The Weekend Wanderer: 4 July 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.


Regnerus marriage“Can the Church Save Marriage?” – The cover story in the most recent issues of Christianity Today is an attention getter. Her is Mark Regnerus, professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and co-founder of the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture: “According to a Census Bureau survey taken in 2018, only 35 percent of 25- to 34-year-old men were married, a precipitous and rapid plunge from 50 percent in 2005. These numbers point toward a clear and frightening trajectory: Marriage is getting rarer. Fast. Getting married is something humans have done for millennia out of economic practicality, if not out of love. Some challenges in tying the knot are old and mathematical—for example, more women are interested in matrimony than men. Others are recent and ideological, including the new norm of short-term relationships and the penchant for ‘keeping your options open.'”


Screen Shot 2020-07-02 at 10.07.19 AM“Evangelical leaders are speaking up about race — but will this new focus last?” – Adelle M. Banks at RNS: “Many prominent white evangelicals have made statements about Black lives in the weeks since the May 25 death of George Floyd, but is this new focus among white conservatives — and white Christians in general — momentary or lasting? Researchers working at the crossroads of religion and race say it’s too soon to say. But highlights of a forthcoming study, which looks at racism, biblical interpretation and church cultures, may indicate a long struggle ahead. Michael Emerson, co-author of the 2000 book Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, said 2019 findings indicate “zero evidence” of a closing of the long-standing gap between how white evangelicals and Black Christians view racial inequality.


merlin_173727378_812b7d4e-3b86-4952-8daf-dc0aa7cd78e9-superJumbo“America Is Facing 5 Epic Crises All at Once” – David Brooks offers his take on five epic crises that are hitting our nation all at once related to COVID-19, race, politics, social justice, and economics. The result? “These five changes, each reflecting a huge crisis and hitting all at once, have created a moral, spiritual and emotional disaster. Americans are now less happy than at any time since they started measuring happiness nearly 50 years ago. Americans now express less pride in their nation than at any time since Gallup started measuring it 20 years ago.” What does Brooks suggest? You’ll have to read his article.


Supreme Court“Supreme Court opens door to state funding for religious schools” – From CNN: “In a ruling that will open the door to more public funding for religious education, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of parents in Montana seeking to use a state scholarship program to send their children to religious schools. The court said that a Montana tax credit program that directed money to private schools could not exclude religious schools. The 5-4 ruling was penned by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by the court’s four conservative justices. ‘A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious,’ Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.”


Hagia Sophia“Hagia Sophia: Turkey delays decision on turning site into mosque” – Turkey is debating whether to turn the architectural wonder, Hagia Sophia, which is currently a museum, back into a mosque. The structure was built in the 6th century as the seat of the Orthodox patriarchate in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Later, when the Ottoman Empire sacked Constantinople and renamed the city Istanbul, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. After World War I, the modern Turkish secular state was formed and Hagia Sophia was dedicated as a museum opened to the public in 1935.  Things have been changing in Turkey and this historic site is at the center of the latest controversy, which some see as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempt to erase Turkey’s Christian past.


Jimmy Dunn“Rest in Peace, Jimmy” – This is probably a scholarly footnote for many people, but renowned New Testament scholar James D. G. Dunn passed away last week. Dunn is best known for his work on the Apostle Paul, ranging from outstanding commentaries to groundbreaking theological work related to Paul’s theology. Dunn’s work was pivotal in what has come to be known as the “New Perspective” on Paul. On that theme, you might enjoy this ten-minute introduction to the New Perspective on Paul by Dunn and N. T. Wright from over ten years ago. This remembrance by Scot McKnight, one of Dunn’s students and a highly-regarded New Testament scholar himself, is well worth the read.


Iowa landscape“When Dvořák Went to Iowa to Meet God: Music that gives voice to the longing for home” – I grew up in the Mississippi River Valley of Illinois, just across the river from Iowa. While everyone who lived in Illinois knew for sure that Iowa was not “heaven,” there is still something special about the wide open spaces of the Midwestern prairies. I did not know that the famed Czech composer Antonín Dvořák spent a transformative time in Iowa “When Dvořák looked over the grassland vastness of Iowa, he felt that very strange and contrary coupling of hopeful contentment and melancholy we sometimes feel on summer evenings, as the stars and cicadas both come up and the grass lets off a damp, fresh smell.”


Music: Gustavo Dudamel with Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, “Dvorak – Symphony no. 9 – 4th movement – Allegro con fuoco,” recorded at a celebration for Pope Benedict XVI.

[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.]

Creation and Embodied Sexuality

Love Sex Body Series GFX-05I continued our series, “Love-Sex-Body: Toward a Biblical Theology of Embodied Sexuality,” this past weekend at at Eastbrook Church

This weekend, I turned our attention to the first chapter of God’s Good Story: Creation. The message draws upon many Scripture passages, but finds its footing in Genesis 1 and 2. My main point was basically that our bodies our good, our sexuality is good, and love is the good that holds that all together. In the midst of the message, I spent some time discussing the image of God in humanity, the nature of biological sex and gender, as well as some reflections on singleness and marriage.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.

Read More »

The Weekend Wanderer: 13 October 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.

 

1536560855288“Chinese officials burn bibles, close churches, force Christian to denounce faith amid ‘escalating’ crackdown” – This was shared with me by a friend directly connected to the situation of the house church in China. President Qi has increasingly put pressure on religious groups, particularly the underground church, as he seeks to reestablish a more pure communist agenda in China. What is new here is the aggressive measures being taken, including against the “Three-Self Church,” which is the government-approved church.

 

LX7EOIGOEQI6RI7GITNKHU263Y“October 12 Update on the Release of Pastor Andrew Brunson” – On Friday international news reports indicated that a Turkish court ruled today to release Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been detained for the past two years and has been remanded to house arrest since July due to health concerns. Following this case over the past two years, it is clear that Brunson has been a pawn used in the midst of political tensions between Turkey and the United States. Throughout his detainment, he has claimed he is innocent of the charges that he is somehow connected to organizations working against the Turkish government.

 

83523“A Dying Child and a Living Hope” – When Kelly and I went through the painful experience of a miscarriage, I pulled a book off my shelf that a friend had once bought for me called The Shaming of the Strong by Dr. Sarah Williams, a professor at Regent College in Vancouver, BC. A couple of days ago, I read on Christianity Today that Dr. Williams has released a new book, which looks to be either a revision of the earlier book or a reappraisal of her own journey through carrying a child, Cerian, whom doctors told her would die upon birth. Aaron Cobb reviews that new book by Sarah Williams, Perfectly Human: Nine Months with Cerian, showing the grace and insight that Williams brings in the valley of the shadow of death as she reflects on what it means to be human.

 

_103770368_20171028_123422“The young Americans who are bucking the divorce trend” – This should catch your attention: between 2008 and 2016 the divorce rate in the US fell by 18%, according to a study by the University of Maryland. Of course, the related fact is that marriage rates have also dropped, with millennials three times less likely to get married than their grandparents’ generation. The abstract of the study concludes with this line: “The U.S. is progressing toward a system in which marriage is rarer, and more stable, than it was in the past, representing an increasingly central component of the structure of social inequality.” Looking at five couples that span the spectrum of modern marriage relationships, a BBC reporter highlights reasons why this may be the case, including a rare, fair-minded look at Christian marriage in couple #5.

 

alan jacobs“Christianity and Resistance: An Interview with Alan Jacobs” – The Los Angeles Review of Books has a wonderful interview with Alan Jacobs about his recent book The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis. It’s no secret that I have a great admiration for Jacobs’ writing and thinking, and this interview only adds to that admiration. Setting up the interview, the interviewer writes, “That mid-20th-century moment when civilization looked into the abyss — and large portions of humanity plunged into it — seems to resonate strongly for a lot of writers and thinkers these days, and not only because of Trumpism’s neo-fascist and ‘Christian’ nationalist tendencies.”  [Thanks to Wesley Hill for sharing this article.]

 

trump-with-evangelical-leaders“‘Evangelical’ has become too political and needs to be ‘reclaimed’, says WEA head” – The ongoing debate about what the word ‘evangelical’ means and whether it is still a helpful term rose to the surface in recent comments by the General Secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance, Bishop Efraim Tendero. This dovetails with a recent report that nearly 40 evangelical leaders came out with a statement against Donald Trump and the Alt-Right, in light of many contested surveys that say 80% of white evangelical voters supported Donald Trump. A wide-ranging group of authors wrestled with that question in the book Still Evangelical?: Insiders Reconsider Political, Social, and Theological Meaning, published by InterVarsity Press.

 

John-Lennox“Should We Fear Artificial Intelligence?” is a lecture given as part of the “Trending Questions” series of the Zacharias Institute by Dr. John Lennox, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and an Emeritus Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College, Oxford. Lennox digs into some of the most pertinent questions related to AI today, touching upon the domains of science, philosophy, ethics, and theology. This is a long video, but you can skip ahead of the introduction to Dr. Lennox’s lecture directly at 18′ 23″. [Thanks to Jeff Davis for sharing this link with me.]

 

he held radical light.jpgHe Held Radical Light – Image Journal, in their latest email update, reviews Christian Wiman’s latest book. “This slim new volume of essays on art, death, and eternity, demands to be read with a level of focused attention that is hard for me to come by these days, but it repays the effort. Picking up where My Bright Abyss left off, it’s a chain of essays about contemporary poets, including A.R. Ammons, Denise Levertov, Seamus Heaney, Susan Howe, Donald Hall, and many others, in which Wiman probes his own youthful desire to write ‘a poem that would live forever’—a wish intensified by his battle with cancer. That goal might seem ludicrous, if Wiman were not so self-aware, so sincere, and such a thirsty reader of poems. As it is, the idea of such a poem, possible or not, feels worthy of every attention.”

 

Orlean-LibrariesAnd since we’re on the topic of books, why not travel through memory and the stacks of the public library with Susan Orlean in her wonderfully written essay, “Growing Up in the Library,” over at The New Yorker. As a chronic reader who spends time at our local library every week, and as one taken to the library as a child by my parents who continues that legacy with my own children, I resonate with Orlean’s first lines: “I grew up in libraries, or at least it feels that way.” [Thanks to Micah Mattix for sharing this in the Daily Prufrock.]

[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.]

Five Themes of Resilient Ministry

fullsizeoutput_abeThis week, I am spending time in reflection about what it means to be a pastor, what ministry is all about, and what it means to be the church. Earlier this week I shared some insights from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together about the church and from Dallas Willard on the nature of ministry in a consumer society. Today, I want to turn my attention toward pastoral ministry.

In their book Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving, Bob Burns, Tasha Chapman and Donald Guthrie outline five themes of resilient ministry that I have found valuable as I reflect on what is most meaningful in my life as a pastor. They write:

After seven years of studying our [pastoral] summit participants (including their marriages, families and ministries), we learned a lot about what it takes to survive and thrive in ministry. Five themes, each with multiple factors, stood out as the keys for pastors to remain resilient in fruitful ministry for a lifetime.

In chapter two, the authors introduce those five themes, so here they are in summary form.

Theme One: Spiritual Formation

The study reveals that focus on personal spiritual formation within the life of the pastor is incredibly important to pastoral resilience. “In our work with pastors, we have come to define spiritual formation as the ongoing process of maturing as a Christian, both personally and interpersonally” (19, italics mine). This is not something that has been attained, but is an ongoing process in which leaders give attention, as any disciple of Christ should, to their ongoing growth with God. Along with this, the authors emphasize that pastoral resilience arises when this emphasis on spiritual formation is not only persona, but interpersonal. That is, spiritual formation must involve others and, though this can be a problem for pastors to find, must involve safe places for vulnerable disclosure.  They quote Diane Langberg, who says “Before you were called to be a shepherd, you were called to be a lamb” (21).

Theme Two: Self-Care

As pastors take steps to live out self-denial with intentional spiritual growth, they must also give attention to appropriate self-care. “The idea of self-care involves the pursuit of physical, mental and emotional health” (21). The work of ministry is very demanding in terms of time, life issues, and the sense that it is a 24-7 role. However, in the midst of those stresses, we cannot lose sight of taking care of ourselves through meaningful physical exercise, good sleep and eating, activities outside of the church, and some life-giving hobbies. As someone once said to me, “The best thing you have to offer to the church as a pastor is a healthy you.”

Theme Three: Emotional and Cultural IntelligenceRead More »

Righteous Relationships (discussion questions)

Exiles Series Gfx_ThumbHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Righteous Relationships,” which is part of our series “Exiles” on the book of 1 Peter. This study walks through 1 Peter 3:1-12.

  1. In which of your relationships do you find it most easy to share your faith in Jesus? In which relationships do you find it harder to do that?
  1. As we continue our series, “Exiles,” this weekend, we are turning to 1 Peter 3:1-12. Begin your study in prayer, asking God to speak to you through the Bible, and then read the passage aloud.
  1. Continuing from the previous section, 1 Peter 2:18-25, Peter now focuses attention on husband-wife relationships. He addresses them both, saying “in the same way” (3:1, 7). This brings us back to 1 Peter 2:18, where Peter addresses the household servants. What is “the same way” that Peter is talking about?
  1. According to verses 1 and 2, what reason does Peter give for the submission he commends for wives?
  1. Peter offers a contrast between inner and outer beauty. This is a hot topic in our own culture, where some companies are campaigning for “real beauty.” What sort of beauty is Peter upholding and how do you think the church can reflect this?
  1. Verse 7 is a brief but pointed instruction for husbands. What does Peter exhort husbands to do and what is the reason for it?
  1. Do you think it’s easy or hard to live out Peter’s instructions for husbands and wives? Why do you say that?
  1. Speaking more generally in verses 8-12, Peter calls all followers of Jesus into a different sort of character. How would you briefly describe each phrase offered in verse 8?
  1. Behind 1 Peter 3:9 is Jesus’ statement in Luke 6:27-28. Read those verses. What do you think it practically looks like to bless those who intend evil for us?
  1. Verses 10-12 are drawn from Psalm 34, which Peter also references in 1 Peter 2:3. Why do you think Peter uses these verses here at the end of his section on relationships?
  1. What is one specific thing you sense God is speaking to you through this study? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray about what you share together. If you are studying on your own, write it down, pray about it, and share this with someone during the next few days.

[Next week: We continue our “Exiles” series by looking at 1Peter 3: 13-22 with a conversation around “Persecution.” Read ahead with us!]