Running Heads

From the editors of Cascade Books and Pickwick Publications at Wipf and Stock Publishers

Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 58)

Marathon Competition Results

Congratulations to Bradley Burroughs for coming the closest to my marathon finishing time without going over. Bradley guessed 3 hours and 20 minutes, and my official time was 3 hours, 24 minutes and 5 seconds. Congratulations also to Chris Smith (3:18) and Lisa Deam (3:05) for coming in 2nd and 3rd. James Stock, our marketing director, is going to award copies of Barry Harvey’s excellent new book, Taking Hold of the Real: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Profound Worldliness of Christianity, to the top three entries, and as overall winner, Bradley will also receive a free copy of the e-book.

It was a gorgeous day to run, and I was very happy with the results. My goal was 3:25 or faster,  as I was trying to achieve the Boston qualifying standard for 45 year olds (I’m not yet 45, but the Boston standards are based on the age you’ll be on the day of the marathon you’re trying to qualify for, in my case Boston 2017). I learned this week that, despite the fact that I went under the standard, I probably didn’t run fast enough to actually get into the race. So many people want to run Boston every year that they accept the fastest runners in each age group until the race fills up. For 2016’s registration (just completed in September), you had to run 2 minutes and 28 seconds faster than your age-group qualifying standard to have your registration accepted! So I guess I have a new goal . . . 3:22!

Here’s my favorite pic of the day, taken by my wife as she raced around Portland with my sons to cheer me on (Elijah is pictured, getting ready to give me a high five somewhere in NW Portland):


Thanks to you all for participating!


Nicholas Kristof (Pulitzer Prize-winning op-ed columnist for the New York Times) wrote an excellent column on October 3 in the wake of the killings at Umqua Community College. But as he points out, the larger issue is not simply mass shootings; 92 Americans die every day of gun violence—homicide and suicide. In 2013, 27 police officers were killed in the line of duty; but that same year 82 preschoolers were shot to death!

In this piece he argues for an “evidence-based public health approach” to gun violence. He notes that we while we don’t ban automobiles or cigarettes, despite numerous related deaths each year, we do regulate them heavily. And those regulations have reduced deaths and injuries dramatically. He brings up guns with fingerprint or PIN protection, as well as storage requirements. But one of the proposals he makes for reducing gun deaths I had not heard before is to require liability insurance for anyone who owns guns. Just as automobile insurance places on the driver/owner a responsibility for the consequences of driving a potentially lethal vehicle, liability insurance for a gun-owner would require taking responsibility for the consequences of that ownership. While that clearly doesn’t control those with illegally purchased weapons, it does place a burden of responsibility on anyone owning a legal weapon. And just because people drive illegally without insurance doesn’t mean we don’t require everyone to carry it.

One of my favorite comments (some years back by a commentator) on the second amendment rights of gun-owners is that she is a “strict constructionist” when it comes to gun-ownership. She said she thought Americans should be able to own as many muzzle-loading muskets as they like (as in the eighteenth century)—just not AK47s with armor-piercing bullets!

“Is it I?” Being vulnerable before Jesus

And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.”  They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?”  (Mark 14:18–19)

I must confess that I was struck by the attitude of the disciples here when I read this story this morning. My reaction would have been akin to Peter’s when Jesus told him that a threefold denial was on the way—”No way, Lord! Not me! I’d never do that!” It is easy to get defensive.

The disciples here are not like that. Each one considers the possibility that it could be him. No denials. No protestations of devotion. That shows quite a level of self-awareness and honesty. It’s as if they think, “Yes, much as I hate to admit it, I could imagine myself capable of that given the wrong circumstances.”

“Is it I, Lord?”

Hometown Writers

I hail from the small town of Forgan, Oklahoma, population 400. (As I have been wont to say, the entire population could perish on a single jetliner.) Like many small towns throughout America, Forgan is marked by a love of high school sports. In 1975, the year I graduated, we won the state championship in eight-man football (itself another story for another column). Since then, the women’s basketball team have won state once, and the men three or four times.

But while some of us were engrossed in sports, others were obsessed with words. At least three published writers (including, humbly, myself: look for my first foray into fiction coming soon, The Second Baptism of Albert Simmel) have in recent decades come out of Forgan and its rural environs. This week I finished reading the Forganian Samuel Hall’s Daughter of Cimarron  (Ashberry Lane). Sam is a little older than my mother, so I didn’t go to school with him and I don’t know him personally. But it was a pleasure to read his novel, the fictionalized story of his mother settling into life on an Oklahoma farm right in the middle of the Depression and the Dust Bowl. Sam did a solid job of writing from a woman’s perspective, and describing in vivid detail the hardships the pioneers of the area faced.

Perhaps the most successful of Forgan-based writers has been John Erickson, who worked for several years as a ranch-hand outside town. From his experiences, he created the series of Hank the Cowdog, a canine who faithfully (and often amusingly) helped his rancher-masters. The book series was later developed into a Saturday morning cartoon series for children, and ran for several years.

We can’t compare to the success of writers of the small Alabama town that produced Harper Lee and Truman Capote. But it’s notable that a town as tiny as Forgan can produce writers out of proportion to its size. What accounts for this? Surely, in no small part, love of talk and oral storytelling in small towns, and the tendency to gather regularly with extended families and hear about the past in all it challenges and humor.


Marathon Showcase Showdown—Guess Time, Win Book!

On Sunday, October 4th, at 7:00am Pacific, I’ll attempt to complete my seventh marathon. It’s the first marathon I’ve run in seven years, and I’m excited about running around Portland, especially up and over the historic St. John’s bridge (though I might reconsider my enthusiasm for the bridge when I’m climbing it around 17 miles in).


As the date gets nearer, I’ve been thinking more and more about all of the training, the race details, what to eat, what not to eat, etc. My watch reminds me every day how close I am to the event.


When not running, I’ve been very busy lately in my capacity as an editor finalizing work on books for the Evangelical Theological Society, the American Academy of Religion, and the Society of Biblical Literature. One of the books I’ve really enjoyed proofreading is Barry Harvey’s forthcoming Taking Hold of the Real: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Profound Worldliness of Christianity (Cascade Books).


Barry’s book is not only a major contribution to Bonhoeffer studies, but also a significant contribution to the conversation about what it means to live as faithful Christians in a “world come of age.”

Since I’ve had my marathon and Barry’s book on my mind a lot lately, I thought I’d combine them into something fun and promotional with my blog post today.

Wipf and Stock will give a free copy of Barry’s book to the person who comes the closest to guessing my marathon finishing time in hours and minutes. (Barry has given his thumbs up to the idea: “What do they say in Hollywood? There’s no such thing as bad publicity? There is probably is, but your idea sounds good to me. Go for it!”).

Details: Place your entry in a comment on this blog post; one entry per person. Price is Right rules in effect, meaning you have to guess a time faster than or equal to my finishing time in order to win. So if I break the world record and run a 2 hour marathon, tough luck if you guessed 2:01 (though thanks for the vote of confidence!). The only exception will be if I DNF (“did not finish”), in which case whoever picks the slowest time wins! All entries must be submitted before 7am Pacific Sunday morning.

Our marketing director, James Stock, suggested we award a number of prizes, but I will let him determine what they are. Perhaps we’ll give away multiple copies, or perhaps copies of other exciting forthcoming titles, to runners up.

Daylight Saving—Movie Trailer (funny)


Charles Chauncy (1705-1787) on ‘death’ in 1 Corinthians 15

I just had a weird experience. I was looking on the internet for information about Rev. Charles Chauncy when I came across a blog post that I found very thought provoking. The weird thing is . . .  I wrote it (back in August 2009). I had forgotten that I had written it and I had forgotten that Chauncey had said the things he said. I’d also forgotten the ideas it provoked in me. So, I hereby give it a second lease of life.


Charles Chauncy was minister of First Church in Boston for decades. He was very influential and is best known as an opponent of the Great Awakening (standing against men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, et al). So that does not make him an obvious person for an evangelical to turn to for inspiration.

However, Chauncy was a firm Bible-believing Christian and whilst he sadly came to doubt and then reject the classical doctrine of the Trinity we must stress that he did so because he believed it to be unbiblical (it was not uncommon in this period for Bible-based Christians to reject the Trinity as unbiblical).

Anyway, of interest here is that Chauncy became a universalist because he believed it to be the only view consistent with Scripture. In 1762 he preached a sermon entitled “All Nations Blessing Christ,” which was the first hint at this new view. But the main work he wrote is a very scholarly (I’m not joking about the scholarly part) book published anonymously in 1784 entitled The Mystery hid from Ages and Generations, made manifest by the Gospel-Revelation: or, The Salvation of All Men: The Grand Thing aimed at in the scheme of God (they loved short and snappy titles in those days)

The Salvation of all Men (1784) is a very impressive work—one of the more impressive works from the history of universalist theology. It provoked a book-length response from Jonathan Edwards (son of the famous Jonathan Edwards) entitled The Salvation of all Men Strictly Examined: and the endless punishment of those who die impenitent, argued and defended against the objections and reasoning of the late Rev Doctor Chauncy, of Boston, in his book entitled “The Salvation of all Men”. See what I mean about snappy titles! At least you knew what the book was all about! It does what it says on the can. (for those who are interested you can download both books online. Here is Chauncy and here is Edwards).

Anyway, all I wanted to do was to draw attention to one of Chauncy’s arguments regarding 1 Corinthians 15. The relevant text reads (in the ESV)

22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order:
Christ the firstfruits,
then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

Against the majority view Chauncy argues that Paul sees a temporal gap—perhaps a very long one—between the end of v. 23 and the start of v. 24 (p. 208). He reasons that Paul has in mind the Second Death when he speaks of ‘death’ in v. 26. Consequently, until the Second Death is destroyed (which is effected when all those condemned to hell are redeemed) Christ has not defeated death.

Now I find Chauncy’s case unconvincing as an attempt to exegete what Paul meant (not least because his arguments, which I will not set out here, depend on interpreting Paul’s meaning through the Book of Revelation).

However, there might be a theological argument from Chauncy’s reading of Paul that is suggestive. Chauncy reasons that the grounds for thinking that death is an enemy would also apply to the Second Death—indeed more so. If death is an enemy of Christ that needs to be destroyed then the Second Death is more so. Both are divine punishments on sin that cause humans to fall short of God’s ultimate intentions for them. If one was inclined to agree with such logoc then Paul’s argument in 1 Cor 15 would require an extension beyond what Paul was talking about (i.e., the first death) so as to apply to the Second Death. In other words Paul has provided a theological argument that has an even bigger implication that he draws out explicitly (but one fully consistent with his universalist intro in 15:22).

Now Chauncy also has a fall-back argument in case any readers have not been persuaded that Paul is speaking of the Second Death. It too is interesting. He points out that the kind of resurrection that would count (for Paul) as a defeat for the first death is not a mere restoration to life. Rather, only a resurrection to glory and immortality would do the job. 1 Cor 15 makes that clear: only when “the corruptable shall have put on incorruption” shall it come to pass that “death is swallowed up in victory.” So until all have attained such a resurrection it cannot be the case that the first death has been fully defeated (and 1 Cor 15 requires that it is fully defeated).

Now this is an interesting argument—one I have never considered before [RAP on 30 Sept 2015: and one I had completely forgotten until this morning]. I am not sure that it would count as a straightforward exegesis of what Paul ‘had in mind.’ But it surely counts as a sensible reflection on the implications of Paul’s reasoning. I don’t think that Paul’s concern in 1 Cor 15 was the salvation of all. I do believe that he asserted the salvation of all in 15:22, but his focus is on how that applies to believers. The damned don’t appear in his scheme, except in the gaps and by implication. But I think that Chauncy helps us see how a theological reading of 1 Cor 15 that takes Paul’s logic seriously can lead in universalist directions.


Why Do Republicans Want to Govern?

There’s a strange thing about Republicans who want to serve in federal government. This includes the many Republican candidates for the president, the strongest office in the federal government. With the demise of moderate Republicans, most if not all Republican candidates for the House, Senate, and Presidency talk about how they want to shrink and in some cases eliminate government (think of Rick Perry, in the 2012 elections, wanting to eliminate three regulatory agencies, even if he couldn’t remember all three). Not to put too fine a point on it, but why do these Republicans want to serve in a government they say they hardly believe in? Their scorn for government raises questions about their ambition to be a part of it.

What would we think of an aspiring doctor who said she wanted to eliminate much of the practice of medicine? What to make of a would-be banker who said banking should be shrunk “to the size where it could be drowned in a bathtub”? Or a house-builder who set out to build as few houses as she might possibly could? For that matter, what about a book editor whose goal was to produce fewer books every year? (I know what my bosses at Wipf and Stock would make of that!)

So here’s a question that should be asked in the next interminable Republican presidential debate: If you hate federal government so much, why do you want to be a part of it?


One biblical book that is not highly read by the nonscholarly community is the book of Deuteronomy. My friend of over thirty years, Don Benjamin, has written a really engaging commentary on Deuteronomy, employing methods of feminist criticism and social-science criticism. He provides so much that is interesting along with an enormous wealth of secondary literature (most of it not well know). He engages a wide range of not only feminist and social-science literature, but also comparative ancient Near Eastern materials. This volume will be ready by the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in November. I recommend you put this on your list.

The Joy and Freedom of Being a Sinner

I was listening earlier today to Nina Simone’s 1969 recording of Blind Willie Johnson’s 1927 classic, “It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” (I paid attention because, by coincidence, I listened to Eric Bibb’s 2010 version yesterday.) Here is the Simone version:

Nobody’s fault, but mine.

Nobody’s fault, but mine.

And I said if I should die

and my soul becomes lost,

Then I know it’s nobody’s fault but mine.


Oh I got a father.

I got a father and he can preach

So I said if I should die

and my soul, my soul becomes lost,

Then I know it’s nobody’s fault but mine.


Oh I got a mother.

I got a mother and she can pray

So I said if I should die

and my soul, my soul becomes lost,

then I know it’s nobody’s fault but mine.


Oh I got a sister.

I got a sister and she can sing. Oh Yeah.

and I said if I should die

and my soul becomes lost,

then I know it’s nobody’s fault but mine.


And I said if I should die

then I know it’s nobody’s fault but mine

and I said if I should die

and my soul becomes lost,

then I know it’s nobody’s fault but mine

I confess that I found this such a breath of fresh air—a liberating song.

Increasingly, we spin identity-creating stories in which we are always the victims. Even if we do bad things it is because of our genes or what happened to us or our circumstances or the government. We are not to blame; we are not guilty. But while many seek to flee from notions of sin and guilt, I find them humanizing. Of course, there are mitigating factors—biological, sociological, and so on. And of course we need to take into account the circumstances. However, when the rubber hits the road, to be told a story in which I am a responsible moral agent with a free (albeit limited) will—that I can sin and be considered guilty for so doing—is to treat me like a human being with dignity. I am not simply an effect; I am an agent.

So weirdly enough, I don’t find the idea that I am a person who can be guilty of sin to be oppressive. Blaming myself is not necessarily bad—though, it can be bad in some circumstances—sometimes it is precisely the morally appropriate response. We get over guilt not by always denying it (I am the victim) but by recognizing and acknowledging it (when appropriate) and dealing with it. The gospel provides the story in which we find God dealing with our guilt and locates us in a narrative of reconciliation and forgiveness.

I am an agent with freewill and responsibility—one who is accountable and will be called to account. I am a human being.

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