The last year was an interesting one for us with the move to Wheaton College, where we are now enjoying our first midwest winter. (Technically, it’s not winter yet, which is probably why we’re still enjoying it.) And we’ve also had some good fun on the blog. To recap, here are the ten most viewed posts from the last year. Enjoy!
- Christmas Is for Worship: It’s time to worry a lot less about getting Christ back into Christmas (he can’t be blasted out of Christmas, no matter how hard anyone tries). What needs to get back into Christmas is worship. (HuffPo)
- Angels We Ignore on High: My ambivalence about angels was not due to reason; it was a failure of my imagination. (Hermeneutics)
- Ideas from a Manger: Pause for a moment, in the last leg of your holiday shopping, to glance at one of the manger scenes you pass along the way. Cast your eyes across the shepherds and animals, the infant and the kings. Then try to see the scene this way: not just as a pious set-piece, but as a complete world picture — intimate, miniature and comprehensive.(NYT)
- Fourteen Things You Shouldn’t Say to Your Pastor: The list is meant to be both humorous and serious. And I bet almost every pastor has heard all of these in the course of a ministry. Enjoy. But do not repeat (at least to your pastor). (Thom Rainer)
The famous welsh preacher Martyn Lloyd Jones was an influential British pastor through most of the twentieth century. One of the leading evangelical voices of his day, Jones was famous for his expository sermons and his resistance to liberal aspects of the British church. Although Jones ministered mostly in England, Jones’ influence has been felt through the English-speaking world.
Martyn Lloyd Jones died on March 1, 1981. In honor of his amazing life and ministry, this Sunday’s prayer comes from him.
“Oh Lord our God we thank thee more than ever that thou has been pleased to give us thy Holy Word. We realise what frail, fallible creatures we are, and how prone we are to go off on tangents and to trust to our own understanding only. We thank thee that thou has given us thy Spirit and thou has given us thy Word.
Oh God we cry out to thee, as a company of thy people, to have mercy upon us. God of our fathers, let it be known that thou art still God in Israel. Let it be known in this arrogant 20th Century, that thou art the same God who has acted and operated throughout the running centuries.
Honour thine own Word, oh Lord. Honour thine own dear Son. Exalt his precious name, and bring many to a knowledge of him as their only Saviour and their Lord.
Lord have pity upon us. In the midst of wrath remember mercy. Revive thy work, oh Lord, thy mighty arm made bare. Speak with a voice that wakes the dead, and make the people hear.”
Every year Google puts out a video highlighting the most “significant” (i.e. most searched for) events of the year. Here is this year’s video, looking back on a year filled with Batkid, the Pope, Nelson Mandela, and more. Enjoy.
- My Top 10 Theology Stories of 2013: The only thing I know about your reaction to this list of top 10 theology stories is that you won’t agree. Maybe partially, but not entirely. And that’s okay. None of us sees the full picture from God’s perspective. In five years we may not be talking about any of these events and trends….Actually, you’ve probably already forgotten a number of entries on this year’s list! (The Gospel Coalition)
- Phil Robertson on Homosexuality: A Conservative Christian’s Response (my favorite post on the Duck Dynasty brouhaha): while many conservatives probably line up with Phil Robertson and his remarks—perhaps wondering what the problem is and bemoaning our secular culture for hanging a man for being honest—I want to say that I was offended and discouraged at Phil’s remarks. (Preston Sprinkle) (You should also check out The Robertson Family Official Statement and Joe Carter’s Race, Reconciliation, and Phil Robertson.)
- The Great American Gender Debates of 2013: From Supreme Court cases to blockbuster films, these are the narratives on sex and gender that dominated the news this year. (The Atlantic)
- Art as Therapy: It comes naturally to most of us to think of music as therapeutic. Almost all of us are, without training, DJs of our own souls, deft at selecting pieces of music that will enhance or alter our current moods for the better. We know to go for something sonorous or vulnerable to dignify a downward spirit or to regain hope with a fast, generous rhythm. Yet few of us would think of turning to the visual arts for this kind of help. (Alain de Botton)
The power of good literature comes from its ability to reveal us to ourselves in both our glory and our depravity. At its best, literature explores humanity, not just the humanity that we wish we could achieve, though there’s a place for that as well, but the humanity that is, both beautiful and ugly. That is why we read literature, and why it both captivates and disturbs our imaginations.
John Henry Newman captures much of the power of literature in the quote below. And he also explains why he thinks this means that it’s not possible to have an exclusively “Christian” literature. For him, that would inevitably involve emphasizing too strongly the ideal, and, as a result, it would no longer study humanity as it is, but only humanity as we believe it will one day be. So it’s not that he doesn’t think Christians can write literature–they can and should–but that we shouldn’t try to produce specifically Christian literature.
People have lamented grade inflation for a while now. And Harvard College has come under particular scrutiny as many professors have complained about lax grading standards there. In light of that controversy, journalist Nathaniel Stein produced a fabulously satirical set of grading standards to be used at Harvard. You’ll have to read the entire post to get the complete standard, but here is how he describes the criteria to be used in awarding an A+.
The A+ grade is used only in very rare instances for the recognition of truly exceptional achievement.
For example: A term paper receiving the A+ is virtually indistinguishable from the work of a professional, both in its choice of paper stock and its font. The student’s command of the topic is expert, or at the very least intermediate, or beginner. Nearly every single word in the paper is spelled correctly; those that are not can be reasoned out phonetically within minutes. Content from Wikipedia is integrated with precision. The paper contains few, if any, death threats.
A few things can disqualify an otherwise worthy paper from this exceptional honor: 1) Plagiarism, unless committed with extraordinary reluctance. 2) The paper has been doused in blood or another liquid, unless dousing was requested by the instructor. 3) The paper was submitted late (with reasonable leeway — but certainly by no more than one or two years).
An overall course grade of A+ is reserved for those students who have not only demonstrated outstanding achievement in coursework but have also asked very nicely.
Finally, the A+ grade is awarded to all collages, dioramas and other art projects.
I’m strongly inclined to agree that if a paper includes more than just a few death threats, 2 or 3 at the most, it definitely should not receive an A+. And if the death threats aren’t at least somewhat creative, I may bump it all the way down to an A-.
- 7 Reasons Lists Capture Our Attention (and Confuse Our Brains): Lists and rankings are great. They’re also devious in both obvious ways (they can be wrong, and not everything is rank-able) and surprising ways that researchers are only beginning to understand. (The Atlantic)
- Religion in America’s states and counties, in 6 maps: With what is arguably the most widely observed holiday of the nation’s most popular religion right around the corner, now seems as good a time as any to look at the state of religion in America’s states and counties. (Washington Post)
- “I have the right to do anything” ( 1 Cor 6:12): Does Paul really believe that “I have the right to do anything” ( 1 Cor 6:12)? Really? Anything? (Bill Mounce)
- The Five Ingredients of an Effective Apology: Apologies are important in any society and children are taught to say “I’m sorry” pretty much as soon as they are capable of constructing a full sentence. Unfortunately, our skill level does not improve very much from there. More often than not apologies made by adults are just as insincere and unconvincing as those made by children. (Psychology Today)
If you were going to teach a class on Christian doctrine, all of it, how would you do it? What topics would you include? In what order would you address them? Which ones would receive the most attention, which would you address more cursorily, and which would you skip entirely, saving them for those chance theology discussions that often break out on Facebook?
For me, those are very real questions. Next semester, for the first time, I’ll be teaching a one-semester survey of Christian theology. The theology classes I taught at Western Seminary were always part of multi-semester sequences. So you had to teach the doctrines assigned to each class or you’d mess up the whole sequence. For the first time, then, I have the opportunity to think through how I would like to do it. And I’m discovering that this isn’t easy to figure out.
So I was quite interested when I read through Mike Bird’s new Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction (Zondervan, 2013) and saw that he had chosen to order the doctrines in a rather novel way. That provided an interesting impetus for thinking through how I would like to do it.