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Articles by John McKinley



  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    In response to the ongoing revelations of widespread cheating in professional sports, my earlier blog explored the idea of cheating as compared to New Testament ethics. So much for why athletes should not cheat, and what they should pursue instead. The doping problems in sport raise another question: what is someone responsible to do when she becomes aware of others' cheating? This question extends beyond sport to daily life evils that are preventable if someone in our lives would just speak up once in a while.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    Slowly, more top professional cyclists that were rivals of Lance Armstrong are mumbling confessions of the same carefully-worded sort that Lance released last January. Some have been coerced by teams or government inquiries (as with the handful of Americans who testified to their own doping as part of implicating Lance Armstrong). The latest is Jan Ullrich, the German cyclist who placed second to Lance three times in the Tour de France. Like many others, Ullrich used the same worn out excuse that “everybody was doing it,” and that his joining the “medical program” was just a way to play on a level field. What are we to think of these things?

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    An introduction to the book, His Brain, Her Brain: How Divinely Designed Differences Can Strengthen Your Marriage, by Walt and Barb Larimore (Zondervan, 2008).

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    This last part in this series on hell is a listing of many of the biblical passages that touch directly on God's punishment of evildoers. I assembled the passages so that I could see them all at once. The repetition of key phrases and patterns stood out in helpful ways for me. I found it very convincing on many of the traditional aspects of the doctrine.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    As Part 3 in this series on the doctrine of hell, I introduce an interpretation of hell that is coming into print from a few contributors during the last decade. See Part 1 on the metaphorical language for hell, and Part 2 on the doctrine of degrees of punishments. The traditional teaching about hell has been criticized for many reasons, one of which is that sin continues forever in hell. This seems to be a cosmic dualism where good prevails only in heaven (the new creation), but evil continues to hold out in hell where evildoers continue to hate God and compound their guilt forever and ever. This might not be the best conclusion.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    Following on my earlier post on the metaphorical language used for naming and describing the punishment of hell, this post explores the doctrine of degrees of punishment. The basic idea is that the Bible seems to say that all evildoers will suffer the same hell for their sins, but God's perfect justice means that worse criminals will suffer worse punishments for their crimes. This is not torture or exacting pain as somehow accompiishing something for God, as if God were a fiendish tormentor. But then what is it?

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    This is the first post in a series of four on the doctrine of hell. I’m not attempting to detail everything about hell in a systematic way. I will focus on three topics that I think are often misunderstood. One of the posts will introduce an idea that is a relatively minority opinion (God’s conquest of sin). The doctrine of hell is a difficult topic. I think that people are often unsure about how to feel about hell, whether we should feel sad, or should we feel relieved that justice is being done? What are God’s feelings about hell? How do we understand hell and God’s love?

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    Dyothelitism means that Jesus possesses two wills, one divine and one human. God the Father and God the Son are distinct persons, but they share the same divine will. The difference of Jesus’ will from his Father’s will in Gethsemane is his human will. By incarnation, God the Son took up a second way of living as a man. He now possesses two natures. Each nature is complete, including a will for each. I define will as the spiritual capacity for desires and choice in the exercise of personal agency. A caution to remember is that these are mysterious operations (desiring, choosing) of mysterious realities (persons, wills, Trinity) that may leave us continuing to wonder even after thinking it all through as best we can. We will consider briefly Jesus’ divine will, his human will, the situation of Gethsemane, and how this affects our thinking about the Trinity.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    Jack Wilson had always enjoyed being in the open air where he could stretch his lungs and move his twenty-five year-old limbs freely. Today, however, Jack imagined he was in the fourteenth century while he pedaled the five miles to his school when a brown Buick slammed into his bicycle from behind. The impact threw him ten feet towards the gutter where he pulled his face to his knees and protectively clutched his head, unaware of the blood. Then Jack was out.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    I heard recently that the Jewish and (East) Indian mentalities expect life to be full of difficulties and pain as a matter of course. The American mentality expects the opposite: a happy life overall, and usually an improvement over the previous generation. Americanism includes the idea that we may, through hard work, ingenuity, and divine blessing, avoid pain and lack that others suffer. Some American Christians have even preached that material prosperity in this life, including healing of all physical ills, is God’s will for His people. Reality, however, counts against the so-called prosperity gospel.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    “Here I am again. What does it mean to do this in Christ?” This was my thought as I rode my carbon-fiber bicycle on the streets of Torrance on Sunday afternoon. I was nervously warming up for my first bicycle race after having been away from the sport for 19 years. Many things were familiar and came back to me automatically: pinning the race number on my jersey so the wind wouldn’t catch it, calming myself as I rode around the course, checking how the wind was blowing, and sliding in to the start line so as to be in the front.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History, Diana Lynn Severance (Ross-Shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2011) 336 pp. $15 ($12 on Amazon; or $11.39 on Kindle) Overall, the book is challenging and informative for me as a male Christian. I have been mostly ignorant of the many deep and lasting contributions of women throughout the history of the church. The fascinating chronicles informed me to be full of admiration for these particular women, and for Christian women throughout the world today who struggle for basic human rights. I recognize that women continue to be disregarded, demeaned, patronized, minimized, and marginalized in evangelical churches and Western cultures today. Severance’s book is the beginning of a helpful corrective for the church to value women as equal heirs of the gift of grace.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    My students usually have trouble grasping Chalcedonian Christology that Jesus, God the Son, lives as one person in two natures, simultaneously. I’ve thought about this repeatedly enough that the traditional formulation feels familiar to me, but students hearing it for the first time are confounded. Maybe I should be confounded more myself, and allow the mystery to creep in more heavily when I consider the Incarnation. I like to add that it’s appropriate when we think about Jesus and the deep things of God that we feel a bit dizzy. But we still need to try and make sense of it however we may grasp at these deep things with our feeble minds. Often I find that the hardest thing is not in thinking that Jesus is eternally God the Son, or that he is a true human being, but that he lives a dual life by possessing both natures and living through them at the same time (the hypostatic union). The analogy I explain to them from our life experience is focused on understanding the simultaneity of the Incarnation for God the Son.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    Two college students, Marc and Sue, sit together in the church on a Saturday evening service. It’s time to observe communion today. The pastor speaks slowly. “Let’s take a few moments to reflect on where we are with God and one another. Paul instructed the church at Corinth to examine themselves when they participated in the Lord’s Supper.” This invitation cast Marc into his memories of the past month. Like signs planted along a road that he drove along quickly, sins flashed to mind in rapid succession. Three weeks ago, he’d borrowed his roommate’s research paper from a geography class the semester before. Marc used the paper to write his own version for the same class this semester. He told himself that he was still learning by doing it, so it wasn’t really cheating.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    Marc Vandenbroucke sits on the couch in his apartment. The television is flickering; two quarter pounders with cheese, a pile of fries, and a giant coke are on the coffee table, ready for gulping. The food passes by his mouth indistinguishably as a flow of salt, potatoes, meat, and sugar. Oh, the comfort of it after a hard day.

  • The Good Book Blog

    John McKinley — 

    Marc Vandenbrouke set down the book he was reading on the café table. In one hand was the cigarette that beckoned to him with smoldering nicotine. That was his life disintegrating into acrid smoke. Marc had been reading about the revered Buddha, Siddhartha, but the monk had taught him nothing about the meaning of his own life. He had also turned to Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. These had all failed him. They told him he was a nothing, a parasite in an otherwise lovely ecosystem. Marc couldn’t even explain to himself why he, a human being, was significantly different from the chair or his cigarette. His thoughts were futile, his feelings were nonsense, and his choices, as his teachers had told him, were merely illusions based in chemical reactions taking place within the fat tissues of his skull. Was knowledge truly impossible? Did no one have a way to explain existence? Ah, well, here’s a phone call to relieve him from the brief sojourn into morbidity, despair and the meaninglessness of his life.