The Weekly Hit List: May 29, 2015

“Bigger than Cancer: In the Darkness, a Theologian Meets God in a New Way” by J. Todd Billings, author of Rejoicing in Lament, appeared on

Right now, our lives are “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). We shouldn’t expect our lives right now to look like a seamless story of victory and success. We may die a death that looks senseless. For our true lives are hidden from sight, for now.

But “when Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4). In the meantime, we are freed to wrestle with God in our suffering and also rejoice in his unshakeable love in Christ, for this is our most basic identity: that we belong in body and soul, in life and in death, to our faithful savior, Jesus Christ.

Read the rest of “Bigger than Cancer” here.


Other Rejoicing in Lament Media:

WORLD Magazine recommended Rejoicing in Lament.

California Bookwatch reviewed Rejoicing in Lament.

Julie Golden reviewed Rejoicing in Lament.

Matthew Manry quoted and recommended Rejoicing in Lament.

Chris Ho reviewed Rejoicing in Lament.



Conciliar Post interviewed Wesley Hill: “The Positive Vocation of Celibacy: An Interview with Dr. Wesley Hill”

George Aldhizer: Your first book, Washed and Waiting, emphasized your struggle of living a celibate life. Spiritual Friendship emphasizes your hope and calling in living a celibate life. Does this contrast reflect an evolution in your thinking on your own sexual identity?

Wesley Hill: I think it does, yes. Washed and Waiting was more focused on what those of us who are gay are called to abstain from and how painful that can be. Spiritual Friendship is more focused on the “yes” of Christian discipleship for gay believers—what we called to pursue, positively.

The earlier book was more interested in painting a picture of the challenges and difficulties of being gay and Christian, while the latter is more interested in the question of vocation and calling. As Paul Evdokimov has put it, “[I]n all the cases of deprivation Scripture speaks of, grace offers a gift; out of a negative renunciation it creates a positive vocation. To renounce one thing means to be totally consecrated to another that this very renunciation allows us to realize.”

It’s the consecration that I’m more interested in now.

Read the entire interview here.


Other Spiritual Friendship Media:

Wesley Hill’s interview with Peter Smith for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was picked up by Salina Journal and Valley News.

Seth Crocker recommended Spiritual Friendship.

Elliot Ritzema reviewed Spiritual Friendship


Quick Hits:

Scot McKnight, author of Kingdom Conspiracy, was interviewed by Jonathan Merritt for Religion News Service: “Who are ‘the least of these’? Scholars say they may not be the poor.” The article was picked up by The Salt Lake Tribune and The Washington Post.

Traces of the Trinity by Peter J. Leithart was recommended and excerpted by Books at a Glance and reviewed by Nick Norelli.

Of Games and God by Kevin Schut was recommended by Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books.

Marlena Graves, author of A Beautiful Disaster, wrote  “Remembering the Gospel with Alzheimer’s” for Her.meneutics.

Scot  McKnight continued discussing Glittering Vices by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung on Jesus Creed.

Lectionary Reflection for Trinity Sunday

This excerpt comes from Psalms for All Seasons, commenting on Psalm 29:

Psalm 29 is a meditation on the splendor of God’s voice as it speaks through creation and elicits the response of God’s people gathered for worship.

The final verses offer an assurance that God sits enthroned as King forever and will strengthen and bless the congregation of the faithful, emphasizing that the one who strengthens and blesses is none other than the one whose power is seen in creation.



Prayer for reflection:

Lord God Almighty,
by the power of your Spirit we can sing “Glory!” with the angels
and praise you with all of creation.
Holy God, receive the worship of those for whom you sent your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.


©2012 Faith Alive Christian Resources. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

The Weekly Hit List: May 22, 2015

Jonathan Merritt interviewed J. Todd Billings, author of Rejoicing in Lament, for Religion News Service blog On Faith & Culture.

In a classroom in Holland, Michigan, a 39-year-old man in a bowtie stands to deliver a lecture. Peeking out from behind his glasses, he surveys the eager students who have come expecting a lecture on theology. Instead, he tells them that he has just been diagnosed with a rare and incurable cancer.

J. Todd Billings is the Gordon H. Girod research professor of Reformed theology at Western Theological Seminary and author of several award-winning books such as The Word of God for The People of God and Union With Christ. After being diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2012, Billings and his wife decided to be open with others about his condition. But they didn’t know what they would learn through the process.

The knowledge that he faces a “narrowed future” has raised fresh theological questions about life, death, and faith for Billings and taught him how to rejoice in the face of possible death. He has recorded his thoughts in a critically-acclaimed book, Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling With Incurable Cancer and Life With Christ. Here we discuss what he has learned and hopes to teach others in the time he has left.

Read all of “Prominent theologian finds joy amid incurable cancer diagnosis” here.


Spiritual Friendship (Wesley Hill) Media:

Wesley Hill’s interview with Peter Smith for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was picked up by LaCrosse Tribune and by My San Antonio.

James Matichuk reviewed Spiritual Friendship and gave it five stars.


Quick Hits:

On Word on Fire, Robert Barron announced his 2 Samuel contribution to the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series, and he shared the entire introduction to his commentary.

Scot McKnight, author of Kingdom Conspiracy, appeared on White Horse Inn.

Rejoicing in Lament was recommended by Liberti Church: “This book on lament, hope, and prayer is both deeply personal and profoundly theological.”

Dennis Okholm, author of Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins, was interviewed on Jesus Creed blog.

Learning for the Love of God by Donald Opitz and Derek Melleby was recommended by Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books.

Scot  McKnight began discussing Glittering Vices by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung on Jesus Creed.

Lectionary Reflection for the Day of Pentecost

From Ezekiel (BTCB) by Robert W. Jenson, commenting on Ezekiel 37:1-14:

If then there is to be an eschatological resurrection of Israel, how are we to conceive it? Clearly, our passage intends a resurrection of the people as a single reality.

It speaks, however, of graves and their occupants in the plural, and there is a reason for this: at such an end as, for example, →7:1–9 describes, the only Israel available to be raised will be the ensemble of dead Israelites. At the absolute end, the distinction between national resurrection and individual resurrections must be moot.

Therefore we may conclude that this passage indeed envisions something like what later Judaism and Christianity conceive as a “resurrection of the dead.”

Thus a full version of the question the Lord put to Ezekiel would be: When the Lord comes to the end of his ways with his people—to an eschatological assembly at Zion and a universal gift of his own life-giving Spirit—will he raise the diachronic whole of his people into this new life?

It is this question that effectively concludes the dooms and promises given through Ezekiel. Christian faith and theology begin with the conviction that Jesus’s resurrection is God’s own answer (Jenson 1997–99: 1.4–5). The Lord spoke by Ezekiel, and in Christ’s resurrection he has acted on what he said (37:14).

There remains only a subordinate question: Who will be included in the Israel that will rise at the end? Gentile Christians, baptized into the body of Christ, cling to Paul’s image: by incorporation into Christ we have been grafted into Israel herself (Rom. 11:17).

Will there be a resurrection also of those who are neither of the original tree nor grafted-in branches? And if so, a resurrection to what?

Ezekiel’s vision does not reach so far.



©2009 by Robert Jenson. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

David the Priest-King (an Excerpt from 2 Samuel by Robert Barron)

The following is an excerpt from the Introduction to 2 Samuel (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) (April 2015) by Robert Barron.


King David is one of the most pivotal persons in the entire corpus of scripture. He is the terminus of a trajectory that runs from Adam through Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and Samuel. Many of God’s promises to those patriarchal and prophetic figures seem to come to fulfillment in David’s rule over a united Israel.

At the same time, David looks beyond himself to a new David, one who would definitively fulfill what he himself left incomplete and unfinished. In a word, he is perhaps the cardinal point on which the biblical revelation turns both backward and forward.

One of the themes that emerges most clearly in 2 Samuel is that of kingship. On the biblical reading, the bad rule of Adam in the garden led to the disaster of the fall, and ever since that calamity, humanity has been in search of right rule. At the heart of the Old Testament sensibility is the conviction that God chose a people, Israel, whom he would shape according to his own mind and heart so that they might draw all of humanity into right relationship with God. Hence, they would be a kingly people.

But this holy nation would endure only in the measure that they themselves were rightly ruled, and therefore the search for a righteous and godly king of Israel—an Adam who would properly govern a reconstituted Eden—became a preoccupation for biblical Israel. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Judah, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, and Samuel were all, after a manner of speaking, kings of Israel, but they ruled to varying degrees of adequacy. Having united the northern and southern tribes, established his fortified capital at Jerusalem, and subdued the enemies of Israel, David emerged as the most stirring and successful king of Israel.

Adam was not only a king; he was also a priest, which is to say, someone who affects a mystical union between divinity and humanity. After him, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, and Samuel were also, to varying degrees of intensity, priests.

Wearing the sacred vestment of the priesthood and dancing before the ark of the covenant, King David emerged as David the high priest and hence recapitulated and brought to full expression the priesthood of the work of his predecessors. Samuel’s anointing of David the shepherd boy could thus be seen as both a kingly and priestly designation. When the first followers of Jesus referred to him as Christos (anointed), they were appreciating him as David in full. The Christian reader will thus see in David the most compelling anticipation of Jesus, the definitive priest-king.


2015 by Robert Barron. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

The Weekly Hit List: May 15, 2015

Desiring God featured “God Is Bigger Than My Cancer” by J. Todd Billings, author of Rejoicing in Lament.

PrintCancer changes your perception of life. Each day comes to us as a gift from the gracious hand of God — whether it is the last day of a short life or the first day of a long and healthy life. But living into the reality that each day is a gift also involves coming to recognize a stark, biblical truth that is deeply countercultural: God is not our debtor.

Surely God is not capricious or untrustworthy. God has disclosed himself as gracious in his dealings with creation, with Israel, and most fully, in Jesus Christ. The Triune God binds himself to covenant promises that include, envelop, and hold us in a communion that sin and death cannot break. God is faithful to these promises, fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

But this does not mean life is “fair,” or that we are shielded from all of the present consequences of sin and death. God is not our debtor. He does not “owe” us a certain number of requisite years of life.

Read the entire article here.



Wesley Hill, author of Spiritual Friendship, was interviewed by Peter Smith for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Wesley Hill is convinced that taking a road less traveled doesn’t have to be a lonely journey.

Mr. Hill, a professor at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, and a small corps of other writers around the country have churned out a small library of books and blog posts, united in a single premise.

They believe gay Christians can and should affirm their sexual orientation — but should also commit to celibacy.

Read all of “Gay and celibate: Some Christians affirming their homosexuality but pledging to forgo sex” here.

Toledo’s The Blade also ran this interview: “Reviving tradition of spiritual friendship”



Foreword Reviews reviewed Nonviolent Action by Ronald J. Sider.

Nonviolent ActionSider boldly states that nonviolence can work and work very well. But his vision is not some idealistic dream. Study, training, and organization are needed to fully execute this vision, he says. And it is not the easy or safe route—that’s why faith is critical; as with Christ, modern-day nonviolence may be met with violence and death. This sober reality showcases the gravity of people’s often-glib aversion to violence. But this approach is urgently needed: “The twentieth century was the bloodiest in human history.” Sider also highlights the opportunities of the present time—like the role of social media during the Arab Spring—but focuses primarily on the most timeless of assets, like prayer, persistence, and community.

While his approach is academic and well researched, it’s also intensely readable. He summarizes events and ideas well without oversimplifying. While the task at hand is daunting, his voice is friendly and optimistic.

Read the entire review here.


Quick Hits:

Traces of the Trinity by Peter J. Leithart was reviewed  by Michael Hansen for Torrey Gazette.

Peter Enns discussed his book The Evolution of Adam in “11 recurring mistakes in the debate over the ‘historical Adam’.”

Lectionary Reflection for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

This excerpt comes from Psalms for All Seasons, commenting on Psalm 1:

Psalm 1 describes and contrasts two pathways: righteousness and wickedeness.

Such imagery recurs throughout the psalms and other parts of the Bible (e.g., Jer. 17:5-8).

Like Pss. 19 and 119, it celebrates the significance of God’s law as a source of wisdom and blessing.

Early church theologian Jerome called this “the main entrance to the mansion of the Psalter.”

Much of what follows in the Psalter either expresses or appeals to its message.


Prayer for reflection:

Lord our God, giver of blessing and judgment, your Son Jesus lived the only true life.
Because of him, we can know you, love you, and delight in you.
Keep us watered by your grace and rooted in your Spirit
so that our ears will hear your voice and our feet will follow your path,
giving glory to you alone. Amen.


©2012 Faith Alive Christian Resources. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

This Just In: 2 Samuel (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) by Robert Barron

Print2 Samuel (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible)
by Robert Barron


The Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible encourages readers to explore how the vital roots of the ancient Christian tradition should inform and shape faithfulness today.

In this addition to the series, highly acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian Robert Barron offers a theological exegesis of 2 Samuel. He highlights three major themes: God’s non-competitive transcendence, the play between divine and non-divine causality, and the role of Old Testament kingship.

As with other volumes in the series, this book is ideal for those called to ministry, serving as a rich resource for preachers, teachers, students, and study groups.


Robert Barron (STD, Institut Catholique de Paris) is rector of Mundelein Seminary and president of the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois.

He founded Word on Fire, a Catholic ministry of evangelism, and has written numerous books, including Catholicism(over 100,000 copies sold), The Priority of Christ, The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (winner of a Catholic Press Association Book Award), and Heaven in Stone and Glass.


Praise for 2 Samuel:

“Robert Barron is a great teacher of the Church and a gifted biblical commentator who breaks open the Word of God for our day as Ambrose and Augustine did for theirs.”
George Weigel, distinguished senior fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center

“In this book, Barron brings his theological erudition to the task of interpreting sacred scripture. The result will be a delight for all his readers. Not only will they relish the many profundities of the text, but they will be able to join the author in wrestling with its various conundrums. Even the challenging parts of David’s life are handled in fresh, creative, and—most important—productive ways.”
Gary Anderson, Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology, University of Notre Dame

“Robert Barron has written a beautiful commentary on 2 Samuel, and it will be a tribute to the series. He has a keen sense of the subtlety of the narrative and the imagination to draw theological and spiritual meaning from particulars. Yet he is neither doctrinaire nor heavy-handed; his interpretations always grow out of the story and do not become theological disquisitions. Barron writes well, and this commentary is a pleasure to read. Even serious readers of the Bible will delight in the surprising things he discerns in the narrative.”
Robert Louis Wilken, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of the History of Christianity Emeritus, University of Virginia

“In this impressive example of theological exegesis, Robert Barron shows that he is both an outstanding theologian and a masterful interpreter of scripture. The unforgettable narrative of the rise and fall of King David springs to life in Barron’s hands. Along the way, he demonstrates that the book of 2 Samuel is not just a literary masterpiece but an essential bridge between the Old and New Testaments.”
Brant Pitre, Notre Dame Seminary; author of Jesus the Bridegroom

“Robert Barron is one of the clearest and most compelling Christian communicators I know. He is a scholar, yet he relates easily to all the faithful. As a preacher he reaches both mind and heart. Now, in this major biblical commentary, he has given us a book that measures up to the standard already established by this excellent series. The story of 2 Samuel ‘lives and breathes’ in Barron’s words.”
John H. Armstrong, president, ACT3 Network, Carol Stream, Illinois


Praise for the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series:

“What a splendid idea! Many preachers have been longing for more commentaries that are not only exegetical but theological in the best sense: arising out of the conviction that God, through his Word, still speaks in our time. For those of us who take our copies of Martin Luther’s Galatians and Karl Barth’s Romans from the shelves on a regular basis, this new series in that tradition promises renewed vigor for preaching, and therefore for the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church in our time.”
Fleming Rutledge, author of The Bible and The New York Times and The Seven Last Words from the Cross

“This new series places the accent on ‘theological’ and reflects current interpretive ferment marked by growing resistance to the historical-critical project. It may be that scripture interpretation is too important to be left to the exegetes, and so a return to the theologians. We will wait with great anticipation for this new series, at least aware that the outcomes of interpretation are largely determined by the questions asked. It is never too late to ask better questions; with a focus on the theological tradition, this series holds the promise of asking interpretive questions that are deeply grounded in the primal claims of faith. The rich promise of the series is indicated by the stature and erudition of the commentators. Brazos has enormous promises to keep with this project, and we wait with eagerness for its appearing!”
Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

“The Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible makes a most welcome contribution to the church, the academic world, and the general public at large. By enlisting a wide range of Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox theologians who differ on much, but who agree on the truth of the Nicene Creed, the series also represents ecumenical activity of the very best kind. It is always a daunting challenge to expound the church’s sacred book both simply and deeply, but this impressive line-up of authors is very well situated for the attempt.”
Mark A. Noll, University of Notre Dame

“Preachers and teachers in particular, but thoughtful Christians more generally, have long lamented the slide of biblical scholarship into hyper-specialized critical studies of ancient texts in remote historical context. It is no wonder, therefore, that the Brazos Theological Commentary is being so warmly welcomed. The outstanding array of authors, beginning with Jaroslav Pelikan’s splendid commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, are, at long last, reclaiming the Bible as the book of the living community of faith that is the church.”
Richard John Neuhaus, author of American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile

“Contemporary application of the Bible to life is the preacher’s business. But no worthy contemporary application is possible without a thorough understanding of the ancient text. The Brazos Theological Commentary exists to provide an accessible authority so that the preacher’s application will be a ready bandage for all the hurts of life. We who serve the pulpit want a commentary we can understand, and those who hear us expect us to give them a usable word. The Brazos Commentary offers just the right level of light to make illuminating the word the joy it was meant to be.”
Calvin Miller, author of A Hunger for the Holy and Loving God Up Close

“For pastors, wanting to get at the theological heart of a text, there is some good stuff. When I am preaching, I usually try to take a peek at the Brazos volume.”
Nijay K. Gupta, assistant professor of New Testament, Northeastern Seminary, Roberts Wesleyan College

The Weekly Hit List: May 8, 2015

Eve Tushnet reviewed Wesley Hill’s Spiritual Friendship for The American Conservative.

Part of what makes my friend Wesley Hill’s slender new book so intriguing is that it is an attempt to give an account of friendship that is grounded in history, theology, and literature—yet forward-looking.

Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Gay Christian is an essayistic collection of provocations, not a tome intended to be “the last word” on friendship or its relationship to Christian community.

It’s a book about hope and hope’s uncertainty, about trust and taking chances; it’s not a look back at a friendship well-lived. It’s an unfinished story.

Read “Friendship with a Future Tense” here.


Other Spiritual Friendship Media:

Wesley Hill will appear live in-studio with The Ride Home with John & Kathy on May 12 at 5:10 p.m. ET.

Eve Tushnet mentioned Spiritual Friendship in “Detachment in Friendship.”

Matthew Loftus mentioned Spiritual Friendship.

Michael Spalione reviewed  Spiritual Friendship.

Sam Heath wrote some discussion questions for Spiritual Friendship.



Christianity Today reviewed Nonviolent Action by Ronald J. Sider.

G. K. Chesterton famously said that the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting, but instead been found difficult and left untried. If you read most proponents of Christian nonviolence, you’ll find that they generally feel the same way about pacifism.

This is why Ron Sider’s latest book is so helpful. In Nonviolent Action: What Christian Ethics Demands but Most Christians Have Never Really Tried, Sider, a Mennonite ethicist who teaches at Palmer Theological Seminary, demonstrates that nonviolence has been far more effective than most people realize. . . .

Nonviolent Action is a welcome addition to discussions of just war and nonviolence, particularly for how it opens our imaginations to the moral and spiritual dimensions of decisions on war and peace. Sider forces us to recognize the imago dei in our enemies.

No matter your theological tradition, this is an essential discipline to cultivate.

Read the entire review here.


Quick Hits:

Jonathan Grant, author of Divine Sex, will speak at a plenary, a forum, and a workshop att Missio Alliance’s Being Truly Human conference today (May 8). Live video stream is available to subscribers here.

Nonviolent Action was reviewed by Matthew Forrest Lowe.

Rejoicing in Lament by J. Todd Billings was reviewed by Matthew Forrest Lowe and Jordan Mark Stone , and recommended by Grace Bible Chapel blog.

M. Daniel Carroll R., author of Christians at the Border, wrote “Evangelicals Are Hungry for Leadership, Teaching on Immigration” for The Christian Post.

Scot McKnight discussed Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.

Lectionary Reflection for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

This excerpt comes from Psalms for All Seasons, commenting on Psalm 98:

Psalm 98 calls all of creation to praise God.

It emphasizes that God is the God not only of Israel (v. 3) but also of the whole world (v. 9), and that God’s enthronement is for the purpose of sovereign governance, a rule that will reveal, in the words of Isaac Watts, “the wonders of his love.”


Prayer for reflection:
Victorious God, all creation lifts its voice in a cacophony of joyful praise.
In your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
you have come to judge the world in truth and equity.
We await his return to make all things new,
joining creation’s chorus with our new songs of praise. Amen.


©2012 Faith Alive Christian Resources. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.