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The popular understanding of the Pharisees is that they were legalists.  This is not, however, Jesus’ criticism of their ethics, even though the charge of Pharisaic legalism comes from a (mis)reading of the Gospels.  The Pharisees are cast in popular imagination as the quintessential example of legalists, overly focussed on rules and promoting works in order to attain righteousness apart from
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Introduction In Matthew 15, two adjacent pericopae (episodes) suggest an important theological relationship: the connection between ethics and theology or, more particularly, between an ethic of the heart and faith in Jesus Christ.  The first pericope involves an incident when Jesus’ disciples are criticized by the Pharisees for not washing their hands before they ate.  This allows Jesus to
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Does the unborn child have a soul?  Let us imagine a conversation between Aristotle (the 4th c. BC Greek philosopher) and some contemporary politician calling for abortion at any time up to the moment of birth.  We’ll call her ‘H’.  H. and A. are watching the recent news on television about abortion legislation in the United States.  During a commercial, H. turns to A. and begins the dialogue.
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We tend to read Romans as a theological explanation of our salvation, a clarification about how we are justified or made righteous.  This is a part—a large part—of what Romans teaches.  If you check in your English Standard Version translation of Romans, for instance, you will find that Romans mentions ‘justification’ three times, ‘justify’ one time, and ‘just’ and ‘justifier’ in one verse (3.26
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The purpose of this brief essay is to offer a different basis for freedom than that given in post-Enlightenment, free societies of the West.  The argument presented is that freedom understood as a universal human right ends up with various conflicting views and fails in a variety of ways.  Christians often seek to establish freedom for their faith on the grounds of universal rights, but the
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In Martin Luther’s day, a list of proposed theses would be posted somewhere in public (like the church door) so that they could be read ahead of a debate.  Day in and day out, I am involved with discussions or debates about theological education—its curriculum, its costs, its goals, its modes of delivery, etc.  These theses, then, represent views I have come to ‘after the debate’.  And yet, most
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Earlier New Testament scholarship—say, in the 1960s-1980s—was beholden to the idea that the early Church began as a ‘charismatic’ movement that developed into a ‘catholic’ institution by the beginning of the second century.  This ‘early Catholicism’ theory was defined in terms of one cause and two developments.  What allegedly precipitated this development was a supposed crisis: (1) the delay of
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The Senate Judicial Committees’ hearings on the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court were painful enough to watch.  Yet they captured social pressure points throughout society.  The elephant in the room was the Roe v. Wade decision that unborn children lack personhood and may be put to death at any time up to birth.  That dividing issue in the USA led to all the tricks and
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The Modernist, Western era has pursued, with considerable advantages at times, an approach to ethics through ‘rights.’  The USA added an addendum to the Constitution of ten amendments, called the ‘Bill of Rights.’  The United Nations’ charter was written in the language of certain ‘rights’.  This ‘rights’ approach is not entirely wrong in ethics, but it cannot adequately hold or ensure society’s
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The Judiciary Committee’s hearings around the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh raise questions about what the Bible says about false testimony, sexual violence, and the responsibility of victims to speak out immediately.  The following quotations (from the English Standard Version) are offered for reflection. False Testimony Exodus 20:16  "You shall not bear false witness against your
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