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Reincorporating Christus Victor in the Reformed Theology of Atonement

By Essays

In Christianity’s first centuries, we find vivid depictions of the cross as a fishhook or mousetrap that catches Satan in the act of destroying human life. The mousetrap image seems to come from the Latin version of Augustine’s triumphant statement in his Sermon 134 that the devil, the ruler of this world who will be driven out (John 12:31), caused his own destruction by entrapping Christ in death, bringing about the resurrection. As the Gospels indicted Sadducees, scribes and Jerusalem…

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Time for Gerard Manley Hopkins

By As We See It

What can I say after the U.S. election? So many people are already saying so many things, which makes me hesitant to add to the noise. I’m weary; words feel weary; the world itself feels weary. As it did to the Gatherer at the end of Ecclesiastes, the world feels full of terrors, broken things and dust. The sloganeering is as worn-out as old bumper stickers on a Nalgene water bottle, and the cup we’re forced to drink tastes like…

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More than a Feeling

By As We See It

My mother-in-law has a fondness for American peanut butter. It used to be hard to find in France. When she came to the United States for a visit, we made sure we had a supply ready for her. She attributed her liking of peanut butter to her school days. After World War II, she attended a boarding school run by Roman Catholic nuns. Good food was scarce, especially protein. Every day she and her classmates would line up to receive…

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Sacraments Sustain Weak Faith

By As We See It

Life is difficult. Faith in God helps. Keeping the faith, even faith the size of a mustard seed, also is difficult. The dimly burning wick of the candle of faith endures by using the sacraments. Deadly sins, such as greed, pride, sloth, gluttony, lust, wrath and envy, cause us to put our trust in the idols they produce. Those idols don’t help; instead, they distract and consume us. Also, guilt, shame and anxiety can loosen our grip on our convictions….

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The Lord’s Supper as Welcoming Sacrament? Reversing the Sequence of the Sacraments

By , , and Essays

Editors’ note: In recent years, there has been increasing talk about the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper as a feast of welcome and hospitality. Perhaps originally associated with St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, this understanding has gained supporters around the North American church. It is said that in a post-Christian culture, the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament to draw people to faith. Baptized or unbaptized, believer, seeker or skeptic, all who are drawn to the Table…

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Moved by the Liturgy of Revival

By Essays

I love high-church liturgy. Smells and bells, processions and litanies, choirs and acolytes – the more the merrier. It might be because of the sere Christian Reformed atmosphere in which I was reared. It might well be a function of my education and social class. (Final exam question for Liturgics 101: “All evangelical academics wind up Anglican. Discuss.”) Doubtless a strong factor is my allergy to revivalism and its sundry assumptions, abstracting the person from history and context, subjecting her…

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Do Sacraments Matter?

By Essays

Sacraments are not important in our age of active shooters, terrorist bombings, NFL players sitting at the “wrong” time, reality-star politicians and constant reconstruction of our habits and behaviors according to the latest iPhone (no headphone jack?!).  Such dangers and demands for our time and attention – not debate over a liturgical ceremony – are the real, practical work of the church. The church should be thinking theologically about serious issues, such as the brutality within our social imagination aimed…

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Why I Am a Christian Democrat

By As We See It

A few years ago one of my granddaughters was told by her Christian school teacher that Christians voted Republican. Walking out of the classroom, one of my granddaughter’s friends said to her, “I’m sure glad my parents and grandparents are Republicans.” “But my grandpa is a Democrat,” she replied. “And he’s a Christian.” Most Reformed Christians in this part of the country hold views similar to those of my granddaughter’s teacher. To be a Christian and a Democrat hardly seems…

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America’s Civic Christianity and Paul’s Solution

By Essays

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”  – Colossians 3:2 Americans have long expressed concern about the character of their high officials. Opinion polls show that until recently most would have rejected out of hand a presidential candidate lacking religion; many still do. Although a subset of those who insist on a professing executive and who think of the United States as a “Christian nation” recognize the need for religious diversity or speak loosely, small…

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U.S. Politics and the Vote: How Can Christians Engage in Meaningful Citizenship?

By Essays

I am a political science professor at a Christian university with ties to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a denomination in the Reformed tradition. My own background is Calvinist. When I was growing up, it was a given that Christians working in political life were considered to be as much involved in ministry as those going to seminary. The theme “all of life is religion” was a mantra at my college, and we were taught that politics belongs to God. But…

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