Flotsam and jetsam (7/3)

Good Reads

  • Beware of Beauty Overload: The Adaptive Eye of the Beholder: The harmful side effect for guys … is this: Real women … do not look as attractive once the mind has been calibrated to assume the centerfolds are normal. And for guys in relationships, exposure to beautiful photos undermines their feelings about the real flesh-and-blood women with whom their lives are actually intertwined.
  • The New Theist: How William Lane Craig became Christian philosophy’s boldest apostle.

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7 Concerns about How Technology Shapes “Modern” Life

People often worry that modern technology has made life worse, not better. And I have to admit that every time my computer locks up in the middle of an important project or my cell phone buzzes distractingly when I’m in the middle of a good book, I wonder the same thing. But it’s worth realizing that concerns about technology and quality of life are nothing new. Here are seven surprisingly ”modern” concerns about technology from over 100 years ago.

1. We’re inundated by too many short messages.

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June’s Top Posts

The blogging has been lighter than normal around here as we spent most of June finalizing details on our move to Wheaton. But I did manage to post a few things. So here are the top five posts from the last month.

Flotsam and jetsam (7/1)

Good Reads

  • How to make a baby with 3 people’s DNA: The U.K. is slowly winding its way toward approving a controversial in vitro fertilization technique that combines three people’s DNA in one embryo — making what some journalists are calling a “three-parent baby.”
  • The Gospel According to ‘Me‘: The booming self-help industry, not to mention the cash cow of New Age spirituality, has one message: be authentic! Charming as American optimism may be, its 21st-century incarnation as the search for authenticity deserves pause.
  • How Not to Help Someone Who Is Hurting: We are in a cultural moment that is obsessed with FIXING. With magic diet and lifestyle changes that promise, when implemented, to make us a whole new, better person.

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A Prayer for Sunday (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

Elizabeth Barrett BrowningOne of the most prominent poets of Victorian England, Elizabeth Barrett Browning was well known for her incredible literary output and the influence she had on later writers like Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson. Keenly interested in biblical studies (apparently she could read Hebrew) and theology, Barrett Browning’s writings were notable for their overt religious and theological themes. And she was also an active member of several Bible and missionary societies.

After 55 influential years, Elizabeth Barrett Browning died on June 29, 1861. In honor of her amazing life, this Sunday’s prayer comes from her.

NOW, by the verdure on thy thousand hills,
Beloved England, doth the earth appear
Quite good enough for men to overbear
The will of God in, with rebellious wills !
We cannot say the morning-sun fulfils
Ingloriously its course, nor that the clear
Strong stars without significance insphere
Our habitation: we, meantime, our ills
Heap up against this good and lift a cry
Against this work-day world, this ill-spread feast,
As if ourselves were better certainly
Than what we come to. Maker and High Priest,
I ask thee not my joys to multiply,–
Only to make me worthier of the least.

Flotsam and jetsam (6/28)

Good Reads

  • Christians Are Not Called to Have Amazing Sex: The fact that sexual compatibility does not matter to Christians when choosing a spouse makes the shocking and countercultural statement that sex is not our God. It indicates that we are willing to make a commitment to someone with whom we may be sexually incompatible, with whom we may never have good sex, because the purpose of marriage is not pleasure, but formation.
  • Sex Without Bodies: Christians cannot simply accept or reject “same-sex marriage” and think we have settled our sexual ethics. The LGBTQIA coalition has other challenges for the church.
  • Why the Biblical Languages Matter—Even if You Forget Them: Many students assume that the study of the languages is useless if the specifics are forgotten at a later point.   Indeed, this may be the biggest assumption in the mind of today’s seminary students. This assumption, however, is profoundly mistaken.

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The Church Is Not a Democracy

democracy democratic vote congregational church congregationalist congregationalism church covernanceIn this quote, Scottish theologian P.T. Forsyth warns against viewing the church as a democracy, which he sees as a fundamental misunderstanding of the very nature of the church. His concern wasn’t with congregationalism or the idea of churches voting on major decision (Forsyth himself pastored a congregational church), but with the fact that understanding the church as a democracy makes us think of the church as being all about the people (democracy literally means “rule of the people”), whereas we must always remember that the church belongs to God and owes him, and him only, absolute obedience. Essentially, he fears that the democratic impulse stems from a desire to shirk that responsibility and be our own highest authority.

Although I have a hard time believing that congregational churches are the only ones who tend to forget that God is the one in control, having attended a congregational church all my life, I think this is a warning that we all need to hear. As much as I value congregational participation in church governance, it can, and often does, contribute to an atmosphere that is people-centered (everyone needs to have their say and we must keep everyone happy) rather than God-centered, a democracy rather than a church.

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Surviving The Imminent Death of Google Reader

The apocalypse is upon us. By “us” I mean those of us who use Google Reader. And the apocalypse, of course, is the fact that Google Reader is going away on Monday (July 1). If you’re a Google Reader user and you haven’t already made plans to move to another platform, you need to act fast if you want to continue getting feeds from your favorite blogs. So for you procrastinators, here are some of the better options for surviving the apocalypse.

Many of you don’t care about any of this because you don’t use Google Reader. If that’s because you already use another option, great. But, if you’re one of those who doesn’t really have a good way of organizing your online reading, you should check out these options as well. Randomly clicking around the internet can be fun at times (and rather disturbing), but all of these methods will be more useful for staying current with your favorite blogs. (And by “favorite,” I pretty much just mean mine.)

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Flotsam and jetsam (6/26)

Good Reads

  • The Sexual Devolution: The statistics tell us that 70 percent to 80 percent of college-age students are sexually active, but what they don’t say is how numbing and sad much of that sex actually is.
  • C. S. Lewis, Evangelical Rock Star: To this day Lewis, who published the first of his children’s books about “Narnia” in 1950, remains deeply compelling for many evangelicals, more so than for Catholics and mainline Protestants. Why?

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If You Can’t Explain Something Simply, Maybe It’s Not Simple

Simplicity is often the handmaid of clarity. I spend much of my time encouraging students toward greater clarity in writing. And that usually means shortening sentences, eliminating paragraphs, and sometimes slashing entire sections. In communication, less is usually more.

But sometimes I think we forget that in this relationship simplicity is the servant, not the master. When we make simplicity a goal in itself, it becomes the enemy of clarity.

Einstein’s Dictum

We’ve all experienced it: the belabored “explanation” that confuses more than it clarifies. I remember my high school chemistry teacher explaining a concept. It was something I’d actually learned about in a math class the year before, and thought I had a pretty good handle on it. But by the time he was done, I was thoroughly confused. That’s right, his explanation was so bad it actually caused me to un-learn something.

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