Theology
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By In Film, Theology

Scripture Things in ‘Stranger Things’

When Stranger Things Season 1 debuted last year, it was an instant viral sensation. Set in the 1980s, the show masterfully tugs on the nostalgic heartstrings of all those who love coming-of-age, science fiction, adventure dramas. Those of us who loathe contemporary sci-fi — for its substance-less story lines and cartoony CGI — found refuge in Stranger Things‘ mere 8 episodes. They took us back to a simpler yet more mysterious time. The show took many of us back to our childhood, right back to E.T., The Goonies, Stand By Me, and more. Its synth-based score only added to the nostalgia, captivating our imaginations with every sound.

It was only natural that fan-theories would develop around the show. Countless blogs and comment boxes have been filled with questions, predictions, and debate. A small portion of these theories involve biblical imagery and theology. Some are quite good; others are quite a stretch. In anticipation for the release of Season 2, I decided to re-watch Season 1 and try my hand. Below are my thoughts and observations from a biblical perspective. You may think some of them are quite a stretch, but hopefully some of them are quite good.

Before we begin, a disclaimer. I’m in no way presuming to know the intentions of the writers or directors. I suspect most of my observations are purely coincidental. We all exegete content from a particular lens and it may not be the same lens worn by the writers. Still, that doesn’t stop us from seeing what we want to see. If your imagination is shaped by the Bible, you’ll see traces of it everywhere. (more…)

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By In Culture, Theology

Sola Fide: The Problem With the Sinner’s Prayer

I am a Reformed Protestant, and I don’t believe we are saved by faith alone. Neither do I believe we are “once saved, always saved.” Do those statements seem strange to you? Then you’ve probably fallen prey to one of the great distortions of Protestant and evangelical theology. Read on, and I’ll explain.

Both the material cause of the split between Rome and the Reformers (Sola Fide, or “faith alone”), and the formal cause (Sola Scriptura, or “Scripture alone”), suffer from widespread distortions and misunderstandings, even among Protestants who claim to espouse these principles. As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I want to debunk some popular myths about these two of the Five Solae.

The Pseudo-Sacrament of Conversion

Let’s start with Sola Fide, as it’s commonly embodied in evangelical circles: as a sort of confession of guilt and pledge of allegiance to God known as “the sinner’s prayer.” It usually goes something like this: (more…)

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By In Theology

Look To Your Baptism

Martin Luther is often quoted as using his baptism as a weapon in his battles with the devil. “I have been baptized,” he would tell the devil in order to make him flee. Who God told him he was and what God promised him in his baptism was Luther’s anchor that kept him moored so that he would not be ultimately dashed to pieces by the virulent waves of doubt that assaulted his soul.

We may not generally resort to our baptism as Luther did, but we should. We shouldn’t be afraid of the water. In baptism God told us that we belong to him. In baptism God united us to his Son in the church. We have been anointed with the Spirit with whom Jesus, our Head, was anointed in his baptism and ultimately his coronation. Luther was doing nothing that Paul himself didn’t do when dealing with the churches. In 1Corinthians 12 Paul appeals to their baptism to fight the factionalism in the church. Similarly in Galatians 3 Paul tells the Christians of Galatia that all those who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ–whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female–and all are the seed of Abraham and heirs according to God’s promise. In Romans 6 Paul uses baptism to encourage the Roman Christians that sin no longer has dominion over them. Peter also uses baptism to assure the Christians scattered throughout the Empire that they have a good conscience before God through the resurrection of Jesus (1Pt 3.21). The writer of Hebrews speaks about us being washed with pure water and, therefore, having boldness to draw near to God (Heb 10.22). When we look to our baptism, we are not looking to mere water or believing in some sort of hocus pocus. We are looking to what God said about us. We are looking to his Word that he sealed to us in the water by his Spirit. This is why the writers of the Scriptures can appeal to it the way they do and exhort people to walk in faithfulness according to their baptism.

This week as you go through the daily routines of life and/or face some unusual circumstances, you do so as a person who has been baptized into the Triune name. You face whatever you face as someone whom God has claimed for himself and promised that he is working every circumstance for your salvation. You know, therefore, that whatever you face, whether it be good or ill, God is in it working for you and not against you. The call to you is to walk in faith, trusting what God said about you. The call to you is to live like a baptized person ought to live; whether in unity with your brothers and sisters in Christ or resisting the other sins that no longer have dominion over you. Whatever it is, you can stand firm in the waters of your baptism because there God has given you his word.

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By In Family and Children, Theology, Worship

On Living As if God Is Real

Guest post by G. Shane Morris

Last night I watched PBS’s new full-length documentary, “Martin Luther: The Idea That Changed the World,” and was impressed. As soon as Carl Trueman showed up, I knew it was going to be good, but this thing is an achievement. It gets Luther right, warts and all, even if it does try a little too hard at the end to connect him with secular sensibilities. You will be more thankful for the Reformation this Augustinian monk started and better prepared to appreciate its 500th anniversary after watching this. If you’re fuzzy on the details of Luther’s life and work and don’t expect to get a good biography before November, this program is for you. (more…)

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By In Culture, Theology

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matt 5.4)

As I write this, news is still coming in from Las Vegas, Nevada about a mass shooting at a Country Music Festival. Dozens are dead. Hundreds are injured. Not too many days ago there was a shooting at a church in Nashville, Tennessee. Every day in Chicago, Los Angeles, and other major cities the number of murders dwarf these mass slaughters. And this is only in the United States. Around the world people are being murdered by the thousands for seemingly senseless reasons.

With the rest of our country and the world in these times we Christians mourn. Like others we mourn at being ripped apart from those we love, empathizing with others who have lost loved ones, or even realizing that these acts of violence continue to tear apart the fabric of our society. Unlike others who are not Christians we mourn because all of these tragedies are signs that sin still has a strong hold on the world and the kingdom of God has not yet been consummated. We desire for the Lordship of Jesus Christ to be acknowledged in every area of life and so bring peace where there is enmity, love where there is hate, and life where there is death. That has not yet happened, so we mourn. (more…)

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By In Family and Children, Theology

A word to sons… and therefore to all of us

I’d like to say a few words by way of challenge to young men as they’re growing up. It concerns how they relate to their parents, particularly (but not exclusively) their fathers.

This will be most obviously relevant to young men who are approaching adulthood. At the same time, it will also be relevant in various ways to the rest of us. For as Paul writes in Galatians 3:26, all of us are sons of our Heavenly Father through faith in Christ.One of the great temptations of young men as they grow older is the wrong kind of competitiveness.

As boys grow into men, they enter what we might call a different relational “space”. That is, they (rightly) start to relate as men to other people, such as their parents and siblings. They start exercising leadership, initiative, and a new kind of emotional strength. This is all good, but it brings some dangers. (more…)

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By In Culture, Theology

Do our troubles never cease?

The following has been adapted from a sermon preached in Houston on September 3, 2017 after Hurricane Harvey.

There’s a recurring theme in our service today. We sang Psalm 46, which speaks of roaring waters and hills being thrown into the sea. Our reading from Jeremiah 15 spoke about deceitful brooks and waters that fail. And after the sermon we’ll sing Psalm 124, which speaks of tidal waves and surging floods.

You may think I chose these hymns and scriptures because of what we’ve been going through this past week. But actually, the scriptures are the lectionary readings for today, and the hymns were picked weeks ago – long before I knew anything about Hurricane Harvey.

How providential it is, that what was planned in advance for worship has relevance to our current events. That is the Spirit of God at work. So before you label me “cheesy” or “cliché,” know that it wasn’t my intention. It was someone else’s, and for good reason.

We should talk about our current events. We need to hear God’s word about these things. After all, it has consumed our thinking. It has greatly inconvenienced us in one way or another. Maybe it’s caused you fear, sadness, or anger. If not you, we know that’s been the case for others. (more…)

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