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Recent Essays

Joe Anderson and I recently found it necessary to say some hard things to our city leaders. By way of explaining ourselves to our allies, we ended up writing Speaking with an Edge: The Biblical Case for Hard Words.

People occasionally ask my advice about writing, since I’ve done a lot of it. You can find my answers in Writing as a Lifestyle and a Discipline.

My work as a martial arts instructor and bodyworker colors most of my theological writing, but I’ve also begun to write theological reflections about my experiences in bodywork.  An Unexpected Sacrament: Autobiography, Catechism, and a Few Recipes was written to my non-Christian friends, to explain how I approach what I do as a Christian.

Theopolis Articles

I’ve published a few articles at the Theopolis Blog.

Theological Notes

Over the past few years, I have begun to gather reflections on various topics in the form of theses, brief statements that could serve as the foundation for much further discussion. The genre has a long history in Christendom, from the proverbs of Solomon to the “chapters” of the monastics to the “texts” of the Philokalia to the 95 Theses of Martin Luther. I find the genre more suitable than an essay for providing a quick look at a subject from a number of different angles.

Worship and Liturgy

I presented both a plenary session and a workshop on worship at GES 2010.

Theology of Self Defense

For a long time, my most-requested paper was Buy a Sword: Toward a Theology of Civilian Self-Defense. In it, I bypass the debate with pacifism and get right down to a serious consideration of self-defense from a Christian perspective. This paper caught me mid-paradigm-shift when it comes to theological method. Although I still agree with the conclusions in the paper, I wouldn’t handle the development the same way at all. I hope to give the subject a thorough reworking in a book-length treatment one of these days.   Update: Audio of the original presentation is now available here.

Introduction to Ephesians

In 2005, I was asked to begin work on a very brief Ephesians commentary (as a chapter in a one-volume New Testament commentary). Work on that project has stalled for various reasons, but you can read the first draft of the Introduction here.

Hermeneutics Series

I had the privilege of teaching a series on hermeneutics and Bible study methods at Grace Chapel in Orange, CA.  If you’re used to hermeneutics books written by people other than God, you’ll find my approach a little unusual, but also, I think, quite profitable.

Fellowship Community Chapel Position Papers

In the course of pastoring a small church plant for almost six years, I had occasion to write a series of position papers for the people of my congregation.  there is a rough logic to the order of these papers and the confluence of issues that arises in each one, but it is the logic of the needs of a particular church body in a particular situation at a particular time. Which is to say that my writing models are Peter, Paul, James and John more than Hodge, Warfield, Chafer and Erickson. Needless to say, I don’t think this is much of a drawback, but it does call for some care in reading outside the original context.

Journal Articles

  • Orthodoxy, Character, Wisdom and Witness: An Open Letter to the Free Grace Community is a plea to all sides in the current food fight over gospel content to adhere to biblical standards not only in the content of our doctrine, but in the manner of our conduct. Nothing is quite as ugly as an ungracious man preaching a gracious message. You can find more about that on my Free Grace Food Fight page.
  • Many people believe that they can’t really understand the Bible because they’re not scholars, don’t know the original languages, etc. Others believe that carnal believers, unbelievers, or [insert other disenfranchised class here] can’t understand the Bible. Who Can Understand the Bible? takes on these common fallacies and explores what the Bible itself has to say about who can understand it — and who can’t.
  • Holding Center argues that in an increasingly pagan landscape, the church must be prepared to transmit the necessary culture — especially skilled literacy — for the common people to read the Bible and understand what it says. Yeah, I know, not a great title for that thought. Oh well…
  • Beyond the Pulpit: Two Ways Ordinary Believers Minister to the Church articulates important elements of church life that are absolutely beyond the reach of paid staff. In some of the most important parts of the church’s ministry, if the work will be done at all, the rank and file believers must do it.
  • Reverse-Engineered Outlining is a somewhat dated (2001) article on what is now known as the DABAR exegetical method. The presentation is a little clunky, and the terminology is out of date; however, the principles expounded in the article are sound. The method as presented here is optimized for expository literature, but with additional refinements, it will apply as well to narrative and poetry. As presented here, the method also deals exclusively with the original languages, but again, with appropriate adjustments, can be profitably adapted for English readers. Dead Man’s Faith discusses this method in more detail.
  • Conflict resolution is a point of difficulty for a lot of believers. Who Are The Witnesses? focuses on one particular point of biblical conflict resolution procedure: the need for witnesses of the actual offense in order to proceed beyond the first stage of the disciplinary procedure. (Good folks disagree on this matter, of course. This article presents one side of the argument.)
  • A Free Grace Critique of Irresistible Grace is what it sounds like. I made two conference presentations (see below) on passive faith. One of the major objections was that my position was indistinguishable from irresistible grace. I thought at the time — and still think — that the people who made that critique were having a knee-jerk reaction to what they thought I was about to say, rather than reading what I actually wrote. Nevertheless, there were a number of them, so a response distinguishing passive faith from irresistible grace seemed in order. This is it.

Passive Faith

Is Faith a Decision? is a presentation I made some years ago on the subject of passive faith. It is, to date, the broadest single article I’ve written on the subject. Even so, it is by no means exhaustive.

Commands to Believe: An Objection to Passive Faith? is more targeted on one specific objection to passive faith: if God commands people to believe, doesn’t that imply they can decide to believe or not?

AWANA Conferences 2010-2011

Colorado Springs Conference 2011

  • “Speaking to One  Another in Psalms” handout
  • “Telling the Big Story” (for T&T) handout and audio.
  • “Coaching Prayer” handout and audio.
  • “Story and Name, Glory and Shame: Speaking to Youth Concerns in a Re-Tribalizing Society” handout and audio.
  • “Telling the Big Story” (for Trek & Journey) handout and audio.

Colorado Springs 24-7 2011

As always, I’m grateful to Chad and Karen Smith for hosting me, and I also owe a big thank you to Steve Wilson and the praise team of Mountain View Wesleyan Church for a wonderful time of worship that set up my talk beautifully.  My message was titled “The River of Life” and you can download the handout and most of the audio (the first few minutes got cut off; sorry).  If you want to hear more about how we worship in heaven when we assemble, you might enjoy a paper titled “The Forgotten Sanctuary” that I wrote last year.

If you attended and you’re interested in further discussion on the outworking of the river image, you may also like my posts People of the River and River Evangediscipleship.

Colorado Springs and Denver Conferences 2010

I was invited to speak to the AWANA conference that met August 20 and 21 at Hilltop Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, CO.  Many thanks to Chad and Karen Smith, the AWANA missionaries, who juggled all the necessary details to bring the conference together, and were kind enough to ask me to speak.  Much gratitude also to the people of Hilltop, who graciously allowed us the run of their church for two days.

Chad and Karen also invited me to return for the Denver conference, hosted by Trinity Church in Wheat Ridge, and again, I’m grateful both to Chad and Karen for all their work and to the church for the use of a very nice facility.

Below you’ll find the handouts and audio for each of the five presentations.

FGA Conference Panel 2007

In late 2007 the Free Grace Alliance, of which I am not a member, graciously invited me to sit on a couple of panels at their annual conference. In that setting, I was representing minority views on a couple of very volatile issues, and I thank the FGA for the gracious treatment I got. At their request, I provided this brief for the moderator of one of the panels. The panel format itself consisted of opening statements from each panelist, followed by questions taken from the floor. I don’t have transcriptions of the question portion, but here are my opening statements for the panels on assurance and the relationship of the cross to the gospel. Taken together, these three documents and my open letter give my basic orientation on the theological food fights presently dividing the free grace community.


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