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The Dust and the Glory

“I learned a lot of things in medical school, but mortality wasn’t one of them.” So begins the bestselling 2014 book by surgeon and Harvard Medical School professor, Atul Gawande. I suspect that many today could reframe this sentence in light of how they have been formed in Christian discipleship. “I have come to know and love much about the …

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Desiring the End(s) of Salvation

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a …

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Praying in the Dark: Lament, Providence and Protest

A cancer diagnosis occurs in a moment, but the losses it brings come in slowly yet steadily, like a tide pushing against the shoreline, again and again. In the days after my own diagnosis, I sometimes felt resignation rather than anger or protest. “I’m not the center of the universe, after all,” I told a friend. “The world will continue …

Adopted into God’s Family

OCTOBER 2012: ESSAY by J. Todd Billings In 2010, my wife Rachel and I traveled to Ethiopia to adopt a lovely little girl. We know the country of Ethiopia relatively well—as we both taught in Ethiopia for five months in 2009, and I had spent nine months in Ethiopia earlier in my teaching career. We know that Ethiopia is a …

The Problem with TULIP, or More than TULIPs in this Field

Apparently, “Calvinism” is on the rise among American evangelicals. Whether it’s the “new Calvinism” described in 2009 by Time as one of the “ten ideas changing the world right now,” the recent flurry of books for and against Calvinism, or debates in the Southern Baptist Convention, discussion of “Calvinism” or “Reformed theology” seems to be in vogue. Yet as a …

Being Missional in the Reformed Tradition

The terms “missional” and “missional church” have been the buzz in various Reformed denominations and the wider church for about a decade now. But what exactly do the terms mean? That is an important question, and not an easy one to answer. Some use “missional” to describe a church that rejects treating the gospel like a commodity for spiritual consumers; …

The Promise of Baptism

DECEMBER 2008: REVIEW by J. Todd Billings What does it mean to be Reformed in our current American context? In a land where the needs of consumers make the market run, what would it mean to base our faith around God as the central actor in salvation? How should Reformed pastors minister to congregations that have little orientation to the …

Signs and Wonders for the Reformed

NOVEMBER 2008: REVIEW by J. Todd Billings I was trying to nap in the bedroom of my small mud-floored, grass-thatched hut in Uganda, but I was bothered by a commotion in my sitting room. “Oh no,” I remember thinking to myself. “Another exorcism. I just need some sleep!” In Uganda, exorcisms are commonplace activities, not the stuff of Hollywood special …

The Promise of Catholic Calvinism

In 1536, a 27 year old exile from France addressed Roman Catholic King Francis regarding a new religious movement that Francis opposed. This exile takes pains to deny that the teaching of the movement is, in fact “new” and “of recent birth.” To the contrary, says the humanist scholar, the gospel preached in this movement is as “ancient” as Paul’s …