Flotsam and jetsam (11/1)

and the "costume of the year" award goes to...

and the “costume of the year” award goes to…

Good Reads

  • Is youth ministry killing the church? The young people at my current congregation—a church that many families would never join because “it doesn’t have anything for youth”—are far more likely to remain connected to the faith and become active church members as adults, because that’s what they already are and always have been. (Christian Century)
  • ‘Happy’ Reformation Day? Of course, the recovery and foregrounding of crucial gospel truths should be remembered…but is Reformation Day not as much a time to mourn our divisions, to fast and pray that all who are baptised in the triune Name may together confess one Lord, one faith, and one gospel, and share one Eucharist around one table? (Steve Holmes)

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Just for Fun

  • The Honest Movie Trailer guys are at it again, this time with a trailer for Thor – or, as they call it, the movie that only exists so non-nerds will recognize the blonde buy in the Avengers.

8 Principles for a Gospel-Centered Systematic Theology

on target (275x273)Anyone who writes a book has to wrestle with one painful question: Does the world really need another book on this? And browsing the categories on Amazon, it’s hard to answer that question with a “yes.”

That’s particularly true with introductions to systematic theology, where we already have solid contributions from people like Millard Erickson, Michael Horton, Shirley Guthrie, Stan Grenz, Daniel Migliore, and Alister McGrath, among others. And that’s not even counting Wayne Grudem’s perennial best-seller. So why would we need another introduction to systematic theology?

According to Mike Bird’s new Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction (Zondervan, 2013), there’s one simple reason: we still need a systematic theology that is truly centered on the gospel.

I’m working my way through Bird’s book and will eventually post a full review. But it’s a long book, so it’s going to take a little while. And there are some great snippets that I thought we could chew on along the way. This is the first.

Continue Reading…

A New Page for My Books and Papers

book stacks (300x373)I used to have a page where people could access information about my books and download some of the journal articles and conference papers I’ve written, but for some reason I took it down a while back. I think the plan was just to do some maintenance and then put it back up, but I never got past the maintenance stage. Oops.

Anyway, that page is now available again from the menu at the top of the page, with updated information about my two books and 11 downloadable articles/papers. All of the material on this page is of a more academic nature, so if that’s not what you’re looking for, don’t waste your time. But for those of you who find academic theology interesting, feel free to peruse at your leisure.

I’ll keep this updated as new material becomes available.


Flotsam and jetsam (10/29)

super whale

Good Reads

  • Watching TV can make you a better person: New research provides tentative evidence that it can—but only if viewers take time to reflect on the personal implications of what they have just watched. (Salon)
  • Of Gods and Cubicles: Religion, the Office and the Law: issues of religion in the workplace are becoming more fraught and complex. Experts cite immigration, more frank conversations about faith and spirituality and growing assertiveness among workers as reasons for the number of complaints. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Neuroscience Behind How Sleep Cleans Your Brain: We know that getting even a measly extra hour of sleep a night can have major benefits for us–like more memories, less anxiety, and happier genes. But scientists have tested another hypothesis for why we need to spend so much time horizontal: Sleep cleans our brains. (Fast Company)

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10 Steps to Productive Procrastination

To do lists are daunting. It’s easy to arrive at your desk in the morning already overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done. So productivity experts suggest spending a little time every morning identifying the most important thing you need to do that day. At least then you’ll make sure that the most important stuff gets done.

That’s a great idea. But, as I found out today, there’s one thing that can make sure even this doesn’t work: productive procrastination.

procrastination productivity getting things done

If you’re not familiar with that phrase, it’s a good one. Everyone needs to know about it, but I find it particularly important for students everywhere. It’s the one thing most likely to keep you from finishing your research paper.

According to the  urban dictionary productive procrastination is:

n. Doing stuff to keep busy while avoiding what really needs doing. When all is said and done, your room is clean, your laundry is folded — but you haven’t started your English paper. (via )

Productivity experts say you can defeat this problem by identifying your most important goal first thing in the morning. Today I realized that this isn’t enough. Here’s why.

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An Ode to Envy

What is jealousy? What drives us to envy others? Why do we all seem to find jealousy both detestable and secretly enjoyable at the same time? And why is jealousy such a prominent theme in most of our greatest literature?

jealousy jealous envy envious

These are the questions Parul Seghal explores in this eloquent lecture (video below). As she says, “Jealousy baffles me. It’s so mysterious, and it’s so pervasive.” And in thirteen minutes, she offers a brilliant analysis of the intersection between jealousy, literature, knowledge, and relationship.

Here are some highlights that I found particularly valuable:

1. The best analysts of jealousy are novelists

If you’re not yet convinced why it’s important to read fiction, listen to what Seghal has to say about jealousy in literature.

“I’ve never read a study that can parse to me its loneliness, or its longevity, or its grim thrill. For that we have to go to fiction. Because the novel is the lab that has studied jealousy in every possible configuration.”

Continue Reading…

Flotsam and jetsam (10/28)

bear lake

Good Reads

  • The 50 Greatest Breakthroughs Since the Wheel: This article is fascinating not just for the list, but for an excellent discussion of the logic behind the list, the difficulty of assessing technological breakthroughs, and its taxonomy of innovation. (The Atlantic)
  • Excesses of the Wahoo Brethren: In short, I believe that cessationists usually understand the Bible better than do continuationists, not to mention the logic of the thing….I believe the continuationists often understand the personal nature of the world better than do cessationists. (Doug Wilson)
  • Dumbing Religion in the New York Times: Prayer without a plausible metaphysics is just me. In such circumstances, the cosmological picture is a cosmological fantasy; and fantasy provides pleasure, not certainty. It trivializes an attempt to change the world, which prayer is, when it suffices with the good feelings that are generated by the attempt. (The New Republic)
  • Practicing Biblical Hospitality: True hospitality is sacrificial, uncomfortable, and does not seek to impress others. Hospitality flows from a hospitable heart. It is more about your open heart and home, not your impressive entertaining skills. (Resurgence)

Continue Reading…

A Prayer for Sunday (Desiderius Erasmus)

ErasmusDesiderius Erasmus was one of the great reformers of the 1500s. Protestants tend not to think of him as a reformer, of course, because he remained a committed Catholic throughout the Protestant Reformation, and famously disagreed Luther on the nature of human free will. But Erasmus was also an outspoken critic of the late medieval church, and one of the key voices calling for institutional, clerical, educational, and moral reform. As such, he should definitely be regarded as one of the most important of the early reformers.

Erasmus was born on October 27 (give or take a day), 1466. In honor of his amazing life and ministry, this morning’s prayer comes from him.

O God of love,
true light and radiance of our world,
shine into our hearts like the rising sun,
and banish the darkness of sin and the mists of error.

May we, this day and all our life,
walk without stumbling
along the way which you have set before us;
through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord

How to Get Admitted to an Insane Asylum (in the 1800s)

asylum entrance (250x385)

click to embiggen

Apparently it’s not that difficult. According to this list of reasons for admitting people to the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane in the late 1800s, you could get locked up for anything from living an immoral life to egotism, even laziness. I think that covers just about all of us.

But a few of these are particularly hilarious.

  • Imprisonment: Really? You’re locking me up for having been locked up? That makes perfect sense. 
  • Novel Reading: I know people who don’t think much of fiction, but this is going a tad far.
  • Over action of the mind and over taxing of mental powers: Apparently lots of people got locked up back then for thinking too hard. As a matter of fact, hard study alone could get you locked up.
  • Religious enthusiasm: Anyone who gets excited about their religion should clearly be confined. And if you’re so messed up that you combined this with the previous one and end up in over study of religion, then you’re hopeless.
  • Bad whiskey: Ha! If anything could get you locked up for a while, this would be it.
  • Women trouble: Enough said.
  • Time of Life: This is one of my favorites. Why are you in here? I don’t know, it’s just that time of life.
  • Snuff eating for two years: Yep, seems like that would do the trick.
  • Asthma: Oh right, a little stay in a mental institution will clear that right up.
  • Masturbation: The list has a real issue with this one as it pops up no less than five times. As far as I can tell, the following are dangerous: mixing it with tobacco, doing it while having syphilis, doing it for 30 years or more, and doing it in a “deranged” manner, whatever that means. But whatever you do, don’t “suppress” it either. No mixed messages there.

Continue Reading…

How to Read Stuff You Don’t Agree With

sad face (250x460)We’ve all faced the challenge. You see the link, and you know it’s going to take you to that blog, written by that person, about that stuff. And you’re going to hate it. What should you do?

When you face that situation next time, Derek Rishmawy has some great advice. His article is actually about handling Christian Celebrity Derangement Syndrome, and he has some terrific comments about how hard it is to say anything sane about people like John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and Rachel Held Evans. So make sure you head over there and read his whole post.

But I particularly enjoyed his advice for reading things you don’t agree with. Here’s what you do.

  1. Before you read the article, breathe.
  2. Count to 10.
  3. Read the article slowly noting key nouns, verbs, modifiers, and transition clauses.
  4. Count to 10 again.
  5. Read it slower.
  6. Pray.
  7. Now go ahead and tweet it out with the appropriate commentary.


  1. Don’t read the article.

Brilliant. I can just hear a mom whispering to her child, “If you can’t read anything nicely, don’t read anything at all.”

Obviously there’s a bit more involved, but you get the point. If you race into an article with your adrenaline receptors on high, your reticular activator going full blast, and your flux capacitor in overdrive, you’re in trouble (especially since that last one is going to land you in the middle of a gunfight in 1885). So slow down. If you’re not going to read the article carefully, prayerfully, and productively, walk away.