Archive by Author

That Crazy Little Thing Called Church: A Review of Sojourners and Strangers

sojourners and strangersThere is no shortage of books on the market about the church. The shelves are lined with books about preaching, worship, social justice, leadership, and, of course, being missional. Every one of them focused on one or more tasks of the church.

But Gregg Allison argues that the conversation is missing something very important. Before we spend so much time talking about what the church should be doing, maybe we should reflect more on what the church is. And that’s precisely what he sets out to do in Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church (Crossway, 2012), an outstanding contribution to Crossway’s Foundations of Evangelical Theology series. If you’re looking for a good resource for understanding the nature of the church and its role in the world, this is one to check out.


Allison begins by identifying himself and his church background, well aware that these necessarily shape how he understands ecclesiology. And since Allison teaches theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, it shouldn’t come as any great surprise that his approach to ecclesiology is largely conservative (though his take on spiritual gifts and multisite churches might surprise some), Baptist, and what many would call “low church” (congregational and less sacramental). This necessarily shapes the way that Allison presents his view of the church and makes it exceptionally useful for understanding a Baptist ecclesiology. At the same time, though, Allison’s largely charitable summaries of other perspectives allows the book to be useful for a broader audience as well.

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Flotsam and jetsam (9/20)

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Good Reads

  • Professors’ Pet Peeves: I reached out to my network and collected some things that really get on instructors’ nerves.  Here are the results. (The Society Pages)
  • The Case Against High-School Sports: The United States routinely spends more tax dollars per high-school athlete than per high-school math student—unlike most countries worldwide. And we wonder why we lag in international education rankings? (The Atlantic)
  • The myth of lucrative college majors: If college is simply about maximizing future income, then I suppose it makes good sense to take stock of what careers are likely to pay after graduation when deciding on a major. Yet Christians should keep in mind that the calculus of the kingdom of God is distinct from that of the kingdom of this world. (Think Christian)

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A New Way to Keep Track of My Pictures and Infographics

pinterestUp to now, I have basically stayed away from Pinterest. But someone recently pointed out that I share a lot of pictures and infographics on this blog, and that Pinterest would actually be a great way of gathering all those images in one place so they can be more easily retrieved later.

So I gave it a shot and set up my new Pinterest account. I’ll be using this site both for images I’ve already shared on the blog and for pictures/infographics that I thought were interesting or funny (often both) but that just didn’t make it onto the blog. So the Pinterest account will have some new images along with the ones already posted here.

To begin, I’ve set my Pinterest account up with four boards:

  • Humor
  • Bible & Theology
  • Culture & Society
  • Life & Ministry

I went back and added some of the images I’ve used over the last year, though I didn’t even try to be comprehensive.  And I’ll continue adding new images as we go.

You don’t need a Pinterest account to access my new site. But if you are a Pinterest member, feel free to follow me there. And let me know so I can follow along with your pins as well.

Philosophy Is More Fun with Pictures

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. I happen to think they’re wrong, but I still think good illustrations are valuable for understanding difficult concepts. And philosophy is full of those.

So here are a couple of resources I ran across recently for learning (or teaching) philosophy. The first is the beautifully drawn An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments. You can read the whole book online, but here are a couple of examples.

Confusing Correlation with Causation

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Accidental Worship Heresies

mistake (200x300)aYou know that moment when the words leave your mouth and there’s nothing you can do to get them back? You’re not alone.

In a post over at The Village Church, Michael Bleeker shares what happened when he asked worship leaders to tweet stories of their “accidental worship heresies,” things they’ve either said or sang in a worship service that didn’t exactly come out the way they intended. And it’s an impressive list.

Among my personal favorites:

  • Misquoted Col. 3:16 as, “psalms, hymns and spiritual thongs” while officiating one of my best friend’s wedding. (I don’t even want to think about what a “spiritual thong” would be.)
  • “I thy great father and thou my true son,” during Be Thou My Vision. (For some reason, I don’t think the church has ever officially declared it a heresy to claim to be God’s father.)
  • “I’d rather have silver than Jesus or gold.” (Now that’s just silly. Who would rather have silver than gold?) Continue Reading…

Flotsam and jetsam (9/18)


Good Reads

  • Why a theologian can never retire: one of the frustrations of the job I have had is you are never sure that you have done it well. To be a theologian comes with a kind of ambiguity that means you are unsure whether what you have done is theology, not to mention whether it is theology done well. Nor can you ever be sure, even if you think you have done theology well, that is the end of the matter. To do theology well means you have a sense that you are never finished. (Stanley Hauerwas)
  • Can Faith Ever Be Rational? The implication seemed to be that faith cannot be based on reason and, perhaps, that faith can never be rational. But is this right? Might faith be rational under some conditions? Could faith be warranted as an attitude one should (sometimes) adopt in guiding actions and beliefs? (NPR)
  • Francis at the six-month mark seems a force of nature: A pope is expected to be the CEO of a global religious organization, a political heavyweight, an intellectual giant, and a media rock star, not to mention a living saint….Yet at his six-month mark, which falls today, Pope Francis is drawing better reviews on those five scores than anyone might reasonably have anticipated. (National Catholic Reporter)

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Evangelicalism and Its Pathologies

Everyone carries with them the seeds of their own destruction. Growing up, my parents warned us that our family DNA conveyed dangers like alcoholism, heart disease, and skin cancer. Regardless of whether these dangers came through genetics, family dynamics, or some combination of the two, I didn’t ask for them. Of course, I also received tremendous gifts from my heritage, too many to count. But today we’re focusing on the dark side. So let’s stay negative.

Movements, like individuals, carry their destruction with them as well: genetic traits embedded in their institutional DNA from the beginning, which, left unwatched or unchecked, will eventually lead them into their own pit of despair.

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Evangelicalism is no different. Like all movements, it received at its birth both tremendous strengths and potentially debilitating weaknesses. And its history has been marked by the highs of the former and the depressing lows of the latter.

I was reminded of this during a fascinating presentation by Tim Larsen, one of my new colleagues at Wheaton College. Larsen unpacked the history of evangelicalism and its pathologies in four simple stages, as history that, as he said in the presentation, is brought to you by the letter “D.”

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The 12 Kinds of Procrastinators

I am definitely a Sidetracker, though The Cleaner makes an appearance pretty regularly as well. (Click to embiggen.)

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Flotsam and jetsam (9/16)


Good Reads

  • Don’t Knock Beauty: If we lose our desire for beauty, it will only serve to diminish our desire for our beautiful God. The balance, I suppose, is learning to long for the beauty that matches his character and reflects his beauty. And then, once we find it, we give praise to the one who gives beauty to all that is beautiful.
  • Liberated from Ideological Captivity: Ideologies are dangerous. They carry power and distort thinking and vision. Racism, sexism and tribalism have no place in gospel-centric theopraxis.
  • Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy: The GYPSY needs a lot more from a career than a nice green lawn of prosperity and security. The fact is, a green lawn isn’t quite exceptional or unique enough for a GYPSY. Where the Baby Boomers wanted to live The American Dream, GYPSYs want to live Their Own Personal Dream.

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A Prayer for Sunday (Anne Bradstreet)

anne bradstreet Living in colonial America in the mid-17th century, Anne Bradstreet was a prominent poet and author, and she was the first woman to be published in the British colonies of North America. As we would expect from an author living in Puritan New England, her writings are full of theological themes and allusions. But she is also famous for stressing the value of women and the important role they play in society.

Anne Bradstreet died on September 16, 1672. In honor of her amazing life and ministry, this morning’s prayer comes from her.

As spring the winter does succeed,
And leaves the naked trees do dress,
The earth all black is clothed in green;
At sunshine each their joy express.
My sun’s returned with healing wings.
My soul and body do rejoice;
My heart exults and praises sings
To You who heard my wailing voice.
My winter’s past, my storms are gone,
And former clouds now seem all fled;
But, if they must eclipse again,
I’ll run where I was amply fed.
I have a shelter from the storm,
A shadow from the fainting heat;
I have access unto Your throne
You who are God so wondrous great.