Philemon: A Call to Reconciliation

McKnight’s commentary on Philemon has a strong message for the church of the twenty-first century. Today, more than ever, the church needs to proclaim a message of reconciliation to our divided society and to a world that has never abandoned the disturbing reality of slavery.

Two factors influence the interpretation of Paul’s letter to Philemon. The first factor is the reality that Rome was a slavery society. In my previous post, Slavery in the Roman World, I introduced McKnight’s discussion on slavery in the Roman empire. No one will be able to understand the book of Philemon unless one gains a good understanding of slavery as it was practiced in the Roman world. My discussion of McKnight’s view on slavery was only a brief summary of the vast amount of information he provides in his commentary.

The second factor that influences the interpretation of Philemon is the two Philemons that are in the background of Paul’s letter. The first Philemon is a Roman citizen, a non-Christian slave owner who probably was a very influential citizen in his society. Paul never introduced the non-Christian Philemon, although he had known Philemon before he became a believer.

Read more:


The Letter to Philemon

The Marks of a Christian’s Mind

 By Scot Mcknight

It is how people think, respond, react and outline a case that often marks them out as either Christian or sub-Christian and at times even non-Christian. When an idea provokes response the marks of a consistently Christian mind becomes manifest.

I see this at times when three different words come into play, three words that are profoundly Christian but which can be loaded up with MY convictions so much the words no longer have profoundly Christian meanings. These three words are grace, love, and justice. Sometimes grace is so large there is no repentance or holiness or transformation. Sometimes love is so fuzzy that it means tolerance of well-nigh everything, except a progressive’s pet peeves or a fundamentalist’s deep concerns. Sometimes justice is so central the church and evangelism are shelved and the gospel becomes anti-abortion or anti-whatever-the-GOP believes.

In our day, when everything important to Christians has become politicized, both on the Left and the Right, the manifestation of a Christian mind becomes A#1 Christian Virtue. Rich Mouw, in Uncommon Decency and Adventures in Christian Civility, speaks of civility and this essay today supports his valiant summons.

The Biggest Problem For Atonement Theories?

By Scot Mcknight

What do you think?

Thomas Andrew Bennett, in his book The Labor of God, contends the biggest problem with atonement theories is that they resolve a problem but not the fullness of the problem. Here are his words in the next four paragraphs:

Of the idiosyncrasies characteristic of contemporary atonement theology, perhaps the most peculiar is that atonement, based as it is on the “at-oneing” of God and humanity, never appears to be concerned with a fundamental change in us. …


What Does “Rejoice in the Lord” Mean?

What is rejoicing in the Lord supposed to look like? by Michelle Van Loon and

Not long ago, an acquaintance asked me how I was doing. She knows my husband and I are facing a number of serious trials. I was having a hard day, and told her so. My words hung in the air for a moment. She rushed to fill the uncomfortable silence with a Bible verse encouraging me to rejoice in God’s faithfulness.

We’ve all been there – either on the speaking end or the receiving end. I cringe remembering times I’ve offered words meant to comfort someone who is hurting, only to have those words clank like plastic platitudes they are because I’ve spoken them trying to quell my own discomfort with the other person’s pain. And I’ve received words meant to encourage, but sometimes those words have in the past seemed to me a bit of a demand to perform so the person speaking them to me would feel better about me or my situation.

There are numerous injunctions in Scripture to praise the Lord no matter what the circumstances are. (There are also commands to mourn, lament, confess, and remain silent.) I believe the acquaintance who encouraged me to rejoice per Philippians 4:4-7 meant well. But I wondered what she expected me to do in that moment. What is rejoicing supposed to look like in times of trial or loss?

Read more:

How did the Early Church Read the Bible?

Is Christlikeness the Goal?

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 5.09.25 PMGordon T. Smith says No. Where? In his new book, Evangelical, Sacramental, and Pentecostal: Why the Church Should Be All Three. [SMcK: Why not also Anabaptist?]

The book is a gentle evangelical apology for an ecumenical theology that is also sacramental (he’s more of a symbolist) and Spirit-shaped. Church is given the proper place, which it often is not in books on Christian spirituality. Hence, the book is a wonderful new addition to literature about formation but it comes at the topic from three angles at once.

In his reflection on John 15:4, which says, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me,” Gordon Smith then says this:

Thus three things call for special emphasis. First, the animating dynamic of the Christian life is not a Christological principle or a doctrine about Christ, however important it is for us to have an understanding of Christ Jesus that is faithful to the Scriptures and to the Christian tradition. Rather, what defines us, animates us, not merely informs but transforms us, is Christ himself who in real time dwells in our midst and in our lives.

Second, it is therefore very important to stress that the heart and soul of the Christian existence is not ultimately about being Christlike, however much that might be a good thing. It is rather that we would be united with Christ. So much contemporary reflection on the Christian life speaks of discipleship as becoming more and more like Jesus. There are two potential problems with viewing this Christlikeness as the Christian ideal and the goal of the church. On the one hand, this is problematic because Christ likeness is derivative of something else, namely, union with Christ. And to pursue it on its own actually distracts us from the true goal of the Christian life.

And then also, when Christlikeness is the goal, we get caught up in debates about what Christlikeness looks like and so easily the church descends to a less than subtle form of legalism as we impose on the church a vision of what it means to be “like Christ.”

And then third, so much piety, especially in evangelical circles, presents what might be called a transactional understanding of Christian spirituality—that Christ has “transacted” something on our behalf. While Christ has definitely acted on our behalf, it was to an end; his actions, notably his death, were not an end in themselves. The purpose of the cross was not merely about a transaction, effected for us and for our salvation. The cross had a purpose, an intended outcome: namely, union with Christ.

Read more: