The Bostian Bunch 2013

Everybody is happy on Santa's lap. Well, almost everybody.
Greetings from the Texas Hill Country,

Can you believe another year has come and gone?  We surely cannot.  We have now called San Antonio home for nearly four years.  Our children are getting so spoiled by all that this great city has to offer (the mild winters, rivers, parks, hills and culture).  I didn't realize how accustom they had become to the area till the children thought that 45 degrees was too chilly to be outside, at the same time our Dallas friends and family were experiencing "Icemageddon 2013".  This year we have enjoyed the outdoors, especially as Vera has begun to get more mobile and enjoys her backpack carrier.


Miracles and Minds, Science Fiction and Scientific Probability

Dr. Manhattan ponders the possibility of miracles by reading this absurdly long essay.
For years I have wanted to deal with one of the greatest philosophical and pragmatic objections to the idea of "revealed" religion. This objection is second only, in my opinion, to the question of "theodicy": How can a supposedly loving and powerful Creator allow his creation to suffer and die in such excruciating and wasteful ways? I will briefly return to this "greatest of all" objections at the end of the essay.

This "second greatest" objection makes "revealed religion" of any type-- whether Christian or non-Christian-- appear foolish, hokey, folksy, credulous, silly, superstitious, and fundamentally ignorant of the way the world works. This, of course, is the objection against miracles. Because if miracles are impossible, and therefore false, it renders any kind of Divine intervention or communication impossible and false. And if there is no Divine communication, then all religions that claim to be based on it are fundamentally flawed.

I would like to deal with this objection from my unique threefold perspective: First of all, as someone who has grown up in the fastest era of technological change known to humanity. Second of all, as someone whose favorite genre of literature is science fiction. And thirdly, as a committed if somewhat progressive follower of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. I think these perspectives can help us understand the issue in a way that avoids the pitfalls of merely rejecting miracles on one hand, and accepting illogical and impossible claims of the miraculous on the other.


Jesus is not Superman: Virgin Conception and the full humanity of Christ

Tanner's painting of the Annunciation, which is may favorite artistic depiction.

When I posted elsewhere on a discussion of the Virgin Conception, one responder had a very unique take on the matter. Since Jesus had to do miracles and eventually rise from the dead, the responder reasoned, then Jesus had to be something other than human: Something super-human. And so he wrote: "The virgin birth establishes that Jesus is not really a human."

I can see how someone might get there, if they were positing that Jesus is essentially some kind of "superman" who merely appears to be human but is really invincible. The interesting thing is that this is not the direction that either Matthew nor Luke take the Virgin Conception, and a "superman" version of the Incarnation was sternly rejected by all seven of the original Ecumenical Councils.


On the Virgin Conception of Christ

One of my favorite classical paintings of the Annunciation.

Tis the Season to bring up the perennial question of whether or not Jesus was in fact conceived by a literal, physical virgin upon his first Advent among us. Every year this question gets raised. And every year no decisive answer is given which will convince all sides, including atheists, skeptics, liberal Christians, conservative Christians, and religious others.

And, by the way: The miracle was not the Virgin BIRTH, which is merely the physical act of activating certain muscles and pushing the infant out. Rather, the miracle at stake is the Virgin CONCEPTION: Becoming pregnant without any male sperm present in the first place. This is the context of what we are actually talking about.

So, I will proffer my answer among the cacophony of voices, knowing it will probably only convince the convinced. If you are tired of this question, I will give you the spoiler: I think that the most probable explanatory hypothesis is that Mary was indeed a physical virgin when she conceived Jesus. My faith would not be shattered if this was not the case, and I think there are other ways we could affirm the Divinity of Jesus without virgin conception. But given the rather sparse evidence we have on the matter, in light of the rather large amount of data (proportionally) we can draw on to assert Jesus' Divinity, I am inclined to say Jesus was "born of the Virgin Mary" as the Creed says.

Yet, I have often heard five criticisms of the Virgin Conception:


Is God necessary for Adult Morality?

The Paper Sack Kant could not write himself out of.

It is with quite some regularity that I read or hear a well meaning Christian say "If you don't have God, then anything is permitted! God is necessary as a basis of morality!" This quote is often attributed to Dostoyevsky  in "The Brothers Karamazov", although he never exactly wrote it. Rather, it is a helpful summary of the moral outlook of Ivan Karamazov in the early chapters of the book.

Now, as a Christian I think that positing an Infinite Source of Love at the core of the Universe-- the Triune God-- is the most satisfying metaphysical grounding for why altruistic Love and Compassion are essentially good. And furthermore, I find it incredibly instructive to posit that this Love became incarnate in a particular life, so we could see this Love embodied and exemplified.


Why Epistemology could help save or damn us all

A Weather Map: Not helpful in driving from Dallas to Chicago. You will see why this is important later on.

There are many ways to divide and categorize human groupings. Some of the major ways to group humans these days are "religious" versus "secular" and "conservative" versus "liberal". And then much ink and many words are spilt over how these types of divisions are absolute and share nothing in common with each other. Hence the "culture wars".

I actually think that these divisions tell us very little about how people in these groups actually function.

I think a far better dividing line-- at least at this juncture in history-- is to look at how people do epistemology, and divide people into two epistemic tendencies: Probablists versus Infallibilists.


On Religious Monuments in Public Places

Paul among the philosophers in the open market of religious ideas in Acts 17.

This weekend Mark Silk editorialized on some of the recent hubbub over erecting religious monuments in public places. This endless back and forth battle over secular spaces raises the question for me: Where would be the dividing line between displays of religion and displays of ideology, and displays of, say, remembrance.

For instance, regarding ideology: If I wanted to erect statues of prominent American deists who signed the Declaration of Independence, as a testament to how deism contributed to American constitutionalism, would that be in violation? Or, even weirder, if I wanted to construct a giant right triangle to celebrate the contributions of Pythagoras to mathematics, would that be a violation (especially since he did found his own religion)?

An Offensive Sermon

Bansky's family picnic: As offensive as Jesus' meals, for the opposite reasons.

For Third Advent, Year A. Based on Luke 1:46-55 (the Magnificat), James 5:7-10, and Matthew 11:2-11.

And Jesus said "Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me." To which someone in the crowd immediately mumbled under their breath "Who does this guy think he is anyway? The Son of God?"

Today I want to deliver an offensive sermon. No, not in the sense that I want to offend you. I don't want to offend anyone here. And if you are offended by what I say today, please, blame it on Fr. Chuck. But, instead of being offensive myself, I want to talk about the kinds of things that offend US, and what on earth people could possibly find offensive about JESUS.


A Christmas Blessing

I gave this blessing at our wonderful TMI choir and band concert, right before we sang silent night. I liked it so I thought I would share:

And so, from the TMI family to your family: May God our Father grant to you and yours a blessed Christmas season; May the peace and joy of the Christ child make your holidays bright; And may the very Spirit of Christmas fill your heart and home, and give you Joyful days and Silent nights.



Unique among the Religions?

Today I preached a sermon on the "Seven Gifts of the Christian Faith". In it I outlined seven core ideas of the Christian Faith, which bring a rich depth to thinking about God, morality and spirituality, and which are unique among worldviews. These seven ideas form the basis of a robust Christian systematic theology, which link together Biblical and Historical ideas in a cohesive, consistent, constructive explanation of why the world is the way it is.

At some point in the future, I will turn these seven ideas into a series of essays or perhaps even a book. But for summary's sake, here is a brief description of these seven unique ideas (you can also see how they are linked in the chart above):

TRINITY: God is an eternal community of shared Love between the Father, Son, and Spirit, in infinite goodness, truth, and beauty.

AGAPE LOVE: Unconditional Love is the reason for our creation, why we are given freedom, and why God heals us when we misuse our freedom.

INCARNATION: To show us the depth of God's Love and heal us, God empties Godself and becomes human in the person of Jesus the Messiah.

SUBSTITUTION: In Jesus, God takes into Godself the full consequences of our sin, suffering, and death, by suffering with humans, for humans, as a human.

RESURRECTION: The Love of God is stronger than death, shown in Jesus' return from the grave, which guarantees the promise of our own resurrection.

SACRAMENT: The Holy Spirit shares Christ's life with us through tangible activities that continue the mission of the Incarnation in the world today.

ATONEMENT: God's ultimate desire is to make us at-one with God, through Jesus, in the Spirit, as we share fully in the eternal life of the Trinity.

After preaching the sermon, a close friend of mine noted that it is a "terrific summary of Christian theology", yet that "the individual items are not all unique, but the combination of the seven certainly is". This is a great observation that raises the question: Just how unique is the Christian worldview anyway? Are these concepts completely without parallel in other religions and worldviews?


Faith and Hope and the Tightrope of Love

Love is dangerous, risky, and infinitely costly to the self. Precisely because it is the giving of self away to the Other, for the Other, in the Other. Why should we give ourselves away in this manner? Why is Love worth the risk? Why would it not be better to act in self-interest, rather than loose yourself in what may in the end be a futile effort?

Is there a good reason we should sing with the Song of Solomon:

"Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned." [Song 8.6-7]


Two Christian Views on Same-Sex Relationships

It's a "Modern Family", but is it a "Biblical" family? Depends on how you read the Bible! 

I wrote both of the following mini-essays at various times in my journey with Jesus. They reflect two different viewpoints on the same issue held by one person over time. There are thoughtful, Christ-centered, Biblical Christians on both sides of this issue. Those who support gays and lesbians may find the first essay offensive, while those who challenge them may feel the same about the second essay. I will begin with a brief look at the only Scripture passages which deal with the issue of same-sex intercourse.

After that, I will move on to present two different Christian interpretations, derived from Scripture and attempting to be faithful to Scripture. The first challenges gays and lesbians on the issue of sexuality and sin, while welcoming them in faith to support them in their struggle. The second welcomes our gay brothers and lesbian sisters in the faith, and sees their sexuality as a gift from God that is as different from heterosexuality as celibacy is. This second essay is a concise summary of research I explored more deeply in another essay on Homosexuality and the Christian Faith.


Homosexual Activity and Christian Faith: On the issue of Gay and Lesbian Inclusion

A helpful infographic summarizing marriage laws in the Old Testament.


In my ministry to young adults and college students, I get into the conversation at least once a month about two "big" issues: First, people ask me all the time "Who is going to hell?" (which is actually a deeper question about the love of God). Second, people ask me "What does the Bible say about homosexuality?" (which is also a deeper question about God's love and purpose for creation). I have found these questions are at the tip of the iceberg for a whole complex of deeper issues beneath the surface. And they are actually tied together in a deep way, because the Church has been going through "hell" in our constant arguments about what the proper Christian response is to the struggles of gays and lesbians.

Although I deal with the issue of hell in other places, I will attempt to answer the homosexuality question right now. Until recently, the answer to this question has often fallen on one of two "simplistic" sides: The "conservative" side and the "liberal" side. On the conservative side have been people who claim to take the Bible seriously, and thus do exactly what it says, as if it were some kind of legal textbook. And, in most English translations, the Bible seems to clearly condemn same-sex intercourse, therefore gays and lesbians must be condemned if they act on their sexual orientation. On the liberal side have been people who claim to take social justice and inclusion seriously, and therefore they deny, ignore, or simply explain away as "outdated" those Scripture passages which seem to contradict their pursuit of inclusion. Thus, in this (false!) dichotomy, the conservatives are guilty of failing to show love and mercy to actual people, and the liberals are guilty of failing to take seriously God's revelation of Godself in Scripture.

But what if there is a way to take Scripture seriously, and also fully include gays and lesbians in the Church? In fact, what if taking Scripture seriously- even literally- actually led to the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of God's people? That is what I intend to explore.

A fair word of warning: This essay is quite long and tries to take into account a huge swath of relevant Scriptural, historical and theological data. If you would like something a bit short, see my essay on Two Christian Views on Same Sex Relationships, or even more concise (but a bit simplified) is this five minute video by Matthew Vines. With that said, let us begin:


Divine Infinity and Human Epektasis

Jacob's Ladder: A common symbol for the ascent into God's Infinity (epektasis)

If God is infinite, how can we relate to such a God? How does the infinity of God relate to our ultimate growth and development as sentient beings "made in God's image"? Does the infinity of God, the boundless depths of Divine Love, open for us any surprising developments for our own spiritual progress? If God is in some sense a field of infinite potential that invites us ever-deeper, what implication does this have for spiritual projects that stress the "unchanging" nature of God and spiritual truth? Can one hold any "unchanging" ideas about God and still embrace a universe that is characterized by change and flow and evolution?

All of these questions have been swirling around my head for a couple of years now. And I want try and connect the Triune God, Divine Infinity, Change and Development, Cosmic Evolution, and Epektasis (the continual pursuit of God by the human soul). The following essay will seek to elucidate a systemic connection between these ideas based upon material in Scripture and Christian Theology, while touching upon certain themes in philosophy, biology, and physics. And we shall start by postulating that the God revealed in Jesus Christ is Infinite:


On gods and Aesthetics, Psalms and Theosis

Happy heavenly birthday Jack! Pray for us down here!

Today in honor of the 50th anniversary of CS Lewis' transposition from earthly life into the greater life of God, I preached a sermon on the idea of humans becoming "gods" which is found in several of CS Lewis' writings, but most especially in his sermon "The Weight of Glory". The texts I chose to speak on were the following:

1Corinthians 4.6-18: "For it is God who... has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ... For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure..."

Psalm 82.6: I say, "You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you..."

John 10.34-36: Jesus answered [his opponents], "Is it not written in your Law, 'I said you are gods'"? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?


Textual Evidence for Scriptural Reliability

Click to see a chart comparing the NT to other ancient texts.
These are my lecture notes on the question of how reliable the New Testament texts are, and a layman's introduction to textual criticism of the Bible.

It is often popular to claim that the NT text was corrupted by centuries of hand copying, and to point out the thousands of small differences between ancient copies as evidence of this. This is the claim often made by Mythicists (who claim that Jesus was wholly invented by early Christians) as well as more revisionist scholars (such as Bart Ehrman or "The Jesus Seminar"). But is this the case? It turns out, upon deeper inspection, that the Bible, especially the NT, is the most reliably copied book before the Printing Press (and the most printed after). Jewish and Christian Scriptoriums had meticulous standards to ensure copyist accuracy, and produced far more copies than any ancient book.


The Golden Rule across cultures

Ummm. Not THAT Golden Rule.

The following are some lecture notes for a discussion on "The Golden Rule" as Jesus presents it in the "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7). In this lecture, I am trying to connect the ethics of Jesus with the central concerns of other world cultures:

Most cultures and religions have ethical systems that, at their core, are based on an idea of equality and reciprocity. This idea was first delivered to me in earnest by CS Lewis in his little book "The Abolition of Man". In the appendix, Lewis put a cross cultural sampling of moral teachings he labelled "The Tao" (a Chinese word meaning "The Way" or more appropriately "The Way to be Good or Moral"). The central section of "The Tao" for me was what Lewis calls "The Law of Reciprocity", which is often better known as "The Golden Rule".


Why Studying Theology is good for EVERYONE

A colleague recently sent me a great article from the Atlantic on why everyone should "Study Theology, Even If You Don't Believe in God". I think it made several great points which I agree with wholly. I read it and it is very much in line with what I frequently tell people who ask me about theology and religious studies.

However, there are a couple of things I would also like to add about why Theology is for everyone, because everyone is a theologian (a point first brought home to me by Stanley Grenz in his book "Who Needs Theology?"). My standard schtick on the study of theology is this:


On beauty after becoming gods

"Napalm" by Banksy. Is even this art? Read the end of the essay.
I will take a stab at a theory of postmodern aesthetics, although I haven't read aesthetics intentionally nor can I name names. Nevertheless, I have thought about issues of meaning, power, ideology, semiotics, and representation from folks like Baudrillard and Zizek on the left, to Tolkien-esque mythopoetic folks on the right. And my job lends itself to dealing with aesthetics and "pop culture" on a regular basis as a sort of mediator between the worlds of the sacred and the mundane; Between the dimensions of the "real" (everyday human experience), the "hyper-real" (or virtual, or representational), and the "hypo-real" (the "ground of being", or founding Reality).

For me the contemporary aesthetic question can be summed up as: "What is beauty now that we are gods?"


Jesus and Mythology: Three Views

The following are my lecture notes on the issue of "Jesus and Mythology". They are somewhat fragmentary and could be filled out in great detail if I had time to write a book. But I don't. So here are my notes on the question: How is the Jesus of the Bible related to the Mythology found in ancient cultures?

One of the earliest theological views of the relationship of Jesus to what we would now call "world religions" was surprisingly positive. Greek theologians such as Justin Martyr, Clement, and Origen consistently taught that the Spirit of God has planted "seeds" of the Word of God (Greek: "logoi spermatikoi") in all people, all cultures, and thus all religions.


Bible Memorization Rap

Click above to see a Rap Song I wrote to help students memorize the Bible, its major and minor divisions, and the major types of literature found in the Bible. Copyright (c) 2013 Nathan L. Bostian

Here are the lyrics:


God of the Gaps or God as Singularity?

Many skeptics (and thoughtful Christians) find problems with the model of God as a "God of the Gaps". By this, they mean a God who periodically invades history to keep the universe running when the complexity of the physics gets beyond our current ability to model. I agree that "God of the gaps" is a bad idea, both because of what it does to our image of God and what it does to human learning. However, I would also caution against understanding the universe as such a closed-system that it rules out interactions with other dimensions in an "a priori" manner irrespective of the evidence.


Ethics precedes Metaphysics and constitutes Epistemology

The following mediation uses quite a bit of philosophical jargon. It is based on two propositions I have been playing with for a while in my mind, which seek to provide a relation between three major area of philosophy: Ethics (how we act), Metaphysics (what we know about Ultimate Reality), and Epistemology (how we know). I'm not entirely sure what I think about these propositions, or how they relate to my theology as a whole. And the only way to figure it out is to write it out. So, here is attempt #1.

Proposition 1: Ethics precedes Metaphysics and constitutes Epistemology.

Proposition 2: We choose therefore we are, and our choices shape how and what we can know.


On Sharing Faith with Mormons

A friend of mine recently wrote me and asked for some advice on "witnessing" with some Mormon missionaries who had come to his home several times. I want to share what I shared with him, because it represents what I find to be the central flaws in Latter Day Saint theology.

However, I must preface this by saying that I have the utmost respect for many Mormons I have known and worked with for their commitment to their faith, to Jesus, to their families, and to moral integrity. They set a lifestyle example that many Christians should learn from. In terms of many moral issues, you would find me in total agreement with Mormons. Yes, I differ with them when I drink coffee and have beer with dinner. And yes, I would expand the definition of family beyond what Mormons would, to include families with two dads or two moms. But as far as core moral values of integrity, love, compassion, justice, and commitment to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ: I would be in full agreement.

Where we differ is in the explanation of WHY these moral values are core to life. We may agree on the practice of moral integrity. And we may agree on many details of Old Testament and New Testament history. But we differ as to the theory of history and view of God that upholds this moral practice and this Biblical narrative.


Scriptural Resources for Ecological Stewardship

A science teacher who I work with asked me to compile some Biblical resources on the stewardship of Creation. Since there are few good lists on this topic on the Internet (they usually include sparse Biblical references and LOTS of commentary), I decided to post this. It's kind of a bare-bones, "just the facts ma'am" list of Biblical resources on ecology, along with some prayers from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. I hope you find it useful for sermon or lesson prep.


Creation and Evolution, Science and Scripture

The following is an introductory essay I use in many of my classes to approach the questions raised by Science and Scripture. At the end I have included discussion questions based on the essay.

When studying the Story of God written in Scripture, one of the major questions that is often raised is: How does this Story relate to other stories that try to explain the world we live in? There are many stories found in other worldviews that seek to explain the world. But there is one other really big Story that has been accepted by most of the world since the 1800's: The Story of Evolution as told by scientific investigation. Both scripture and science speak of how humanity came to be, but they use different language to talk about it. Thus, what they say often sounds very different.


We greet God in the Face of "The Other"

Over the past couple of years I have been thinking about how to integrate some of the major themes of postmodern ethical theory into a genuinely Trinitarian, Incarnational worldview. Although I know whole forests of trees have been cut down to make books which (over)analyze these concepts, I would like to put forward some short and sweet recommendations about how to integrate these concepts into a Classically Christian spirituality.

My meditation will center around concepts of welcome, embrace, inclusion, tolerance, difference, "other"-ness (le autre), and "the face of the other" as popularized by thinkers such as Jacques Derrida, Jack Caputo, and Emmanuel Lévinas, and expanded and critiqued by theorists like Slavoj Žižek.


What does prayer do?

This is a theological meditation on something that I have been pondering for a while now: How can we conceive of prayer working if we operate within a contemporary scientific understanding of physics? Can a physicist- or anyone else- really pray and mean it? Or is prayer simply a form of talking to ourselves at a deep level?


The Good Old Days were not so good

The other day my dad sent me an email that reminisces about how good, and simple, and inexpensive things were when he was a boy in 1955. Some of the list is sentimental and cute, harkening back to an idyllic age that people remember as children (precisely because they were children and were not aware of the complexities and contradictions of adult life). But much of the list is politically charged in a "let's turn back the clock" kind of way.

So, I sent my dad back an email that said this:


The Perfectly Imperfect Journey

"Although Christ was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be held onto, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant..." [Philippians 2:6-7]

The perfect journey. The perfect meal. The perfect destination. We throw the word "perfect" around a great deal to signify our search for something or someone that is without flaw, without taint, without regret. At the very heart of human existence is a yearning for a transcendent experience or relationship that will somehow complete us and leave us without yearning or need. One of the reasons why we journey, in fact, is to seek such an experience. We want to leave the mundane, imperfect world we inhabit and find somewhere that is, well, perfect.

But what we often find is that our journeys are not perfect.


A Definition and Application of "Religion"

As we come to the end of my third academic year, I am doing a mental review of what I can change and improve for next year. As chaplain and religion teacher, one of the conversations I quite frequently get into is exactly what is religion, and what counts as the study of religion. In particular, certain vexing questions are often asked:

Does religion require positing a God or other Divine Beings? If so, what do we do with religions that do not have an explicit place for Divine Beings, such as various forms of Buddhism or Confucianism?

If we are going to define religion in such a way that we include "religions" that do not have God(s), what stops anything from becoming a religion? If I have an ultimate concern for finding the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich, and I pursue this concern "religiously", does that then make me an adherent of the religion "Grilled Cheese Sandwichism"?


Theodicy in Outline

In light of the recent Boston Bombings, I thought I would publish the following notes on the problem of Theodicy. This is, admittedly, an academic rather than pastoral treatment of the problem of suffering. I figure many people will be doing pastoral works over the next few days and weeks. I thought I would instead publish something that is both academic and readable by the average person.

The following is a teaching outline for discussing the problem of suffering in the light of a God who is said to be both all-good (desiring the full flourishing of all persons made in God's image) and all-powerful (able to bring about the full flourishing of those he desires good for). Thus experiences of suffering and tragedy cause us to question the goodness, power, and existence of God. This is a skeletal outline intended mainly as lecture notes.


On Miracles, Hubris, and Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law

Today in chapel I preached on resurrection. And in speaking of the miracle of the resurrection, I invoked Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law of Technology to talk about the events which we describe as miracles. Clarke's Law states:

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (or miracle)."

I went on to talk about how the miracle of the resurrection perfects nature, not by working against nature, but by working through the "laws" of physics. I used the analogy of all the technology we use today, that works WITH the "laws" of nature, which would seem like magic or miracle to earlier humans. I continued by saying:


On Soul as Emergent and Eternal

Once I had a conversation with a friend of mine who teaches science and who is agnostic. We were talking about whether or not the soul was an emergent property that arises from our biology, or an eternal "substance" implanted in us by God. I tried to explicate that the soul was both-and, a sort of di-polar entity, in which both the Transcendent and the Empirical were necessary and sufficient causes.  The conversation about souls got me thinking about what exactly I meant. and didn't mean, by calling the "soul" an "emergent property" of complex systems. So, if you will indulge me, I would like to explain.

On Christ's Descent to Hell

A friend asked me over Christmas break in 2012 about the meaning of "Christ's descent to hell" alluded to in 1Peter 3.18-20. It is only appropriate that I should post this today, on Holy Saturday, which yearly commemorates Jesus' "harrowing of hell". The text in question is one of the many Scriptures that is used to assert that Jesus "descended to the dead" or "descended to hell" during the time of his death, to release those in bondage in the realm of the dead.

On "The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry"

The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry is actually a pretty huge topic, and I don't have all night to write on it! I think that this book is a great step in the right direction. Kids who are actually still coming to Church in our culture are doing so because they want to find something different than the prevailing culture of consumerism. That something different may be genuine agape-based relationships with caring peers and adult mentors. But often along with that (or because of that) there comes a hunger for WHY Christian life is (or should be) so different from the prevailing culture. This WHY question is precisely theology: Helping people think in a God-centered way that is well-ordered and rational (i.e. theo-logical).

This is what we used to call Christian formation or even discipleship (at least the cognitive, worldview portion of it). But it's tricky. And there are at least 4 reasons why theological formation with youth is tricky:

On Ritual and Relationship

Recently, I taught in chapel on the Story of Mary and Martha, in which Jesus ends by helping Martha to re-focus her perspective to see the necessity of BOTH action AND contemplation in her journey with Jesus:

Luke 10.38–42 [38] Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. [39] She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. [40] But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” [41] But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; [42] there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Based on this teaching, one of my students wrote and asked me:


Why Biblical Christians need Biological Evolution

Over the last few years in educational ministry, I have continually had questions asked about, discussions over, and even debates because of the topic evolution and faith. Can one believe in the Bible AND in evolution? Is it possible for a faithful Christian to have an evolutionary worldview? And even if it is possible, is it permissible within the limits of classic Christian orthodoxy? And after all of this, I think it is finally time to move beyond asking whether it is merely permissible for faithful, Biblical, Christ-loving Christians to have an evolutionary view of how God is at work in creation.

Biblical Christians need to think in evolutionary terms to be faithful to Christ.


On teaching evolution in a world of creationism

A friend of mine who teaches science recently expressed, once again, his legitimate exasperation at people who want to grant creationism equal time with evolution in science classrooms. His frustration has all to do with the differences between repeatable, empirical claims of science, versus the moral, existential claims of ideology. He believes creationism is an ideology, not a science. And, actually, I have to agree with him. Ideology, philosophy and theology are real academic subjects (along with history, literature, art, etc.). And there is a place in the world to discuss and debate ideology, but that is not in a science classroom.

In the Bible belt, I think our cultural uneasiness with evolutionary thought ultimately has to do with emotions and existential angst and a feeling of seasickness while being set adrift in a universe of flux and change.
This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.