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Flotsam and jetsam (2/13)

Good Reads

  • The Pope’s Legacy: Pope Benedict XVI may likely remembered as a pope who in his relatively short pontificate, sought primarily to strengthen the orthodoxy of the church in a variety of means, who authored several important encyclicals, notable for their theological depth and appeal, and who continued a full set of public appearances, and who, despite his full schedule, published three well-received books on the life of Jesus.
  • Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church: I work in a major college town with a large number of 20-somethings. Nearly all of them were raised in very typical evangelical churches. Nearly all of them have left the church with no intention of returning. I spend a lot of time with them and it takes very little to get them to vent, and I’m happy to listen. So, after lots of hours spent in coffee shops and after buying a few lunches, here are the most common thoughts taken from dozens of conversations.
  • Americans Reveal Their 3 Favorite Sins: “Temptations and America’s Favorite Sins,” a survey conducted by the Barna Group, a Christian research firm, concludes that the moral struggles that vex most Americans aren’t the salacious acts that drive the plotlines of reality television shows. Most Americans are too worn down or distracted to get snared by those vices.

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Flotsam and jetsam (2/11)

Good Reads

  • Why Only Some Grammar Rules Are Breakable: Deviate too far from the “who died and made you king” rules, and your writing will look ignorant and amateurish. Deviate from the descriptive rules and you’re no longer writing English. But deviate from the aesthetic rules, and you end up either with a mess or with a masterpiece. Art is like that.
  • The God of Job: A pastoral theology which has not grappled with the whirlwind and the speeches of the last part of Job is sub-biblical; and preaching which does not take these things into account is not biblical preaching.
  • These United States of Crunk & Bible Studies: A Sentiment Analysis of Geocoded Tweets. The goal was to determine the mood of a county’s population, whether they were tweeting more about getting drunk or going to bible study.

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Flotsam and jetsam (2/8)

Good Reads

  • Resist the Urge to Do Cutting Edge Youth Ministry: In a valuable manner, youth ministry people seek to keep a watchful eye on the most efficacious means by which to reach teenagers. It is part of what makes the field exciting and dynamic. At the same time, youth ministry can dedicate exorbitant amounts of attention to finding a magic bullet in our methodology.
  • The Biblical Case for Immigration Reform: The key to this conversation is not to begin with the legal issue….You need to get there. You don’t start there. You start with these immigrants as people.”

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Flotsam and jetsam (2/4)

pirating pirates pirate

Good Reads

  • Foolishness!: It is perhaps fair to say that most believers do not quite realize the outrageous character of these most basic and taken-for-granted hallmarks of Christianity….Irrespective of whether they are true or not, these are surely among the wildest and most monstrous claims ever proposed in human history….Yet somehow, in the course of nearly 2,000 years, these claims have become so familiar, so tamed and domesticated, as to seem hardly worthy of comment, let alone wonder or puzzlement, among the great majority of those who profess them.
  • A Brief History of Nerds in Pop Culture: In news that is not actually news, nerds are no longer the shameful outsiders of society, they are celebrated and treated like exotic zoo animals, adorable and mystical and called fake by other exotic zoo animals. But how did this happen?
  • Was Ist das Super Bowl? How international news outlets cover America’s unique festival of “commercials featuring animals and blue-collar sexist smut.”

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Flotsam and jetsam (2/1)

Good Reads

  • Eight Brilliant Minds on the Future of Online Education: The advent of massively open online classes (MOOCs) is the single most important technological development of the millennium so far. I say this for two main reasons. First, for the enormously transformative impact MOOCs can have on literally billions of people in the world. Second, for the equally disruptive effect MOOCs will inevitably have on the global education industry.
  • Five Things Evangelicals Need to Face in the Next 10 Years: The sky isn’t falling for evangelicals, but we do have reason to look in the mirror. As the church continues to navigate an increasingly post-Christian culture, we have to ask ourselves if we are willing to face some truths and change some behaviors to reach the world with the message of the gospel.
  • Hebrews Out Loud: The book of Hebrews seems to have been written for the ear. Or, if that claim is true, perhaps it should be made in this form: the sermon to the Hebrews was designed to be spoken aloud.

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Flotsam and jetsam (1/28)

HT Tim Challies

Good Reads

  • How difficulty nourishes creativity: Robert Frost famously quipped, “I’d no sooner write free verse than play tennis with the net down.” Frost had meter; Christian leaders have budget shortfalls and funding stipulations or liturgical formulae and intractable congregations. Such difficulties offer the gift of rough ground against which we find traction to press forward to solutions, and learning to receive such resistance as a gift is the heart of “traditioned innovation.”
  • Divine Rhetoric: God In The Inaugural Address: In modern times, religion has become so intertwined in our political rhetoric that the failure of any president to invoke God in a speech as important as the inaugural could hardly escape notice. Thanks to this graphic in The Wall Street Journal, we noticed the presidents who did (nearly all) and the few who didn’t (Teddy Roosevelt, Rutherford B. Hayes).
  • Secret Fears of Your Pastor: The bottom line for many pastors…is that they are afraid to level with their people — person to person.

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Flotsam and jetsam (1/23)

Coincidence? I think not.

Good Reads

  • As public religion declines, faith goes to the movies: The point is not that these movies are pro-Christian, or pro any other religion for that matter. Some of them are most definitely not. Still, it is striking how persistently we, as a culture, are addressing faith and spirituality in our films even as institutional religion recedes from our public lives.
  • On the Necessity of Theological Courage in the Public Square: In the grand Christian ethical tradition, prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude or ‘courage’ have formed what are called the cardinal virtues, from the Latin meaning ‘the hinge of the door.’ According to our guides, all other virtues “hinge” upon practicing these virtues as necessary for experiencing the moral life.
  • Reading Luther Wisely But Well:  Luther is a complex thinker whose writings in the hands of the inept enthusiast fulfill a function analogous to that of a cut-throat razor in the hands of a child who wants to emulate his father’s morning routine ‘so as to be just like daddy.’ The result can be messy and sometimes dangerous.

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Flotsam and jetsam (1/21)

One of my favorite Calvin strips.

Good Reads

  • Chronicling Porn’s Damaging Effects: Last year, ExtremeTech ran a piece on some of the largest porn sites, to see how much traffic they generate, and the numbers they uncovered were simply staggering. One such site served over 100 million page views a day, which translated into 950 terabytes of data (most of it video) every single day… and this was only the second biggest porn site in the world.
  • A Fresh Look at Small Groups: Adult formation is the most broken part of the system. What the church has done is treat all adults the same. All adults are lumped together in terms of faith formation.
  • Why I Offer Clean Needles in Jesus’ Name: A clean needle is often that next teeny, tiny step forward. When the clients are met by volunteers who have walked the road of addiction and have emerged on the other side, a redemptive and profound connection emerges. As “sketchy” and misunderstood as this kind of work can be, it is undeniable that there is a redemptive element at work.
  • Five Reasons to Read the Heidelberg Catechism This Year: If you love the Heidelberg Catechism and have for a long time, read it again this year. If you learned the Heidelberg Catechism years ago and dismissed it as cruel and unusual punishment, give it another chance. If “Heidelberg” sounds like a disease to you and catechism sounds as thrilling as detasseling corn, try it anyway.

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Flotsam & Jetsam (1/18)

Sounds like fun.

Good Reads

  • Theology and Doxology: Theology that doesn’t make us sing has failed in its mission, no matter how correct it may be. Worship that doesn’t take us deeper into Christ has also failed, no matter how glorious the music or how applicable the sermon.
  • Church Tribalization: The staggering amount of choice and customization we encounter in daily life allows us to construct a reality that can be quite different from the realities of our neighbors. And when that combines with the ability to surround ourselves, whether virtually or in reality, with others who think and believe just as we do, we form our own tribes that, naturally, view the others with contempt and suspicion.
  • 10 Things I Guarantee You’ll Never Say: I love to drink mediocre coffee. No you don’t. Nobody does. Which is why when I have people over to my house, I serve the best stuff that I’ve got. Or I go get my hands on the best stuff I can find. All coffee is not created equal.

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Flotsam and jetsam (1/16)

It's a trap!

Good Reads

  • Are Babies Born Good? Where morality comes from is a really hard problem….There isn’t a moral module that is there innately. But the elements that underpin morality—altruism, sympathy for others, the understanding of other people’s goals—are in place much earlier than we thought, and clearly in place before children turn 2
  • Scientific evidence that you probably don’t have free will: (As with much popular science writing, the title of this one is overblown. But the article is still worth reading.) As the early results of scientific brain experiments are showing, our minds appear to be making decisions before we’re actually aware of them — and at times by a significant degree. It’s a disturbing observation that has led some neuroscientists to conclude that we’re less in control of our choices than we think — at least as far as some basic movements and tasks are concerned.

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