What Exactly Is The Gospel? (Part Two)

Dear Kathryn:

I’m sure that my last letter raised more questions than it answered with regard to the way I define the term “gospel” these days. For that reason, I wanted to get this follow-up letter off to you with dispatch.

I don’t mean to suggest that everybody gets to define the word for himself or herself. What I do mean is that it’s possible we have not fully understood the meaning of the word in its original context in the New Testament, specifically in those first four books that we call “the Gospels.” Continue reading

Advertisement

What Exactly Is The Gospel? (Part One)

Dear Mr. Lough:

You have referred several times to evangelical Christianity in this exchange of emails. You’ve made it clear that, although evangelicalism was the context for your early Christian formation, you no longer share some of the movement’s foundational presuppositions. In your last letter, however, you said something I had not heard before, and it raised a question I’d like to pursue.

You wrote, “Despite my belief that evangelicalism has lost its way and is flailing around in a confused state of self-misperception, I pray for the movement’s recovery of the gospel of the kingdom.” Could you say a bit more about that? Continue reading

Circumstances Can Alter Perception

Dear Mr. Lough:

In your most recent letter, you somewhat sidestepped the question of whether you consider yourself a liberal (just kidding, I know exactly what you meant) :-), but it still raised some additional questions. I pose them now as follow-up, if I may.

First, I know how much it hurt you to lose your job as a teacher, but do you think you would be where you are today if you hadn’t? Second, have you ever considered that you might have formed some of your current positions and opinions as a reactionary response to that unpleasant situation? And finally, when I had you as a teacher, you spoke very critically of a number of well-known liberal scholars and writers. Have you changed your opinion about any or all of them? Continue reading

“Mr. Lough, Are You a Liberal?”

Dear Mr. Lough:

So, let me see if I follow the line of thought you introduced in yesterday’s letter. One point in particular intrigues me. You say that “evangelicalism is the product of modernism.” I had always thought the two were diametrically opposed schools of thought. If I understand what you were saying, however, it seems that, while evangelicalism operates with a different set of presuppositions from modernism, it uses some of the same methodology to make a case for the version of Christianity it represents. Right? Continue reading

The Evidence of Right Belief (The Road to Easter, #9)

Dear Kathryn:

I wasn’t planning to write again until I heard back from you, but the wheels just kept turning after I pressed “send” on yesterday’s letter. Here, then, is a bit more of my thinking about the dynamics of belief, the characteristics of truth, and the marks of authentic faith.

I need to say at the outset that there is nothing scientific about my observations here. It is mainly just a gut response from a guy who has been around the track (or up and down the field, or choose your own metaphor) for a lot of years and has drawn some conclusions from that experience. Continue reading

What Kind of a Book is the Bible? (On the Road to Easter, #6)

Dear Mr. Lough:

Monday’s note was extremely helpful. It explained a lot to me about the direction and content of your thought and writing these days. What Would Jesus Do? It’s simple, succinct, elegant, and yet comprehensive in its own way. But it also raises a follow-up question, if I may. How do we know for sure what Jesus would do?

I mean, he lived two thousand years ago in a culture far different from ours. Yes, we have the Gospels that tell us most of what we know about the life and teaching of Jesus. But if all we need to do is read what the Gospels tell us about what Jesus said and did, why is there so much disagreement, even among Christians, about what it means to follow the example of Jesus today. Continue reading

Hard To Do Better Than WWJD (On The Road to Easter, #5)

Dear Mr. Lough:

Thank you for the careful thought you are putting into your answers when you respond to my questions. As I look back on our email exchange so far, it is easy to see how you are shaping your replies into a progression of thought that is building your case in a logical, systematic fashion. I appreciate that very much.

Here is a summary of what I’ve heard you say up to now. Correct me if I have misconstrued your meaning or if I misunderstand your intent. 1. Change is sometimes necessary but seldom easy. 2. A change in thought or behavior is predicated upon a change in underlying presuppositions. 3. There is a subjective dimension to change, so that we never change until we feel the need to change—emotionally or intuitively. 4. In one important aspect of faith, you have not changed. You still believe in the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth, his unique relation to God, the truth and power of his teaching and his life, and his death on the cross. Continue reading

The Subjective Dimension in Change (On the Road to Easter, #4)

Dear Kathryn:

Before I go further in defining the parameters and describing the particulars of the change in my thinking over the past few years, I want to address one other factor that contributes to the process and experience of change: the subjective dimension. Simply put, we never make a significant change in our beliefs or practices until we feel the need for change. We will never take the risks associated with change until we are convinced, rather more instinctually than intellectually, that change is desirable, possible, and maybe even necessary.

At least that has certainly been true for me. I am today open to the possibility of truth in ideas and concepts that, only a few years ago, I regarded with derision and dismissed with prejudice. My thinking began to change when my circumstances changed, and I was no longer bound emotionally to an earlier pattern of thought and behavior. Continue reading

The Catalyst for Change: On the Road to Easter, Part One

Dear Mr. Lough:

I read your recent Facebook post in which you indicated you were exploring several options for your Lenten discipline this year. I would like to make a suggestion in that regard. Would you be interested in devoting your blog, for the entire season of Lent, to responding to a series of questions from me (and maybe a few others) about the changes that many of us have observed in your life over the past few years?

This would not be an unpleasant inquisition for the purpose of challenging you to defend yourself. It would simply be an opportunity to ask some questions, mainly for clarity and better understanding, that have arisen in my mind as I have read your blog posts and Facebook updates, particularly in the past two or three years.

To save time, I’ll pose the first question now. If you would prefer to go another direction for your Lenten discipline this year, just ignore it. If you’d like to take me up on my suggestion, then we can begin that endeavor with your response to this question. In any event, here it is.

I think you would agree with me that you’ve changed a great deal in many ways since the time I was your student at Plumwood Bible College more than ten years ago. Before I ask you anything about the specific areas in which you’ve changed, I’d like to know what prompted those changes in the first place. In my own limited experience, I have to say that I’ve never met anyone else, whose life has been devoted to Christian ministry, who has changed, in outlook and belief and practice, to the extent you have. What was it that triggered that change in your life? Can you point to a particular factor—maybe an incident or a set of circumstances, maybe a book you read or a speaker you heard—that served as a catalyst for change as profound and fundamental as you have experienced? If you are willing to take me up on this suggestion for your Lenten discipline, then I look forward to reading your response in the next few days, perhaps as soon as Ash Wednesday.

Sincerely yours,

Kathryn Moyer

Continue reading

A Note to Former Students and Other Courageous People

This is my first blog post in more than six weeks. After I published a post every day during the month of October, I hit the wall, so to speak, and have found it difficult to generate the energy and enthusiasm required to sustain this endeavor.

I’ve been here before. Call it writer’s block or just apathy spawned by a sense of the futility that comes from trying to do something that so many others are doing, with most of them doing it better than me. In the past, one pervasive thought has provoked me to throw off my self-pity and get back to writing. I’m happy to say it has worked again, and that is what I’m sharing in this post. Continue reading