Archive for 'Essays'
Posted on 16. May, 2012 by Tim Stoner.
Eric Metaxa’s brilliant autobiography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer was easily my favorite book of 2011. It introduced me to a teacher, preacher with the unnering and unnerving prophet’s eye. Abraham Heschel describes a prophet as ones who, “said no to to his society, condemning its habits, and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness, and syncretism.” Such a man was Bonhoeffer and for it he paid with his life. This book made me wonder whether I was reading more of a prophesy than a biography. The choice for him was between the German Church and the Confessing Church (which he helped found). Today it might very well be the Accomodated Church one the one side and the Faithful Church on the other. But, what is clear, we desperately need more prophetic preachers like him inside as well as outside the church.
Posted on 11. Apr, 2011 by Tim Stoner.
A friend asked me a question about my disagreement with Love Wins. I have to admit it kind of rankled me. It implied fear, inadequacy or inferiority. So, yes, it stung my pride. Though it had a bite to it, it forced me to uncover the motivation for my negative response to Rob’s core message. And in doing so I had to confront the masks we wear: misdirected love, reactionary love and, more to the point, a cold and careless apathy hiding behind proclamations of love.
Posted on 24. Mar, 2011 by Tim Stoner.
Recently, a thoughtful young man asked a question that jarred me. This was how the question was posed: “What’s so special about the moment of death that it suddenly cuts off the availability of God’s grace?” I had no good anwer until I happened to read through the story of the encounter between Jesus and a demonized Jewish synagogue attendee. What he screams at Jesus wipes off any ironic, postmodern smirk and reveals a lot about the irrevocable line between life and death.
Posted on 19. Mar, 2011 by Tim Stoner.
Something has been steadily seeping out of our discourse over several decades–the gripping awareness of God’s majesty. It is in this generation that the resultant lightness of God’s being is becoming impossible to ignore. There was a time when men and women lived in a world drenched with God, they blazed with a white-hot devotion. As I read Love Wins I was compelled to pick up a book by such a man: Knowledge of the Holy. It shows us why where there is no doxology Hell makes no sense.
Posted on 17. Mar, 2011 by Tim Stoner.
In Love Wins Bell is launching a serious critique against belief in the conscious, eternal torment of those who reject Christ. Now, the really bad news hidden beneath Bell’s sympathetic and generous dismissal of the church’s historic teaching is that it drives all evil and suffering, as well as catastophes like those in Japan, completely outside the providence of God. A good God who is too good to condemn to an eternal Hell is incapable of having anything to do with the major traumas of our life, except to (after the fact) put a kindly but impotent hand on our shoulder and sympathize with our pain. This good-natured, frustrated bystander to suffering can offer us no real hope or comfort at all.
Posted on 12. Feb, 2011 by Tim Stoner.
A Walk to Remember is a heartbreakingly romantic book. In it the protagonist, now in his late 50’s, remembers a walk that he has never been able to forget. In my fundamentalist tradition the walk we were never to forget was that one we took during the “altar call.” It would serve as the reminder of the iron-clad guarantee of our eternal security. However, Hebrews disabuses us of all notions that our confidence is in a brief stroll in the past. Instead the picture is that of a grueling race in which victory is not at all certain. There is great danger of falling short, falling away, or falling down. Thanks to a sermon by David Platt on the Rich Man and Lazarus, I am wondering whether I am in danger of doing all three.
Posted on 22. Jan, 2011 by Tim Stoner.
In Generous Justice Timothy Keller does something almost impossible: he wrestles a golden calf off its marble pedestal while keeping the conservative reader from pushing the eject button. The argument he makes is that caring for the widow, orphans, immigrants and the poor is not an option, it is a duty—it is a necessary act of love. Starkly: choosing not to sacrifically serve those in need is not stinginess but “an offense against God”. And most starkly of all: refusing to “do justice” means we have not been truly saved. He does this gently, but for those with ears to hear Dr. Keller has issued a prophetic pronouncement that will rock the boat and hopefully the world.
Posted on 03. Jan, 2011 by Tim Stoner.
Leaders in the church are “entrusted” with something infinitely valuable: the Gospel which is to be guarded and applied to men’s consciences. Standing by as this deposit of truth is pillaged by false teachers (be they ever so winsome and cultured and kind), is to be guilty of criminal negligence. Failing to issue clear warnings and distinguish the holy and the profane is an actionable breach of trust. The consequences, at best, are being fired (as in “being saved as though by fire”), and at worse, becoming complicit in profaning God–if Ezekiel and St. Paul are to be believed.
Posted on 02. Nov, 2010 by Tim Stoner.
It is only a matter of time, Tickle affirms, before the church, out of compassion, adjusts its stance over homosexuality. “What is really at issue [in this debate]is the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura.” When this issue is ultimately decided (in favor), “the Reformation’s understanding of Scripture as it had been taught by Protestantism for almost five centuries will be dead.” For this reason the battle over sexual identity “has to be the bitterest, because once it is lost. . . .It is finished.” Perhaps this is not such a bad thing. Maybe it was time for it to die.
Posted on 28. Oct, 2010 by Tim Stoner.
Phyllis Tickle is a formidable woman. She is leading the charge for the next great revolution in Christianity called the Great Emergence. She is an expert on religion who is to be taken seriously. She spoke at Mars Hill in Grand Rapids on “The Feminine Atributes of the Holy Spirit.” In it she makes a case for the Feminine Divine and in it we see where Emergent/Emerging Christianity may be heading. To hear her talk, what is on the horizon might better be called the “Great Convergence”–where Christianity and Paganism meld into one.
Posted on 11. Sep, 2010 by Tim Stoner.
Coming to a campus near you is the premier screening of a ground-breaking documentary addressing the growing nonviolence movement in Israel and Palestine. Little Town of Bethlehem tells the gripping story of three men—born into sectarian violence and on opposite sides of the conflict, yet willing to risk everything to embrace a non-violent solution to the hostility tearing their homelands apart. Their three paths intersect in Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, now a town in occupied territory surrounded by a 30-foot cement wall crowned with barbed wire.