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Flotsam and jetsam (2/25)

it professional

Good Reads

  • Christian Persecution Has Never Been Worse: Last year—2014—will go down in history as having the highest level of global persecution of Christians in the modern era. The worst thing, though, is conditions suggest this is only going to worsen around the world in many areas where Christians face a lot of persecution. (Relevant)
  • Religion’s Role in the History of Ideas: In this intellectual history class, we talk about sexuality and identity, violence and revolution, art and obscenity, and the students are generally eager to weigh in. But when the topic of religious feeling and experience comes up, they would obviously just prefer that I move on to another subject. (Wall Street Journal)
  • How TV Made Christianity Radical Again: “The Americans,” along with the History Channel’s “Vikings,” has done something that almost nothing else in pop culture dares to attempt: It depicts Christianity as a seismic force, something capable of producing profound transformation in both individuals and society. (Washington Post)
  • When Your Faith for Fishing Is Small: How is your faith for evangelism? Too frequently mine is too small. I hate that sin of unbelief and having just spent a few days with some joyful, bold, fruitful evangelists, I am freshly encouraged to fight it. (Desiring God)

Flotsam and jetsam (2/23)

dog heaven

Good Reads

  • Does the MOOC spell the end for universities? What this suggests is that people want and expect something rather more than a purely virtual, entirely electronic experience of university. They expect it to be a place. Indeed, the last two hundred years, which have seen the foundation, consolidation, and expansion of hundreds of new campuses in England alone, have only served to reinforce the sense that a university is somewhere as well as something. A disembodied, displaced university does not quite do the job.(Oxford University Press blog)
  • Debunking 5 Myths about Social Justice: From abolishing modern day slavery to ending extreme poverty to confronting urban poverty, social justice often dominates conversations about faith. Some say justice waters down faith while others say faith without justice is dead. Amidst all the fanfare, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, confused, and even jaded. (OnFaith)
  • Fifteen Reasons Our Churches Are Less Evangelistic Today: By almost any metric, the churches in our nation are much less evangelistic today than they were in the recent past. In my own denomination, we are reaching non-Christians only half as effectively as we were 50 years ago (we measure membership to annual baptisms). The trend is disturbing. (Thom Rainer)

Flotsam and jetsam (2/18)

NVVPyOm

Good Reads

  • 12 Fiction Books That Will Shape Your Theology: When we think about the role of reading in our spiritual formation, we generally think of non-fiction books that help us understand scripture and theology, but fiction powerfully shapes the ways in which we think faithfully about God and the world. Here is some of the best fiction that has been most formative in my own theology. (Relevant)
  • Dear Student: No, I Won’t Change the Grade You Deserve: plenty of professors have told me that when many of their students get to college, they lug into the classroom a sense of academic entitlement—a belief that their papers and exams should be graded on how hard they’ve worked, not how well they’ve mastered the material. When they don’t receive the grades they think they deserve, many take the matter up with the graders. (Vitae)

Flotsam and jetsam (2/11)

19knJwF

Good Reads

  • You Cannot Serve Both God and Theology: Money is a tangible, countable, often visible god. Theology, on the other hand — if it is cut off from truly knowing and enjoying God himself — can be a soothing, subtle, superficially spiritual god. Both are deadly, but one lulls us into a proud, intellectual, and purely cosmetic confidence and rest before God. Theology will kill you if it does not kindle a deep and abiding love for the God of the Bible, and if it does not inspire a desire for his glory, and not ultimately our own. (Desiring God)
  • How Christianity’s Eastern history has been forgotten: Christians were active in what is now Iraq and Iran by the 2nd Century. They were in India and the north of the Arabian Peninsula by the 3rd Century. By the 7th Century there were monks and scholars from Iraq working in China, translating texts and ideas into Chinese and building Chinese-style churches and monasteries. (Rowan Williams)
  • 9 Ways to Find a Movie’s Worldview of Redemption: Screenwriter and reviewer Brian Godawa (who wrote the screenplay for the excellent film, To End All Wars) suggests what to look for in order to understand a movie’s vision of redemption, which is a key part of its worldview. (Justin Taylor)

Flotsam and jetsam (2/9)

S2IBJ9i

Good Reads

  • Why the Secular Age Is Good for the Church: I suspect that many churches are actually contributing to their own decline by attempting to remain relevant to the culture of rampant individualism and materialism. Many churches, on both the congregational and denominational levels, have accidentally outsourced their significance; their stated purposes and conversations are so broad that people are increasingly realizing that they don’t have to wake up early on Sunday mornings to create community, sense the sacred, work for justice, and make meaning. (On Faith)
  • Americans Are Fleeing Religion and Republicans Are to Blame: Sociologists Michael Hout and Claude Fischer…argue that the retreat from religious affiliation is, essentially, a retreat from the political right. Religion has become strongly associated with conservative politics, so left-leaning people are choosing, instead, to identify as “spiritual but not religious.” (Pacific Standard)
  • The Girl in the Tuxedo: Two Variations on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: This is an arduous and painful journey, with many risks and harms, irremediable loss and regret among them. But it is considered worth these risks and pain. She is, after all, only fifteen, and it would be unfair at such an age to limit the horizon of her possible identity paths and the options available to her. All except one option, that is. (Public Discourse)
  • Inventing the Crusades: On September 11, 2001, there were only a few professional historians of the Crusades in America. I was the one who was not retired. As a result, my phone began ringing and didn’t stop for years. In the hundreds of interviews I have given since that terrible day, the most common question has been, “How did the Crusades lead to the terrorist attacks against the West today?” I always answered: “They did not. The Crusades were a medieval phenomenon with no connection to modern Islamist terrorism.” That answer has never gone over well. (First Things)

Flotsam and jetsam (2/4)

QWrsmE5

Good Reads

  • Why Teens Are Impulsive, Addiction-Prone And Should Protect Their Brains: Teens can’t control impulses and make rapid, smart decisions like adults can — but why? Research into how the human brain develops helps explain. In a teenager, the frontal lobe of the brain, which controls decision-making, is built but not fully insulated — so signals move slowly. (NPR)
  • The Return of Anti-Semitism: Seventy years after the liberation of Auschwitz, violence and hatred against Jews is on the rise, especially in the Middle East and among Muslims in Europe. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Building Better Secularists: The only secularism that can really arouse moral motivation and impel action is an enchanted secularism, one that puts emotional relations first and autonomy second. I suspect that over the next years secularism will change its face and become hotter and more consuming, less content with mere benevolence, and more responsive to the spiritual urge in each of us, the drive for purity, self-transcendence and sanctification. (David Brooks)

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)

Embarrassing-State-Facts-13-685x356

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)
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