The Weekend Wanderer: 18 December 2021

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. Disclaimer: 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.


Warren - angels“The Cosmos Is More Crowded Than You Think” – Tish Harrison Warren in Christianity Today: “For close to 15 years, I forgot about the existence of angels. I didn’t exactly decide I no longer believed in them. I simply didn’t think about them, and if I ever did, it was a passing thought about how corny the depiction of angels usually is. I rediscovered angels by putting a baby to sleep at night. When my first child was a newborn, I realized one night, to my surprise, that without really noticing I had developed a habit of asking God to send his angels to protect her. Back then I worked at Vanderbilt University and became a regular at a Greek Orthodox cafe and bookstore near campus. I loved its quiet beauty, its ancient books, and its veggie chili. I got to know Father Parthenios, an Antiochian priest, and his wife (known to all as simply ‘Presbytera,’ or ‘priest’s wife’), who ran the place together. One afternoon, late in my pregnancy, Presbytera handed me an icon of an angel and told me it was for the new baby. I appreciated her kindness but wasn’t particularly spiritually moved. I’m a Protestant, after all. At the time I felt no particular skepticism toward icons or angels, but I didn’t feel a deep connection either. Still, I hung the tiny wooden icon on my daughter’s wall.”


Jesus_Christmas“Christmas Celebrates a Historical Event, Americans Say” – Aaron Earles at LIfeway Research: “Christmas is a celebration of a real event, according to most Americans. Just don’t expect them to know exactly why Jesus was born and came to earth. A new study from Lifeway Research finds close to 3 in 4 Americans believe Jesus was born in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago. Even more say Jesus is the son of God the Father, but less than half believe Jesus existed prior to being born on that first Christmas. ‘Most Americans consider Jesus’ birth a historical fact,’ said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. ‘It can be easy to only evaluate Jesus like you would any other historical figure—thinking about when He lived and what He did. However, the Bible also describes Jesus in a way that one must evaluate who you believe He was. Most Americans believe His origin was from God the Father, but half as many believe He existed before His birth.'”


CT Book Awards 2022“Christianity Today’s 2022 Book Awards” – Compiled by Matt Reynolds at Christianity Today: “As a books editor for a Christian magazine, I think I’m contractually obligated, every so often, to mention that verse from Ecclesiastes about there being no end to the making of books (12:12). (Though I can’t help wondering whether an updated version might instead remark on the relentless production of podcasts, that contemporary magnet for ‘everyone and their cousin’ barbs.) The ‘making of books’ verse carries the same world-weary tone that pervades much of Ecclesiastes. And we have to admit some truth here. Consider the investment of mind, body, and soul involved in writing books few may read or remember, and ask yourself: Why do so many people, across so many eras and cultures, willingly empty themselves in this way? Even so, you’ll never catch Christianity Today pronouncing ‘Vanity of vanities’ upon the whole book-making enterprise. Recall that God himself speaks to us through a book—as does the author of Ecclesiastes. Sometimes, you can’t tell the truth about the world with anything less.”


dietrich-bonhoeffer“Bonhoeffer on Holy Weakness and the Victory of the Suffering God” – Chris E. W. Green in The Intersection Journal: “One Sunday evening in the late Spring or early Summer of 1934 Dietrich Bonhoeffer delivered a sermon to St John’s German Evangelical Reformed Church in London, one of two small Lutheran congregations he pastored at the time. He spoke in English because many of his younger parishioners were not fluent in German, and he took as his text one of the most familiar passages in the New Testament: ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me’ (2 Cor. 12:9). Bonhoeffer’s sermon began with what could easily have been taken as an unnecessarily philosophical question: ‘What is the meaning of weakness in this world?’ But if anyone considered the question too academic, Bonhoeffer quickly broke the illusion, insisting that ‘our whole attitude toward life, toward humanity and God depends on the answer to this problem.'”


30williamsembed“The Hidden Costs of Prenatal Screening” – Sarah C. Williams in Plough: “The ultrasound technician put her hand on my arm and said the words every expectant mother hopes she will never hear: ‘I’m afraid there is something wrong with the baby.’ Within an hour it was clear that a skeletal dysplasia would claim my daughter’s life either at birth or shortly after. It was also clear that everyone expected me to have a termination. Hardly anyone in Western culture disputes the wisdom of prenatal screening. It is a practice that most of us take for granted. But what are the long-term effects? As a social practice, prenatal screening is framed as morally neutral. Scans are voluntary. It is the informed and consenting parents who decide how to act on the basis of the information they receive. At twenty weeks there were only two things I knew about my daughter, both of them scientifically derived facts: her physical abnormality and her biological sex. These facts were discovered simultaneously in a routine scan in which only two questions were asked as if they were of primary importance: Does this child have a healthy body, and is this child male or female?”


wildfire“A World Ablaze, Caught by AP Photographers in 2021″ – The Associated Press: “‘Some say the world will end in fire,’ wrote the poet Robert Frost — and for much of 2021, Associated Press photographers captured scenes of a world ablaze, amid rumblings of ruin. In New Delhi, a man sprints amid the funeral pyres of COVID-19 victims — too many fires, too much heat, too many victims. On a beach near the village of Limni, Greece, the horizon is lit by the flames of wildfires raging across the eastern Mediterranean. And at La Palma in the Canary Islands, the inferno is in the Cumbre Vieja volcano. But more than 10,000 million cubic meters of ash turn the world into a negative, with black ash taking the place of white snow. Not all of the combustion is so literal.”


Kentucky church tornado“In tornado’s wake, a church and pastor turn to God, service” – Holly Meyer in The Associate Press: “After riding out the violent tornado that devastated their town in a tunnel under their church, the Rev. Wes Fowler and his family emerged to devastation stretching for blocks: Crackling power lines, piles of rubble and calls for help they couldn’t pinpoint in the darkness. Later, safe back at home, his daughter had a question that left him stumped: ‘My little girl asked me, “Why would God let this happen?”‘ said Fowler, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Mayfield. While he believes God did allow the tornado to happen, he had no answer as to why the western Kentucky community where he was baptized, grew up and chose to raise his family wasn’t spared from the Friday night storms that left dozens dead and communities reeling across at least five states. But he felt he knew what to do next: glorify God amid the suffering, and serve those in need.”


Music: J.S. Bach, “Schwingt freudig euch empor,” Cantata BWV 36 / Part 1,  John Eliot Gardiner, English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

The Weekend Wanderer: 1 June 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.

religious freedom“Rethinking the History of Religious Freedom” – Church historian Robert Louis Wilken offers this helpful essay on religious freedom at First Things. “What is missing in these accounts is the contribution of Christianity. Many believe that Christianity is inescapably intolerant, and that only with the decline of religious faith in western society did liberty of conscience take root. But a more careful examination of the historical record shows that Christian thinkers provided the intellectual framework that made possible the rise of religious freedom.”

 

catechesis.jpeg“Catechesis for a Secular Age by Timothy Keller with James K. A. Smith” – Catechesis  is the process of introducing new converts or those preparing for baptism or confirmation to the essential teaching of Christ and the apostles, usually with the help of a catechism. There has been increasing attention given to the need for catechesis within the church across a wide spectrum of traditions or denominations. In this 2017 article, Jamie Smith interviews Tim Keller about the need for catechesis in what Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has dubbed “a secular age.”

 

can we believe“Can We Believe?: A personal reflection on why we shouldn’t abandon the faith that has nourished Western civilization” – Speaking of a secular age, here is Andrew Klavan’s personal reflection on the inadequacy of the Enlightenment narrative and the need for something beyond that like Christian faith. This meandering journey takes him into the prevalence of unbelief in the contemporary era and into the necessity of belief for the fabric of morality and society. Along the way, Klavan touches upon the work of Jordan Peterson, Douglas Murray, Marcello Pera, Steven Pinker, Yuval Noah Harari, and many more. He writes: “The point of this essay is not to argue the truth of Christianity. I argue only this: the modern intellectual’s difficulty in believing is largely an effect created by the overwhelming dominance of the Enlightenment Narrative, and that narrative is simplistic and incomplete.”

 

books“Thirty Years, Thirty Books | Fiction: The Pleasures of Obsolescence” – As part of their celebration of the one-hundredth issue and thirtieth anniversary of Image Magazine, the editors asked a poet, novelist, and essayist to offer their top ten works in their area over the past thirty years. Melissa Range offers a list related to poetry in “Poetry: A Word We Have Not Heard.” Christopher Beha offers his list of novels in “Fiction: The Pleasures of Obsolescence.”  Morgan Meis offers a list of essays in “Love, Hate, and Digestion: A Miscellany.”

 

54258“Farewell Franchise Ministry” – There are moments as a pastor where you feel out of sync with the surrounding ministry culture. Multisite is one of those areas for me where incarnational theology seems at odds with the prevailing model of multisite through video venues. We have been discussing at Eastbrook whether it’s possible to move into a more incarnational family of churches model within urban environments; something we affectionately refer to as missional multisite, although I don’t really love that terminology any longer. I know there are churches that have done so, and now here is another.

 

New_Life_Church_Aerial_Photo“Megachurches Discovering Liturgy & Traditional Christianity?” – In light of the previous article, Gene Veith’s recent post about evangelical megachurches moving toward liturgy and Christian tradition makes sense. Veith’s post is a response to Anna Keating’s article for America, entitled Why Evangelical megachurches are embracing (some) Catholic traditions. Veith corrects some misunderstandings of Keating’s article, while providing some background on why churches like New Life Church, The Village Church, and Willow Creek are now integrating ancient Christian practices and liturgy into their church life.

 

Music: Nils Frahm, “All Melody,” from the album All Melody.

[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: 1 September 2018

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.

 

83267“Many Churchgoers Want Sunday Morning Segregated” – At Christianity Today, Bob Smietana reports on a recent Lifeway Research survey about the desire and tendency for Protestant Christians to worship with others like them. “More than half (57%) of Protestant churchgoers under 50 say they prefer to go to church with people who share their political views. And few adult Protestant churchgoers say they attend services with people of a different political persuasion.” So much for the one new humanity of Ephesians 2

 

Griswold-The-Block-ChurchAnd in other, yet related, news: “Millennial Evangelicals Diverge from Their Parents’ Beliefs.” In The New Yorker, Eliza Griswold charts the recent changes in evangelicalism in terms of socio-political issues, concluding that evangelicalism is in a state of flux in terms of its social engagement on issues such as abortion, immigration, and more, particularly along generational lines. “The result is that younger evangelicals are speaking out on issues like family separation at the border, climate change, police brutality, and immigration reform­­––causes not typically associated with the evangelical movement. In the continuing moral outrage at the border, which includes nearly six hundred children still displaced in New York City alone, many see the faces of themselves and their families.” While I have strong aversions to generational theory, this should come as no surprise, given that the very idea of ‘evangelicalism’ as a monolithic theological, political, or sociological movement is fiercely debated today.

 

aretha“Here is the Aretha Franklin funeral program, and it’s epic” – The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, passed away this week (read the obituary). As with many of her generation of soul and R&B, she began her career by singing in church, including the church where her father was the pastor, New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. CNN has gathered together some quick facts on her life here. Although I had heard her music before, I hate to say that as a kid my introduction to Aretha came through her appearance with the song “Think” in The Blues Brotherswhich I saw in an edited-for-television version at an early age,  You might want a deeper dive into some of her greatest songs of all time here.

 

Lt. Comdr. John S. McCain is interviewed after the Vietnam War“John McCain Would Have Passed the Anne Frank Test” – After the passing of John McCain last weekend, there have been many reflections on his life and work. I particularly enjoyed this reflection by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic related to McCain’s integrity and willingness to stand up for the right in difficult situations and in the face of difficult people. The Anne Frank test: “something I learned from a Holocaust survivor almost 40 years ago, is actually a single question: Which non-Jewish friends would risk their lives to hide us should the Nazis ever return?”

 

Hybels“Randy Alcorn on Evangelical Sex Scandals: Bad Pastors Just Reappear at New Churches, Repeat Sins” Randy Alcorn, famous as a pastor and Christian author made veiled references to the Bill Hybels/Willow Creek saga, with some reflections on how the evangelical church grapples with leadership and integrity. In light of the systemic leadership coverup of the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandal, Alcorn’s words feel more poignant: “Countless churches have hired a pastor who ends up in immorality, only to find out that he had been guilty of the same in his previous church, which they had failed to ask about his character, morality and reputation.”

 

inside out“Outside In: What do we see when we look at ourselves?” – You really do not want to miss Alan Jacobs’ astute exploration of the human condition and the contemporary suggestions of what it means to be a self (or not to believe in a self at all). Touching on St. Paul, Charles Taylor, the Invisibilia podcast, Rebecca West, Pokémon, Friederich Nietzsche, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and Inside Out, you will be delightfully provoked to thought.

 

ubang“Uban: The Nigerian Village Where Men and Women Speak Different Languages” – Just when you thought you had a difficult time communicating with someone else, a friend shared this fascinating piece about the village of Ubang in Nigeria, where men and women speak in different languages that are still understandable to one another. “In Ubang, a farming community in southern Nigeria, men and women say they speak different languages. They view this unique difference as ‘a blessing from God’, but as more young people leave for greener pastures and the English language becomes more popular, there are concerns it won’t survive.”

 

58581-canva-photo-editor-60.800w.tn“Australia’s New Prime Minister Is an Evangelical Christian” –  I’m not sure what evangelical means anymore, particularly when used by new agencies, but this was in the news this week. “Australia’s newest prime minister is a church-going evangelical Christian who isn’t afraid to stand up for his faith in a country largely viewed as secular. Scott Morrison became prime minister Friday when the Liberal Party voted him in as its leader after ousting Malcolm Turnbull, the former prime minister and party leader. The Liberals are a center-right party in Australia, while the Labor Party is more center-left. Morrison is a member of Horizon Church, a Pentecostal congregation in Sydney where he and his family are involved in ministries.”

 

the good lifeI’m thankful Micah Mattix highlighted Karen Swallow Prior‘s new book On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great BooksHere is an excerpt: “Reading great literature well has the power to cultivate virtue. Great literature increases knowledge of and desire for the good life by showing readers what virtue looks like and where vice leads. It is not just what one reads but how one reads that cultivates virtue. Reading good literature well requires one to practice numerous virtues, such as patience, diligence, and prudence. And learning to judge wisely a character in a book, in turn, forms the reader’s own character. Acclaimed author Karen Swallow Prior takes readers on a guided tour through works of great literature both ancient and modern, exploring twelve virtues that philosophers and theologians throughout history have identified as most essential for good character and the good life. In reintroducing ancient virtues that are as relevant and essential today as ever, Prior draws on the best classical and Christian thinkers, including Aristotle, Aquinas, and Augustine. Covering authors from Henry Fielding to Cormac McCarthy, Jane Austen to George Saunders, and Flannery O’Connor to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Prior explores some of the most compelling universal themes found in the pages of classic books, helping readers learn to love life, literature, and God through their encounters with great writing. In examining works by these authors and more, Prior shows why virtues such as prudence, temperance, humility, and patience are still necessary for human flourishing and civil society.”

 

o-PARIS-facebook“Gorgeous Photos of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries” – Because you need some inspiration as the school year starts, why not imagine that you are completing your studies in an environment like this. Or maybe, like me, you just needed a new desktop image to keep you feeling like you’re part of something bigger than our computer-laden world.

 

JohnM-502x630Makoto Fujimura, “The Four Holy Gospels” – Take a moment to enjoy the wondrous artistry of Makoto Fujimura’s work commissioned for an edition of the four canonical Gospels in the English Standard Version, published in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Version (KJV) Bible in 1611. More info here.

 

[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: 14 July 2018

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly post in which I gather a smattering of news, stories, resources, and other media you could explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

82591“Guess Who’s Coming to Church: Multiracial Congregations Triple Among Protestants” –  “The percentage of Protestant churches where no one racial group makes up more than 80 percent of the congregation tripled from 4 percent in 1998 to 12 percent in 2012, according to new research out this week from Baylor University. Evangelicals and Pentecostals show even higher levels of diverse churches, up to 15 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Overall, nearly 1 in 5 of all American worshipers belong to a multiethnic congregation.” This is something that is really important where I serve presently at Eastbrook Church. Of course, this is not just a trend, but something significant within the trajectory of salvation history toward Revelation 7:9-11[Thanks to Bryan Loritts for sharing this article.]

 

ows_152950853349496Then, at the same time, we read an article like this “As Churches Close, a Way of Life Fades.”  The subtitle for the article is: “Minnesota’s mainline Christian denominations face unprecedented declines, altering communities and traditions celebrated for generations.” As you would guess, this is an examination of mainline church declines in the Midwest, and the chart in the middle of the article is worth viewing in itself. This is an echo of the larger trend of the decline of Christianity in North America, particularly in mainline Christianity. Of course, we must not miss the fact that the world is simultaneously becoming more religious, not less.

 

soccer“Understanding the ‘Beautiful Game’” – As the World Cup winds down, you may want to read Alan Jacob‘s review of Laurent Dubois’ The Language of the Game. “It might be easy to conclude that soccer is the sort of game that you either get or don’t get, yet Laurent Dubois takes up the noble and difficult task of trying to make soccer comprehensible and interesting to people who are used to games that follow a different logic. It’s a task he handles very well.” If that’s not enough, then you should watch the famous Pele move that Alan refers to midway through the article (seen at 4:19 in this video).

 

82639“How Charles Taylor Helps Us Understand Our Secular Age” – Christianity Today’s “Quick to Listen” podcast takes a look at why the work of Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor is influencing so many Christian thinkers. I have read Taylor fairly deeply over the last two years after encountering his thought both in the work of Pastor Tim Keller and Professor James K. A. Smith. Taylor’s thought factored into a recent series I preached on identity, “Who Am I?”, fairly significantly. If you want to dip into Taylor’s writings, there is no easy place to begin, but his most well-known book is A Secular Age. If you want a good to his thought, then I’d suggest Jamie Smith’s How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor.

 

cross-and-lynching-tree-e1530797675581In other reading news, here’s Timothy Thomas at The Witness offering a compelling look at “Why You Should Read ‘The Cross and the Lynching Tree.'” Thomas is new to James Cone’s work, which has spanned decades. This gives him fresh eyes in looking at Cone’s pivotal work on racial issues in America. If you’re unfamiliar with Cone or this book, please read Thomas’ reflections on this penetrating and important book published in 2011.

 

1_amXomiXpD9wDJ2xSS7On1w“The Tech Industry’s War on Kids: How psychology is being used as a weapon against children” – Adolescent and Child Psychologist Richard Freed writes: “What none of these parents understand is that their children’s and teens’ destructive obsession with technology is the predictable consequence of a virtually unrecognized merger between the tech industry and psychology. This alliance pairs the consumer tech industry’s immense wealth with the most sophisticated psychological research, making it possible to develop social media, video games, and phones with drug-like power to seduce young users.” [Thanks to Andy Crouch for sharing this article.]

 

starbucks straws.pngThis week Starbucks announced that it would cease using plastic straws by 2020. This is great news for the environment, especially when you get a view of the impact of plastic round the world (see “What Happens to the Plastic We Throw Out” from The Weekend Wanderer: 2 June 2018). Sure, it would be great if they would move more quickly, but as Ethan Epstein points out hopefully this sort of self-regulation would catch on with other companies.

 

mr rogersAnd last, but not least, here’s David Brooks with “Fred Rogers and the Loveliness of the Little Good.” David Brooks is an insightful social critic and here he holds up the life and legacy of Mr. Rogers as an important model in our divided days. While I resonate with Brooks’ desire, I’m beginning to lose my optimism that a return to the kindness of Mr. Rogers will do anything in the face of the increasing rifts between people in our nation. Brooks’ essay is, at least in part, a reflection on the new documentary about Rogers’ life, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” which I do hope to view sometime.

 

[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.]

Bibliography on Christian Identity for the “Who Am I?” series

books.jpgWhenever I study for a sermon series, I spend a lot of time far in advance of that sermon series doing research, reading books, thinking, reading articles, reflecting, reading more books, writing, and reading even more. I usually gather all of the resources I use together into a bibliography for each series. In the past I’ve shared those bibliographies here for those who are interested (access “Bibliography for the Theology of Suffering and the Life of Joseph” and “Bibliography on the Trinity”).

Here is the resource bibliography that accompanies our recent series, “Who Am I?”, on grasping our sense of identity with God through Christ. Although I utilized many commentaries for specific weekends of this series, I did not include those in this bibliography, limiting it to books specifically related to the topic of identity. The books I found particularly helpful are marked with an asterisk.

Christian Identity – Bibliography

Jerry Bridges. Who Am I?: Identity in Christ. Adelphi, MD: Cruciform Press, 2012.

Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016.

Eric Geiger. Identity: Who You Are in Christ. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishers, 2008.

Timothy Keller. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters. New York: Penguin Books, 2009.

*________. Making Sense of God. New York: Penguin Books, 2016.

C. S. Lewis. The Four Loves. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1960.

Loyola McLean and Brian S. Rosner. “Theology and Human Flourishing: The Benefits of Being Known by God.” In Beyond Well-Being: Spiritual and Human Flourishing. Ed. Maureen Miner, Martin Dowson, and Stuart Devenish. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, 2012.Read More »