Book Giveaway – Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey

Recently I received in the mail a free copy of Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey.  According to the author, her book is an examination of the worldview of secularism, and she offers resources for helping Christians to “resist the secular assault on mind, morals, and meaning.”  You might find this book helpful personally or in your ministry.  You might find it to be a good example of the wrong kind of approach to worldview thinking.  Either way, it can be yours by the end of the week.  I’d like to offer to one reader of this blog an opportunity to take this book home for free.

Here is all you have to do to win: write a one paragraph (4-5 sentence) response to the question: What does it mean to have a Christian worldview?  Your answers should be given in the “response” section below.  No more than one entry per person. The last day to enter your answer is 5 p.m. PST, Friday April 29th.  The answer I like best will be the winner – and it doesn’t mean the one I necessarily agree with, either.

Here’s the trailer for the book:

The Dying Art of Reading

Approximately 120,000 books are published in America every year. Sadly, few of us ever read them. At least, that’s what some recent stats suggest.

According to a survey from the Jenkins Group, Americans have some dismal reading habits (HT Mental Floss).

  • 1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
  • 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
  • 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year
  • 70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
  • 57 percent of new books are not read to completion.

As a self-confessed bibliophile, that’s just depressing. I’m not sure which is worse, that even college graduates have such terrible reading habits, or that so many families didn’t even bother to buy a single book last year. (I have to confess that I rarely buy books from concrete-and-mortar bookstores either, though I still go on occasion to enjoy the ambiance. Yes, I’m a hypocrite that way.)

But, more importantly, I worry about this lack of attention to the written word for the church today. Granted, the church has often demonstrated the ability to flourish in non-literate cultures. So, reading itself isn’t the only medium of formation. But, in all the examples that come to mind, those cultures retained a strong emphasis on oral education. And,we’re not doing that.  At the same time that we are neglecting the written word, we’re also at the tail-end of a decades long shift toward shorter sermons and fewer weekly services dedicated to serious lay development. Put those two together, and you have a recipe for spiritual anemia.

Random thought of the day – how to keep a chicken from destroying your garden

It’s a rainy Monday morning, and I’m having a hard time doing anything productive. So, I thought I’d start the week off with a random thought from my youngest daughter (5 yrs.). We were discussing how to keep my wife’s two chickens from terrorizing her garden. And, my daughter reasoned thusly:

  • Step 1: get some chicken wire and a couple posts.
  • Step 2: staple the chicken wire to the posts.
  • Step 3: stick the posts in the chickens.

Problem solved. I love my daughter.

A prayer for Sunday (John Chrysostom)

I’m cheating a little with today’s prayer, since it isn’t actually a prayer. But, the end of Chrysostom’s Easter homily (ca. AD 400) is so powerful that I thought it worth posting this morning. Have a blessed Easter!

Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he said,
“You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.

Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!

Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

More Saturday morning fun…Monopoly, the movie

Here’s a great pseudo-trailer for what a movie about Monopoly might look like. Enjoy.


Saturday morning fun…Weird Al’s parody of Lady Gaga – “Perform This Way”

I’ve been freshly pressed!

I’ve got one of the featured posts today on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed, which has directed quite a few people to my post on  The 100 Most Influential People in the World?. I should probably play it all cool like the seasoned running back who scores a touchdown and calmly hands the ball to the ref as he trots over to the sidelines. Freshly pressed? Oh, that’s not big deal. Happens all the time.

But we all know that’s not true. So, instead I’m going to model myself after the rookie who celebrates like he spent the entire summer designing an ode to epilepsy for his touchdown dance.

Fortunately there are no web cams in my office.

Flotsam and jetsam (4/22)

Charles Spurgeon wasn’t too hip on the whole Good Friday idea. In his opinion, too many people ignored the church until “Holy Week,” a week so sacred that attendance on Good Friday and Easter atoned for neglecting the church for the remainder of the calendar year. In this way Good Friday became, in his words, “a superstitious ordinance of man.” It was too rote, too structured, too formalized. “The kind of religion which is ordered by the Almanac, weeping on Good Friday, and rejoicing two days afterwards, measuring its motions by the moon, is too artificial to be worthy of my imitation.”

Beneath this picture’s warm and alluring hues is the downside of the Gospel Coalition, namely, that they run their affairs as if the church does not matter, as if the gospel is independent of every church affiliation and membership (Protestant, that is).

What I am decrying is the gradual tendency for even evangelicals to be forgetful of Jesus’ death as the atoning sacrifice for humanity’s sinfulness and for our individual sins.  I have attended numerous evangelical churches of different denominational persuasions and noticed this trend over the years.  Many sermons center around problem solving in the Christian life, comfort of the afflicted, following Jesus’ example of love (without reference to the cross!), etc.  Few songs sung really focus on the death of Christ.

  • Kevin DeYoung offers a nice roundup of links on the discussions that have taken place around the blogosphere regarding pietism and confessionalism.
  • Brian LePort reflects on his time at the Gospel Coalition conference (here, here, and here).

The 100 Most Influential People in the World?

Time Magazine has put out its list of the 100 Most Influential People of 2011. But, I have to admit that it’s hard to take such a list seriously when it includes people like the following. The sad thing is that maybe these are among the most influential people on earth. How long do you think it will be before they have viable colonies on Mars?

  • Peter Vesterbacka (developer of Angry Birds)
  • Amy Poehler (actress in Parks and Recreation)
  • Kim Clijsters (tennis player)
  • Rob Bell (apparently it only takes one book)
  • Justin Bieber (no comment)
  • Blake Lively (actress in Gossip Girl)
  • Bruno Mars (singer)
  • George R. R. Martin (I like his books, but he really doesn’t fit here)
  • Sting (seriously?)
  • Mark Wahlberg (Marky Mark made the list?)

The list might be even worse than this, but I didn’t bother to click on too many of the names I didn’t know – a surprising number given their apparent influence in the world.

The “Messianic Secret”: Early Fabrication or Historical Reality?

“Don’t tell anyone who I am.”

If this is something that Spiderman says to Mary Jane after she discovers his secret identity, it makes perfect sense. He has to keep his secret to protect his loved ones, and he probably doesn’t want his friends knowing that he spends his evenings prancing around the city in colored spandex. Or, if an undercover cop whispers this to his informant as they slip into the underground hideout of some notorious gang of thugs, everyone understands that he has pretty good reasons for want to hide his true identity.

But Jesus? He’s the Messiah, the one who’s supposed to come and lead God’s people into all the blessings of the kingdom. That’s the best news around. Why would he want to keep that a secret?

He wouldn’t.

At least, that’s what Wilhelm Wrede argued in his The Messianic Secret. According to Wrede, the early church didn’t come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah until after the resurrection. But, once they’d come to believe, the early Christian community needed some explanation for why Jesus wouldn’t have given any overt indication of this  before his crucifixion. So, Wrede argued, the Gospel writers, particularly Mark, invented the “messianic secret” as a way of explaining this inexplicable silence.

But, is that an adequate explanation? Not according to Jesse Richards in the paper that he presented at the NW regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society: “Mark’s Nuance of Wrede’s Messianic Secret: ‘The Messianic Paradox’.” Richards argues that although Wrede’s argument is interesting and provocative, it ultimately fails to convince. Instead, he contends that these sayings manifest the “messianic paradox” of a suffering messiah, not an after-the-fact theological reconstruction fabricated by early Christian leaders.

Here’s the outline of the paper that he provides in his introduction:

First, a brief overview of Wrede’s place in historical Jesus studies, and thesis, will be provided to frame the discussion; second, a critique of Wrede’s thesis will be offered; third, A proposal of how the secrecy theme is historical and stems from the life of Jesus. Fourth the significance of Jesus crucifixion as King of the Jews; finally, literary criticism which has been used to evaluate Mark’s narrative strategy will be shown to support the Messianic paradox, and thus argue against the idea that Mark was concocting a
messianic secret.

After a lengthy summary and critique of three main lines of evidence offered by Wrede in support of his hypothesis (the distinct nature of the messianic motif, the unhistorical nature of exorcisms, and the post-Easter belief in Jesus as Messiah), Richards moves into his argument that a more plausible account of these messianic sayings can be found in the messianic paradox:

From a narrative analysis of Mark it becomes clear that Mark was seeking to emphasize Jesus as the suffering messiah. This is truly the messianic paradox—that Messiah would suffer. Mark uses pacing of his narrative to focus in on the week of Jesus’ death. His use of irony allows the themes of secrecy and messiahship to exist together, without one having to negate the other. Additionally, his irony lets the reader in on the truth of Jesus as Messiah. Mark also highlight’s Jesus’ messiahship through the climax of his narrative—the confession of Peter, and then uses triads to show that Jesus is anointed to be Isaiah’s servant of the Lord who will give his life as a ransom. The gospel is also full of intercalation, which helps to highlight this theme as well. Mark’s plot, including Jesus indictment of the temple cult, the leader’s rejection, and the disciples misunderstanding are intentionally contrasted with the God of Israel, tearing open heaven to declare Jesus his Son at baptism, and tearing the curtain open to declare Jesus his anointed Isaianic servant at death.

So, Richards argues from a variety of angles that the messianic “secret” was not a post-Easter fabrication, but was actually an historical aspect of Jesus’ life and ministry, consistent with the paradoxical reality of the suffering and crucified Messiah.

(This is last part of a series highlighting papers presented by faculty and students from Western Seminary at the 2011 NW regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. You can see the rest of the posts in this series here.)