Five Books to Read by Church Fathers

One of the questions I get a lot about theological retrieval is where to start. Lots of people see the value of reading ancient texts but are unsure exactly where to dive in. So I thought it might be useful to identify five classic texts from the church fathers that (1) are significant, theologically and historically, (2) are relatively easy to read and understand, and (3) in some cases tend to get neglected. Any list like this is bound to be somewhat arbitrary and leave important works out, so take this all with a grain of salt. But these works…

Theological Retrieval for Apologetics

In my Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals I give a number of reasons why I think retrieving the theology of the historic church is valuable in our culture right now. One that I don’t discuss, but have been thinking more about lately, is its role in apologetics and cultural dialogue. People tend to think of theological retrieval as primarily an academic interest, but I think it is useful in a wide variety of practical contexts, including apologetics. Here are two great examples of retrieval “at work.” First, in his 2009 debate with Christopher Hitchens, which I have enjoyed watching many times,…

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.”…

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,…

What Can We Learn About Democracy From John Adams?

Somebody once advised me that one of the best ways to learn history is to read biographies, and I’ve found that to prove generally helpful advice. The particular is the path to the universal: you set out to learn about a person, and you end up being sucked up into the larger world in which they lived. For instance, you read a biography of Augustine, and you can’t help but learn about the intellectual life of Carthage, the impact of the fall of the Roman Empire on Christianity, and so forth; or you read Marsden’s history of the first two…

Thoughts on the Enlightenment

My most recent doctoral seminar has been a study of the Enlightenment and its impact on the church. Its been fascinating. The Enlightenment is that period of history, especially in Western Europe and her related colonies, from about 1620-1800, in which fundamentally new ways of thought and life came about, resulting in the shift from what is commonly called “premodernism” to what is commonly called “modernism.” It was a multifaceted change, at once intellectual, cultural, technological, etc.—and one of the abiding lessons I take away from the seminar is how complex and multiform the Enlightenment was. Nevertheless, I think one…

Grateful for learning about CCCC

I’m currently in the process of seeking to have my ordination recognized by the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC). As of a letter in the mail today, my application has been approved and I’ve now entered into the required one year waiting period before obtaining full ordained ministerial standing in the denomination. To learn more about CCCC, I’ve been reading Modern Day Pilgrims: The First Fifty Years of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (Saint Paul, MN: CCCC, 2000). Its been a fascinating read, and I’ve really resonated with much of what I’m learning about CCCC. Here are several things that…