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Flotsam and jetsam (10/17)


Good Reads

  • Did Jesus Save the Klingons?  I think at bottom most people have this idea that we humans are pretty special creatures and that God is paying attention to us….Suddenly if there are other beings out there, I think it changes completely the way we think about our place in the universe. I think it would be truly profound to know that. (Scientific American)
  • Why Not Just Hand the Sermons Over?  The controversy in Houston rages on, after City Hall subpoenaed sermons from pastors and churches on issues of sexuality and gender identity. The obvious violation of basic American principles of religious liberty and separation of church and state here have united even those who are opposed to one another on all sorts of other issues, including sexuality and gender. But there are some who wonder why not simply comply with the subpoenas and hand the sermons over? (Russell Moore)
  • Recognizing the Adult in the Mirror: Being an adult in America, even aspirationally, has more to do with being a self-governing citizen than with leaving the family nest. Casting off childhood comes in recognizing oneself as a responsible moral actor. Maybe looking around and noticing that “no one is in charge” is not a sign that there are no adults—but, instead, a sign that you are one. (The Hedgehog Review)
  • Why Kids Sext:  An inquiry into one recent scandal reveals how kids think about sexting—and what parents and police should do about it. (The Atlantic)

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What Is Literature Good For?

purebred english Bulldog in glasses and bookI have made no secret of the fact that I like good literature. (To be honest, I’m not terribly picky. I like a good story whether it qualifies as “literature” or not.) And I think there are good reasons that everyone should read fiction regularly. (See 6 Reasons You Should “Waste” Your Time Reading Fiction.) So I resonate deeply with this new video from The School of Life on what literature is good for.

The video highlight four benefits of good literature:

  1. It saves you time.
  2. It makes you nicer.
  3. It’s a cure for loneliness.
  4. It prepares you for failure.

And I think the video is correct on all four. But my favorite is the idea that literature saves you time. Rather worry about whether fiction as a waste of time, the video points out that there is no other way to “experience” the world from so many different perspectives and in so many different ways. It would take a lifetime to experience even a portion of what you can get through literature. We need to have some experiences of our own, of course, but we can expand that by having the kind of mediated experiences that literature offers.

If you’re still not convinced, check out the full video for yourself. It’s worth five minutes.

Flotsam and jetsam (10/13)

super bowl wins

Good Reads

  • Buy Experiences, Not Things: Over the past decade, an abundance of psychology research has shown that experiences bring people more happiness than do possessions. (The Atlantic)
  • Irrational Atheism: The idea that the atheist comes to her view of the world through rationality and argumentation, while the believer relies on arbitrary emotional commitments, is false. This accounts for the sense that atheists such as Christopher Hitchens or Dawkins are arrogant: Their line of thinking often takes the form of disqualifying others on the grounds that they are irrational. But the atheist too, is deciding to believe in conditions of irremediable uncertainty, not merely following out a proof. (The Atlantic)
  • The Diversity of Islam: Beware of generalizations about any faith because they sometimes amount to the religious equivalent of racial profiling. Hinduism contained both Gandhi and the fanatic who assassinated him. The Dalai Lama today is an extraordinary humanitarian, but the fifth Dalai Lama in 1660 ordered children massacred “like eggs smashed against rocks.” Christianity encompassed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and also the 13th century papal legate who in France ordered the massacre of 20,000 Cathar men, women and children for heresy, reportedly saying: Kill them all; God will know his own. (New York Times)

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Saturday Morning Fun…Shakespearean Insults We Should Be Using Today

I am now actively looking for an opportunity to use, “Your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after voyage.” Do you think any of my students would mind if I made that one of my “go to” comments when grading papers?

Flotsam and jetsam (10/10)


Good Reads

  • There’s Nothing Brave about Suicide:  If you are saying that it is dignified and brave for a cancer patient to kill themselves, what are you saying about cancer patients who don’t? What about a woman who fights to the end, survives for as long as she can, and withers away slowly, in agony, until her very last breath escapes her lungs?  Is that person not brave? Is that person not dignified? (Matt Walsh)
  • Why Philosophy Matters for Christians To many people, the mention of “philosophy” brings up an image of gray-haired intellectuals endlessly debating irrelevancies. There is some truth in this image, especially the part about the endless debate. But philosophy matters for Christians because many of the debates are about the “big questions” of human existence. (Vern Poythress)

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Imitating God in Christ

The concept of imitation has fallen on hard times in recent years, with many Christian thinkers expressing concerns about the implied legalism/moralism of trying to “live like David” or “be like Ruth.” Should we really respond to the difficulties of the Christian life by giving people ideal examples that we must strive to emulate? Where’s the grace?

9780830827107According to Jason Hood, though, the concept of imitation is a biblical one that we desperately need to rediscover today. In his Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern (IVP 2013), Hood offers a biblical theology of imitation, one that emphasizes both grace (the Christian life always begins with what God has done for us) and vocation (the Christian life is also one of human action expressed in response to God’s grace). And he does so in a way that is compelling, readable, and thorough. This is a terrific book for anyone wanting to think more deeply about what it means to imitate God as one of his image bearers in the world.

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Flotsam and jetsam (10/6)


Good Reads

  • In Facebook’s Courtroom:  In recent years, the Web’s continuous pageantry of outrage, judgment, and punishment has become an inescapable element of contemporary life. We all carry in our pockets a self-serious, hypercritical, omnipresent, never-ending, and unpredictable justice system. Pick up your phone and court is in session; put it down and it’s in recess. (The New Yorker)
  • On Being Right or Wrong: Rather than suggest that my colleague was wrong, I would assert that while both positions were logical and sought to be faithful to Scripture, I considered my view to offer a preferable interpretation that enjoyed the support of a preponderance of the evidence. In my mind that did not make his view wrong, only less probable. (John Walton)
  • The Saint John’s Bible: Back to the Future: Privacy, control, and choice are cherished values in the postmodern West. The problem is that the Bible not only warns us against those values when they encourage self-absorption and selective reading but also that scripture itself cannot be properly received when they are in the ascendancy. (Good Letters)
  • The shocking un-truth about church budgets:  How we go about being church in the world is changing radically. With that change, now more than ever, our whole life together in faith community is mission and ministry. (ABP News)

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Does Theology Have to Be Practical?

young boy stressed with workTeach theology long enough and you’ll face countless forms of the same basic question: What does this have to do with real life? Will it affect the way we do ministry, how we share the gospel, or what we do every day? How is it relevant to the problems and challenges the average person faces? You know, is it practical?

And the deep suspicion lying behind such questions is that most theology is rather impractical. Theologians spend all their time wrestling with things like how many angels can dance on the head of a pin and whether we should say that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son or from the Father alone. Unless we can explain why these things matter for the everyday lives of regular people, we should stop wasting our time and get on with more important issues.

I’ll admit that part of me resonates with such concerns. If we can’t explain why theology matters, we have a problem. And it should matter for everyday life. After all, that’s where we do all our living. So there’s a sense in which I want to say a hearty “Yes!” to the question of whether theology should be practical, but only if we carefully redefine what that means.

4 Reasons for Thinking that Theology Is “Practical”

[This is the beginning of my newest post over at Head over there to check it out, and let me know what you think.]

Top Posts of September

top fiveHere are the top five posts from the past month. And I’ve included one post that was actually written a while back and has recently resurfaced for some reason. Check out Women Who Gave Their Lives for the Church if you’re curious.

Flotsam and jetsam (10/1)


Good Reads

  • How Philosophy Makes You a Better Leader: The goal of most executive coaching and leadership development is behavior change—help the individual identify and change the behaviors that are getting in the way of, and reinforce the behaviors associated with, effective leadership.  But what about the beliefs and values that drive behavior? (Harvard Business Review)
  • 3 Ways to Avoid the “Children’s Church” Ditch: The issue of children in the worship service is a balancing act. The simplistic answers that sound so straightforward in seminary or at the coffee shop often get extremely complicated when there are actual people in the equation! What follows is my attempt–flawed though it may be–to be faithful to the clear Biblical teaching on our children as part of the worshiping community and the clear command to reach people with the Gospel in the specific contexts in which they live. (Christward Collective)
  • The Health Effects of Leaving Religion:  one way or another, a person’s faith, or lack thereof, is often so important that it affects physical, as well as spiritual, well-being. (The Atlantic)
  • Inside the Evolution of a Dead Language:  How can there be a word for “world wide web” in a language that died long before the Internet was invented? The answer is complicated, a bit geeky, and a lot of fun if you enjoy language games. (The Daily Dot)

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