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Pastor, writer, and sometimes professor, currently serving Awakening Church in the Silicon Valley. Author of DISTANT GOD and LESS OF MORE:
“Knives Out” (2019)

It could be the ridiculous proliferation of true crime podcasts without any satisfactory conclusion, or the numerous Netflix “docu-series” titles that tell you all about violent and dramatic mysteries only to neglect solving them, but the success of Rian Johnson’s Knives Out made me happy. Here, a classic mystery with multiple twists and turns concludes with a satisfactory — albeit surprising — end. And it made a lot of money.

Good mystery stories are solved. And while I was tossed about inside the waves of podcasts like Serial and S-Town, I think I’ve had enough of the stories that just…

Ancient Egyptian art depicting the slave trade of its day

“Behind the depressing silence of this sea, the silence of God…the feeling that while men raise their voices in anguish God remains with folded arms, silent.”

-Shūsaku Endō, Silence

“And I don’t mind you disappearing

When I know you can be found…”

-The War on Drugs, “In Reverse”

Picture yourself across from a close friend of yours, enjoying a beverage — remember when you used to do that? Imagine, for a minute, that you are not wearing a mask, nor in need to socially distance. In other words, imagine another world. You’ve asked this friend to meet with you to…

Calling of Abraham by St. Savin (1040–1090) at Abbaye de Saint-Savin in Vienne France

“At this there sprang into his mother’s face something startling, beautiful, unspeakably sad — as though she were looking far beyond him at a long, dark road, and seeing on that road, a traveler in perpetual danger.”

-James Baldwin, Go Tell it on the Mountain

“Go out on the street it’s the same thing until you walk far enough and the people get realer.”

-Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings

Many characters in your Bible are introduced to you as adults. Apart from the major players in Israel’s redemptive history, there’s little we know about the upbringing and…

“The Trinity,” by Andrei Rublev (circa 15th century)

“I also realized that it was going to require more than a string of words to clear away the cluttered damage that had amassed around me. But it would be the beginning.”

-Bret Easton Ellis, Lunar Park

“The human actions attributed to Him are those of the body of God the Word; they prove the hypostatic union, and the reality of His body.”

- Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word of God

Many well-meaning readers of the Bible go astray right from the start. Holy Scripture’s very first book and chapter, Genesis 1, offers us more than a few…

“The Ladder of Jacob,” 16th Century Greek Orthodox fresco

“The very old priest at the altar knelt and rose and raised God in his hands; what did it matter in the long run, anyway? God didn’t cease to exist when men lost their faith in Him…He had Eternity on his side.”

- Graham Greene, The Lawless Roads

“The Church believes that among Jesus’ major contributions to history, and certainly to faith, is the gift of an opened and so somewhat demystified Heaven…”

-Frederick Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Commentary

How and where does God show up? “Christmastime” would tell us that God shows up with a lit…

*NOTE: If in reading this article you think I’m ignoring the possibility that Christianity itself is an ideological prison, please read my two part series, “Christianity is Not an Idea” (Part 1 and Part 2).

As a brief aside in an otherwise pedestrian virtual conference panel discussing the recent protests and national election, I heard John Mark Comer, the Portland-area pastor, lament something I had not fully considered. …

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (second from right) at Tegel Prison, circa 1941

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is frequently misrepresented as a simple man: he saw the evil of Hitler, stood against him, and was killed for it. This picture is not entirely wrong, but it is certainly incomplete. One must only read Letters and Papers from Prison, the posthumously published collection of writings, to see the conflicted conscience behind this pastor’s actions (and inactions). The “letters and papers” are wonderful, and they include the pastor stretching his mind through short stories, theological essays, sermons, plays, and poems. Reading Letters and Papers is an incredible gift now in 2020 as it displays Bonhoeffer’s interior deliberations—his…

I have already made a short attempt to answer the question of why one should be a Christian in 2020, but it is now time to answer a different kind of inquiry: how can I stay a Christian in 2020? When I can’t physically gather at a church or sign up to serve somewhere or do much of anything with other people…what should I do? How can I remain encouraged? And how do I go about “remaining” when I doomscroll every night to clips of terrible politicians talking past each other on the way to an uncertain election which will…

Firefighters pictured in Northern California, August 2020

It must be noted right now, before you go any further, that you should stop reading this essay if you or anyone close to you is suffering first hand from the fires that are raging throughout the west coast of America. To continue to read this might prove to see me as a kind of callous, outside observer of what can only be labeled a disaster. Disasters they are, which is why it troubles me to write while simultaneously recognizing what those closest to the pain need right now is not words or theologies, but comfort, help, companionship, and mercy…

Of all the things we pastors tell you that you must “make peace” with — your past, your own struggles and weaknesses, the church — we rarely explain to you that, one day, you’ll have to make peace with the faith itself. You’ll need to make peace with the various ways “Christianity” will fail you. The closest we get is acknowledging the shortcomings of “the Church” in general, but it must be said: the faith itself is a complicated beast, and making our peace with the label “Christian” will be work we will need to do. …

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