The Weekend Wanderer: 20 June 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.


black anger“What the Bible Has to Say About Black Anger” – Here is Esau McCaulley in The New York Times connecting the psalms and the Cross of Christ with this present moment: “For Christians, rage (Psalm 137) must eventually give way to hope (Isaiah 49). And we find the spiritual resources to make this transition at the cross. Jesus could have called down the psalms of rage upon his enemies and shouted a final word of defiance before he breathed his last. Instead he called for forgiveness: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,’ he says in Luke 23.”


N T Wright“Undermining Racism: Reflections on the ‘black lives matter’ crisis” – Here is a reflection by N. T. Wright on the current crisis of racial justice. The basic summary from Tom: “The churches are in the wrong, not because they haven’t obeyed the politically correct agenda, but because they haven’t obeyed their own foundation charter.” I encourage you to dig into this insightful take from one of the best New Testament scholars and biblical theologians of our day.


Robert Larry“These Are My Reactions” – A couple weeks ago, a friend and former ministry resident at Eastbrook Church, Robert Larry, shared some of his thoughts with me on what it’s like to be a black man and Christian at this time in our nation. After sharing those thoughts with me, I asked him if he would be willing to share it with a broader audience, which he agreed to do. After yesterday’s celebration of Juneteenth, I hope Robert’s words inspire us to think, listen to one another, and grow toward greater authentic unity as the body of Christ.


alan jacobs“On Misunderstanding Critical Theory” – One of the more heated debates within the recent conversations about racial justice, LGBTQ+ equality, and much more relates to the domain of what is known as critical theory. Some will utilize critical theory to question some of the basic elements of societal structures, while others will criticize the use of critical theory as self-undermining and antithetical to rationality. Alan Jacobs, author of numerous books including the pertinent How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds (which I highly recommend), has helpfully written about critical theory on his blog over the past month. I’d encourage you to take a read of these posts, which I found insightful:


Andrew Sullivan - debate“Is There Still Room for Debate?” – Andrew Sullivan enters into the difficult, if not disappearing ground, of public conversation over contentious issues. In past days, I have increasingly wondered if it is possible to have conversation and debates over difficult issues. It is something I have been considering deeply since reading Jacobs’ book How to Think (see above), as well as Christopher Smith’s book How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church. I ask myself both in regards to society and the church, “Do we even know how to talk anymore?” Sullivan makes an interesting attempt at addressing this flashpoint issue amidst flashpoint issues.


Supreme Court“Supreme Court rules that federal law protects LGBTQ persons from employment discrimination” – There has been a lot of attention to the recent Supreme Court ruling related to employment discrimination against individuals within the LGBTQ community. Here is a quick summary from RNS on the case and ruling. You may also want to read Russell Moore’s take, “After the Bostock Supreme Court Case,” and Daniel Bennett’s take, “LGBT Rights Ruling Isn’t the Beginning of the End for Religious Liberty.”


Screen Shot 2020-06-19 at 6.57.24 AM“Middle East Christians Grapple with Apocalyptic Pandemic” – From Christianity Today: “Imad Shehadeh sensed an apocalyptic felt need. As chatter increased in the Arab world over the soaring coronavirus death tallies in China and Iran, the president of Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary (JETS) in Amman began preaching on eschatology in lockdown. ‘The coronavirus could qualify as one of the calamities that point to the end times, but could also just be a passing plague,’ he said in a widely shared video series posted in March.”


Music: Wilco, “Love Is Everywhere,” from Ode to Joy

[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: 13 June 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.


Dr. Tony Evans“Dr. Tony Evans Speaks From His Heart About Social Injustice” – One of the most respected African-American voices in evangelicalism is Dr. Tony Evans. His preaching and teaching ministry has blessed thousands over the years. I would encourage you to take fifteen minutes to watch this important word from Dr. Evans as he talks about four area of the cultural pandemic that we need to step forward into as Christians today. He touches upon a wide range of topics, including prayer, protest, individual responsibility, systemic racism, working for the gospel, working for kingdom transformation, and so much more.


Charlie Dates“I Can’t Breathe” – If you’re not familiar with Charlie Dates, the Senior Pastor of Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago, IL, I encourage you to get to know him. Dates holds a PhD in Historical Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is a widely-respected speaker on various topics. The Center for Pastor Theologians shared a powerful sermon he preached at Progressive Baptist on May 31 entitled “I Can’t Breathe.”


Tisby familial grief“The Familial Language of Black Grief” – Jemar Tisby’s book The Color of Compromise is one of my must-read books on racial justice in America. I had the chance to hear Tisby speak last Fall on his book and related topics at Wheaton College, which I’ve posted about elsewhere. He writes “Notions of family saturate the black freedom struggle in all of its aspects, especially the threat of police brutality. Under the constant surveillance, suspicion, and violence of law enforcement in America, black people share a kinship of calamity. A brotherhood and sisterhood of suffering. Like any family, it is not something we choose. This sense of solidarity through hardship is forced on us by the oppression we endure.”


Tom Holland - Dominion“A non-Christian’s argument for Christianity’s positive influence” – “Tom Holland has a grand thesis. He explores it with energy, ad­vances it with panache, and pulls it off with a flourish. His lively and absorbing project is at once a serviceable church history, a studied engagement with Christianity’s finest and darkest hours, and a compelling argument. The argument goes as follows: Chris­tianity brought something new and unique into the world; that quality in its various manifestations—notably deep respect for the weak, the suffering, and the vulnerable and a sense of the validity of every human life—remains deeply imbued in Western culture; and it is expressed as powerfully today by those who claim to have rejected Christian truth claims as by Christians themselves.”


Lawrence Aker III - preaching on race“Preaching on Race: Why We Can’t Wait” – In early May I was able to participate in a seminar with Preaching Today called “Pivoting Your Summer Preaching Series”
With Lawrence Aker III and Matt Woodley. I was so thankful to read this article from Lawrence on the necessity of preaching on race. I would add that we should not only preach on race in this moment, but throughout our ministry and in many seasons of the life of the church.


landing-faithful-justice“Resources for Faithful Justice” – InterVarsity Press is offering a number of amazing resources for free right now on their website. Please take a look at and take advantage of this unique offer. “IVP is grateful for the prophetic voices of our authors who share their stories, educate us when we are uninformed, and challenge us with the truth. Learn from these books as we pursue justice, wholeness, and racial righteousness in our homes, churches, and communities. You can also read our commitment to amplifying voices of color. To start reading right away, you can choose one ebook from this page to download for free. IVP will continue to pay the full royalties to the authors of these important books.”


Tim Keller“Tim Keller Asks for Prayers for Pancreatic Cancer” – “Tim Keller asked followers for prayer as he begins chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. The popular Christian author and pastor announced the news of his diagnosis in an update on Instagram and Twitter Sunday morning. ‘Less than three weeks ago I didn’t know I had cancer,’ wrote Keller. ‘Today I’m headed to the National Cancer Institute at the [National Institutes of Health] for additional testing before beginning chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer next week in New York City.'”


 

Music: Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On,” from What’s Going On

[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 Basic Christian Worldview: a summary by N. T. Wright

NT and the People of GodIn his book, The New Testament and the People of God, N. T. Wright sets the foundation for his massive multi-volume project, Christian Origins and the Question of God. An essential beginning of this project is to understand the historical picture of early Christianity, including the worldview of Christianity in the New Testament and earliest years. Borrowing from Brian Walsh, specifically The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview (co-authored with J. Richard Middleton), Wright summarizes the questions any worldview must answer (p. 123):

  • Who are we?
  • Where are we?
  • What is wrong?
  • What is the solution?

Later in the book, after offering a basic summary of early Christian history, symbol, and praxis, Wright offers this cogent summary of the early Christian worldview. I found this so helpful I wanted to include it here so that I could continue to interact with it in one place.

Who are we? We are a new group, a new movement, and yet not new, because we claim to be the true people of the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the creator of the world. We are the people for whom the creator god was preparing the way through his dealings with Israel. To that extent, we are like Israel; we are emphatically monotheists, not pagan polytheists, marked out from the pagan world by our adherence to the traditions of Israel, and yet distinguished from the Jewish world in virtue of the crucified Jesus and the divine spirit, and by our fellowship in which the traditional Jewish and pagan boundary-markers are transcended.

Where are we? We are living in the world that was made by the god we worship, the world that does not yet acknowledge this true and only god. We are thus surrounded by neighbours who worship idols that are, at best, parodies of the truth, and who thus catch glimpses of reality but continually distort it. Humans in general remain in bondage to their own gods, who drag them into a variety of degrading and dehumanizing behavior-patterns. As a result, we are persecuted, because we remind the present power-structures of what they dimly know, that there is a different way to be human, and that in the message of the true god concerning his son, Jesus, notice has been served on them that their own claim to absolute power is called into question.

What is wrong? The powers of paganism still rule the world, and from time to time even find their way into the church. Persecutions arise from outside, heresies and schisms from within. These evils can sometimes be attributed to supernatural agency, whether ‘Satan’ or various demons. Even within the individual Christian there remain forces at work that need to be subdued, lusts which need to be put to death, party-spirit which needs to learn humility.

What is the solution? Israel’s hope has bee realized; the true god has acted decisively to defeat the pagan gods, and to create a new people, through whom he is to rescue the world from evil. This he has done through the true King, Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, in particular through his death and resurrection. The process of implementing this victory, by means of the same god continuing to act through his own spirit in his people, is not yet complete. One day the King will return to judge the world, and to set up a kingdom which is on a different level to the kingdoms of the present world order. When this happens those who have died as Christians will be raised to a new physical life. The present powers will be forded to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, and justice and peace will triumph at last.

[From N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992), 369-70.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 26 October 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.

PF_10.17.19_rdd_update-00-020“In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace” – How many times have you heard about the decline of Christianity in the US in the past few years? More than you’d like to say, I would expect. There are some voices saying that the statistics speak to many other changes in culture, others the theological truth tells us something else, while other voices say the implications are not all bad. Here is the latest look at the data from the Pew Research Center on religion and public life. The bottom line: Christianity of every stripe is in decline in the US while the religiously unaffiliated (“religious nones”) are on the rise. What does this mean? Well, that is certainly a larger discussion that must take into account the nature of organized religion, shifts in social value of religion, shifts in social engagement as a whole in the US, and honesty about personal engagement within religion.

 

92589“Why We Still Prophesy Hope” – I have been involved here in Milwaukee with efforts to transform the racial divides both in our city and inside the church fellowships here. This type of work involves honest self-assessments, engaging with painful stories, encouraging those different from one another to journey together, and also somehow pointing to real change. It can be exhausting, humbling, and frustrating work at times. It is also hopeful work. Here is Dante Stewart speaking to that from his own journey and story.

 

Screen Shot 2019-10-24 at 9.38.10 AM“Accusing SBC of ‘caving,’ John MacArthur says of Beth Moore: ‘Go home'” – I first encountered the teaching of John MacArthur in probably the worst way possible. After coming to Christ through a charismatic renewal, someone shared MacArthur’s book, Charismatic Chaos, with me in an attempt to fix my “bad” theology of the Holy Spirit. It didn’t work, but it did serve as a strange introduction to a renowned American Bible teacher. Since that time, others I respect helped me to appreciate certain aspects of MacArthur’s expository preaching ministry. Still, I have always struggled with his less than irenic approach to controversial issues. That was confirmed further when, at a celebration of fifty years of ministry, when MacArthur was asked to make word associations with certain theological issues or figures, he responded to “Beth Moore” with “Go home.” You can listen to the whole clip here. I have friends who do not support women in preaching or ordained ministry and we can have a healthy discussion about our differing views, but MacArthur’s sharp words do not seem helpful here. Beth Moore responded via Twitter, and others, such as Kay Warren and SBC President J. D. Greear, have weighed in. In many ways, this is nothing new for MacArthur, as Christianity Today highlighted, “John MacArthur Is No Stranger to Controversy.”

 

8rriw2o“Pilgrims, Priests, and Breaking Bread in an Alpine Monastery” – I’m not alone in thinking that there is not enough silence in our lives. Of course, the lack of external silence is often a reflection of the lack of internal silence in our lives. For me, drawing away from the noise, voices, and busyness regularly helps me to recovery my identity. I often do this in nature, but have at times gathered in spaces set apart for this, such as retreat houses, monasteries, or camps. Every once in awhile it’s refreshing to catch a view of this experience from someone with fresh eyes. Timothy Egan does just that as he relates his encounter with Ignatian spirituality, silence, space, and listening in a visit to the Great St. Bernard Hospice.

 

Columba Stewart“A Monk of the Secular Age” – Speaking of monks, why not read about the life of Columba Stewart, a Benedictine monk who has traversed the world to help save and catalog ancient religious texts. Even finding himself in the midst of war zones, including Iraq, he has worked tirelessly to gather and digitize these texts to preserve them and make them accessible to scholars and the broader world. This reminds us of the historic efforts of monasticism to preserve works that would otherwise be lost, giving us links to earlier eras and societies that have formed the history of thought in ways we should not underestimate.

 

St Lydias Brooklyn“Dinner Church, anyone?” – What is church? How should we live together as church? These questions repeat in discussions again and again. They are not new, but they always bring new answers within the changing context of human culture and social experience. I was talking with a friend over lunch just over a week ago, and we shared our own thoughts about these questions. When I read this article by Michael Frost, I was reminded of some of that discussion, because this very idea had popped up there. I’m not really into pursuing fads in church models, but Frost’s exploration and sharing of examples is thought-provoking. Here’s Frost: “So, what is dinner church? Well, it’s dinner. And church. Scrunched together. But there’s so much more to it than that. Here’s a few dinner churches from around the world to give you a little taste.”

 

Music: Mavis Staples, “You Are Not Alone,” from You Are Not Alone (written by Jeff Tweedy)

[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: 5 October 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.

guyger-hugging-01-abc-jt-191002_hpMain_4x3_992“Extraordinary act of mercy: Brother of Botham Jean hugs and forgives Amber Guyger after 10-year sentence imposed” – Forgiveness is complicated and powerful. There has been a lot of discussion around Brandt Jean’s response to Amber Guyger, but there is no doubt that it is powerful to see the extension of forgiveness to an offender. We saw something similar to this after the shooting of nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Different people respond in different ways. Justice is required because all lives are equally valuable as made in the image of God. We must admit that justice and forgiveness apply in overlapping arenas of the public square and interpersonal relationships. Justice and forgiveness do not exist in an “either/or” dilemma perpetually at odds with one another. We must continue to debate the appropriate and equitable application of justice in these situations. We must also continue to learn more about forgiveness until we see the Author of forgiveness face to face.

 

SheepAmongWolvesII_6.16.1“Iran has world’s ‘fastest-growing church,’ despite no buildings – and it’s mostly led by women: documentary” – A friend passed this article along to me about a new documentary, Sheep Among Wolves, exploring the dramatic growth of Christianity in Iran. This dynamic growth is fueled by discipleship and not by structures. I have had the privilege of talking with movement leaders in this part of the world, as well as with the Iranian diaspora, and it is fascinating to hear about this surging work of God. While I haven’t watched the nearly two-hour documentary yet, I look forward to doing so.

 

Ghostly figure leaving the interior of Sanahin Monastery, Debed Canyon, Armenia“Three Decades Ago, America Lost Its Religion. Why?” – One of the biggest discussions amongst religious folks these days is the decline of religion in America, particularly Christianity, and the rise of what is known as the “religious nones.” I am increasingly convinced that this at least partially a result and symptom of (manipulative?) messaging in the public square more than it is about theology and decline in religious desire. Derek Thompson writes: “Religion has lost its halo effect in the past three decades, not because science drove God from the public square, but rather because politics did. In the 21st century, ‘not religious’ has become a specific American identity—one that distinguishes secular, liberal whites from the conservative, evangelical right.” Now, that will make you stop and think for awhile. You will wonder to yourself, “Is that true?” And you will read the news, and you will say, “That may just make sense.”

 

Screen Shot 2019-10-03 at 11.06.51 AM“InterVarsity can require its leaders to be Christian, judge rules” – In a headline that seems obvious, we return again to the contested crossroads of faith and the public square, this time in relation to student groups on university campuses. If fraternities and sororities can choose for their participants to be only men or women (which is already debated), can social or religious groups not also limit their members based on affiliation? Thankfully, a judge in Iowa used some basic common sense here in relation to a lawsuit filed by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship against the University of Iowa. One could ask the searching question, “Why would someone want to be part of the leadership of a group that stands for something they disagree with?” The answer to that may lead us into deeper questions about hidden motivations and some aspects of the entire contemporary social project aimed at eliminating all limits and differences between individuals and groups.

 

Screen Shot 2019-10-03 at 11.19.16 AM“The Miracle of Canticle – I don’t remember when I first read Walter Miller’s post-apocalyptic novel, A Canticle for Leibowitz, but I do remember not wanting to put it down. What was it that captivated me within this quirky series of three novellas depicting a world ravaged by war and scavenging for lost knowledge and wisdom? Was it the central role some aspect of faith plays in the form of a resourceful monastery at the heart of all three stories? Was it the author’s ability to weave together meaningful conversation about reason, faith, war, and loss in the midst of fascinating science fiction that feels contemporary? It’s still hard for me to put my finger on it, but as the work celebrates sixty years since publication, I don’t mind joining Daniel Kennelly in savoring it again.

 

Music: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” from Ella and Louis.

[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.]