Why Study Theology? A Word from St. Basil the Great

Why Study Theology? Well, I can think of lots of reasons. But here are some words from St. Basil the Great (330-370), Bishop of Caesarea and one of the famous Greek Cappadocian church fathers.

stbasil2008web“To count the terms used in theology as of primary importance, and to endeavour to trace out the hidden meaning in every phrase and in every syllable, is a characteristic wanting in those who are idle in the pursuit of true religion, but distinguishing all who get knowledge of “the mark” “of our calling” (Phil. iii.14); for what is set before us is, so far as is possible with human nature, to be made like unto God. Now without knowledge there can be no making like; and knowledge is not got without lessons…. Truth is always a quarry hard to hunt, and therefore we must look everywhere for its tracks. The acquisition of true religion is just like that of crafts; both grow bit by bit; apprentices must despise nothing.” (De Spirito Sancto I.2)

[Contextual note: Basil is reflecting on the Nicene debate and the immense significance that concepts, words, and sometimes even syllables and prepositions  – i.e., homoousion vs. homoiousion, preps. ‘with’, ‘through’, ‘in’ – can have for proper theological understanding).

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Luther on the “Happy Exchange”

“Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given to me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not….”

(Luther, Works 48:12-13; ed. Helmut T. Lehmann; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002; Quoted in DBW 14:354 n.97; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013).

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Women in the Church Blog Series

Women in the Church:
Why I’m an Egalitarian


Last year, over the course of a few months, I wrote a series on women in the church that outlines my approach to being an egalitarian. I often get requests for links to the series, so I’ve just posted a summary page (click here).

The page lists all of the posts, in logical order, with links to make accessing them easy.

I hope that they are helpful to all (even if not all agree) and I especially hope that they are a source of encouragement to women seeking to serve God in positions of ministry and leadership in the church.

Painting: Ruth and Naomi by He Qi, 2001




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The Cross and God’s Love

cross suffering love2


The cross of Christ did not change
God’s heart toward us;
it revealed God’s heart toward us.

Agree or disagree?


Some verses to consider:

  • John 3:16-17: “ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
  • Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
  • 1 John 4:10: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
  • Ephesians 2:8-10: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Any counter-texts or points to consider?

This does not mean that the cross is just a demonstration (as in some versions of the moral exemplar theory), or that it doesn’t do or accomplish something or effect a change. It does. It separates the person that God loves from the Sin nature that is a contradiction to that person’s true (God-intended) being, which hence rightfully draws the wrath of God.

I think Luther had it right:““For love’’s anger (wrath) seeks and wills to sunder the evil that it hates from the good that it loves, in order that the good and its love may be preserved.”” (Quoted in Dennis Ngien, The Suffering of God According to Martin Luther’’s Theologia Crucis (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1995), 107.)


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John Coe on the Temptation of Academia



“As a graduate student at a major secular university, I experienced personally (and witnessed in my colleagues and professors)  the temptation of academia: to be fashionable in one’s observations and conclusions, to be flashy, to be the first to make the observation, to be accepted by the elite, to stand out, to force the data or arguments, to be less than forthcoming in admitting the weaknesses of one’s views, to quote the fashionable or accepted authority on a point in which the evidence is thin, to not be willing to admit gaps in the reasoning, but to ‘courageously push ahead.’  The discipline of honesty will assist us in letting reality speak, and not merely our hypotheses that may be motivated by unhealthy passions rather than reasons, evidence or healthy feelings. This is crucial for the enterprise of science and, especially, psychology.”

– John Coe, Psychology in the Spirit

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What comes first – worship, scripture, or theology?

liturgy border-2What comes first, worship, scripture, or theology? Does it depend where one stands in history?

Hauerwas writes: “In effect, the worship of the church created Scripture, though once formed Scripture governs the church’s worship” (“God’s New Language”).

Theology, then, is not a stage in this order, but an ongoing, dialogical, communal (church) practice of indwelling and enacting this relation. It is a faithful (biblical, historical, ecumenical), doxological, and contextual ‘improvisation’ on the great theo-drama that Scripture narrates (Vanhoozer).

(I’m currently reading through The Hauerwas Reader and will likely post random thoughts that occur to me here to stimulate thought . . . and perhaps revisit later).

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Scientific Pursuit as a Form of Worship

EW cover

Why is ongoing dialogue between faith and science so important?

Read my brief article in Eyewitness to find out (pages 14-15) and then join the conversation!

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Available Next Week!

psf book_front cover official

“This book calls exactly for what evangelicalism needs in order to reinvent itself: a return to the incarnation as the foundation for a robust ecclesiology based on a Christ-centered anthropology. It is my belief that Christianity will regain its experiential and intellectual relevance for our time once Christians recover and proclaim its ancient message that the gospel is all about fulfilling our common longing for true life by becoming fully human in communion with God. Franklin’s book is an important contribution to this task.”

~ Jens Zimmermann, Canada Research Chair in Interpretation, Religion and Culture, Trinity Western University

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Debate: God, Science, and the Universe

mqdefaultThis past Saturday a debate took place at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, on the topic of God, Science, and the Universe. Participants included Lawrence Krauss, Stephen Meyer, and Denis Lamoureux. You can view the whole thing on You Tube here.

What follows are some observations and impressions I had about the debate.

* The strongest presentation, in my view, was Lamoureux’s. To be fair, Meyer had a migraine that obviously caused him some trouble. Even so, Lamoureux’s presentation was more comprehensive than the other two, addressing evolutionary biology, biblical hermeneutics, and philosophical worldview questions. His point about the move we all make, beyond science, from data to metaphysics (and from metaphysics to data) was very good.

* The worst presentation was Krauss. I’d say “in my opinion,” but in my opinion this is an observable fact:)  If this event was intended to be a comedic roast, then Krauss won hands down. Maybe he didn’t get the memo that this was supposed to be a serious debate? His basic “argument” seemed to be: (a) my fellow debaters, and possibly all Christians, are idiots with nothing valuable to say; (b) I’m a good physicist; (c) here are three (basically not argued and largely pedantic anyway) guiding principles for thinking ‘scientifically’; (d) therefore God is redundant.

* Though I felt that Lamoureux’s presentation was stronger, I want to point out that Meyer’s argument (his larger argument, not details along the way) was not refuted by either of his two opponents. Krauss responded basically by making fun of him and Lamoureux’s god-of-the-gaps charge doesn’t really get at the larger problem to which Meyer points, namely the problem of the origin of biological information. Even with his obviously debilitating migraine, Meyer was able to make some basic points in defence that continued to stand without convincing refutation by the other two. (I say this as someone not fully convinced by Meyer’s argument, by the way). Lamoureux’s charge has some merit if Meyer is arguing that God needs to intervene physically with the world to enact every evolutionary change. But that’s not what Meyer argued, at least not at this debate. So, Meyer’s opponents seemed to be scrambling a bit to refute him, offering assertions but not clear arguments (Lamoureux’s examples in the response period were good, but need to be developed a little more, I think, to show their implications for Meyer’s theory and his probability analysis).

* I think Lamoureux let Krauss get away with too much. He seemed to go after Meyer more than Krauss, which was a bit strange since Kraus’s arguments were more problematic than Meyer’s. Though perhaps he didn’t go after Krauss because the latter didn’t really put forth much in terms of convincing arguments? (Why trade blows with empty assertions?)

* It would have been interesting to add another figure to the mix, either a physicist like Ard Louis or Arnold Sikkema or John Polkinghorne or a mathematician like John Lennox. And perhaps we could add an information theorist (such as Randy Isaac of the American Scientific Affiliation) to dialogue more seriously with Meyer over origin of information questions.

That’s it for now . . . I may offer more observations later.


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Coming April 2016


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