AGEISM?

Two questions I recently posed to Scot McKnight:

Two questions and I am looking for your quick, gut answers, especially since there is no way to know for certain. So from your own experience in ministry:

How much of an issue (from 1-10, with 10 being a semi truck sized issue) are:

The lack of compelling, joyful, wise, thoughtful, loving, and faith-filled folks over 50?

The lack of regard pastors and other ministry leaders under 40 have for the first group?

My own experience is positive. I am 59 and find lots of young men who desire time and input. However, I certainly see the effects of ageism in the church that is sadly perpetuated by too many, younger leaders.

Scot’s response:

On #1, a one or two: there are plenty.
On #2, too much but it is less that than a culture that doesn’t think in terms of wisdom but in terms of creativity and newness.

HOW CLUTTERED IS YOUR HOUSE?

As I near sixty years old (surreal!) I am working to leave our earthly possessions in such a way as not to be a burden to our two sons.  To that end, I recently sold over 100 books from our somewhat large library (around 3000 volumes).  These are niche books that would not be of interest to them.  Fortunately, there are several books they want, but there are still many to get rid of.  I continue sift and make decisions and a new batch will be going out soon.  It is an ongoing battle as new review and interview copies keep coming from various publishers.  Getting rid of these books are “little deaths” and reminders of my own mortality, neither of which are cheery!  However, I don’t want leave David and Chris with unnecessary burdens.  The added motivation is that we can use the extra money now so it adds further incentive to be perpetually pitching.

A few days back I read about this study which adds some more motivation! (HT: Scot McKnight/Jesus Creed):

Imagine for a moment a team of anthropologists walking through your door, taking a look around, and settling in for a close observation of your possessions, how you interact with them, and what this means about American life.
 

That’s pretty much what happened to 32 middle-class families between 2001-2005. I recently came across the results of this anthropological study, published in 2012: Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors, by Jeanne E. Arnold, Anthony P. Graesch, Enzo Ragazzini, and Elinor Ochs. Together with a large research team, the authors analyzed and cataloged the visible possessions in each and every room of the 32 households—counting, documenting, examining, and coding artifacts in situ, in their place.

Devoting thousands of hours to data collection, they hoped to glean insights on the acquisition and organization of material artifacts, and on how families interacted with their possessions, and with one another. The results of the study are at once illuminating and devastating.

Their most striking findings concern the sheer magnitude of our material possessions.

Seventy-five percent of garages contain no cars. They’ve been repurposed to contain surplus stuff—unused furniture, bins containing countless forgotten-but-not-gone possessions. (The typical garage contains between 300-650 boxes; nearly 90 percent of garage square footage is being used for storage, rather than for cars).
Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/anxiousbench/2017/08/reclaiming-life-at-home/#G1CodWjTVhUb76DY.99

HOW DANTE CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE

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https://www.amazon.com/Dante-Save-Your-Life-Life-Changing/dp/1941393322

Journalist and gadfly, Rod Dreher, loves a good argument. If you read him, as I do, you know he can write and has loads of good things to offer. He pushes boundaries at times, sometimes makes incautious assertions, but you are always forced to think.

This is the second book I’ve read by Dreher. A few months back I read The Benedict Option book. How Dante Can Save Your Life was finished on a flight home late last night. There is much I liked about it.

First, kudos to the publisher for an absolutely stunning design. There’s nothing like real books!

Dreher’s book is full of well-written and insightful observations all while using Dante’s Comedy as his conversation partner.

My only major beef with the book is the Mommie Dearest kind of approach. It’s great to have honesty, but Dreher tells us far too much about the conflicts in his home. At times it felt like a Jerry Springer show in print.

Still, there is much to benefit from in reading How Dante Can Save Your Life.

ARE YOU WILLING TO LEARN?

From historian, Eric Foner:

My own saying, I don’t know if I invented this—perhaps I did—which I tell students is that “nothing is easier than finding what you are looking for.” In other words, that’s my plea to be open-minded. When you go to an archive, you have certain presuppositions but it’s very easy to find what you’re looking for and to ignore those things which don’t fit your assumptions, and you can’t do that. You have to, as they say, be open-minded enough to be willing to change your mind when you encounter countervailing evidence.

Dave Moore’s Reflection:

Many, and yes I said many Christians, are rather poor at this kind of godly, but nimble type of thinking.  We pretty much mimic the culture at large.  Most of us Americans hunker down in our own cultural, social, and intellectual silos.  We regularly choose ignorance, group pressure, and fear to determine our cherished beliefs. 

HT: John Fea

The rest is here: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/166481

THE FRACTURED REPUBLIC

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Yuval Levin writes wise, thoughtful, and accessible books. His previous book, The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left, was terrific. And as I said in its review, it is not just for “political junkies.”

The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism can stand on its own, but I would recommend reading The Great Debate as well.

The Fractured Republic is refreshing. Levin is a conservative, but that does not keep him from correcting his conservative kin, especially on fueling an expressive individualism that is just as toxic as those on the Left.  Levin believes that conservatives who appreciate the importance of “mediating institutions” like families, communities, and religious groups, is where promise for a better political climate moving forward resides.

Levin rightly sees both conservatives and liberals falling prey to nostalgia, a longing for a bygone era where things were so much better than the present. Both sides need to disabuse themselves of nostalgia in order to see their way forward in making wise decisions in a culture that is different from the past.

NOT HEADING FOR THE HILLS!

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Scholars are rarely prophets and prophets are rarely scholars.  I was reminded of this in reading the much debated, The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher.

Rod Dreher, journalist and outspoken Christian, is decidedly on the prophetic side of the scholar-prophet spectrum. This, however, does not mean that he is incapable of helping us better understand the far-reaching and practical ramifications of something as arcane as nominalism.

We must say right out of the blocks that Dreher’s book is not a jeremiad screed to head for the hills.  Rather, Dreher advocates for “exile in place.”  The preposition is key.  We are to cultivate faithfulness with other like-minded folks not simply to hunker down in our religious enclaves.  We should form these counter-cultural communities to strengthen our capacity to engage, not escape, our world.  This is a clarion call by a gifted writer to let the church be the church.

I have my disagreements with some of Dreher’s analysis and antidotes.  With respect to the former, Dreher is insufficiently aware of what the Protestant Reformers meant by sola Scriptura.  As Keith Mathison memorably puts it, sola Scpritura does not mean solo Scriptura.  Among other things, leaning on the thesis in Brad Gregory’s Unintended Reformation made for a potted history.  Dreher would have been greatly helped if he had availed himself of the work of either Mathison or D.H. Williams, especially his Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism: a Primer of Suspicious Protestants.

As to antidotes, I don’t share Dreher’s sweeping denunciation of public schools.  For the record, our two sons attended Christian schools, had a few years of homeschooling, and went to public high schools.  All three have their strengths and weaknesses.  Sure, public schools can be a mess.  I saw incompetent teachers and weak administrators, but I also saw bogus rules, unprincipled administrators and mean teachers at the Christian school.  My experience, it needs to be noted, was both as a parent and a part-time teacher.

Dreher is rightly concerned about the corrosive effects of “moralistic, therapeutic, Deism.”  I share his concerns.  I also share Dreher’s conviction that “losing political power might just be the thing that saves the church’s soul.”  As many have said, the church seems the most vital (and prophetic) when it works from the margins of power.  Notwithstanding its shortcomings, Dreher’s book is a good reminder of that reality.

NOT JUST FOR POLITICAL JUNKIES!

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The modern notion of “politics” is much narrower than the ancient one.  The modern idea thinks mainly of things like voting, lobbying for favorite causes, and those who govern.

Levin shows us in his terrific book that there is much more to politics.  For example, one’s understanding of human nature and history dramatically affect how one understands political change.  So-called progressives and so-called conservatives are given much to think about in this fine work.

Since I am late to the party in reviewing this book, let me close with one massive implication that came to me in reading this book and it deals with Christian theology.  For those of us Christians who gladly hold to more conservative or orthodox (small o) theology, there is something terribly important we can learn from Edmund Burke.  Burke believed that the best of tradition is true, but to convince more radical types like Paine, it was crucial to also show the beauty of tradition.  If I were to grade us conservative Christians on how well we do in showing the beauty of truth, I would give us a very low grade.  Carefully crafted doctrine is essential, but it needs to shine forth as beautiful.

You can purchase the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Great-Debate-Edmund-Burke-Thomas/dp/0465050972