have never heard of it, or misunderstand it. As Kyle Strobel puts it, “few doctrines are as ‘standard’ in the history of theology, and ignored in contemporary theology, as the beatific vision.”…

Another Ortlund Update

God has blessed us during our year in the Chicago suburbs. In July Esther and I celebrated 10 years of marriage at the very restaurant at which I proposed to her in downtown Chicago (pictured right). In August little Elijah joined us. I will never forget walking around the neighborhood just outside the hospital in Highland Park, filled with joy and amazement at being a family of 5! Unbelievable. God has been so good to us. We purchased a minivan, which makes me feel like an official “dad.” I became quite adept at chucking snacks into the back row while…

God Whispers In All of Life

I think logic and argument can suggest God. I have personally benefited a lot from apologists like William Lane Craig who do this so well. But, of course, this is not the only way to suggest God. It is possible to make God plausible, not as the conclusion of a thread of reasoning, but as the premise of human experience. This approach says, in effect, “if God does not exist, so much of life—so much of what we simply assume everyday in the way we function—becomes mysterious and inexplicable.” Such a strategy is often rationally avoidable. But that does not…

Is the Bible Pro-Slavery?

“The Bible is pro-slavery.” This is a common charge these days. It is a part of the New Atheist attack on religion, and it also comes from various progressive circles to defend certain social views (in line with the so-called redemptive-movement hermeneutic). It is not an incomprehensible claim. In fact, it has some apparent, face value support—and not just in Old Testament law regulations, but in New Testament epistles written by the very apostles of Jesus Christ: Ephesians 6:5: “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters” (all translations ESV). Colossians 3:22: “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters.” I Peter 2:18: “Servants,…