The Christian Studies Blog


Dr. Daniel Napier

Daniel Napier (Ph.D., Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam) is an Associate Professor of Theology at Austin Graduate School of Theology. He is also the preaching minister for the Holland Street Church of Christ in San Marcos. Prior to joining the faculty, Daniel served as a foreign missionary in Greece, Bulgaria and Croatia, and as a preaching minister in Texas, California and Toronto, Ontario. In tandem with his ministerial calling, Daniel has pursued advanced degrees in Biblical Studies, Theology, and the History of Philosophy. Since 1997, Daniel has been married to Karly.

Recent Posts

Gentleness: How Jesus Overwhelms Evil with Good

Posted by Dr. Daniel Napier on January 31, 2017 at 9:30 AM

Will you reflect with me upon the need for gentleness in our moral judgments?

In our world, the words ‘gentleness’ and ‘moral judgment’ don’t often converge. Morality primarily functions as a stick to beat outsiders – a way to condemn and thus imply our own superiority. We can get real clear and precise about what’s wrong with other people. That’s an everyday skill. Gentleness, on the other hand, shows up mostly in those intimate encounters reserved for family and close friends. Here we tend to avoid clarity, especially if wrongdoing has occurred. Moral clarity is too painful, so we avoid straight-talk in order to be ‘kind’ or ‘considerate.’ Jesus, however, brings gentleness into the heart of morality.

As such, Jesus proves to the be the master of moral transformation. I’ve found no one else who so naturally combines moral clarity and gentleness. This moral fusion of gentleness and clarity is what I want to explore with you.

We’ll allow John’s Gospel to conduct us to our theme of moral gentleness. He does this by observing the way Jesus counters a mob execution or lynching. The story is complex, so prepare to use your mind. We’ll follow several themes as they intertwine in this story.

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Topics: Teaching Moment, Scripture Passage

Being Children of Light

Posted by Dr. Daniel Napier on January 24, 2017 at 9:30 AM

There’s an old trade secret among preachers. The word is that there are three topics any of which will ensure an audience. If you want to draw a crowd, you can preach on sex, on the end times, and on will there be sex in the end times?

The religious mania over imagining and predicting the future is well known today. We even have TV series that turn on popular conceptions. Evidently, some in Paul’s churches would have understood the attraction – they might have even tuned in. But this impulse isn’t unique either to religious groups or to one particular age. It’s a human thing.

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Topics: On-Topic Today, Politics, New Testament

Speech and Spiritual Sincerity

Posted by Dr. Daniel Napier on November 29, 2016 at 9:30 AM

May I ask you to reflect with me on the topic of spiritual sincerity and interpersonal communication? We live in a world full of ‘spin’ and even outright misinformation. Bluster seems to be the norm in media interactions. This can even bleed into church settings. What should a Jesus-follower’s practice be in such a world?

Whenever we speak to another person, some sort of relationship is presupposed. And that relationship will shape how you and I use words. Too often our words are the byproduct of competition. Each person vies to look more smart, or cool, or impressive than the other person. That competition shapes our everyday interactions. Jesus, on the other hand, invites us into a beautiful, risky enterprise. He teaches us to speak and read scripture primarily as sincere partners in seeking God’s will. In Matthew 21:23-32, Jesus brings this contrast to the surface. He models how, and more importantly why, to speak even among those who assume competition as the goal.

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Topics: Scripture Passage

Jesus' Way Beyond Pride: Growing in Humility

Posted by Dr. Daniel Napier on November 22, 2016 at 9:30 AM

My last post examined Jesus’ teaching concerning the nature of pride from Luke 18:9-14. We’ve all heard sermons against pride and know it is something we should avoid. However, too seldom do we receive accompanying teaching for growth in humility. We know we ought to be humble. However, we might not know how to grow in humility or adequately understand what has prevented us from doing so. In this post I’ll focus on the positive or growing side of the equation.

Let’s begin with some troubleshooting at the level of thought. Two prevalent assumptions – unspoken ideas in our culture – often block us from growing in humility. Perhaps it would help to state them clearly so we can examine them. The common notion is that to be truly humble one would have to be weak and stupid. Let’s consider each of these ideas:

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Topics: How To, Teaching Moment, Scripture Passage

Understanding the Most Toxic Sin: Pride

Posted by Dr. Daniel Napier on September 29, 2016 at 9:30 AM

No aspect of Jesus’ teaching is so distinctive and world-changing as that concerning pride and humility. A simple historical observation makes the point well. Among the ancient moralists, humility and a mind given to service was actually considered vicious. Servility was despicable and vile. To do great things, it was thought, one must have a high self-estimation. The great-souled man made big boasts and then made good on them. Thus humility was thought a vice. For Jesus and his followers, on the other hand, humility is a primary virtue.

Jesus understood that the engorged self-esteem, which was considered healthy and laudable among the pagans, actually debilitated them. Pride hinders the exercise of our greatest power – ‘power under’ others in service.  As a quick litmus test of the world-changing effect of Jesus’ teaching and example, just consider the last time a political leader assumed a title like ‘the Great’. This serves as an indicator of how much Jesus’ teachings have changed the consciousness of the West… at least at the level of public affirmation. On the other hand, human nature has not changed. The individual impulse to self-aggrandizement rages on and proves just as toxic today as ever.

The peculiar toxicity of pride lies in the blindness it creates in its practitioner. Simply consider the fact that our secular society has developed ways of addressing every other distortion of heart that Jesus unveiled. Various therapies, 12-step programs, and institutions are in place to deal with anger, distorted desire, and even dishonesty – at least to some degree.

Anger management therapy is available through purely secular institutions. Everyone recognizes sexual addiction, compulsive shopping, and kleptomania as problems. Clinical professionals address them in some manner. Even lying, when it reaches a certain level of compulsiveness, is acknowledged as undesirable. Sociopaths are considered diseased.

The reason these programs and institutions exist is because people struggling with such things know they have a problem. When people are gripped by anger, twisted desires, and compulsive deceit it ruins their lives in a way they cannot easily ignore.

But what about pride? Can you name a single analogous therapy, program, or institution designed to address it? With the possible exception of marriage, there is no institution in secular society designed to restore humility. I know of no Betty Ford Clinic for the Insufferably Arrogant. I’ve yet to find a chapter of Boasters Anonymous. Where does one go to detox from an ego that sucks the air from any room into which one walks?


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Topics: Scripture Passage

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