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The Adoration of the Shepherds/Geroges de la Tour

Desiring the End(s) of Salvation

By Essays

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. –C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses…

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The garden of Eden with the fall of man

Deification: A Truly Ecumenical Concept

By Essays

Since the 2nd century, Christians have described the telos of God’s creation and redemption of humanity in terms of deification, or divinization. Even though it is one of the oldest entries in the church’s theological lexicon, deification sounds exotic when first encountered. Some people are immediately disconcerted. Unfamiliar with the word in a Christian context, they associate deification with ancient Greek hero myths, the apotheosis of Roman emperors, forms of mysticism in which humans are thought to merge into God…

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Taking Another Look at Deification

By As We See It

The essays in this issue of Perspectives tackle a topic that might seem strange to readers habituated in the Reformed tradition. The word “deification,” if it rings a bell at all, is commonly associated with Eastern Orthodoxy or with Mormonism. Todd Billings, in his essay in this issue, notes that when students are first exposed to one of the ways that early Christian theologians thought about salvation – salvation as deification – they are taken aback. I often experience this…

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Merciful Children of the Most High: Deification in the Gospel of Luke

By Essays

Luke’s gospel witness to the life of Jesus from Nazareth comes to an astonishing and climactic ending. As Jesus ascends into the heavens, his followers worship him. Among the clues Luke gives that Jesus shares in God’s divine identity, this is perhaps the most clear. Elsewhere, Luke corrects every impulse to worship a human being (see Acts 10:26 and 14:15). But when Jesus receives the worship of his followers, Luke shows us that Jesus receives what belongs properly only to…

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Why Go to Church When You’re on Vacation?

By Essays

This past January in Ecuador, in the middle of a conversation about Darwin and the Galapagos Islands, my taxi driver looked me in the eye and asked, “What religion are you?” The first thing I wanted to answer this multitasking man was, “Do you mind keeping your eyes on the road? I’m not planning to meet my Maker quite yet.” The second was, “Could you slow down when you talk?” I was doing my best to keep up, but my…

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Praying in the Dark: Lament, Providence and Protest

By Essays

A cancer diagnosis occurs in a moment, but the losses it brings come in slowly yet steadily, like a tide pushing against the shoreline, again and again. In the days after my own diagnosis, I sometimes felt resignation rather than anger or protest. “I’m not the center of the universe, after all,” I told a friend. “The world will continue just fine without me.” But that was just for some moments. Particularly as I considered the implications of this incurable…

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Nature’s Space into Ethnic Place

By Essays

The train hugged the Hudson River before crossing the bridge over Spuyten Duyvil onto Manhattan Island as my friend asked in a tone I’d become accustomed to, bemused Big-City incredulity: “I hear you’re moving to Idaho?” Actually, I explained, we were headed for Iowa. “Oh. Well,” he waved his hand in dismissal, as if he’d been close and I was quibbling over minor details: “One of those vowel states.” I was trading my commute from Westchester County into Greenwich Village,…

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Saints Surround Us

By As We See It

When I was 18, I had about two hundred grandmothers, give or take fifty. By the time I was a senior in high school, I’d had a maintenance job at a nearby retirement community for more than two years, and, during that time, I’d gotten to know the residents pretty well. For three summers, I cleaned all their windows, a process made much more difficult by my constant struggle against all the knickknacks on the windowsills. Sometimes as I worked…

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The Great Inviter

By Essays

W. Dale Brown, put in front of an audience, was always disarming: smart, artless, arch – and Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Writing put him in front of many audiences. Given his druthers, though, Dale would station himself at the back of a crowd. From there, he could wink at the latecomers. He could chuckle, a little less than circumspect, at the speakers’ jokes and quirks. He could whisper along with the poets and commit the orators’ maxims to…

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A Seeker of Gospel-Shaped Stories

By Essays

I somehow managed to earn a bachelor of arts in literature without ever encountering Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote until a high school production of Dale Wasserman’s 1965 play Man of La Mancha. I went as a rookie minister in the 80s because a 16-year-old junior from my youth group was playing the role of Aldonza, the scorned scullery maid Quixote keeps calling Dulcinea because somehow when he looks at her, all he can see is a princess: “I see…

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