A Prayer for America & President-Elect Trump


Ruler and King of all, our nation is now entering into such a delicate time. Many emotions are being felt very deeply after this election. It was a hard-fought fight that many had much invested in. Would you be with us as the immediate emotional aftermath of the election occurs?

Lord, hear our prayer.

O God of peace, you do not desire that we would be filled with anxiety, fear, or gloating, as if our greatest joy or pain would be the result of this one election. You have taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, into your presence, where we may be still and know that you are the God who is the sustaining Presence in all nations,

Lord, hear our prayer.

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A Prayer for Election Day


O Lord our truest Ruler and King, many words have been said these past months leading to this election day. Far too many of these words have been hurtful, fearful, divisive, angry, and anxious. Being able to see our nation’s policies so tangibly, it is far too easy to equate this nation with your Kingdom, and so act as if this election were of supreme eternal importance.

Lord, forgive us, we pray.

Bless the leaders of our land–those currently in office and those elected today–that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth. Let this be the conviction of every leader as they model for us, however imperfectly, political relations amongst both their fellow countrymen and citizens of the world. Continue reading

Tweaking Calvinism: Unconditional Election?


tulips-red

UPDATE: I’ve finished this little blog series. We talked about a book, the history, and TULI-P. Enjoy!

As our book club is going through Richard Mouw’s Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport, I’m blogging some of my thoughts.

In this little Calvinism mini-series, I’ve talked about some of the things that make Calvinism hard for our modern ears, and I’ve begun articulating a broader view of these ideas, by first looking at the “T” (“Total Depravity) of the usual acronym of Calvinist beliefs: TULIP. Today we’ll look at the “U”: Unconditional Election.

Unconditional (Corporate, Vocational) Election

Traditionally, the “U” of TULIP stands for “Unconditional Election”, which simply means that when God chose us as his people, he made this choice on the basis of no condition outside of his own good pleasure. In short, God didn’t choose you because of anything you are or had done. This is true. And yet, it’s not the whole (or even the main) story.

In the Reformation’s move away from the Institutionalism of the medieval Catholic Church, and Scholasticism’s emphasis on the ability and intellect of the individual in society, much of the foundation of Calvinist doctrine was laid in very individualistic terms.

Think about it: each of the five ideas represented by the letters in TULIP are fundamentally about how individuals are reconnected and reconciled to God. I think this really distorts what the Gospel and Christianity (and Calvinism) are about.
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American Lent in the Season of Trump


One of the smartest and funniest women at my church, Alyssa, has this great blog you should all follow. In it, her observations on life, cities, and spirituality are whip smart and hilarious. Several weeks ago, she put up a post asking “Is Trump America’s Lent?” She writes:

For the purposes of this argument, let’s call Lent an annual wake-up call, a reminder that we aren’t as good as we think we are….Trump’s success so far is a wake-up call in itself, like a large-scale Lent: maybe we aren’t as good as we think we are. Apparently, as a country we’re actually more racist and fearful than we thought we were just a few months ago, when people laughed at the thought of him actually standing a chance. The land of the free might just be okay with building that wall. The home of the brave is actually pretty scared of Muslims.

This is incredibly insightful, and I think it turns our national “Trump-versation” to a helpful place in the Lent season. Rather than trying to understand “the Trump voter” on a micro-individual level–a level full of misunderstanding, prejudice, and judgmentalism on all sides–we might turn our gaze inward to our nation as a whole. Looking at the bigger movements and structures of our society, we can ask the hard questions that you can’t really ask when staring another individual in the face.

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Some Hopefully Not-Crazy Musings on Calvinism & Predestination


John_Calvin_by_HolbeinThe Christian family is large and diverse. The little corner of that family that I occupy is usually called “Reformed”, meaning they can trace a lot of their distinctive teachings back to John Calvin. Now, if theres one thing Calvin is known for (other than the burning a heretic thing) is a section of his teaching on Predestination–the idea that before everything, God “decreed” that only some people would be “saved”, and others would not be–they didn’t make the choice in that matter, He did.

Now, “Calvinism” wasn’t actually a thing until after Calvin had died, and he had a lot more to say about a lot of things other than Predestination. Nevertheless, having just recently re-read the portion of his magnum opus that deals with this issue, I can say that even the most caricatured, extreme articulations of Calvinism out there have a strong kernel of truth. Calvin was definitely a Calvinist, in all its untactful, harsh, unapologetic glory.

In college, I got super into Calvinism and took it way too far (Exhibit A; Exhibit B). I hurt a lot of people. Then I went to my first seminary and mellowed out on it. Since then, I’ve just been absorbing lots of different strands of thought around this issue, and haven’t really made a concerted effort to synthesize them. I’ve sort of been sitting in the Mystery of it all.

This seminary semester, though, I have to bring together all my thoughts on Predestination and its related doctrine of Election into some coherency. This means I’ve been thinking about this a lot. And today, I want to offer some of my random, contradictory, messy thoughts and get your responses and help. Imagine my brain on this topic as a big ball of yarn, with each strand of thought existing together all at once, not being able to distinguish where one thought ends, where the other begins, and how they can all fit together.

Strand 1

First, there really isn’t any such thing as “Free Will”. I can’t “choose” to have different parents, to fly, to shoot lasers out of my eyes, to breathe underwater, what color hair I naturally have, where I was born, etc. Arguably, the most formative, important, foundational things to who we are as people are unchosen. The point in saying this is to point out that our wills are not “free”, but are bounded by nature. All our choices are limited by our nature.
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God sometimes might send His people to Hell | Romans 2.1-8


Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.
Romans 2.1-8

Fundamentalists always read stuff like this and think it’s talking about “those people” outside of the Church. But this passage is talking to Jewish Christians! It’s talking to the very people who would presume their security and election (*cough* like many fundamentalists *cough*) . But you know what? Paul never says they’re wrong in their security and election! And yet he still says there will be wrath and fury. Might those things not be mutually-exclusive? An important theme here is that God’s people bear the brunt of God’s judgment, not the rest of the world. These verses are speaking to Christians, not “those people”. God’s people will face the possibility of God’s fire (but might it be refining fire?). This is very much what Lesslie Newbigin wrote about when he talked about election.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

If I’m right about cities, then Republicans are in deep trouble.


philly-city-hall-flagIt’s been too long since we’ve had a political post hasn’t it? Last week, as part of my “Urban Lessons” mini-series, I wrote on how cities are perhaps the fountainheads of everything that ends up in suburban and rural areas. The things that take place in cities, it seems, always ends up flowing outward into the rest of the country, even if it takes decades or generations to do so.

I had that on my mind when watching this segment of The Rachel Maddow Show from Monday night’s episode. The segment is based off an excellent piece by Alexander Burns in Politico called “GOP big-city mayors vanish”. In it, Burns writes:

Largely unnoticed in Washington, urban Republican politicians have emerged over the last year as perhaps the nation’s most severely endangered political species, as the party has either failed to compete for high-profile mayor’s offices or has been soundly rebuffed by voters. It’s a significant setback that some Republicans view as an ominous sign for the GOP in a country growing steadily more urban and diverse.

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When easy & simplistic proof-texting trumps the nuance & complexity of wrestling pastorally with the text


On Tumblr, a very, very dear friend posted this earlier, in support of the Doctrine of Double Predestination, which says that in eternity past, God predestined not only who would be saved (apart from their own works), but also those who would not be saved (apart from their own works):

“They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.” 1 Peter 2:8

Double predestination

#it’s biblical

In one of the most widely used Bible commentaries in existence, I found these words written about this verse, starting with commenting on the word “also” (which isn’t found in my friend’s translation of the verse). I’ve changed some formatting and some grammar to make it easier to understand. Enjoy:

“also” [as in “as they were also destined to do”;  this is in the Greek, though Revelation 19’s translation doesn’t have this]—[this is] an additional thought; God’s ordination; not that God ordains or appoints them to sin, but they are given up to “the fruit of their own ways” according to the eternal counsel of God. The moral ordering of the world is altogether of God. God appoints the ungodly to be given up unto sin, and a reprobate mind, and its necessary penalty.

The phrase “Were appointed,” (Greek, “set,”) is an answer to the “I lay,” (Greek, “set,”) found in 1Pe 2:6.

God, in the active, is said to appoint Christ and the elect (directly). Unbelievers, in the passive, are said to be appointed (God acting less directly in the appointment of the sinner’s awful course) [Bengel]. God ordains the wicked to punishment, not to crime [J. Cappel].

“Appointed” or “set” (not here “FORE-ordained”) refers, not to the eternal counsel so directly, as to the penal justice of God. Through the same Christ whom sinners rejected, they shall be rejected; unlike believers, they are by God appointed unto wrath as fitted for it.

***The lost shall lay all the blame of their ruin on their own sinful perversity, not on God’s decree; the saved shall ascribe all the merit of their salvation to God’s electing love and grace.***

(from the “Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible)

What are your thoughts on this issue? How important do you think it is in the grand scheme of the Gospel?

Okay, election: done. Time to get this blog back on track. [casual fri]


Well, on this blog we’ve contemplated electing Romney, electing Obama, each of the election debates, laughing at the election, the election foreign policy, the election domestic policy, reminded ourselves it’s all going to be okay, votedlaughed on voting day, partied on election nightprayed for the election, and we prayed for the elected officials.

Now we’re all election’d out.

It has now become almost as cliche as election-season Facebook politics posts, to complain about those election season Facebook politics posts. In fact, I think my Facebook feed was filled with more complaining about political posting than actual political posts. (This is not to discount the very real experience that many of us had, to be sure, with those one or two people ib our feeds that would put 12 to 15 posts up a day and carry on endless vitriolic arguments in the comment section.)

I wonder if our malaise wasn’t even as much about other people posting as much as it was the campaign itself. With all the politicking having already wearied us, seeing anything more on Facebook surely just put many of us over-the-top. For any ways that I may have been “that guy”, please forgive me. I had hoped I would be a more clear-headed voice in the political wilderness.
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Hope of the Earth: a political eschatology (we can all breathe) [REPOST]


In light of the election, I wanted to re-post this article from a couple of weeks ago. I hope it’s encouraging.

November 7th, we will wake up to front pages declaring with finality the results of the American Presidential Election. Most of us will see these headlines and have some sort of emotional reaction (especially those of us that stayed up as late as we could to know the results early).

Depression? Fear? Anger? Injustice? Sadness? Joy? Elation? Ecstasy? Worship? Peace?

I remember after the 2004 election when Bush beat Kerry. Going to a large, urban University dominated by idealistic and passionate liberal youth, the campus was in mourning for the rest of that week. People walked in silence, hugged one another, and I saw a good number of people crying as they resigned themselves to what they felt would be the end of every good thing they’d ever thought about this country.

This election cycle, I was certainly active–probably more so than ever before (especially on this blog, at least). I’m almost certain that I have been blocked from my fair share of Facebook feeds and removed from some feed readers in the past six months or so. I’ve been quite passionate on those few issues that have guided so much of my writing and reading.

But I haven’t lost a bit of sleep over any of that stuff. I’ve been able to enjoy good books and beers, and pipes and peers, without any discussion of politics or debates or elections.

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[image credit: Untitled piece by Arielle Passenti. Read my review of this piece.]

a prayer for President Obama & America


Ruler and King of all, our nation is now entering into such a delicate time. Many emotions are being felt very deeply after this election. It was a hard-fought fight that many had much invested in. Would you be with us as the immediate emotional aftermath of the election occurs?

Lord, hear our prayer.

O God of peace, you do not desire that we would be filled with anxiety, frustration, or gloating after elections, as if our greatest joy or pain would be the result of this one vote. You have taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, into your presence, where we may be still and know that you are the God who is the sustaining Presence in all nations,

Lord, hear our prayer.

Continue reading

a prayer for election day


O Lord our truest Ruler and King, many words have been said these past months leading to this election day. Far too many of these words have been hurtful, fearful, divisive, angry, and anxious. Being able to see our nation’s policies so tangibly, it is far too easy to equate this nation with your Kingdom, and so act as if this election were of supreme eternal importance.

Lord, forgive us, we pray.

Bless the leaders of our land–those that have been and those that will be, after today–that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth. Let this be the conviction of every leader as they model for us, however imperfectly, political relations amongst both their fellow countrymen and citizens of the world.

Lord, keep this nation under your care.

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Foreign Policy Debate: this is what Obama is doing around the world in our name


Here’s an article from Daily Mail about some legal challenges brought against American military officials for their drone activity in Pakistan. One key stat:

American Drone activities just in Pakistan have been confirmed to have killed 881 civilians, but only 41 terrorists.

Some things to notice about that statistic: (1) this is only from Pakistan. We’ve also been doing drone strikes in both Yemen and Afghanistan (and probably Libya here soon), with even more atrocious effects (especially in Yemen); (2) there were a few thousand total deaths, but these were the only absolutely beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt confirmed “statuses” of the victims–the number of civilians is probably still higher; and (3) these are only deaths due to drone strikes. In Iraq and elsewhere, many additional civilian deaths have come about through other means.

For all my “I’m going to vote for Obama because of social justice issues”. Take note: if you add these numbers to the other civilian death numbers in other countries, Obama’s policies have killed far more impoverished people around the world than he has helped here (and he got the Nobel Peace prize!).

This story came out two days ago, and I can’t find a single reference to this information in any other major American news outlet (a friend on Facebook said he heard something on NPR a couple of months ago, though I think he was referring to a different special report they had done). This is what makes our reputation in the world, this is what creates new terrorists–not “our freedoms”, and this is what will define our history–not tax law. And so, for all those criticizing me for voting third-party: yes, yes. Let’s try and change things through the existing political parties. We have plenty of time. I’m sure the rest of the world (including these victims’ families) will be fine with us waiting. (More debate-prep here)

In other news, unmanned aerial drones are now surveilling Americans around the country. How long before they’re armed? Yeah, we’ve got plenty of time to try and choose between two guys who both support this.

Can no politician do enough to lose your vote?

The Atlantic gets it right on Obama’s civil liberties abuses & the value of your vote


Yesterday, Conor Friedersdorf (Twitter) wrote an amazing piece for The Atlantic in which he explains why–no matter how liberal he is–he is not voting for President Obama. He writes:

Sometimes a policy is so reckless or immoral that supporting its backer as “the lesser of two evils” is unacceptable. If enough people start refusing to support any candidate who needlessly terrorizes innocents, perpetrates radical assaults on civil liberties, goes to war without Congress, or persecutes whistleblowers, among other misdeeds, post-9/11 excesses will be reined in.

I found this link on Facebook through J.R.D. Kirk. I absolutely agree with every word of this post. I shared it to my own Facebook wall, and….wow…I got some major pushback, mainly over my inclination to vote for a third-party candidate. People through around the same phrases I’ve heard the past few weeks about “wasting my vote” and “throwing it away” and “de-valuing it”. I found this odd for a few reasons.
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