Flotsam and jetsam (1/28)

inspiring

Good Reads

  • Alone, Yet Not Alone: There must be something legalistic in the human makeup, because cold, rigid, unambiguous, unparadoxical belief is common, especially considering how fervently the Scriptures oppose it. And yet there is a silent majority who experience a faith that is attractively marked by combinations of fervor and doubt, clarity and confusion, empathy and moral demand. (New York Times)
  • Why I Love an Evening Service: Of all the casualties the church has suffered in recent decades, I wonder if many will have longer-lasting consequences than the loss of the evening service. (Tim Challies)
  • In Defense of Atonement Theology: The most profound consideration of all is the identity of the one who makes atonement. A traditional Christology offers the strongest answer. A God who is not in Christ does little more than throw Jesus under the bus, but a God who is in Christ empties the self at the cross. This is an astounding proposition. (Christian Century)
  • The U.S. Puts ‘Moderate’ Restrictions on Religious Freedom: Overall, Grim’s characterization of Pew’s research suggests that the “moderate” restrictions on religion in the U.S. aren’t primarily abridgments of freedom; they’re part of the complex puzzle of governing a pluralistic political community. The right to free exercise of religion may seem simple in principle, but in practice, it involves figuring out how one group’s rights intersect with another’s. (The Atlantic)

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Don’t Outsource Your Sermon Prep

BrainstormingWe’ve all experienced that “back against the wall” scenario: a week that didn’t go as planned—crises appearing from nowhere as crises are most likely to do—and study time set aside in the face of more urgent tasks. Now exhausted and distracted, you sit at your desk staring at a stubbornly incomplete sermon. You may even begin to wonder if people will notice whether you just rehash a sermon you preached a few years back. Change the title and some key illustrations and surely they won’t notice. Right?

Sunday looming, another solution presents itself. With just a few clicks and some creative searching, you could access the entire wealth of the internet: blog posts, commentaries, even entire sermons. You could be done in less than an hour, leaving space for some badly needed time with your family.

Maybe just this once.

This is the beginning of a guest post I wrote for Pastors Today, a new blog for pastors from Lifeway. Head over there to read the rest and interact with some thoughts from Augustine on outsourcing sermon preparation.

We’ve Fallen and We Can’t Get Up: Reviewing “Fallen: A Theology of Sin”

From one perspective it might not seem like we need that much help understanding sin. After all, we’re already pretty good at it. And we certainly see enough of it around us. So maybe we can dispense with reading entire books about sin, unless, of course, they’re bestsellers and include lots of sex, death, and/or destruction.

Ostrich

You probably won’t be too surprised to find out, though, that practicing sin isn’t the best way to understand sin. And that’s where Fallen: A Theology of Sin (Crossway, 2013) comes in. Part of Crossway’s Theology in Community Series, editors Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson have put together a nice collection of essays on a range of issues relative to the doctrine of sin, trying to help people develop a strong biblical-theological framework for understanding sin. And despite some unevenness, they largely succeed.

Summary

fallen

Fallen includes eleven essays from a range of biblical scholars and theologians. After an introductory chapter from D. A. Carson on “Sin’s Contemporary Significance,” the following five chapters offer a biblical theology of sin. Four of them tackle different parts of the canon: the pentateuch (chapter 2), the rest of the OT (chapter 3), the Gospel, Acts, and Heb-Rev (chapter 4), and Paul (chapter 5). Then Christopher Morgan offers a more synthetic look at skin sin in the biblical story as a whole (chapter 6). The next chapter tackles the historical perspective, tracing the development of the theology of sin throughout church history. And then John Mahony offers a chapter-length summary of “A Theology of Sin for Today.” The final three chapters look at sin in relation to specific topics: Satan, sin, and evil (chapter 9), sin and temptation (chapter 10), and repentance (chapter 11).

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Flotsam and jetsam (1/28)

out of touch

Good Reads

  • A Golden Age in Christian Publishing: when I stop and consider the state of Christian publishing, I can’t help but think that we are in a golden age. A strange age, to be sure, but a golden one nonetheless. Christians today are extraordinarily blessed by a vast number of excellent, Christ-centered, God-glorifying books. (Tim Challies)
  • Is Monergism Necessarily Fatalistic? Strictly speaking, monergists are not fatalists. Fate, at least as traditionally understood, is purposeless and arbitrary. A sense of hopelessness and inevitability characterizes the one who is the victim of fate. No matter what you do, your choices are meaningless. You are captive to forces beyond your control and comprehension that have no personal interest in your wellbeing. (Nathan Finn)
  • Noah’s Ark discovery raises flood of questions: That faint humming sound you’ve heard recently is the scholarly world of the Bible and archaeology abuzz over the discovery of the oldest known Mesopotamian version of the famous Flood story. (CNN Religion)

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Flotsam and jetsam (1/27)

roof-jump

Good Reads

  • Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness? Evangelicalism—both on the individual and institutional level—is trying hard to purge itself of a polished veneer that smacked of hypocrisy. But by focusing on brokenness as proof of our “realness” and “authenticity,” have evangelicals turned “being screwed up” into a badge of honor, its own sort of works righteousness? Has authenticity become a higher calling than, say, holiness? (Brett McCracken)
  • Back to (Divinity) School:  Students under 30 still make up the largest age cohort in seminaries, according to the Association of Theological Schools. But older students are growing in representation….The percentage of students over 50 enrolled in a seminary rose to about 21% in 2011 from 12% in 1995. (Wall Street Journal)
  • What Drives Success? A seemingly un-American fact about America today is that for some groups, much more than others, upward mobility and the American dream are alive and well. It may be taboo to say it, but certain ethnic, religious and national-origin groups are doing strikingly better than Americans overall. (New York Times)
  • How to Jesus Juke a Justin Bieber Story: pop star Justin Bieber was charged with drunken driving, resisting arrest, and driving without a valid license….Upon hearing the news, web and social media savvy Christians across America began thinking, “How can I Jesus juke this Justin Bieber story” to maximize the number of pageviews/retweets/likes I can get while bringing glory to Jesus? (Joe Carter)

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Saturday Morning Fun…The Storm Trooper Hip Hop Twerk

This video is worth it for the closing line alone. Trust me.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyqfHvoUtkU

Flotsam and jetsam (1/24)

meme quotes

Good Reads

  • The Art of PresenceDo be there. Some people think that those who experience trauma need space to sort things through. Assume the opposite. Most people need presence. (New York Times)
  • Eleven Reasons Pastors Are Trusted Less Today: Why are pastors no longer held in high esteem? What is behind the precipitous drop in favorable ratings almost every year? Allow me to offer eleven possible reasons. As you will see, they are not mutually exclusive. (Thom Rainer)

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Liar, Lunatic, or Lord: The Cartoon Version

You’ve probably heard C. S. Lewis’ famous argument that if you take Jesus seriously, you only have three options: he was lying, he was insane, or he was who he claimed to be. Now you can reflect on that argument in cartoon form thanks to this excellent cartoon from Adam4d.com (click to embiggen).

Ironically, the first title I gave this blog post read “Liar, Lunatic, and Lord.” I’m pretty sure that’s not one of the options either!

liar, lunatic, lord cartoon (550x2235)

Flotsam and jetsam (1/22)

human update

Good Reads

  • Three Myths on the World’s Poor: By almost any measure, the world is better off now than it has ever been before. Extreme poverty has been cut in half over the past 25 years, child mortality is plunging, and many countries that had long relied on foreign aid are now self-sufficient. So why do so many people seem to think things are getting worse? (Wall Street Journal)
  • How race and religion have polarized American voters: The rise of polarized politics in Washington is a direct result of profound changes that have taken place in American society and culture over several decades. These changes include a dramatic increase in racial and ethnic diversity and a deepening divide over religion and moral values. (WaPo)
  • Brothers, we are not Amateurs: A Plea for Ministry Preparation: A ministerial amateur is not one who lacks formal training or advanced degrees from reputable institutions. An amateur is one who lacks the knowledge base, skill set, and experience for a particular task, in this case Christian ministry. This is to say, one can still be an amateur though holding an earned degree, and one can be a faithful minister though lacking one. (Jason K. Allen)

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Sometimes You Just Have to Land the Plane

There’s something freeing about being on an airplane. Soaring through the sky, admiring the landscape far below, temporarily removed from the concerns of everyday life. It’s nice. I can bury myself in a good book, do some writing, or just daydream out the window. On a plane in the clouds time stops, problems subside, voices dim, and I can relax.

Then the plane lands.

And I’m instantly thrown back into the chaos of email, due dates, and crises. It’s frustrating, but necessary. I’d love to stay in the air cruising lazily through the atmosphere. But as much as I enjoy the time out, eventually you have to land. Clouds are nice, but life happens on the ground.

Young Aviator in a aircraft in a hangar with these planes

That’s a great picture for a struggle that many have with theology. People like to stay in the clouds enjoying the view. But sometimes you just have to land the plane.

Landing the Plane in Theology

I use this analogy when explaining to my students why they have to take positions on difficult theological issues: women in ministry, image of God, election, etc. Every year I have at least some students who don’t want to land the plane. They enjoy reading, thinking, and debating about difficult theological issues, but when it comes to taking a clear stand on what they think, they hold back.

And they often make a virtue out of it: theological humility. They’ll argue that these issues are so complex and have been debated for so long that the principled thing to do is just not to have a position. And they’ve probably seen too many landings turn into crashes—maybe landing the wrong way or developing the arrogance that comes from thinking that you’ve got it right. Bad landings lead some to think that maybe it would be best just to stay in the clouds.

But I make them land anyway. Why?

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