The Weekend Wanderer: 31 October 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.


Abood - Asher Imtiaz“Grace Under Pressure: A photo essay” – A friend, Asher Imtiaz, has a very special photo essay in Comment that I would encourage you to take a look at. Asher writes: “I have been doing documentary photography for almost a decade now. Very early I asked myself this question: Why do I take photographs? The answer was: to honour people living under pressure. To give those who we consider as other’ a voice and a story….So when in 2016 I finally decided to start a long-term, self-assigned project to collect stories and photographs of immigrants, I wanted to produce work that is not just a report. Work that would evoke enough feeling in people to change their attitudes about immigrants. In the process, I found myself changed.”


George Yancey“I see nothing, I know nothing!!!” – George Yancey writes an extended blog post jumping off from his observations of Professor Eddie Glaude in his encounter with Rod Dreher on the Morning Joe show. As a sociologist and conservative Christian, Yancey explores how bias against conservative Christians in academia parallels other biases we have. The post is wide-ranging but looks at the interplay between our blindspots, the evidence we need of wrong in differing domains, and how that shapes who we defend and who we do not.


public engagement“The Early Church Saw Itself as a Political Body. We Can Too.” John Piper’s article that I shared last week highlighted one of the weaknesses of 20th century Christianity: we do not have a very well-considered theology of public engagement that touches on the individual and the corporate aspects of what God’s kingdom looks like. This is at least part of what I was trying to get at in the five-week series we walked through on the kingdom of God recently at Eastbrook. Tish Harrison Warren looks at the issue from a different angle in this recent essay in Christianity Today: “We have an impoverished and inadequate political theology. It took us generations to get here, and this one election, regardless of the results, will not undo that. So before we know who wins or loses, we as a church must begin to reexamine how the good news of Jesus shapes us politically.”


Nice attack“Three dead as woman beheaded in attack in French church” – France has faced shocking events in the past weeks with religious-based extremist violence. Just a couple days ago, an attack at Notre Dame church in Nice left three people dead. This followed an earlier attack just  over a week ago where a schoolteacher was killed in a suburb of Paris after exhibiting satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed in a lesson on free speech.  This is part of a long conflict around a series of depictions of the Prophet Muhammed that goes back to 2005. Let’s all pray for wisdom, peace, and healing in France and for an end to acts of terror, reprisals, or mistreatment in any direction.


Wilton Gregory“Wilton Gregory: Pope Francis names first African-American cardinal” – “Pope Francis has said he will appoint 13 new Roman Catholic cardinals, among them the first African-American clergyman. The Pope announced the 13 cardinals from eight nations in a surprise address from his window overlooking St Peter’s Square in Rome on Sunday. Wilton Daniel Gregory, the progressive 72-year-old Archbishop of Washington DC, will be one of them. The cardinals will be installed in a ceremony at the Vatican on 28 November. Cardinals are the most senior clergymen in the Roman Catholic Church below the pontiff.”


The_Temptation_of_Christ_by_the_Devil-768x402“Forget the Horns. Ditch the Pitchfork. What Do We Really Know about the Devil?” – One of the questions I often receive as a pastor is from folks wanting to know about this or that term or idea in the Scripture. One of the most frequent is related to the devil or to demons. I came across this simple summary of our understanding of the devil at the Lexham Press blog and thought I’d share it for those who are interested in the biblical backgrounds related to our understanding of the devil or Satan.


Music: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, “Killing the Blues,” from Raising Sand

[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 for Faith and Politics

When I conclude a sermon series, I usually share the resources I used to help me study and prepare my sermons. Here is the second of two bibliographies for our recently completed series, “The Kingdom of God” (you can find the first one here). This bibliography has a backstory.

Before the pandemic we had a two-week series entitled “Faith and Politics” on the schedule with guest speakers NT Wright and Vince Bacote. As an extension site for Trinity Evangelical Divinity School we worked on a wraparound class for that series and I helped develop the first bibliography and reading list for that class, which was the genesis for what I’m sharing below.

As the pandemic accelerated, NT Wright was unable to travel in April (we rescheduled him for 2021) and we delayed the series on politics. I eventually re-worked the two week series on faith and politics into a broader five-week series on the kingdom of God. Thankfully, we were still able to have Vince Bacote join us and you can watch his lecture, as well as a follow-up Q&A, here: “The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life.”

It should go without saying that I do not agree with the perspective shared within all of these works. However, many of them which I disagree with are still important for any discussion of faith and politics.

Bibliography for “Faith and Politics”

Augustine. City of God. Edited and translated by R. W. Dyson. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. (1278 pages – Augustine’s magisterial exploration of the relationship between the city of God and the city of earth)

Vincent E. Bacote. The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life. Ordinary Theology Series. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015. (90 pages – a summary of key issues on faith engaging culture)

Robert Benne. Good and Bad Ways to Think About Religion and Politics. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010. (120 pages – written out of frustration with current failures of thinking, Benne offers some core convictions about Christian political engagement and how that should shape public policy and political action)

Amy E. Black. Beyond Left and Right: Helping American Christians Make Sense of American Politics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008. (254 pages – Wheaton College political science professor offers an engaging look at key issues in political theology with attention to key issues)

________, ed. Five Views on the Church and Politics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015. (240 pages – part of Zondervan’s Counterpoints series, this book offers outlines of political thought from Anabaptist, African America, Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed perspectives, with responses to each outline by others)

Gregory A. Boyd. The Myth of a Christian Nation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. (207 pages – written around the 2004 election, Boyd’s central thesis is “a significant segment of American evangelicalism is guilty of nationalistic and political idolatry”)

John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007. (1059 pages – Calvin’s treatment of law and government were defining for Protestant theology since his time)

D. A. Carson. Christ and Culture Revisited. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012. (255 pages – an evangelical New Testament scholar offers a revision of Niebuhr’s typology of Christian cultural engagement with a chapter on church and state)

Craig A. Carter. Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post-Christendom Perspective. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2006. (224 pages – a critique of Richard Niebuhr’s typology and proposes a typology better suited to mission after Christendom)

William T. Cavanaugh, Jeffrey W. Bailey, Craig Hovey. An Eerdmans Reader in Contemporary Political Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012. (836 pages – a collection of 49 readings from key thinkers on political theology in the past couple centuries)

Eugene Cho. Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk: A Christian’s Guide for Engaging Politics. Nashville: David C. Cook, 2020. (272 pages – a pastor addresses the manner in which we engage in contemporary political discussions as Christians)

Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. Jesus for President. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008. (355 pages – the authors offer a progressive evangelical theology that critiques American Christianity’s subjugation to empire)

Andy Crouch. Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013. (284 pages – while not strictly about politics, Crouch offers a modern approach to broader cultural engagement for evangelicals)

Patrick J. Deneen. Why Liberalism Failed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2019. (264 pages – an evaluation of why liberalism – in contrast to communism and fascism – is the only remaining viable ideology of the 20th century, but also how inherent features of the success of liberalism are generating its own failure)

Rod Dreher.  The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. New York: Sentinel Books, 2017. (304 pages – a conservative Christian approach to facing into the cultural shifts and political issues of our day)

Jacques Ellul. The Subversion of Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986. (222 pages – Ellul was an influential and iconoclastic 20th century thinker, and this book specifically looks at the deviation between the life of the Church and the teachings of Jesus)

John Fea. Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction. Louisville, KY: Westminters John Knox, 2011. (287 pages – a historical survey of American religion and politics with attention to specific figures in response to the question in the title)

________. Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018. (238 pages – a historian’s evaluation of factors, particularly a politics of fear, that contributed to 80% of white evangelicals voting for Donald Trump)

Frances Fitzgerald. The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017. (740 pages – a Pulitzer-prize winning historian offers an insightful history of how evangelicalism has shaped American culture and politics)

Greg Forster. The Contested Public Square: The Crisis of Christianity and Politics. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2008. (254 pages –introduces the history of Christian political thought traced out in Western culture—a culture experiencing the dissolution of a long-fought-for consensus around natural law theory)

Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, and Chris Butler. Compassion and Conviction: The AND Campaign’s guide to faithful civic engagement. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2020. (147 pages – a basic guide to political theology as applied to the US political system in the present moment)

Jonathan Haidt. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. New York: Pantheon Books, 2012. (419 pages – professor of psychology addresses the divisions within our society and a potential pathway forward through mutual understanding)

Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon. Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, expanded 25th anniversary edition. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2014.  (198 pages –a prophetic vision of how the Church can regain its vitality, battle its malaise, reclaim its capacity to nourish souls, and stand firmly against the illusions, pretensions, and eroding values of today’s world)

James Davison Hunter. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. (368 pages – the author engages with prevailing Christian approaches to changing the world and political engagement with a suggestion of a way forward through “faithful presence”)

Willie James Jennings. The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race. New Haven: Yale U. P., 2010. (384 pages – a look at the concept of race and the way it shapes our theology and approach to many issues, including politics)

George Kalantzis and Gregory W. Lee, eds. Christian Political Witness. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014. (240 pages – a collection of essays on biblical, historical and theological proposals for thinking responsibly about the intersection of church and state in the contemporary cultural situation)

Martin Luther King, Jr. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches. San Francisco: HarperOne, 2003. (736 pages – a collection of the most important writings and speeches by the premier leader of the American civil rights movement, including his invaluable “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”)

David T. Koyzis. Political Visions and Illusions: A Survey and Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies, 2nd ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2019. (330 pages – the author examines five common political visions – liberalism, conservativism, democracy, nationalism, and socialism – offering a Christian critique of each and suggested way forward)

Abraham Kuyper. Lectures on Calvinism: Six Lectures from the Stone Foundation Lectures Delivered at Princeton University. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1898, 2008. (182 pages – a classic representation of the Reformed tradition and the basis of what seem view as a distinctly Kuyperian approach to cultural engagement)

Tremper Longman III. The Bible and the Ballot: Using Scripture in Political Decisions. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2020. (310 pages – an Old Testament scholar provides a specifically biblical approach to issues that are divisive in our political sphere)

Richard J. Mouw. Political Evangelism.  Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1973. (111 pages – Mouw reflects on the inadequacies of separatism and activism, while also pointing to an alternative of appropriate political engagement as part of the evangelistic – outward – activity of the church)

Reinhold Niebuhr. Major Works on Religion and Politics. Library of America. New York: Library of America, 2015. (850 pages – Niebuhr was one of the premier thinkers of the early 20th century and his political thought continues to influence writers and practitioners, including Barack Obama)

H. Richard Niebuhr. Christ and Culture. New York: Harper & Row, 1951. (259 pages – this classic work provided the most enduring typology for evaluating Christian engagement with culture since its publication)

Richard John Niehaus. The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984. (280 pages – long-time author and founder of the journal First Things, Niehaus offers a conservative evangelical vision of political engagement)

Mark A. Noll. God and Race in American Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U. P., 2008. (226 pages – the premier historian of American evangelicalism evaluates the way that religion and race have factored into American politics)

Oliver O’Donovan. The Desire of Nations: Rediscovering the roots of political theology. New York: Cambridge U. P., 1996. (304 pages – a work of systematic Christian political thought, combining Biblical interpretation, historical discussion of the Western political and theological tradition, theoretical construction and critical engagement with contemporary views)

________ and Joan Lockwood O’Donovan. From Irenaeus to Grotius: A Sourcebook in Christian Political Thought. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999. (858 pages – a reference tool that provides an overview of the history of Christian political thought with selections from second century to the seventeenth century)

C. C. Pecknold. Christianity and Politics: A Brief Guide to the History. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010. (196 pages – a brief guide to the history of Christianity and politics, showing how early Christianity reshaped the Western political imagination with its new theological claims about eschatological time, participation, and communion with God and neighbor)

Elizabeth Phillips. Political Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Continuum Boos, 2012. (208 pages – This is a concise and accessible advanced introduction which distinguishes various approaches to political theology, and which explores several of the central issues addressed in political theologies)

Kaitlyn Schiess. The Liturgy of Politics: Spiritual Formation for the Sake of Our Neighbor. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020. (207 pages – an application of spiritual formation practices to the political sphere from a younger evangelical perspective)

Ronald J. Sider and Diane Knippers, editors. Toward an Evangelical Public Policy: Political Strategies for the Health of the Nation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005. (380 pages – a collection of essays from a broadly evangelical perspective, ranging from theological to practical; Nicholas Wolterstorff’s essay, “Theological Foundations for an Evangelical Political Philosophy” is a highlight)

James W. Skillen. The Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2014. (214 pages – the author evaluates the biblical drama, key historical developments, and pathways toward engaging contemporary political issues)

James K. A. Smith. Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2017. (256 pages – the third part of Smith’s cultural liturgies series offers an Augustinian model for engaging the current political situation in our culture that is rooted in worship)

Howard Thurman. Jesus and the Disinherited. Boston: Beacon Press, 1976. (128 pages – demonstrates how the gospel may be read as a manual of resistance for the poor and disenfranchised because of Jesus entrance into the pain of the oppressed)

Tom Wright. God in Public: How the Bible speaks truth to power today. London: SPCK, 2016. (190 pages – a little known work of NT Wright that, while somewhat English in application, offers an approach to biblical theology that throws fresh light on political and ethical problems of our day)

Miroslav Volf. A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2011. (192 pages – Volf writes a lot about human flourishing and the common good, and this book serves as a good introduction to his line of thinking and practice on these issues)

Jim Wallis. God’s Politics. New York: Harper Collins, 2005. (384 pages – long-time author and editor of Sojourners, Wallis offers a progressive evangelical vision of political engagement)

John Howard Yoder. The Politics of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972. (260 pages – Yoder’s classic outline of an Anabaptist view of cultural engagement has shaped  many thinkers up to this day)

The Weekend Wanderer: 16 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.

Jemar Tisby“This Black History Month, don’t pretend racism has disappeared from the church” – In the first of two articles on issues of race and the church in this week’s edition of “The Weekend Wanderer,” I’m sharing Jemar Tisby’s reflections on the ways in which the church often ignores current challenges around issues of ethnicity, racism, and inequality. Tisby is an important voice in Christianity on racial issues today, advocating for engagement with these challenging issues in his recent book, The Color of Compromise, and over at The Witness. Just before I published this edition of “The Weekend Wanderer,” Tisby was featured in an interview with Wesley Hill at Comment Magazine entitled “The Future of Church-Race Relations” that is well worth the read.

 

Roger E Olson.jpg“Is Evangelicalism White?” – The second article on this topic is by theologian and church historian, Roger E. Olson. In this essay, Olson makes a case that contemporary equation of evangelicalism with whiteness within news and sociology misses the point of a more nuanced discussion of evangelicalism from unique viewpoints of spiritual-theological ethos and sociological-religious movement.

 

Oneya Okuwobi“‘Everything that I’ve Done Has Always Been Multiethnic’: Biographical Work among Leaders of Multiracial Churches” – On a related theme, Oneya Okuwobi recently published a journal article on biographical work with pastors of multiethnic churches. She write: “I find that pastors of multiracial churches pattern their biographies after two predominant formula stories, laying claim to being people who are experienced with diversity and/or experienced with racial injustice. These formula stories reveal institutionalized understandings of biographies acceptable for pastors of multiracial churches that cut across denominational lines. The biographies of these leaders also reveal a shift toward diversity and away from recognition of racial injustice that has implications for the racial structure.”

 

89461“Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Gospel of Shame-Free Sexuality”Wesley Hill reviews Nadia Bolz-Weber’s latest book, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation. Bolz-Weber is an iconoclastic Lutheran pastor who has been a spokesperson for progressive Christianity. While I’m sympathetic to some of her statements about fundamentalist Christianity, Hill’s even-handed and clear assessment of this book is worth reading. If you prefer a more blunt, but honest and accurate, assessment of Bolz-Weber, let me refer you to Rod Dreher’s “Sex & the Single Pastor.”

 

Barna_2019_RevivingEvangelism_charts_v1“Almost Half of Practicing Christian Millennials Say Evangelism Is Wrong” – A new study by the Barna Group and commissioned by Alpha USAReviving Evangelism, highlights some disappointing yet unsurprising trends in contemporary North American Christianity. The trend that has made the most headlines (see “Half of Millennial Christians Say It’s Wrong to Evangelize” in Christianity Today) is the identification that, while prepared to share their faith, most millennial Christians are unsure of whether evangelism is something they should do at all. The chart I post on the right highlights how this is a progression of something that has been developing in earlier generations as well.

 

Michael Green“Alister McGrath: Michael Green Taught Me the Importance of Evangelism” – Since we’re on the topic of evangelism, I hope you enjoy this personal reflection by Alister McGrath on the life and legacy of Michael Green, one of the greatest champions for evangelism in the late 20th century. I first encountered Green’s work through a class with one of my mentors, Dr. Lyle Dorsett, entitled “Jesus and Evangelism.” Green is perhaps best known for two of his books, Evangelism in the Early Church and I Believe in the Holy Spirit, although he wrote many more. You will not have wasted your time if you read those great books, and if you put them into practice in your own life.

 

tell-your-children“Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence”Alex Berenson, former New York Times reporter and author of Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence, summarizes some of the mains strands of his exploration within that book in this relatively brief essay. This is particularly relevant because as the rise in marijuana usage combines with efforts at legalization that do not always tell the whole story about the impact of marijuana on the human body and mind, let alone society as a whole.

 

endpapers“Hold the front pages: meet the endpaper enthusiasts” – Now for something a little lighter. Enjoy this article focusing on the beauty of endpapers in book publishing.  “In a small sanctuary from world events, book lovers gather to sigh over the most beautiful decorative pages and compare techniques.” [Thanks to Micah Mattix for sharing this in The Daily Prufrock.]

 

Music: “Everlasting God” by William Murphy.  [Thanks to Gabriel Douglas 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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 17 November 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.

181113-ebola-outbreak-congo-who-cs-1234p-3_0cdc1eae37b6711aeffb35064f16bd37.fit-1240w“Ebola outbreak in Congo likely to last 6 more months, WHO says” – This is devastating news for friends who are in this region. “The Ebola outbreak in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which has already killed more than 200 people, is expected to last until mid-2019, a senior World Health Organization official said on Tuesday. ‘It’s very hard to predict time frames in an outbreak as complicated as this with so many variables that are outside our control,’ WHO emergency response chief Peter Salama told reporters, ‘but certainly we’re planning on at least another six months before we can declare this outbreak over.'” If you want to support the work in Congo, I highly recommend getting behind Congo Initiative, led by Drs. David and Kaswera Kasali[Thanks to Paul Sinclair for sharing this article with me.]

 

85237“Presbyterian Hostages Freed in Cameroon, But Conflict Carries On” – “Kidnappers released this week the last of more than 80 hostages taken from a Presbyterian school in Cameroon amid an escalating crisis in the Central African country’s English-speaking regions….And the kidnappings, as heart-wrenching as they are, represent just a small portion of the violence that has left the Anglophone region on the brink of civil war.”

 

pew-846021_640“A lot of white evangelical voters aren’t evangelicals” – There are polls and more polls around the concept of evangelical voters. I intentionally write ‘the concept of evangelical voters’ because I’m not sure some of the polls are getting at the right thing here. “Appearances can be deceiving, and in this case they are. That’s because a lot of the voters identified as white evangelicals weren’t Baptists, Pentecostals and non-denominational Christians. They were mainline Protestants and Catholics. Here’s how I know this.”

 

EvangelicalIconBanner_1400x400-1024x293“The Varieties of American Evangelicalism” – And since we’re talking about the difficulties of understanding ‘the concept of evangelical voters,’ I was happy to discover that USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture (CRCC) developed a study on the varieties of evangelicalism related to the politics. The CRCC outlines five types of evangelical voters: 1) Trump-vangelicals, 2) Neo-fundamentalists, 3) iVangelicals, 4) Kingdom Christians, and 5) Peace and Justice evangelicals. You will have to read the entire article if you want to understand this somewhat helpful lense on the topic.

 

7sRRdUyVEm2nvNWmOHfqlzl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBVvK0kTmF0xjctABnaLJIm9“How I Drew My Mental Map of Politics” – Still on that topic, Alan Jacobs shares his own journey of drawing his mental map of politics. This is, in many ways, a personal response to a conversation facilitated by Rod Dreher (“Your Political Mental Map”) happening over at The American Conservative, which really generates some fascinating conversation from his respondents. Here’s Dreher: “I’d like to start a thread about how the mental map we — that is, you readers and me — had laid down for us in childhood (up to age 21, let’s say) affected the way we see the world.”

 

85217“Mothers of the Reformation” – Kristen Padilla explores the ways in which Martin Luther’s doctrine of the priesthood of all believers shook the foundations of the world at its time. She asks a question rarely explored about the Reformation: “But could this priestly ministry even extend to women?” The rest of her article examines historical examples around this question. “Let’s look at the work of three women who broke the boundaries of their society by speaking out boldly through print, and how they appropriated Luther’s doctrine of the priesthood of all believers to defend their speaking.”

 

5373“And All Shall Be Well” – John Wilson glowingly reviews Timothy Larsen’s new biography of George MacDonald published by InterVarsity Press, George MacDonald in the Age of Miracles: Incarnation, Doubt, and Reenchantment. For those not familiar with George MacDonald, he was a Victorian-era pastor and author, whose imaginative works influenced many people. C. S. Lewis, in fact, was so deeply impacted by MacDonald’s Phantastes that in his introduction to George MacDonald: An Anthology he wrote: “Now Phantastes . . . had about it a sort of cool, morning innocence … What it actually did to me was to convert, even to baptise … my imagination.”

 

nazareth“The Emperor and the Empty Tomb: An Ancient Inscription, an Eccentric Scholar, and the Human Need to Touch the Past” – Over at The Los Angeles Review of Books, Kyle Harper takes stock of the Nazareth Inscription, which some purport to be the oldest archaeological link to Christianity. “Decades of scholarship have not yielded conclusive answers, and the original circumstances behind the Nazareth inscription may remain forever beyond our grasp. But any attempt to approach the ancient stone confronts its modern history — a story of this eccentric scholar, the vanished world of dealers, collectors, and savants in which he moved, and the enduring human need to touch the past.”

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 1.46.18 PM“The Writing and Legacy of Eugene Peterson with Drew Dyck” – Chase Replogle of the “Pastor Writer” podcast has a conversation with author and editor Drew Dyck about Eugene Peterson’s writing and legacy. This is a great reflection on Peterson’s unique ministry and calling as a pastor who was also a very gifted writer.

Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 8.03.02 AM.pngNational Book Award Winners Announced – Since everyone reading this probably knows that I love books, I couldn’t fail to mention that recipients of the National Book Award here in the US were announced this week. There are five categories for the National Book award: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature, and young people’s literature. NPR has a nice feature on the uniqueness of this year’s awards recipients, as well as further news on national lifetime achievement awards.

[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.]

Making a Daniel: Alan Jacobs on counter-cultural catechesis

daniel-in-the-lions-den-briton-riviere.jpgIn light of my recent exploration of the book of Daniel at Eastbrook Church (see “Daniel: Apocalyptic Imagination and Exile Faith), Alan Jacobs’ blog post earlier this week seemed well-timed for me. Jacobs interacts with Adrian Vermeule’s review of Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed, in which Vermeule offers an alternative to Deneen’s plea for a renewed localism, and to the related counsel of Rod Dreher in The Benedict Option. He writes:

So a key question arises: If you need people who are sufficiently skilled in negotiating the liberal order to work effectively within it, but also committed to its transformation, and who can sustain that difficult balance over decades, you have to figure out how to form such people. And it is just this that the churches of the West – all the churches of the West — have neglected to do, have neglected even to attempt. With the (in retrospect quite obvious) result: the accelerating collapse across the board of participation in church life.

What is required, in the face of a general culture that through its command of every communications medium catechizes so effectively, is the construction of a powerful counter-catechesis. Who will do that, and how will they do it? The likely answer, it seems to me, brings us back to the very localism that Deneen and Dreher advocate and that Vermeule rejects. Though I also might reject certain elements and emphases of the communities that Deneen and Dreher advocate, I don’t see a likely instrument other than highly dedicated, counter-cultural communities of faith for the Josephs and Mordecais and Esthers and Daniels to be formed. Those who do see other means of such rigorous formation need to step up and explain how their models work. Otherwise we will be looking in vain for the people capable to carrying out Vermeule’s beautiful vision.

I appreciate Jacobs’ suggestion of a counter-catechesis but empathisize with his questions of “who will do that?” and “how will they do it?” As I suggested in my first message in our series from Daniel, “Faith in Exile,” we must give attention to the role enculturation and socialization in our faith and discipleship. The counter-catechesis that he suggests is something that goes so much deeper than most of us realize. The book of Daniel seems to be a perfect primer on this, combining both the narratives of exile faith (chs. 1-6) and the visions of an apocalyptic imagination (chs. 7-12) as two halves of the necessary aspects of living as a people transformed at the deeper level of social imaginaries for more meaningful engagement with the culture around. This helps us to develop a different grammar flowing from a different imagination.

Somehow, we must live in the tension of our double identity as “citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20) who also “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:7).