What Legalists and Atheists Cannot Understand: Grace

Over at The Gospel Coalition, Chris Castaldo reminds us that how we Christians see God impacts how others see our God:

The parable [of the prodigal son] ends there. Unlike the earlier stories, there is no explicit lesson from Jesus. We don’t know whether the formerly lost son’s big brother joins in the celebration, though it is clear that he should. The point, you see, is not bowing to some crabbed notion of fairness, but losing ourselves in God’s grand graciousness. Will the son forsake his pride and jealousy and become more like his gracious father? Will the Pharisees and scribes?

The question also applies to us, especially to those of us who are considered religious leaders, who faithfully serve and obey God. Have we entertained the same kinds of warped notions about God? Do we secretly feel that serving the Lord is duty that deserves some sort of reward? If so, are we dangerously close to a soul-stifling legalism? When a sinner repents after a lifetime of dissipation, are we happy about a new brother or sister in Christ, or are we unhappy that he or she “got away with it”?

In these stories, we learn that celebration is the natural response of heaven to a lost sinner being found. Do we feel the same way? I am reminded of a message by Tony Campolo, “The Kingdom of God Is a Party.” While the kingdom is surely more than that, it cannot be less.

Christopher Hitchens was wrong. God is no cosmic tyrant. To entertain this kind of slur even for a moment dishonors the Lord and contradicts the good news we have been sent to share. So as we persevere in doing the good and hard work of the kingdom, let us never forget that if we see our gracious God as he is, chances are that others will see him that way, too.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Thursday, December 22, 2011

DECEMBER 22: Happy Winter Solstice Day!

POT, MEET KETTLE: “The Accidental Universe: Science’s crisis of faith.”

That same uncertainty disturbs many physicists who are adjusting to the idea of the multiverse. Not only must we accept that basic properties of our universe are accidental and uncalculable. In addition, we must believe in the existence of many other universes. But we have no conceivable way of observing these other universes and cannot prove their existence. Thus, to explain what we see in the world and in our mental deductions, we must believe in what we cannot prove.

Sound familiar? Theologians are accustomed to taking some beliefs on faith. Scientists are not. All we can do is hope that the same theories that predict the multiverse also produce many other predictions that we can test here in our own universe. But the other universes themselves will almost certainly remain a conjecture.

“We had a lot more confidence in our intuition before the discovery of dark energy and the multiverse idea,” says Guth. “There will still be a lot for us to understand, but we will miss out on the fun of figuring everything out from first principles.”

YEP: “Call It Christ’s Mass and Let Best Buy Keep the Holiday.”

AZUSA STREET, 100 YEARS LATER: “More Than 1 in 4 Christians Are Pentecostal, Charismatic.”

COME ON IN, THE WATER’S FINE! “Baptists, Pentecostals Seek Common Ground.”

OR PERHAPS EUROPE HAS MOVED AWAY FROM FOLLOWING? “Christianity is still the largest religion in the world but followers have moved away from Europe.”

BECAUSE VIRTUE ISN’T GOING AWAY: “Why We Need a ‘Stuck with Virtue’ Science.”

BECAUSE SOCIOLOGISTS HAVE NOTHING BETTER TO DO: “Sociological rules of Christmas gift giving.”

QUESTIONABLE RELIGIOUS STATISTIC: “Study: Atheists distrusted as much as rapists.”

GOOD FOR THEM! BUT DIDN’T SCROOGE CONVERT? “Atheists aim to change image of penny-pinching Scrooges.”

CRAP OR CONSCIENCE? “Manure Makers, Yes; Catholics, No.”


IVY LEAGUE PERVS: “The Postmodern Pedophile: Meet the academics who try to redefine pedophilia as ‘intergenerational intimacy.’”

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Monday, June 13, 2011

“A Very Christian Atheist.” About George Orwell. I liked this quote from Orwell in particular:

…when one’s belly is empty, one’s only problem is an empty belly. It is when we have got away from drudgery and exploitation that we shall really start wondering about man’s destiny and the reason for his existence. One cannot have any worthwhile picture of the future unless one realises how much we have lost by the decay of Christianity.


Breaking Up with God: I Didn’t Lose My Faith, I Left It.” I’m interested in these kinds of stories because my doctoral research is going to focus on deconversion narratives. This paragraph caught my eye:

That there is more to God than most of us have been taught in church. That faith is an imaginative, constructive, ethical enterprise. That theology matters. That the way we think about God has a real effect on the earth and on other human beings. That we are the ones we have been waiting for. In the book I write, “This is my faith: a fragile hope in what humanity might be able to do when we stop looking for someone else to save us,” and I think that sentence sums up what the book is about.

Didn’t we just live through a century with that “fragile hope.” How did it work out?


“How saying a blessing changed my secular family’s meals.” Well, if you’re going to be thankful, you need to be thankful to someone, right?


“Dalai Lama: ‘I Am a Marxist, But Not a Leninist.’” If you’re a Marxist and a Buddhist, does that make you a Barxist? Or a Muddhist? Inquiring minds…


Is Christian exclusivism bad? Part 1 of what promises to be an interesting two-part series.


David Koresh Superstar? Uh, no thank you!


“Arkansas atheists sue over bus ads on God-free lifestyle.” Of course they did.


“Animal rights philosopher Peter Singer expands on why he is backing away from his famous philosophy.” Well, the “preference utilitarianism” part, anyway.


“Inerrancy, Not So Arrogant.” In which Collin Hansen discusses what Jesus and Sarah Palin do not have in common.


“How Not to Grow a Healthy Church.”

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