Divine Providence: The Forgotten Truth

We approach another Thanksgiving Day, and I think few understand the point. It is not supposed to be about sales, nor eating, nor even thanking other people—it’s about acknowledging God and praising him for his steadfast love. That’s what George Washington had in mind in 1789, when, in response to a request from Congress, he…

Religion or Spirituality?

Text: John 4:5-15 A few years ago, the Associated Press carried this story: By Day 2 in the blazing Utah desert, Dave Buschow was in bad shape. Pale, wracked by cramps, his speech slurred, the 29-year-old New Jersey man was desperate for water and hallucinating so badly he mistook a tree for a person. After…

The Chaplains We Need

In April 2016 I took part in the “Pathways to Military Chaplaincy” consultation at Boston University.  “The purpose of this consultation,” said the advertisement, was “to assist left-of-center and progressive seminaries in preparing military chaplains for the 21st century.” Chaplains and representatives of endorsing agencies were also invited.  It was clear, though, that we were not…

A Chaplain Speaks to Pastors

As a chaplain, I sometimes feel like Rodney Dangerfield. We often don’t get respect—particularly from ministerial colleagues. Some see us as pastoral failures who became chaplains because we “couldn’t make it” in the congregation. Some see us as having “left the ministry”—I’ve heard that several times, from other pastors and from church administrators. But chaplains are pastors. We are…

Justification by Faith and Moral Injury

This month we remember the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation—I began my ministry as a Lutheran pastor, so this anniversary is especially significant to me.  It was on October 31, 1517, that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on Indulgences, igniting a firestorm which swept through church and state. At stake was the Gospel…

After 500 Years

October 31 will be celebrated as the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  It’s an arbitrary date, in many ways.  It ignores earlier reformers like Wycliffe and Huss.  It picks the date when Luther may or may not have posted his “95 Theses on Indulgences”–simply an invitation to debate, so they appeared.  At that point,…

Young Adults and Marriage Preparation

For eleven years, I did young adult and campus ministry for the Catholic Church, first as a campus minister at UCSB, then as archdiocesan director for Galveston-Houston. The foundational document of the US Catholic Church for young adult ministry is the 1996 pastoral plan, Sons and Daughters of the Light. It was a breath of…

New Martin Luther Film

PBS recently showed the new documentary, “Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World.” I watched it online, as you can here (until September 27). I was skeptical, but was quickly impressed. This is very thorough, exploring the most important aspects of Luther’s theology, giving real insight into his person, through the shared perspectives of solid…

The Price of Vengeance

After 9-11, the United States and its allies went to war, first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq, ostensibly for the purpose of punishing those directly responsible for the attacks that day on the US.  For the 2,996 who died on 9-11. What has been the price the world has paid in the 16 years of…

Adventist Church on DACA

The North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church posted this statement on September 9, 2017: The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America is concerned about the impact that the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program may have on the lives of 800,000 young men and women in the United…

To Love the City

I recently heard a sermon by a pastor, in a large US city, telling members of his congregation that it was time to leave.  They should seek the Lord, but they should plan on getting out of the city.  To leave the “trash.”  To abandon what is now worthless. And this was a pastor who…

Robert W. Jenson

Originally posted on Advent Hope:
This afternoon I stumbled upon an article by David B. Hart, “The Lively God of Robert Jenson.” Jenson was one of my professors at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg. In fact, when I was still a student at Loma Linda University, my professor, Paul Landa, knew I was interested…

Charles W. Teel, Jr.

Originally posted on Advent Hope:
Some of my Adventist readers will be familiar with the name of Charles W. Teel, Jr. He’s a professor at La Sierra University (which was the La Sierra Campus of Loma Linda University during my time there in ’84-’85). I first got acquainted with Charles at midnight one night toward…

It’s Not About Statues

It’s not about statues. It’s about America. It isn’t about the dark past of slavery, treason, rebellion, segregation, and dominance symbolized by racist statues and flags. It’s about the present and the future–how do we see America? What do we want it to be? Racists demand “Blood and Soil.” Your ancestors and where you were…

Truth in Evangelism

In preparation for a couple of lectures I’m giving for a class this fall on evangelism, I was asked to read Elmer John Thiessen, The Ethics of Evangelism: A Philosophical Defense of Proselytizing and Persuasion. Some in chaplaincy want to distinguish between “evangelism” and “proselytizing.” Thiessen refuses, saying, “Let’s accept that these terms mean the…

Nuremberg: The Power of Myth

(pace Campbell)1 The primal myth stirs. Ancient sagas, Pagan rites, Warrior heroes Converge, Kindling a fire which shatters The restraining chains of the centuries: Science Religion Civilization. The god-hero mounts the altar Beneath the eagle’s wings. Torches burn in the darkness Reflected in the hopefilled eyes Of the regathered tribes. And the twisted black arms…

Reflections on an Age of Fear and Hate

It has been a mind-numbing few days.  White supremacists have marched with torches in scenes reminiscent of the Nuremberg rallies. Some political and religious leaders condemned them, and others issued a blanket condemnation of “all sides” (as if “all sides” were equal). We can’t equivocate.  I will not be party to any feigned neutrality or…

The Benedict Option

I read Rod Dreher’s new book, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. Christians, he argues, must realize we have lost the culture wars. He compares the situation to the fall of the Roman empire. Christianity survived through Christians gathering in intentional community, where they preserved their heritage and also had…

On Social Justice

A Lutheran congregation’s blog posted an article this week denouncing “social justice” as unbiblical and “Marxist.” Equality, they said, is a human idea.  Justice, a Marxist one. They’re wrong. Equality is rooted in the doctrine of Creation.  God created humanity from the dust of the earth; he created us male and female.  We’re all descendants…

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

(Chapel talk at Houston Graduate School of Theology, March 23, 2017) I first heard the story when I was a young boy.  The story of a young man who volunteered for the Army in time of war, but refused to carry a weapon.  He was eligible for a deferment from the draft, since he worked…

In statu confessionis

The Christian Church is at a crossroads.  We stand “in statu confessionis”–a time when we must confess God’s truth in the face of the world’s opposition.  We must confess God’s sovereignty over all political powers, earthly agendas, and religious claims.  We must confess his universal rule and love against all nationalism and racism. We must confess…

Thoughts on Ministry

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is perplexed.  It doesn’t know what to do about women in ministry.  It allows for women elders and deacons (ordained for both roles).  It allows for women to be pastors, chaplains, and administrators (other than President). It allows for women to preach in evangelistic series the world over.  These women can…

Thoughts on “Silence”

During travels yesterday I finished reading Shūsaku Endō’s book, “Silence.” It’s a fascinating story, based in history, of two Portuguese Jesuits who travel to Japan in 1639 to find out about rumors that a fellow Jesuit had apostatized under torture. The time frame is similar to the events of the “North American Martyrs,” Jesuit missionaries in…

The Future Challenges of the Chaplaincy

What should military chaplains be prepared for in the coming years? First, remember that those under Title X are obliged to respect UCMJ art. 88, which prohibits “contemptuous words” against the president. Focus on speaking to issues and actions, and speaking from your faith tradition. Second, realize that many service members and their families may feel anxiety…

Prophesy Again

I went to bed last night depressed and angry.  A sizable enough percentage of Americans had embraced Donald Trump’s vision and attained for him an electoral college majority.  They had accepted his fearful vision of America, his fear of immigrants and his disdain of women and of other religions.  They had embraced his vision of…

Hacksaw Ridge: Gibson’s Catholic Vision

Mel Gibson’s latest film, “Hacksaw Ridge,” tells the story of Desmond Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist Army medic who was the first noncombatant to receive the Medal of Honor, for actions on Okinawa during World War 2. The story as presented is very familiar to Seventh-day Adventists–how a boy from Lynchburg, Virginia, volunteered for the Army…

Hacksaw Ridge 

I got to see the final cut of “Hacksaw Ridge” last night with a large Adventist crowd. Lots of laughter and cheering and clapping throughout. Lots of Adventist “Easter Eggs” in the movie–subtle references that SDAs will pick up on (like the first time he ties the double bowline, and when he puts it into…

Political Parties and Churches

Remember how Trump attacked the pope for his views on immigrants? Republicans have long thought Catholics should only be heard on issues that agree with them: abortion, marriage, school tax subsidies. Republicans like Deal Hudson and Richard John Neuhaus had a record of trying to undermine the bishops on issues like immigration, labor, nuclear weapons,…

A Strategic Vision for Adventist Campus Ministry

Back in the 1890s Ellen White called for Seventh-day Adventists to embrace the public university and see it as a mission field, sending students to it to evangelize through a ministry of presence and positive witness. Today, two-thirds of Adventist college students are at non-Adventist colleges and universities; though campus ministry efforts are growing, Adventist…