I receive a lot of questions about my tattoos: What do they mean? Why did I get them? Did they hurt? etc. This post is part of a series where I focus on one tattoo at a time and explain its significance. Hope you like it!
The crucifix on my right forearm is my most recent tattoo. It’s one that I have been planning for about a year, and at the time of this writing it is less than a week old. Should make for a good place to start…
- Design: based on Christ of Saint John of the Cross, by Salvador Dali
- Duration: five-and-a-half hours (one sitting)
- Artist: Peter Gunz
The original picture was painted by Salvador Dali in 1951. Dali based the painting on a sketch of the crucifixion drawn by John of the Cross, a sixteenth century Spanish mystic who was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1726. Additional inspiration came from a “cosmic dream” of Dali’s, in which he saw the cosmos, the nucleus of an atom, and the Christ as one.
Dali was criticized after the unveiling of the painting by both the artistic and religious establishments. Many of his fellow Surrealists found the painting to be boring and uninspired, too traditional for a modern artist of Dali’s caliber. Some Christians criticized the painting for lacking nails and blood, a failure (in their estimation) to capture the pain and sacrifice of the crucifixion. But Dali had the last laugh; the painting is now widely considered to be the twentieth century’s most iconic artistic representation of the crucifixion, albeit without much competition.
Crucifixes are pretty common in tattooing, so when I decided to get one on my forearm (a fairly visible spot) it needed to be something unique. Most of my tattoos are full of color, so the darkness of this piece is also a bit of a contrast, not all that inappropriate considering the subject matter. I am particularly fond of the bright colors cutting into the darkness from beneath the cross. While the death of Jesus was a violent and gruesome affair, it also brings hope. The cross initiates a new age in which the Spirit of God resides with human beings and light finally triumphs over darkness.
There is also significance to the lack of nails. Aside from the surreal affect Dali was going for, some important theological implications can be drawn by Christ’s almost magical adhesion to the cross.
A widely held view in some Christian circles is that Christ died to appease the wrath of God. The idea is that the death of Jesus saves us from a vengeful deity: human beings are sinful, that makes God angry, somebody has to pay. In response to this view, a number of individuals have leveled accusations of divine child abuse against God the Father.
Both of these positions display an inadequate understanding of the Trinity and Christ’s divinity. Christian tradition has never conceived of Jesus as the victim of God, but God himself, “very God of very God,” to quote the Nicene Creed. On the cross we find God suffering at the hands of human oppressors, succumbing to death in order to join with us in our own death, and bring about new life.
The absence of nails in Dali’s painting raises the question: Just what is holding Jesus on that cross?
Hint: it isn’t the damn nails.
In Christ, God emptied himself and became one of us. He lived a human life and died a violent human death in order to redeem the lot of it. God held Jesus on the cross, God the Son held himself on the cross, in order to accomplish what needed to be done and give us an unforgettable example to live by.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8, ESV)
It’s Christmas day and as I sit here in my apartment sipping Irish breakfast tea and smelling my wife’s delicious cooking emanating from the kitchen, I can’t help but reflect on how incredibly sheltered I am from the world and its chaos. I live in a nice apartment in sunny southern California. I have plenty of friends to keep me company, a family back in Pennsylvania that is healthy and loves me, and the resources to pursue my dreams.
It is easy, in this protective bubble, to forget the chaos which plagues millions of people around the world.
Only a week and a half ago, twenty children and six adults lost their lives in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. Since then there have been shootings in Pennsylvania, upstate New York, New Hampshire, and Seattle. Chaos is among us this holiday season, and it is not limited to the United States.
China saw a stabbing spree at an elementary school on the same day as the CT shooting, leaving 23 children wounded. Political tensions are growing across the Middle East, with reports of the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria. Russia and India have just signed a multi-billion dollar weapons deal, and BBC radio had a special report this morning about rape in Swaziland.
Merry Christmas to all, or maybe not so much.
Examples of such chaos invariably test our faith in a higher power. Why does evil persist? Why do the innocent suffer? What is God doing up there? Christmas is the day Christians celebrate the birth of God to a poor peasant couple 2,000 years ago. As we proclaim the Advent of Immanuel–”God with us”–it is appropriate to reflect on such questions. Indeed, perhaps this is the most appropriate time.
Theologians call it theodicy, the defense of God’s goodness in response to evil. It is a difficult task which has produced few good answers, and I believe it reflects something about the human condition and our persistent search for meaning. In the midst of tragedy, people reflect on God’s will, divine governance, and the origin of evil with the hope of bringing order out of chaos. But unfortunately, this is an impossible task for human beings.
There is no meaning in chaos. Chaos is destruction, inversion, entropy–the opposite of existence. Swiss theologian Karl Barth called it das Nichtige, “the Nothingness.” It is the enemy of life which persists in God’s creation. We do not know where it came from, and we cannot explain why God allows it to exist. But we do know that it is finite, and that it will come to an end.
Chaos is as old as the universe itself. The second verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:2, speaks of the world as tohu va bohu, “wild and waste,” void and without form, uninhabited and uninhabitable. God enters into the chaos of the universe and brings forth order. He doesn’t eliminate it, but he does say “No” to it. Slowly but surely, piece by piece, God is bringing about a beautifully ordered world in opposition to destruction and death.
Christmas marks the beginning of God’s literal entrance into the world through the person of Christ. Chaos abounded at his birth–poverty, violence, an oppressive empire. When King Herod slaughtered the innocent children of Bethlehem, there was no deeper meaning to be had. God had entered the world in human flesh, and chaos was hellbent on snuffing him out.
Jesus spent his life confronting chaos. He healed the sick, invited outcasts into community, rejected hypocrisy, and declared war on demonic forces. He taught his disciples to be peacemakers and declared the Good News of God’s Kingdom–a new way of life which was to be lived in direct opposition to the world’s chaos.
We don’t know why God allows chaos to persist in creation, but we do know that God takes responsibility for it. On the cross, God enters into the chaos of the world and takes it upon himself. Jesus allows himself to fall victim to absolute evil, giving up his life in order to defeat chaos once and for all. The resurrection exposes the truth about chaos; it is meaningless and empty, leading only to death. Chaos has an expiration date.
Where was God in the Connecticut school shooting? He was there, on the cross, being counted among the victims.
I don’t think chaos will ever make sense. Some people believe that in the end it will all be worth it, that we will finally understand why evil was allowed to continue once we have witnessed the unimaginable beauty of God’s glory. I’m not convinced that’s the case, but I take comfort knowing that God is with the victims. I believe that a better world is possible and that God really does take a stand in opposition to evil. I eagerly anticipate the second Advent, the end of chaos, and the arrival of God’s kingdom in its fullness.
Until then, Christians are called to follow the way of Jesus: comforting those who mourn, showing mercy, and standing for peace. This is how we are called to celebrate Christmas, seeking to embody God’s future for the world right here in the present moment.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
Amen, and Merry Christmas.
During the recent vice presidential debate the two candidates were asked to speak on how their faith has impacted their views on abortion. Their comments quickly turned to whether or not abortion should be legal and under what circumstances. Representing the “pro-life” argument, Paul Ryan focused on the right to life which he believes begins at conception, insisting that abortion should only be legal in instances of incest, rape, or when the life of the mother is at risk. On the other side, “pro-choice” Joe Biden spoke of a woman’s right over her own body, warning that a Romney presidency would put that right at risk.
Discourses like these are disappointing. As is often the case, the pro-lifer and pro-choicer spoke past each other–drawing on non-intersecting themes, appealing to wholly different concerns, and speaking in purely legal terms without the slightest attention to ethics.
Perhaps this is part of the reason the abortion debate remains unsettled. Our arguments center on whether or not abortion can be carried out legally, without first wrestling with whether it should be carried out ethically. In this post, my goal is not to argue for or against the legality of abortion–that is a discussion for another day. Instead, I am interested in pursuing abortion’s ethical question. Ethics and legality are two vastly different things. If the recent financial crisis has taught us anything, it is that not all legal actions are ethical. On the other hand, history is full of examples of noble individuals who made ethical decisions in opposition to oppressive laws. While legality deals with issues of rights and the drafting of legislation, ethics deals with choices and our responsibility to strive for what is good. With this distinction made at the outset, we can begin to address the issue at hand.
What is the ethical question of abortion?
For starters, abortion’s ethical question is not concerned with the rights of autonomous individuals. Neither the fetal “right to life” nor the woman’s “right to choose” offers any aid in determining whether or not the decision to abort a pregnancy is ethical. A statement such as this requires some elaboration. Allow me to begin with the first point.
To claim that an unborn person has a “right to life” confuses both the concept of rights and the definition of life. Contrary to the claims of our Founding Fathers, rights are not endowed upon individuals by their Creator. Such a claim comes not from Scripture but from the natural law tradition, which views God as the detached “first mover” of the cosmos and attempts to universalize the experience of Western individualism. In actuality, rights are the result of living in a community which seeks the best interest of its members. In a similar fashion, life is not the possession of entitled individuals but an experience of knowing and being known by others. A person’s life is his or her history, the outcome of relationships accumulated over the course of a lifetime.
In much the same light, talk of a woman’s “right to choose” is meaningless if by it we mean the right of an individual to treat her own body as a possession and exercise dominion over it. To possess something creates a distinction between the subject who possesses and the object which is possessed. But we do not possess our bodies; we are our bodies. Our bodies are how we cultivate relationships and experience the world. The body is not a vehicle for the intellect which the mind controls like a machine, it is a complex system that defines who we are.
As far as a freedom to choose abortion is concerned, I am not convinced that such a thing exists. Free choices are made from a variety of possible options. But abortion is never chosen in the spirit of possibility, only despair. It is when a woman has nowhere else to turn that she chooses to abort–when there are not enough resources, no other health options, or when the burden of carrying the product of rape or incest is too much to bear. This is not an ethical judgment, it is simply an acknowledgement that the decision to abort is seldom (if ever) made freely.
Identifying the ethical question of abortion requires reaching beyond our misconceptions about the rights of individuals, focusing instead on the health and stability of the community.
The ethical decision of whether to abort a pregnancy is always made in community. Right relationships, not individual rights, must be our starting point. To begin, there is the relationship between the woman and the potential life that is growing inside her. Whether you consider an embryo to be an unborn child or just a collection of cells, there is no denying that this development inside the woman’s body changes her identity. Her physical condition is altered by this new relationship. She becomes a different person, the bearer of something new. If the pregnancy is carried to term, she will become a mother.
The community involved is not limited to the mother and her potential child. There are other key players whose identity and well-being are impacted by the pregnancy event. The man whose sperm fertilized the woman’s ovary becomes a potential father, with increased moral and legal responsibilities for the mother and the contents of her womb. There is a generational element in play as well, for the act of conception is how life progresses and sustains itself throughout the ages. There are friends, relatives, doctors, mentors (spiritual or otherwise),and an entire community which stands to be impacted by the decision of whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term.
This also begins to hint at a deeper cultural element underlying this ethical question. Abortion is not a matter to be handled by individuals, it is a dilemma which impacts the world we are creating for ourselves with each and every ethical decision. Will it be a more just world, or more unjust? Will the future remain a domain of promise, or will it become the fulfillment of our dread?
The ethical question of abortion (as I understand it) is this: How does this decision impact the community which makes it? Will it promote the health and well-being of that community, or will it damage the social fabric which constitutes communal identity?
This is an incredibly complex issue–deserving much more than a “one size fits all” solution can offer. In my next post, I will apply this ethical question to a number of circumstances which may lead a woman to consider abortion: personal health, convenience, social and economic difficulties, rape/incest, and perhaps a few more. It is my hope that this endeavor will be an opportunity for constructive dialogue on this issue. Let’s do our best to keep it civil.
“This is a movie that will push a lot of your buttons.”
That was the line we were greeted with last night when some friends and I attended the local premiere of HELLBOUND?, a new documentary which explores Christian views on H-E-double hockey sticks. It was a pretty big event, featuring a Q&A with the filmmakers after the movie and a live introduction beforehand by some professor from Azusa Pacific University who was obsessed with spelling out just how controversial the film would be.
I’m not sure how many buttons were actually pushed by the film at last night’s screening. I don’t personally have any buttons (I’m a snaps kind of guy) but I can say that out of the eight of us in the group of friends I went with – which included universalists, annhilationists, those with a traditional view of hell, and even one person who had no dog in the fight – we all appreciated the movie. And I don’t think it offended any of us.
The film has a lot going for it. Its production value (editing, camera work, etc.) is top notch and director Kevin Miller does an excellent job of presenting a compelling view of the subject which provokes thought. While the film argues unashamedly for Christian Universalism, Miller gives a refreshingly fair treatment to all views presented. The director also does an excellent job of asking tough questions to those he interviews while showing an (at times) uncanny amount of love and respect, even towards the hate-spewing folks from Westboro Baptist Church.
There is a debate raging right now in Evangelical circles about hell and the nature of eternal judgment. HELLBOUND? taps into this debate and makes a timely contribution of its own. Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, which challenged traditional notions of hell and received condemnation from many fundamentalist big wigs, is discussed early on in the film. Also included is an interview with Chad Holtz, a pastor whose firing in 2011 for questioning the existence of hell attracted national headlines.
In this turbulent and often fearful debate, I found the approach of HELLBOUND? to be a refreshing alternative. More than arguing for one side or another (which the movie does do) the real takeaway from this film is that it’s okay to ask questions and disagree on this topic. To invert an argument posed by Mark Driscoll – an uber-Calvinist pastor who also appears in the movie – the topic of hell is a state border, not a national one. Christians can disagree on this subject while still being faithful to Christ and the gospel.
And that brings me to another great aspect of this film – it is not at all ashamed of the gospel. I was surprised (perhaps showing my own bias) at just how evangelical this documentary turned out to be. The filmmakers love Jesus and present a compelling case for a loving God who conquers sin and whose grace is truly sufficient.
HELLBOUND? is not without its flaws. The traditionalists included in the movie are all either fundamentalists or hardcore Calvinists (and there is one atheist who argues in favor of hell). There are plenty of Christians out there who believe in hell without being jerks about it. Unfortunately, we don’t get to hear from many of them.
As an annihilationist, I was especially disappointed that my view was so underrepresented. Miller was asked about this during the live Q&A and revealed that it was essentially an issue of time. It isn’t possible to include everything you film in a documentary, and the movie works well by examining the debate between universalism and eternal conscious torment. Still, I would have liked to see more annihilation.
I was also put off by one element of the interview with Bible scholar Jaime Clark-Soles. While I appreciated much of what she had to say, she advocated a form of “taking the Bible seriously” which I find terribly problematic. Essentially, if you really want to understand the Bible and take it seriously, you need to do the hard work of studying the original contexts and languages. As a professional theologian, I have done both of these. However, I find that talk like this needlessly intimidates average Christians who don’t have the time or money to pursue degrees in biblical studies. Knowing Greek and Hebrew helps a lot, but you don’t need that level of knowledge to take the Bible seriously.
Another drawback to the film – and I’ll admit that this one is a bit nitpicky – is the shortage of scholarly views and complete lack of people of color. This movie could surely benefit from the inclusion of a few academic theologians and church historians, although that would require cutting out other parts in order to remain within a marketable run-time for a documentary. And while I realize that the context of this debate is American Evangelicalism, the fact that every single person interviewed for this film was white is a little off-putting to me.
Couldn’t the filmmakers find at least one Asian? Francis Chan – I’m looking at you!
There are a number of reasons you should see HELLBOUND?. Most importantly, in my opinion, is that there is a real lack of quality Christian films like this one. Most Christian movies I have seen are far too preachy to be enjoyable. And let’s not even talk about the production value. HELLBOUND? is insightful, entertaining, high quality, and not too pretentious. It’s a Christian film that a non-Christian could actually watch and find enjoyable. Movies like that are rare, and that’s why HELLBOUND? needs our support.
I will probably go see it in the theater at least one more time. You should see it to.
Here’s a link to find out where the film is playing near you.
And here is the trailer:
I just happened to stumble upon this article about the last days of Christopher Hitchens. An acclaimed public intellectual, writer, and one of the four horsemen of New Atheism, Hitchens died from pnemonia (a complication of oesophageal cancer) on December 15, 2011. He was 62 years old.
Lines like this are part of the reason I loved Christopher Hitchens. He called Christians out on our bullshit and did so with a dry wit that made those of us with a sense of humor laugh. I was a fan of his work, following his writings for publications such as Slate and Vanity Fair and even reading a few of his books. I think Hitchens was wrong about God. I think his writings on atheism could have benefited from actual study of metaphysics and contemporary theology. In spite of these shortcomings, I will always admire his intellect, skepticism, and relentless pursuit of truth.
Christopher Hitchens will always be one of those famous individuals I wish I could have met but never will. Had I met him, I don’t think I would have asked for an autograph or told him that I was his biggest Christian fan. Instead, I think I would have wanted to have a conversation with the man. I would have wanted to hear his story, gotten some advice on writing, and maybe pick up a joke or two.
I would have told Christopher Hitchens that the church needs critics like him. Had he been interested, I might have even offered him a testimony of what a difference the Christian faith has made in my life and how the church has supported me and my family over the years. If it wouldn’t have offended him – and I don’t suspect it would have – I would have prayed for him.
I don’t know why Christopher Hitchens’ pursuit of truth led him away from God. I’m not sure why he opposed religion so vehemently, or why he chose to focus only on the sins of the church while ignoring all of the good religion has accomplished. My hope is that Christopher Hitchens’ pursuit of truth didn’t end at death. And that maybe, just maybe, he’ll find what he was looking for somewhere in eternity. Perhaps then I’d get to have that conversation after all.
I think I’ll still pray for Christopher Hitchens.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’”
- Gen 2:15-17 (ESV)
I remember reading the story of Adam and Eve as a young child. I encountered it in a storybook Bible, essentially a collection of famous Bible passages retold in a simple yet imaginative way suitable for little kids. It was my first exposure to the literary genre of tragedy:
Two star-cross’d lovers, both alike in immortality,
In the Garden of Eden, with a talking snake.
A tree of evil which provoked their curiosity,
And a bitten apple, their immortality take.
Here were two immortals, the first humans, who sacrificed eternal life in paradise for a taste of forbidden fruit. “How stupid,” I remember thinking as a five year old, “not only that Adam and Eve gave up immortality for an apple, but that all of humanity was cursed to death as a result.” A few years later I finally read the story on my own from an actual Bible.
It was then that I first realized – the text never says that Adam and Eve were immortal.
To me it was as clear as can be: God told Adam he would die the day he ate from the tree. God did not say, “You will lose your immortality and die at the age of 930,” and Adam seemed to have a pretty good idea of what death meant for a guy who lived in a land of immortality.
I would learn pretty quickly that this was not the kind of question to bring up in a Sunday School class; unless you wanted to be talked down to by the teacher and forcibly removed for insubordination (i.e. – asking questions that crappy children’s Sunday School teachers were not equipped to answer).
It was another 15 years or so before I took a class on the Pentateuch in seminary and learned that a number of rabbis, Bible scholars, and theologians had pointed out the exact same thing. This brought the walls of faith crumbling down for a few of my classmates and brought eight-year-old Dan a dose of sweet justification.
You may not agree with my reading, which is fine – this is the internet and we live in a free country (and there are passages like Genesis 3:22 and Romans 6:23 which seem at first glance to support the other side). You may be thinking that I’m needlessly nitpicking an otherwise straightforward passage with an observation that is unwarranted and irrelevant. Here are three reasons I think you might be wrong:
1. The way we read this story impacts our understanding of God’s character.
When the story of Adam is interpreted in the “classic” manner, God comes off as short-tempered, judgmental, and petty. It is a freaking piece of fruit, after all. Adam’s disobedience leads God to revoke the greatest gift he had bestowed on human beings (immortality) and introduce death to an otherwise unblemished creation. This is what we get if we understand Adam as an immortal before the fall.
When the passage is read at face value, without this inference about Adam’s immortality, the picture of God presented in the opening chapters of Genesis becomes much different. God tells mortal Adam not to eat the fruit of the tree, warning him that on the day he eats from it he will die. Adam and his wife decide to eat from the tree anyway and they don’t die – the first act of mercy God bestows on sinful human beings.
2. The classic understanding of this story needlessly complicates the dialogue between faith and science.
Evolutionary biology has forced many Christians to reconsider our understanding of the opening chapters of Genesis. For many, this has led to a better understanding of Genesis within its cultural and historical contexts, as well as an appreciation for truth as it is found both in natural science and God’s word. For others, the tension between Darwin and the Bible has had – let’s say – the opposite effect.
If you thought a literal six-day creation account was tricky to navigate in light of The Origin of Species, just wait until you have to deal with primordial immortality. Even if you’re willing to view Adam as a representative of humanity or a symbol of ancient Israel, belief in Adam’s immortality is ultimately untenable in light of the evolutionary process, which utilizes death to foster life.
Of course if Adam wasn’t immortal, you can pretty easily avoid this entire conversation…
3. The need to differentiate between what is actually contained in the text and our inferences based on the text.
This is the point I am particularly sensitive to as a theologian. My job requires me to draw inferences based on Scripture fairly regularly. If I don’t maintain balance and differentiate between what the text actually says and my own constructive extrapolations based on the text, I would be wandering into some pretty dangerous territory.
Of course reading the Bible always requires some degree of interpretation, otherwise we are not really engaging with the text. But when Christians conflate our interpretations with the inspired word itself, we do a disservice to both and perform an act of violence upon Scripture.
In that vein, it should be noted that the text of Genesis 2 does not explicitly attribute mortality or immortality to Adam prior to the fall. It only says that when he eats from the tree he will die. My view is just as interpretive as the more classic rendering.
I just wish Christians were all willing to admit this fact while discussing passages like this one.
Theology has been an interest of mine for most of my life. Making a living from teaching and writing about theology is a relatively new development for me, and it has led me lately to do some introspection.
Theology is a topic people like to debate. Like politics and money, theology is somewhat taboo to discuss publically in our culture. Churches split over it. Friendships end because of it. Sometimes, people even kill for it. Theology is not always nice. Oftentimes, it can be downright divisive. We draw battle lines based on our doctrine, defining who’s in and out…
infant baptism vs. submersion…
universalism vs. exclusivism…
traditional vs. contemporary…
predestination vs. freewill…
As easy as it can be to get sucked into these topics (and as much fun as they can be to debate with fellow theology nerds) I’ve always felt a little out of the loop when it comes to the divisiveness of theology. For some reason, I can usually find something of value in just about any theology – whether I agree with it or not.
I don’t agree with Calvinists, for example, but I appreciate much of what they try to affirm. I’m not a universalist, but I like that there are folks out there who continue to hope for the salvation of all. I enjoy reading dead German theologians, as well as emerging contemporary thinkers from the Majority World.
My appreciation for bits and pieces of (just about) all theology has got me thinking – what is it that makes good theology? What common themes exist in these diverse opinions that allow me to feel somewhat at home across the theological spectrum? While no list could be definitive, I’ve chosen to highlight three things that I believe make for good theology:
1. Good theology is authentic.
There are theologians out there who do what they do simply for a paycheck. They have very few convictions of their own, and perhaps even view belief in God as being somewhat passé. Yet they continue to do theology, almost entirely from speculation and with no clear assertion of what they actually believe. Other theologians are backed into a corner. Maybe they no longer agree with their tradition or the views of the school that employs them, so they curtail their views out of the fear of losing their jobs. Both of these examples make for inauthentic theology.
I want theologians to believe something. If I am going to invest the time to read your stuff, I would like it to reflect something of your context, worldview, and convictions concerning the divine. Don’t hide what you believe behind a veneer of speculative fluff, give me something real. Even if I don’t agree with what you have to say, I will appreciate your theology much more if I can tell that it comes from the heart.
2. Good theology is compelling.
Some theologians tell you what they believe. Others tell you what to believe. I appreciate when a theologian makes you want to believe. Write a compelling word. Inspire me! Paint me a picture of God, the world, and human nature that is so fresh and so beautiful that I can’t help but believe.
You can shove your opinions in other people’s faces as much as you want. You can lay the most solid foundation, building an argument with absolutely no holes, etc. – but at the end of the day, I will never believe what you have to say if I don’t find it compelling. This is why so much of contemporary apologetics is ineffective. It’s not enough to convince people, you need to compel them. And people are compelled by beauty, not effective reasoning.
3. Good theology does no harm.
Theology is not a harmless pursuit. It requires discipline and responsible handling. Religious belief is a powerful force that can persuade people to do great things, as well as terrible things. When theology maligns individuals or groups of people, it becomes destructive. Theologians have the responsibility to be compasses for the church, keeping it engaged with culture and pressing forward, while correcting in love and pointing to God’s Kingdom.
When we speak theologically, we have the power to draw people closer to God or drive them away. In this respect, theology is the responsibility of all Christians—and we will be held accountable.
There is much more that could be added to this list—engagement with Scripture, contextuality, being rooted in love, etc.—but these are the three points I chose to emphasize.
What do you think makes for good theology?