Feed on

As theologian Alfred Loisy once quipped, "Jesus came proclaiming the Kingdom, and what arrived was the Church." If nothing else gets people excited about theology, talk about the church usually does—though not always in a good way. The Nicene Creed's description of the church as "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic" seems more an exercise in wishful thinking than anything else.

Is the church a betrayal of Christianity or its proper expression? If the latter, what is the right expression of that expression? Does the church sin or only its members? Can you be a Christian without the church? After wading through a lot of ecclesiological pain, Dad and I conclude this episode with a testimony as to why we continue to "go to church."


1. Healing Memories: Reconciling in Christ: Report of the Lutheran-Mennonite International Study Commission

2. A title so nice Dad used it twice: Luther and the Beloved Community (2010) and Beloved Community (2015)

3. Josiah Royce discusses "beloved community" in The Problem of Christianity

4. Tillich discusses "spiritual community" in vol. 3 of his Systematic Theology

5. Augustine, The City of God

6. Andy Crouch talks about singing involving love of God with heart, mind, soul, and strength in The Tech-Wise Family

8. Though I didn't mention it on the show, Charles Williams wrote a remarkable novel on the possibility of Christians bearing one another's burdens through time, Descent into Hell.

Oh, wait, there's a third member of the Trinity! In this episode we shower a little love on the much-neglected Holy Spirit, following the story of how the Christian doctrine of the Trinity parted company from the Neoplatonic Triad, and why the issue at stake is not just the Spirit's divinity but the Spirit's personhood. But this personal divine Spirit is also holy—suggesting that there are spirits that are unholy. Who and what are they, how should we think about them, and what does that mean for Christian ministry here and around the world?


1. Although we say Platonism and Neoplatonism, the really important philosophical figure here is not Plato but Plotinus. Read his Enneads here.

2. Our favorite book on Neoplatonism and its persistence in Western culture is Lovejoy's The Great Chain of Being

3. For more on the development of trinitarian doctrine regarding the Holy Spirit, see Dad's Beloved Community, ch. 4, and on demonology, see ch. 4 of The Substance of the Faith.

4. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit

5. On Beelzebul and the unforgivable sin, Mark 3:22–30

6. Two books to introduce you to exorcism and healing ministry in Madagascar are Rich's The Fifohazana and Bennett's I Am Not Afraid.

7. Here's something I've written on prosperity gospel and another piece on preaching the Trinity.

8. Luther, Small Catechism, 3rd article of the Creed on the Holy Spirit

More about us at sarahhinlickywilson.com and paulhinlicky.com!

Who can or should get baptized, at what age, and how? Is baptism our work or God's work? How can you remember your baptism when you don't remember getting baptized—or how should you think about a baptism you do remember when you've fallen away from the faith and then returned?

In this episode Dad and I try to move the conversation beyond petty legalisms of all kinds toward a strong teaching and practice of baptism with some real heft to it and prospects for ecumenical agreement to boot. No one can accuse us of aiming too low...

1. On liturgical renewal, see Aidan Kavanaugh, The Shape of Baptism.

2. For more on the difference between John’s baptism and Christian baptism, see my article “Water Baptism and Spirit Baptism in Luke-Acts: Another Reading of the Evidence.” More generally on the topic of baptism, see my article “Still Life with Baptism.”

3. The Greek word that means both “from above” and “again” in John 3:7 is ἄνωθεν (anōthen).

4. For Luther on baptism, see “Concerning Rebaptism” in Luther’s Works vol. 40 and the relevant section in the Large Catechism; note also his invocation of Deuteronomy in the Introduction to the Large Catechism: “And if this were not sufficient to admonish us to read the Catechism daily, yet we should feel sufficiently constrained by the command of God alone, who solemnly enjoins in Deut. 6:6ff that we should always meditate upon His precepts, sitting, walking, standing, lying down, and rising, and have them before our eyes and in our hands as a constant mark and sign.”

5. For more on worship in Luther’s Wittenberg, see Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: Shaping and Defining the Reformation 1521–1532, chapter 7, pp. 251-292.

6. The Latin phrase ordo salutis means “order of salvation” and refers to the various schemas of the precise order in which the various stages of salvation have to take place.

7. For Dad on baptism, see Beloved Community, Chapter 3, pp. 19 –292.

8. Karl Barth discusses “indiscriminate infant baptism” in Church Dogmatics IV.4 pp. 1–39; see Dad's discussion of it in Beloved Community, 270–281.

9. Volkskirche means the “people’s church,” defined primarily by its relationship to the state and, in Nazi Germany, by ethnicity. Bekennende Kirche means “confessing church,” and refers to the protest community that Dietrich Bonhoeffer among others belonged to against a political and racial basis for church.

10. For Menno Simons, see Dad's Beloved Community, pp. 260-270.

11. Timothy George is the Dean of Beeson Divinity School and has done lots of great work to interpret the Reformation for American Baptists especially; see for example his book Theology of the Reformers.

More about us at sarahhinlickywilson.com and paulhinlicky.com!

Why only two-thirds? In this episode we look at a specific aspect of the immensely complex literary work known as the Acts of the Apostles: namely, the Holy Spirit’s gathering in of all human communities that have been estranged from God. The story begins with the Spirit’s gathering of the Jews, moves on to Samaritans and proselytes, then Gentiles in the form of Cornelius the centurion… at which point you might think all the possibilities have been covered. But wait! There’s one more group. Any guesses? You’d have to read Luke-Acts pretty closely to figure it out. Or you could just listen and we’ll give away the answer for free.


1. Ernst Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles

2. “Wie es eigentlich gewesen ist” (or sometimes "wie es eigentlich geschehen ist"): Dad quoted this bit of German, which means “how it actually was/happened,” as the ideal to which the discipline of history aspires.

3. Oscar Cullmann, Christ and Time

4. Hans Conzelman, Acts of the Apostles

5. Krister Stendahl, Paul among Jews and Gentiles

6. Ernst Käsemann, Perspectives on Paul

7. Joseph Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles

8. Cheryl Peterson, Who Is the Church?

9. Paul R. Hinlicky, Beloved Community (see especially pp. 348–355 where he talks about Peterson’s book)

10. The Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg undertakes scholarly and dialogue work with other Christian churches on behalf of the world’s Lutherans. I worked there for 7½ years and continue as a Visiting Professor. For resources specifically on Lutheran-Pentecostal dialogue, take a look here, or check out my book, A Guide to Pentecostal Movements for Lutherans.

11. We talked briefly about the difference between “apocalyptic” and “salvation history.” For more about this, see Lutheran and the Beloved Community, ch. 7.

12. Pentecost = Shavuot in the Jewish tradition.

13. Troy Troftgruben is my Acts guru and teaches at Wartburg Theological Seminary. He’s working on a book on Acts… we’ll let you know as soon as it’s out! In the meanwhile, check out his book Rooted and Renewing.

14. Sarah Ruden, Paul among the People

15. For more on this topic generally, see my articles “The Second Pentecost” and “The Acts of St. Alban’s in Strasbourg.”

More about us at sarahhinlickywilson.com and paulhinlicky.com!

It's the championship fight! Just kidding. It's just the opposite, in fact—an exhortation to the warm embrace of both Testaments by Christians and how they mutually illuminate one another. In this episode we look at all the ways Christians have done the Old Testament wrong—and man, they are legion—en route to commending a more excellent way. We tackle outright rejection of the OT, artificially forcing the OT to say things Christians want it to say, and even piously keeping hands off out of respect for Jewish believers. But how to get it right? Have a listen!


1. On gnosticism and docetism, see Dad’s book Divine Complexity, chapters 2 and 3.

2. Some of my reflections on the problems in the Christian relationship to the Old Testament are in this article “The Top Ten Reasons the Lectionary Sucks and Five Half-Assed Solutions” and in my review of Luther’s Jews by Thomas Kaufmann.

3. Donald H. Juel, Messianic Exegesis.

4. For commentary on the New Perspective on Paul, see Dad’s book Luther and the Beloved Community, chapter 7.

5. For a critique of 19th-century progressivist history of religions theories, see Dad’s Between Humanist Philosophy and Apocalyptic Theology, chapter 1.

6. Harnack, Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God.

7. Neusner, Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity.

8. Lincoln, Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural.

9. Richard Lischer talks about Martin Luther King’s use of Scripture in The Preacher King.

10. Deanna Thompson, Deuteronomy.

11. Jenson, Ezekiel.

12. Ephraim Radner, Time and The Word

13. Martin Luther, “How Christians Should Regard Moses” and “A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels,” both in Luther’s Works vol. 35.

More about us at sarahhinlickywilson.com and paulhinlicky.com!

In which Dad and I confess our very different kinds of struggles with prayer, explore how Jesus' prayer can become our prayer, and then tackle a bunch of questions that arise: Does prayer change God or change us? Or both or neither? Can our prayers be pure? What does God do with our mixed motives in prayer? Why does God sometimes answer no even when we ask for the sort of things He Himself seems to favor? And who are we to be advising God on how to run the universe?


1. Paul R. Hinlicky, Luther for Evangelicals: A Reintroduction

2. Dad’s remark about my being an “expert” in re: the charismatic gift of tongues was a reference to my book A Guide to Pentecostal Movements for Lutherans.

3. Martin Luther, Large Catechism, section on the Lord’s Prayer; Lectures on Romans with Wilhelm Pauck’s introduction

4. Nietzsche mocking providence—not exactly a picnic or parking spot, but close: getting the pious believer into the carriage just before the rain starts to fall. The Antichrist, #52.

5. Augustine on God’s relation to time in Confessions XI.

6. Schleiermacher on prayer in The Christian Faith, I.47,1

7. Calvin on providence and “men most miserable,” Institutes I.17,11.

8. Karl Barth’s journal Theological Existence Today giving voice to the dialectical theology of the 1920s is discussed in Dad’s book Before Auschwitz, 180–183.

More about us at sarahhinlickywilson.com and paulhinlicky.com!

Is Joshua both the most horrifying and the most boring book in the whole biblical canon? Is it divine sanction for genocide and colonialism? Heck, did any of the events recorded therein even happen?!

In this episode we sort through the enormous textual, historical, and above all theological challenges in the interpretation of Joshua and explore the ways in which Christians can affirm this difficult book as holy Scripture.

1. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible

2. Hannah Arendt, On Violence

3. Joel Marcus, Mark 1–8 and Mark 8–16

4. The Hebrew word we discuss is “herem,” and for what it’s worth here’s the Wikipedia article on it.

5. Richard Nelson, Joshua

6. Thomas B. Dozeman, Joshua 1–12

7. Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God

8. John H. Walton and J. Harvey Walton, The Lost World Of The Israelite Conquest

More about us at sarahhinlickywilson.com and paulhinlicky.com!

 In this episode we discuss Japanese theologian Kazoh Kitamori’s book, Theology of the Pain of God. Kitamori focuses attention on God’s willing love of the unlovable and of His own enemies through Christ—an embrace that, following Jeremiah 31:20 and Isaiah 63:15, causes God pain. But what exactly does it mean to talk about God “in pain”? Is it sheer anthropomorphism or worse yet patripassianism? Does it make God into a sentimental figure, suffering helplessly by our side? Or are we seeing here a genuine development in doctrine?


1. Here’s an essay I wrote some years ago about Kitamori (for an anthology that apparently fell through).

2. Tokyo Lutheran Church

3. Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church

4. Kyodan (United Church of Christ in Japan) Confession of Faith

5. Moltmann, The Crucified God.

6. Kosuke Koyama was another Japanese theologian, though better known in the U.S. than in Japan because he published mainly in English and spent most of his career stateside. Among his other significant works are Water Buffalo Theology and Mount Fuji and Mount Sinai.

7. Dorothee Soelle discusses Kitamori in her book Suffering.

8. Vítor Westhelle talks about hybridity in After Heresy: Colonial Practices and Post-Colonial Theologies.

9. Adding to Kitamori’s use of Jeremiah 31 and Isaiah 63, Dad mentioned Hosea 11:8, “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.”

10. Dietrich Bonhoeffer talks about costly grace in The Cost of Discipleship and about the suffering of God and time for silence in Letters and Papers from Prison.

11. Robert Jenson, Unbaptized God.

12. Hegel, The Philosophy of Religion.

13. Johannes Rist’s hymn “O Traurigkeit, O Herzeleid” (1641) includes the line Gott selbst liegt tot, “God Himself lies dead.”

14. Martin Luther, Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper.

15. Tome of Leo (yep, Fourth Council, not Third).

16. Dad discusses the concept of patiency throughout Beloved Community.

17. Albert Schweizer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle.

More about us at sarahhinlickywilson.com and paulhinlicky.com!

Why is such a great thing trapped in such awful words? We discuss some of the problems with both “justification” and “faith” in contemporary English, then dig into the details of what this perplexing terminology actually refers to, and why Lutherans consider it “the article on which the church stands or falls.”


1. Scripture verses we discuss include Romans 3 and 4, II Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 2:20, 3:13, and 5:13.

2. J. Louis Martyn, Galatians (Anchor Bible Commentary)

3. Robert P. Eriksen, Theologians Under Hitler

4. Doris L. Bergen, Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich

5. Paul R. Hinlicky, Before Auschwitz: What Christian Theology Must Learn from the Rise of Nazism

6. Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets

7. N. T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology. For a discussion of this book, see Paul R. Hinlicky, Luther and the Beloved Community, pp. 245–248.

8. Some texts by Martin Luther on justification by faith: “The Freedom of a Christian,” “Out of the Depths I Cry to Thee,” “Preface to Romans

9. Philip Melanchthon, “Ausburg Confession IV” and “Apology to the Augsburg Confession IV

10. Paul Tillich: “Not faith but grace is the cause of justification, because God alone is the cause. Faith is the receiving act, and this act is itself a gift of grace. Therefore, one should dispense completely with the phrase ‘justification by faith’ and replace it by the formula ‘justification by grace through faith.’” Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, 3:224. See also “You Are Accepted.”

11. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes about “speaking to life at its center” in both Christ the Center and Letters and Papers from Prison.

More about us at sarahhinlickywilson.com and paulhinlicky.com!

In this episode we talk about Athanasius, the great church father (c. 298–373), nicknamed Athanasius Contra Mundum, Athanasius Against the World, among other things for going into exile five times during his bishopric.

Why does it matter to say, as Athanasius did, that Jesus is truly divine as well as truly human? What does it mean to say Jesus is truly divine as well as truly human? What’s at stake in other christologies (i.e., other ways of describing Jesus’ “being”)? And how does Athanasius’s christology alter our very perception of reality?


1. Athanasius “On the Incarnation of the Word,” “Festal Letter 39,” and “Life of St. Anthony.”

2. Paul R. Hinlicky, Divine Complexity: The Rise of Creedal Christianity

3. Jordan Cooper, Christification: A Lutheran Approach to Theosis

More about us at sarahhinlickywilson.com and paulhinlicky.com!

Not single, not double, but triple predestination! Listen to this episode to uncover the meaning of this mysterious formulation. Also, why predestination does not necessarily have to be the worst possible doctrine, contrary to popular belief.


1. Martin Luther, "The Bondage of the Will," which you can easily find free as well as in published books.

2. Paul R. Hinlicky, Paths Not Taken: Fates of Theology from Luther through Leibniz

3. Chief biblical texts mentioned are Romans 7, 9–11, Isaiah 53, and John 3:16.

4. Robert Kolb, Bound Choice, Election, and Wittenberg Theological Method

5. The main source for Karl Barth's take on predestination is in volume II/2 of his Church Dogmatics.    

6. Philip S. Watson, Let God Be God: An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther

7. J. K. S. Reid, "Introduction," in John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, trans. J. K. S. Reid (Louisvile: Westminster John Knox, 1961), 9–44.

More about us at sarahhinlickywilson.com and paulhinlicky.com!

In this episode we cover the Gospel of Mark from the Transfiguration through the curiously inconclusive conslusion.

Show notes:

1. Resources for the Gospel of Mark can be found with Part 1 of this two-parter.

2. For those of you unfortunates who didn't grow up in the 1980s, this will explain about the Choose Your Own Adventure series.

3. Some other stuff I've done on the Gospel of Mark:

a) Story Grid Spreadsheet of the Gospel of Mark, inspired by Shawn Coyne's The Story Grid.

b) “Luther by Means of Mark,” from Lutheran Forum Spring 2016.

c) WorkingPreacher.org Commentary on Mark 10:17–31, 10:35–45, 10:46–52, and 12:28–34.

4. And finally, my son Zeke's illustration of the camel through the eye of the needle:


More about us at sarahhinlickywilson.com and paulhinlicky.com!

Since we both love the Gospel of Mark best (even though it's a bit ridiculous to play favorites with the Gospels) we decided to devote a whole show to working through it. We dig into the details of the theological framework and creativity of this Evangelist who created the genre of Gospel, illuminating the parts we find astounding and inspiring. And there was so much to say that we decided to do this one as a two-parter! Second half coming soon.

Show notes:

1. To make it easy for you to read all of Mark in one go, without chapter or verse numbers or headings to distract you, here's a complete text in the English Standard Version, from biblegateway.com.

2. Here's the complete free text of Albert Schweizer's Quest of the Historical Jesus.

3. When we tried to narrow down the exact "Jesus the Salesman" book Dad mentioned, we discovered a truly horrifying number of business books and prosperity promises based on Jesus. No links to such works will be offered here. Please, we beg of you, just don't go there at all.

4. Johannes Weiss, Jesus' Proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

5. William Wrede, The Messianic Secret.

6. Joel Marcus, Anchor Bible Commentary on Mark, 1–8 and 8–16.

7. C. Clifton Black, Abingdon New Testament Commentary on Mark.

8. Donald H. Juel, A Master of Surprise: Mark Interpreted.

9. And, quite different from all the foregoing commentaries on Mark, this is a great tool for analyzing story structure, just as pertinent to Mark as to Pride and Prejudice: Shawn Coyne, The Story Grid.

More about us at sarahhinlickywilson.com and paulhinlicky.com!

In today's show we set aside the question of whether we can say the Scriptures are true, reliable, accurate, historically verifiable, false, fake, or toxic, to ask whether they are holy--whether they are in themselves, and whether (and how) they make us holy. Reframing the question this way avoids many of the pitfalls of the past centuries and opens up new possibilities for theological reasoning. 

Show Notes: 

1. The texts we discuss vis-à-vis their being-holy and making-holy qualities are Joshua 8:1–29, Nehemiah 7:7bff, and Mark 9:1. We also refer to Romans 1 and I Timothy 3:16.

2. Yes! Paul Hinlicky (i.e. Dad) has a forthcoming commentary on Joshua in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series. Personal favorites of mine are Ephraim Radner on Leviticus, Robert Jenson on Ezekiel, and Joseph Mangina on Revelation.

3. Walter Brueggemann's book is Theology of the Old Testament.

4. Karl Barth's essay is "The Strange New World within the Bible."

5. The texts of Luther's mentioned in this episode are the Large Catechism (Apostles' Creed, Article III, §40) and "The Freedom of a Christian" (sometimes known in English as "Concerning Christian Liberty").

6. Heiko Oberman's take on Scripture and tradition can be found in The Dawn of the Reformation.

7. Paul Hinlicky's book on God's nature and revelation in light of the gospel is Divine Complexity.

8. You can read about half of Origen's homilies on Joshua on Google Books.

9. Here is the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.

More about us at sarahhinlickywilson.com and paulhinlicky.com!

Here's the very first episode of Queen of the Sciences!

In this introductory show we talk about our approach to theology and theology's contested place in our world, but also why Christians need theology--why simply repeating what the Bible says or doing what the church does is insufficient testimony to our faith.

Show Notes:

1. Yep, I mistakenly said "hilasterion" instead of "lutron" for "ransom" in Mark's Gospel. It will be corrected and discussed at length in a future episode!

2. Dad's New Testament mentor was J. Louis Martyn, who wrote among other things a commentary on Galatians and the study Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul.

3. The metaphysical "hornet's nest" to which Dad refers is his book Divine Complexity. More on this in a future episode!

More about us at sarahhinlickywilson.com and paulhinlicky.com!

Intro/Outro music: "An Orange Groove" by Raphael Pistachio, licensed through Jamendo.