Wrestling With the Text

I’ll be preaching on Genesis 32:22-31 (Jacob wrestles God / Angel / River Demon / Jungian Archetype … depending on your persuasion) at First Christian Church Columbia, SC on August 6. This is probably my favorite text in the entire Bible and I’m excited that it comes up in the lectionary next week.

I always wonder how others read this story. Leave me a comment here or on Facebook, Twitter, email etc and let me know.

I’ll post the sermon when I’m done, but maybe you can impact in how that turns out.

“The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’

So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him.

So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.”


Episode 116: No One WANTS to Vote Against Romans

Gospel of Mary? Bel and the Dragon? The Apocryphon of John? Two Corinthians? Dr. Thomas Whitley and the Rev. Sam Harrelson are joined again by David Ray Allen to cover the second round of the Thinking Religion Bible Bracket Challenge and give a great overview of biblical books you might not have read in a while.

Special Guest: David Ray Allen Jr..

Support Thinking Religion


Thinking Religion 115 and Hermeneutics

Thomas is in Philadelphia this week but we still managed to sneak in a podcast episode. We start by going over the very important but often-overlooked general idea of hermeneutics and why we should take them seriously in the Age Of Trump (AOT from here on out). Then we hop into the Bible Bracket Challenge. Sorry, Ruth.

Dr. Thomas Whitley and the Rev. Sam Harrelson discuss the concept of hermeneutics and continue their ongoing quest to decide the best book in the Bible from the Thinking Religion Bible Bracket Challenge.

via Thinking Religion Episode 115: Your Hair Is Like a Flock of Goats

Episode 115: Your Hair is Like a Flock of Goats

Dr. Thomas Whitley and the Rev. Sam Harrelson discuss the concept of hermeneutics and continue their ongoing quest to decide the best book in the Bible from the Thinking Religion Bible Bracket Challenge.

Sponsored By:

Support Thinking Religion


Praying in Public

I don’t get it. It’s just pizza, man—I don’t know if we need to ‘beseech’ the ‘Father of lights in whom there is no variation or shadow due to change’ to bless it to ‘our bodies, hearts, and hands that we might serve thee.’ It’s not even good pizza.”

via Local Man Takes On Persona Of 17th Century Puritan When Praying

The Babylon Bee is a satire site, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a lack of biting reality in most of its posts. I can definitely confirm a lifetime of hearing prayers full of “beseech”ing and use of lingo that is out-of-date in any context.

Praying in public has always been something of a fascination for me and I’ve always been interested in the multivarious ways that contemporary Christians here in the US (primarily in the South) do it. Whether it’s before our football games or at our NASCAR races, it’s an integral part of the culture as much as fights over bbq sauces and whether Jimmie Johnson is better than Dale Earnhardt (he is).

I wonder what the drive is to use such language in prayers (especially ones at restaurants or in public gatherings)? I know that I’ve been a part of group prayers, say before a meal at a crowded and small restaurant / fast food joint… particularly with youth groups) where the prayer leader (typically male) rolls forth with a choice number of King James idioms that always feel as if they’re more of a performance in order to pique the interest of others outside of the group.

It gets particularly fascinating when we mix formal and antiquated language with very casual references to our “smokin hot wives” and “Goodyear’s performance.”

Maybe that’s the point of praying in public for many people… witnessing or evangelizing in a mini-one-act-play. I’m certainly not ashamed of my faith or never pass up a chance to talk about Jesus (I scrawled “ASK ME ABOUT JESUS” on my beloved green Vans in the 8th grade… I still wear those). But when I do lead a prayer in public or when my family prays before a meal at a restaurant as we often do, we try to be reverent or at least make the prayer more about thanksgiving than performance art.

Perhaps it depends on whether you like 1 Timothy or Matthew better. It’s sort of an “is the dress gold or blue” thing, I reckon:

I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument; also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, 10 but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. 11 Let a womanb]”>[b] learn in silence with full submission. 12 I permit no womanc]”>[c] to teach or to have authority over a man;d]”>[d] she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

Matthew 6:5-8

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.a]”>[a]

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.


Evangelical Crisis of Faith

The 20 percent of white evangelicals who did not vote for Trump — many of whom are conservative politically and theologically — now seem to have a lot more in common with mainline Protestants. Some in my own circles have expressed a desire to leave their evangelical churches in search of a more authentic form of Christianity.

Other evangelicals are experiencing a crisis of faith as they look around in their white congregations on Sunday morning and realize that so many fellow Christians were willing to turn a blind eye to all that Trump represents.

via Trump threatens to change the course of American Christianity – The Washington Post