Joel Wentz

contending for thoughtful Christianity

Everyone Needs to Stop and Read Jonah

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Jonah is one of the greatest little stories in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) and it’s also one of the most-popularly-misunderstood stories. So, how exactly is the common interpretation of Jonah so off-base? What is a better, more faithful way to read this wild little book? And what in the world could a story of a man getting swallowed by a fish have to say to us in our cultural moment today? Listen to find out.

John MacArthur's Social Justice Statement is a Disaster

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I’m taking a slightly different approach in today’s episode, in engaging with a prominent current event. A group of pastors, some of whom are quite well-known, led by John MacArthur, recently released a “statement on social justice” that is making quite a stir in Evangelical-Christian circles. I take this slightly-longer-than-normal episode to engage with it.

Spoiler alert: I think it’s a disaster.

Still Evangelical? (Part 2)

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In the previous episode, I spent time explaining some of my background and putting forward a helpful definition of the term 'evangelical.' In this episode, I do a deep-dive into my personal wrestling match. It's an honest back-and-forth discussion, in an attempt to highlight compelling arguments on both sides of the debate, and I finally reveal where exactly I have landed. Hopefully this discussion is enlightening, and even personally helpful to those of you with similar struggles.

Still Evangelical? (Part 1)

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In this first of a 2-part discussion, I wrestle openly and honestly with the term 'Evangelical.' Since the 2016 election, the discussion around the relevance of the term 'evangelical' has been raging in Christian circles, and it has provoked deep soul-searching for me. In this episode, I briefly explain some of my personal background, my own discovery of the term, and lay some groundwork for a definition of it that I've found helpful.

No, really, how can you trust the bible?? (For Skeptics #3)

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In this (slightly) longer-than-normal episode, I'm concluding the discussion started last week, on responding to the skeptical question, "How can you trust the Bible??" While the previous discussion was centered on the presuppositions and tensions smuggled into this question, this episode will put forward positive responses to the trustworthiness of these texts. As examples, I wrangle with history, science, and faith. Hopefully this is helpful and encouraging to you. Enjoy!

How can you trust the Bible?? (For Skeptics #2)

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In this second installment of the "for skeptics" series, I'm tackling the common question from modern, skeptical people: "How can you trust the Bible??" A seemingly simple question actually contains a myriad of complicated questions and issues, and positive progress will only happen if we can start to untangle what's going on when someone asks this. This complicated topic will take 2 full episodes to begin to unravel...

A bleak account of human history

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In this final discussion of Genesis 4, we come to a bleak portrait of human history. And it's a portrait the comports quite well with our own modern understanding of our roots in agriculture and urbanization. As with all sections of scripture, there are surprising insights everywhere, even if they aren't exactly the insights we like to be confronted with. Join me for a closing discussion of this amazing mini-story within Genesis.

The CHOICE we all face...

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In part 2 (of 3) of our discussion through Genesis 4, we come to the epicenter, the "beating heart" of the story of Cain and Abel: A CHOICE. It's a powerful scene, and actually is extremely relate-able to every honest person today. Don't believe me?? Then listen in and decide for yourself...

What is 'Cain and Abel' ACTUALLY About??

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Here we have yet another famous Biblical story, and one that is so misunderstood. The narrative of Cain and Abel has SO MUCH packed into it, that it will take 3 whole episodes to even begin to untangle. Join me for this initial discussion, in which I begin to tease out some of the high-level themes that we are approaching when we read this story.....

Is God "Real?" (For Skeptics #1)

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In this introduction to a new series called "For Skeptics," I tackle one of the most frequent questions/challenges I get from skeptical people: The Reality of God. How can you know that God is real? What does that even mean? What are we *actually* talking about here?

So basically, I'm trying to take on one of the most historically complex philosophical/theological ideas in 10 minutes....

THE CURSE! (Reading & respecting Genesis 3)

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And here it is, everyone's favorite Bible passage, the part that you couldn't wait to analyze: THE CURSE. We finally get a glimpse of the outcome of the human's disobedience. And today, this passage is relentlessly pointed at by atheists/skeptics as evidence that we need to ditch the Bible (it's so savage and primitive!) and by fundamentalist Christians as evidence that God approves of things like patriarchy. But might there be something deeper going on?? Spoiler alert: there is!

Join for a brief exploration of what the writer of Genesis is REALLY trying to capture in this famous passage. You just might find yourself respecting it.....

The surprisingly gentle Creator (Reading and Respecting Genesis 3)

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In part 3 of this exploration of the Genesis 3 story, I examine God's response to the transgression of the humans. If you are even passingly familiar with this story (or the Old Testament in general) you probably imagine God as a Zeus-like, bearded sky-man, ready to smite at a moment's notice. And what better smiting opportunity than immediately after the first humans disobey the one and only command they were given?? But what we see instead is quite surprising, especially given the ancient context within which this story was written.

So join me for a brief exploration of God's surprising character, even in this old, old story.

Why is a piece of fruit such a big deal?? (Reading & Respecting Scripture, Genesis 3-2)

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Continuing our exploration (and untangling) of Genesis 3, we turn to one of the central symbols of the whole story: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Have you ever stopped and wondering why God made this one of the trees in the garden? And why was it the only one they couldn't eat from? And what exactly made them break that rule? And why was it such a big deal in the first place? And why......? OK, so there are a ton of questions you could ask about this....

Listen for a brief exploration of what Genesis is claiming about humans, God, the world, and evil as symbolized in this tree.

What's up with that talking snake?? (Reading & Respecting Scripture, Genesis 3-1)

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In this next episode, I finally dive into one of the most widely-known (and probably widely-misunderstood, honestly) scripture passages of all time: the fall of Adam and Eve!! **cue dramatic music** This chapter is so dense, so insightful, and yet so radically misunderstood, that it's going to take 4 whole episodes to even begin to untangle it.

And first, we need to ask, "What in the world is up with that talking snake??"

Reading and Respecting Scripture: Genesis 2 (part 2)

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There's so much in the chapter - we are introduced to the two famous trees, the rivers, the naming of the animals and, at last, the creation of "woman." But why exactly was "woman" (she isn't yet named 'Eve') created? Are there common misunderstandings about this today? What does it mean for discussions around "gender" today, if anything? And what does all this mean for a robust vision of humanity, work, and gender partnership in the world? Join me for an exploration of all these questions, in only 10 minutes.

Reading and Respecting Scripture: Genesis 2 (part 1)

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Genesis 2 launches the famous (or maybe infamous?) story of Adam and Eve. But, like most things, what seems "simple" on the surface quickly turns out to be complex, nuanced, and extremely insightful. But how exactly does Genesis 2 connect with Genesis 1? What is the driving point of this story? How can modern people take it seriously? Tune in for a two-part exploration of this powerful story of human origins.

Reading and Respecting Scripture: Genesis 1 (part 2)

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The previous episode ended on the theme of "chaos" and "order," but what happens next? How does this process continue to unfold in the creation story? Is there truly anything worthy of our modern respect here?

This episode covers the remainder of chapter 1. In it, you will discover a radical, startling affirmation of human dignity, and a reminder of God's peaceful intentions for our world. It's a beautiful poem, and a beautiful vision. Enjoy!

Reading and Respecting Scripture: Genesis 1 (part 1)

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In this (re)re-launch of Ten Minute Theology, I am tackling an entire new series and subject! The driving question is: "Can we respect ancient Scripture today??" And if so, how do we do that? What would it look like to take a fresh look at ancient words? Would we find life-giving wisdom, even for our modern existence?

Well, I think so! But I need to make the case for that in our jaded, cynical, post-modern age, and that's exactly what I'm planning to do, ten minutes at a time.

God, part 3: Greek or Hebrew?

Have you ever stopped to think about how your conception of God is shaped by historical theologies? Most people, including Christians, haven't. In reality, our understanding of the divine being has been influenced by millenia of thought, and not all of it is biblical.

But how do we start to sift through all these influences? How can we evaluate our understanding, ensuring that it is orthodox and faithful to scriptures? Well, a survey of Greek and Hebrew thought is a good place to start. Join me for a brief discussion, opening up these worldviews.

God, part 2: Trinity

Does the notion of the Trinity give you a headache? Does the idea of a 3-in-1 divine being make your brain spin? If so, you just might be a normal person.

Join me for part 2 of our discussion on "God." In this episode, I briefly survey the roots of the idea of Trinity, and more importantly, I discuss why it matters. Does this have any impact on our faith today? What about my daily life? Well, sit back and enjoy my thoughts about this...