Category Archives: Christianity

NO EASY ANSWERS

 

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I’ve asked fellow teachers, and certainly wrestled myself with the following question: How much as a teacher of God’s Word do you introduce others to the complexity, debates, and depth of Christianity?

Teachers should seek to edify and equip.  American Christians have a decidedly anti-intellectual bent coupled with an allergy to complexity.  How much does a teacher push back on those by introducing topics that cause people to be uncomfortable with how flimsy their beliefs may be?

 

RIGHT LEARNING

From Professor Jonathan Pennington at Southern Seminary.  This is part of the charge Jonathan gives to beginning Ph.D. students at Southern.

“Knowing well entails listening to trusted authorities and doing what they prescribe in order to see what they are showing you.” (Scripture’s Knowing, by Dru Johnson p.16)

There is much insight to be unpacked in this singular and salutary sentence:

It is possible to know lots of things but know them wrongly as opposed to knowing them well.

  • Knowing entails listening to another – reminiscent of the Apostle James’ reminder that we should be quick to listen, not quick to be teachers; we may also recall the popular adage many a parent has spoken to a verbose child – “God gave us two ears and one mouth; use them proportionally.”
  • Knowing is a process of listening to trusted authorities – there are people who are above us in knowledge, experience, wisdom, position, and authority and only the fool spurns this. Rather, listening to trusted authorities is the way of wisdom and flourishing.
  • Knowing entails doing – one can read manuals and watch How To YouTube videos all day long but to truly know and understand something, whether it be boomerang throwing, carburetor repair, having children, or writing a book, requires the experience of doing it before one can be said to truly know.
  • Knowing is really about seeing, about seeing the world in a certain way.

The rest is here: http://jonathanpennington.com/2017/08/my-phd-induction-ceremony-remarks-aug-2017/

NASHVILLE STATEMENT

Nashville Statement

I would not sign it, even though I am in close agreement with the various articles.  Why?

It comes across as a sterile statement from too many who were either quiet or supportive of Trump. 

It is tone deaf in its timing: Charlottesville and now the flooding in Texas.

If the church in America had a better record of compassionate disagreement with gays, perhaps the statement would be okay.

I am glad, however, that this issue will force a more honest and comprehensive conversation about the Bible’s authority.

Here is a very good critique of someone who signed (HT: Peter Coelho):

On the Nashville Statement and My Signing of It

Michael Cromartie, R.I.P.

Michael Cromartie, R.I.P.

I met Mike about twenty years ago.  We were in the beginning stages of launching Two Cities Ministries.  We had a wonderful lunch over Chinese food at a quiet place in Washington, DC.  Mike was one of the most influential Christian leaders you’ve probably never heard of.  He was full of energy, loved people, and was a great raconteur. 

Plutarch said “small” things can reveal a man’s character.  One thing stands out for me.  Though Mike and I hardly knew each other he was always very quick to answer any question I sent him via email. 

Through his creativity and tenacity Mike was able to win the trust of journalists across a wide swath of religious and political perspectives, no small feat!

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.