Flotsam and jetsam (3/7)

sports fan

Good Reads

  • In Praise of Long Pastorates: It takes time to nurture a healthy congregation. You can attract a crowd in no time. But a crowd is not a church. (H.B. Charles, Jr.)
  • A Christian Case for Gay Wedding Cakes – Revisited: The court simply ruled that the baker could not refuse to make and sell a cake to a same sex couple that he would make and sell to an opposite sex couple. Or, put more simply, the baker may discriminate when it comes to what kind of cakes he will make, but may not discriminate when it comes to who he will sell his cakes to. (Skye Jethani)
  • Selfies Bring Ashtags to Lent: The Ash Wednesday selfie—a modern mixing of Christian piety with social media self-involvement—is becoming a tradition for a growing number of Catholics. (Wall Street Journal)

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Some Advice on Studying Theology

all mixed up in the mind of a personStudying theology can be rather daunting given the depth and complexity of topics, the wealth of literature, and the many disparate opinions. Where do you start?

In this short video clip, Fred Sanders offers two pieces of great advice to his theology students. But it’s advice that I think would benefit anyone wanting to study theology more effectively.

  1. Pick a major doctrine to focus on.
  2. Master a classic text.

As he says, the “major doctrines of perennial importance” are daunting in their significance and the wealth of material devoted to them, but they’ll certainly stretch and challenge you. And every major doctrine connects in important ways with all the other ones as well. So having a specific doctrinal locus provides a nice focus for your studies while also giving an entry point into systematic theology as a whole. I stumbled onto theological anthropology early in my studies and have concentrated on that ever since. I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time, but having that focus has been amazingly helpful for me. (FYI – Eventually you will want to branch out form that primary focus, but you don’t need to worry about that at the beginning.)

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Flotsam and jetsam (3/4)

fair fight

Good Reads

  • The Six People You Should Ask to Leave Your Church:  The problem is that our love for our church and our enthusiasm for growth blinds us to the fact that sometimes we have a responsibility to encourage people to go a different church. I know it might sound crazy, but there are times when the most loving thing we can do is to help people move on down the road. (Transformed)
  • Diogo Morgado Puts the Carnal in Incarnate, But Was Jesus Really A Babe? There’s more at stake in artistic representations of Jesus.  When a bombshell plays a professor on screen the negative fallout is limited to the crushed expectations of the freshmen class; when Jesus is portrayed as a lily-white rock star it reinforces a system that privileges certain kinds of beauty. (Candida Moss)
  • Eight of the Most Significant Struggles Pastors Face: In many ways, there are no surprises. Indeed, I doubt most of you will be surprised at my findings. If nothing else, it is a good reminder of how we can help our pastors, and how we can pray for them. (Thom Rainer)
  • Why One Baptist Chooses to Observe Lent: For my part, I choose to observe Lent because it affords me an opportunity to disengage a bit from the culture of what Tim Suttle calls satiation—“the absolute satisfaction of every human need to the point of excess.” (Nathan Finn)

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We Won’t Solve Biblical Literacy with Bible Trivia

For some time now, people have been rightly concerned about the trajectory of biblical literacy. Talking to those who have been teaching Bible/theology for many years, they all say that one of the greatest challenges they face is that people just don’t know the Bible like they used to. So they spend far more time teaching basic biblical literacy and consequently less time building on that foundation.

And it’s a real problem, one that affects people’s ability to understand the whole scope of what the Bible has to say, how that relates to individual stories and verses, and how all of it connects to the challenging issues that people face every day.

But it’s a problem that we will not solve by mastering Bible trivia.

from Wikipedia

from Wikipedia

I had a conversation a while back with someone who was a little frustrated after hearing a Bible teacher lament the decline of biblical literacy. The teacher had asked the study group a few questions, and after no one seemed the know the answers, made several comments about the state of the church and lack of attention to solid Bible teaching. But the person I was talking to was frustrated and confused because she had grown up in a church with solid Bible teaching and did not consider herself to be biblically illiterate. So what was going on?

The problem was that the teacher was focused more on mastery of Bible trivia than real biblical literacy. For example, one of the questions he asked was which gospel is the only one to record the parable of the workers in the vineyard (the one where they all get paid the same). I can’t remember all of the other questions, but they were along the same lines. For this teacher, failing to know details like this means that you don’t really know your Bible.

I have at least three problems with this.

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February’s Top Posts

top fiveI have been pretty busy in the last month trying to get caught up on a few writing project. So most of our top posts from the last month have been things that I’ve found elsewhere. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t found fun with them! So here are the top five posts from February. Enjoy.

Flotsam and jetsam (3/2)

mcdonald's revenge

Good Reads

  • Why are Millennials less religious? It’s not just because of gay marriage: Among those who have abandoned their childhood religion and are now religiously unaffiliated, one quarter say anti-gay teachings factored into their decision to go faithless. Among Millennials in the religious turned irreligious camp, almost one third said the same. At first blush, that would appear to suggest clear causation….But while there is certainly a link between the two, it is an overly simplistic analysis that glosses over a host of reasons that Americans — and particularly younger ones — are losing their religion. (The Week)
  • How iTunes Radio Is Bad for Your Soul: One overlooked spiritual consequence of our noise addiction is a failure to hear spontaneous sounds. By tightly controlling and curating what we hear, we may block out everything else and muffle the God-messages sewn throughout the fabric of the world. (Jonathan Merritt)
  • America’s Angriest Store: Whole Foods tries to bring to market the best products an area’s surrounding farms and suppliers have to offer, in a socially conscious way with high-touch customer service at the point of sale. Yet in doing so, they’ve brought out the worst in the people who are attracted to that idea. (Medium)
  • How to Debate a Christian Apologist: This one is rather painful to read, but it’s a good summary of some common responses to common Christian arguments. They’re not necessarily good arguments, but they are common. (HuffPo)

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A Prayer for Sunday (George Herbert)

george herbertSeventeenth century Britain produced a number of impressive figures, but few as creative and provocative as the poet George Herbert. Though he died young (only 39), he still produced an amazing body of work, and is considered one of the most influential of the “metaphysical poets,” or people who used poetry to craft their ideas about the essential nature of the universe.  And Herbert’s poems continue to be widely read and studied today. In addition to his poetry, Herbert also served in Parliament for a couple of years and spent the last decade or so of his life as the rector of a small church near Salisbury.

George Herbert died on March 1, 1633. In honor of his amazing life and ministry, this Sunday’s prayer comes from him. It’s actually a sonnet that he wrote about prayer, filled with powerful and often conflicting images about what prayer is, ultimately concluding with the simple assertion that despite the mystery of prayer, it is “something understood.”

Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
…..Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
…..The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;

Engine against th’ Almightie, sinners towre,
…..Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
…..The six-daies world transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
…..Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
…..Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The Milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

…..Church-bels beyond the starres heard, the souls bloud,
…..The land of spices; something understood.

Flotsam and jetsam (2/25)

that escalated quickly

that escalated quickly

Good Reads

  • Six Major Issues Regarding the Digital Church: This phenomenon is not transitory. It will be with us for the foreseeable future. As I speak with pastors and other church leaders across America and beyond, here are the key issues being discussed. (Thom Rainer)
  • Can I Reject an Eternal Hell and Still Be Saved? I am afraid that some of those who are attempting to be theologically astute wind up becoming academically agnostic. That is, they are agnostic enough to find every place where they don’t have to take a stand, which allows them to remain neutral for the sake of evangelism. (Michael Patton)

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Flotsam and jetsam (2/24)

xkcd

xkcd

Good Reads

  • After-Birth Abortion: The case for “after-birth abortion” draws a logical path from common pro-choice assumptions to infanticide. It challenges us, implicitly and explicitly, to explain why, if abortion is permissible, infanticide isn’t. (Slate)
  • Wait, I thought that was a Muslim thing?! Americans…might have certain assumptions about what beliefs and practices are distinctly “Islamic”….However, my time spent living in Jordan and touring Israel/Palestine has revealed that some of these stereotypically “Islamic” things are also quite Christian. These unexpected points of contact between Christianity and Islam may help Christians appreciate our own diverse religious heritage, and develop a better understanding of a people and a religion that often seem utterly ‘other’. (Commonweal)
  • Do We Really Need to Go Back to the First Century? Rather than long for another place and time, I believe we will more boldly fulfill our calling when we embrace the idea that God has placed us here and now and called us to express what it means to be the church–full of flawed people–with the cultural conditions, personalities, and living conditions we are given. (Amy Simpson)
  • 28 Books You Should Read If You Want To: I discovered one of my favorite books because the author called our store and charmed the living daylights out of me. I found another in a box of old books that my Russian literature professor left outside his office to give away. So while I do think that you should read the canon if it interests you, I think it’s more important that you read the books that find their own way into your hands.

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A Prayer for Sunday (Martin Bucer)

bucerMartin Bucer may well be one of the most influential figures of the Protestant Reformation that people haven’t heard of. Working with a group of reformers in Strasbourg, Bucer played a mediating role between Luther and Zwingli, influenced a young John Calvin, led efforts to continue theological dialog with Catholic theologians, and eventually ended up in England where he helped shape the reformation efforts there as well. Bucer was, therefore, one of the few reformation figures who truly impacted the reformation throughout all of Europe.

Martin Bucer died on Februrary 28, 1551. In honor of his amazing life and ministry, this Sunday’s prayer comes from him.

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