Archive by Author

Writing tip(s) of the day

At least once a week, I try to pass along any good writing tips or resources I’ve stumbled across on my various internet journeys. Today’s resource comes from an interview with Louis Markos, an editor at The Gospel Coalition website.

Answering the first question, Markos offers a number of authors that he thinks have a “beautiful and subtle prose” worth emulating. He’s particularly fond of Ray Bradbury and C. S. Lewis.

The latter part of the interview focuses on the differences between good and great sentences, as well as what it takes to craft a good argument.

Perspectives on women in ministry

Like it or not, the role of women in ministry continues to be one of the most hotly debated topics in evangelical circles. And, the reason it remains a debated issue is because people have strong perspectives on both sides. So, for the next several days, Out of Ur will be posting videos on both sides of the issue.

Here’s the first video in the series from Rose Madrid-Swetman, co-pastor of a church in Seattle.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuv_3pUF7YY&feature=player_embedded

Flotsam and jetsam (the very overdue edition)

Darwin speculated that life began in a warm pond on the primordial Earth. Lately other scientists have suggested that the magic joining of molecules that could go on replicating might have happened in an undersea hot spring, on another planet or inside an asteroid. Some astronomers wonder if it could be happening right now underneath the ice of Europa or in the methane seas of Titan.

Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa prove — not contend — that students are not learning what they should, professors are not doing all they could, administrators are not focused on education enough and, as if that weren’t a glassful, society is and will continue to suffer is something isn’t done about it.

Three hit songs in the last few months have pushed the same message: You are awesome. You’re awesome just the way you are, even –no, especially– if you don’t fit in.

My take on the passage is that it refers to our meeting Christ in the air to welcome him to his earthly rule. If this is a “rapture”, fine, as long as it is not confused with the popular idea.

  • Rod has started what looks like a fascinating series on Firefly & Theology. (If you’re not familiar with Firefly, it was an outstanding scifi series on Fox that sadly only made it through one season, though it was later made into a movie.)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0226028569?ie=UTF8&tag=jescre-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0226028569

The king is dead! Long live death and destruction?

Aragorn, the king, has returned. Let the rejoicing begin! Victory is here!

But, suppose that the story unfolded a little differently. Rewind the tape a little. Go back to the part of the movie where Aragorn jumps off the ship—black cloak flapping in the wind, dark eyes fixed intently on the orc army, grim face promising death to all who stand in his way. The promises of the kingdom in his hands. The hope of all humanity on his shoulders.

And an arrow hits him right between the eyes.

Knocked back against the side of the ship, he slowly collapses to the ground in a bloody heap at the feet of his shocked companions.

The king is dead!

Without Aragorn, the ghost army has no reason remain. So, the ghosts all head back to their home under the mountain. There is no dramatic rescue of the humans trapped inside the city. The orcs win and the humans are all massacred.

No kingdom, no blessings, no shalom. Only shoah. The king is dead and all hope is lost.

Now, suppose that you’re the orc who shot the arrow.

I’m sure you really didn’t understand what you were doing. You’re an orc. So it’s not like you’re all that smart. You saw some dingy-looking guy dressed in black and holding a pretty wicked looking sword. He scared you a little. You’d heard that he was supposed to be some great king who would restore peace and order throughout the land, but you didn’t buy it. You thought he was the enemy. So, you killed him.

You killed the king.

You killed the only hope for the world.

Oops.

And, that’s exactly what happened in our story. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter had to stand up in front of an entire crowd of people and deliver some bad news. The Promised One returned. He came with all of the blessings of the kingdom: life, Spirit, peace, forgiveness, purity, new creation, healing—shalom. After so many long centuries of waiting, after all the uncertainty and doubt, after so many false hopes and broken dreams, the King came to restore the kingdom.

And you killed him.

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. (Acts 2:36)

The King came, and you killed him. The hope of the world, nailed to a cross.

Now what do we do?

[You can read the rest of the posts in this series on the Gospel book page.]

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A prayer for Sunday from St. Anselm

Lord Jesus Christ; Let me seek you by desiring you,
and let me desire you by seeking you;
let me find you by loving you,
and love you in finding you.

I confess, Lord, with thanksgiving,
that you have made me in your image,
so that I can remember you, think of you, and love you.

But that image is so worn and blotted out by faults,
and darkened by the smoke of sin,
that it cannot do that for which it was made,
unless you renew and refashion it.

Lord, I am not trying to make my way to your height,
for my understanding is in no way equal to that,
but I do desire to understand a little of your truth
which my heart already believes and loves.

I do not seek to understand so that I can believe,
but I believe so that I may understand;
and what is more,
I believe that unless I do believe, I shall not understand.

Lord Jesus Christ; Let me seek you by desiring you,
and let me desire you by seeking you;
let me find you by loving you,
and love you in finding you.

I confess, Lord, with thanksgiving,
that you have made me in your image,
so that I can remember you, think of you, and love you.

But that image is so worn and blotted out by faults,
and darkened by the smoke of sin,
that it cannot do that for which it was made,
unless you renew and refashion it.

Lord, I am not trying to make my way to your height,
for my understanding is in no way equal to that,
but I do desire to understand a little of your truth
which my heart already believes and loves.

I do not seek to understand so that I can believe,
but I believe so that I may understand;
and what is more,
I believe that unless I do believe, I shall not understand.

Lord Jesus Christ; Let me seek you by desiring you,
and let me desire you by seeking you;
let me find you by loving you,
and love you in finding you.

I confess, Lord, with thanksgiving,
that you have made me in your image,
so that I can remember you, think of you, and love you.

But that image is so worn and blotted out by faults,
and darkened by the smoke of sin,
that it cannot do that for which it was made,
unless you renew and refashion it.

Lord, I am not trying to make my way to your height,
for my understanding is in no way equal to that,
but I do desire to understand a little of your truth
which my heart already believes and loves.

I do not seek to understand so that I can believe,
but I believe so that I may understand;
and what is more,
I believe that unless I do believe, I shall not understand.

Jonathan Edwards on commonsense as a failure of the imagination

Americans have a long history of touting commonsense as providing a solid foundation for sure knowledge of the world. We’re often skeptical of those whose ideas sound too “theoretical” or “abstract,” and we scoff at people who posit ideas that seem radically contrary to the world as we experience it.

This attitude often displays itself most clearly in how people react to scientific theories. People laugh at the idea that the universe could be made of “strings,” because obviously we don’t experience reality that way. And, many mock the idea of global warming because it happened to be colder in their part of the world the last couple of years. Now, I’m not trying to start an argument about whether these theories, and others, are right. My only point is to comment on how many people use commonsense experience to reject or “refute” more abstract ideas.

For Edwards, this suggests a complete lack of imagination.

I’ve been re-reading Marsden’s Jonathan Edwards: A Life, and this section stood out to me the other day. The specific context has to do with Edward’s philosophical idealism and how contrary to commonsense it is to suggest that the “physical” is not what is ultimately real. But, Marsden goes on to point out that the same imaginative openness to new ideas also characterized Edwards’ approach to scientific developments.

The problem with thinking that commonsense experience was ultimate, he was convinced, was a failure of imagination….’Imagination’ at the time meant literally the faculty by which one forms images of things. The case of prejudices, said Edwards, was that people get so used to perceiving things in common ways that they ‘make what they can actually perceive by their senses, or by immediate and outside reflection into their own souls, the standard of possibility or impossibility; so that there must be no body, forsooth, bigger than they can conceive of, or less than they can see with their eyes; nor motion either much swifter or slower than they can imagine.” (Marsden, Jonathan Edwards, 80)

This isn’t to say that Edwards rejected commonsense. In most situations, commonsense is a fine guide to understanding the world. But, Edwards point is that our perspective is inherently limited. So, if we insist on judging the world on the basis of our own limited experiences, we will necessarily be prejudiced against much larger truths. And, Christians in particular should be able to look beyond our limited horizons and imagine possibilities that border on the absurd.

Get behind me Satan, wait your turn

Apparently this quote has been around a bit longer than I thought.

From The Argyle Sweater (HT Daniel Thompson via Facebook)

Saturday morning fun – bowling with cats

Learning to argue…from Monty Python

I spend a fair amount of time helping students craft better arguments – i.e., helping them write strong thesis statements, develop a clear flow of thought, make sure points are well-connected, etc. But, I’m done with all that now. Instead, I’m just going to point them to this Monty Python clip. What more could you possibly need to know about skillful argumentation?

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teMlv3ripSM

I am the master of my fate…or not

“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

What a crock.

I can’t even control whether I get to work on time. Just think about all the little things that have to go just right for me to make it on time. At the very least, my alarm clock has to go off, neither of the girls can have an early morning crisis, the car has to start, everyone else has to successfully avoid crashing into me (or each other) on the way there, and countless other details. It’s scary at times to consider how little control we have over the most mundane aspects of life.

Master of my fate? I can’t even get the cat who lives in my house to do what I want.

And, I’m certainly no master of anything bigger than me. I’ve tried commanding the wind a couple of times. Wind can be quite annoying—especially if you’re sitting next to a campfire and it insists on guiding the smoke directly into your eyes regardless of where your eyes are actually located. So, I’ve tried forcing it to stop. It doesn’t work. Sadly, even if I hold up my hand and yell “Stop!” in a really commanding voice—and I can do a pretty good commanding voice when I want—nothing happens. It just ignores me. I’m pretty sure it’s really laughing and insulting me in its deviously soft wind-language. And, if you’re curious, using the force doesn’t help either. Wind is impervious to Jedi mind tricks.

A master of the universe I clearly am not.

Jesus is.

“Peace! Be still!” Just a few simple words. And yet, when they sailed from Jesus’ mouth, the universe listened—the wind slept, the waves relaxed, the raging storm ceased. Before the voice of the master, the cosmos bowed.

And the disciples were terrified. Until now, they still had not really understood who they were dealing with. Sure, they thought he was the Messiah. But this? This is something else entirely. This is someone who commands creation itself.

What’s going on here? Is Jesus just showing off so the disciples will get a clue and start to realize who he actually is? Maybe a little. But, there’s definitely more to it than that. This is the Promised One, the One who will restore God’s creation so that it again serves as the theater of his glory. This is the One who will pour the Spirit out on all creation so that it again pulses with life, sheltering and nourishing his people. This is the One with the power and authority to make everything the way it was supposed to be.

This is the voice of the master calling forth shalom.