Flotsam and jetsam (7/21)

android smartphone

Good Reads

  • How to Talk about Pain: Stripped of its mysticism and its virtuous solicitations, pain was emptied of positive value. Rather than being passively endured, pain became an “enemy” to be fought and ultimately defeated. The introduction of effective relief made submission to pain perverse rather than praiseworthy. (New York Times)
  • The Importance of Eating Together:  It’s incredible what we’re willing to make time for if we’re motivated….Perhaps seeing eating together not as another appointment on a busy schedule, but rather as an opportunity to de-stress, a chance to catch up with those whom we love then, could help our children do better in school, get in better shape, and be less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Eating together also led children to report better relationships with their parents and surely relationships between adults can similarly benefit. (The Atlantic)
  • Five Pleas from Pastors to Search Committees:  At any given time in a year, as many as 50,000 congregations are searching for a pastor. The implications of the challenges and possible misunderstandings are many. These pleas from pastors are sound and reasonable. (Thom Rainer)
  • The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence:  Emotional intelligence is important, but the unbridled enthusiasm has obscured a dark side. New evidence shows that when people hone their emotional skills, they become better at manipulating others. When you’re good at controlling your own emotions, you can disguise your true feelings. When you know what others are feeling, you can tug at their heartstrings and motivate them to act against their own best interests. (The Atlantic)

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A Prayer for Sunday (Macrina the Younger)

The older sister of Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, Macrina the Younger was an influential figure in our own right, becoming one of the leading monastics of the early church and deeply shaping the theology and writings of her two significant brothers. Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Macrina describes her as an impressive woman with a tremendous intellect and a passion for following Christ.

Macrina died on July 19, 340. In honor of her amazing life and ministry, this morning’s prayer is the prayer that she prayed on her deathbed.

“O Lord, You have freed us from the fear of death;
You have made the end of life here the beginning of a true life for us.
For a time, You give rest to our bodies in
…..sleep and You awaken us again with the last trumpet.

The dust from which You fashioned us with Your hands
…..You give back to the dust of the earth for safekeeping,
and You who have relinquished it will recall it
…..after reshaping with incorruptibility and grace
our mortal and graceless substance.

You redeemed us from the curse and from sin,
…..having taken both upon Yourself;
You crushed the heads of the serpent who had seized us
…..with his jaws in the abyss of disobedience.
Breaking down the gates of hell
…..and overcoming the one who had the empire of death,
You opened up for us a path to the resurrection.
For those who fear You, You gave as a token
…..the sign of the holy cross for the destruction of the Adversary
…..and the salvation of our life.

O God everlasting, towards whom I have directed myself from my mother’s womb,
…..whom my soul has loved with all its strength,
…..to whom I have dedicated my body and my soul from my infancy up to now,
prepare for me a shining angel to lead me to the place of refreshment
…..where is the water of relaxation near the bosom of the holy Fathers.

You who broke the flaming sword
…..and compassionately gave Paradise back to the man crucified with You,
remember me also in Your kingdom,
…..for I, too, have been crucified with You,
…..having nailed my flesh through fear of You and having feared your judgments.
Let the terrible abyss not separate me from Your chosen ones;
let the Slanderer not stand in my way
…..or my sins be discovered before Your eyes
…..if I have fallen and sinned in word or deed or thought
…..because of the weakness of our nature.

Do You who have power on earth to forgive sins forgive me
…..so that I may be refreshed and may be found before You
…..once I have put off my body,
…..having no fault in the form of my soul,
but blameless and spotless may my soul be taken into Your hands
…..as an offering before Your face.

Saturday Morning Fun…Word Crimes

Weird Al and grammar policing in the same video? Yes please.

Why Do Animals Suffer When They’ve Done Nothing Wrong

Many theologians have claimed that all the suffering that we see in the world around us is a result of the fall. In the Garden, there was perfect peace. After the fall, suffering and death were introduced, not just for humans but for all of creation.

But does this really make sense?

death before the fallIn his new book Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (IVP, 2014), Ronald Osborn says no. That answer results from an overly literal reading of the Creation/Fall narratives, and it fails to account for the fact that animal predation, and the corresponding death and suffering of animals, seems to be part of the natural order (e.g. lions look like they have been painfully devouring gazelles from the very beginning).

With this book, Osborn joins a growing list of scholars dealing with the problem of animal suffering from a biblical perspective. In just the last few years we have Michael Murray’s Nature Red in Tooth and Claw: Theism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (OUP, 2008), Nicola Creegan’s Animal Suffering and the Problem of Evil (OUP, 2013), and Andrew Linzey’s Why Animal Suffering Matters: Philosophy, Theology, and Practical Ethics (OUP, 2009), among others. So clearly this is a question whose time has come. But has Osborn done the question justice? That’s what remains to be seen.

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Flotsam and jetsam (7/18)

xmen

Good Reads

  • Fantasy and the Buffered Self: the porous self is open to the divine as well as to the demonic, while the buffered self is closed to both alike. Those who must guard against capture by fairies are necessarily and by the same token receptive to mystical experiences….Safety is purchased at the high price of isolation. (Alan Jacobs)
  • Wonder and the Ends of Inquiry: Wonder is not only a peculiarly human passion; it is also one that, at least on this account, underscores the limits of human knowledge. The more we know, the less we wonder. (The Point)
  • Being a Better Online Reader: The digital deficit, they suggest, isn’t a result of the medium as such but rather of a failure of self-knowledge and self-control: we don’t realize that digital comprehension may take just as much time as reading a book. (The NewYorker)
  • Want to Love Your Job? Church Can Help, Study Says:  Regular attenders who frequent a church that teaches God is present at your workplace, work is a mission from God, or that faith can guide work decisions and practices is a good sign for your career, according to a recent study from Baylor University. (Christianity Today)

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A Common (But Bad) Reason for Rejecting Penal Substitution

Crows-Celtic-CrossAs a theology professor, I routinely hear people claim that Anselm  invented the penal substitution  view of the atonement. This is the idea that Jesus bore the punishment that we rightly deserved because of our sin, and that this was necessary for us to be reconciled to God.

Before Anselm, the church had a view that focused almost exclusively on ideas like victory—i.e. on the cross Jesus defeated the enemies of humanity like Satan, death, and sin—and healing—i.e. the entirety of his incarnate life healed our broken humanity and made it possible for us to resume the path to godlikeness. (If you’d like some examples, see here  and here .)

And people often use the relative newness of the theory as a reason for rejecting it. If the early church didn’t think of the cross as some kind of vicarious punishment, if that was just a medieval invention, let’s get rid of it.

There’s just one problem with this: it’s wrong. And it’s wrong for two important reasons.

[This is the beginning of my newest post over at Christianity.com. Head over there to check it out, and let me know what you think.]

Flotsam and jetsam (7/16)

holding signs

Good Reads

  • My God. My Enemy. My Eating Disorder: I was raised with the understanding that I must better the world in order to enter the pearly gates of heaven. And if the world could not accept me for the overweight child that I was, there was no hope that I could change the world. Therefore, how could I be good in the eyes of this God? (On Faith)
  • Books Are Alive: The worst thing about prophets of inevitable technological progress, besides their obvious myopic tendencies, is their fondness of universalizing the particular. It’s not enough to observe that more people are reading books on their smartphones; you need to announce that The Future of Reading is Smartphones. Meanwhile, 42 percent of American adults still don’t even own a smartphone. (The Baffler)
  • Millennials’ Political Views Don’t Make Any Sense:  Millennial politics is simple, really. Young people support big government, unless it costs any more money. They’re for smaller government, unless budget cuts scratch a program they’ve heard of. They’d like Washington to fix everything, just so long as it doesn’t run anything. (The Atlantic)

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Flotsam and jetsam (7/14)

brain is full

Good Reads

  • Is Evangelical Morality Still Acceptable in America?  And this is a basic tenet of evangelical Christianity, too: Faith must be lived out in the public square; a privatized faith is no faith worth the name. Because of this, the real debate isn’t about whether morality should be public or private; it’s about about figuring out what kind of moral impositions are tolerable and fair in a pluralistic society. (The Atlantic)
  • When Belief and Facts Collide: Mr. Kahan’s study suggests that more people know what scientists think about high-profile scientific controversies than polls suggest; they just aren’t willing to endorse the consensus when it contradicts their political or religious views. (New York Times)
  • How Evangelical Christians Do Money: On Tithing:  He doesn’t need my money. The church will continue to exist without my measly portion of income. But my heart needs to give it, to help me grow deeper in trust, and to extricate myself from the clutches of greed and vanity that pull at me. (The Billfold)

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5 Affirmations on Inerrancy

inerrancy-197x300Inerrancy continues to be one of those hot-button theological issues that frustrates some and fascinates others. In some contexts, denying inerrancy will get you fired, labeled a heretic, or possibly both. In other contexts, affirming inerrancy will get you disregarded, labeled a fundamentalist, or almost certainly both. And many of the books on inerrancy slide annoyingly toward one extreme or the other. So I’ve been looking forward to reading Zondervan’s Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy since it came out last Fall, hoping that it would offer a more nuanced exchange of perspectives on such an important issue. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Since quite a few reviews of the book have already been written (see esp. Gavin Ortlund’s review), I thought I’d do something a little different. As I was reading through the book, I was struck by the fact that each of the five essays offered something important to the discussion about inerrancy, even the ones that were most critical of the concept. So I’d like to focus on five affirmations that we can and should make about inerrancy, drawing from each of the five essays.

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A Prayer for Sunday (John Wesley)

john wesleyA famous Anglican ministry in his day and ours, John Wesley‘s ministry, the accompanying revivals, and the subsequent rise of Methodism all combined to reshape the church in the English speaking world. For that alone Wesley would be worth remembering. But when you add in his impressive theological contributions and social efforts, his life becomes even more notable.

John Wesley died on March 2, 1791, fifty-three years after the famous Aldersgate experience that shaped his approach to Christian life and ministry. In honor of his amazing life and impact, today’s prayer comes from him.

Forgive them all, O Lord:
our sins of omission and our sins of commission;
the sins of our youth and the sins of our riper years;
the sins of our souls and the sins of our bodies;
our secret and our more open sins;
our sins of ignorance and surprise,
…..and our more deliberate and presumptuous sins;
the sins we have done to please others;
the sins we know and remember,
…..and the sins we have forgotten;
the sins we have striven to hide from others
…..and the sins by which we have made others offend;

forgive them, O Lord,
forgive them all for his sake,
…..who died for our sins and rose for our justification,
…..and now stands at thy right hand to make intercession for us,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

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