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The Trajectory of Biblical Literacy

Bible3 (250x227) biblical literacyGeorge Lindbeck, longtime professor of theology at Yale Divinity School, once commented on the trajectory of biblical literacy during his decades-long teaching career. Phil Ryken, who attended the meeting, recently shared Lindbeck’s comment. According to him, Lindbeck lamented the fact that evangelical students at the end of his teaching career know less about the Bible than the non-Christian students he taught at the beginning of his career. That’s a remarkable transition in just one lifetime.

People often lament that today’s students just aren’t like they used to be. Apparently students in earlier generations wrote like Hemmingway, reasoned like Aristotle, read 1,000 pages an hour with total recall, and never complained about doing homework. I think they could also capture moonlight with their hands and weave it into magical cloaks that would let them fly to the stars. They were impressive beings.

Obviously I’m a little skeptical about some of the criticisms often leveled at today’s students. Nonetheless, it’s hard to argue with this one. The overwhelming consensus of those involved in biblical education, whether in the church or in academia, is that we have witnessed a monumental shift in biblical literacy in just a few decades.

People often say that the church is only one generation away from losing its commitment to the gospel and the Bible. Lindeck’s comment is a powerful reminder of how true that can be.

Flotsam and jetsam (8/23)


Good Reads

  • How to Keep the Faith on Campus: Those going off to college this time of year are in the midst of the most significant transition of their lives….Often overlooked in the transition to college are the spiritual and religious dimensions of the change. (Washington Post)
  • The Immortality Financiers: The Billionaires Who Want to Life Forever: Of all the things money can’t buy—love, happiness, time machines—immortality is one we sure pay a lot for. According to the market-research firm Global Industry Analysts, the anti-aging industry generates more than $80 billion per year. All this despite the fact that there are no proven ways of extending human lifespan. (The Daily Beast)
  • The lingering, devastating impact of bullying: Children who are bullied are more likely to have serious mental and physical health problems as adults and less likely to hold steady jobs or develop meaningful relationships with family and friends, according to a new study on the lingering effects of bullying. (The Week)

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Map Your Journey (Start Strong #4)

When I was a kid, my family went on lots of drives in the country. That was my dad’s way of getting away from the demands of life and relaxing for a while. Normally it worked.

On one memorable occasion, though, it didn’t. We got lost.

looking (550x354)

Five hours into a one-hour drive, it was pretty clear that we had a problem. We could probably have asked for directions, but apparently that violated some kind of man-code. So we just kept driving. And, to make matters worse, we got caught in a lightning storm. In the mountains. At night. Too young to know better, I thought it was pretty cool. It’s not every day that you get to see lightning up close like that.

Obviously we survived. But it would have been much easier and resulted in less emotional scarring if we had just mapped the journey from the beginning.

If you’re heading into a new school year, you need a good map. Without it, you’ll end up getting lost in the mountains and quite possibly fried by lightning like crispy bacon. (Great, now I’m hungry.)

Fortunately, it’s not difficult to avoid that unpleasant outcome. You just need to map your semester at the beginning of the term.

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That We Should be Called Children of God!

“Consider who we were, and who we are now; nay, and what we feel ourselves to be even when divine grace is powerful in us. And yet, beloved we are called “the sons of God‘. It is said that when one of the learned heathens was translating this, he stopped and said, ‘No; it cannot be; let it be written ‘Subjects’, not ‘Sons’, for it is impossible we should be called ‘the sons of God’.” What a high relationship is that of a son to his father! What privileges a son has from his father! What liberties a son may take with his father! and oh! what obedience the son owes to his father, and what love the father feels towards the son! But all that, and more than that, we now have through Christ. ‘Behold!’ ye angels! stop, ye seraphs! here is a thing more wonderful than heaven with its walls of jasper.”

~Charles Haddon Spurgeon in “Exposition of 1 John 3:1-10,” The Spurgeon Archive, (quoted in Ron Highfield, God, Freedom, and Human Dignity, p. 159)

Flotsam and jetsam (8/21)

you may be cool

Good Reads

  • The Pope’s Theology of Sin: True Christian mercy presupposes a strong moral order with clearly defined teachings on good and evil: It is not an open-ended, amorphous, free-floating concept; nor is it a prelude to changing moral doctrines rooted in eternal truth. (First Things)
  • A True Leader is an Aggressive Listener: What experience and maturity has taught me is it’s actually more valuable to have the right questions and an ability to listen and work collaboratively than it is to try to hold yourself out as the person with all of the answers. (Big Think)
  • How Your Biased Brain Makes You a Jerk Online (and How to Stop It): Haters gonna hate, and you can’t change them by learning why. Fortunately, you can use this understanding of our overactive biases to understand where the trolls and…get their steam. You can feel smarter for not engaging, know exactly why, and move on with your life. (Lifehacker)

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Can God Love You If He Doesn’t Need You?

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Did you know that it’s possible to destroy a relationship with just four simple words? Some longer sentence swill do the trick as well: “I’d like to have twenty-three children,” “I once dated my brother,” and “I like the new Star Wars movies better,” would all do the trick for me. But one simple sentence should suffice to kill any meaningful relationship:

I don’t need you.

Can you image what it would be like for me to find out that my wife doesn’t need me? Devastating. I certainly need her: not in the sense that I’m one of those needy, clingy people that everyone tries to avoid. (People certainly avoid me, just not for that.) I need her in the sense that she’s a part of me, I rely on her, without her, I’d be less.

If I found out she didn’t need me, I’d question our whole relationship. Can she truly love me if she doesn’t need me in any way? Wouldn’t that make me like some random person she passes on the street, someone who contributes nothing to her life? If she doesn’t need me, can she truly love me?

I think most of us would say no. Real love, deep love, lasting love, requires reciprocity. Both people need, both people risk. Otherwise, one of you isn’t in the game.

But here’s the problem: God doesn’t need us.  Continue Reading…

Read the Contract Before You Sign (Start Strong #3)

You’d think that only an idiot would agree to a contract without reading it. But students do it all the time.

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My wife and I recently purchased a house. If you’ve ever done that, you know they make you sign an insane number of documents in the process. And, like most people, we didn’t read them. Sure I skimmed a few to make it look like I meant business, but for the the most part, I simply scrawled my name at the bottom and hoped I hadn’t just agreed to trade my youngest child for a worn-out llama.

I’m sure it’s no problem, after all, they’re standard contracts that everyone signs when they buy a house–which, of course, is just another form of the “But everyone’s doing it” defense. But still, I’ve just agreed to something and I don’t know what. That can’t be a good idea.

But every semester I see students do the same thing. They sign up for a class and launch into the semester without reading the contract. Then they get frustrated when their grades don’t turn out the way that they expect. If you don’t bother to read the contract, you shouldn’t be surprised when things don’t work out the way you expect.

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Flotsam and jetsam (8/19)

answering questions

Good Reads

  • Why We Talk in Tongues: Last month I was in Accra, Ghana, to learn more about the African version of the new charismatic Christian churches that have become so popular in the United States and are now proliferating in sub-Saharan Africa….What struck me was how much people spoke in tongues: language-like sounds…thought by those who use them to be a language God knows but the speaker does not. (New York Times)
  • Six Ideas on How to Lead Congregations to Integrate Work and Discipleship: Most Christians do not have a theological framework that accommodates the integration of faith and vocation. Many are even hostile to the idea. They are more comfortable with a life that is not integrated, compartmentalizing work and discipleship. Any attempts at integration feel like intrusions into their private lives. (The High Calling)
  • Before You Hit Send, Read This: While email can sometimes be a quick and convenient way to gauge interest or disseminate information, it’s often not the best tool for the job, he said. About 20% of the time, we’re using email correctly – leveraging it to communicate across time zones or answer a well-defined question. But 80% of email traffic is “waste,”…stuff that’s useless or really requires a phone call or face-to-face discussion. (The Wall Street Journal)

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A Prayer for Sunday (Blaise Pascal)

blaise pascalA famous theologian, philosopher, mathematician, inventor, and writer, Blaise Pascal was a polymath who explored virtually every aspect of human life. But he is probably best known among Christians for his Pensées, a defense of Christianity, and his famous wager on the existence of God.

Pascal died on August 19, 1662. In honor of his amazing life and ministry, this Sunday’s prayer comes from him.

Perfect, O my God, the good impulses that thou givest me. Be their end as thou art their principle. Crown thy own gifts, for I recognize that they are from thee. Yes, my God, and far from pretending that my prayers may have some merit that forces thee to accord them of necessity, I humbly acknowledge that, having given to created things my heart, which thou hadst formed only for thyself, and not for the world, nor for myself, I can expect no grace except from thy mercy, since I have nothing in me that can oblige thee to it, and since all the natural impulses of my heart, whether tending towards created things, or towards myself, can only irritate thee. I, therefore, render thee thanks, my God, for the good impulses which thou givest me, and for the very one that thou hast given me to render thanks for them.

Saturday Morning Fun…What Are People Looking For?

search (300x300)Every now and then it’s fun to check out the “search terms” that led people to this blog. Some are encouraging, some discouraging, some funny, and some just confusing. Here are some of my favorites among the most popular search terms that led people here.

At least some of the search terms make sense and lead me to believe that some people who find there way here might actually be happy with the results: Thomas Aquinas, religion, god, thinking, Karl Barth, theology, etc. These are encouraging signs.

Others searches, though, make me laugh, wonder, and cringe:

  • “great porn,” “powerful sex video,” and other porn related searches. I should have known that writing posts like this would result in lots of unexpected traffic. I suppose it’s too much to hope that they worked through the disappointment and actually read the post.
  • tırnak işareti – I don’t even know what this means, but lots of people are looking for it.
  • “confused” – I don’t know why, but it makes me happy to know that lots of people who search for “confused” end up on this blog.

I could keep going. But those were some of the more common search terms that made me smile. I hope they did the same for you.