Thursday, November 20, 2014

Embryo Adoption

Thanks to my friend Shannon B for bringing this to my attention: People magazine is running a series on embryo adoption (part I  and part 2), and so far it's been quite good. Check it out!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014


Adam Greene was the mastermind behind a million-dollar Kickstarter campaign for "Bibliotheca." After reaching his starting goal in 27 hours, he went on to hit $1.4 million in 30 days.

Adam believes content should match design—that the two should complement each other. Even in the Information Age, he believes in creating books that are elegant and allow the reader to get lost in the story. So he applied these beliefs to one of the oldest pieces of literature in the world: the Bible.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Kay Warren is Coming to Dallas

Those living with mental illness and developmental disabilities consistently find themselves on society's margins, often being shunned or ignored. Yet each person is an image-bearer of our God, has a role in his kingdom, and deserves love and care. So how do we sensitively minister to those on the fringes of our communities and reflect the kind of care Jesus gave? How do we compassionately exhort God’s people, in all areas of ability, to follow Him and work toward His redemption of the world? Kay Warren of Saddleback Church will help guide us in this event that's open to the public.

Kay Warren
Kay Warren cofounded Saddleback Church with her husband, Rick Warren, in Lake Forest, California. She is a passionate Bible teacher and respected advocate for those living with HIV and AIDS, orphaned and vulnerable children, as well as for those affected by a mental illness. She founded Saddleback's HIV& AIDS Initiative. Kay is the author of Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough and Say Yes to God, and coauthor of Foundations, the popular systematic theology course used by churches worldwide. Her children are Amy and Josh, and Matthew who is in heaven, and she has five grandchildren.

Date: Monday, April 20, 2015
Place: Dallas Theological Seminary, Lamb Auditorium

Registration Fee

$70/person (until 2/20/2015)
$85/person (until 4/3/2015)
$95/person (after 4/3/2015)

Go to for more info.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Register for the Women's Leadership Conference

There's still time to register—but not for long. I'm doing a workshop titled "Writing to Expand Your Ministry." Join us! In fact, bring your team and get a discount. See you there!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Book You Should Know About: Dwell

What does it mean to be spiritual? We humans inhabit bodies. We are not shades or ghosts or zombies. We are, like Jesus, enfleshed. And that makes for an embodied spirituality.

My friend and colleague, Barry D. Jones, has written a deep but accessible book—Dwell: Life with God for the World (IVP)—that shows how it looks to allow “the logic of the Incarnation to inform our vision of the spiritual life.” Grounding his work in Jesus’s dwelling with humans in the flesh and God's intention for the world's wholeness ("shalom"), Jones walks readers through practices that create space for an infusion of God’s vision. In such a world there is no room for isolationism. Nor is there an approach to worship where the transformative becomes merely the therapeutic. Rather, we live in true community and we do so locally—blessing our communities, and not just our communities of faith. As the Babylonian exiles were called to do, we seek the good of the places where we live.

In a context of grace we rest not because we are supposed to stop having fun once a week, but so we can stop to savor life in the one who "shines on all that's fair." We pray, opening ourselves to a God who is good and kind and just and desires for his world to be so. We practice hospitality—literally, loving strangers—because God is hospitable. We fast and we savor food (i.e., feast) because God in his great love both gave us opportunities to benefit others through our sacrifice and taste buds through which to savor his creation.

The psalmist wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s and fullness thereof” (Ps. 24:1). Those who shall inherit the earth have five senses with which to perceive God and his world. So Jones helps readers know how to be with God and as a result of that union to be for the world. In order to become fully mature spiritually, we need both.

Highly recommended. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Are Science and Faith Compatible?

While science and faith have often been pitted against each other, the September Evangelical Leaders Survey finds that most evangelical leaders are comfortable with the compatibility between their faith and scientific findings.

Evangelical leaders were asked to what extent they agree with the following statement, “Sometimes I have to choose between the teachings of my evangelical faith and scientific findings.” Seventy percent disagreed with the statement, with 30 percent strongly disagreeing.

What Evangelicals Are Saying about Science and Faith

“Evangelicals are committed to the authority of the Bible but also are grateful for and respectful of science,” said Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals. “They recognize that there can not be ultimate disagreement between nature and Scripture.”

Margaret Feinberg, a popular Christian author and speaker, said, “Science and faith inform each other in the most beautiful way. Science illuminates the wonder of God.”

Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, continued, “The Creator is known through that which has been made (Romans 1:20). If there seems to be disagreement, we have either misinterpreted Scripture or science has not yet caught up to it.”

Likewise, Joseph Tkach, President of Grace Communion International, said, “Proper and accurate interpretation has science and theology fitting like a hand in a glove.”

Do People Have to Choose between Faith and Science?

Of those who said that they have to choose between scientific findings and their evangelical faith, some noted that scientific conclusions are sometimes revised in light of new discoveries.

“I will always side with what Scripture says over any scientific ‘finding.’ Other times scientific discoveries confirm what the Bible has been saying all along,” said Bill Lenz, Senior Pastor of Christ the Rock Church, in Menasha, Wisconsin.

Anderson said, “Evangelicals have not always had the best relationship with science. But today’s evangelical leaders don’t think there should be such a division. Science is about studying the world God put us in. We should be the best scientists.”

The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.

Brought to you by the NAE. You can follow the NAE at or through Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Compelling Love and Sexual Identity

In a culture polarized by strong and often differing opinions, how can we connect with those whose beliefs, values, and lifestyles we find offensive? Over the past year, my colleague Dr. Gary Barnes and my student Nathan Chan along with lots of others have traveled the country, posing this question to scores of people with different sexual orientations and gender identities. In this feature film is the result of their work. Who sits across the table from you?

Friday, November 07, 2014

Bathsheba's Story: How I changed my perspective

Today we have a guest post from one of my former students, Sarah Bowler. I served as one of her thesis readers, and she did some brilliant work, a sampling of which you'll find here: 
Bathsheba’s story captures our attention. Painters, such as Jean-Léon Gérôme or Rembrandt, have depicted her bathing provocatively. Actress Susan Hayword brought her story to life in the 1951 film “David and Bathsheba,” nominated for five Academy Awards. Authors speculate on her life in historical fiction works.
I’ve even stumbled across various forms of this social media meme (see photo).
god uses
Notice the words “David had an affair,” a fairly common phrase. I thought little of it the first time I saw the meme, but when I conducted research for my thesis on Bathsheba, my perspective changed.
I started with the notion that Bathsheba tends to get a bad rap. I had always figured the details regarding her responsibility in the situation were ambiguous, and thus we should be careful with assumptions about her character. But the more I delved into the biblical text the more I realized her story wasn’t as ambiguous as I thought.
For example:
  • We often say Bathsheba bathed on top of a roof. 
  • >>> The text and cultural studies indicate she was probably in an enclosed courtyard.
  • We portray Bathsheba naked. 
  • >>> The Hebrew word is ambiguous. She could have been washing her hands or her feet only (while fully clothed).
  • We view Bathsheba as a woman whose immodesty caused a king to stumble. 
  • >>> We should instead view David as a “peeping Tom.”
  • We point out that Bathsheba “came to the palace.” 
  • >>> We fail to mention David sent messengers (plural) to fetch her.
  • We tend to call the situation an affair. 
  • >>>The evidence from the text suggests it was rape.
  • We bestow upon Bathsheba partial blame. 
  • >>> The biblical author placed the blame fully on King David.
But why do the details of one story really matter? Does our view of Bathsheba affect how we live out our Christian faith? I believe it does.
As I researched, I found current examples in which Christian writers and editors failed to be empathetic toward victims and demonstrated a “lack of understanding and discernment in regard to sexual predation, child abuse and rape culture mentality” (quote from: Heather Celoria).
Even sadder, some spiritual leaders rape or sexually abuse young women, and many of the victims still receive partial blame in situations where a spiritual leader is fully at fault.
How we interpret biblical narratives affects how we interpret events around us.
Now, when I hear phrases like “David had an affair” or “Bathsheba bathed on a roof,” I don’t just simply think about how she gets a bad rap. I think about how she was an innocent victim, and I think about the “modern day Bathshebas” who exist today.
Bathsheba’s story ought to prompt careful thought because the repercussions of allowing negative stereotypes to persist are very real. I long for the day when believers eradicate the line of thinking where the victim shares partial blame for a perpetrator’s sin.
One step toward that end is sharing the “true” Bathsheba story.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Get Your Beauty Fix Here

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Why I Study Greek and First-Century Ephesus

"I would say that a clear understanding of the character of earliest Christianity—its beliefs, its practices, its struggles and challenges—are essential if we are to understand who we are as Christians and who we ought to be and to be about. The church today is suffering from a sort of amnesia; it has forgotten the rock from which it was hewn, and so it fails to understand its own identity. The past, as Lightfoot would say, is not mere prologue; it is the foundation of our faith and on it we must stand. Lightfoot reminds us again and again that history matters, that nothing can be theologically true that is historically false, that a gnostic sort of spirituality that divorces itself from the original Greek text and context of Acts is not a Christian approach to spiritual formation but a heresy against which the church fathers fought vigorously."

—Ben Witherington III, IVP Academic Alert 23, no. 3 (Winter 2015), p. 4.

Monday, November 03, 2014

NAE Approves Allowing Natural Death Resolution

The Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) approved a resolution at its semiannual meeting on Oct. 16 addressing end-of-life questions created by medical advances, which have produced more effective care and enabled physicians to save lives that would otherwise result in death, but have also given the possibility to prolong the dying process beyond its normal course.

The new resolution states, “The NAE believes that in cases where patients are terminally ill, death appears imminent and treatment offers no medical hope for recovery, it is morally appropriate to request the withholding or withdrawal of life-support systems, allowing natural death to occur.”

NAE President Leith Anderson said, “Evangelicals want to honor life from womb to tomb. As technology advances, moral questions complicate the decisions that family members face regarding treatment of their loved ones. This resolution gives guidance to our members who are in some very difficult situations.”

The Allowing Natural Death resolution encourages the use of signed health care directives and/or a designated health care agent. Where there is no health care directive or agent, the decision to withhold or withdraw life support should be made by the dying patient’s family, legal guardian, or closest friends in consultation with the medical professionals and, when available, a member of the clergy.

The resolution also states, “While we firmly believe in mercy, compassion, and allowing natural death, we also believe there is a profound moral distinction between allowing a person to die, on the one hand, and killing on the other. As evangelicals, we deny that there are any circumstances that justify euthanasia; that is, intentionally ending a life through medical intervention.”

The NAE board also calls for evangelicals to focus their energies on improving care for the dying and ensuring access to high-quality palliative or hospice care to alleviate needless suffering.

“We should further advocate within our churches for responsible advance care planning. It has proven to be much less morally distressing to family members when they are clear on their loved ones’ wishes for end-of-life care, and are spiritually validated for honoring that person’s desires,” the resolution states.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Bioethics in the News

(New York Times) – Some people exposed to the Ebola virus quickly sicken and die. Others become gravely ill but recover, while still others only react mildly or are thought to be resistant to the virus.  Read More

(MIT Technology Review) – The Hong Kong scientist who invented a simple blood test to show pregnant women if their babies have Down syndrome is now testing a similar technology for cancer.  Read More

(BBC) – Rajo Devi is 75. Her daughter and first-born child, Naveen, is five. In India the average woman lives to 68 – Rajo Devi says she was fortunate to become a mother at 70. Read More

(MSU Today) – When most animals begin life, cells immediately begin accepting assignments to become a head, tail or a vital organ. However, mammals, including humans, are special. Read More

(Forbes) – Transparency has been gaining momentum in most areas of medical practice over the past decade.  -  Read More

(CNN) – Brittany Maynard says she hasn’t decided yet when she’ll end her life, but it’s a decision she’s still determined to make.  Read More
Compiled by The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity, 

Bewitched: A Bible Story for Halloween

As the world focuses on goblins, witches, death, and cemeteries, we find in the Word a lesson for the season…. 
Double, double, Saul in trouble/Flew to Endor on the double. 

The year was about 1007 BC. When our story in 1 Samuel 28 opens, the prophet Samuel has died and King Saul has removed all the fortunetellers and mediums from the land—one of his few obedient acts. 
When his enemies, the Philistines, assembled at Shunem in the north part of Palestine, King Saul cobbled together an army. As he camped with his troops at nearby Gilboa, the size of the Philistine force left him quaking. By all accounts they had the manpower to take out Israel. 
Saul had known all along that the kingdom would eventually go to David. And because at this time David lived among the Philistines, Saul had even more reason to think, “Maybe this is it for me.” So he sought some divine reassurance about his military plans. But God remained silent. All the usual means of knowing His will dried up—the Lord didn’t speak through dreams or the Urim or through the prophets. 
So did King Saul put on sackcloth and ashes and fast? Did he pull an all-nighter in prayer? Did he wait on God? Of course not. He did what he always did—he took matters into his own hands. This time he told his servant to find him a medium so he could ask her what to do. How ironic. This king who, in one of his few acts of obedience to the Lord had outlawed mediums (according to Lev. 19:31; 20:6, 27), sought to know God’s will through a medium. Interestingly, Saul’s servant knew just where to find someone versed in the dark arts. Hm-m-m. Why would he know that?
So Saul’s servant told the king about a woman who lived near where Gideon and Barak experienced their victories—in Endor.  
Now, since Saul had (rightly) decreed that being a medium was a capital offense, he couldn’t exactly show up at the witch’s door wearing his kingly garb. So he disguised himself and took two of his men to Endor. When he arrived at the medium’s house, he told the woman,  “Use your ritual pit to conjure up for me the one I tell you.” (A ritual pit was what magicians used to conjure up underworld spirits.) 
But she protested. Reminding him that the king had outlawed mediums, she asked, “Why are you trying to trap me?” Why should she risk her life for these strangers?
That question alone should have given Saul pause. But instead of reflecting and repenting, he made her promises. In a pathetic gesture of assurance, he did more than merely swear an oath. He did so in the name of Israel’s God: “As surely as Yahweh lives, you will not incur guilt in this matter!” 
Doesn’t that give you the chills—and not in a good way? Saul used the name of the one who is holy, holy, holy to promise that no harm would come to one who violated God’s commands by seeking to communicate with the dead. 
So she conceded. “Who do you want me to conjure up?” she asked.
The Hebrew text here wastes no words. The next line says, “When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out loudly” (vs. 12).  The appearance of the actual prophet told her that her client was King Saul himself.
Some say the one who appeared was not really Samuel, but rather a demon posing as Samuel. Yet the text gives no such indication, treating the one who appeared as the actual deceased prophet. The fact that the woman discerned the identity of her client as soon as the prophet appeared suggests to me that she was usually a fake. At the very least, something out of the norm for her was happening. 
Saul assured the medium that she should calm down and tell him what she had seen.  
Her reply? “I have seen one like a god coming up from the ground!”  
 “What about his appearance?” Saul asked further.
  “An old man is coming up! He is wrapped in a robe.”
  The text in other places tells us that Elijah wore a mantle, which was like a large cape (2 Kings 2). And something about the woman’s description signaled to Saul that the figure was indeed Samuel. So the king responded with respect: “He bowed his face toward the ground and kneeled down” (28:14). 
But Samuel was none too happy. Why? One possibility: he felt unhappy about getting yanked out of paradise. But a more likely option is that he especially disliked being a part of situation in which his very presence stemmed from others’ disregard for God’s Word. Whatever his reason, he asked Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” 
Saul replied by explaining about God’s silence and how terrified he was—how the Philistines were ready to wage war in overwhelming numbers. 
  “Why are you asking me, now that Yahweh has turned away from you and has become your enemy?” Samuel demanded. Even if God had not already determined to kill Saul, He had promised to set His face against anyone who sought a medium (Lev. 20:6). In another touch of irony, in seeking safety Saul had increased the risk. Besides, if God Himself had refused to speak, why would Saul think he’d get any assurance from a lesser source? 
Do you suppose the doom Samuel pronounced was the response that the already-terrified Saul expected? 
Not one to mince words, Samuel continued: “Yahweh has done exactly as I prophesied! Yahweh has torn the kingdom from your hand and has given it to your neighbor David!” (28:18). Saul went on to predict destruction for Israel. “Yahweh will hand you and Israel over to the Philistines! Tomorrow both you and your sons will be with me. Yahweh will also hand the army of Israel over to the Philistines!” (v. 19).
Some understand Samuel as saying, “Rejoice. You’ll be in paradise tomorrow.” But more likely, he was saying, “I’m dead. And you too are a dead man—and not just you, but also your sons.”
The revelation sent Saul over the edge. He threw himself full length on the ground and shook for fear. As he had gone without food and made a nighttime journey, he already had no strength when he arrived. The bad news only added to his weakened condition, draining him of what little energy he had left.  
The woman, seeing how terrified Saul was, had a heart. She basically said, “I did what you required. Now it’s my turn to give orders.” Then she insisted that he let her feed him. But he refused.
When the king’s servants and the woman pressed further, however, he got up from the ground and sat on the bed. Meanwhile, the woman killed her fatted calf, made some unleavened bread, and fed Saul and his servants.  
And the next day Saul and his sons were killed in battle.  
So what do we learn from this story?
Believe God is sovereign. In the larger context surrounding this narrative, the people to whom the story is addressed receive a reminder of how God always had His hand on their nation, even in the bad times. Despite a disobedient king, God accomplished His purposes.
Seek God’s will in God’s ways.  Saul wanted to know the future, but God didn’t want him to know. So Saul took matters into his own hands and demanded an answer in a way that displeased God. Do you think he felt any better once he found out?  
Know that God keeps His promises. Years earlier God had promised to turn against all who sought mediums. And he had promised to put David on the throne of Israel. By the time the story ends, He has fulfilled both promises. He does what He says He’ll do.
Trust the one who is Lord of life and death. The God who allowed a spirit to be brought back from paradise later brought about the pivot-point of history in a sealed tomb. He is the God of the living—the one who raised Lazarus, Dorcas, and Jairus’s daughter. And only He can raise the dead. Why would anyone waste time with those who claim to conjure up spirits when our God has power over both spirits and bodies? And He offers new life to all who trust His resurrected Son. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Are Witches and Wizards Evil?

Halloween is right around the corner. What do we do if our kids want to dress up as witches and wizards? Check out my blog post at Engage (formerly Tapestry).

A Mini-Reader about Women

Time for some quick-read primary sources. 

Have you ever read what Nathaniel Hawthorne had to say about Anne Hutchinson?

What about the transcript of Anne Hutchinson's Trial?  

And "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou.

And then there's Margaret Atwood's Bored. (Thanks to my intern, Michelle, for finding these). 

And let's not forget Virginia Woolf's imaginative piece in A Room of One's Own titled "Shakespeare's Sister" in which she images life for the bard's sister if she shared his level of talent.

And finally, Sojourner Truth's lyric speech, "Ain't I A Woman?" that reveals how class-blind we have been about the gender debate.

Who says we have to save these nuggets for Women's History month?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Forever Mom: What to Expect When You're Adopting

October is Adoption Awareness Month! Today I'm happy to have as my guest Mary Ostyn, author of Forever Mom: What to Expect When You're Adopting. 

Why did you write Forever Mom and what do you hope it accomplishes?
 My greatest hope is that this book will equip and encourage adoptive moms. Too often people think that once a child has a family, all his hurt goes away.  For many children it just isn't that simple.

Why is this book important and relevant?
Many Christian families have heard God's call to care for orphans, but want to educate themselves before leaping in.  Others have already taken that leap, and want to parent in the best, wisest way possible. I wrote this book to equip mothers for this amazing adventure.

How is Forever Mom different from other books on adoption?
Some adoption books  focus the how-to-adopt aspect. Others cover adjustment issues from a clinical perspective. As a mom of many children adopted at different ages, my perspective is very much in the trenches: realistic, compassionate, and encouraging. I also tried to make it clear that I'm far from perfect. In the book I share my mistakes right along with my successes.

Who do you think will benefit most from Forever Mom, and why? 
The mom I held closest to my heart as I was writing was one who went into this great adventure with a ton of hope, but is now feeling tired and a little worn around the edges.  She's wondering if she has what it takes to parent this precious child, who may be more wounded than she expected.  She sometimes feels alone on this journey.  I pray this book will embrace her, equip her, and encourage her to move forward with hope, always remembering that the real source of hope and healing is Jesus.

This book hits the market on November 4. So take advantage of preorder freebies and giveaways available at

Mary Ostyn is the author of Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting. She encourages moms through her books, speaking engagements, and her blog at She lives with her husband and high school sweetheart in Nampa, Idaho, where she homeschools the youngest five of her ten children, including four daughters born in Ethiopia and two sons born in South Korea.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Goldfinch

I can’t now remember why or how, but about two months ago, I received a free three-month subscription to Audible. For the first month, I chose The Fault in Our Stars, the YA bestseller. It’s the first book I’ve ever read that puts me in the point of view of a dying teen who does not process her trials through the lens of faith.

For my second choice, I did some research. What won the Pulitzer for fiction this year? The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Oh? It also made the National Book Critics Circle Award finals. So I investigated further. In book form it ran 775 pages. In audio it ran 32 hours, 29 minutes, and completely filled the memory of my iPhone S5. Ouch! But if I was going to get something free, I wanted to really feel like I’d scored. 

And indeed, I hit the jackpot with this one.

I started listening on the plane to Italy, where I had some business last month. I’m scheduled to co-teach a course there in Medieval Spirituality and Art next May, and I had a list of monasteries to check out (less expensive lodging, more authentic experience).

By the time I headed home via Frankfurt, where I attended the International Book Fair, I was so hooked that I listened to the story for the entire twelve-hour flight instead of sleeping. On Saturday morning I finished the story.

Mid-way through the “book,” I frankly didn’t understand why it won. I would have cut at least 100 pages of the Las Vegas section, which went on and on about two high-school-aged boys snorting drugs, smoking drugs, and drinking drugs into oblivion—rinse, and repeat. This part seemed to contribute nothing to the actual plot.

But by the end, though, the author had my complete respect. She crafted a bildungsroman with a suspenseful story line, a touch of romance, a powerful portrayal of grief, a multi-sensory experience, worldwide travel, and a satisfying ending. And it turned out that the Las Vegas part, even if longer than necessary, did actually play into the finale. (Yet another reason to be suspicious of reviewers who admit “I couldn’t make it to the end” and then go on to criticize a story they don't fully know.)  

In The Goldfinch, Theo Decker, a 13-year-old kid who lives in New York City (isn’t that where most classic stories are set?) survives a bombing at The Met that orphans him but leaves him in possession of an artistic masterpiece. The plot follows him and the painting as he wrestles on the surface with how to get it off his hands, but below the surface with growing up, despair, and beauty. 

During Arts Week at DTS this past week, our speaker, Dr. Rob Johnston, talked about truth, goodness, and beauty. Decades ago, we put the three in that order. We could begin sentences with “The Bible says,” even on TV, and people would listen. But corrupt televangelists and priests contributed to a cultural shift that made us all say, “Show me your goodness before you tell me your truth.” That is, we shifted the order to goodness, beauty, and truth. (It’s not a hierarchy; we need all three. Rather, it’s the order in which we usually prefer to access and process our world.) But lately we want beauty first. And for that reason alone, this book is a cultural artifact that demonstrates what we value. The Goldfinch is full of beauty, both in its literary crafting and in the story itself in which art speaks to the heart.

P.S. The narration by actor David Pittu won the 2014 Audie award for “Best Solo Narration–Male.” He certainly earned it. The character whom critics decry as two-dimensional (“Hobie”) was actually my favorite, doubtless thanks to Pittu’s multi-layered portrayal of him.