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,…

Is 6-Day Creation the Only Long-term Viable Option? A Response to Tim Challies

[Update: Just to be clear, the Tim Challies quote just below is an excerpt from Thomas Purifoy’s article, not Tim’s own language. Please read this response with that in mind.] I like Tim Challies, and benefit from his blog regularly. Recently he promoted the film Is Genesis History? on Facebook, linking to an article by the film’s director Thomas Purifoy, which includes this assertion: I wanted to offer a few brief thoughts in response, because many of those who read this statement may not be aware of other perspectives on this issue. My comments here come in a larger context…

How Carl Sagan Strengthened My Faith

I’m about 37 years behind on this, but I finally got around to reading Carl Sagan’s Contact (it was originally published in 1980, and made into a film in 1997). I was interested in the book because I’m interested in the larger science-religion relationship in our culture, in which Carl Sagan is a kind of iconic figure. I want to understand scientific worldviews in the way that Atticus Finch talks about as “seeing the world through another person’s eyes”—that is, in a careful, generous, un-caricatured way. Contact, as the best-selling English-language science book of all time, is a good entry…

When Should Doctrine Divide?

For various reasons I’ve been thinking lately about how Christians should relate to each other around secondary doctrines. What kinds of partnership and alliance are appropriate among Christians of different denominations, networks, and/or tribes? What kind of feelings and practices should characterize our attitude to those in the body of Christ with whom we have significant theological disagreements? What does it look like to handle with integrity and transparency personal differences of conviction that may arise with your church, boss, or institution? These kinds of questions have been a significant part of my own denominational and theological journey over the…

A Review of Adam and the Genome

Dennis R. Venema and Scot McKnight, Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture After Genetic Science (BrazosPress, 2017). $19.99. 224pp. The aim of Dennis R. Venema and Scot McKnight’s Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture After Genetic Science is to harmonize the Bible and evolution, particularly with a view to recent genetic evidence and the challenge it poses to traditional beliefs about Adam and Eve. The first four chapters deal with the scientific issues and are authored by Venema, a professor of biology at Trinity Western University associated with the BioLogos Foundation; the next four deal with the Bible and are…

Is “Consistent Preterism” Really Consistent?

Our church is working through I and II Thessalonians, and I recently had the privilege of preaching on II Thessalonians 2:1-12, which is the passage about the infamous “man of lawlessness” whom most people identify more popularly as the “anti-Christ” (terminology from I John) and often also as the “Beast” of Revelation 13. My general strategy for the purposes of preaching was to emphasize application of the principles rather than speculation about the details, although I did wrestle a bit in my study with the more contested issues, particularly the identity of the man of lawlessness and the nature of…

5 Principles for Studying the Trinity

The Trinity has been “trending” lately in the blogosphere. I think that is a good thing insofar as theological debate often leads to greater theological clarity. Rather than wade into the contested areas, I thought it might be helpful to offer a broader, more constructive post for those of us (like myself) who, particularly in light of the controversy, see our need to keep “beefing up” our understanding of the Trinity. So here are 5 basic principles that I have reflected on in my own study of the Trinity that may be helpful for others. I have in mind especially…

If God Made the World, Why is it So Old?

According to standard geological timeframes, we human beings are a thing of yesterday. I remember reading somewhere (I cannot remember where) that if earth’s history were compressed into a 24-hour day, then all of human history would comprise roughly the last two seconds of that day (not two minutes). Amazing. From the perspective of sheer time, Planet Earth has had much more to do with sponges swaying in the ocean or spiders scurrying along the forest floor than human beings engaging in relationship and art and worship. As a Christian theologian, I have really wrestled with this. Sure, our relatively…

Is Animal Suffering and Death Before the Fall Bad?

Perhaps the most momentous issue involved in the debate between young-earth creationists and various varieties of old-earth creationists is animal death/suffering before the human fall. In his book A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, David Snoke writes, “in my experience, this is [i.e., whether animals died before Adam and Eve sinned] is the fundamental issue of Bible interpretation caught up in the debate.” My experience has been the same as Snoke’s. It is here, in the realm of animal death/suffering, that we push through the hermeneutical issues of how to read Genesis 1 into the deeper consequences of different…