Quotable and Wise

From Pastor Derwin Gray:

“The church should be a tutor to the world of what racial reconciliation looks like.”

“Teamwork makes the dream work.”

“God loves big buts.”
“The scene of the crime is your mind.”

DESTROYER OF THE gods

Here’s a snippet from my interview with Larry Hurtado of the University of Edinburgh:

Moore: It’s become somewhat of a self-evident truth that early Christianity only appealed to the down and out. Is that accurate to the historical record?

Hurtado: For several decades now that old notion has been discredited among scholars of early Christianity. Studies of the people named and described in earliest Christian texts show that, right from the earliest years, they included craftsmen, merchants, and owners of businesses. Of course, there were also slaves and poor among believers. By at least the second century, there were also believers from upper levels of Roman society. That upward progress socially is likely part of what prompted pagan sophisticates such as Celsus to attack Christianity so vehemently.

The full interview is here:

Larry Hurtado: An Interview

THE PHARMACIST OF AUSCHWITZ

Image result for THE PHARMACIST OF AUSCHWITZ

https://www.amazon.com/Pharmacist-Auschwitz-Untold-Story-ebook/dp/B01M8KHLF0

I have developed a “Moore’s Law of Reading” that helps me see whether a book was worth my time or not. I first count my marginal notes. I then check out the total number of pages of the book. If my marginal notes add up to at least half the number of pages, the book is either important (say something by Nietzsche whom I mightily disagree with), or a book that I appreciated very much. With The Pharmacist of Auschwitz, both categories are true.

Reading about the concentration camps is tough. For me, I kept avoiding books like Night by Elie Wiesel and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I finally broke down and read both. I’m glad I did, but these kinds of books make me terribly sad and cry for justice. As a Christian, I find my sanity in the belief that God will one day make all things right. But I “live by faith and not sight” so the struggle for sanity in the interim is a daily battle.

I call Patricia (aka Trisha) Posner “Detective Posner” because she was relentless in accumulating the salient details in telling a little known story. The story revolves around a pharmacist named Victor Capesius. Capesius was involved in all kinds of heinous activities while working at the infamous Auschwitz camp.

Posner does a great job of teasing out the relevant details that make you see how such a “normal” person could be complicit in such barbarity. The ruthlessness of the Nazis is maddening to make sense of. Posner describes some of the ghoulish things the Nazis did, but does not overdo it. It’s not easy to tell a story full of dark realities and not get lost in all the depressing things that transpired. Posner does a good job of walking a tightrope between being true to the story, but not indulging the prurient interests of some.

There are many other things I appreciate about this book, but I will close with one more. Posner does a nice job of contextualizing the story of Capesius in the overall story of the Nazis. In telling the larger story of the Nazis you are reminded of how sinister their approach to life was. The insanity of the Nazis was demonstrated in many ways, like worshiping their dogs, but treating the Jews as less than animals. As a Christian, it reminded me of the perversity the apostle Paul speaks of in Romans 1.


I highly recommend this book, with the caveat lector that one be at least high school age.

DISCIPLESHIP

One of the maxims I developed years ago goes like this: As the number of leadership books increases, the number of available leaders decreases.  It’s a cheeky way of saying that principles and techniques don’t usually transfer to the real thing.  The same could be said for discipleship books.

I’ve been involved in discipling men for about forty years now.  I have also been the beneficiary of being discipled.  I’ve certainly read a number of discipleship books…plenty for a lifetime.

So when Zondervan sent me a (unsolicited) copy of The Disciple Maker’s Handbook I came pretty close to setting it aside.  I decided to give it a read. I’m glad I did. 

Harrington and Patrick do a terrific job of both offering practical instruction while peppering the book with thoughtful insights on discipleship.  This is an accessible book that novices to ministries of discipleship will find most helpful.  This kind of accessibility many times means something leans towards the superficial, but thankfully it is not the case with this book. 

One of the many strengths of this book are the various exhortations and insights on being intentional when it comes to discipleship ministries.

MONDAY IS FOR MORTALITY

Image result for holy trinity by masaccio
From Wikepedia:

(I once was what you are and what I am you also will be). This memento mori underlines that the painting was intended to serve as a lesson to the viewers. At the simplest level the imagery must have suggested to the 15th-century faithful that, since they all would die, only their faith in the Trinity and Christ’s sacrifice would allow them to overcome their transitory existences.

According to American art historian Mary McCarthy:

The fresco, with its terrible logic, is like a proof in philosophy or mathematics, God the Father, with His unrelenting eyes, being the axiom from which everything else irrevocably flows.

Source: McCarthy, Mary (August 22, 1959). “A City of Stone”. The New Yorker. New York: 48.

WHY I’M NOT ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER

Along with all the triviality (hey, “look at my pizza” posts) and stupidity (everyone is an expert), Alan Jacobs adds further reasons:

“I have come to believe that it is impossible for anyone who is regularly on social media to have a balanced and accurate understanding of what is happening in the world. To follow a minute-by-minute cycle of news is to be constantly threatened by illusion. So I’m not just staying off Twitter, I’m cutting back on the news sites in my RSS feed, and deleting browser bookmarks to newspapers. Instead, I am turning more of my attention to monthly magazines, quarterly journals, and books. I’m trying to get a somewhat longer view of things — trying to start thinking about issues one when some of the basic facts about them have been sorted out. Taking the short view has burned me far too many times; I’m going to try to prevent that from happening ever again (even if I will sometimes fail). And if once in a while I end up fighting a battle in a war that has already ended … I can live with that.”

http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2017/01/recency-illusions.html

TWO PEOPLE STAND OUT

There are two men who have taught me the most about the proper ways to integrate theology and literature: Ralph Wood and Roger Lundin.  I have interviewed Ralph before, and Lord willing shall be going back to Baylor for another interview.  I corresponded with Roger.  I was planning on meeting with Roger during my lecture at Wheaton, but Roger unexpectedly died a few days prior to my talk.  Jeremy Begbie of Duke collaborated with Roger.  Here is part of Begbie’s tribute:

He cared about words – or better put, he cared for people through words: his students, colleagues and readers. That was why he labored so hard to find the right ones. That was why – with that memorable sidelong glance – he paused so often in conversation. That is why he spent hours and hours revising and re-editing his essays and books. In all the years I knew Roger I can honestly say I never remember him using words carelessly. He knew that careless words could hurt, maim and wound. In a culture deluged with half-thought out words, sloppy, hollowed-out language, he saw it as his calling to hone words full of care for others, full of the winsome generosity of God. And in the corridors of the academy, few things are needed more today. We academics revel in large words – to impress, to intimidate. He inspired us to use words with largesse. And that is a legacy beyond measure.

The rest is here: http://www.transpositions.co.uk/tribute-to-professor-roger-lundin/

COTTON MATHER WITHOUT ALL THE BLATHER

Rick Kennedy is a professor of history and a sailing enthusiast.  In the video above, he is interviewed on his terrific, new biography of Cotton Mather.  Below is my brief review of Kennedy’s book:

This short biography by Rick Kennedy is simply superb.  All the major (and some minor) things that we want to know about Mather are included.  The writing is clean and compelling. 

You learn in short compass (145 pages!) that Mather had this incredible combination of gifts: scholar, pastor, visionary, and writer. 

Mather also had a wonderful skepticism towards what we typically call false dichotomies or binary traps.  Mather’s “trust, but verify” approach to legitimate supernatural events is wise and instructive for us today.

Oh yeah, and if you have the stereotype of Mather being responsible for the Salem Witch Trials, you will definitely need to read this biography.