The Weekend Wanderer: 10 July 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.


“The Platform is Not the Person” – Scot McKnight in his TOV newsletter: “We all present ourselves to give good impressions to others. Ordinary community members want other ordinaries to think of them in positive ways. More public figures in a community do the same, sometimes with a more ramped method of image management. Teachers do this in their teaching, pastors do this from the platform and pulpit and in various communications, neighbors can be quite busy in managing what other neighbors think of them. Authors present themselves in their writings in a way that readers trust and then think of them in those terms. What about social media? Not a few critics think the whole thing is little more than image construction and management. I’m not so cynical, but let’s not be naïve: our social media is a forum of self-presentation. Let’s call all this self-presentation the platform. On the platform we create a persona, and the persona is what we want others to think of us, whether we are curating that image or not. Others generate impressions of who we are on the basis of our public presentation. Untangling persona and platform from person, personality and character require discerning eyes, wisdom, and discernment.”


green-burial“Green burial as an act of faith” – Dawn Araujo-Hawkins in The Christian Century: “Hoeltke started looking for a more Christlike alternative to conventional US burial practices—and she found it in the resurgent green or natural burial movement. Broadly speaking, green burial means caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact. That usually includes forgoing any chemical embalming, opting for a shroud or a biodegradable coffin instead of the more popular steel or fiberglass, and skipping the cement vaults that typically enclose a coffin in the ground. It can also mean being buried in a cemetery that practices land conservation efforts. And for some people, like Hoeltke, natural burial also involves a more participatory burial process: washing and dressing your loved one’s body at home, accompanying them to the grave site, physically laying them into the ground, and then fully covering their body with dirt. ‘It’s a really beautiful experience. And I know that sounds crazy, but I’ve seen the beauty of what can happen,’ Hoeltke said.”


“On Re-Reading Acts” – Alan Jacobs at Snakes and Ladders: “I’ve been re-reading the book of Acts, and my chief response this time is: It’s wonderfully encouraging to see how bluntly and unapologetically Luke records a chronicle of confusion, ineptitude, and misdirected enthusiasm. The apostles are often a collective mess, and Luke does nothing to hide that from us. I find this strangely consoling. It’s also fascinating to note how little the apostles understand the message they been entrusted with. They know that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah of Israel, and they know that the Christ’s own people rejected him and demanded his death – but beyond that they’re a little fuzzy about what the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus mean.”


faith doubt“Writing in the Sand: The Poetry of Doubt and Faith” – Christian Wiman in Plough: “A few years ago I was asked to give the convocation address at Yale Divinity School, where I have taught for the past decade. Not only did I happen to be reading George Marsden’s biography of the great eighteen-century minister and theologian Jonathan Edwards, who was both a student and tutor at Yale, but I happened to have paused at precisely the moment when Edwards himself was about to address the student body. Teaching in an institution to which I would not have been admitted as a student (bad grades, bad ‘life choices’), I was flattered by the association, and it occurred to me that many of the students in attendance might be as well. To be welcomed into a place with so much august history, so much intellectual curiosity and attainment, so many great names – surely it’s worth a moment of pride. But maybe just a moment….What I do have instead are two things. The first is a first-century Jew from Nazareth well known for his oratorical skills but nevertheless, at a crucial moment in his ministry, remaining silent and writing in the sand. It is a strange moment – and one of my very favorite stories from the New Testament. I’ll come back to that. The second thing is another form of writing in the sand: poetry.”


Wendell Berry's radical conservatism“When Losing Is Likely: Wendell Berry’s Conservative Radicalism” – Brad East in The Point: “The lesson: “cultivating our own gardens and learning the virtues we have forgotten will not suffice to save the world.” Scialabba is surely correct about that. But I think he is wrong about Berry, and in a way that opens the door to larger questions. Those questions concern the connection between public justice and private virtue—or, put differently, whether justice is at once a private and a public virtue. Furthermore, they raise an issue facing a variety of factions and social movements across the world today: namely, whether it is possible to live with integrity, not to mention a clean conscience, when the causes in which one believes and for which one advocates are likely to lose.”


Patriotism?“How Do Christian Patriots Love Their Country Well?” – David French at The Dispatch: “Yet five years later, as our nation picks up the pieces from one of the most divisive, cruel, and incompetent administrations in the modern history of the United States—one in which the pursuit of Christian power led to prominent Christian voices endorsing nation-cracking litigation and revolutionary efforts to overturn a lawful election—the Christian “deal” looks bad indeed. When push came to shove, all too often the pursuit of justice yielded to the pursuit of power. The cultural shockwaves are still being felt. They’re rearranging not just America’s political alignments but our language itself. Is “Evangelical” more of a political marker than a religious identifier? Does it even carry true religious meaning any longer?”


Music: Mordent.IO, “The Foundation”

The Significance of Incidental Healing

Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)

The woman with the issue of blood is an incidental healing; a healing on the way from one miracle to another. In the flow of Jesus’ life and ministry, however, she is significant. While it appears as if Jesus’ power cannot be contained and that He ‘unintentionally’ heals her when she draws near by faith, there is clear intention from Jesus throughout the whole story.

Here is this woman who reaches out amidst the pressing crowd. She touches, not even Jesus Himself, but merely the edge of His cloak. After twelve years of the pain and isolation of her situation, in an instant it is resolved.

Even though the healing happens quietly, even unnoticeably, Jesus pauses to notice her and her healing publicly. He stops everything and searches for her. Heal first heals her physically, but carries on to heal her emotionally, socially, and spiritually. He identifies who she is and acknowledges the significance of her faith. He shows everyone that she is no longer unclean after these twelve years and speaks peace over her. The first wonder of the physical healing is amplified through the second wonder of the restoration.

Where do we need healing in our lives? Where do we need to reach out to Jesus for His power to be released into us? Where have we felt hidden and isolated? How might we need to let Jesus speak not only healing into us but significance and idntity over us?

Praise God for His recognition of our situations. There is nothing that is incidental or unnoticed to Him. He truly is the God who sees. And praise God for His power to bring healing and redemption through Jesus Christ. He truly is the God who saves.

C. S. Lewis on the Unprovable Efficacy of Prayer

Recently, I came across this extended quotation from C. S. Lewis on prayer in a devotional I read each morning. Lewis’ writings on prayer are always refreshing to me in their vibrancy and practicality. He is willing to address some of the most perplexing issues about prayer but does so without drying all the lively faith out of prayer.

Some years ago I got up one morning intending to have my hair cut in preparation for a visit to London, and the first letter I opened made it clear I need not go to London. So, I decided to put the haircut off too. But then there began the most unaccountable little nagging in my mind, almost like a voice saying, “Get it cut all the same. Go and get it cut.” In the end I could stand it no longer. I went

Now my barber at that time was a fellow Christian and a man of many troubles whom my brother and I had sometimes been able to help. The moment I opened his shop door he said, “Oh, I was praying you might come today.” And, in fact, if I had come a day or so later, I should have been of no use to him.

It awed me; it awes me still. But, of course, one cannot rigorously prove a causal connection between the barber’s prayers and my visit. It might be telepathy. It might be accident.

I have stood by the bedside of a woman whose thigh-bone was eaten through with cancer and who had thriving colonies of the disease in many other bones as well. It took three people to move her in bed. The doctors predicted a few months of life; the nurses (who often know better), a few weeks. A good man laid his hands on her and prayed. A year later the patient was walking (uphill, too, through rough woodland) and the man who took the last X-ray photos was saying, “These bones are as solid as rock. It’s miraculous.”

But once again there is no rigorous proof. Medicine, as all true doctors admit, is not an exact science. We need not invoke the supernatural to explain the falsification of its prophecies. You need, not unless you choose, believe in a causal connections between the prayers and the recovery.

The question then arises, “What sort of evidence would prove the efficacy of prayer?” The thing we pray for may happen, but how can you ever know it was not going to happen anyway? Even if the thing were indisputably miraculous, it would not follow that the miracle had occurred because of your prayers. The answer surely is that a compulsive empirical proof such as we have in the sciences can never be attained.

Some things are proved by the unbroken uniformity of our experiences. The law of gravitation is established by the fact that, in our experience, all bodies without exception obey it. Now even if all the things that people pray for happened, which they do not, this would not prove what Christians mean by the efficacy of prayer. For prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted.

C. S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night, as quoted in Reuben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer (Nashville, TN: Upper Room, 1983), 326-7.

A Pilgrim Prayer for Nomads

For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:10)

Abraham the nomad for God and His purposes is also Abraham the pilgrim. At one level, Abraham and Sarah’s journey feels random and strange. They leave their homeland and their extended support network. They leave what is known for what is unknown. From the outside, it could seem that they are merely wandering nomads.

But the eyes of faith see something else. Abraham and Sarah hear God and respond. They live each day, aware of God’s guiding hand and watchful for God’s interrupting grace that will point them toward what is next. Abraham and Sarah wait. They step forward and step back They works and rest. They succeed and they fail. They travel and they are still. And all of this happens in relation to the leading of God. This is the blessed way of those, as Psalm 84:5 says, “whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.”

Lord, lead me into the pilgrim way of faith seen in Abraham and Sarah. Though my ways sometimes feel more like nomadic wanderings than anything else, help me to discern Your hand in the midst of my day. And so, Lord, give me Your vision and guide me into Your purposes for my life that I every day and hour might draw me closer to You than to anything or anyone else. Open my ears to hear and my eyes to see. Strengthen my mind to understand and my heart to yearn for You. In this earthly way be my eternal home both for now and always.

Book Review of Compassion and Conviction: The AND Campaign’s Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement by Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, and Chris Butler

“If there’s one book I should read about faith and politics, what should it be?” Who could really provide an adequate answer to such a question? Should it be voluminous classics like Augustine’s City of God or Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica? What about Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism or Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and other writings? Or perhaps we should look toward more recent contributions such as Oliver O’ Donovan’s The Desire of the Nations or Richard John Neuhaus’ The Naked Public Square. Finding the one right book would be at best a project of great difficulty, and at worst an exercise in futility.

That being said, if you are looking for one brief book to help you find direction for Christian engagement in the public sphere at this moment in the United States, let me turn your attention to the recent work by Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, and Chris Butler, Compassion & Conviction: The AND Campaign’s Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement (IVP 2020). In contrast to Augustine’s mammoth work in City of God, the authors here provide a crash course in basic civics and Christian political engagement in under 150 pages.

Helpfully rooted in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and the Great Requirement (Micah 6:8), Giboney, Wear, and Butler outline a political engagement for Christians that holds simultaneously to love (including justice) and truth (including moral order). It is from this framework that the book takes its name; that is, Christian political engagement involves compassion and conviction.

Building out from the framework constructed in the first chapters, the authors carry forward by exploring a range of topics: how we approach partnerships with those who do not hold our belief system, understanding and utilizing rhetoric in a Christian manner, the thorny topic of politics and race, appropriate advocacy and protest, and the need for civility in the public sphere. Each chapter brings together well-considered biblical and historical thought on the topic with a series of very practical ways to step forward practically in relation to that topic.

Underlying the entire book is the belief that as Christians we can meaningfully engage in the public sphere, even in politics, for the glory of God in a way that does not either forego compassion for others or surrender biblical convictions. While it may not be the first book to recommend from all time on faith and politics, it is certainly an extraordinarily helpful book for our time in the United States as we approach the November election.