Protestants, Catholics, Communion–oh my! (Happy Corpus Christi!)


Today is a Christian Holy Day called “Corpus Christi” (Latin for “the body of Christ”). Today we meditate on the mystery of Communion/Eucharist/The Lord’s Supper.

I’ve mentioned some of my Communion views before and what I articulated is a synthesis and summary of the ideas of many theologians, both Protestant and Catholic. And so today, I want talk to all my fellow Protestant brothers and sisters out there.

In my opinion, the popular Evangelical idea of the Catholic view on the Eucharist is not really right or helpful (as is the popular conception of most of Catholic doctrine). Today I want to argue that Catholicism’s “Eucharist problem” is more historical and rhetorical than theological.

Some History

In the earliest decades and centuries of church history, people were able to simply maintain the simple doctrine that at Communion, they are receiving the true presence of Christ in the Bread and the Wine (source, albeit biased). In the middle ages, though, people starting asking themselves “Wait, what does that actually mean?” Differing answers started forming and a diversity of opinion about the Eucharist began taking place. The leaders of the Church tried to bring some commonality to this. In fact, the medieval Catholic church made a few “errant” teachers affirm these statements in 1078 and 1079:
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Welcome to Epiphany. (And a free Mixtape to celebrate!)


epiphany-mixtape-coverIf you’re just looking for the mixtape, click here for the official Epiphany Mixtape page.

From now until Lent, the Church Calendar is in the season of Epiphany.

Basically, this season seems like it’s sort of a Church Calendar “junk drawer” to meditate and celebrate on all the other parts of Jesus’ life that happened between his Advent/Birth and his Death.

And don’t misread that. In describing it that way, I hope that doesn’t diminish this season for anyone.

Perhaps the most precious doctrine of the Christian faith for me is that of the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness. That’s a fancy way of saying that Jesus lived out a righteous life, and his very own righteousness is given to me as my own. And so, with a complete and perfect righteousness in hand, I don’t have to bear the weight of shame or condemnation. This is so beautiful to me.

But this Righteousness in which I am dressed was not created out of thin air, nor was it created by Christ at the Cross, or even at his Resurrection. It was built throughout his life of obedience to His Father, as the light of his character and life grew brighter and brighter in the midst of our darkened world. It’s this part of his life that we celebrate and meditate upon in this season.

And this is amazing. As I’ve written before, if Herod had been successful in killing the infant Jesus, there would be an essential aspect of our salvation that’s missing. This is why Epiphany is so important.

And so, to try and help me spend some time meditating on this season, the best way I knew to think deeply about all this was to re-post Epiphany mixtape I first posted last year.

To read more about the specifics of Epiphany, the mixtape, and to listen/download it yourself, you can either read below or just go to the official Epiphany Mixtape page.

[cover image credit: the photo on the mixtape cover is used with the gracious permission of photographer and friend of the blog, David Schrott]

A night so holy and silent | Carols in Prose


winter-snow-trees-bwFor my Advent series this year, I am going through Christmas Carols and unpacking them, re-writing them in prose, hoping to pull out more of their meaning, theology, significance, and beauty. Here’s today’s source material.

As holy as that night was–as anointed, blessed, prophesied, and sacred as it was–it was just as silent. You know in winter when find yourself in the midst of falling snow, and it almost has a loud silence? It was like that.

Who knew that this utter holiness and cosmic in-breaking would be so quiet? So…uneventful? Yes, there were angels and such, but they were far away with us. There at the manger? Silence.
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May God give rest to you weary, happy souls | Carols in Prose


flinks-angels-anouncing-the-birth-of-christ-to-the-shepherds

For my Advent series this year, I am going through Christmas Carols and unpacking them, re-writing them in prose, hoping to pull out more of their meaning, theology, significance, and beauty.  Here’s today’s source material.

I pray that God may give rest to all of you. Those of you that are tired and in need of rest, and yet you doggedly hold on to a soul-merriment and joy that cannot be taken from you. I pray he grants you rest and lets nothing steal your soul’s joy.

Especially in this season, I pray he strengthens that joy as you remember that he has come among us in Christ, our Savior, whose birth we celebrate during this time. We remember that he came as a human–but not just that. We remember he came as the weakest and most frail of human forms: one who is born.

But we don’t jut remember that he came, or even just how he came–but also, why.

This Advent season precedes Christmas as Lent precedes Easter–it’s a time to meditate on the darkness, weight, and tension of this world. The darkness and power that drew us away from God as Home; the darkness from which we were saved. And in this, we are given that rest, comfort and joy.

Oh, that we might experience God’s good news of comfort and joy proclaimed from the rooftops of our lives! Just think of that: Comfort. And Joy.

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How Liturgy Shapes & Makes Us


schrott-cross-church-office-apartment

UPDATE: I posted a brief history of liturgy and its movements.

A couple of nights ago, those that help lead and facilitate the worship service at my church met to discuss how we should continue to grow and remain faithful to our mission in the city of Philadelphia through our liturgy and music. It reminded me once more of how much I love being a part of this church and its tradition, and how excited I am to live life with these people.

Meditating on these discussions about our liturgy, I was reminded of the myriad of ways that the structure of one’s worship service forms the people that sit there each Sunday. I thought of how liturgy functions. If you go to a church, it has a liturgy: some structure that proclaims a certain story and shape of existence, and it changes people to fit into that shape and story.

And this got me thinking of a document I wrote up a couple of years ago to help train and encourage those leading liturgy at our church. In it, I wrote about six “facets” of the diamond that is liturgy. And that’s what I wanted to post here today.

These are some ways that liturgy acts to shape us. After each thing, I’ve given a sample topic and tried to show how liturgy functioning in that way can speak to and shape someone in that area. This was originally meant as a guide for people that introduce the service and try to acclimate people to the liturgy.

I hope this reminds us that liturgy matters, and being intentional about your liturgy is such an important part of leading and ministering within your church context. If you don’t serve as a leader in this aspect of your church’s life, and don’t really speak to liturgy formation, I hope this helps you recognize the formative nature of your church’s liturgy, and that it helps you connect to and engage with your church in a deeper, more intentional way. For more on this, I could not suggest more highly James K.A. Smith’s book Desiring the Kingdom.

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Some random, contradictory thoughts on Hell. Discuss.


Rothko-untitled-2Below, you’ll find a random assortment of 30 completely disjointed musings on Hell. Each paragraph is its own statement, in no particular order. This is not meant to be a discussion of where I currently land on this issue. I’d love to just get your thoughts. Respond as you like, below.

(1) In the past 10 to 15 years, the American Church saw a new emphasis on Idolatry as the foundation of sinfulness, rather than “Law-breaking”. I’m starting to see a new re-emphasis on Law-Breaking and Hell as punishment for this. And yet, the “Law” is always connected to God’s Image and Character, and so Law-Breaking is living by a wrong law, or image, and therefore is idolatry. We have an analogy for how a Judge responds to breaking the law, and this leads to the popular view of Hell since Medieval times. But what is the analogy for the response to transgressing an image?

(2) Can any Universalist tell me what the point of missions or Evangelism is in this life, if their perspective is true?
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Our Easter Hope: Jesus Didn’t Rise from the Dead


statue-easter-bookHappy Easter! Let me greet all of you with the same Easter greeting that has been offered by generations upon generations of Christians before:

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

(And you respond with:)

Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Now I don’t know how many of you have grown up saying that or have eventually settled into traditions that do, but I wonder how many of us have noticed the grammar of that statement. Why has it never said, “Alleluia, Christ rose”, or “Alleluia, Christ has risen”?

There is an extremely important and immensely practical aspect of the Resurrection that, as I’ve moved in more and more church circles, I’ve realized has either become de-emphasized, forgotten, or never known in the first place:

Jesus did not rise from the dead.
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Epiphany is here! So what? (And another free Mixtape!)


epiphany-mixtape-coverIf you’re just looking for the mixtape, click here for the official Epiphany Mixtape page.

From now until Lent, the Church Calendar is in the season of Epiphany. Up until this year, I had never really given much thought or focus to Epiphany. In fact, I hadn’t ever really understood Epiphany until this year. I knew it had something to do with light and with Magi, but beyond that, I didn’t get it.

Basically, this season seems like it’s sort of a Church Calendar “junk drawer” to meditate and celebrate on all the other parts of Jesus’ life that happened between his Advent/Birth and his Death.

And don’t misread that. With me saying that, I hope that doesn’t diminish this season for anyone. Perhaps the most precious doctrine of the Christian faith for me is that of the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness to me. And this Righteousness in which I am dressed was not created out of thin air, nor was it created by Christ at the Cross, or even his Resurrection. It was built throughout his life of obedience to His Father.

And this is amazing. As I’ve written before, if Herod had been successful in killing the child Jesus, there would be an aspect of our salvation that’s missing.

And so, to try and help me spend some time meditating on this season, the best way I knew to think deeply about all this was to make another Church season mixtape. If I’m being honest, these things are more for me than all of you out there. This one particularly, though, helped me think through Epiphany and try and create something from it. I hope you enjoy it.

To read more about the specifics of Epiphany, the mixtape, and to listen/download it yourself, you can either read below or just go to the official Epiphany Mixtape page. Let me know what you think!

Here’s some more info, from the page:
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Advent, Evolution, & Absolution [RE-POST]


Today, I’m re-posting a piece I wrote exactly a year ago for last year‘s Advent series. During this year‘s, we’re seeing how the Advent event affects parts of our lives that we usually don’t associate with it. Today, it’s Advent and Evolution. You can follow the series here.

It’s Advent. A time where we especially orient ourselves towards rejoicing and celebrating the fact that God did not remain far off and merely create a “legal” or “dogmatic” satisfaction for the plight of his creation and creatures. Rather, he broke into it and came into his creation and among his creatures. In this year’s Advent series, we’re exploring how, in this Coming, Jesus took on our creaturely formcare-taking functioncomprehensive fallenness, and communal formation.

First, God took physical, human, creaturely form. In the study I did–and subsequent lecture I gave–on Beauty a couple of years ago, I defined “Beauty” as the attribute of something that expressed complexity simply. Is not this God-in-human-flesh (theologically referred to as the Incarnation) the most beautiful of all miracles to take place? The Infinitely Complex God inhabits the simplest of human forms: a child.

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Free Advent Mixtape Available Now!


Advent-Mixtape-Cover

Update: I got some inspiration and updated the Mixtape, changing the song selection/order a little bit from when this was originally posted. Sorry for the inconvenience.

A new church season, a new mixtape. You can find this year’s Advent Mixtape above, in the appropriately-named tab, or just click here. It’s free, and you can stream, download, or share it.

It’s very similar to last year’s except with some songs removed, added, and re-ordered. I definitely think this one is better. (Let me know what you think!) Be sure to read my post introducing Advent this year, including ways than you can more intentionally participate in this season. I hope this Mixtape can play some role in your time as well.

Here’s some more info, from the “Advent Mixtape” page:
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The Pain & Substance of Gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving. [REPOST]


Yesterday, the annual meal referenced in this post occurred at my work, so I thought I’d re-post this today on this Thanksgiving Eve.

Sorry that this isn’t your typical feel-good Thanksgiving post.

On Tuesday, my job had a large Thanksgiving lunch for all the staff and clients we serve. I got my food and sat down next to some of my coworkers and across from a client I had never seen before. She was very friendly. She didn’t ask me my name or anything; she just began asking me questions about what I was doing for the holiday, where I was going, if my parents were still alive/together, if I had any siblings, so on and so forth.

As she kept firing one question about my Thanksgiving week after another, I started to feel the awkward tension developing because I wasn’t returning any of these questions back at her. I wondered if my coworkers thought this was odd of me to do, but it was very intentional.

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[art credit: “Freedom From Want” by Norman Rockwell]

Debates with Atheists (And Good News for Them)


Recently, a friend sent me a link inviting me to a debate between a prominent evangelical intellectual and a prominent atheist thinker. It made me remember how I used to eat those sorts of things up when I was in college, and I really appreciated this friend sending it, but at this point in my life, I genuinely had no interest whatsoever.

Eventually, you realize that every debate of this sort goes the exact same way. At some point–without fail– there’s comes a moment when the evangelical says something to which the atheist responds with “well, what proof [or “evidence” or “basis” or “reason”] do you have to make such a claim!”, to which the evangelical responds with something like “well, it’s faith” (or something like that).

And then the debate should end. The fool’s errand of these events has been exposed.

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How do you use the Bible and Bible knowledge in your spiritual life? [OPEN MIC]


This weekend, I will be teaching the last class in my six-week Bible Survey class at my church. I want to end the class talking about how to use the Bible (and especially the knowledge gleaned from the class) in one’s personal (and corporate) spiritual life. How does the Bible actually function in a believer’s life to cultivate a dynamic, deep, and intimate relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit? I have my own thoughts on this, but I want to hear from all of you. So here are some questions:

  • Do more Bible “facts” actually have a direct impact on your spiritual engagement with God? In other words, has studying the backgrounds of the Bible ever led to meeting God? How or why not?
  • What practical methods of immersing oneself in Scripture have been most fruitful to you spiritually?
  • How might people use the tools of Biblical Studies (commentaries, etc.) to treat the Bible formationally, rather than merely informationally?
  • For those that are oriented in such a way that they constantly want to know the context, background, history, date, etc. of Scripture, how have you been able to quiet all these questions in order to meet God?
  • Similarly, for those more “intellectually”-oriented, how have you been able to move beyond the intellect to engage other parts of yourself with Scripture?
  • How do we move beyond facts of Scripture to the Person of Scripture?
  • If (as I said in the first class, and other theologians have said) the Bible only “becomes” the Word of God as the Holy Spirit meets us during our engagement with it, what have been the most effective practical ways that you have invited the Holy Spirit into your Bible Study time?
  • In your experience, what have been some of the pitfalls in other approaches that are commonly endorsed by the contemporary church, or what are some of the realities that aren’t talked about often?
  • What would you say if you were me (haha)?

Feel free to respond below, in a Facebook comment, email, text, or phone call. Thanks.

The Gospel Coalition & Sex as Conquest: it’s still misogyny, however unintended {2}


Yesterday, I talked about a recent brouhaha over some comments by Douglas Wilson and Jared Wilson (no relation) over at The Gospel Coalition about gender and marriage. Jared quoted a book by Douglas where he says, among other things, this:

…the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.

His (and Jared’s) main point was that they believe there’s an inherent “loving” “authority” exercised by men in marriage, even in the sexual act. Further, this is God’s loving design that Christians are to embrace. They believe that some of our culture’s male addiction to porn and female addiction to S&M bondage fantasies stem from our culture’s rebellion from this “proper”  and “loving” exercise of male authority over women, causing them to turn to “improper” ways of exercising these God-given drives.

Needless to say, they got a lot of flack over this. They insisted time and time again that they are not advocating forcible marital sex or that women should just be treated as passive “receivers” of sex. They defended themselves, attacked their critics, and yet, (inexplicably, to them) critics kept saying these harsh things about them. Yesterday, I wrote about the background of this, the responses, and then wrote some words to Jared Wilson. Please go to that link for that relevant information. Today I want to give more of my specific perspective on this:
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The Gospel Coalition & Sex as Conquest: Jared Wilson, you’re better than this {1}


Update: Part 2 is up, engaging with the issue itself and The Gospel Coalition.

Fine… I’ll throw my two cents in.

A few days ago, Jared Wilson, trying to speak to the appeal of the S&M-tinged book 50 Shades of Grey, posted an excerpt from the book Fidelity (which I have read, so I feel I can speak to this) by the always-good-for-a-sound bite Douglas Wilson. Here’s how I’d summarize his ultimate point:

Modern humans have rebelled against God’s good and correct design of male authority and female submission to that authority. But, as people made in the Image of God, we have deep longings for the way God has structured reality to work best. And so, even when we reject God’s gracious version of gender relations, that desire is still there and will thus be corrupted and express itself in things like rape, pornography, and thinking things like 50 Shades of Grey is appealing.

really don’t think either of them would think I am mischaracterizing them here. Both Wilsons involved in this equation clearly intended in their writing to promote what they believe is a beautiful synchronicity between male and female in which both fluorish.

And yet the blogosphere blew up over this.
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