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God, Satan, and the Quran: Islam’s Answer to Violence

Questions about the relationship between religion and violence once again rears its ugly head. It must be stated that ISIS is a militant group and most Sunnis are horrified by their actions. But when Muslims battle Muslims in the name of God, declaring it to be a “holy responsibility,” we naturally ask theological questions about Islam. We want to know what Islam has to say about God, especially what Islam ...

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Joe the Plumber, God, and Guns

Samuel Wurzelbacher, also known as Joe the Plumber, re-emerged in the news last week. He made headlines in the wake of the shooting tragedy in Isla Vista, California. Joe wrote an “Open-Letter” to the families of the victims. One section of the letter has been highlighted more than any other: ...

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NBC’s Parenthood: When the Winning Strategy is Losing

The writers of Parenthood, the popular NBC family drama, use an interesting device to dramatize conflict. When two characters have a difference of opinion their exchange begins in measured, even tones. One person talks, while the other listens. Then the second person talks, while the first one listens. But as their disagreement heats up, the exchange gets faster and faster until no one is listening and both ...

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Valentine’s Day: The Myth of Love and Desire

The most recent short lived celebrity marriage lasted only two weeks: Rachel Snider is filing for divorce from Terrell Owens, claiming he only married her for her money. Yet, in announcing her plans to divorce Terrell, Rachel says this of their relationship: "I really valued his love and friendship for 5 years. Out of the love in my heart, I tried to help him. We had a secret relationship for 5 years and I ...

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The Immaculate Conception of Mary: Why it Matters Today

Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The doctrine was formally defined in 1854 by Pope Pius IX, but the belief in Mary the mother of God being conceived without the stain of original sin is an ancient one. This doctrine is commonly confused or conflated with the belief in the virgin birth of Christ. So I invite you to pause with me for a moment or two of meditation on ...

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God and Santa: A Story for Preschoolers

When I was four and five years old, my parents hung our stockings up at the beginning of Advent. Each morning, my younger sister and I would run down to the rec room to see if Santa had left us anything during the night. Finding an empty stocking was a huge relief, because the only reason Santa would leave us anything before Christmas was if we had been bad. Bad children would get a warning, you see. An oni ...

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Sermon: Advent Hope: The Works of Darkness and the Armor of Light

When I was in college, one of my best friends had a poster in his room that said, "Stay awake! Jesus is coming.” I hated that poster. The words come from both of our New Testament readings this morning. (Matthew 24:36-44 and Romans 13: 11-14.)  Both readings admonish people to stay awake, and the fact that I hated my friend’s poster might give you a sense about my feelings for how these passages are usually ...

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Why this Protestant Loves Pope Francis: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

Just as important to the story and this exploration of truth, beauty, and goodness is the man with neurofibromatosis. I’m left wondering, where did his boldness come from? Like the faith of the hemorrhaging woman in the gospels who was healed by courageously touching Jesus cloak, this man’s faith led him to courageously approach Francis and ask for a blessing. ...

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Rob Bell, Oprah Winfrey, and Christianity’s Identity Crisis

Christianity is facing an identity crisis that boils down to one question: Who is God? It’s the question that Rob Bell tackled in his latest book What We Talk about When We Talk about God and it’s the question Rob and Oprah Winfrey discussed yesterday on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. (You can watch the full episode here.) Rob and Oprah sum up the crisis at the beginning of the interview: Rob: For many people…G ...

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Strange Fire: John MacArthur, Mark Driscoll, the Holy Spirit, and the Satan

I first heard about the Strange Fire controversy when my Twitter feed started tweeting up a storm on Monday. The drama centered on a confrontation between two conservative mega church pastors, John MacArthur and Mark Driscoll. Most of my Twitter friends are theological liberals, and we liberals love it when our conservative brethren get in fights. Woo-hoo! A scandal! This scandal, like most scandals, was ov ...

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