The Weekend Wanderer: 19 September 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.


JI Packer politics“J.I. Packer: The Bible’s Guide for Christian Activism” – When Jim Packer passed away last month, we lost one of our greatest voices in world evangelicalism. Thankfully, Packer wrote so widely that we can still learn from his insights. Christianity Today unearthed a jewel of an essay by Packer from 1985 on how Christian faith relates to the public sphere. His words feel just as relevant today as ever.


Jamal- Dominique Hopkins“Preach What You Practice” – Here in an ongoing series called “Race Set Before Us,” Jamal-Dominique Hopkins reflects on the life and legacy of Paul King Jewett as an example of Christian leadership during this divided time. “Jewett, a renowned moral theologian, possessed a passion for promoting racial solidarity. He attended a predominantly black church, mentored black students at Fuller, became the first white board member of the National Negro Evangelical Association (currently known as the National Black Evangelical Association). He also attended the March on Washington in 1963 and the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.”


Winding river“What Kind of Turning Point?: History is an unpredictable thing. Respect it.” – I first encountered the work of Mark Noll while I was an undergraduate student at Wheaton College and he had just published his important book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Noll, a wise historian of Christianity and more particularly an expert on the history of evangelicalism, has a thing or two to say about making predictions about what lies ahead of us. Drawing on the work of Bruce Hindmarsh and James Davison Hunter, Noll’s wise words in Comment are well worth reading.


Barna Race Today“White Christians Have Become Even Less Motivated to Address Racial Injustice” – From Barna: “As of the July 2020 survey, practicing Christians—self-identified Christians who say their faith is very important in their lives and have attended a worship service within the past month—are no more likely to acknowledge racial injustice (43% ‘definitely’) than they were the previous summer. There is actually a significant increase in the percentage of practicing Christians who say race is ‘not at all’ a problem in the U.S. (19%, up from 11% in 2019). Among self-identified Christians alone, a similar significant increase occurs (10% in 2019, 16% in 2020).”


20200828T0945-SYRIA-TURKEY-WATER-1004324-690x450“Christians, others warn Turkey is ‘weaponizing water’ in northeast Syria” – From Crux: “Parts of Syria’s north where Kurds, Christians and Yazidis have practiced religious freedom in recent years are reportedly again under attack by mainly Turkish military and their allied Syrian Islamist fighters. The Syrian Democratic Council, which oversees the autonomous northeast of Syria, condemned Turkey’s cutting off the water supply to the area’s main city, Hassakeh, for nearly four straight weeks. Humanitarian groups have repeatedly accused Turkey of ‘weaponizing water’ since its military takeover of the region in October 2019.”


Battle of Adwa“To understand African Christianity, remember the Battle of Adwa” – Here is Philip Jenkins in The Christian Century reflecting on a key moment in Ethiopia that had great import for modern African Christianity. “The historic relationship between Christianity and imperialism naturally causes grave dilemmas for modern believers. But on at least one celebrated occasion, it was actually a great Christian army that decisively triumphed over empire—and resisted conquest for a generation. Anyone interested in the story of modern African Christianity needs to know about the Battle of Adwa.”


Bible and Rosary“Evangelicals Becoming Catholics: Former CT Editor Mark Galli” – Last week I shared about former Christianity Today editor Mark Galli converting to Catholicism. Ed Stetzer gathers together a series of reflections by various theologians, writers, and thinkers on why evangelicals might make such a move in general, including various authors such as Scott Hahn, Francis Beckwith, Douglas Beaumont, Scot McKnight. Stetzer concludes with his own reflections on Galli’s decision, both in relation to his personal friendship with Galli and as a Baptist who sees both the strengths and weaknesses of evangelicalism.


Music: Yo-Yo Ma, “Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, Prélude.”

[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 September 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.


Alan Jacobs Bread“Hate the Sin, Not the Book: Reading works from the past can offer perspective” – In this excerpt from his latest book, Alan Jacobs invites us to engage with writing from earlier times and with differing perspectives to help us gain sanity in our lives. Building off of two earlier books, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction and How to Think: A Guide for the Perplexed, Jacobs offers this latest book, Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind, as a complementary work for our divided and confused time. In the midst of cancel culture’s dominance in the present moment, Jacobs brings wisdom for a reasoned understanding of why hearing voices unlike ours who we may not always agree with is more valuable than we know.


Kayla Stoecklein“I Was a Pastor’s Wife. Suicide Made Me a Pastor’s Widow.” – When Pastor Andrew Stoecklein took his own life in August 2018, it shocked many people and, unfortunately, became one more in a sad series of similar events. Stoecklein’s wife, Kayla, reflects on her life in the wake of her husband’s death. “Life as I knew it changed forever and I was handed a brand-new life as a widow and single mom to our three young boys. All of a sudden ours was the sad story on the internet. I watched as images of my life and pictures of my family made headlines all around the world. We were thrust into the spotlight in an instant. While the world was watching, leaning in, listening close, I chose to speak.” If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please talk with someone you know about this or reach out for help to the suicide prevention lifeline (1-800-273-8255). 


Lecrare Restoration“Why Lecrae’s ‘Restoration’ Should Still Be On Repeat” – From Cameron Friend at The Witness: “This album feels like a memoir as Lecrae is publicly inviting us to participate with him in his restoration while encouraging us to take our own honest plunge. While this project might not speak to the social inequities in the way we might expect, it still has its relevance amid the mental health trauma that Americans have been experiencing during the year 2020. ‘Restoration’ is a collaborative project that speaks to his personal journey towards the restoration he so desperately needed after losing hope, wrestling with his faith, and rediscovering himself as an artist.”


Mark Galli RC“Mark Galli, former Christianity Today editor and Trump critic, to be confirmed a Catholic” – This was not a headline that I expected to read, but it was not entirely surprising to me either. I find it unfortunate that Mark Galli has become chiefly known for his controversial editorial about President Trump since his writing work is much broader and meaningful than that. However, his decision to move beyond Anglicanism to “cross the Tiber” this year has precedent in evangelicalism, from the relatively recent conversion of Francis Beckwith (former President of the Evangelical Theological Society) or the likes of Thomas Howard (renowned evangelical author and brother to Elisabeth Elliot). About his conversion, Galli says, “I want to submit myself to something bigger than myself.”


God-Angel-Heaven-Concept-1536x1152“Unconscious Learning Underlies Belief in God – Stronger Beliefs in People Who Can Unconsciously Predict Complex Patterns” – “Individuals who can unconsciously predict complex patterns, an ability called implicit pattern learning, are likely to hold stronger beliefs that there is a god who creates patterns of events in the universe, according to neuroscientists at Georgetown University. Their research, reported in the journal, Nature Communications, is the first to use implicit pattern learning to investigate religious belief. The study spanned two very different cultural and religious groups, one in the U.S. and one in Afghanistan.”


Rowan Williams“Rowan Williams: Theological Education Is for Everyone” – Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, wants everyone to know that theological education is for all of us. In this interview with Benjamin Wayman, Williams says, “theological education is learning more about the world that faith creates, or the world that faith trains you to inhabit….any Christian beginning to reflect on herself or himself within the body of Christ is in that act doing theology: making Christian sense of their lives. So we shouldn’t be at all surprised if people in all parts of the body of Christ show an appetite for doing this and learning about it.” Perhaps now as much as ever we as Christians need to make Christian sense of our lives and the world around us. So let’s continue to grow theologically!


Music: Lecrae (featuring John Legend), “Drown,” from Restoration.

[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: 9 February 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.

190201-syria-church-mc-451_d751479b6750bbbdaa140bb3e7ebd1b6.fit-1240w“Life under ISIS led these Muslims to Christianity” – NBC News reports on this not entirely surprising movement. “Four years have passed since the Islamic State group’s fighters were run out of Kobani, a strategic city on the Syrian-Turkish border, but the militants’ violent and extreme interpretation of Islam has left some questioning their faith. A new church is attracting converts. It is the first local Christian place of worship for decades. ‘If ISIS represents Islam, I don’t want to be a Muslim anymore,’ Farhad Jasim, 23, who attends the Church of the Brethren, told NBC News. ‘Their God is not my God.'”

 

cool_christians_lead_3t.0“The rise of the star-studded, Instagram-friendly evangelical church” – At Vox, Laura Tuner explores the recent trend, for lack of a better word, of stars turning toward Christianity. What does this mean about our culture and about our Christianity? “Pratt, beloved doofus turned hot dad, is part of a growing trend of celebrities, including Justin Bieber, Kendall Jenner, Selena Gomez, Hailey Baldwin, and Kevin Durant, who are vocal about their faith. The churches many of them flock to — Zoe, Hillsong, and Churchome are the prominent examples — may look like they offer something different and more progressive than traditional evangelicalism but are actually quite consistent with evangelical teachings. In an era when religious affiliation is on the decline for young people, these churches can only gain from this proximity to stardom. But how are these “cool” new rising churches different from other churches? What is it about Hillsong and Zoe that attracts this star power?”

 

baby.jpeg“Statement on the New York State Abortion Law of 2019” – Likely you have heard of the recent passage in the New York State legislature of the “Reproductive Health Act,” which allows for late-term abortions, even up to the moment of birth, with some somewhat confusing limitations. If there is one place that Evangelicals and Roman Catholics can agree it is in relation to statements about life. That is why the group “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” produced this recent statement, published in First Things, on this appalling and disastrous piece of legislation.

 

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“The Abortion Wars: What most Christians don’t know about the history of prolife struggles” – In light of that, this 2003 article re-posted by Christianity Today, Tim Stafford offers historical perspective on abortion from the context of the early church in the Roman Empire until today. Here’s a peak into it: “From the first, Christians were outspokenly opposed to abortion on the basis of the child’s right to life. The Didache, an early second-century document summarizing Christian belief and practice, declares, “Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion/destruction.” Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Jerome, Basil the Great, Ambrose—all pronounced against abortion.”

 

commongood“The Church and the Common Good: Can we equate the church’s eternal mission with temporary politics?” – My wife gave me some of the best gifts possible this past Christmas: loads of theological books. A good percentage of those books are related to ecclesiology and political theology. Why? I am wrestling with the meaning of the common good and what it looks like for the church to interact as a polis – a political community – in the midst of the prevailing political community around it. This is exactly what Brad East is trying to do in this article at Comment. Give it a read.

 

johnson_birgitta“Birgitta Johnson on Praise and Worship Music” – From the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship: “Birgitta Johnson teaches world music, African American music, African music, and ethnomusicology at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina. She publishes widely and for years has researched music in black megachurches and the rise of praise and worship in African American congregations. In this edited conversation, she addresses stereotypes about praise and worship music.”

 

johnstuartmill“A (Not So) Secular Saint” – In The Los Angeles Review of Books, James K. A. Smith writes an insightful review of Timothy Larsen‘s new biography of John Stuart Mill. “To both his progressivist heirs and his conservative critics, John Stuart Mill is a secular saint, a priest of the triumphant modern moral order….The real story of this Victorian character turns out to be more complicated, and Timothy Larsen’s brief new biography challenges such caricatures without devolving into polemics.”

 

StJohnBible“A Series on the Saint John’s Bible” – “Transpositions is delighted to kick off an eight-week series on The Saint John’s Bible. For those unaware, The Saint John’s Bible is the first handwritten, illuminated Bible of its scale in over 500 years. The Bible gets its name from the Benedictine abbey and university which commissioned it: Saint John’s Abbey and Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. The abbey founded the university and its graduate school, Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary, and is surrounded by the campus.” [Thanks to Alan Jacobs for sharing this link.]

 

Leith Anderson“Leith Anderson Retiring from National Association of Evangelicals” – Leith Anderson, former pastor of Wooddale Church, announced his retirement from the role of President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) after serving in that role for the past 13 years. Anderson served as interim leader for the NAE during challenging seasons with financial decline in 2003 and after the resignation of Ted Haggard from the role of President amidst scandal in 2006. Most recently, Anderson attempted to bring clarity to the meaning of “evangelical” in light of confusing political connotations of the word after the most recent presidential elections.

 

Liturgical Folk LentMusic: “Liturgical Folk, vol 4: Lent” Enjoy some good listening this week with Liturgical Folk‘s fourth volume of work focused on the upcoming season of Lent. [Thanks to Ryan Boettcher for sharing this link with me.]

 

[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.]

Atheists Who Sought and Found God

Caravaggio_-_The_Incredulity_of_Saint_ThomasJesus’ closest disciples did not initially believe the message of Jesus’ resurrection. Instead, they doubted. Luke tells us that they even went so far as to categorize the story of the women who encountered angels at the tomb as “nonsense.” This terms comes from the medical realm and refers to the delirious ravings of someone overcome by their sickness. Not a good response from the disciples, it seems.

However, I believe their honest engagement with doubt and questions actually is an expression of faith as they move into a new experience of Christ. It is not authentic to disavow our doubts when they are there. It will not lead us into faith to shut our questions into a back room of our minds, and pretend they do not exist.

Even in our own day, we’ve had our share of doubters who have in their honest journey of doubt experienced the risen Jesus. Here’s a list

  • Lee Strobel (journalist) – at the popular level, Strobel sought to disprove his wife’s faith in Jesus, but ended up becoming a Christian himself. His book The Case for Christ shares that journey.
  • C. S. Lewis (Oxford and Cambridge medieval literature professor) – Lewis is so well-known for The Chronicles of Narnia and his own journey of faith that it’s hard to remember that his journey from agnosticism to faith was triggered by conversations with J. R. R. Tolkien. Basically, Tolkien got Lewis thinking about whether all the best myths which cause longing to rise up in our hearts might be echoes of the one true story found in Jesus Christ.
  • Edith Stein (Jewish philosopher) – Stein’s upbringing in a Jewish home led her to reject her faith. She wandered for years before finding faith in Jesus Christ after battling through philosophical issues. Stein went on to become a nun, later known as Teresa Benedict of the Cross
  • Francis Collins (geneticist) – Collins was an atheist scientist, but his work on the human genome project with DNA brought him to a point of consideration about the intricacy of the nature of life and the universe. He later converted to Christianity, and wrote about it in his book, The Language of God.
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn (novelist and social commentator) – Solzhenitsyn is best known for writings such as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago. Solzhenitsyn’s suffering in a Russian gulag actually led him to faith in Christ.
  • Antony Flew (philosopher) – Flew was a rabid atheist throughout most of his life, but changed directions later in life. His 2007 book, There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed his Mind, offers this striking description: “It may well be that no one is as surprised as I am that my exploration of the Divine has after all these years turned from denial…to discovery.” He defended his change of direction and directly addressed claims of ‘the new atheists’, most notably in his review of Christopher Hitchens’ book The God Delusion.

One of the most important lessons we can learn from the early disciples – and this list of contemporaries who found faith – is that following our doubts down the paths they lead us will often lead us to encounter the resurrected Christ.