May was awfully quiet around here, but I’ve got some good stuff planned for the rest of the summer. So stay tuned for that. While you’re waiting, here are the top five posts from the last thirty days.
- Is College Worth It? Clearly, New Data Say: The pay gap between college graduates and everyone else reached a record high last year….Americans with four-year college degrees made 98 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than people without a degree. That’s up from 89 percent five years earlier, 85 percent a decade earlier and 64 percent in the early 1980s. (New York Times)
- Five Reasons Why Most Southern Baptist Churches Baptize Almost No Millennials: And according to a recent report by a special task force of pastors, the baptism drought in America’s largest evangelical denomination—which counts 15.7 million members and 5.8 million Sunday worshipers—is worst among millennials. (Christianity Today)
- Why Agnosticism Probably Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means: Agnostics are often characterized as ambivalent or wishy-washy fence sitters who refuse to make up their minds. But there’s much more to agnosticism than these tired misconceptions, including a stricter adherence to scientific principles than those typically invoked by atheists. (io9)
- Church-State Clash in China Coalesces Around a Toppled Spire: the government aims to regulate “excessive religious sites” and “overly popular” religious activities, but it specifies only one religion, Christianity, and one symbol, crosses. (New York Times)
- Five Implications for Churches as the Boomers Retire: On January 1, 2011, the first Boomer turned 65. In fact, on that day, 10,000 of them turned 65. And that pace of aging will continue until 2030, when every Boomer is 65 or older. The implications for churches are staggering. (Thom Rainer)
- I Don’t Want to Be Wrong: False beliefs, it turns out, have little to do with one’s stated political affiliations and far more to do with self-identity: What kind of person am I, and what kind of person do I want to be? All ideologies are similarly affected. (The New Yorker)
- Neuroscience Talk May Literally Be Rewiring Our Brains: This is in fact the golden age of brain research, but by the time the experts actually explain their research to us, our culture will already have decided what we want it to mean, and have fit it into our myths cape. (Fred Sanders)
- What Is Heresy? An interesting interview with Justin Holcomb on the nature of heresy. (Rachel Held Evans)
All five of the top posts in April had to do with the Wheaton Theology Conference. Since I didn’t want the list to completely dominated by one topic, though, I’m just including a link to the conference videos, which was the top post for the month and also includes links to the other posts. Then I skipped down to the most popular posts besides the conference. Enjoy!
Saint Catherine of Siena was a philosopher and theologian in the middle ages. She was actively involved in many of the political and theological issues of her day, but her most famous contribution was her involvement in convincing the pope to return the papacy to Rome after nearly seventy years of “captivity” in Avignon. She is now regarded as one of the two patron saints of Italy (along with Francis of Assisi) and one of the patron saints of Europe.
Catherine died on April 29, 1380. In honor of her life and ministry, this Sunday’s prayer comes from her.
Holy Spirit, come into my heart;
draw it to Thee by Thy power, O my God,
and grant me charity with filial fear.
Preserve me, O ineffable Love,
from every evil thought;
warm me, inflame me with Thy dear love,
and every pain will seem light to me.
My Father, my sweet Lord,
help me in all my actions.
Jesus, love, Jesus, love.
- Why We Argue Like Jerks: Diving headfirst into an endless vortex of insults and insinuations is incredibly tempting in the heat of the moment. I have felt the tug and I have regrettably given in many times to coarse tweets and ad hominems. Maybe considering the why behind our inability to argue well will help us move forward. (Christ and Pop Culture)
- St. Patrick: Reclaiming the Great Missionary: the factual accounts of Patrick, missionary to Ireland, are even more compelling than the folklore. Telling the true story of Patrick provides an inspiring lesson in God’s grace and mercy. (Gospel Coalition)
- Francis Has Changed American Catholics’ Attitudes, but Not Their Behavior, a Poll Finds: One year into the era of Pope Francis, a new poll has found that a broad majority of American Catholics say he represents a major change in direction for the church, and a change for the better. But his popularity has not inspired more Americans to attend Mass, go to confession or identify as Catholic — a finding that suggests that so far, the much-vaunted “Francis effect” is influencing attitudes, but not behavior. (New York Times)
- The Intellectual Snobbery of Conspicuous Atheism: vocal atheists reinforce this binary of Godly vs. godless, too—the argument is just not as obvious. Theirs is a subtle assertion: Believers aren’t educated or thoughtful enough to debunk God, and if they only knew more, rational evidence would surely offset faith. (The Atlantic)
- 3 Ways Expository Preaching Combats Biblical Illiteracy: Biblical illiteracy is a widespread problem that manifests itself in several ways. The basic nuts and bolts Bible knowledge of key stories, people, and concepts is much less common. People have little patience for the parts that are difficult to understand, let alone the parts that are clear and offensive. What are you going to do about this, Pastor? (Pastors Today)
- Protestant work ethic isn’t just Protestant anymore: America’s vaunted Protestant work ethic is getting a makeover: Now it might be more of an atheist work ethic. (Religion News Service)
- Heal Me—Body, Mind, and Soul: Why are we so attracted to yoga, acupuncture, and the like? As people of faith, we recognize that we are multidimensional beings. We know that we are more than just a body, but exist as bodies, minds, and spirits, and all parts of us need attention. (Hermeneutics)
- Paranoid Narcissism: What Dostoyevsky Knew about the Internet: Paranoid narcissism—the mixed desires and fears of being watched by unknown others—thus defines virtual society, giving rise to numerous related anxieties such as the sense of exposed insignificance and the fear of missing out. (The American Reader)
- An Open Apology to the Local Church: Here’s where I need to confess my true feelings about you, Church: The romance of our earlier days has faded. The longer I have known you, the more I weary of your quirks and trying character traits. Here’s one: You draw people to yourself whom I would never choose to spend time with. Every Sunday, it seems, you put me in contact with the older woman who thinks that angels and dead pets are everywhere around us. You insist on filling my coffee hour with idle talk of golf, the weather, and grandchildren. (Christianity Today)
- Millennials Deeply Confused About Their Politics, Finances, and Culture: Or at least deeply contradictory: They’re always connected but distrustful. They’re selfish yet accepting of minorities. They’re “independents” who mostly vote Democratic and love Obama while hating Obamacare. (The Atlantic)
- Encounters with Orthodoxy: I would never be the same Protestant I had been. I understood in a more tangible way than I could have imagined the significance of the “smells and bells” of worship, the careful attention to the worshipping body as well as the worshipping spirit, the sense that God didn’t exist “in my heart,” but also out there in a big, strange world that demanded to be perceived through my senses. (Books and Culture)
- How Can I Best Absorb Information While Reading: Impress yourself with powerful mental images, make associations with what you already know (and make sure you learn the basics to start), and repeat this exercise several times. Work to become better at remembering and you will become better at remembering everything you want. (Lifehacker)
Preaching is both a high calling and a nearly impossible task. If you read the literature on preaching, you see that the pastor is somehow supposed to be (at least):
- a biblical scholar—mastering the original languages, exegesis, history, and biblical theology
- a theologian—well versed in both historical and systematic theology as well as the major philosophies and issues of the day
- a cultural anthropologist—exegeting the surrounding culture and the forces pressing on and shaping the church
- a communicator—crafting oral presentations that can present all of this to interested but often distracted listeners and
- a shepherd—knowing the flock well enough to know what they need to near now to continue growing as the people of God.
Good luck with that. Mastering one of those is difficult enough, but all five? And I’m sure we could easily make the list longer if we tried.
I am currently in denial that January is actually over already. Since my calendar insists that this is true, however, here are our top five posts from the last month. Now I’m going to go change the due dates on my to do list so that it looks like I’m actually staying on top of things.