I am currently in denial that January is actually over already. Since my calendar insists that this is true, however, here are our top five posts from the last month. Now I’m going to go change the due dates on my to do list so that it looks like I’m actually staying on top of things.
- Siding with Jesus on the Cross: We tell a story in which we side with Jesus against the world and against the sinners and against the perpetrators of injustice. We thereby become guiltless and just. The opposite of what the cross’s message teaches. (Scot McKnight)
- God Hears Your Super Bowl Prayers, an interview with William Lane Craig: Ultimately, one is submitting oneself to God’s providence, but I see nothing the matter with praying for the outcome of these things. They’re not a matter of indifference to God. God cares about these little things, so it’s appropriate. (Christianity Today)
- A new bivocationalism: If it is one option for congregations willing to take the long look at their future and shape another kind of identity realistically and creatively, then bivocationalism may provoke renewal rather than resentment. (ABP News)
- 5 Things to Remember When It Comes to Church Size: My experience with wise church leaders is that they reluctantly embrace growth when it comes, but they do not chase it, they do not fixate on it, and they do not use it as an indicator of anything in any short-term way. They do look at long-term trends to help identify obstacles to effective ministry, and they certainly celebrate the stories of people who experience gospel-centered transformation. (Transformed)
- 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)
We’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.
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.
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.
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).
- 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)
- The Grammys, Grace, and the Gospel: 3 Things the Grammys Can Remind Christians: the Grammys are not representative of our culture, but in some ways they are indicative of its shifts. And, the Grammy moment is a good moment to remind ourselves of a few things. (Ed Stetzer)
- 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)
- Why I Am a Cessationist (Tom Schreiner) and Why I Am a Continuationist (Sam Storms): Two good posts offering different perspectives on an important subject. Worth checking out. (Gospel Coalition).
- The Art of Presence: Do 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)
- Money Is a Terrible Way to Measure the Value of a College Major: Yes, students need to understand what skills are marketable. But they also need to study subjects that keep them engaged enough to graduate. (The Atlantic)