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Articles by John McKinley



  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    When reading the book, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor ... and Yourself,[1] one passage stood out to me as an important analogy for understanding God’s providential work in sanctification. We often wonder why God allows, directs, or initiates difficulties and trials in our lives. The Bible is full of these promises that we will have to face many troubles (e.g., Rom. 8:17; Acts 14:23; John 16:33). Paradoxically, Scripture also assures us that we can count such problems in a positive way since we understand that God is doing good to us by means of the negative things we suffer (James 1:2-5). I decline to give a facile explanation of the problem of evil (more needs to be said than what can be done here). I aim to take on difficulty of God’s providence in our sanctification by looking at the observation of Corbett and Fikkert about helping the poor in economic development ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    In response to Klaus Issler’s article, “Exploring the Pervasive References to Work in Jesus’ Parables,” I offer two conclusions that are valuable for Christology and a Christian vision of economic activity. Jesus’ demonstrates two kinds of work productivity, and Jesus knows workplace temptations that afflict us all. In advance of exploring these conclusions, I will review how Issler’s analysis includes three important ideas that overturn common misconceptions about Jesus ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    In part three of this series, I will present the third biblical metaphor revealing the Holy Spirit: oil. We need to discern what the metaphor is, and what its meanings are within the biblical and ANE framework. I will be drawing some details from the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. My goal is to recognize patterns of meaning that may be intended to expand our understanding of the Holy Spirit’s presence and action in subtle ways hinted at through metaphors.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    The topic of God and time is complicated and unclear. Christian theologians and philosophers disagree about God’s relationship to time. Theorists disagree about whether only the present moment exists, or if the past and the future are equally real. One question that comes up in teaching theology is God’s knowledge of the future: how does God know the future, and how does God’s knowledge fit with human freedom, God’s providence, and the reality of the future? ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    This devotional is a reminder that God works through us as his instruments in ways we don’t choose. While there are many valuable things of research and teaching that God works through us in various ways, a primary mode of God’s work is easy to forget.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    In part 2 of this blog series, I present the second biblical metaphor revealing the Holy Spirit: the wind. We need to discern what the metaphor is, and what its meanings are within the biblical and ANE framework. I will be drawing some details from the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. My goal is to recognize patterns of meaning that may be intended to expand our understanding of the Holy Spirit’s presence and action in subtle ways hinted at through metaphors ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    ... Deeper than the recent history, we seem to be pushing against the same thing that Martin Luther identified as the theology of glory. Luther recommended to us the contrast of the theology of the cross ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    Theologians have often observed the paucity of details about the Holy Spirit in the Bible, as compared to revelation of the Father and the Son. This holding back by the Spirit who inspired Scripture seems typical of his humility, and the trait of divine love “that does not seek its own.” Sets of details that we can add to the several statements about the Spirit are connected with eight metaphors used throughout the Bible. Several of these metaphors pull together and give concrete expression to the declarative statements of pneumatology, such as “the Spirit sanctifies, indwells, teaches, assures, and convicts people" ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    ... In meditation, I now listen for God’s message through the text in a different way. I have stopped merely thinking about the sermon and drilling into the passage, chewing on what the commentary says, and that has helped open things up for me. The result is a different sort of sermon ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    As with anything we touch, even good behaviors and initiatives can be twisted to harmful effects in our lives. The Bible holds out many precepts and instructions for right behaviors that are “acceptable” and “pleasing” to God. These guidelines are helpful for Christians to discern how to make choices in harmony with God, instead of in violation of God. The twist is when we mistakenly attempt to leverage the good actions we might do to prop up our sense of our acceptability before God. Many children learn from parents’ responses that behaviors can evoke positive and negative responses; how much of this learning is projected onto our relationship with God, our father in heaven? ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    Being a man, I have trouble with most emotions (when I am aware of them in myself or others). Often, my response to emotions is to think about the experience, but that tends to pin feelings down rather than give deeper expression to them. I’ve learned by trial and error to trust feelings by giving them my attention and expressing them momentarily as I sense them. I was able to practice this recently when faced with the loss of Bob Saucy ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    When I offered a new seminar course on Ecclesiology last semester, one of the books we discussed is Gregg R. Allison’s Sojourners and Strangers: the Doctrine of the Church (Crossway, 2012). This is the latest volume in the Foundations of Evangelical Theology series edited by John Feinberg. The book has several features to commend it for evangelical readers interested in ecclesiology. One characteristic throughout the book is the clear and well-organized writing style that is a model for students to see how ideas are presented, supported with evidence, and critiqued or nuanced. It is difficult to misunderstand Allison’s meaning and how all of his claims fit together.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    Michael Wilkins recommended these axioms to me. It has taken me several years to figure out and understand what they mean. They have worked like seeds for me. I’m sure he would elaborate on them differently (and better) than I’m doing here. But this is what I see in them ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    The Christian belief system is consistent and coherent. This shows in the way that adjustments in one concept of the system often require modifications in other aspects. Increased clarity about one topic elucidates other topics. The interdependence of my beliefs was again displayed when I came across a common mistranslation of a single word in Luke’s gospel. Once I had been persuaded that the prevailing translation was misleading, I experienced shifts in the ways I view and relate to God, and how I pray and think about God’s involvement in daily life. These implications of a single word have been strong reverberations that I am grateful to experience ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    Occasionally I find myself in a conversation with a non-Christian friend. Sometimes, I have to pay close attention to the language I use if the talk turns to things related to God and ultimate reality. I do the same when I talk to my children about Bible things. I want to be understood, but the normal Christian terms are a foreign language to many people, Christians included. The terms are difficult to use when they don’t communicate.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    For whatever reasons in my experiences and personality, I have often looked forward in life to a better situation: I’ll be able to drive, I’ll be finished with high school, I’ll have a job, I’ll be married, I’ll live in my own home, etc. I find myself sometimes weary of the present because of problems that I have to face today, and I sometimes wish I were already ahead in tomorrow. Not least does this occur for my desire to be in Heaven ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    I’ve begun reading into the topic of women and men in ministry. I noticed immediately that the concept of “head” stands out in the debate between egalitarian and complementarian interpretations. As a metaphor, the concepts and specific applications intended by Paul can be elusive. For help, I turned to an expert on the subject, my colleague, Dr. Michelle Lee-Barnewall. Below are her explanations of four questions as part of beginning to explore the meaning of “headship.”

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    I occasionally hear students repeat a slogan in class when they hear me say something that calls the slogan into question, or that directly contradicts a slogan. This is a shock for the students. The slogans are an oral tradition circulating in evangelical churches, a weak catechism of some of our most important beliefs.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    Everyone knows we should pray more than we do, that prayer is really important, and that any hero of the faith has had prayer as a massive ingredient of their life. Even Jesus had to pray. After reading through Donald Bloesch’s The Struggle of Prayer, I have noticed five barriers to prayer in my life, and some ways of tunneling through or around them.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    When I was a research student holed up in a windowless office in the library for a year, the PhD student next to my office was Jeremy Howard. While I struggled through stacks of research trying to avoid drowning in the historical theology portion of my dissertation, Jeremy was blazing through the writing of his dissertation on the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics and its use for Christian apologetics. His research world couldn’t have been farther away from mine. Years later, he has recently piloted a work that fits a gap I didn’t know I was looking for. To pass on an introduction to this new series, I interviewed the general editor, Jeremy Howard with several questions here.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    In Part One, I introduced the implausible situation that Jesus lived from His infancy with full divine awareness. I presented one argument that the New Testament presents Jesus as functioning with a human mind. This claim has been affirmed by the Council of Chalcedon (451) in opposition to some teachers such as Apollinaris, who denied that Jesus possessed a human mind and will. An incarnation involving two minds is complicated, but such is the historic teaching of the church.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    One professor in this school playfully describes the birth of Jesus this way. There is Jesus, lying in the manger and looking out through the doorway of the stable at the stars in the night sky. I made all those stars. The baby then has another sensation alongside this new experience of seeing His creation through eyeballs, and it’s uncomfortable. I’m suddenly wet all through my diaper, and it’s getting cold! A normal infant would scream at this point until mom showed up. But not Jesus. He looks over at His teen-aged mom and thinks, I’d like to have this wet diaper changed, but Mary’s had such a hard night after so long of a trip. I’ll wait a few hours until she’s had some more rest. And so, baby Jesus, the pint-sized God-man waits until His mom has gotten the rest she needs. Probably not. It strains at plausibility to think that Jesus lived with His full divine consciousness from the beginning of His human life. We can be sure that Jesus knew His unique identity and relationship to God as His Father when He was twelve, having declared as much to Joseph and Mary in Jerusalem (Luke 2:49). Luke adds, “Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (v. 52, NASB). Jesus certainly knows who He is when He begins teaching, but beyond these details we don’t have revelation how much He knew before age twelve, or when.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    Christians will commonly argue with each other about “secondary” issues of doctrine, while assuring themselves and the rest of us that it’s okay since they agree on the “primary” issues. Obviously, not all topics of biblical teaching are on the same level of importance. On the basis of this sort of distinction between “primary” and “secondary” we can readily join with Christians across denominational lines while continuing to warn Mormons that they have the primary material wrong. My concern is that the well-intentioned emphasis on the basics of mere Christianity and “primary issues” that we can all agree on also disparages the “secondary issues.” Less clarity in the Bible, less agreement among Christians, and less treatment by the tradition should not add up to counting these matters as unimportant. I suggest that the doctrinal topics that Christians feel free to disagree about are not adiaphora in the sense that we need not take them seriously. I propose a different analogy to help alleviate this concern.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body” (1 Cor 6:18 NASB). Why is sexual sin singled out as uniquely damaging to the body in a way that other physical actions are not? Substance abuse, gluttony, cutting—these are all harmful acts to the body, but they do not do what sexual misconduct does, according to Paul. Typical responses from students to explain this exception are that sex involves the whole person, or maybe because it involves someone else. The same could be said for illegal drug use, so there must be something more.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    Love is a sloppy concept, and love is a complex reality. I love ice cream. I love my children. I love my wife. I love books. I love God. I love my students. Each of these “loves” has a different content. It could be a problem if I love books in the same way that I love my children, or if I love God in the way I love my wife. Love is not the same in every relationship that we live in. This is a brief analysis of love as we experience and live it in various relationships.