The week I broke my blogging resolution…

At the beginning of the year, I made a resolution to write something at least once a week. In the past, I’ve aimed to write something everyday, but it’s always proved too much. So this year I decided to try for once a week — in order to keep me in the habit of writing, while giving me an achievable goal.

Last week, I broke that resolution. But I like to think I had a good reason — all 7 pounds, 15 ounces of it:

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Oliver James was born at 9:34 a.m. on April 1. Plus side: his birthdate, 4-1-14 (or 1-4-14 for my international friends) will be easy to remember. Downside: no one will believe him when he says it’s his birthday.

Oliver, his brilliant mom, and his extremely proud big sister are all doing well.


I’ll get back to writing more soon. For now, I’m preoccupied enjoying the miracle that is my newborn son.

We’re going to screw up our kids (and we need to be OK with that)

When I announced my book presenting the gospel for kids, I said we need to do a better job introducing them to our faith. I said the prevailing method of passing down our faith — getting kids to make some kind of decision before they’re old enough to question or doubt — isn’t right and it isn’t working.

I’m writing this book to give parents (including myself) another way of taking about faith with our kids. A way of telling the story of our faith, instead of just issuing them a checklist of beliefs. A way of honoring our kids’ natural curiosity, instead of (to paraphrase Rachel Held Evans) giving them answers before they’ve even had time to wrestle with the questions.

I wish I could say this alternative way is guaranteed to work. That I could promise your kids will grow up to be lifelong, committed Christians.

But I can’t. There are no guarantees. There are no perfect ways of doing this. Our kids have wills and minds of their own. They’re not ours to control. We can either choose to accept this while they’re young, or we can be forced to accept it when they’re older, when any illusions of control have long since evaporated.

Trischa Goodwin wrote a beautifully honest piece expressing the doubt that lurks in the heart of every parent who’s trying to do right by their kids…

What if… I’m just screwing my kids up in a different way than the way I was screwed up?

What if embracing their questions and not forcing them to accept my answers leaves them wishy-washy and completely unsure of anything?

What if not insisting they attend church with me every Sunday leaves them without a love for the Body of Christ?

What if allowing for discussion and not expecting immediate, unquestioning obedience undermines their respect for authority?

What if teaching them to respect other religions leads them away from Christianity?

What if I’m doing it all wrong?

My wife and I have asked these same questions. Sometimes it feels like it’s not a matter of whether we’ll screw our kids up, but how we’ll screw them up. And how hard they’ll have to work at disentangling the mess we’ve made of their lives.

I think each generation tries to parent a little differently than the one before. We hold on to things from our upbringing that were good, and we leave behind (or try to, anyway) those that weren’t. That’s why, thankfully, corporal punishment was an almost nonexistent part of my childhood. (And why it won’t have any part of my daughter’s upbringing.)

The truth is, there are no true “parenting experts” out there. We’re all just trying to figure things out as we go. The “what if” questions that Trischa asked are important, because they reflect an awareness that we can’t make our kids turn out a certain way. We can’t write the ending for them.

As Trischa suggests near the end of her post, maybe the best a parent can do is:

Keep raising them in the most loving way I know how and continue to confess Christ and Incarnation and Resurrection and all the other mysteries in my daily life.

I think she’s onto something powerful. I would add just one thing: we also need to be willing to tell our kids we’re sorry when we do screw up.

A few weeks ago, my three-year-old threw a tantrum over something I had asked her to do (or stop doing). So I gave her a choice: start listening or sit on the step for a few minutes.

She declined both options and chose instead to escalate said tantrum. Which caused me to lose my patience as well.

I hate shouting, even brief outbursts, whether I’m on the giving or receiving end. So the minute I lost my cool, I regretted it. What most likely started as a three-year-old’s simple frustration at the difficulty of expressing herself, I had now blown out of proportion.

So I got down to Elizabeth’s eye level and told her I was sorry. I asked her to forgive me for losing my cool and raising my voice. I suggested maybe we both ought to sit on the step for a bit. I tried to show her that I was not “above the law,” so to speak.

The funny thing is, what was meant to be a time-out (now for both of us) turned into one of those cherished moments of conversation with my daughter.

It may seem trivial, but I tell my daughter I’m sorry because I want her to know that it’s safe to come to me when I’ve let her down. I want her to know she doesn’t have to fear the counterattack, that I’m not going to come roaring back at her with a laundry list of grievances which I’ve been storing up for just such an occasion. I want her to know she can tell me when I’ve screwed up.

Because I will screw up. I may try hard not to make the mistakes of others, but I’ll end up making mistakes of my own. Whether it’s in how I try to nurture my daughter’s faith or in some of the more mundane, everyday aspects of parenting, I will screw up.

I believe one of the most important things I can do for my daughter is being OK with that — and letting her know it’s OK to tell me when I’ve failed.

How not to be a theological bully

“I’m not saying you’re a heretic. Just that you’re a heretical promoter of heresy.” 

That, in a nutshell, is the gist of Ken Ham’s latest post addressing Pete Enns. (You might say Enns is Ham’s theological arch nemesis.)

[Background: Enns is an evangelical theologian who accepts the scientific consensus on evolution and has written extensively about its implications for the Christian faith — namely, the possibility that Genesis 1 is not a literal, scientific depiction of human origins and the overwhelming likelihood that the human race did not originate from a single primal couple, i.e. a literal Adam and Eve. Ken Ham is a longtime advocate for young earth creationism (YEC). He believes the very integrity of the gospel is at stake if you dispense with a literal, 6-day creation and a literal Adam and Eve.]

Ham is no stranger to controversy. In his recent post, he reminds us how a couple years ago he was disinvited from a homeschooling conference for being uncharitable toward Christians who disagree with him. (That was the explanation offered by conference organizers who largely share Ham’s interpretation of Genesis.)


But more damaging is Ham’s use of the nuclear option to shut down any honest conversation. He does so by forcing an impossible (and false) choice on his audience: either you accept what I tell you about creation, or you undermine the gospel. Sure, Ham won’t quite say you’re going to hell if you believe in evolution. But who wants to be accused of “undermin[ing] the authority of God’s Word and the gospel,” as he puts it?

In short, Ken Ham is a bully.

The irony is that Ham’s false choice is almost certainly doing more to drive people away from faith than toward it — because fear cannot nurture faith.

But Ham isn’t the only one who’s tried this tactic. I used to be that guy… constantly getting into arguments with my more moderate college friends over evolution, women in ministry, homosexuality… trying to make each disagreement a “gospel issue” so they’d have to choose between agreeing with me and renouncing the gospel.

I was never big enough or strong enough to be a physical bully. But theological bullies can do just as much damage.

Now that I see things from a different vantage point, I can appreciate what I put my friends through. (And, quite frankly, I’m amazed they put up with me.)

So for all those who’ve been bullied into conformity by threats of denunciation, allusions to some inevitable “slippery slope,” and declarations of heresy . . . let me say:

Human origins is not a gospel issue.

Women’s ordination is not a gospel issue.

How you vote is not a gospel issue.

Homosexuality is not a gospel issue.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter what you believe. Believing certain things about God is part of the Christian experience, which is why many of us reaffirm our faith every Sunday using the words of the Nicene Creed (while others do so in other ways).

And I do think the gospel has profound implications for how we see the world, for how we vote, and for how we treat women, gays, lesbians, and other historically marginalized groups of people.

But when defenders of the theological status quo try to make you choose between their view on [insert hot-button issue here] and apostasy, they are getting the gospel wrong.

There is something that can undermine the gospel. But it’s not evolution. It’s not questioning the church’s posture toward gays and lesbians.

For the apostle Paul, the only thing that could undermine the gospel was this:

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile…

Not “if the earth is more than 6,000 years old, your faith is futile.”

Not “if there was no historical Adam and Eve, your faith is futile.”

Not “if you let a woman preach, your faith is futile.”

And not “if you welcome gays and lesbians into your church, your faith is futile.”

Christianity is so much more than a belief system, but the one belief it does hinge on is resurrection — that is, belief in Jesus’ resurrection, which makes possible the resurrection and renewal of everything else.

To make the gospel dependent on anything else is to get the gospel wrong. And to do so in order to advance your own agenda and to pressure others into conformity is to become a theological bully.

The thing is, most people won’t sit around and take the abuse. They’ll just walk away.

Which is a pretty high price to pay for “winning.”

Kyrie eleison, Boston (and Iraq)


Today, as officials comb Boston in search of answers and in search of justice, may we remember that there is only so much we can say . . .

And so very much that we should not say.

Let no one say that 8-year old Martin Richard died yesterday because “God needed another angel in heaven.” God is not a sadistic collector of human specimens. There was no sudden shortage of angels in heaven precipitating yesterday’s carnage and devastation.

Let no one talk of “God’s plan” as if this were somehow part of it. To do so is to mistake God for some kind of cosmic terrorist. To suggest that we ought to bow down and worship such a God is spiritual abuse of the worst order.

If we talk of God, let us talk of the God who grieves with Boston. The God who grieves over death and violence — much as Jesus grieved at the loss of a friend. Let us see God through the lens of Jesus. In him we meet a God who renounces violence, who is making war on war, who despises death, and who beats swords into plowshares.

And let us not talk of Boston without also remembering the dozens killed in multiple car bombings in Iraq yesterday. The attack in Boston is closer to home, so it’s natural to feel it more acutely. But let it sensitize you to the dangers that millions face on a routine basis. Let it strengthen our resolve to work for peace, both here and abroad. Let us remember that every life is precious to God.

At the end of the day, all we can say is kyrie eleison.

Lord have mercy.

For Boston and Iraq.


How it’s a journey, not a treatise

This is something Preston Yancey wrote on his blog yesterday:


Preston has articulated something I think a lot of us feel at times.

Some of us think better when we think out loud.

Sometimes you have to start telling your story before you know exactly where it’s going.

Sometimes you need to give voice to unfinished thoughts in order to know how to finish them.