Theopolis Institute teaches men and women to lead cultural renewal by renewing the church. Participants in its various programs—its courses, conferences, and publications—will gain competence to read the Bible imaginatively, worship God faithfully, and engage the culture intelligently.

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Theopolis Institute Regional Course: Who is God?

We think we know. God is a stern Rule-Maker who has a bit of an anger management problem. Or, God is the indulgent Daddy in the sky. Or, God used to be a stern Ruler, but he got nice. Christians don’t believe any of that. Christians say the one God has a threefold name – […]

The Complexity of Biblical Allusion

There is no question about the fact that the book of Deuteronomy is full of literary allusion. But there is a serious problem, even a paradox, of understanding how that allusion works. To begin with, if we assume that Deuteronomy was written by Moses — with some editorial emendations added later — we have to […]

The Artificial Resurrection

Genesis and Genetics in Blade Runner 2049 The power of science fiction, and what’s positive about it, is that you’re able to experience the worst-case scenario without actually having to live it. (Actor Ryan Gosling, who plays Officer “K”) (Warning: The following analysis contains spoilers for both Blade Runner films.) Released in 1982, the original […]

The Battle of Gog and Magog

The battle of Gog and Magog is found in Ezekiel 38-39. My purpose in this brief essay is to propound an explanation for this passage that I have not encountered in any of my commentaries, but that makes more sense to me than any other. I offer it here in the hope that others can […]

Deep Hope

I. Varlam Shalamov in Kolyma Tales describes his experience of the Gulag, where he spent more than a dozen of years. In a story titled The Life of Engineer Kipreev Shalamov reflects on the theme of hope in the life of a prisoner: “Hope always shackles the convict. Hope is slavery. A man who hopes […]

Abram’s 318 Men

Genesis 14:14 says that Abram mustered his trained men, “born in his house,” to rescue Lot, and gives their number as 318. It is clear that the precise number is provided for some reason, but what is it? S. Gevirtz notes that 318 is the sum of all the prime numbers between 7 and 7 […]

The Flying Scroll

And he said to me, “What do you see?” And I answered, “I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits” (Zechariah 5:2). Immediately following his vision of the outpouring of the Spirit upon the restoration community (4:1-14), Zechariah saw a flying scroll. The interpreting angel told him that […]

The Gospel according to the Sacraments (Part 3): One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism

In the first post of this series, I proposed that the sacraments of baptism and communion are the nexus point for the evangelical and ecumenical movements. In the following post, I proposed a new orientation for ecumenism – a conciliarity of the cross – with the necessary confession of guilt as the first step towards […]

Christian Mission and Cultural Transformation

“Contextualization” is now, and has been for a long time, the buzzword for the day.1 Missionary effort in non-Western countries is all about “contextualization” — making our communication of the Gospel, if not the Gospel itself, fit into the culture to whom we from the West speak.2 There is, of course, an element of truth in […]

The Gospel According to the Sacraments, Part 2

In my previous post, I highlighted the sacraments as the point of convergence between evangelicalism and ecumenism arguing that baptism and communion are presented in the New Testament as signs of the gospel that simultaneously enact and remember union with Christ and the unity of Christ’s body. I concluded that post by appealing to evangelical’s […]

Baptism and Contextualization: Part II

Click HERE for Part I of this series. What does baptism have to do with culture? As I said in the previous essay, the short answer is “everything!” To begin with, baptism is baptism into Jesus’ death (Romans 6:3). Paul explains this as the crucifixion of the “old man” (“old self”) in a chapter that […]

Twin Nativities

In the accounts of our Lord’s nativity and early childhood, so familiar to us from many years of Advent and Christmas services, we often fail to recognize in them the gentle intimations of a greater nativity that is yet to come. The attentive ear, however, can discover in these passages the rich honey of a […]

Daughters of Zion

Isaiah warns that Yahweh is coming to remove Judah’s leaders in every area of social, economic and political life so completely that there will be no one left to lead besides children (3:4) and women (v. 12). As Isaiah goes on, however, it becomes clear that the women of Judah are no more compassionate, just, […]

The Gospel According to the Sacraments, Part 1

My first title for this series of posts was “Evangelical Sacramental Ecumenism” – not exactly a clickbait title. But those three words, evangelical, sacramental, and ecumenical, say a lot: The centrality of the gospel; a focus on baptism, bread, and wine; and the quest for visible unity among diverse churches. When they are put together […]

Baptism and Contextualization, 1

I can imagine someone reading the title of this essay and saying to himself, “I have two questions. First, what in the world is “contextualization”?” Second, even before hearing the answer to the first question, he may wonder, “what does baptism have to do with such an awkward and vague notion?” Let me begin by […]

Law of the Rebellious Son

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 My colleague Ralph Smith has recently written on this passage, here. I entirely agree with Ralph’s thrust, which is typological, that the passage is ultimately aimed at the entire nation of Israel itself as the rebellious son. But what I am thinking is from another perspective, perhaps a more immediate sociological perspective that […]

Like A Dove II

In the previous article in this series, I drew attention to the threefold meaning of the Spirit of God descending as a dove on Jesus at His baptism. On a related note, I also argued that 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Titus 3:3-7 were parallel passages that addressed the same issues in very similar language. One […]

What’s in a Flag?

The National Anthem protest is misguided. So too the conservative backlash. The Church’s response has been disappointing. I address each in turn. The greatest triumph of the American Civil Rights Movement was its seizing of the moral high ground in American politics. It did so by insisting only on those rights which the majority population […]

Like a Dove

Peter Leithart’s book, The Priesthood of the Plebs: A Theology of Baptism, argues that baptism is parallel to and the fulfillment of the old covenant rite of priestly ordination. But this is not something explicitly stated in the New Testament. Why, then, should we believe it? Leithart shows in detail that new covenant baptism does […]

The Politics of Justification

The doctrine of justification is precious among Protestants. And it should be. The fact that God has declared our sins forgiven and that we have a righteous standing in the sight of God united to Christ is comforting and brings great joy. Unfortunately, the biblical teaching on justification is, many times, truncated. We have tended […]

What is a Priest?

The Old Testament priests were given a number of seemingly disparate duties. As everyone knows, the priests led the sacrificial worship of Israel; only the priests could sprinkle blood on the altar or within the tabernacle, and only they could approach the altar to turn sacrificial animals into smoke. But priests, along with the other […]

Ite, Missa Est

Missional ecclesiology is all the rage these days, but for many being “missional” means downplaying or even eliminating concern for the “internal” life of the church, particularly its liturgical life. Missional and liturgical, mission and communio, are locked in zero-sum combat. That cannot be right. The liturgy is a means of communion with God, the Triune […]

The New Gospel

An old friend of mine, now passed into Heaven, started to say this in relationship to his sometimes troubled family, in the last quarter of his life, “I just had to take responsibility for the whole thing…” That was the seed for a new reading of the Gospel for me, a new way to read […]

Reformation Retrospection

She departed the port, dressed in her best ceremonial regalia, with tassels and flags fluttering from her mast and rigging. She stood tall, robed in mist, crowned in white, and backlit by the rising sun. There she sat, shimmering and spotless; with a perfect ragtop, and a full tank of gas. What splendid lady am […]

Locusts and Honey

John the Baptist is presented in the gospels as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise that God would send His messenger to prepare the way for the coming of the glory of the Lord (Is. 40), and the promise to send Elijah before Him to turn the people to repentance (Mal. 4). Thus, Matthew’s […]

Five Misconceptions of Reformation Day

For many people the date October 31 is significant not only for being the Eve of All Saints (All Hallows Eve, Halloween) but as the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg. These theses were a list of arguments against the abuses of […]

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