Archive by Author

Flotsam and jetsam (8/22)

dark side cookies

Good Reads

  • Why We Never “Wait” for All the Facts Before We Speak: What wisdom is there in a silence that risks nothing for the oppressed and grants no opportunity for understanding? What wisdom is there in a call for “all the facts” while ignoring some basic and publicly available facts that give cause to lament? What wisdom is there in a silence that actually speaks volumes about its willingness to not even comfort the grieving? (Thabiti Anyabwile)
  • Four Unexpected Benefits of a Small Church: over the years I have been so grateful for our small church, and many of its unexpected benefits and opportunities are specifically related to its … smallness. (Leadership Journal)
  • Behind Ferguson: How Black and White Christians Think Differently About Race: With an increasing number of Christian writers arguing that a significant gap exists between black and white Christians, the latest findings from a significant ongoing study of religion and race in America offers some hard statistics—and suggest that polarization is increasing. (Christianity Today)
  • 5 Misunderstandings about Church Discipline: In the evangelical churches I have participated in during my adult life, there has always been a policy regarding church discipline, attempting to be true to the teaching of Jesus in this text. But a number of exegetical observations are often overlooked. (Craig Blomberg)

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Flotsam and jetsam (8/20)

rolling tacos

Good Reads

  • What Are Gospel Issues? All I am saying is that virtually any topic can be tied to the gospel in some way or another. If that is all we are doing, the argument “X is a gospel issue” is a well-nigh useless argument, because the claim could be advanced for almost any topic, irrespective of that to which X refers. (Don Carson)
  • Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds: We need to provide research and evidence-based knowledge to publishers on what kind of devices (iPad, Kindle, print) should be used for what kind of content; what kinds of texts are likely to be less hampered by being read digitally, and which might require the support of paper. (The Guardian)

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Flotsam and jetsam (8/18)

deadly water

Good Reads

  • While You Were Talking About Gungor, Driscoll, and Walsh: While the white evangelical twittersphere was debating whether Mark Driscoll should step down from his pastorship, members of the black twittersphere were guessing which picture of them the media would show if a white person or a cop gunned them down. This is the world we live in. (On Faith
  • When Prayer Makes Anxiety Worse: Several new studies show that praying might help alleviate worries—but only if the person has a secure relationship with God. (The Atlantic)
  • 13 Tell-Tale Signs of HR Problems in Your Parish: churches, which should be models of health and life, often are dismal places to work. And if they’re dismal places to work, you can bet that parishioners are feeling the effects, no matter how vibrant your parish may otherwise be. (Episcopal Cafe)
  • The Atrophy of the Evangelical Imagination: many Christians do not know how to receive art, they only know how to use it. Expressions of culture–whether through film, literature, television, or the fine arts–are typically seen as valuable only to the degree that they affirm Christian worldview or ethics. Those that don’t (which would be the vast majority) are labeled anathema. (Samuel James)

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Blaise Pascal (A Prayer for Sunday)

pascalOne of the most brilliant thinkers of his age, Blaise Pascal was a noted theologian, philosopher, writer, mathematician, and scientist. After undergoing an intense religious experience as an adult, Pascal became involved with the Jansenists, a movement within the Catholic church focused on promoting a robust form of Augustinianism, and wrote several influential theological works, including his famous Pensées.

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

O Lord, let me not henceforth desire health or life
…..except to spend them for thee and with thee.
Thou alone knowest what is good for me;
… therefore what seemeth thee best.

Give to me or take from me;
conform my will to thine;
and grant that, with humble and perfect submission,
…..and in holy confidence,
…..I may receive the orders of thine eternal providence;
and may equally adore all that comes to me from thee,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Flotsam and jetsam (8/15)


Good Reads

  • Ferguson and the Quest for Racial Justice:  These divisions and hatred are older than America, and are rooted in a satanic deception that tells us we ought to idolize “the flesh.” The gospel doesn’t just call us individually to repentance, but also congregationalizes that reconciliation in local bodies of persons who may have nothing else in common but the image of God, repentance of sin, and the redemption found in Jesus Christ. (Russell Moore)
  • The parenting police state: Will we ever be able to go back to freer childhoods? There’s a strong developmental case to be made for a return to free-range childhood. Letting children navigate the world outside their door (but not too far) on their own and with friends can foster a sprit of independence, teach social skills, promote an appreciation of nature, encourage creativity, and allow a healthy space to learn how to fail. (The Week)
  • 5 Ways to Be a Better Atheist:  Ironically, I truly want them to listen and improve. Why? Because I want every worldview to have good representation. It does me no good in my pursuit of truth to have my worldview challenged by an impotent and weakly opponent. (C. Michael Patton)

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You Must Resist Resistance

If there’s anything a student knows more about than just about anyone else, it’s how to come up with creative reasons not to do what you’re supposed to be doing. We’ll use anything: chores, family, the dog, analyzing the random movements of that fly over there. We’ll even do things we genuinely dislike just to avoid writing that paper or studying for that test. (I once spent an afternoon deep-cleaning our bathrooms instead of finishing a paper.) We now how to avoid.

impasse situation

That inner force almost compelling you to avoid your work is what Steven Pressfield calls “resistance” in his The War of Art. Although he’s talking about the kind of resistance that writers face and why they need to resist that resistance, it works for students too. If you want to succeed in your studies, resistance is something you need to conquer every day.

There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.

What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.” (The War of Art, preface)

Unfortunately, there are no easy ways to defeat resistance. You can learn lots of tricks or techniques, things that will remind you of the need to resist resistance, little devices for tracking your successes (and failures). And I find many of those quite helpful. In the end, though, it’s all about sitting down and getting to work.

Every day.

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The Best Theology Books from the First Half of 2014


According to the Englewood Review here are the 6 best theology books so far in 2014. And as usually happens to me when I read lists like this, I’m left with a bewildering sense of inadequacy as I realize how many good (and possibly important) books there are that I haven’t read! I’ve read a grand total of two out of the six that they list: Sarah Coakley’s God Sexuality and the Self: An Essay ‘On the Trinity’,  which I started to review in “The Death and Recover of Systematic Theology,” and The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches Are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community (IVP, 2014), which I may get around to commenting on sometime.

But a few of these weren’t on my radar at all (esp. Lohfink’s No Irrelvant Jesus and Kostamo’s Planted). They look interesting, but I’m going to need a little more convincing before they hit my must-read list. If anyone has read (or even heard about) these and wants to let us know what they think, that would be great. I’m always willing to be convinced that a book is worth reading.

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Flotsam and jetsam (8/11)


Good Reads

  • The Secret Rules of Adjective Order:  An intuitive code governs the way English speakers order adjectives. The rules come so naturally to us that we rarely learn about them in school, but over the past few decades language nerds have been monitoring modifiers, grouping them into categories, and straining to find logic in how people instinctively rank those categories. (Slate)
  • Losing religion at college? New study flips the common wisdom: In other words, a college degree used to mean people were more likely to lose religion. Now, some people are losing religion whether they went to college or not but it’s especially true for those who didn’t go to college. (Religion News Service)
  • 5 Myths You Still Might Believe about the Puritans (#5 Will Blow Your Mind!):   Many of us have grown up with an understanding of Puritans as those gloomy religious folk who found joy in making sure others had none. The tale of spoilsport Puritans continues to be told, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. Here are 5 myths about Puritans which you may still believe. (
  • The Squeeze on the Middlebrow: A Resurgence in Inequality and Its Effects on Culture:  Social inequality may be returning, but that doesn’t mean that the masterpieces will follow. The highbrows were co-opted or killed off by the middle, and the elitism they championed has been replaced by another kind, the kind that measures all value, cultural and otherwise, in money. It may be time to build a new ladder. (New York Times)

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On the Need to Write Something “New”

I am sure that this is true in many disciplines, but one of the challenges of doing research in Bible and theology is that it seems like all the good stuff has already been said. Every now and then someone comes along with a truly unique idea or way of approaching an issue, and they usually end up being the people we study for the next few decades. The rest of us? Not so much.

typewriter (500x332)

How do you write something “new” on topics that people have been studying for thousands of years? And should that even be our primary focus?

Maybe the issue isn’t whether your writing/research is new in the sense that you’re saying something no one has ever said before, which would raise some interesting questions of its own. Maybe the kind of newness that we should pursue is that fact that you’re the one saying it.

In her advice to writers, Anne Lamott has this to say about the issue:

“Mark Twain said that Adam was the only man who, when he said a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before. Life is like a recycling center, where all the concerns and dramas of humankind get recycled back and forth across the universe. But what you have to offer is your own sensibility, maybe your own sense of humor or insider pathos or meaning. All of us can sing the same song, and there will still be four billion different renditions.”  (Bird by Bird, 181)

Does your research offer anything “new”? It does, at the very least, because it’s your research, your writing, your perspective on whatever it is you are studying. That’s never been done before. Indeed, it can’t have been done before, because no one can do that except you.

[This is part of our Back to School: Tips from the Writers Guild series, focusing on things we can learn from professional authors about what it takes to thrive as a student in today's world.]

Flotsam and jetsam (8/8)


Good Reads

  • Advice to Young Scholars:   In the end, what matters is not winning approval or gaining celebrity. Your mission and vocation is to seek the truth and to speak the truth as God gives you to grasp it. (First Things)
  • Why I Accept Mark Driscoll’s Apology…And You Should Too:  When Christians have grown so bitter toward someone that we can’t even accept their apologies, something has gone seriously wrong. If Driscoll had ignored these comments, his critics would have excoriated him for his silence. But when he says he is sorry, they criticize him still. We must refuse to create lose-lose situations for each other where one is damned if they apologize and damned if they don’t. (Jonathan Merritt)
  • China Plans Its Own ‘Christian Theology’:  China says it may try to create a theology based on Christianity – that integrates the religion with Chinese culture and is compatible with the country’s socialist beliefs. (BBC)
  • Cultural Disintegration and the Revival of a Moral Imagination:  Such a conversion and revival of the moral imagination must begin with the church of Jesus Christ. As Peter reminds us, judgment always begins at the household of God. So what would such a revival of a robustly Christian moral imagination look like? (Canon and Culture)

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