Archive by Author

Flotsam and jetsam (4/17)

Good Reads

  • Religious women press for change: Mormon women cannot be priests. Catholic women cannot be priests. Muslim women cannot lead prayers in mixed-gender congregations. Jewish women are restricted in praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. But Mormons have the “Let Women Pray” campaign. Catholics have the “Women’s Ordination Conference.” Muslims have “Muslims for Progressive Values.” Jews have “Women of the Wall.” What is going on here?
  • The Real Value of a College Education: Christians might thoughtfully reconsider the utilitarian language used describing the value of education today. A college degree isn’t only to be equated with job preparation and salary potential, and the value of college is far greater than the sum of a student’s potential earnings.
  • A New Wave of Complementarianism: There’s a new wave of complementarianism stirring. It’s not made up of true egalitarians, though those in this new movement respect many egalitarian concerns.

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Flotsam and jetsam (4/15)

Good Reads

  • For Evangelicals, a Shift in Views on Immigration: The shift among evangelical Christians could have a powerful effect on the fight in Washington, as Republican lawmakers, including many who have opposed any amnesty for illegal immigrants, look to see how much they can support measures to bring those immigrants into the legal system without alienating conservative voters.
  • The Sorry State of the Apology: Though the word apology, as we know it, does not exist in the New Testament, an absence of the specific word does not indicate an absence of the concept. Scripture provides lessons for how to do this well and demonstrates that there is more to making an apology than what a press conference can provide.
  • A Non-Calivinist, Relational View of God’s Sovereignty : My own view of God’s sovereignty is what I call “relational.” I believe in God’s “relational sovereignty.” What I want to do here, today, is explain what I mean by that and invite you to consider it as an alternative to the view of God’s sovereignty currently enjoying great popularity—the Augustinian-Calvinist view that I call, for lack of any more descriptive term, “divine determinism.”

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A Prayer for Sunday (Philipp Melancthon)

Philipp Melancthon was one of the German Reformers who worked alongside Martin Luther in Wittenberg. Though he served with Luther for many years and played an influential role in liturgical, educational, and theological reforms, he is best known as being one of the first Protestant theologians to develop a systematic account of their theological convictions. Two of his works, the Loci Communes and the Augsburg Confession, are generally regarded as among the most significant writings of the early Reformation, shaping the Lutheran tradition and influencing many others.

Melancthon died on April 19, 1560. So this Sunday’s prayer comes from him in honor of his many years of fruitful ministry.

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Saturday Morning Fun…Vatican City Explained

Flotsam and jetsam (4/12)

Good Reads

  • Change or Die: Church is being reinvented. So are technology and education. And all for the same reasons.

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How Our Lazy Brains Make Us Dodge Hard Questions

Tests would much easier if teachers would allow us to replace hard questions with easier ones. What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?  That’s a tough one, and it would take way too much mental energy to work it out. So I think I’ll tell you what my favorite color is instead. Guaranteed A+.

We may not be able to do that on exams, but we do it in real life all the time, usually without even noticing.

According to David Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, we have a built-in tendency to dodge hard questions by answering easier ones instead. For example, I was just asked to vote on a local school levy. That’s a trickier vote than it looks. To answer well, I’d need to know whether our schools need more money than they currently receive and whether the projects they would like to fund with the new levy are worthwhile. And I have relatively little information about either of those issues. But I voted “yes” to the levy without even a moment of reflection. How could I possibly arrive at a such a confident answer to these difficult questions so quickly? According to Kahneman, there’s a pretty good chance that I unconsciously substituted a far easier question: Do I support my wife (who happens to be a teacher)? That’s easy! And our lazy brains like easy questions.

So I check “yes” on the ballot because I’ve answered “yes” to the question of whether I support my wife rather than the more difficult question of whether I support the levy. Those are completely different questions, of course, but my brain doesn’t mind. It likes easy questions.

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Flotsam and jetsam (4/10)

Good Reads

  • Why Playing Outdoors Makes Children Smarter: It is through unstructured, open-ended creative play that children learn the ways of the world. While playing outside, children explore with all their senses, they witness new life, they create imaginary worlds and they negotiate with each other to create a playful environment.
  • Snap Judgments: Our Societal Obsession With Taking Pictures: The danger of using photos as markers is that images appeal to our vanity. We become quickly obsessed with accumulating experiences, capturing them in photos, and publicly displaying our photos as trophies. If we aren’t careful, our Facebook pages and blogs can become trophy cases of our own accomplishments.
  • Why Mentoring Matters: To be clear, I am not opposed to programs. Well-designed and well-implemented programs can be an effective step in disciplemaking.  My concern is that programmatic discipleship built solely around small groups and directed studies misses the most obvious New Testament means of disciplemaking: one-to-one mentoring.

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Shut Up and Worship

Walking out of a movie once, I started discussing the movie with a friend, raising questions about some its themes and a few inconsistencies in the plot. After a few minutes, one of my other friends got rather annoyed and asked why we had to analyze everything. Couldn’t we just enjoy the movie?

At first I found his response confusing. For me, understanding the movie was part of the experience. You enjoy a movie both by watching it and by trying to understand what you’ve just seen. That’s why I’ve always thought the traditional “dinner and a movie” night was backwards. It’s more fun when you have dinner afterward so you have time to discuss the movie.

worship serenity peaceful creation

Over the years, though, I’ve come to realize that many people are more like my friend. For them, things like movies and TV shows are just meant to be experienced. And analytic reflection interferes with the experience. It’s like watching the sun setting over the ocean, casting its amber rays over the slowly darkening waves. Talking ruins the experience. Shut up and enjoy.

And I often find this same mindset when it comes to worship. Many get frustrated if you press on the lyrics of the songs, asking questions about what they’re saying (or not saying), digging into the song’s implicit theology. For them, that kind of analysis is antithetical to the experience of worship. You’re being too critical, too picky. Shut up and worship.

No one says that, of course, but they’re thinking it.

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Flotsam and jetsam (4/8)

HT James McGrath

Good Reads

  • Quitting Religion, But Not the Practice of Prayer: As more and more people pull away from institutional religion, do public expressions of prayer have any real meaning in the wider world? Do they connect in any significant way to private, personal expressions of prayer? Does prayer matter at all? A majority of Americans still answer ‘yes’ to those questions.
  • The Rise of Evangélicos: Latino evangelicals are one of the fastest growing segments of America’s churchgoing millions. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, more than two-thirds of the 52-million-plus Latinos in the US are Catholic; by 2030, that percentage could be closer to half, and many are joining evangelical Protestant ranks.
  • Who Speaks for Complementarian Christians? As a complementarian….it’s a fair question to ask: Who am I taking my theological cues from? If the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood doesn’t speak for me, then who does?

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A Prayer for Sunday (Isidore of Seville)

Saint Isidore of Seville was a Christian leader in Spain during the important transitional period between the classical era of the Roman empire and the early Middle Ages. He played a key role in converting the Visigoth rulers of Spain from Arianism to Nicene Christianity. But he is probably best known for his Etymologiae, an early attempt to compile an encyclopedia of Christian thought.

Isidore died on April 4, 636 after more than 30 years as the Archbishop of Seville. In honor of his ministry, today’s prayer comes from him.

Here we are before thee, O Holy Ghost.
We feel the burden of our infirmities,
but we are united all together in Thy name:
come to us, help us, enter into our hearts:
teach us what we should do,
the path to follow,
do for us what Thou askest us to do.
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