Charity and Its Fruits: Why it Matters

As you may know from Kent’s interview posted here, my new book Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Light of God’s Love (Crossway, 2012) has now been released. Charity and Its Fruits was a sermon series through 1 Cor 13, and is, therefore, a theological exposition on love. So, why does it matter? First, I think it is important to see Edwards put his incredible mind to work on 1 Cor 13. As much as this passage is thrown about at weddings, few have really sat with how difficult a passage it is. Therefore, secondly, let me explain why I think it matters through two key theological moves Edwards makes.

The first key theological move Edwards makes is his exposition of the “nature” of God. God’s nature, as we know from 2 Pet 1:4, is communicable, and therefore God’s nature is not the same thing as God’s essence. Furthermore, God is love, therefore love, in some way, is God’s nature. Edwards runs this through his trinitarian theology to grasp the reality that God’s own life is a life of loving consent and union. It is God knowing himself and loving himself fully as perfect beauty and holiness. Therefore, God becomes the archetype by which our own journey of love is etched.

The second key move is to pick up on Paul’s comment that whereas faith and hope fade away, love never will. Love is eternal. Love is the only currency in heaven, as it were. The vision of God known in heaven, therefore, serves to orient our lives now. Just as the vision of God will create a perfect loving society, so should the sight of faith create a society of love here. These two lines come together since God is the God of love and the telos of our histories. As we journey towards heaven we journey towards God. Love, therefore, is proleptically provided to us from heaven. It is not of this world. Love, therefore, actually is the Holy Spirit given in regeneration. It is only as we know God that we can love him and love our neighbors as ourselves. Continue reading

Kyle’s Book Hits Shelves

I opened an unexpected package from Crossway today and was thrilled to see Kyle’s new book, an updated edition of Jonathan Edwards’ Charity and Its Fruit. My lakeside reading list is now set for next week, and I will post a short review of Kyle’s book sometime after returning.

Read the ringing endorsement of Timothy George: “This new edition of Charity and Its Fruits is a most welcomed addition to the growing library of books by and about the great Jonathan Edwards. For those who mistakenly think that Protestant theologians overemphasize faith at the expense of love, these classic sermons by Edwards will be an antidote to a stereotype. But even more important, this deep mining of 1 Corinthians 13 is a pathway into spiritual theology that will draw every believer closer to Christ.”

Christian Nursing as Vulnerable Compassion

I was invited this spring to give the address at the pinning ceremony for the graduates of our nursing program at Huntington University. I chose to speak on the vocation of Christian nursing as “vulnerable compassion in the name of Christ.” I am posting the address in full and would enjoy some feedback and discussion.

Nurses are present with us in many of those times that are most important, memorable, and vulnerable. When our children are born, nurses are often close at hand. When we or someone we love becomes ill, nurses are present throughout our diagnosis and treatment. And when our lives draw to a close, they do so many times in the close proximity of a nurse.

However, to say that nurses are present says nothing of the nature of their presence. Is it possible that one’s presence could be just as beneficial as harmful? We know this is true. And we also know that the proficiency or skill of one’s performance of tasks does not fully describe the shape and character of their presence. We know the truth of this even if we are unsure how to describe it. We are aware intuitively that the presence of one human being with another transcends the fact that we happen to share the same physical space. The nature and character of one human being’s presence with another is within our perception but beyond our naming: one evokes unease, another comfort; one evokes manipulation, another, compassion; one catalyzes despair, and another hope.

The potential of a nurse to evoke such different emotional, psychological, and physical states might illustrate the sacredness of human relationship. There is no word for the experience of holding one’s child in the moments after their birth or overhearing an argument at the table next to us. This is no less true for naming the unique character of a nurse’s presence and the affect it has upon those who share it.  This is certainly a glorious mystery. Continue reading

Summer Reading List

Students normally ask me what I will be reading over the summer, and I usually answer with something like, “This and that.” My goals are most often overly optimistic so I thought to sit down and figure it out.

Summer always starts with total immersion in great fiction. This year I am reading whatever I can get my hands on by John Updike. In the Beauty of the Lillies was amazing, and I now reading a collection of short stories, The Afterlife.

I am presently blogging through Tom Bergler’s book The Juvenilization of American Christianity. You can follow those posts on this site over the next month or so. Our division at Huntington (Bible, Religion, Philosophy, Ministry, and Missions) holds a colloquium in August when we give brief presentations on our current research and discuss a book we had read over the summer. This year we are reading and discussing Christian Smith’s latest, The Bible Made Impossible.

Next week I’m off to short conference on faith and learning put on by the CCCU. They sent me a copy of Teaching and Christian Practices: Reshaping Faith and Learning which was great because I was planning to order it anyway. The book looks intriguing, and it will be interesting to see how they use it at the conference.

A few I am excited to read. Katherine Doob Sakenfeld has written  beautiful little study on divine faithfulness. Faithfulness in Action looks to be great! I am also marinating in Barth’s IV.4 at the moment. His account of the Christian life there is simply stunning.

Then several books fall within the category of “I hope I get to them.” We’ll see, the summer always passes faster than I am prepared. Here’s the list of books I hope time allows me to read: Billings, Calvin, Participation, and the Gift; G.R. Evans, The Roots of the Reformation: Tradition, Emergence, and Rupture; Matthew Boulton, Life in God: John Calvin, Practical Formation and the Future of Protestant Theology; Gerald Bray, God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology.

What’s on your summer reading list – by necessity or by choice?

Updates from Theology Forum

Hello all,

It has been a particularly busy season for all of us here at Theology Forum, as you can probably tell from the Blog. Steve started a new job, moved back to Denver, and had his first child, all while continuing to write his dissertation. Kent has been pouring himself into teaching, and, I should note, has just been named Professor of the Year at Huntington University. I have met few people, if any, who think so critically and creatively about teaching college students, so it comes as no surprise that his efforts have not gone unnoticed. Kent continues to work on his retrieval project and editing a volume with me on the Christian life.

I have had my fair share of busyness as well, and have, as of yesterday, handed in the draft for my book on Edwards’s Theology: Jonathan Edwards’s Theology: A Reinterpretation (Dec, 2012). I would also like to announce that I have just accepted a faculty position at Grand Canyon University for the Fall. We are very excited to be joining the team there, and slightly less excited to be moving to Phoenix in July.

In any case, we hope to get things moving around here a bit more now that things are (hopefully) slowing down.

Rejected! – The unhappy job of peer review

I recently peer reviewed an essay for a scholarly journal. Unhappily I recommended the essay be rejected. I would have much rather recommended it be revised and resubmitted, but it failed on so many levels that it was beyond revising – it was really bad! It was so bad, in fact, that I had one of my seniors read a page and asked him what level undergraduate had written it. He guessed third year undergraduate. Ouch!

Still, it is an unhappy job to peer review and recommend “Rejected” because it shuts down the process of improvement in the case of this particular essay being publishing in this journal. Having had an essay of my own rejected last year, I remember what it feels like. With those feelings of rejection close at hand, I sent a lengthy explanation of my rationale in the hopes that the author will improve their methods of research and writing and do better work in the future. I am a theologian, I always hope for redemption!

How many of you have peer reviewed essays and were compelled to recommend “Rejected.” It is a conflicting experience and I would like to hear from some of you. Or, if you are willing to admit it, have you had an essay or book proposal rejected? What did you learn in the process that was useful, or how did you wish it had been handled so that it would be more useful to you?

One (Cheeky) Way to a Address a Parachurch Audience

I couldn’t resist highlighting this (half-serious) comment from Martyn Lloyd-Jones at the beginning of a message for a parachurch meeting including leaders of IVF:

I have been trying to find your organisations in the Bible, but you are not to be found in the New Testament.  I did find you, however, in the Old – in the Book of Judges, chapter 17, verse 6, ‘In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes’ (Iain Murray, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982], p. 366).