We Are All Atheists


by John Ellis

“Even the Bible says that there isn’t a God,” my roommate smugly blustered.

The girl he was arguing with was incredulous, but as she pushed back it became obvious that a lack of confidence in her own position was growing. My roommate picked up on that, and went in for the dialectical kill, proud that he was about to convert another soul to atheism.

“It’s in one of the Psalms,” he shrugged. “I’m not making it up. The Bible says that there is no God.”

Gesturing towards me, he added, “Ask him.”

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God Is a Storyteller and He Calls His People to Love and Tell Stories


by John Ellis

During our annual church men’s retreat, I had the privilege of spending about thirty minutes discussing philosophy, art, and the Bible with the guest speaker. He’s an accomplished and feted theologian, and I was happy to discover that he is also incredibly knowledgeable and conversant about art, specifically storytelling.

At one point, our conversation turned to the parallels between ancient Greek drama (post-Thespis) and the Old Testament prophets, specifically Ezekiel. As we discussed the various dramas enacted by the priestly-prophet known for his vivid storytelling, the guest speaker threw in a rueful aside about how many within the reformed tradition are opposed to drama in the worship service. He then added the off-hand comment, “Pointing to Ezekiel, I tell people that skits and drama are appropriate for the worship of God.”

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Social Justice and the Gospel

soup kitchen

by John Ellis

For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him. Genesis 18:19

The most frequent questions I field of late are about social justice and the gospel, and the ongoing dustup over social justice within conservative evangelicalism. People want to know which “side” I’m on and if I’ve signed any statements. In answer to those two questions, I don’t think that I’m on any “side” and I haven’t signed any statements about social justice, nor do I intend to (that’s not to say that it’s wrong to do so).

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Parents, Broken Bones, and Sin’s Curse

broken arm cast

by John Ellis

There are moments that remind parents that our children aren’t really ours, not really. Moments that interrupt daily life, underscoring parents’ finiteness and the fragility of our children. Moments that stand still in pain and hopelessness while you implore, to no avail, for time to reset itself back into daily life.

Tuesday evening as I sat reading on our back-deck, the weak yet desperate cries of help coming from the front yard were the first signal that a chain of unwanted moments for my family had been set in motion.

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Love = Obedience


by John Ellis

As a child, obedience was a pragmatic activity for me. Navigating the tension between my desires and the possible punishment if I got caught fulfilling my desires, my decision to obey or not was rooted in a cost/benefit analysis. If the reward from my desire was greater than the risk of the punishment, obedience was jettisoned. On the other hand, if the reward was less than the risk, I was an obedient child. Not to mention the many times in which obedience enabled me to do what I wanted. As an example of how my pragmatic obedience worked, refusing to sing Patch the Pirate’s song “Obedience” with the rest of the students brought with it punishment not worth the reward of not singing. So, I dutifully sang the lyrics “obedience is the very best way to show that you believe” many times throughout my childhood.

It’s only as an adult that I get the irony.

My childhood’s pragmatic hypocrisy aside, is the song correct? Is it true that “obedience is the very best way to show that [we] believe?”

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#BelieveWomen Versus the Presumption of Innocence


by John Ellis

You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord you God is giving you. Deuteronomy 16:19-20

During a test over the state capitals, my fourth-grade teacher accused me of cheating. Walking around the classroom, she noticed a piece of paper sticking out of my crowded, disorganized desk. That paper happened to be a previously taken quiz over the state capitals. While my classmates left for music class, the teacher held me behind.

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Christian Liberty: Christians and the Use of Recreational Marijuana


by John Ellis

Does the recreational use of marijuana fall under Christian liberty?

That’s a question that’s being asked with increased frequency, and a question that will most likely cease to be abstract for churches in the near future. Jeff Sessions isn’t going to be Attorney General forever. Once he’s gone, the winds appear to be blowin’ strongly in the direction of the federal government’s legalization of the recreational use of marijuana. At that point, the above question will no longer be able to be placed under the interpretive authority of Romans 13:1.

So, what is the answer to the above question if and when the government’s prohibition of the recreational use of marijuana is lifted?

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