Top Ten Posts for 2015

Top Ten Posts for 2015

Kevin James Bywater

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I can never anticipate what readers’ responses will be to any particular posts I publish here on this blog. Sometimes the responses are rather surprising. More often than not, it appears, the greatest responses arise in light of some controversial event: some political revelation, a tragedy, a social movement, some travesty. Regardless, here are the top ten posts for 2015.

OxfordMeme-CSLewis-learned_life

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Readings at Summit Oxford • Spring Term 2016

It undoubtedly is a truism that one can be wearied by the reading of many books. Perhaps even more so, the reading of many online articles, a bulk of blogs, frenzied Facebook statuses, hasty hashtags, and awful opinions. Even so, some publications actually can be enlightening, perhaps challenging. Some most certainly are fuel for our conversations at Summit Oxford. And sometimes our conversation get to be a bit energetic. I call these CHAT times: Christians Happily Arguing Theology (hopefully with an emphasis upon happily).

Readings at Summit Oxford • Hilary Term 2016

Our reading list changes a bit from term to term. New books are published, older ones seem less pressing or helpful, and there is ever a steady stream of articles and chapters on subjects that beg to be included. We do read a lot, mind you, approaching 2500 pages.

For the upcoming coming Autumn Term (September – December), along with a selection of articles, essays, and other items, we are reading and discussing the ten volumes listed below. I have listed them roughly in the order we will read them. Well, actually, several of them will be divvied up over the course of several days, with a chapter or section each day. Often I have our students read the books in their entirety and prepare reports/summaries for select chapters or sections. I’ve provided links to Amazon, if you care to purchase any of them.

December2015

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Sharia, Ballet, Mosques and Damp Socks

Sharia, Ballet, Mosques and Damp Socks

Personal Reflections on Exploring Views Online,
in History, in Person, and in Islamic Legal Texts

Kevin James Bywater
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Please forgive me for the length of this post. I’ve decided not to divide it up into separate posts since it is more coherent as a single post. There are three sections: the first explains that I’ve recently been conversing online about Sharia with a Muslim man; the second recounts my time with him in London on Saturday; the third presents my follow-up thoughts regarding a Sharia manual that he had recommended I consult.

emmeline ballet

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Of Religions and Relationships

Not a Religion but a Relationship?

by Kevin James Bywater

It is common commonly said that “Christianity is not a religion but a relationship.” I see this as a false dichotomy, in essence, though, as an emphasis, it can be quite instructive. Permit me to explain.

think

The Religion Ditches

A while back I was speaking with a friend. He explained that many of the youth with whom he works fall into one of two ditches along their path of life (my metaphor, not his): some see Christianity as a religion in which one gains favor with God, and a place in heaven, on the basis of good works; others see Christianity as a religion in which, due to the righteousness of Jesus being imputed to us, our actions have no bearing whatsoever on our relationship with God, let alone our eternal destiny.

As we discussed these troubling missteps, it became increasingly apparent how helpful it is to see that our Christian faith indeed is a relationship with Jesus, a friendship, even a marriage.

When we see that our relationship with God is neither a works-based religion where we merit divine love, nor a license to do whatever we please, then we crave some clarity about just what it is. To my mind, it is much like other important relationships. Let us explore these for a couple of minutes.

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Why Do I Write So Much About Mormonism?

contemplation

Why Do I Write So Much about Mormonism?

Kevin James Bywater

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It is no secret that I have written a good bit of material about Mormonism over the years. Some people wonder why. Some Mormons eventually ask. Permit me to explain.

This coming December will mark the 28th anniversary of my departure from the Mormon Church. More importantly, it will mark the month when I was embraced by the grace of Jesus Christ, and when I, in turn, by faith, embraced him. This might sound striking, perhaps even befuddling, or even offensive to Mormons. After all, the name of Jesus Christ is in the official name of the Mormon Church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Yes, that much is true, but it also is very misleading. 

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OT Law & NT Ethics – 7: The Law and the Gospel (and Abraham)

It has been a while since I posted a new installment in the series exploring the relationship between Old Testament law and New Testament ethics. Sorry about that. Life has a way…of getting in the way. If you’ve not read the previous installments, well, I would strongly suggest that you grant enough time to do so. There is a madness to the method.

Previous Posts in This Series

Here are the earlier posts:

1 – Prefatory Playfulness
2 – Love and Leviticus 
3 – Practice and Priorities
4 – Abominations
5 – Ritual Impurity
6 – The Ten Commandments

Preface

Now, it may be surprising that, while in a series discussing the relationship between Old Testament law and New Testament ethics, one would include a post focused on the gospel. But it shouldn’t be too surprising, I should think.

We often hear law and gospel set in peculiar opposition, as if you cannot have both, as if you must have either one or the other, as if law vs. gospel. To be forthright, I’d like to challenge that, or at least insist that it needs to be seriously nuanced.

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Preaching Isaiah – Divine Affections and Aversions

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege and honor of preaching at our church, St. Leonard’s Church in Eynsham. We are at the beginning of a sermon series in Isaiah. I’ll attach the audio at the end of this post. My text was Isaiah 2:1-5, a grand vision of the nations streaming to the mountain of God to be instructed in God’s ways for the practice of peace.

mountains

Provocative Poets

I imagine each of us has been instructed that there are two subjects one should avoid when in polite company: religion and politics. What I take away from this is that the biblical prophets most definitely were not polite company.Indeed, the prophets were poets who provoked people to repent and reprioritize.

Consider these pointed words by a contemporary Christian poet residing in London.

“Chance”

If chance be
the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky,
and when you hear

state of emergency
sniper kills ten
troops on rampage
whites go looting
bomb blasts school

it is but the sound of man
worshipping his maker.

–Steve Turner, Up To Date

A prophet is a provocative poet, but also one who pronounces hope to God’s troubled people. Prophets don’t only cry for justice; they confront injustice. They don’t simply proclaim that we should have faith in God, they point up infidelity and put it on parade. None of which is very polite, to be sure, though it is the word and will of the LORD.

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The God Who Is There, D.A. Carson

godwhoisthereNow and then I wonder what good resources might be available to introduce people to the Christian faith. I’ve recommended various titles throughout the years of my own loyalty to Jesus Christ. But over the last few years I’ve returned with appreciation to D.A. Carson’s book, The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story.

Running at 224 pages and 14 chapters, it is a medium-sized volume. One fun feature of the book is that you can watch the corresponding talks by Carson in a 14-part series online. You also can download mp3s of the lectures. I’ll link the videos and audios with the corresponding chapter titles below.

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Forgiveness Is For Giving

Grief statue

There is a profound power in forgiveness, a power not easily matched. Forgiveness is not simply for ourselves; it is intended for giving to others.

A few weeks back, while on the train from Oxford to London, I noticed someone across the aisle reading a newspaper. One headline jumped out at me. It read, “Forgiveness is the Best Vengeance.” Simultaneously, that struck me as humorous and as hard-hearted. It was humorous because one might not normally think of forgiveness as a kind of payback. Indeed, if forgiveness is an expression of love, then the idea of it being a species of vengeance doesn’t normally follow. As such, it came off to me as hard-hearted, a peculiar kind of lovelessness we express in disregard for the other’s well-being. I didn’t have a chance to read that article, so I don’t know what sorts of clever or diabolical advice may have trickled and tickled beneath that headline. But it wasn’t the first time the thought of forgiveness has resonated in my heart.

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