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.
I’ve published a few articles at the Theopolis Blog.
- The End of Premium Mediocre Church
- An Arrow Has A Telos
- Proclaim and The Courage to Say “Jesus is King!” (with Joe Anderson)
- No One Dared Join Them
- 1 John in Community
- Fire on the Mountain
- Seven Theses on Practical Unity
- Levels of Language
- Artist-Priests in God’s Poetic World
- Of Wine and Wineskins
- Strong Magic Takes Blood
- Reformational Catholicism Now 2
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.
- Theological Notes I: Fundamentals
- Theological Notes II: Reflections on Anthropology in the World and the Church
- Theological Notes III: Reflections on Real Theology, Spiritual Disciplines, and Preparation for Ministry
- Theological Notes IV: Reflections on Presenting the Gospel Clearly
Worship and Liturgy
I presented both a plenary session and a workshop on worship at GES 2010.
- Plenary session: The Forgotten Sanctuary: Why is Hebrews 8:2 Part of ‘The Main Point’?
- Workshop: Return to Obedience: The Role of Ritual in New Covenant Worship
- Audio and handouts are available on the GES 2010 page.
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.
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.
- How I Use Greek and Hebrew in my Teaching
- 1 John 1:9, Confession of Sin, and the Teaching of the Word
- Emotion, Objectivity, and Divine Viewpoint
- The Total Contradiction between Christianity and Unbelief
- Liturgy, part 1: Against Liturgy-Bashing
- Liturgy, part 2: Unity and Music
- 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.
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.
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.
- “The Lost Art of Mentoring: Lessons from the Life of John Mark” handout & audio
- “Passing the Baton: The Priority of Children’s Ministry in the Local Church” handout, powerpoint & audio
- “Got Life? Sharing the Message of Life from John’s Gospel” handout, powerpoint & audio
- “Postmodernism and Youth Culture: Solomon Was Right After All” handout, powerpoint and worldview diagram. (This session was unfortunately not recorded in Springs, but you can listen to the audio of the same session at the Denver conference.) If you want to further engage this topic, reading Solomon Among the Postmoderns is highly recommended, as is listening to “Christian Hope in a Postmodern World.” To see a joyful Christian response to postmodernism exemplified, read Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl (video trailer here).
- “God Made it Clear: Offering a Biblical Invitation” handout & audio (Denver session audio here)
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.