Bo Sanders: Public Theology

updating & innovating for today



Hurting at the Holidays

This really moved me to pray for and remember those who are sick and hurting during the Holiday Season.

The following is a note from a formerly famous quarterback. He won all the awards and played in the NFL. When it was over he went work for a ministry in New Orleans (Desire Street Ministries) that had to move to another city because of the hurricane.

Dear Friends,

“Life is tough.”

I remember hearing those words often growing up, especially from my father when things weren’t going my way. I hated those words as a kid…and I still do.

Something inside me resists any suggestion that life shouldn’t be comfortable. While my mind might accept the reality that life can be tough, my emotional reaction in the midst of difficulties Continue reading “Hurting at the Holidays”

Healing, Nature, Miracles, Prayer and Medicine

> I am at the end of my school year and, thus, writing papers. Here is an email conversation from a couple of weeks ago I had with a fellow minister. I wanted to post it and see if anyone had any reflections, objections, questions or comments.

If you already know the basics or have A.D.D. – just jump down to the sentence in orange and start there.

I will put JD’s thoughts in bold green and my responses will follow.

JD: Two thoughts on healing, medicine, and health care:

  • Our lack of theology of creation results in average people pushing against both modern medicine and many forms of holistic/folk medicine.
  • Many people are fearful of holistic medicines because of non-Christian spiritual components.

Me: I’m just going to throw out some ideas:
1) Creation was not ONE week a long long time ago. Creation is still happening. Look at the Hawaiian islands. Look at the tectonic plates that cause tsunamis.
This is ongoing creation.

2) In scripture God works through nature almost all the time. Burning bushes , winds on the sea of Reeds (Red Sea), clouds by day – fire by night… walking on water (the sea was Chaos in the 1st century) calming the storm, Sky turns dark, etc. This is Biblical.

3) The old saying is that there is no use praying for the cool of Spring in the heat of Summer. The seasons will be.
Continue reading “Healing, Nature, Miracles, Prayer and Medicine”

>the springs of Saratoga – a story (part 2)

in part 1 I began to tell the story of the springs …

When I first became inspired about the imagery of the springs, the language contributed a definite gravity to the direction of my sermons and the content of my congregation’s prayers. We began to see miraculous healings and answers to prayer that convinced us that there was something deep to this idea. 

I shared these developments with my regional pastor group and also my denominational pastors gathering. I was met at both places with a swift warning. “Make sure that your people know that the power for healing is with God and not with the water.”   This caused me to be very hesitant as I was continuously exhorted by other pastors and leaders not to “take it too far.”

 My wife would object to their line of reasoning by asking rhetorically “ If they have a headache and take an aspirin, do they think that the power is with God or the aspirin?” 
Continue reading “>the springs of Saratoga – a story (part 2)”

>Stirring the Water

I love reading the Bible. I am especially fond of the Gospels. One thing that I am increasingly aware of is the need for translation to the modern world. Yes, we need it to be translated from Greek to English well but we also need to translate it culturally. There is a significant gap between the world that the text was written in and the one that we live in. 

I get lots of feedback from people who think that world is exactly the same as it was 2,000 years ago (angels, demons, prophecy, etc.) and that the only difference is we that have cars and computers and alarm clocks.  But they think that gender roles and scientific assumptions are not really that different. 

I think that everything from physics to language to cosmology, gender, empire and culture has been effected in major and minor ways. I think that the text needs to be both translated and  interpreted. It is not a 1:1 equivalent with our contemporary understanding. 

I want to look at a story from the Bible to illustrate how I think we can navigate the gap, translate for our age and time, and interpret in ways that are authentic for our present reality. 

My goal is to be faithful to the text while being accountable to our contemporary world. I want to find continuity with the tradition while being credible to the modern understanding. 
Continue reading “>Stirring the Water”

>Prayer, Healing and Cancer


This Friday I want to talk about walking on water and other miracles in the Bible. Today I want to talk about praying for cancer and why some people are healed.
There are two quick things that I want say before we get into it. First, when we talk about healing, most of the time we start in the Bible and then transfer what we think about it forward to today.  I want to do the opposite. I want to start with how people are healed today and then go back and see if that may have been what was going on in the Bible. 
Second, since I came out last week that I do not believe in the supernatural I wanted to thank everyone who commented on this blog, facebook, and email. I really appreciate all the thoughtful responses. 
I don’t believe in the supernatural – but I do believe in prayer for healing.

People who were taught the supernatural view may hear that and think “that doesn’t make sense” or “that is contradictory”. This only exposes how little we have thought about all of this and how lazy our thinking can get when we think we have it all figured out. It has never dawned on some of us that there may be another way to think about spiritual and physical healing than the ‘super’ natural explanation. 

I would like to put forward an alternative explanation for your consideration:
Cancer is when cells of the body become disconnected from the function and purposes of rest of the body. They are separated from the story or narrative design of the body. Once disconnected, or out of line with the body, they actually begin to turn against the body and attack the body – multiplying at an unhealthy rate and ultimately eating the cells and organs of it’s host body. Cancer cells are separated from the purpose and story of the body that gives them life and begin to work against the body that gives them life. 
When we pray for someone who has cancer and they are ‘healed’, what do we think happened? I think that what happened is that we as a community surrounded them with our bodies (cells) and spirits (partnership with God) in order to make a place of openness for a “God who is at work among us” to reconnect those cells to the story (and purpose) of the body and bring them back in line to work with the body in a healthy way. 
What I don’t think happened is that a transcendent God reached through the veil of existence and magically touch only this person to take out the bad cells. 
I really do believe that God is here at work among us all the time and when we open up and participate with God’s will and purpose that it is possible that misaligned cells that are disconnected from body’s story can come back into alignment and participate with the body instead of against it. 
Doctors call it remission. We call it a miracle. It is natural and beautiful. What it is not is “super” natural. 
It is not dependent on praying hard enough, praying good enough, being good enough people to pray for this, etc.  It isn’t about looking for unbelief, or unconfessed sin, or some other flaw in the sick person or the pray-ers. It isn’t about a God who is “in control” or that “everything happens for a reason” or that everything will make sense in Heaven (after we die), or that God is sovereign and chooses who lives and who dies. 
I still believe in healing. But I now think that it happens for a different reason than I used to. I don’t believe in the supernatural.  I do believe that prayer is powerful and that sometimes people are healed from cancer. God has given us medicine which can be powerful. God has given us a community that prays and that can be powerful.  God has given us the presence of God’s Spirit who is at work among us. Being open to this can be very powerful. 

Let me know what you think… I am very interested in having a conversation about all of this. 

>When demons are not really or only demons (Friday follow up to Jesus and Pigs)

>Jimmy and Joe  had interesting insights about “political” readings of the Bible. Here was my response.

– Let me just throw out a wild idea.  What if… just what if Jesus was primarily political.  Or if you don’t like “primarily” then how about even “significantly” political?

Then a century or two later, the Imperial powers play down his message and influence by breaking them into categories like “spiritual” and “political” that Jesus as a Jewish person would not have had?

It would benefit the Imperial power a great deal to have Christians NOT be radical, counter-cultural or prophetic.  It is much better if they are obedient, passive, understanding, and (best of all) focused on the world to come.

It was better for Rome.  It was better for the Europe of Christendom. and it is better for America when it is acting with unilateral power or cutting parts of the budget that expose the most vulnerable of it’s citizens while increasing the military budget.

IF I am right (and that is a big if) then even passages like Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female”  is a political stance.  If you knew about Roman civilization and the VERY present ‘household codes’ (called pater familias) then statements like Paul’s in Gal 3:28 are radically political.

but we don’t know about the pater familias so… it becomes ‘spiritual’

– on FaceBook Mhoira Lauer-Patterson said “Contextuality is the key”. I agreed and added

 This is about doing in our culture what Jesus did in that culture… NOT simply us repeating Jesus in our culture as if it were the same as that culture!

– On the issue of demons being more than demons or not demons at all:

We are looking for a 3rd way. So instead of my saying ‘the story of Legion’ is NOT about what it appears to be – and you insisting that it is ONLY what it appears to be… 

I am willing to say that , in the story, the demons are MORE than demons and you can say that they may not be ONLY demons.

– Holly: Thanks, Bo. I appreciate all three readings. I am coming to believe that as human beings are so incredibly diverse, although our political, social, individual problems are universal, that we need the freedom to read scripture in the way that is the most empowering, the most liberating, the most freeing. 🙂


I, of course, agree with what your saying – for I see that AS the message OF Scripture from the Exodus to the Revelation and everywhere between. (everywhere might be overdoing it but … it is prevalent)

Now – it would be good to admit, as a point of contrast, those who are more concerned with CONSERVing the old ways of reading certain texts, would disagree. One of the reason I am OK with this is because the more we know about the 1st century, the more empowered we will be to read those texts in the 21st century. 

That is my positive way to say it! here is the negative.

The reality is that some of the most popular readings of the past 300 years in N. America have been in complete absence of knowledge about the 1st century. They are ahististorical readings and they are somewhere between damaging and devastating – depending on who is doing the reading and who it is aimed at.

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