Flotsam and jetsam (4/7)


Good Reads

  • The Girls Next Door: In 2012, President Barack Obama said the fight against human trafficking was ‘one of the great human rights causes of our time.” so why are so many Colorado children still being sexually exploited? (The Denver Magazine)
  • Richard Dawkins Is So Wrong It Hurts: What the Science-vs.-Religion Debate Ignores:  This current discourse that pits faith and science against one another like Nero’s lions versus Christians — inappropriate analogy intended — borrows directly from the conflation of all religious traditions with the history and experience of Euro-American Christianity, specifically of the evangelical variety. (Salon)
  • 15 Keys to Parenting: What No One Tells You:  Ten years, it’s been a bit of dog and pony show and your hearts have catapulted through our own daily tilt, implanted themselves right into mine. Ten years, broken bits of us to the power of God and who knew exponential glory was found in the sticky and messy places? (Ann Voskamp)
  • Where I Stand: Also wounded on the side of the road are Christians who sincerely love God and people and believe homosexuality is a sin, but they’ve been lumped in with the Big Loud Mean Voices unfairly. Painted as hateful intolerants, they are actually kind and loving and are simply trying to be faithful. The paintbrush is too wide, the indictments unfounded. (Jen Hatmaker)

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Basil vs. Augustine: A Holy Spirit Smackdown (Wheaton Theology Conference 2)

Okay, so “smackdown” might be a bit of a stretch. But Gregory Lee‘s paper on the first day of the Wheaton Theology Conference addressed the common idea that eastern and western theologians have long had fundamentally different theologies of the Spirit. Taking Basil the Great and Augustine of Hippo as representative figures given the undeniable influence that each has exercised in their respective traditions, Lee argued that there is far more that unites the pneumatologies of these towering figures than divides them. Differences remain, but should be viewed in light of the overwhelming common ground.

human brains and war rope

Basil and the Holy Spirit

I won’t try to summarize everything that Lee did to explain the context and significance of these two pneumatologies. But Lee started with a useful explanation of the opponents that Basil faced in his day. The immediate occasion for Basil’s famous On the Holy Spirit was a controversy that broke out regarding the proper use of prepositions. (And we thought today’s grammar police were bad!) Two of Basil’s doxologies attributed equality to the Spirit in the Trinity, saying things like “Glory to the Father, with the Son, together with the Holy Spirit.” Instead, they thought it more appropriate to use “from whom” for the Father, ”through whom” for the Son, and “in whom” for the Spirit. Although this might sound like a minor grammatical point, it manifests radically different visions of who God is.

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Saturday Morning Fun…Every Analogy of the Trinity Is a Heresy

This would have been more appropriate around St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s still fun. Check out St. Patrick trying to explain the Trinity to a couple of “simple” Irishmen who raise a “few” questions about the adequacy of his trinitarian analogies.


The Holy Spirit in Scripture (Wheaton Theology Conference 1)

Vector doveWheaton’s annual theology conference opened yesterday, focusing this year on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Since this is my first time at the conference, I was interested to see how things would go. And so far, I’m quite impressed. (A few people are live tweeting from the conference. Follow #WTC14 if you want to follow along.)

I don’t know that I’ll have time to comment on each of the papers, though they have all been interesting in their own way. But I will highlight the ones I found most compelling. And I’ll start where the conference did, with an impressive paper from Sandra Richter on “The Holy Spirit in Scripture.”

Despite the fact that she only had a couple of weeks to put the paper together after one of the other presenters backed out for health reasons, she nailed it. Covering everything the Bible says about the Spirit in 45 min is impossible. But highlighting some of the most important ideas in a truly engaging way while synthesizing biblical and theological insights? Apparently that can be done.

It’s hard to select just a couple of favorite insights from the paper, but I’ll try. Most importantly, the paper focused on the Spirit as God’s “presence” with his people in creation. She traced that from God’s presence in creation, through his presence in Israel and the temple, to his presence in the incarnate Christ, and then his presence in the church, and the ultimate, eschatological restoration of God’s full presence with his people in his creation at the end of days.

Richter helpfully spent considerable time on the Spirit in Gen 1-2. Discussions of biblical pneumatology routinely skip over most of Genesis after a suitably cursory comment about the Spirit “moving/hovering/brooding/whatevering” over the waters in 1:2. But Richter rightfully took some time to talk about the role of the Spirit in the creation of the world and the formation of God’s people. And in the process she gave us one of the best lines of the day: “The Holy Spirit is what makes us image rather than merely animate.”

Of course, “Peter, you rock!” after summarizing Peter’s Pentecost sermon was pretty fabulous as well.

And a line that I’ll be using regularly came when discussing the meaning of ruach in the Old Testament. After a quick summary of the word’s tremendously diverse range of meanings, Richter refused to try and pin down one “core” meaning of the word that would serve as the basis for her biblical presentation, which is something that many do when talking about the Spirit in the OT. Instead, she commented, “Good exegesis demands more than lexicography.” The same is true for theology. Defining terms is important but ultimately inadequate.

And you have to love a biblical studies paper that concludes by having everyone stand and read Epiphanius’ Creed!

In the end, it was the perfect way to begin a conference on the Holy Spirit. The paper was both delightful and insightful, and it’s not easy to accomplish both of those in the same paper.

Flotsam and jetsam (4/4)

pet me

Good Reads

  • Is an Online Church Really a Church? E very church should have an online presence. Your church people and your community are there, so you should be as well. But that is different than referring to something that happens via your website as a “church.” (Ed Stetzer)
  • The Fault Lines Before the Evangelical Earthquake:  The recent controversy surrounding World Vision USA’s decision to open employment to same-sex couples and the organization’s subsequent reversal reveals the fault lines in evangelicalism today. (Trevin Wax)
  • The Four Questions of Christian Education:  if any student graduates from a Christian school, at either the secondary or the university level, and cannot answer the following questions I argue that the school is failing. (Anthony Bradley)
  • 7 Reasons We Don’t Make Disciples:  Today I believe the Holy Spirit is drawing the church back to the New Testament model. Leaders as well as churchgoers are weary of the impersonal, performance-based, people-in-the-pews approach. We are tired of the show. We have not been called to entertain an audience—we have been commissioned to train an army. (Charisma)

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Flotsam and jetsam (4/2)

batmans wedding

Good Reads

  • How math illumines our infinite God:  If we don’t possess even basic math skills, how will we ever be able to engage the mathematical – that is, the logical, precise, trustworthy, universal, elegant, infinite and awe-inspiring – mind of God? (Think Christian)
  • A Thread Called Grace:  Secrets draw their power from shame. I convince myself that I am too messed-up, too tainted, or too tarnished for others to accept. Or maybe people will think I am a fraud. As I believe these lies, shame grows into fear, which is almost always at some level, fear that if others truly know me, they won’t love me. Or at least love me as much or in the same way. (Jonathan Merritt)
  • What Worship Style Attracts the Millennials?  And you will hear Millennials speak less and less about worship style. Their focus is on theologically rich music, authenticity, and quality that reflects adequate preparation in time and prayer. (Thom Rainer)
  • Aged Out of Church:  The emotional, spiritual, physical, and relational shifts that occur at midlife can lead to disconnection from old social networks and a profound sense of loneliness, which brings with it serious health risks. At this point, many also feel drained by the increasingly common occurrence of death, disease, divorce, and the changes that redefine old friendships. (Hermeneutics)

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The Blog Lives!

Once upon a time, there was a theology prof who did a little blogging on the side. One day, he saw an innocuous message on his blog indicating that he should update one of his plugins. Such a simple message. One little click and all will be well.

Silly prof.

Computer error

One click, three days, and half my sanctification later, the blog has returned to normal. If you didn’t notice anything amiss, completely missing that the blog has been almost nonfunctional since Saturday, shame on you! You should have no higher priority than monitoring me and what I write on this blog. It’s in the Bible. If you can’t find it, you’re using the wrong version. (Hint: It’s right between Zachariah and Malachi.)

For the rest of you, I’m terribly sorry for the pain you must have endured as we suffered through our first major blogtastrophe. But we survived, something that is entirely due to the generous efforts and hard work of  Jim Stewart, a colleague from Western Seminary. Thanks to him, we’re up and running again! (Jim, I put in a good word for you with the Holy Spirit. He lives in Wheaton too.)

To celebrate the restoration of the blog, here’s something completely random that is likely to get me in trouble with far too many people.

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Flotsam and jetsam (3/28)

at at oops

Good Reads

  • Hooray for “worthless” education! We live in one of the few cultures in the world that has the ideal of pursuing happiness – not industry, not wealth – built into its national character, and yet we increasingly treat the notion of educating ourselves in how to be well-rounded, sentient beings as a pointless expense. And learning for its own satisfaction is all but laughed at. (Salon)
  • The Friendless Pastor: It’s ironic that pastors, who talk the most about the need for community, experience it the least. Our days and nights are filled with calls, meetings, and interactions with people. But despite lots of people contact, we have few trusted peers. We have too many relationships and too few friends. (Leadership)

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Flotsam and jetsam (3/26)

real books

Good Reads

  • Jesus Ate with Sinners: Jesus’s table fellowship with sinners looked suspicious from the outside, but those who were there knew that kingdom activity was going on. Those intent on purity and cleanness, who live with an us-versus-them mentality, should think that we are drunkards and gluttons! But the broken sinners should know that we are people of grace and compassion. (Andy Holt)
  • Get Ready for Generation X to Take the Reins: They’re more pragmatic than the boomers, and less idealistic overall. But unlike the millennials, they haven’t rejected either large institutions (political parties and organized religion) or capitalism. More than the “slacker” stereotype, many Gen Xers were aspiring “yuppies” who saw movies like “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “Wall Street” and thought about how they might make money and acquire power in a world that no longer promised each generation a better life. (US News)

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Why Do We Read Fiction?

I often hear people say that they struggle to appreciate fiction. Life is short, and they’d rather spend their time on books that are more informative or useful.


In his famous An Experiment in Criticism, C. S. Lewis offered some powerful reflections on why we read fiction. For him, it ultimately comes down to the idea that fiction allows us to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Although much of what he says applies to all kinds of reading–after all, any time I read someone else’s words I’m trying to see the world from their perspective–he argues that fiction does this in uniquely powerful ways. Fiction shows us a world, it doesn’t just tell us about one. And, as a result, fiction shapes us in ways that no other kinds of reading can. I wrestled with this a bit in 6 Reasons you Should Waste Your Time Reading Fiction. But Lewis does it so much better.

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