The Weekend Wanderer: 8 February 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

The Course - Jessica Bruah“The Cancer Chair: Is suffering meaningless?” – Christian Wiman, American poet and Professor of the Practice of Religion and Literature at Yale Divinity School, writes about his journey with cancer and questions about the meaning of suffering. Always an astute craftsman of words (if you haven’t read My Bright Abyss, do yourself a favor and read it sometime soon!), Wiman brings together reflections on his own cancer, the book of Job, Friedrich Nietzsche, Simone Weil, Albert Camus, and the Cross of Christ.

 

0_DydTubCNbDSFL-mb“From the Abundance of the Heart” – Alan Jacobs shares an essay on a topic that more of us should think about, particularly in the social media era: the power of our words. Relating an experience of giving a lecture based on an essay he had written but not yet published, Jacobs encountered the sourness of his words as they came out of his mouth, bringing a sense of conviction about the fact that these were both his words and words of which he did not approve at the same. There are some interesting insights here about the words of Jesus: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

 

Vector picture of Human Evolution“What If We Don’t Have to Choose Between Evolution and Adam and Eve?” – When I was working as a college pastor in the early 2000s, we conducted a teaching series called “Hot Topics,” where we engaged with controversial issues facing students in relation to faith. One of those topics that continues to be hotly debated in certain circles is the relationship between creation and evolution. Just this past year, S. Joshua Swamidass, a computational biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, published The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry in an attempt to change the terms of the debate. His book is up for a Reader’s Choice Award at InterVarsity Press. Here’s an interview with Swamidass about his book and his thought-provoking claims.

 

Dorothy Sayer mystery“‘No Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition or Mumbo Jumbo’: Dorothy L Sayers and the Detection Club” – Dorothy Sayers, one of the most incisive writers and thinkers of her era, is perhaps known best today for her connection to the Inklings, a group of writer including J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Christians may know her for her radio play, The Man Born to Be King, or The Mind of the Maker, but Sayers was well-known for her mystery-writing with the Lord Peter Wimsey novels. Sayers founded the Detection Club to support mystery writing, and it apparently still exists today. Who knew?

 

rohr_edit“Richard Rohr Reorders the Universe” – These days I cannot seem to take more than a few steps within Christian circles without someone mentioning Richard Rohr. He is one of those authors whose influence looms large for those who are seeking to reengage with faith and spirituality in an ecclesially disillusioned age. There are certain impulses about Rohr that I appreciate, some theological moves that deeply concern me, and a few other things about him that just drive me nuts. Love him or hate him, you have to reckon with Richard Rohr in discussions of faith today. Back in July, I shared Matthew Milliner’s helpful “field guide” to Rohr, and just this week Eliza Griswold offered a more personal look Rohr and his influence in North America today.

 

Steve Gillen“Willow Creek’s interim pastor to step down as church drops top candidates to fill Hybels’ shoes” – Speaking of ecclesial disillusionment, Willow Creek continues to reel after the leadership crisis surrounding misconduct accusations against former Senior Pastor Bill Hybels. After the top two candidates for filling the Senior Pastor role were released by Willow Creek, Steve Gillen, Willow’s acting senior pastor, tendered his resignation effective March 17 because of the protracted nature of the search. Looming in the background are recent accusations that Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, an influential founder of Willow Creek and mentor to Bill Hybels, has also been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct both at Willow Creek and during his time at Wheaton College. May God purify His church and have mercy upon His people.

 

Music: Asgeir, “Until Daybreak,” from Bury the Moon

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 12 January 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

lamin sanneh“Professor Lamin Sanneh, 1942-2019” – I was saddened to hear about the sudden and unexpected death of Dr. Lamin Sanneh of Yale Divinity School. His insights about faith, culture, and mission are invaluable to the church. A great introduction to his work is Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture or his memoir Summoned from the Margin: Homecoming of an African. You might also enjoy reading reflections by Christian leaders on Sanneh’s life at Christianity Today[Thanks to Alan Jacobs for sharing this link.]

 

cyntoia-brown“Pastor who talked to governor about clemency for Cyntoia Brown will walk her out of prison” – “They met for the first time a few weeks before Christmas — the woman serving a life sentence for killing a man who bought her for sex as a teenager, and a pastor who believed in her. At the time of their meeting, high-profile advocates had been calling for clemency for Cyntoia Denise Brown, including a US Congressman and A-list celebrities like Ashley Judd. Gov. Bill Haslam had heard from both sides on whether to grant her clemency. Members of Bishop Joseph W. Walker III’s congregation were working with Brown through a Tennessee Department of Corrections faith-based mentoring program. Days after meeting her, Walker joined the chorus of people lobbying the Republican governor. He spoke to Haslam about forgiveness and second chances, Walker said.”

 

Fred Rogers and François Clemmons in an episode of <i>Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood</i>, 1993“The Ministry of Mr. Rogers” – In The New York Review of Books, Robert Sullivan reviews two works on the life of Fred Rogers, both the highly acclaimed documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, by Morgan Neville and Maxwell King’s The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. “In December 2002 Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and he died the following February. In his final days he read the Bible, which he had often read along with the work of his great friend Henri Nouwen, the Catholic priest who wrote that being in a community was like being in a mosaic of stones, no single stone able to tell the group’s story. After receiving his diagnosis, Rogers had managed to give his last commencement speech, at Dartmouth. Still the preacher, he recited the lyrics to his song ‘It’s You I Like,’ and commented on the text, reminding the crowd not just how far he had taken TV from pie-throwing but how thoroughly he had illustrated the drama in the seemingly ordinary, the stage on which most of our adult lives are set.”

 

85745“Can Anger at God Be Righteous?” – “After I was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, I returned to the Book of Psalms anew. I started to pray with psalms that I had merely read before or had skipped altogether. While I was receiving intense chemo, a seminary student told me he was praying Psalm 102 for me:  ‘In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. (v. 5–6)’ My heart skipped a beat. As I read on, I found that the psalm contained a complaint and a petition that I felt deeply but did not know how to express.”

 

85807“The Gospel in Every Sign Language: Passion Raises $450K for Deaf Bible Translations” – “Though there are hundreds of sign languages, none have a full Bible translation, and just 2 percent of deaf people around the world have access to the Gospels in their sign languages, which is crucial for deeper understanding of Scripture, according to the Deaf Bible Society. Donations from the 40,000 students at Passion 2019 will go toward translating Gospel stories for the deaf in 16 countries: Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Moldova, Egypt, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, and Russia.”

 

david brooks selfismThe Morality of Selfism: The Gospel of Saint You” – David Brooks offers a bitingly satirical, tongue-in-cheek approach to our current cultural climate of fixation upon the self. “We live in a culture of selfism — a culture that puts tremendous emphasis on self, on self-care and self-display. And one of the things we’ve discovered is that you can be a very good person while thinking only about yourself! Back in the old days people thought morality was about living up to some external standard of moral excellence. Abraham Lincoln tried to live a life of honesty and courage. Mother Teresa tried to live up to a standard of selfless love. But now we know this is actually harmful!”

 

gallup integrity“Nurses Again Outpace Other Professions for Honesty, Ethics” – A recent Gallup survey identified nurses as the most-trusted profession for Americans. Way to go, nurses! Doctors, pharmacists, high school teachers, and police officers round out the top-five professions based on their integrity. I found this a little interesting given the sense of tension that exists in many realms about public trust in law enforcement. However, I was saddened to see that clergy had dropped down to position eight in trusted professions. Griffin Paul Jackson writes about this for Christianity Today, quoting from John Armstrong who speaks what many of us feel: “The kinds of scandals and authoritarian leadership that we saw this year among the clergy undermines the trust we place in them.”

 

john finnis“Petition Launched To Remove Law Professor For ‘Discriminatory’ Comments” – In another example of the utter inability for diversity of views within the cultural orthodoxy of supposed diversity, we have this situation at Oxford University. “A petition to remove Emeritus Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy John Finnis from teaching has attracted three hundred and fifty signatures in five days. Finnis has been accused of having ‘a long record of extremely discriminatory views against many groups of disadvantaged people’, including the LGBTQ community….Remarks highlighted by the authors of the petition as particularly discriminatory include a comment from his Collected Essays in which he suggests that homosexual conduct is ‘never a valid, humanly acceptable choice and form of life’ and is ‘destructive of human character and relationships’ because ‘it treats human sexual capacities in a way which is deeply hostile to the self-understanding of those members who are willing to commit themselves to real marriage’. This essay was published in 2011 but refers to arguments he made in a previous essay from 1994.” Read the article here to see Finnis’ rebuttal of the petition.

 

orthodox“From Russia, Without Love: Ukraine Marks Orthodox Christmas with Biggest Schism Since 1054” – “On January 6, it received the tomos of autocephaly—the documentation of its independence among Eastern church bodies—from one Orthodox heavyweight, the Patriarch of Constantinople, despite the vociferous opposition of another heavyweight, the Patriarch of Moscow. To understand the significance of the biggest Christian schism since the Protestant Reformation, unfolding since last fall and formalized this weekend as Eastern churches celebrated Christmas Eve, a brief history is in order.”

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Matt Chandler, “Transformation of a Leader” (#Exponential 2010)

Matt Chandler serves as Lead Pastor of The Village Church in Highland Village, TX. Matt is an outstanding communicator of God’s word with a strong call toward church planting. On Thanksgiving, Matt suffered a seizure and was found to have a tumor in his brain. You can follow Matt’s progress at http://fm.thevillagechurch.net/blog/pastors/, and read an Associate Press article about Matt here.

Here are some notes from Matt’s session aimed at the topic “Transformation of a Leader.”

“You cannot expect your people to be what you are not.”

We need to be careful as leaders because we deal with cosmic things, salvation things, everyday … and it can become routine. You replace your relationship with God with working for Him. Working for Jesus replaces knowing Him and walking with Him. As soon as that happens, things are going to become stale.

2 Corinthians 3:18

We are transformed by ‘beholding Christ’

How do we ‘behold Christ’?

  1. Constantly have to preach the gospel to yourself. – constantly reminding ourselves of this; it’s not only when we are at our worst that we need God, but at all times (‘your righteousness is like a filthy rag’)
    1. Romans 1:14 – “I am eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome”
    2. 1 Corinthians 15:1-6 – past, present, and future constantly in need of the gospel
    3. Galatians 1:6 – “I am astonished that you … are turning to a different gospel”
    4. Ephesians 2:1-10

Jesus’ call to communion remembrance is remembrance of Jesus

  1. Understanding that our faith is multi-generational; that God is working a bigger plan for the world
    1. Exodus 19 – at Mt. Sinai, God’s call that Israel is a priest to all the world
    2. Genesis 12 – Abraham’s call that all nations would be blessed by you
    3. 1 Kings 8 – the temple was given that “all the people of the earth might know Your name”
    4. John 10:15-16 – “I have other sheep who are not of this fold…”
    5. Matthew 28:18-20 – “go and tell all nations” → so…they go hide in an upper room
    6. Acts 2 – message to many nations present on Pentecost; work of the Holy Spirit → still predominantly Jews
    7. Acts 10 & 11 – vision in prayer to Cornelius and roof-top vision to Peter → Acts 15: the church debates whether or not God can do that…but God already did it
    8. 42 AD: Mark goes to Egypt
    9. 52 AD: Thomas to India
    10. 174: 1st Christians in Austria
    11. 252: 1st Christians in rural Italy
    12. 350: 53% Roman Empire were professing Christ as Lord; before Constantine was emperor → could have been a political move
    13. 432: Patrick heads to Ireland to preach gospel
    14. 596: Gregory the Great sends Augustine to England for missionary
    15. 635: 1st Christian missionaries in China
    16. 900: missionaries to Norway
    17. 1200: Bible available in 22 languages
    18. 1554: 1500 converts to Christiainity in what is now Thailand
    19. 1743: David Brainerd to North American Indians

God is at work and has been doing something for a lot longer than us. The Gospel was going out people getting saved long before Luther or Calvin.

If you take a step back, you should be amazed that you have been invited into this, that you have the opportunity to be a part of this, and that you have the responsibility to hand it off to who follows next.

We need to rest in the fact that God is at work.

“The church doesn’t need to be saved. It needs faithful men and women who will preach the gospel out of a pure heart.”

[This is part of a series of note-posts from the Exponential 2010 conference.]

Suffering Well: God’s Will, Cancer and Matt Chandler

One question that consistently comes up in conversations I have with people is why does God allow suffering.

It’s one thing when that question is coming from the realm of ideas. It is a much deeper thing when someone asks that question out of the place of personal experience: unemployment issues, the loss of a child, mental illness, or a battle with cancer.

Matt Chandler is a 35-year-old pastor who was recently diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer. There is an excellent AP article about Chandler that I’d encourage you to read. Here’s an excerpt that I found moving:

Chandler says learning he had brain cancer was “kind of like getting punched in the gut. You take the shot, you try not to vomit, then you get back to doing what you do, believing what you believe.

“We never felt – still have not felt – betrayed by the Lord or abandoned by the Lord. I can honestly say, we haven’t asked the question, ‘Why?’ or wondered, ‘Why me, why not somebody else?’ We just haven’t gotten to that place. I’m not saying we won’t get there. I’m just saying it hasn’t happened yet.”

You can find out more about Matt by viewing his own comments on cancer here at The Village Church’s web-site.