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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Books Aren’t Dead, And Neither Is Paper

Do you remember when people said that computers would end the age of paper? Everything would go digital and those heaps of paper on your desk would disappear. How did that work out for you? Now many are saying the same thing about books. After all, when digital music became popular, it took over the business, almost completely destroying other media. So the same will probably happen with physical books, right?

Once again, we may be surprised. Here’s an infographic pointing out some important differences between the music and book industries, differences that suggest the printed book may still be around for the long haul. (HT Justin Taylor)

And once you’ve checked out the infographic, scroll down for a couple of humorous videos arguing that there still a role for paper in general. Although tablets might be able to do some things better than paper, there are still at least a few areas where you really should use paper. (HT James McGrath)

book-not-dead-560x2313

And here are the videos on the dangers of a truly paperless society.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_gOZDWQj3Q

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

 

Flotsam and jetsam (1/20)

nerd problems

Good Reads

  • Why Millennials Long for Liturgy: The millennial generation is seeking a holistic, honest, yet mysterious truth that their current churches cannot provide. Where they search will have large implications for the future of Christianity. Protestant churches that want to preserve their youth membership may have to develop a greater openness toward the treasures of the past. One thing seems certain: this “sacramental yearning” will not go away. (American Conservative) (BTW – You may also want to check out Are Millennials Joining High Church Traditions?)
  • The New Age of Christian Martyrdom: Lions have been replaced by firing squads and concentration camps as record numbers of Jesus’ worshipers are persecuted from Syria to North Korea. (The Daily Beast)
  • Why Am I Not Poor?: I met men and women who were remarkably hard working, determined, and focused. I spent time with women who cared for their families and also worked at other jobs from before sun up until dark. I encountered people who were intelligent, entrepreneurial, and absolutely ingenious at overcoming obstacles. And despite all of these attributes, they were still numbingly poor. (Christianity Today)

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A Prayer for Sunday (Miles Coverdale)

CoverdaleAn English reformer and Bible translator, Miles Coverdale was best known for producing the famous Coverdale Bible, first complete translation of the Bible into modern English. Although he lived on the continent for much of his life, Coverdale built off the work of earlier translators like William Tyndale and John Wycliffe, both of whom were condemned for their translation efforts, and produced a Bible translation that would have tremendous influence during the time of the English Reformation.

Miles Coverdale died on January 20, 1569. In honor of his amazing life and ministry, today’s prayer comes from him.

O Lord Jesus Christ, draw thou our hearts unto thee;
join them together in inseparable love,
that we may abide in thee and thou in us,
and that the everlasting covenant between us may stand sure for ever.

Let the fiery darts of thy love pierce through
all our slothful members and inward powers,
that we, being happily wounded,
may so become whole and sound.

Let us have no lover but thyself alone;
let us seek no joy nor comfort except in thee.

Saturday Morning Fun…The Joys/Pains of Parenting

Coca Cola nails it with this add on the life of young parents: messy and magical at the same time. Enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sNlcwAh83Y

Flotsam and jetsam (1/17)

food pyramid

Good Reads

  • The one theology book all atheists really should read: One reason that modern-day debates between atheists and religious believers are so bad-tempered, tedious and infuriating is that neither side invests much effort in figuring out what the other actually means when they use the word ‘God’. (The Guardian)
  • Mortifying the Fear of Academic Books: If you can clear the fog of fear and hesitation hovering over academic books, you might find an unexpected depth and richness between the pages. Heavy theological reading will never take the place of a heart-gripping novel or a devotional full of soaring words of worship. But a rich read can often add color, dimension, and vibrancy to your Christian walk and give those devotionals a few more volts. (Gospel Coalition)
  • Extroverts and Introverts in the Church: Jesus perfectly embodied both types of personalities. He knew when to withdraw from people and he knew when to move towards them. He knew when to step back and pray and he knew when to move forward and heal. He knew when to talk and he knew when to listen. (Hermeneutics)
  • The History of Popular Music, According to Google: Drawing on the songs that reside in the collections of millions of Google Play users, the company created a visualization of the popularity of various artists and genres from 1950 to today. (The Atlantic)

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A Theology Big Enough for the Gospel: Reviewing Mike Bird’s Evangelical Theology

Writing a one-volume survey of Christian theology is a daunting, some might say insane, challenge. How exactly do you go about saying all that is important about the triune God, humanity, salvation, the church, eschatology, and everything else, in a single book? Good luck with that.

And along the way you have to make decisions about what topics to cover, how much time to spend on them, and what positions to take, with each decision likely to anger, or at least annoy, someone.

Evangelical-TheologyDoesn’t that sound like fun?

Yet every generation needs people willing to rise up and respond to the challenge. Theology is not a task to be done once, something already accomplished by theological giants like Augustine and Calvin. Theology is always an ongoing process of thinking through what we must believe and say today, a calling that no prior generation can fulfill for us. It is ours alone.

And although some will engage that task by engaging smaller portions of doctrine, digging deeply into issues like Christology, anthropology, or ecclesiology, we will always need those willing to present the whole scope of Christian doctrine for the church today. And that is precisely what Michael Bird sets out to do in Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction (Zondervan, 2013)I have already commented on some aspects of Bird’s project, and I’ll include links to those posts below. But now I’d like to comment on the book as a whole. You’ll have to bear with me, though. Systematic theology books are long and complex. So this review is a tad wordier than usual.

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Flotsam and jetsam (1/15)

Calvin-Siezes-the-Day-685x216

Good Reads

  • Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High: more than 5.3 billion people (76% of the world’s population) live in countries with a high or very high level of restrictions on religion, up from 74% in 2011 and 68% as of mid-2007. (Pew Forum)
  • A Few Good Men, Not a Few Good Yes Men: it is encouraging as a minister to know that I have good men who are watching my life and doctrine closely so that the church will be edified and not led astray.  What minister who knows his own heart would trust himself to lead a congregation on his own and according to his own wisdom? (Carl Trueman)

Other Info

Just for Fun

  • Apparently sharks are sneakier than I realized. Clever girl.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6KXjTv8TrY#t=15

My Interview on Blogging, Evangelicalism, and Pentecostalism

Luke Geraty, who blogs over at ThinkTheology, recently asked me a series of questions about my experience blogging as an academic, what I think about evangelicalism today, and the pentecostal/charismatic movement. I think he’d originally planned for it to be a single post, but he failed to account for my long-windedness-osity. So he has posted it as a 3-part series instead. Here they are:

Many thanks to Luke for putting this together. So head over there and let him know what you think of the interview.

Flotsam and jetsam (1/13)

Because every day should start with a monkey riding a dog chasing a goat.

Because every day should start with a monkey riding a dog chasing a goat.

Good Reads

  • The Invisible Anglicanism of CS Lewis: If you spend any length of time interacting with contemporary writing about CS Lewis, you’ll discover one thing almost instantly: Lewis has become a theological Rorshach test for his readers. – See more at. (Mere Orthodoxy)
  • Finding a Place to Ask the Tough Questions: I think that the faith of my childhood, that faith that was neatly encapsulated in a two-sentence sinner’s prayer prayed at an exact time and place that instantaneously and transactionally changed me into someone who never has doubts again, has not held true in my own experience. On this journey of looking for God I’ve experienced instead: tentative hope, dark doubt, bright epiphanies, and even some days when I don’t know if I believe in God anymore. (Amy Butler)
  • One of the Most Significant Days in Church History: Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday: without the birth of Muhammad there would be no Islam. And, at this point in history, Islam represents one of the most significant religious challenges to the claims of Christianity. Not since Christianity’s earliest encounters with Judaism have Christians faced a religious and cultural identity as tight as Islam. (Gospel Coalition)
  • Read the Bible Like a Texan, Y’all: We might not like it or understand it, but apparently the Church is God’s plan to mediate his power and presence to the world.  Frankly, it’s remarkable that Paul is so confident about this truth as he writes specifically to the Corinthian church.  The church in Corinth was “Church-Gone-Wild XXX”  – they were immersed in factions, debauchery, and sexual immorality.  Yet, warts and all, their community was where God had chosen to dwell in a powerful and immediate way. (Cataclysmic)

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