Flotsam and Jetsam (12/29)


Good Reads

  • The Surprising Ways That Chickens Have Changed the World: For most of us, the word “chicken” spells a cold, clammy slab of plastic-wrapped white meat plucked out of the refrigerated section of our local supermarket. But in the ancient world, and in many cultures today, chickens had deep religious and social significance. (National Geographic)
  • Why Christmas Is Huge in China: The Western religious festival is so trendy, in fact, that it may be the second-most-celebrated festival in China after the Spring Festival among young Chinese. (The Atlantic)

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Flotsam and jetsam (12/17)


Good Reads

  • The Biggest Myth in Time Management: The truth is, we can’t ever really get away from it. There is no escaping the nonstop surge of email, text, voicemail, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn — and that’s just the technology-based stream. How can we ever catch up? We can’t. (Harvard Business Review)
  • Gay Christians choosing celibacy emerge from the shadows: The reaction among church leaders themselves has been mixed, with some praising the celibacy movement as a valid way to be both gay and Christian. But others have returned to the central question of how far Christianity can go in embracing homosexuality — even if people abstain from sex. (Washington Post)
  • The Myth of the Exceptional Woman: But women leaders aren’t that extraordinary. The differences between female leaders and women in general are not as great as we think they are—at least, they’re not differences that we can’t address through education and more opportunities. (Christianity Today)
  • The Rise of Mindfulness: The ages-old practice teaches a person to be more focused on the present moment, rather than caught up in thoughts about the past or worries about the future. The practice has gained popularity in the U.S., and apparently with good reason: Every other week there seems to be a new scientific study showing just how it can change the brain. (Forbes)

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Flotsam and jetsam (12/15)


Good Reads

  • An Open Letter to the Dad Looking at Porn: Dear Dad, I want to let you know first of all that I love you and forgive you for what this has done in my life. I also wanted to let you know exactly what your porn use has done to my life. You may think that this effects only you, or even your and mom’s relationships. But it has had a profound impact on me and all of my siblings as well. (Faith It)
  • Fred Sanders on John Wesley and Arminianism: Reading John Wesley can certainly make you look around at contemporary preaching and wonder where all the serious business went. The judgment he pronounced on university students in his day –“you are a generation of triflers, triflers with God, with one another, and with your own souls”–strikes a nerve for us. (Jesus Creed)
  • Future Perfect: Social progress, high-speed transport and electricity everywhere – how the Victorians invented the future. (Aeon)

Flotsam and jetsam (12/12)


Good Reads

  • Sorry, Tertullian: Church growth is “not strongly” correlated with either governmental or societal persecution. However, Christianity “tends loosely” to change more rapidly (grow or shrink) when governmental restriction is high, and stays relatively stable when such pressure is low. (Christianity Today)
  • 10 Ways That Brain Myths Are Harming Us: Governments are pouring unprecedented sums of money into neuroscience…..Unfortunately this ignorance is providing the perfect breeding ground for myth and misconception. For every genuine break through, there is parallel excretion of hype or utter neurobunk. (Wired)
  • Will Evangelicals Continue to Support Torture? In  2009, the Pew Research Center released a headline-grabbing survey showing that 6 in 10 white evangelical Protestants supported the use of torture against suspected terrorists. White evangelicals were the only religious group with a majority of respondents who believed torture was often (18%) or sometimes (44%) justified in defense of United States interests. (On Faith)
  • After Ferguson: America Must Abandon “Sick Christianity” at Ease with Violence: Violence has won in America, and we live always in the break, in the silence, like that of a musical break between movements where violence is being prepared to answer back to violence, and where someone is about to be seduced into believing that peace and stability will be established through violence. (Willie James Jennings)

Flotsam and jetsam (12/10)

 americans think

Good Reads

  • 10 Historical Myths about World Christianity: As followers of Christ and adherents of the Bible, Christians are called to be a people of the truth. Thus, it is crucial that we seek to understand our tradition as accurately as possible. So consider these top ten historical myths about world Christianity. (Gospel Coalition)
  • Chimps Aren’t People—for Now: Tommy, a 26-year-old caged chimpanzee, has been denied the right to personhood and habeas corpus, but not for the reasons you might think. (The Atlantic)
  • Whose Gender? Which Identity? Good arguments are no protection against bad arguments or no arguments at all, especially when the latter are allied to the rhetoric of medical professionalism and personal sincerity, touching story lines, and the organized determination of small groups of activists. (First Things)

Riding the Unicorn Isn’t Easy Either (Theological Vocation, part 3)

Explosive Apple

This is the third part in our series on the economic realities of living a theological vocation in the academy. The first part focused on the difficult job market, and in the last post we discussed the challenges of making it as an adjunct. Now we’re going to turn our attention to the difficulties facing those who have already landed full-time positions.

First, as I already mentioned, theological schools around the country face declining enrollments, and I’m sure we all know people who have had their positions terminated as a result of the corresponding budget cuts. Although positions in higher education are probably still more stable than many, shaky economic realities have many wondering if they will still have jobs in years to come.

And those who have retained their jobs increasingly find that the nature of the vocation has changed around them. As institutions seek to be more flexible and reach more students, faculty face increased expectations to accommodate in ways they may not have originally anticipated. Teaching at multiple locations, on the weekends, or evenings, and creating and managing online learning courses are becoming normal aspects of the academic life, often leaves faculty wondering if this is really what they signed up for.

If declining enrollment and changing job expectations were the only challenges, though, we would be facing something relatively manageable. At least the fundamental nature of our industry would remain the same. The challenge, however, goes further, with many raising questions that go to the heart of the academic theological vocation itself. And this is happening at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

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Flotsam and jetsam (12/8)

the new king of nativity scenes

the new king of nativity scenes

Good Reads

  • A United Evangelical Response: The System Failed Eric Garner: Not all evangelicals believed that Darren Wilson, a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August, should have been indicted in a recent grand jury hearing. Others were silent on the issue. But Wednesday’s events brought a more forceful, and more united response that justice had not been served. (Christianity Today)
  • 9 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About the Persecution of Christians: Americans like to believe they do not tolerate discrimination against blacks, gays, women, the elderly, or the disabled — we wear that belief as a badge of pride. So why does the persecution of Christians go ignored? Here are 9 things everyone needs to know about the persecution and discrimination of this religious group. (On Faith)
  • The Promise and Prospects of Retrieval: Recent Developments in Roman Catholic Thought that Shape Contemporary Dogmatic Theology: Broadly speaking, Catholic theology in the past twenty years has been characterized by three distinctive tendencies. The first is the decline of influence of the Rahnerianism of the post-Vatican II period. The second is the rise of influence of theologians associated with the Communio movement. The third is the return of interest in classical theological sources, marked particularly by the renaissance of Thomistic studies. I will consider each of these points briefly in turn. (Zondervan Academic Blog)
  • Stop Wasting Everyone’s Time: At the end of the day, many people wonder where all their time went. New data-mining tools are helping employers answer that question. The causes of overload have long been suspected—email and meetings—but new techniques that analyze employees’ email headers and online calendars are helping employers pinpoint exactly which work groups impose the most on employees’ time. (Wall Street Journal)

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The Painful Realities of the Adjunct Life

We’re taking a look at the economic realities of trying to live out a theological vocation in the academy. In the last post, we focused on the shape of the academic job market, which is still rather bleak. Today’s post moves in a different direction: trying to make it as an adjunct.

classroom (550x388)

An additional part of the economics of the theological vocation comes into play when we include the reality of the adjunct life. Although I was not able to locate statistics from ATS on the use of adjunct faculty, the trends in U.S. higher education as a whole are quite clear. In 1969, 78% of professors held tenure-track positions. By 2009, that number had dropped to 33.5%.[1] And at private 4-year schools, over half  were part-time, non-tenure (53%). I do not think we would find that these numbers reflect ATS schools as a whole, but they do suggest an industry-wide trend toward more “flexible” faculty.

Thus, even though full-time positions have grown scarce, plenty of part-time, non-tenured teaching opportunities await the new PhD. And students often use these positions as a way of staying near the unicorn, running alongside for a while, hoping to jump on its back when its not looking. My concern, though, is that too many are getting trampled in the process.

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Flotsam and jetsam (12/3)


Good Reads

  • The Real Reasons Young Adults Drop Out of Church: he young adults who do drop out of church often lack a first-hand faith—a faith of their own—and a relationship with Christ that matters deeply in their own personal life apart from their parent’s pressure. (Ed Stetzer)
  • Five Things All Atheists Should Know about Religion: I’m an atheist who engages in secular activism and is active within the atheist community. I’m also doing doctoral work in the cognitive science of religion, and I’m sad to see so many atheists who have misguided and ignorant views about religion. Here are five things I wish more atheists knew. (On Faith)

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Just for Fun

The Economic Realities of the Theological Vocation (part 1)

I often wonder if I should add another job title to my business cards: Crusher of Other People’s Dreams. A budding scholar walks into my office. She’s fallen in love with the idea of teaching theology and the vision of training Christian leaders so they are better equipped to serve the Church. And she just wants some advice on how to go about doing that, how to pursue a theological vocation in the academy. And although I usually try to lead with something warm and encouraging, I eventually have to drop the hammer: the job is harder than you think, the economic realities are worse than you think, and many spend years on the chase without ever catching the unicorn.

These are generally not fun conversations.

Preoccupied, worried young male worker staring at computer

I say more than that, of course. I happen to think that I have one of the greatest jobs in the world, and I’ll support anyone who is truly convinced that the unicorn is worth chasing. Before they start, though, I want to make sure they know that the unicorn is a sneaky beast. If you’re not careful, it will tear you in half with its pearly white horn.

To explain what I mean, I want to focus on two issues. First, the economic challenges facing anyone just starting to pursue a theological vocation in the academy. And second, some of the realities with which those of us already in place must deal. And I’ll conclude with just a few thoughts on some things we might need to consider moving forward, though I recognize that there are no easy solutions.

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