Flotsam and jetsam (10/29)

ancient grammar police

Good Reads

  • Have Jedi created a new ‘religion’?  What might have started as an intellectual exercise by fans adding to the movies and filling in the gaps, has become an attempt to build a coherent religious code. (BBC)
  • The State of Theology: New Findings on America’s Theological Health:  In our desire to serve the church in fulfilling the Great Commission, these findings help to point out common gaps in theological knowledge and awareness so that Christians might be more effective in the proclamation, teaching, and defense of the essential truths of the Christian faith. (Ligonier)
  • Evangelical Leader Denounces Ex-Gay Therapy: Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore denounced reparative therapy at a conference here, saying the controversial treatment that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation has been “severely counterproductive.” (Sarah Pulliam Bailey)

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Flotsam and jetsam (10/27)

trapped humans

Good Reads

  • What Are Americans Most Afraid Of? The nationwide survey was conducted by researchers at Chapman University….It’s considered the first comprehensive nationwide study of what strikes fear in Americans, and it’s the first of what is planned to be a yearly study. Here are the top five things Americans fear the most. (io9)
  • 10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Reformed Theology: Reformed theology — or Calvinism — gets a bad rap. Calvinists are often seen as condescending, believing themselves to be part of God’s “elect.” It’s a cold, rigid theology that leaves no room for grace, oppresses women, and eliminates the need for evangelism. Or is it? (On Faith)
  • Corporate Worship Is Better Than Your Quiet Time: It might help to think of an analogy. If you host a dinner party and invite a few friends from different social circles, how disappointing would it be if your friends only chose to interact with you? One of the great joys of hosting is connecting people you love to one another. (Desiring God)

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Flotsam and jetsam (10/22)

good boy

Good Reads

  • Five Things the Synod Just Did:  Essentially, the “relatio” (or report) published today, at the close of the Synod, will serve as a starting point for future discussion.  It was also presented with great transparency, including even sections that did not win the necessary votes for complete approval. (America)
  • New figures reveal massive decline in religious affiliation: In five decades, the number of people with no religion in Britain has grown from just 3 per cent of the population to nearly half, according to a new survey. Among adults aged under 25, nearly two-thirds define themselves as “nones”, or people with no religious affiliation. (Christianity Today)
  • The Lost Art of Reading:  Today, most scholars reject the idea of esoteric writing, even denying that it ever existed. This blindness has consequences. In Philosophy Between the Lines, Arthur M. Melzer explores the history of esoteric writing and argues that if we refuse to understand it we will inevitably misread and underestimate the greatest books of Western Civilization. (The Washington Free Beacon)

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Flotsam and jetsam (10/20)

sad meals

Good Reads

  • Of Michael Landon and Brittany Maynard: Suicide has made Maynard an international celebrity. Partly, that’s because she is the perfect icon: young, pretty, newly wed, tragically dying, and transgressive for wanting to kill herself rather than face the rigors of late-stage brain cancer. But that alone doesn’t explain why she has received the kind of high-profile attention usually reserved for movie stars, rock stars, and presidential candidates. (First Things)
  • Biblical Illiteracy by the Numbers Part 1: The Challenge:  Simply put, we have a biblical literacy deficit in part because we have a spiritual maturity deficit. Plenty of research shows the correlation between spiritual maturity and reading the Bible. If you want spiritually mature Christians, get them reading the Bible. That’s a statistical fact, but more importantly, it’s a biblical truth. (Ed Stetzer)
  • For a Better Brain, Learn Another Language Multilingualism has a whole slew of incredible side effects: Multi-linguals tend to score better on standardized tests, especially in math, reading, and vocabulary; they are better at remembering lists or sequences, likely from learning grammatical rules and vocabulary; they are more perceptive to their surroundings and therefore better at focusing in on important information while weeding out misleading information. (The Atlantic)
  • Has the Church Learned Anything from Ferguson?  If the Church is to be a good student of Ferguson, we must challenge the status quo. We must find intolerable the current ideologies that allow indifference to thrive. (Relevant)

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Flotsam and jetsam (10/17)


Good Reads

  • Did Jesus Save the Klingons?  I think at bottom most people have this idea that we humans are pretty special creatures and that God is paying attention to us….Suddenly if there are other beings out there, I think it changes completely the way we think about our place in the universe. I think it would be truly profound to know that. (Scientific American)
  • Why Not Just Hand the Sermons Over?  The controversy in Houston rages on, after City Hall subpoenaed sermons from pastors and churches on issues of sexuality and gender identity. The obvious violation of basic American principles of religious liberty and separation of church and state here have united even those who are opposed to one another on all sorts of other issues, including sexuality and gender. But there are some who wonder why not simply comply with the subpoenas and hand the sermons over? (Russell Moore)
  • Recognizing the Adult in the Mirror: Being an adult in America, even aspirationally, has more to do with being a self-governing citizen than with leaving the family nest. Casting off childhood comes in recognizing oneself as a responsible moral actor. Maybe looking around and noticing that “no one is in charge” is not a sign that there are no adults—but, instead, a sign that you are one. (The Hedgehog Review)
  • Why Kids Sext:  An inquiry into one recent scandal reveals how kids think about sexting—and what parents and police should do about it. (The Atlantic)

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What Is Literature Good For?

purebred english Bulldog in glasses and bookI have made no secret of the fact that I like good literature. (To be honest, I’m not terribly picky. I like a good story whether it qualifies as “literature” or not.) And I think there are good reasons that everyone should read fiction regularly. (See 6 Reasons You Should “Waste” Your Time Reading Fiction.) So I resonate deeply with this new video from The School of Life on what literature is good for.

The video highlight four benefits of good literature:

  1. It saves you time.
  2. It makes you nicer.
  3. It’s a cure for loneliness.
  4. It prepares you for failure.

And I think the video is correct on all four. But my favorite is the idea that literature saves you time. Rather worry about whether fiction as a waste of time, the video points out that there is no other way to “experience” the world from so many different perspectives and in so many different ways. It would take a lifetime to experience even a portion of what you can get through literature. We need to have some experiences of our own, of course, but we can expand that by having the kind of mediated experiences that literature offers.

If you’re still not convinced, check out the full video for yourself. It’s worth five minutes.


Flotsam and jetsam (10/13)

super bowl wins

Good Reads

  • Buy Experiences, Not Things: Over the past decade, an abundance of psychology research has shown that experiences bring people more happiness than do possessions. (The Atlantic)
  • Irrational Atheism: The idea that the atheist comes to her view of the world through rationality and argumentation, while the believer relies on arbitrary emotional commitments, is false. This accounts for the sense that atheists such as Christopher Hitchens or Dawkins are arrogant: Their line of thinking often takes the form of disqualifying others on the grounds that they are irrational. But the atheist too, is deciding to believe in conditions of irremediable uncertainty, not merely following out a proof. (The Atlantic)
  • The Diversity of Islam: Beware of generalizations about any faith because they sometimes amount to the religious equivalent of racial profiling. Hinduism contained both Gandhi and the fanatic who assassinated him. The Dalai Lama today is an extraordinary humanitarian, but the fifth Dalai Lama in 1660 ordered children massacred “like eggs smashed against rocks.” Christianity encompassed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and also the 13th century papal legate who in France ordered the massacre of 20,000 Cathar men, women and children for heresy, reportedly saying: Kill them all; God will know his own. (New York Times)

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Saturday Morning Fun…Shakespearean Insults We Should Be Using Today

I am now actively looking for an opportunity to use, “Your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after voyage.” Do you think any of my students would mind if I made that one of my “go to” comments when grading papers?


Flotsam and jetsam (10/10)


Good Reads

  • There’s Nothing Brave about Suicide:  If you are saying that it is dignified and brave for a cancer patient to kill themselves, what are you saying about cancer patients who don’t? What about a woman who fights to the end, survives for as long as she can, and withers away slowly, in agony, until her very last breath escapes her lungs?  Is that person not brave? Is that person not dignified? (Matt Walsh)
  • Why Philosophy Matters for Christians To many people, the mention of “philosophy” brings up an image of gray-haired intellectuals endlessly debating irrelevancies. There is some truth in this image, especially the part about the endless debate. But philosophy matters for Christians because many of the debates are about the “big questions” of human existence. (Vern Poythress)

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Imitating God in Christ

The concept of imitation has fallen on hard times in recent years, with many Christian thinkers expressing concerns about the implied legalism/moralism of trying to “live like David” or “be like Ruth.” Should we really respond to the difficulties of the Christian life by giving people ideal examples that we must strive to emulate? Where’s the grace?

9780830827107According to Jason Hood, though, the concept of imitation is a biblical one that we desperately need to rediscover today. In his Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern (IVP 2013), Hood offers a biblical theology of imitation, one that emphasizes both grace (the Christian life always begins with what God has done for us) and vocation (the Christian life is also one of human action expressed in response to God’s grace). And he does so in a way that is compelling, readable, and thorough. This is a terrific book for anyone wanting to think more deeply about what it means to imitate God as one of his image bearers in the world.

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