I’ve been on a mini blog sabbatical the last couple of days. It’s spring break around here. And, while I never actually take time off for spring break, I do use it to get caught up on all the projects that have been piling up around my office. It’s my version of spring cleaning. But, here are a couple of interesting posts from the last few days.
- Tim Challies discusses the new evangelical virtues.
I have seen evidence of three characteristics that seem to pass as virtues today. In some parts of the Christian world, these are now embraced as Christian virtue: doubt, opaqueness, and an emphasis on asking rather than answering questions.
- Jim West sparked some pushback with his explanation of why people become universalists.
That is, people become Universalists because they need to, not because it’s true. All who become Universalists do so because they fear the consequences of their loved one’s rejection of salvation.
- Kevin DeYoung explains why sometimes you need to get worked up over theological controversy.
No doubt, some Christians get worked up over the smallest controversies, making a forest fire out of a Yankee Candle. But there is an opposite danger–and that is to be so calm, so middle-of-the-road, so above-the-fray that you no longer feel the danger of false doctrine. You always sound analytical, never alarmed. Always crying for much-neglected conversation, never crying over a much-maligned cross. There is something worse than hurting feelings, and that is trampling upon human hearts.
- Jason Hood discusses Idolatry, the Gospel, and the Imitation of God.
The temptation to idolatry is multifaceted and ever-present, and therefore must be fought without respite.Harmonizing Keller, Wright, Beale, and Scripture leads us to three antidotes: (1) the identification of idols and their attractions; (2) the embrace of the gospel and its idol-destroying promises; and (3) the worship and imitation of the One True God rather than false gods.
- James McGrath discusses the historicity of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.
It is sometimes stated that the life of the historical Jesus ends with his death, and there is a sense in which this is true. Historical study can only provide access to the human life of Jesus, and his human life, like all human lives, ended when he died. The resurrection per se is not an event like other events in human history, and for this reason cannot be studied with the tools of historical study, either to confirm it or deny it. This does not mean, however, that one cannot attempt to evaluate the historicity of some of the events mentioned in the stories that also include details connected with the rise of Christian belief in the resurrection.
- Roger Olson has an excellent post on what he means by “the new fundamentalism,” the growing “via media” between traditional fundamentalism and post WWII evangelicalism.
What I see emerging, that in my opinion is not being recognized by most evangelical leaders, is a third way–a via media between movement fundamentalism and the postfundamentalist evangelicalism. People from movement fundamentalism are emerging out of their isolation into this third way and calling it “conservative evangelicalism.” People from postfundamentalist evangelicalism are adopting this third way and calling it “conservative evangelicalism.”
- Ed Stetzer starts a series on how to offer criticism.
Before you criticize, be sure you understand the person and perspective with which you are taking issue. If you lack understanding you are essentially picking a fight with an opponent who does not exist. You’ll make a lot of noise, sell a few books, or attract people to your blog, but your criticism lacks wisdom and integrity.
- Bob Hyatt continues to describe his church’s journey toward women in leadership.
Whenever I teach one of our theology survey courses, I begin the semester with a promise. If I can’t provide a compelling reason that some theological issue makes a significant difference for life, ministry, or theology, we won’t spend time on it. That doesn’t mean that it’s not worth talking about, only that it must not fall in that top tier of issues that we need to stay focused on in a relatively brief survey course.
Right now, we’re working through eschatology. And, on tap for tomorrow afternoon – the millennium. At the end of our last class, I asked the students to wrestle with whether they thought that issues relative to the tribulation really mattered all that much. So, we’ll start with that tomorrow. But, by the end of class we’ll be discussing views of the millennium, and I’ll be asking the same question again.
So, what do you think? Do views of the millennium really make a significant difference for life, ministry, and/or theology? Or, are the different millennial views really just ways of keeping under-employed theologians busy so they’re not out causing problems? (Nothing is worse than a bored theologian.) Where do you put the millennium on your list of theological issues? Is it something that you’re willing to debate over, or do you see it as a non-issue that is only worth speculating about when it’s late and your internet connection is down?
We don’t know how to grieve. That’s the thought that has been floating around in my head for a few days now. We know how to cry, we know how to be sad, and we know how to “get on with life.” But we don’t know how to grieve, how to mourn, how to process the pain of deep loss. And, oddly enough, as I was processing these thoughts, I found an interesting connection between an ancient religious tradition and a modern chick flick.
These thoughts started rattling around a few days ago when I read an iMonk piece on the importance of mourning and grieving in community. That piece included a quote from Lauren Winner’s book Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline explaining her concern that we lack the traditions and rituals necessary to grieve effectively:
What churches often do less well is grieve. We lack a ritual for the long and tiring process that is sorrow and loss. A friend of mine whose husband recently died put it like this: “For about two weeks the church was really the church—really awesomely, wonderfully the church. Everyone came to the house, baked casseroles, carried Kleenex. But then the two weeks ended, and so did the consolation calls.” While you the mourner are still bawling your eyes out and slamming fists into the wall, everyone else, understandably, forgets and goes back to their normal lives and you find, after all those crowds of people, that you are left alone. You are without the church, and without a church vocab-ulary for what happens to the living after the dead are dead.
The piece goes on to explain the advantages that a religious tradition like Judaism has in the way that it approaches grieving. Unlike most of our churches today, Judaism has explicit rituals and traditions for grieving, making it clear that grieving is a discipline that involves both the mourner and the community in a process that will take months, and even years, to complete. Thus, unlike our approach, which tends to emphasize the quick-fix and and an individualistic, therapeutic model of grieving, the Jewish tradition emphasizes that grieving is a long-term, communal, and deeply religious affair.
While I was still processing these ideas, my wife and I watched P.S. I Love You. I have to admit that I went into the movie expecting a fairly standard chick flick. And, you can definitely watch the movie from this perspective. It’s a story of a girl who meets the boy of her dreams, loses him, and learns, haltingly, to love again. Very touching.
My wife hated it.
That by itself is odd. My wife loves chick flicks. She’s seen While You Were Sleeping and Notting Hill more times than I can count. What was different here? Passionate love. Touchingly humorous side stories. Quirky supporting characters. Strong female lead (Hilary Swank is terrific). She should have loved this movie.
But, it wasn’t primarily a movie about love; it was really a movie about loss. Even more, it was a movie about the fact that we don’t know how to grieve.
Early in the movie, the main character loses her husband—the love of her life, her soul mate—to a brain stumor. And, of course, she immediately begins to grieve. The problem is that she really doesn’t know how. She locks herself in her apartment, cries a lot, watches old movies, and imagines that her husband is still around. She’s alone, desperately trying to process her uncontainable grief. As I watched, I mourned her inability to mourn—her loneliness, isolation, and frustration.
And the people around her have no idea how to help. Her mom just advises her to “Get back on your feet.” Her friends really want to be there for her, but the best they can come up with is to encourage her get back to work, go out for a night of fun, and, after a suitable period of sadness, hook up with some random Irish guy. Everyone in the story lacks a sense of how to grieve.
Everyone, but one.
Fortunately, one person in the story understands that grieving is more than just feeling bad for a while and moving on. Rather than showing her ways of escaping her grief, this one person helps her enter into her grief more deeply, gently coaxing her through rituals designed to help her remember, celebrate, mourn, laugh, and cry, rejoicing in the memory of the relationship even as she experiences the pain of its loss.
As I watched the movie, I came to a better appreciation for the argument that we lack rituals, traditions for mourning. We don’t have any intentional, communal activities meant to lead us through the process of grieving. Instead, we are expected to privatize our grief, be sad for a while, and either “get on with life” or seek professional, therapeutic assistance. It’s as though we’ve determined that Paul’s declaration that death has “no sting” means that we should not grieve. But, the fact that Christ has conquered death does not mean that loss has no pain. It only means that it is a pain that we can understand in the context of a greater hope. But it is still pain—deep, abiding, and often bitter, pain. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept.
I don’t know how to grieve. I don’t offer any answers for what this might look like. But, I’m coming to recognize the inadequacy of the typical evangelical approach to mourning. Mourning does not come naturally; it should not come naturally. To grieve properly, we need help. And, I’m open to suggestions for what a deeper, more intentional, more tradition-al approach to mourning might look like.
- According to a recent study, more people now link the Christian faith to being American.
Purdue University scholars found that between 1996 and 2004, Americans who saw Christian identity as a “very important” attribute of being American increased from 38 percent to 49 percent.
- Tim Stafford explains how people got invited to the Lausanne Conference.
The process started with a selection committee, chosen from the Lausanne network including one representative from each of 12 regions globally. That committee chose a selection director for each of 200 countries. According to Lindsay Brown, international director for Cape Town 2010, the committee looked for “Christian statesmen” who would be fair-minded in trying to represent the whole church in their country, not merely their friends or fellow church members. That chair gathered a selection committee, vested with the authority to choose delegates for their country.
- Religion News Service has an interview with John Dominic Crossan.
Any religion’s greatest prayers should be addressed to the whole world. If a prayer only speaks to you, that’s fine. But I would like to hear you speaking to all of us. The Lord’s Prayer is the greatest because it comes from the heart of Judaism and the lips of Christianity—but speaks to the conscience of the world.
- Brady Boyd offers a list of 10 things he wishes someone had told him when he started in ministry. HT
Sheep bites can’t kill me, but the gnawing will make life miserable a few days each year.
- And, a new study suggests that the world may not end on Dec 21, 2012 after all. That’s a relief.
- Near Emmaus is giving away a copy of Fred Sanders’ The Deep Things of God: How the Trinty Changes Everything.
- And, speaking of, Fred Sanders has an interesting discussion of the Trinitarian theology of Keith Green.
- Michael Patton takes Roger Olson to task for arguing that we should consider the possibility of a Protestant purgatory.
- Patheos offers some good resources for introducing people to the five major religious traditions.
- Here’s a good post on developing a Lutheran perspective on honoring saints. (HT)
- And, for you Star Wars fans, here’s a life-sized and fully motorized R2D2. You can even get in a drive it around. That would have to make you the coolest person on your block.
- iMonk has begun what looks like a very interesting series on spiritual formation. They started with a reflection on J.I. Packer’s Knowing God and followed up today with some comments on what “spiritual formation” means.
- Richard Beck uses some principles from statistical analysis to comment on the two kinds of errors we can make when saying who is/isn’t going to hell, and which kind he thinks we should lean toward.
- Brian Fulthorp has had an interesting discussion on confusing interpretation of the Bible with the Bible itself.
- James McGrath reviews Dale Allison’s forthcoming book, Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History. He also points out the new Big Tent Christianity ebook.
- NYT had an interesting article last week, “Fibbing with Numbers,” discussing Charles Seife’s Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception.
- Here’s a slide show from HuffPo explaining how unnecessary quotations marks are infecting the nation.
- And, here’s a slideshow of 23 impressive science fiction LEGO creations. Some people have a lot of time on their hands.
- Kevin DeYoung offers a list of twenty things he wishes he knew when he started ministry.
- Roger Olson explains why he is a (historic) premillennialist.
- Tim Challies has a nice review of Rhonda Byrne’s The Power. Sadly, if you haven’t already, you’re probably going to start running into lots of people who have read or are talking about this one. Please make them stop.
- Peter Leithart explains why he doesn’t find the “functional” account of creation convincing (at least with respect to Sailhammer’s functional interpretation of Day 4).
- And, Matt Dabbs explains how Bonhoeffer got him to give up on creating community.
I’ve been out of town for a while, so I haven’t posted many links in the last couple of days. Here are some of the more interesting ones, just in case you missed them.
- Phillip Clayton discusses “Big Tent Christianity” (aka emerging church).
- Sheffield Biblical Studies has started a new blog. (HT)
- William Black discusses the Trinity in evangelical and Orthodox thought.
- The most recent 9Marks ejournal focuses on Hell: Remembering the Awful Reality.
- Brian offered a nice roundup of links on the controversy between Al Mohler and BioLogos.
- Michael Patton deals with the professional weaker Christian.
- Nick explains (again) why he thinks perichoresis has nothing to do with dancing.
- James McGrath offers a nice set of links dealing with online scholarship.
- And, here’s a reading list for new science fictions readers.