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Flotsam and jetsam (1/28)

too bright

Good Reads

  • How to Deal with an ‘Over-Talker’ in Your Group: Bible study groups are composed of all types of people. Some are extroverts. Some are introverts. Some are long-time Christians. Some are new disciples. Some may be seekers. Some rarely talk in the group. And then there are those who like to talk — a lot.
  • 7 Ways Thomas Merton Changed the World: Is it a stretch to say that the Trappist monk and spiritual master Thomas Merton, who died in 1968 but whose 100th birthday we celebrate this week, changed the world? Perhaps. But he surely changed people’s lives, and if that’s not enough to change the world, I’m not sure what is. With God’s grace, he did the following. (OnFaith)

Flotsam and jetsam (1/26)


Good Reads

  • William Willimon’s “The Culture is Overrated”: It is a strange assumption for Americans to feel they already have the equipment necessary to comprehend the gospel without any modification of lifestyle, without any struggle—in short, without being born again. The point is not to speak to the culture. The point is to change it. God’s appointed means of producing change is called “church”; and God’s typical way of producing church is called “preaching.”
  • 4 Reasons to Stop Obsessing about Heaven: What happens when people die? Their bodies and souls are unnaturally torn apart; their bodies stay here while their souls go to either heaven or hell. Praise God that those who die in Christ go to heaven, but never forget that this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. The only reason anyone ever goes to heaven is because of sin. (Gospel Coalition)
  • Why Hollywood’s best directors are ditching movies for the internet: And while there’s still some debate about whether the new “golden age of television” is killing Hollywood, coming to an end, or really existed in the first place, one fact cannot be disputed: Artists are coming to TV and the internet for the creative freedom they offer. (The Week)

Flotsam and jetsam (1/21)

 phone checking

Good Reads

  • 7 Reasons to Teach Our Children Church History: By no means should church history supplant teaching your family the Bible. Family worship and God’s Word must come first in your home. But the benefits of teaching them something about the key figures and movements from the rich heritage of the church are myriad. (Gospel Coalition)
  • 4 Kinds of Fake Faith and How to Spot Them: Fake watches are tempting to buy, but so is fake faith. Fake faith is a faith that has elements of the real deal but that falls woefully short, lets us down in the long run, and denies the reality of our relationship with God. Like my friend’s watch, a fake faith doesn’t stand the test of time. (Transformed)
  • Mummy Mask May Reveal Oldest Known Gospel: A text that may be the oldest copy of a gospel known to exist — a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that was written during the first century, before the year 90 — is set to be published. (Live Science)
  • Making Christianity Weird Again: if young people are given the choice between unbelief and a faith that puts a light God gloss on the same consumerism and materialism that everybody else lives with, then who can blame young people for rejecting it? Because that is not historic Christianity. The real thing is wild, and weird; it is not a set of ideas, but a way of life. (Rod Dreher)

Flotsam and jetsam (1/19)

Good Reads

  • Who Falls for Conspiracy Theories? So if you’re convinced that the world’s solutions could be easily solved if everyone simply fell in line with your self-evidently correct beliefs, it’s a puzzle as to why this doesn’t simply happen. Many people, it seems, conclude that the most likely answer involves a massive conspiracy of some sort. (The Week)
  • What We Talk About When We Talk about Race in Pop Culture: But I have to first listen. I need others to help me know when I am unwittingly offensive, when I think I know what it means to be a “real” black person or to live life in another’s skin. I don’t know what it’s like to be stereotyped for having dark skin, or to have people think I’m an ish because of upward mobility. (Christianity Today)
  • 5 Simple Ways to Teach Your Children Theology: How can you weave theological teaching into their daily lives, without necessarily setting them down for an in-depth family sermon (though there is nothing inherently wrong with that)? How can you impart good theology into the lives of your children, without possessing a theological degree (though hopefully there is nothing inherently wrong with that)? (The Wardrobe Door)
  • From Seminary to the Cemetery, Fascination Persists Over Pets and the Afterlife: Questions about the religious status of animals have always been with us; popular theology refuses to deny animals their souls. Our sense of spiritual kinship is already latent in the bootees and little sweaters we buy our pets, and the sidewalk baby talk with which we embarrass ourselves, and perhaps them. Consider how we treat our pets in death. (New York  Times)

Flotsam and jetsam (1/14)


Good Reads

  • Disparity in news coverage: As many as 2,000 dead in Nigeria, but France dominates front pages: Terror attacks in France carried out by militants claiming allegiance to al-Qaida and Islamic State extremists dominate the world’s front pages. On the other hand, the Muslim militant group Boko Haram’s slaughter of as many as 2,000 Nigerians — its “deadliest act” yet, according to Amnesty International — generally settles for less-prime real estate inside newspapers. But why? (Get Religion)
  • No, the Internet Is Not Killing Culture: In some ways, creative people, broadly defined, are better off in the U.S. today than they have been throughout much of human history….Still, this contemporary outlook would have astonished the struggling writers of Gissing’s day, and reflects, in part, the spread of creative work in the current economy. (Slate)

My Unexpected Silence: A Personal Update

You may have noticed that things have been rather quiet around here lately. No, I haven’t forgotten how to type, been kidnapped by my students, or forgotten where I put my computer. But I did realize a few months ago that I needed to focus almost exclusively on some other writing projects if I wanted to come even close to meeting my deadlines. So I had to put my online writing on hold for a while. I hope that’s coming to an end soon, though I’m still not done with my other projects. So we’ll see how it goes.

dog computer

If you’re curious, the biggest and most time-consuming piece has been trying to finish up a book on theological anthropology for Zondervan. The focus of the books is how theologians have used Christology to inform their understanding of the human person. So it’s really a series of case studies, with each chapter looking at a major theologian to see how they’ve done anthropology from a christological perpective, focusing on how the interaction shaped their approach to a particular anthropological issue.

  • Gregory of Nyssa (gender and sexuality)
  • Julian of Norwich (suffering)
  • Luther (vocation)
  • Schleiermacher (ethics)
  • Barth (body/soul)
  • John Zizioulas (personhood)
  • James Cone (race)

Needless to say, that’s kept me a little busy. The Julian chapter in particular consumed a lot of time since that was a new area of research for me. Well worth it, though.

I’m also writing a piece on Jonathan Edwards’ ontology and how it impacts his understanding of the resurrection. That should be fun.

So I’m still alive and writing, but largely offline. We’ll see if I can change that soon.

Flotsam and jetsam (1/12)


Good Reads

  • 5 Reasons Not to Use Gender-Based Jokes from the Pulpit: If you’re in Christian leadership, and you find yourself with a microphone in hand in front of a room full of people waiting on your every word, do everything you can to avoid using stereotypical gender jokes. (Rob Dixon)
  • Scientists Seek Religious Experience—In Subjects’ Brains: The researchers want to see more than religion’s registry on the brain. They want to know whether it differs across sects, or by intensity of belief. They want to see what genes it activates, what hormones it releases, and how it relates to social behaviors. Can the same basic circuitry produce Mother Teresa and the Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta? If so, how? (Los Angeles Times)

Flotsam and jetsam (1/5)

how worried

Good Reads

  • 15 Trends for Churches in 2015: At the beginning of every year, I attempt to present to you the major trends for congregations for the coming twelve months. I review my predictions from previous years to see how accurate I am. I have come to two conclusions. First, I am far from perfect in my predictions. Second, I do have a decent track record. (Thom Rainer)

Top 10 Posts of 2014


As usual, here’s a quick look at the most popular posts from the last year. I’m quite pleased that the post about depression topped the list, and I’m also glad that only of the posts was an infographic (Surprising Book Facts). It’s always annoying to reach the end of the year and realize that your most popular posts were random comics or infographics rather than that carefully crafted piece you wrote about that really important issue.

1. Breaking the Silence: When Christian Leaders Speak Openly about Depression

There is still a stigma around depression that silences many Christian voices and prevents them from letting anyone know about their painful, personal struggles. A stigma that destroys people by making them suffer alone.

2. We Won’t Solve Biblical Literacy with Bible Trivia

If you know the trivia, great. The devil isn’t in the details; it’s in the way that we sometimes use the details to neglect the story itself. Biblical literacy is far more than Bible trivia. And suggesting otherwise contributes to the problem, not the solution.

3. Become a Heretic for a While

I recently spent several hours trying to convince a class that Arius was right, the Son is not equal with the Father, and Athanasius blew it.

4. Surprising Book Facts

Just a random infographic.

5. Sometimes You Just Have to Land the Plane

I’d love to stay in the air cruising lazily through the atmosphere. But as much as I enjoy the time out, eventually you have to land. Clouds are nice, but life happens on the ground.

6. 6 Reasons Pastors Need Learning Communities

Although there’s tremendous value to independent learning, there are some inherent dangers as well. Dangers which suggest that we should supplement our independent learning with some good, old-fashioned group learning. In other words, pastors need learning communities too.

7. The Growth of Global Pentecostalism

My summary of one of the more interesting sessions from this year’s Wheaton Theology Conference.

8. Why Do We Read Fiction?

Why do we read fiction? I’m sure everyone has their own reasons. For Lewis, though, good fiction leads us out of ourselves and introduces us to worlds that we have not made, worlds that we cannot see on our own, the worlds that other people inhabit.

9. The Best Theology Books from the First Half of 2014

The title pretty much says it all.

10. Why Study Theological Anthropology?

So why study theological anthropology? Because what we think it means to be human shapes almost every aspect of our everyday lives and because we cannot understand humanity adequately unless that vision is rooted in theology. Is that enough?

Flotsam and Jetsam (12/29)


Good Reads

  • The Surprising Ways That Chickens Have Changed the World: For most of us, the word “chicken” spells a cold, clammy slab of plastic-wrapped white meat plucked out of the refrigerated section of our local supermarket. But in the ancient world, and in many cultures today, chickens had deep religious and social significance. (National Geographic)
  • Why Christmas Is Huge in China: The Western religious festival is so trendy, in fact, that it may be the second-most-celebrated festival in China after the Spring Festival among young Chinese. (The Atlantic)

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