Flotsam and jetsam (12/4)

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Good Reads

  • Seven Ways Pastoring Has Changed in Thirty Years: We are out of clichés about change or the pace of change. Sometimes we forget how much particular vocations have changed in a short time. In fact, in thirty years pastoring has changed in ways we likely would have never predicted or imagined. (Thom Rainer)
  • Jesus Pushed the Elf Off the Shelf: As the traditions of the holidays swirl around my children, my hope is that they will learn to distinguish the law from the gospel. I want my kids to know that God is not another Santa Claus. I long for them to embrace the fact that they are not capable of being good enough to receive anything but coal in their stockings and that our hope for goodness can only be found in the only One capable of perfection. (Liberate)
  • When Do We Cross the Line into Plagiarism? Preachers today feel under much more pressure to be spectacular than they used to feel. Christians are much less likely to be loyal to a church of a particular place or a particular theological tradition. What they want is to have a great experience on Sunday, and that means they will travel to get to the most gifted preachers. When you put this pressure together with (a) a busy week in which you haven’t felt able to prepare well, and (b) the accessibility of so much sermon material through the internet—the temptation to simply repreach someone else’s sermon is very strong.

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When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

Sometimes you just need to put the book down, step away from the computer, and give yourself some space to be awed again by how amazing God is.

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As Walt Whitman said in his famous poem about astronomy and the wonder of the universe:

When I heard the learn’d astronomer;

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;

When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;

When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,

How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;

Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

……………..~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1900

Whitman is, of course, talking about the danger of focusing so much on the data of science that we miss the mystery and wonder of the universe itself. How much more is this true for those who seek to know God himself.

Take this as a timely reminder to let yourself be awed by him today.

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C. S. Lewis on Love, Reward, and Desire

pleasure (300x295)In his 1942 sermon “The Weight of Glory,” C. S. Lewis challenged people to consider the difference between love and self-denial, arguing that the Bible’s emphasis on love and reward means we need to reconsider the role of self-denial in the Christian life. He’s not encouraging a wanton lifestyle of excess and selfishness, but one that views human desire and pleasure as good things, albeit twisted by our failure to understand what desire and pleasure are really all about.

I thought it would be good to hear Lewis’ words again as we make our way through this holiday season. They seem appropriate for reminding us both that God created pleasure, so we can enjoy life shamelessly, and that we are created for far higher pleasures than those with which we often try to satisfy our desires.

If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Flotsam and jetsam (12/2)

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Good Reads

  • My Ministry Is Harder Than Yours! (And Other Lies We Tell): So, please, let’s not compare our ministries on who has it toughest. I promise not to if you don’t. Let’s just get behind one another in concerted prayer and support. Let’s get rid of this spiritual one up-manship and face the facts that it’s all a privilege anyway. We serve the King of the Universe. Just let that sink in. (Mez McConnell)
  • The C.S. Lewis you never knew: The Christian icon whose image we see in bookstores may first seem distant. He spoke and dressed like a prim Englishman from another time. But his life was messy, contradictory and tarnished by thwarted dreams. (CNN) (I do wish the article put some of this in context by mentioning when he became a Christian instead of making it sound like all of this characterized his life as a Christian. But it’s still an interesting read.)

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Top Posts for November

Saturday Morning Fun…A Year of Parenting

a year of parenting

a year of parenting 2

 

a year of parenting 3

via Incidental Comics

 

Flotsam and jetsam (11/29)

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Good Reads

  • The Diet From God: The Daniel fast is growing in popularity, often prompted by Christians’ desire for a deeper form of prayer. Many are reporting lasting physical benefits, too. (The Atlantic)
  • 5 Reasons I’m Glad I Was Raised Evangelical: For those of us who wrestle at times with the religious traditions with which we were raised, I think it’s important to remember from time to time the gifts those traditions gave us. These are just a few that come to my mind. (Rachel Held Evans)
  • Brainwashed: Neuroscience vs neurobollocks: a smart and sometimes devastating critique of “neurobollocks” — the propensity for using brain-science (and, particularly, brain imaging) to reductively explain human motivation. (Boing Boing)

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Wheaton’s PhD Students and Faculty at ETS/AAR/SBL 2013

I am very pleased to say that Wheaton’s doctoral students and faculty were well represented at this year’s Bible/theology conferences. It’s exciting to see the breadth of research and writing going on here, especially when you know that this is only a small sampling of what everyone is doing.

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The doctoral students in particular did an outstanding job with 9 students presenting 10 papers over a wide range of biblical and theological topics. And the faculty were similarly well represented with 17 faculty presenting 19 papers.

I have listed the various presenters and papers below. Given that this list includes 29 papers and 4 moderated sessions extending over 8 days and 3 conferences, it’s entirely possible that I’ve missed something. So let me know if anything is missing or incorrect.

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Flotsam and jetsam (11/27)

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Good Reads

  • The Speech that Launched the Crusades: On November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II delivered the speech that launched the Crusades. Some call it the most influential speech in human history. (Gospel Coalition)
  • A Ghost Town With a Quad: Is that the future of the American university? I get that university professors have a questionable (and wholly inaccurate) rap as slacker lotharios who use class time to yell about Vietnam, get drunk on Tuesday at 10 a.m., and can never be fired no matter how boring they are. But even if you think this is true, the idea of decimating entire academic departments is ridiculous, because universities need to teach things, or else they are strip malls. (Slate)

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Highlights from ETS/AAR/SBL

The blogging has been a little light around here for the last week since I’ve been away for ETS/AAR/SBL 2013. And for the first time in many years, I decided not to do anything online while I was there, which was rather nice. But here are some thoughts on the conferences in general.

1. Lots of Talk about Inerrancy

Some of you may know that the theme of ETS this year was inerrancy. But I don’t have much to say about the discussion since I attended very few of the sessions dedicated to that theme. I would have attended the opening session on Zondervan’s new Five Views on Biblical Inerrancywith Pete Enns, Al Mohler, Mike Bird, and and John Franke–but I didn’t arrive until later that day. And my attendance at the plenary sessions was spotty to say the least. So you’ll have to look elsewhere to hear how that conversation went.

2. Growing Interest in Theological Anthropology

As usual, there weren’t many papers dedicated specifically to theological anthropology (assuming you eliminate any paper having to do with women in ministry and free will). But I had a startling number of individual conversations with people interested or actively researching in theological anthropology. And I had at least three conversations with people about whether it’s time to develop a study group specifically dedicated to that topic. That would give us a forum for addressing more deeply issues like human sexuality, race, disability, dignity/uniqueness, and embodiment, as well as the intersection between theological anthropology and other doctrines (Christology, pneumatology, ecclesiology, etc.). That’s sounds rather exciting to me, especially if we could make it intentionally interdisciplinary, so I’m going to look into that a bit more.

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