Category Archives: Misc

My Favorite Posts of 2011

It never fails that the posts I like the best (and usually the ones I put the most time into) are never my most popular posts. So although it was fun putting together yesterday’s post on My Top Posts of 2011, those don’t necessarily represent my favorite posts. As a result, I decided that a different list was in order. So here you go.

10. When is an inerrancy debate not really about inerrancy?

This post gave me the chance to articulate some thoughts I’ve been playing with for quite a while on the doctrine of inerrancy and how it functions in evangelical debates. And I got to engage the Michael Licona controversy at the same time. Bonus.

9. Bait-and-switch evangelism

I had a great time writing this little reflection on my daughter’s Easter disaster and some of the questions it raises about our methods of evangelism.

8. Striving for Clarity and Charity in the Free Will Debate

This was a series that I did on the free will debate, and most importantly, trying to identify some ways that we can approach the debate more helpfully. I’m not sure that I succeeded, but I had a good time with it.

7. I teach theology. That means….

One of my quirkier posts of the year, this one looks at stereotypes surrounding those who teach theology. And, instead of trying to refute the stereotypes, I decided to embrace them. Yes, I teach theology. And that means….

6. Put the theology book down and do something that matters

This is the only post that managed to make both lists. And I’m glad people enjoyed this brief reflection on the fact that theology is an act of worship, and, therefore, theology is never a waste of time.

5. 5 things I learned about the Gospel from a serial killer

I wrote this one while I was just getting into the TV show Dexter. (I believe I was in season 2 at the time.) I loved the strong theological and anthropological themes in the show and how they relate to the gospel.  (I’m still enjoying the show, though I haven’t made it past season 3 yet.)

4. How to destroy your own research paper in one simple step (and other tips for the Th.M.)

The Tips for the Th.M. series is really about surviving and thriving as a Bible/theology grad student, which I started writing almost a year ago. And this particular post is probably my favorite of the bunch.

3. Charting church history and Charting church history from a baptist perspective

I had a great time with these two charts and the reactions they got. They really belong together since they’re both about poking a little fun at how we often view church history. And you should also check out the follow-up post on Charting church history from a Presbyterian perspective – or, what happens when church history is really misunderstood.

2. Please Don’t Look under the Bed!

Over the year I’ve posted quite a few excerpts from my gospel book (which, by the way, is now tentatively titled Good News for the Living Dead, thanks to your votes.) And looking back over those excerpts, I think this was my favorite.

1. What is Heresy?

 I had a blast with this series. I really enjoyed thinking through the nature of heresy and trying to come up with different ways of introducing each of the various views.

Thanks for taking the time to read my rather random thoughts on a variety of issues. It’s been a great year, and I’m looking forward to what’s coming in 2012. Stay tuned.

My Most Popular Posts of 2011

I always find it interesting to go back and see which posts have gotten the most attention over the last year. Almost invariably, they’re posts that I never would have expected to be popular when I wrote them. Indeed, several of them are posts that hardly involved any writing at all! Humbling.

10. Why Academics Annoy People

This one surprised me a bit because it’s fairly recent and a list like this is necessarily biased toward posts that have been out a bit longer. But apparently academics annoy people enough to want to read about it a lot.

9. Put the theology book down and do something that matters

I’m quite pleased that this one made the list. It’s one of my personal favorites.

8. What is Heresy? Sugar in my coffee.

This is another one that makes me happy. The whole heresy series was a highlight of the blogging year for me.

7. How to destroy your own research paper in one simple step

This is the third one on the list that I would include among my own favorites. After this, it gets a little more interesting.

6. Free audio downloads of works by Jonathan Edwards

Apparently lots of people are looking for Jonathan Edwards resources.

5. Do you trust me?

I’m suspicious of this one. I tried to eliminate any posts that were only getting hits because of the pictures that I used. (Otherwise I’d have a couple of vampire and zombie posts on this list!) I haven’t seen the pictures on this post showing up in my search stats much, but I can’t think of any other reason it would be ranked this high. (Not that it’s a bad post; it’s just not what I’d expect to see in the top 5.)

4. Christians did not burn the library at Alexandria and other things “Agora” gets wrong

This one consistently gets a few hits every day.

3. The meaning of life according to Siri

One of my more quirky posts. Apparently anything iPhone or Apple related gets attention.

2. The 100 Most Influential People in the World?

So my #2 and #3 posts involved almost no writing on my part. Gotta love that. This post was the first time I was Freshly Pressed, which generates significant traffic for a blog like mine.

1. How to get more done by pretending you’re on an airplane

And this was the second time I got Freshly Pressed. But at least I wrote this one!

So those are my most popular posts. Tomorrow I’d like to take things in a different direction and look at the posts from the last year that are my personal favorites. Unsurprisingly, the two lists are rather different.

The Christmas Night (a sermon by Isaac the Syrian)

The following is one of my favorite poems; rather, it could be rightly called a Sermon on the Nativity – originally preached some 1,300 years ago by Isaac the Syrian.

This Christmas night bestowed peace on the whole world;
So let no one threaten;

This is the night of the Most Gentle One –
Let no one be cruel;

This is the night of the Humble One –
Let no one be proud.

Now is the day of joy –
Let us not revenge;

Now is the day of Good Will –
Let us not be mean.

In this Day of Peace –
Let us not be conquered by anger.

Today the Bountiful impoverished Himself for our sake; 
So, rich one, invite the poor to your table.

Today we receive a Gift for which we did not ask;
So let us give alms to those who implore and beg us.

This present Day cast open the heavenly doors to our prayers;
Let us open our door to those who ask our forgiveness.

Today the Divine Being took upon Himself the seal of our humanity,
In order for humanity to be decorated by the Seal of Divinity.

[This is a guest post by Michael Fletcher, a Th.M. student at Western Seminary.]

Saturday morning fun…Jedi Ninjas

Just because it’s Christmas Eve today, that doesn’t mean we can’t still have a little Saturday Morning fun! So here’s a great video of Jedi Ninjas in action. The fight sequences are actually rather well done. And make sure you stick around for the surprise ending!

Flotsam and jetsam (12/23)

Good Reads
  • How Martin Luther Went Viral: “It is a familiar-sounding tale: after decades of simmering discontent a new form of media gives opponents of an authoritarian regime a way to express their views, register their solidarity and co-ordinate their actions. The protesters’ message spreads virally through social networks, making it impossible to suppress and highlighting the extent of public support for revolution. The combination of improved publishing technology and social networks is a catalyst for social change where previous efforts had failed.”
  • The Dark Side of Theology: “there is a dark side to theology. I see it everyday. I pray that this does not infect my students, but inevitably, there are always one or two who take their theological knowledge and create a recipe of sin and shame. These are people I call ‘theologically dangerous.'”
  • The Original Heresy? “What was the original heresy? It’s not false teaching with respect to the Trinity, or perhaps it is. It’s not denial of the deity of Christ, or perhaps it is…”
  • Can  You Care about the Unreached and Stay? “One important question that I’ve been asked is why I — with a passion for the unreached and unengaged peoples of the earth — serve as a pastor in Birmingham, Alabama, one of the most churched cities in America. It’s a great question and one that often perplexes me.”
Other Info
 Just for Fun     

My 5 Favorite Books of 2011

I usually enjoy putting together my list of 5 favorite books from the past year. I’m not sure that anyone really cares that much about my favorite books. But it’s always fun to reflect on what I’ve read over the last twelve months and remember all the great books I’ve read.

Alas, this is not one of those years. Looking back, I’m somewhat distressed but two things: (1) I really didn’t read that many books, and (2) most of them weren’t all that great. They weren’t bad; they just weren’t great.

I need to do something about that next year. At the very least, I need to carve out a little more reading space – especially for good fiction. But I also need to read better books. I think I’ve been trying a little too hard to “keep up” with the popular books, leaving too little time to engage the really good ones.

Nonetheless, the year wasn’t a complete loss. I did read some good books worth mentioning. So, without further ado, here are my 5 favorite books of 2011. (By the way, these are books that I read in 2011 regardless of when they were published.)


Best Theology Book

The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, Fred Sanders. If you like reading theologians who write well, think creatively, engage important issues, and connect them to everyday life, this book is for you. Sanders does an outstanding job working through a range of issues relative to understanding the Trinity, and showing how each matters for life and ministry today. Far from being a piece of theological speculation, of interest only to theologians and church historians, Sanders unfolds the Trinity as central to Christian spirituality and the gospel itself.


Best Fiction Book

The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman. Okay, I’m cheating a bit here by putting two books together. But they really tell one story, and I read them at the same time. So I think it’s justified. Anyway, these two fantasy novels are a fabulous read. Grossman shamelessly steals themes and ideas from all over the fantasy genre, combining them to tell a unique and compelling story. What I found most interesting here is that unlike most fantasy novels, I didn’t find the world that Grossman created to be all that interesting. But his characters are oddly fascinating. And he’s not at all afraid to run them through the ringer. (Warning: the story does get rather gritty in places. It’s not as bad as A Song of Fire and Ice, but it’s still tough at times.)


Best Book about the Gospel

The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, Scot McKnight. I decided to go with just one of the many books written about the gospel this year. And, of those, I liked McKnight’s the best. McKnight does a great job explaining how the good news of “my” salvation only makes sense when it gets placed in the larger story of what God has been doing in and through his people from the very beginning. Since that’s much of what I’m trying to do with my own gospel book (though in a rather quirkier manner), I’m probably a bit biased. But I think it’s so important to see the broader story as the necessary frame for the narrower story of personal salvation. And McKnight’s is one of the best books out there right now for doing that.


Best Book That Is Impossible to Categorize 

Night of the Living Dead Christian: One Man’s Ferociously Funny Quest to Discover What It Means to Be Truly Transformed, Matt Mikalatos. Speaking of quirky, you have to love a book that uses werewolves, zombies, and vampires to tell the story of Christian transformation. Matt has a creative (someone would say bizarre) sense of humor and the amazing ability to take pop culture and use it to illuminate important theological ideas. If you’re looking for something a little different to read, or if you’d like to recommend a book to someone who doesn’t usually read theology books, this is a great choice


Best Church History Book: 

Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth, Alister McGrath. This book served as the starting point for the heresy series I wrote in the fall. McGrath does a great job laying out all the key issues involved in understanding what heresy is and why it matters today. And he manages to avoid being overly technical at the same time, keeping the book readable and fairly short.

Flotsam and jetsam (12/20)

a christmas wish

Good Reads

  • Is Video Preaching on the Decline? “Eventually, however, the wired generation will desire a more local, personal touch than the man-on-the-screen. By 2020, more campuses at multi-site churches will feature a campus pastor who teaches, and more people will seek out this type of local connection.”
  • Why Santa Belongs in Your Kids’ Christmas. This is a good post for reflecting on the power and importance of “myth” as a way of communicating values. I disagree that you have to get kids to “believe” in Santa for the myth to work its magic, but it’s a good reflection nonetheless.
  • Christianity Goes Global as the World’s Largest Religion: “Christians are by far the largest religious group on the planet, and the religion has gone truly global over the past century, according to a new report out Monday, which finds some of the world’s biggest Christian communities in surprising places.”
  • Christianity and the Future of the Book:  In this history one can discern many ways in which forms of religious life shape, and in turn are shaped by, their key technologies. And as technologies change, those forms of life change too, whether their participants wish to or not.

Other Info

 Just for Fun     

  • The first Hobbit movie trailer is out

Flotsam and jetsam (12/19)

Good Reads

  • Here are two must-read articles on the church and culture. First, Tim Keller’s Coming Together on Culture: Theological Issues thinks that there a growing consensus among evangelicals how how/whether to engage culture. And Michael Horton responds with Christ and Culture Once More, arguing that the “two kingdoms” view is more nuanced than commonly appreciated.
  • Your Podcast Is Not Your Pastor: “John Piper was right to remind us that we are not pastored by “professionals.” Perhaps it’s time we remembered that we are not pastored by podcasts either.”
  • Five Social Media Trends That Are Reshaping Religion: “Over the past couple years, religionistas of all sorts have attempted to navigate a new media landscape in which old constructions of religious authority, identity, and practice are changing almost by the minute. This surely marks the beginning something of a Second Coming of religion in digitally-integrated form.”
  • A Critique of Worship Music Criticism: “While I can’t speak for individual motives behind each rendering of criticism, I have found with my own self it stems from a prideful arrogance that somehow my standard should set the precedent for how we worship God.”

Other Info

  • Type “let it snow” into Google for a fun little surprise. (Sadly for those of us who live in the NW, it doesn’t work with “let it rain.”)

 Just for Fun     

  • Who wouldn’t want to see the opening from the 1966 Batman TV series redone with Legos?

Forced Choices (NT Authors)

Our last two Forced Choices focused on church history: Your Favorite Church Father and Your Favorite Church Mother. Unlike the former where Augustine ran away with things, the latter vote was very close. But in the end, Macrina the Younger (26%) barely edged out Perpetua and Felicity (23%) and Thecla (21%). If you don’t know much about the stories surrounding women in the early church, any one of these would make an interesting starting point.

Now it’s time to go in a different direction. A few weeks back we did a Forced Choices on OT genres. But I never followed up with a similar vote for the NT. Rather than sticking strictly with genres, though, we’ll go with the standard sections of the NT. And this isn’t a post about how to categorize the NT books. So no comments about whether Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians or whether Hebrews should be in with the General Epistles.

Here’s how we’ll break things down:

  • Gospels (Matthew – John)
  • Acts (Acts – Acts)
  • Pauline Epistles (Romans – Philemon)
  • General Epistles (Hebrews – Jude)
  • Revelation (Revelation – Revelation)

As usual, vote however you want. There are no criteria.

So who is your favorite NT author?

(See the poll in the sidebar.)

Saturday morning fun…Chewbacca sings “Silent Night”

What Christmas could possibly be complete without Chewbacca and his timeless rendition of Silent Night. I hope this brings much joy to your holiday season.

HT John Farrier