Spirituality and Religion (1 Corinthians 12:1-3)


Of late, I have noticed with increasing frequency that many people describe themselves as “spiritual, not religious.” In my college logic class, I learned to call such a description a “false disjunction.” After all, a person can be both spiritual and religious. It need not be an either/or proposition. Certainly, I believe that I am both an adherent of the Christian religion and a spiritual person. In fact, I believe that I am filled with the Holy Spirit precisely because of – not in spite of – my belief in Jesus. Logical quibbles aside, however, I readily understand why so … Continue reading Spirituality and Religion (1 Corinthians 12:1-3)

Communion and Community (1 Corinthians 11:17-24)


Several years ago, I returned to my home church after a long absence. It had been some time since anyone had seen me, and I had put on a number of pounds. So, at first, people who had known me all my life did not recognize me. That was bad enough. Worse, however, was my extreme isolation. I had attended another church during my time away, and every Sunday service was followed by a boisterous, well-attended meal at a local restaurant. When I returned to my home church, however, I returned as a stranger and ate my post-church meals alone. … Continue reading Communion and Community (1 Corinthians 11:17-24)

What Is the Lord’s Supper? (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)


What is the Lord’s Supper? We find an answer to this question in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. First, it is a tradition. Paul writes: “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you…” Traditions can stifle spirituality. Jesus himself criticized “the Pharisees and teachers of the law” when he said, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men” (Mark 7:8). But Jesus also instituted traditions such as the Lord’s Supper (cf. Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, and Luke 22:17-20). When we eat the Lord’s Supper, we are taking–across … Continue reading What Is the Lord’s Supper? (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

Physical Meal and Spiritual Communion (1 Corinthians 11:20–22)


If you are hungry, will the Lord’s Supper satisfy you? For most of us, the answer is no. A bite of bread will not fill our stomachs. A sip of grape juice will not slake our thirsts. Also, for most of us, the question itself is problematic. Despite the name, the Lord’s Supper as we practice it is not a meal, and its outcome is not physical satisfaction. Instead, we view it as a symbol whose outcome is spiritual communion with Christ and other believers. The question is problematic, then, because it commits a category mistake, confusing the physical and … Continue reading Physical Meal and Spiritual Communion (1 Corinthians 11:20–22)

More Harm Than Good? (1 Corinthians 11:17–19)


On November 26, 2010, Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens debated whether religion is a force for good in the world. Blair, former Prime Minister of Britain and a Roman Catholic, argued the affirmative case. Hitchens, an atheist and author of God Is Not Great, argued the negative.   What if the real case is ambivalent? I cannot make this ambivalent case from an atheist point of view, of course, since I’m not one of them. But as a Christian, I can make a religious case against religion. Indeed, I can make a religious case against religion by citing chapter and … Continue reading More Harm Than Good? (1 Corinthians 11:17–19)

Different, but the Same (1 Corinthians 11:2–16)


My wife is an excellent sermon critic. She cuts through rhetorical folderol, long-winded illustrations, and abstract theologizing like a hot knife through butter. And she does it with a simple question: What do you want me to do? I think of her question when I read 1 Corinthians 11:2–16. Commentators disagree on the details of this passage[i]. For example: Paul uses the word head—Greek, kephale—metaphorically in verse 3, where he writes: “the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” Does kephale denote “authority over” or “source … Continue reading Different, but the Same (1 Corinthians 11:2–16)