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In Acts 14, Luke sets forth for us the events that took place on Paul’s first missionary journey, a journey on which Barnabas accompanied him. We’ve seen this pattern emerge over and over again. The apostles would come into the synagogue or the public square known as the agora. They would proclaim the gospel openly. And there would always be some people who responded in faith by the power of the Holy Ghost while others in attendance would stand up in outright hostility and oppose them. Indeed, it was through great tribulation that the gospel bore fruit in places like Antioch and Iconium. And everyday Paul and Barnabas were subjected to threats, insults, hostility and even physical danger. We can see how things degenerated to such a degree here in the latter part of chapter fourteen: the Jewish leadership actually convenes a kangaroo court and imposes the death penalty upon Paul! A rioting mob is gathered and begins to throw stones at Paul with deadly force. Paul is knocked down by the repeated blows to the face, arms, torso, and head. His would-be executors then drag him out of the city, leaving him for dead.
Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games is easily dismissed as a bad book, the type of junk-thriller that captivates audiences with mere sensationalism and little else. Nonetheless, its internal logic clearly captivates millions of readers and viewers, and that alone demands an account of the book’s resonances, its movement, something that philosopher D.Z. Phillips called “possibilities of sense”, a shorthand for what it is about a work or idea that so enthralls its devotees. With many pulp bestsellers, simple appeals to violence, clichéd romance, or tense but tired plotlines fuel the mass appeal. Collins both plays into these bestseller stereotypes while simultaneously protesting them, and the juxtaposition of violence and classical virtue is an enveloping conflict of the book.
Rachel Held Evans had at least two stated goals for writing A Year of Biblical Womanhood, according to the promotional material accompanying my advance review copy. Under “Why She Wrote the Book,” Evans says:
I’ve long been frustrated by the inconsistencies with which “biblical womanhood” is taught and applied in my evangelical Christian community. So . . . I set out to follow all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible for a year to show that no woman, no matter how devout, is actually practicing biblical womanhood all the way. My hope is that the book will generate some laughs, as well as a fresh, honest dialogue about . . . biblical interpretation. (emphasis mine)
Evans wants to show that everyone who tries to follow biblical norms does so selectively—“cherry picking” some parts and passing over others. She also says she wants to open a fresh, honest dialogue about biblical interpretation, that is, how to do it rightly and well. Rachel, I tried twice to get in touch with you when you were in New York City on the talk shows but wasn’t able to connect. So here’s what I would have said if we could have gotten the chance to open that dialogue.
My good friend Jono Linebaugh (New Testament Professor at Knox Theological Seminary and content manager for LIBERATE) wrote a thoughtful post on Martin Luther’s famous phrase Simul iustus et peccator–simultaneously justified and a sinner (you can read it here). One reader questioned whether “sinner” is an appropriate term to describe Christian identity. This is an important question. After all, Paul writes to sinful Christians and calls them “saints.” Once God saves us, aren’t we new creatures?
Well, here we are: Election Day. Some of you have followed the ins and outs of the campaign for months, if not years. Today is more exciting than the Super Bowl and March Madness and college rivalry week all rolled into one. For others, the excitement of the Summer Olympics every four years is only matched by the tedium of the presidential race in those same years. At this point you’d rather get habanero eye drops, sit next to a starving baby on the plane, and go the dentist every day for a month than be subject to any more campaign ads. Whether we’ve been engaged in the process since Ames or disconnected until today, we are all ready for this thing to be over.