Thursday, April 26, 2018

How Do You Know That You Are Saved? 5th Sunday of Easter


Back in the nineties, when I was serving as an urban pastor/missionary in West Michigan, I did a lot of door-to-door and contact evangelism.  I was trained to talk with people and hone in on their assurance of salvation: the key question was, “If you died tonight, are you sure you would go to heaven?”  This would often lead to a follow-up where I would share some Scriptures with them that seemed to show that you could know with certainty that you were saved provided you “believed” in Jesus. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Book on Work Comes Out

I was delighted to find in my mail today my contributors copy of the book Work: Theological Foundations and Practical Implications (eds. R. Keith Loftin & Trey Dimsdale; London: SCM Press, 2018).

I was given the opportunity to write the first chapter of the body of the book (after the intro), on the theology of work in the creation narratives and the Pentateuch. 

This was a lot of fun, as the other contributors included luminaries like Miroslav Volf (Yale), Jay Richards (CUA), J├╝rgen von Hagen (Bonn) and Darrel Bock (Dallas Seminary).

I thoroughly enjoyed writing the chapter, and am indebted to my colleague Jeff Morrow, who has written several similar essays.  As is often the case, I started off with some ideas I knew were present in Genesis 1-2, but as I pursued those themes through the canon, many new insights arose that I had never seen before.  Human work is an important theme in Scripture and is an integral part of salvation.  I really encourage economists, theologians, Bible scholars, and those interested in social justice to pick up a copy of this essay collection.

Cajetan and His Continued Relevance

A student who is something of an expert on Cardinal Cajetan sent me a brief essay that I found very edifying and relevant for Catholic believers soldiering forward nowadays in this valley of tears, so I thought I'd share a portion of it:

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Scandal of Jesus: The 4th Sunday of Easter


The readings for this Sunday’s Masses are truly “scandalous” in more ways than one. Our English word “scandal” comes ultimately from the Greek skandalon, “a stumbling block.”  A “scandal” is something that causes people to “stumble,” i.e. that offends or injures them in some way.  As we will see, the exclusive claims made for and by Jesus in the readings for this Sunday are scandalous to the “inclusive” and “diverse” culture we live in today, which does not recognize the possibility of a religious truth binding on all humanity.


1.  The first reading is Acts 4:8-12:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Salvation History as a Good Movie: The 3rd Sunday of Easter



One of my favorite movies is M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs.”  It’s a cross between Robert Benton’s “Places in the Heart” and Roland Emmerich’s “Independence Day,” and probably a couple other movies I’m forgetting at the moment.  Anyway, one of the marked features of the movie is its foreshadowing.  Shyamalan introduces all sorts of strange themes associated with the different characters who surround Fr. Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), an (Anglican?) priest who’s lost his faith and left his ministry: the strange last words of his dying wife, his brother’s obsession with hitting home runs, his son’s asthma, his daughter’s water-drinking compulsion.  The significance of these motifs does not become clear to the viewer until the final scenes, where one discovers that a strong hand of Providence was guiding the life of Fr. Hess through it all.

Friday, April 06, 2018

The Readings for Divine Mercy Sunday



Behind the readings for this Sunday lies a Gospel text which is never read, but whose influence is felt and whose concepts and images serves as a link between the texts that are read.  That passage is John 19:34:

John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.  35 He who saw it has borne witness — his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth — that you also may believe.

The blood and water flowing from the side of Christ is the background for the Divine Mercy image seen by St. Faustina. 
This “river” that flows out from the side of Christ is understood in the Church’s spiritual tradition as a river of mercy, but there is also a rich biblical background to this passage of John.