Skip to main content

Articles by John McKinley



  • 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.

  • 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.