Articles by J. Todd Billings

Praying the Psalms in Christ

Article by   December 2016
If we are to interpret the Psalms as Christian scripture, I believe that we need to interpret them "in Christ." This does not mean interpreting all of the Psalms simply as predictions of Jesus Christ, or as expositions of New Testament doctrine. continue

The Hermeneutics of Lament (Part 3)

Article by   November 2016
As I have spoken to college students, cancer patients, and many others in the last year about lament, many of the Christians assume that they should just jump to the end of Psalms of laments if they are to pray them at all: "I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation," in the words of Psalm 13. Why? Because the other parts of the Psalm are too close to "anger" or "complaining." But with this approach, we cannot actually receive and pray the psalms of laments as scripture, apart from the "happy ending" in their final resolutions. This approach fails to receive the Psalms as a prayer book for the church today. continue

The Hermeneutics of Lament (Part 2)

Article by   September 2016
If we are to recover the Psalms of lament today, we should not just move our grief and outrage from social media into the sanctuary. We need to allow our grief and anger to be reframed - in light of the Psalmist's stubborn hope in God's covenant promises, and on the path of the enemy-love of our Lord Jesus Christ. continue

The Hermeneutics of Biblical Lament (Part 1)

Article by   July 2016
What is the fruit of biblical interpretation? For example, in interpreting anceint texts such as the Psalms, should our primary goal be to reconstruct the ancient Psalmist's meaning? Or, for Christians, should it be to receive the Psalms as prayers, to be prayed by the Spirit, in Christ? continue

The Spirit and Scripture: More than Divine Advice

Article by   June 2015
Our own day has seen a revival of short, pithy proverbs -- with advice about "five steps to be happy" or "six ways to financial security" going viral through social media. Often, the way that Christians approach the Bible fits the same mold: we approach the Bible as a divine self-help manual, with a collection of Bible verses to give us advice to help us live healthier, happier lives. Indeed, good advice is a gift. Advice can be part of the wisdom that comes from God. Practical wisdom to address loss, poverty, and misdirected hearts can be a cup of cold water to those in need. Scripture itself offers proverbial wisdom in many places. continue

Joining the Resistance: Lament and the Kingdom [Part 4]

Article by   February 2015
In previous posts, I have suggested that the question of suffering before God needs to remain an open question - a question that we, along with the Psalmists, bring before God in the midst of our grief, anger, and confusion. All of this relates to prayer. But it also relates to action - action in a world in which God is king, and yet we groan and wait for his kingdom to come in fullness. continue

Divine Providence: Occupying The Mysterious Middle [Part 3]

Article by   February 2015
How can we avoid the extremes of monocausal fatalism, on the one hand, and open theism which insists that some events are "pointless" even to God, on the other? As I immersed myself in the Psalms after my cancer diagnosis, I came to see the value of the much-maligned "classical distinctions" in historic Christian theology. This realization may come as a surprise to some as caricatures abound of classical approaches to divine providence. Sometimes these caricatures come from its contemporary opponents. They usually paint it as portraying an unfeeling Sovereign Tyrant, thus presenting a doctrine that lacks pastoral empathy and fails to confess the dynamic, passionate God of the Bible continue

Avoiding the Dead Ends of Providence: Monocausal Fatalism and Open Theism [Part 2]

Article by   February 2015
As I explored in the previous article in this series, my cancer diagnosis forced me to join the Psalmists in prayer more deeply than I had ever done before. I prayed the Psalms - especially Psalms of laments - with others and in solitude. And I noticed that as they pray to the good and Almighty God, they are also unafraid to question God, to ask why he does not appear to be fulfilling his promises. continue

Lament: Self-Indulgent Whining, or Faithful Complaints? [Part 1]

Article by   February 2015
Who likes a complainer? Complainers are unsettling to be around. Holiday meals ruined by laborious and endless complaints about how life has shortchanged them - the car that broke down too early, the college that should have given admission, the nurse who should have done the job better. A few hours with a complainer are just about enough to make one want to write an anonymous note: "DON'T YOU HAVE ANYTHING TO BE THANKFUL FOR??" continue
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