A lot of good links over the last couple of days. Here are some of the more interesting.
- PZ Myers points out that Answers in Genesis has been guilty of using history jacking (hijacking your browser history to discern what sites you’ve been visiting) and using that information to categorize visitors. Interestingly, although they have a distinct category for “Christian” users, if you’ve visited creationmuseum.org, joelosteen.com, or beliefnet.com, you get categoriezed as “other.” HT James McGrath and Stuart.
- Mark Galli has a great post on Evangelizing Ourselves: The Gospel is for Christians Too.
Let me suggest, in fact, that whenever we communicate to non-Christians that we have found it and that they have not, that we have been chosen and that they have not, that we are the apple of God’s eye and that they are not—whenever we assume that stance, consciously or not, we are communicating something other than the gospel, the Good News.
- Kevin DeYoung has a very helpful post on The New Testament’s Use of Old Testament Prophecy. Summarizing Doug Moo, he offers six principles and two important questions to keep in mind.
Sometimes with good apologetic and evangelistic motives we will point to all the OT prophecies about Christ and then run down a list of all the NT fulfillments. There is truth here, but if we set things up as “here’s the prediction; here’s the prediction come true” we are bound to confuse people. We may even cause people to doubt the prophetic witness rather than trust it.
- In “This is not my father’s Pentecostalism!“, Roger Olson reflects on the shift from the anti-intellectualism of his early Pentecostal background to the Pentecostals of today.
These Pentecostals are widely read in biblical and theological studies, immersed in the latest trends in missiology, even leading the way in some areas of theological reflection such as the Holy Spirit and world religions.
- Daniel Kirk has posted his SBL paper: “Toward a Theory of Narrative Transformation: The Importance of Both Contexts in Paul’s Scriptural Citations“
Our attempts to read Paul, in other words, will come up short to the extent that we either (a) neglect the narrative flow within which the cited verse occurs in its original OT context, or (b) allow that OT context to be entirely determinative for what the verse means in Paul.
Today, the monastery is a vibrant stronghold of traditional Ethiopian Orthodox monasticism. And at first glance, it even seems impervious to modern Ethiopia’s fast-changing society. But it, as do all facets of Ethiopia’s monastic culture, confronts new realities and an uncertain future.
- Brian LePort continues his discussion of Derrida, deconstruction, and postmodernism with a post on Interpreting Derrida: Deconstruction. (You can see a list of his other posts here.)
- Bible and Interpretation has a fine essay on the Tel Hazor Excavations: Highlights from Recent Seasons. HT Jim West
- Patheos is hosting a discussion of Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem (HarperOne, 2010), which deals with an ancient syriac tradition regarding the three wise men.
- James K.A. Smith announces that Brazos is giving away a copy of his Letters to a Young Calvinist. XSM2B7AG8BTA
Many thanks to IVP for sending me a review copy of Alister McGrath’s The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and Discipleship of the Mind (IVP, 2010).
Alister McGrath has written an interesting little book, arguing for the central place of theology in the Christian life and calling for a renewed appreciation for the “life of the mind” in churches today. The book comprises eleven chapters based on previously unpublished lectures presented in 2007-2009.
McGrath divides the book into two sections. In the first, he sets out to convince his readers that theology really is vital for a healthy Christian life and spirituality. And, this was by far my favorite of the two sections. As he says at the beginning of the book,
Christian theology is one of the most intellectually stimulating and exciting subjects it is possible to study, rich in resources for the life of faith and the ministry of the church. It has the capacity to excite, inspire and illuminate the human intellect, giving it a new passion and focus. (7)
And, he follows from there with six essays that together seek to lay out “the intellectual capaciousness of the Christian faith and its ability to bring about a new and deeply satisfying vision of reality” (12). Recognizing that theology has a bad reputation in large segments of the church, the first two essays provide a brief apologetic for the necessity of good theology. The third essay offers an autobiographical account of McGrath’s own conversion and the important role that theology played in helping him understand the vacuity of atheism and the power of the Christian vision of reality. The next essay offers an interesting reflection on George Herbert’s “Elixir” to present the transformative power of theology. McGrath then presents an essay on the explanatory power that theology has for understanding the world around us. And, following naturally from this, the final essay in this section addresses apologetics and the necessity for good theology for articulating the Christian vision to the world.
In the second half of the book, McGrath’s shifts his attention to exploring “how inhabiting the Christian ‘interpretive community’ provides a platform for cultural engagement” (13). McGrath has a long-standing in natural theology and apologetics, and that comes across very clearly in this section. He begins this section by arguing that Christianity and science are supplementary rather than contradictory. I thought the following essay, “Religious and Scientific Faith,” was the most interesting in this section. Using Darwin’s theory of evolution, McGrath argues that both theology and science make arguments based on “inference to the best explanation,” and that, consequently, both are rational and faith-based to some extent. The next essay offers a very brief discussion of Augustine’s view of creation, demonstrating that Christian theologians have long been aware of the need to understand and engage the best science of the day even as we seek to interpret the Bible faithfully. And, McGrath finishes the book with two essays on the New Atheists, arguing against the idea that religion necessarily poisons everything it touches and pointing out the intellectual weaknesses of the atheist argument.
Probably the book’s greatest strength is its readability. McGrath writes with a clear, concise style that makes the book more accessible than many others. A few of the essays wander into territory that will be less familiar to the average churchgoer (in America at least), particularly the essay on Herbert’s “Elixir.” Overall, though, the book is very readable and engaging.
I thought the first half of this book was particularly interesting. McGrath did a very nice job laying out the importance of theology across a broad range of the Christian life: love of God, worship, apologetics, discipleship, mission, and so on. The two chapters on “Mere Theology” in particular could be used alone to give someone a brief look at what theology is and why it’s important. And McGrath’s personal testimony in the fourth essay is really a testimonial for the argument of the whole book – the Christian vision of reality has explanatory power that surpasses any other worldview and, when embraced, has transformative power to reshape everything about you.
The second half of the book was less compelling for me. However, if you’re looking for a few, brief essays on the apologetic issues he addresses (faith and science, evolution, and atheism), then you might find it more interesting.
The most notable weakness was the essay format. Although McGrath has done a nice job organizing the essays around a common theme, the book still feels a bit disjointed and uneven in places. Certain essays are necessarily stronger than others, and the connections between them are occasionally somewhat weak.
As I mentioned above, I also found the second half of the book less compelling. I thought the book would have been strengthened immensely if McGrath had devoted the second half to fleshing out a range of areas in the Christian life that benefit from a deeper appreciation of theology. Rather than restricting himself to a largely intellectual task like apologetics, it would have been great to see whole essays on worship, fellowship, mission, work, and so on. These are the areas in which the average person really needs to see the value of theology.
So, finally, I think the greatest weakness is that I’m not sure that McGrath’s book is going to convince his target audience that theology is really all that important. It will probably serve best those who are already committed to a “life of the mind,” but need to be convinced of the importance of theology. That is really McGrath’s story (i.e. the intellectual who is surprised by theology). But, at least in America, that does not describe the majority of Christians. They need a much more compelling vision of how theology touches everyday life.
The Passionate Intellect is an interesting book that is worth a quick read. The earlier chapters in particular are worth using as short classroom readings or with interested lay persons. And, if you know someone who is fairly intellectual and needs to catch a vision for the power of theology, this would be a great book to suggest.
Despite the outpouring of support for the previous title “Flotsam and jetsam” (yes, in my world four comments qualifies as an “outpouring”), I’m going to stick with a simpler title for a while and see how it works.
- Here’s a video clip of N.T. Wright on whether biblical theology requires us to see Adam as an historical person.
- This year’s list of the Top 100 Largest and Fastest Growing Churches has (again) raised questions about its validity and what its implicitly suggesting about the church.
- HuffPo has an interesting post on the history of the “flat earth dogma”, arguing that it was an invention of several 19th century thinkers who used it to portray Christianity as anti-science.
- Daily Writing Tips offers a list of 12 Greek Words any good writer should know. (I’ll confess that I can’t hear #11 without thinking The Three Amigos.)
- C. Michael Patton steps up in defense of Rick Warren, using Warren’s tweets (of all things) to support the quality of his ministry.
- Bill Mounce posts some reflections on his experience with the NIV translation committee and what it means to make a good translation.
- And, here’s an article contending that using Apple products makes you a better Christian. HT
Steven Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow, Deepak Chopra, and Robert Spitzer were recently interviewed by Larry King and shared their respective views on the relationship between science and religion. Just in case (like me) you missed this interview and (unlike me) you care, here you go. (By the way, how does Deepak Chopra keep getting invited to these things? The fact that your name rhymes with Oprah really shouldn’t qualify as a compelling reason.)
If you want a quick rundown on what they talked about, there’s a good summary here.
- Carl Trueman reflects on the importance of the generalist and the “vortex of specialization” in academic studies.
- Joel has posted three articles on the role of women in the early church (here, here, and here).
- David Murray argues for the importance of preaching without notes. HT
- Mark has begun commenting on David Dewey’s A User’s Guide to Bible Translations.
- Logos is a developing the new Evangelical Exegetical Commentary series.
- Denis Alexander comments on how ideology guides the use of evolution in the science and religion debates.
- And, the guy who wrote the “Jump the Shark” episode of Happy Days actually defends the episode and argues that it did not signal the downfall of the show.
- Apparently iMonk has been getting some pushback for their recent posts on the New Calvinism (anyone surprised?). So, today Mike offers a few responses “with all due respect.”
- You’ve probably heard by now about Stephen Hawking’s declaration that God didn’t create the universe (for good comments see here, here, here, and here). If you want to read more about the book in which Hawking makes this argument, The Grand Design, here is the Washington Post review.
- James Smith explains why you need to pick a specific discipline for your graduate studies.
- Collin Hansen has some great thoughts on the difficulties of pastoral succession.
- Scot McKnight summarizes Allister McGrath’s four ways in which theologians actually have some value for the church. I’m really hoping that there’s more than four, but it’s a start.
- Justin Taylor offers some great resources for reading the Church Fathers.
- Peter Leithart has some great comments on the relationship between low sacramentalism and Arianism.
- Christopher Hitchens responds to the idea that God gave him cancer as punishment for his atheism: “The vengeful deity has a sadly depleted arsenal if all he can think of is exactly the cancer that my age and former “lifestyle” would suggest that I got.”
- And, just in case you’re tempted to get something productive done today, Joe Carter offers 30 videos to distract you while you wait for the labor day weekend.
- Joel Hunter offers some thoughts about the challenges of preaching on controversial issues.
- The heaviest and most expensive gold coin ever found has been uncovered at a dig in Israel. HT
- Inside Higher Ed has an article on the new company, Ultrinsic, that allows students to place bets on their grades.
- Richard Beck has some interesting comments on evangelical art, contending that our propensity for putting words on everything and having overly simplistic lyrics in our songs reflects an emphasis on evangelism and catechesis in our art and undermines the subtlety and ambiguity so important for good art.
- Rodney Stark recently argued that the mainline denominations declined because they replaced the Gospel and vital spirituality with social activism, and that evangelicalism might face a similar decline if it’s not careful. Greg Garrett responds by arguing that all is not lost for the mainline denominations, but agrees that evangelicalism is in danger as a result of its shallow spirituality. Both agree that evangelicals need to pay more attention to history if we want to avoid a precipitous decline.
- Slate.com comments on the origins of the letter grading scale and why ‘E’ is not a grade.
- Apparently tomorrow night is supposed to be the best night for watching the Perseid meteor shower. Unless, of course, you live in the NW, which has apparently forgotten that it’s still supposed to be summer.
- And here’s a list of 12 theories about Lost that were better than the actual show. HT
Wifi is a wonderful invention. I’m sitting in a nice, secluded cabin on Lummi island. Woke up to a rooster crowing on a nearby farm and spent the last couple of hours reading, drinking coffee, and enjoying a cold, misty morning. I just got caught up with my blog reading, and thought I’d go ahead and pass some links along. To keep the list manageable after a few days off, I’m just going to highlight the more interesting ones, and I’ll keep the comments to a minimum.
- Anne Rice has been interviewed by NPR on her recent decision to leave the Catholic church.
- NT Wright has a great article on C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity – explaining both what he appreciates about the book and what he dislikes. (HT Mike Bird)
- Here’s a debate between Richard Gaffin and Wayne Grudem on the nature of prophecy today. (HT Tim Challies)
- Jim West discusses theological exegesis.
- NYT has an article on pastoral burnout.
- Paul Helm has posted the fourth part of his review of Kevin Vanhoozer’s Remythologizing Theology.
- Jim West carried through on his promise to revive the Biblical Studies Carnival.
- Patheos has begun a discussion on the future of evangelicalism. The series began with the topic of “transforming the church” and posts from Scot McKnight, Collin Hansen, Kevin DeYoung, Justin Taylor, Ed Stetzer, Matthew Anderson, Al Hsu. Next up: “transforming the culture”
- iMonk disucsses Rachel Evans’ open letter to Ken Ham.
- And, Jonathan Acuff discusses why Christians sometimes act like jerks online. (HT Colin Hansen)