A prayer for Sunday – Bernard of Clairvaux

High and Holy God, give me this day a word of truth
to silence the lies that would devour my soul
and kind encourgements to strengthen me when I fall.

Gracious One, I come quietly to your door needing to receive from your hands the nourishment that gives life.

Amen and Amen.

Why the printing press will kill books

I tell you, sir,” he whispered, “it is the end of the world. Never were known such excesses of the scholars: it is the cursed inventions of the age that ruin everything: artillery, serpentines, bombards, and above all, printing, that other pestilence from Germany. No more manuscripts! No more books! Printing is cutting up the bookselling trade. The end of the world is certainly at hand!”

………………………..~Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

via Michael Hyatt

Super Bowl commercials with the most buzz

With the Super Bowl coming up tomorrow, you may be interested in knowing which commercials are generating the most buzz. So, here’s an infographic from Mashable on the Top 10 Brands Dominating the Super Bowl Pre-Buzz on Twitter.

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In case you have somehow managed not to have seen the Volkswagen commercial yet, here it is.

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A Dangerous Life of Costly Grace

For those of you with a theological man-crush on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, this is your day.  On February 4, 1906 he was born in Breslau, Germany.  He became a prolific leader in the German church and was actively involved in opposing the Nazi regime.  Believing that Hitler was like a madman “driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders,” he joined an assassination plot to kill him.  Refusing to flee to the refuge of America he was arrested, placed in a concentration camp, and finally hanged just days before Allied troops liberated the camp where he was held.  He is the author of The Cost of Discipleship and Letters from Prison as well as a host of other books that are still influencing the church today.  Speaking of the cost of grace, he writes:

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.  It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.  It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.  Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.  Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.  Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

Roundup of posts from the last chapter of my Gospel book

I spent the last week or so blogging my way through the last chapter of my Gospel book. Although I did it primarily as a way of keeping myself on track and ensuring that I continued to make steady progress on the project, I also received several helpful comment, and it looks like quite a few of you followed along through the chapter. So, thanks for doing that.

I don’t know that I’ll post an entire chapter again since a blog really isn’t the best format for following the logic and flow of a presentation over multiple posts like that – especially when I can’t really take time at the beginning of each post to summarize what’s happened earlier.

But, I’ll still put stuff up occasionally if it’s a piece that looks like it can stand on its own reasonably well, or if it’s something that might solicit some feedback.

Anyway, if you’ve missed any of the posts from the project, you can always find the links on the Gospel book page. Here are the ones from the last chapter.

The 5 Best Sentences in the English Language

It’s amazing what you can do with a well-crafted sentence. And, in his new book, How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One, literary critic Stanley Fish offers his list of the five most beautiful or arresting sentences in the English language.

Obviously there will be considerable debate as to whether these are in fact that 5 best sentences ever written in English – that’s quite the impressive claim! Nonetheless, I found his selections intriguing.

If you’d like to see a little explanation for why Fish selected each of these sentence, check out this Slate.com article.

Otherwise, here are the 5 sentences:

  • “Now he had not run far from his own door, but his wife and children perceiving it, began crying after him to return, but the man put his fingers in his ears, and ran on, crying, Life! Life! eternal life.” John Bunyan (The Pilgrim’s Progress, 1678)
  • “Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe how  much it altered her appearance for the worse.”  Jonathan Swift (A Tale of a Tub, 1704)
  • “To such a tremulous wisp constantly re-forming itself on the stream, to a single sharp impression, with a sense in it, a relic more or less fleeting, of such moments gone by, what is real in our lives fines itself down.” Walter Pater (The Renaissance, 1873)
  • “And I shall go on talking in a low voice while the sea sounds in the distance and overhead the great black flood of wind polishes the bright stars.” Ford Madox Ford (The Good Soldier, 1915)
  • “When I first began writing I felt that writing should go on I still do feel that it should go on but when I first began writing I was completely possessed by the necessity that writing should go on and if writing should go on what had commas and semi-colons to do with it what had commas to do with it what had periods to do with it what had small letters and capitals to do with writing going on which was at the time the most profound need I had in connection with writing.” Gertrude Stein (Lectures in America, 1935)

Getting the Reformation Wrong

Many thanks to IVP for sending me a review copy of James R. Payton’s Getting the Reformation Wrong (IVP, 2010).

★★★★☆

James Payton Jr. has done an outstanding job identifying and correcting a number of common mistakes that people make when talking about the Reformation. I have to admit that my review of this book is biased by the fact that Payton routinely provides support for a number of things that I argue in my church history class. So, if he agrees with me, he must be right! Even without that, though, Payton has put together a very clear and readable book that should be helpful to anyone wanting to get a better handle on the Reformation.

Summary

The structure of the book is pretty easy to follow. Each of the twelve chapters identifies some mistake that people commonly make in understanding the Reformation and Payton’s suggestion for a better approach. Along the way, Payton argues that we need a much better understanding of: (1) the relationship between the Reformation and medieval calls for reform; (2) the influence of the Renaissance on the Reformation; (3) the progressive nature of Luther’s theological “breakthrough”; (4) the conflict and disagreement that took place among the various reformers; (5) the real meaning of sola fide; (6) the real meaning of sola scriptura; (7) the role of the Anabaptists; (8) contemporaneous Catholic reform movements; (9) the transition to Protestant Scholasticism; (10) whether the Reformation was a “success”; (11) whether the Reformation is a “norm” for today.

Strengths

Without a doubt, the greatest strengths of the book are in its clarity and readability. I wouldn’t hesitate to require a book like this in a seminary or even an undergraduate context.

And, as indicated above, I wholeheartedly agree with the corrections that Payton offers. He does a great job identifying a number of common mistakes that people make that are really out of joint with the scholarly consensus on the Reformation. There is certainly room for debate on many issues relative to the Reformation. But Payton focuses on those areas with widespread consensus in the scholarly community and significant misunderstanding at the popular level.

Weaknesses

The one real drawback to the book is that it does require the reader to have some knowledge of the Reformation. Of course, that’s pretty much required by the book’s title. It’s hard to get the Reformation wrong unless you know something about the Reformation in the first place. So, this isn’t the right book to begin your understanding of the Reformation, though it would make an excellent companion to a more generalized introduction to Reformation history and thought.

There were also a few places where I would not necessarily agree with Patyon’s understanding of certain aspects of the Reformation. For example, although “justification by faith” was unquestionably a fundamental doctrine for Luther, I would not necessarily agree that Luther used it like a scholastic theologian who identifies “basic postulate” and then rearticulates “all teaching to comport with that postulate” (p. 94). That seems to be over-reading Luther’s use of that doctrine and runs the risk of downplaying other doctrines that were also fundamentally important.

A similar example of oversimplification was Payton’s statement that Luther focused primarily “on the individual and his or her needs” while Zwingli and other reformers were more concerned about the “community” (p. 101). Although Payton doesn’t present this as an either/or, it still seems like an unfortunate way of characterizing Reformational thought since all of the Reformers had a strong emphasis on both. The fact that they expressed those interests differently, which they clearly did, does not mean that we should see any of them as neglecting or downplaying either.

Conclusion

Nonetheless, these are relatively small quibbles on particular points of interpretation that do little to impact the value of the work as a whole. Getting the Reformation Wrong is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to understand the Reformation better. If you don’t really know anything about the Reformation, don’t worry. At least you haven’t misunderstood anything yet. But, if you do know a few things about the Reformation, then this might be the perfect book for you to read and make sure you haven’t gotten something wrong.

Win a copy of Grant Osborne’s commentary on Matthew!

Grant Osborne’s new commentary on Matthew has been widely received as a great, new commentary – especially for pastors.

And, I just happen to have a copy to give away.

Osborne’s commentary is part of Zondervan’s new Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, and it really strives to be a good resource for pastors.

As Osborne says in the introduction,

If I were to dedicate the rest of my life to one single, thing, it would be bringing the Bible back into the center of the church’s life.

And, in a very helpful review, Nijay Gupta thinks that the series has accomplished exactly this.

I am happy to report that Zondervan has really figured out what (evangelical) pastors and ministry leaders need, and they have planned a series that can deliver precisely in the traditional areas of “exegesis.”

Matthew Montonini also has an excellent review if you’re looking for more information on the commentary or the Zondervan series as a whole.

As usual, the rules for the giveaway are simple. If you’d like a chance to win the book, you need to do at least one of the following. Each different way that you enter the contest will increase your chances of winning. (Assuming that I don’t get grouchy and decide to use it to flog the neighbor cat instead.)

  • Comment on this post and indicate that you want the book
  • Blog about the giveaway and link to this post
  • Tweet about the contest (mention @western_thm when you tweet or let me know about it in the comments.
  • Link to the contest from Facebook (tag Marc Cortez when you do or let me know about your post in the comments).

And, for the first time, I’m going to try allowing you to enter as many times as you want. So, if you really want the book, feel free to make multiple comments or tweet/FB/post about the contest as many times as you want.

I’ll randomly pick a winner at the end of the month, and they’ll get a brand new commentary.

So, let the games begin!

Flotsam and jetsam (2/3)

I’m flying to Phoenix this morning for a conference, so just a couple of quick links today.

Here’s the painful reality to someone like me:  it doesn’t matter how carefully I make the arguments, how vociferously I contend that people with gay desires are Christians, how rationally and civilly I try to make my case.   In a world where news stories dominate and facts are hard to obtain, the perception is all that matters.  And when the perception is that evangelicals hate gay people, every argument–of any sort–is inevitably one more piece of proof for the case.

Why can’t all the professing Christians in the world look past their differences and just get along?

Because some of those differences are irreconcilable. Most significantly and most foundationally, the three main branches of Christianity in this country–Roman Catholic, Liberal Protestant, and Evangelical Protestant–do not agree on the locus of authority. We don’t answer the question, “What is our final authority?” in the same way.

From the first pages of Scripture to the last, God demonstrates that where there is need, there is also provision. Where there is emptiness, there is also a remedy. Where there is the aching fear that we navigate our days on earth alone, there is a loving God always present and actively sovereign. But our perception fails at times.

An immigration officer in the U.K. found a novel way to end his relationship with his wife. His cunning plan was to wait until she went abroad to visit family, then add her to name to the terrorist no-fly list. Unable to return from Pakistan for three years, with officials refusing to tell her why, it took three years for the truth to emerge

Creation vs. evolution – a compromise

I couldn’t resist. I really couldn’t. I thought about saving it for tomorrow’s Flotsam and Jetsam, but it was too much fun.

 

 HT 22 Words