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Words I Couldn’t Say

I. Breast, n. either of the pair of mammary glands extending from the front of the chest in pubescent and adult human females and some other mammals the seat of emotion and thought[1]   When my breasts started to develop in early puberty, I thought I had cancer. On a family visit to my grandparents’ house, ducked into their low-ceilinged basement shower one midmorning, I noticed that my breasts felt different. They were lumpy. I could feel a mass inside of each one. All... Read More

Three Prayers and a Consummation

While her husband tried to explain to their two kids why they had to skip their Little League tournament in order to attend their grandmother’s church (and that, no, they couldn’t wear their uniforms, and not their 4-H T-shirts either, and no, just hurry up and get dressed, it would take too long to explain, that’s just how you do things at church), Shelly went out to the barn for a smoke. She wasn’t really a smoker. You can’t be a smoker when you’re pregnant. She... Read More

There’s Another Country: The Conceptual Geography of the Letter to the Ephesians

Newspaper columnists insist that my country, the United Kingdom, is a Christian country, while their counterparts at different papers rail against our military misadventures in Muslim lands. In parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland, particular streets or neighborhoods are thought of as Protestant or Roman Catholic, with flags, murals, or painted curbstones to mark the differences. Indeed, open and sometimes intractable conflict arises in the context of competing religious claims... Read More

Three Construals of Scripture and Tradition, Canon and Church: George Lindbeck, Kevin Vanhoozer, and Robert Jenson

There was a time when almost no scholarly work was being done to relate Christian theology and ethics to the Bible.[1] We therefore owe a great debt to George Lindbeck, who spent much of his career seeking to recover what he called the “classic pattern of biblical interpretation” for today’s church.[2] The mainline churches, Lindbeck contended, exist in a state of “methodological chaos” with respect to their reading of Scripture, wherein “disagreements over interpretive... Read More

Naked and Ashamed: Women and Evangelical Purity Culture

Throughout its history, the church has had a complicated relationship with the body, fraught with ambiguity and contradiction.1 The body has been seen as both a vessel for salvation and a barrier to salvation, and sometimes those positions have been held simultaneously. In the book Introducing Body Theology, Elizabeth Stuart discusses the evolution of a wide range of body theologies throughout major periods of church history. One such belief was that because Jesus took on a body... Read More

What Marx Can Teach Christian Theology—and the Church—about Being Christian

Karl Marx in Christian Theology—Promising or Perilous? Karl Marx is as well known for his atheistic and materialist critique of religion—Christianity especially—as he is for his theory of capitalism and revolutionary praxis. Indeed, he famously argued that “the ‘criticism of religion’ is the conditional premise of all criticism,” the purpose of which is to uncover the material reality of the human condition under “the illusionary sun” of theological “niceties.”1 Marx... Read More

Mission and the Priesthood of the Christ

One does not have to hang around the church very long to hear some weird stuff.1 For example, when I converted to Protestantism, one of the dominant narratives as I picked it up—usually via some kind of epistemological osmosis but sometimes quite explicitly—was that the incarnation was God’s attempt to get the reconciliation ball rolling, that Jesus had laid the foundations for reconciliation and then he went back to heaven to sit down next to God in the great lounge room... Read More

Taking Semiotics to Church: A Review of Crystal Downing’s Changing Signs of Truth

Crystal L. Downing. Changing Signs of Truth: A Christian Introduction to the Semiotics of Communication. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012.   Crystal Downing offers an entertaining and anecdotally rich account of how an otherwise highly specialized and esoteric form of linguistic science can be deployed theologically to reframe perennial problems in the relationship between Christianity and culture. Drawing on the long-running but rarely discussed background influence... Read More

Water Mission

My father is a missionary in Saigon, and every day he sits or stands in his white cotton shirt and talks to servicemen and the Vietnamese about Jesus. While my mother rests through the heat of the day, I walk behind him to Buddha’s temple. There, in a small public pump house, open on four sides and draped in flowers, he chooses one of the dozen brass water spouts under the pagoda-shaped roof and fills our collapsible plastic vessels with water purified by filters and blessed... Read More

Relocating the Body of Christ: Parish Collective and the Twenty-First Century Church

In the tenth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, the writer admonishes the church, saying, “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25, NRSV). Simply meeting together, the author writes, is integral to maintaining the confessed hope of those who have believed the gospel of Jesus Christ (v. 23).... Read More