Monthly Archives: December 2009

 

Dec

31

2009

Trevin Wax|2:54 am CT

Worth a Look 12.31.09

The reversal of morality when it comes to food and sex:

In just over 50 years, in other words — not for everyone, of course, but for a great many people, and for an especially large portion of sophisticated people — the moral poles of sex and food have been reversed. Betty thinks food is a matter of taste, whereas sex is governed by universal moral law of some kind; and Jennifer thinks exactly the reverse. …

Ed Stetzer shows us how Protestant pastors spend their time:

The data points to some interesting work patterns. 65 percent of pastors surveyed work 50 or more hours a week, with 8 percent saying they work 70 or more hours. “Meetings and electronic correspondence consume large amounts of time for many ministers, while counseling, visitation, family time, prayer and personal devotions suffer in too many cases.”

In this Baptist Press article, one of my former professors, Radu Gheorghita explains why he is an amillenialist (after having memorized the whole book in Greek):

“I believe the most attractive aspect of this school of interpretation is that it matches the characteristics of the apocalyptic genre of the book of Revelation, a literature rich in symbolism, imagery and similes, a genre chosen by John to venture into the spiritual territory which Paul himself chose to avoid (2 Corinthians 12),” said Gheorghita, who recently took two years to memorize the entire Book of Revelation.

The Top Ten SBC Stories of 2009

Of interest to my Romanian readers… Baptists in Romania are toying with the idea of accepting state funds to help with church building constructions, social projects, etc. Paul Negrut explains why this goes against Baptist principles of separation of church and state:

Biblia si Marturisirea de credinta nu recunosc faptul ca Statul are ca prerogativa data de Dumnezeu de a finanta Biserica. Aceasta prerogativa este asumata de Stat cu scopul de a transforma Biserica intr-o anexa a Statului. Trebuie precizat aici, ca in conformitate cu invataturile Sfintelor Scripturi, lucrarea Evangheliei este sustinuta din darnicia benevola a celor credinciosi.

 
 

Dec

31

2009

 
 

Dec

30

2009

Trevin Wax|3:20 am CT

The Blind Side: A Pro-Adoption, Pro-Family Movie

blindsideMy wife and I rarely get to watch movies in the theater. We live in a town with just one small theater (two screens) that only has matinees on weekends. Life with two small children doesn’t afford us much time for the cinema. If I remember correctly, we only watched three movies this year.

But in between Christmas shopping and celebrating our anniversary a couple weeks ago, we made time for The Blind Side.

I had heard about this film from critics who labeled the film “schmaltzy” and “sentimental”. I had also heard from evangelical Christians who were excited about the film’s portrayal of a Christian family as decent and respectable. Knowing the storyline included a cross-racial adoption, I couldn’t wait to see the film for myself.

Most of the elite movie critics hated The Blind Side. Some called it “curiously devoid of drama or suspense” (as if real life is always action packed). Others said it was “an uninspired sports story” (even though the sports aspect is not the central theme).

Expected to be a holiday season “sleeper,” The Blind Side defied box office expectations, ignored the critics, and slowly rose to #1. It’s a family-friendly, feel-good film – the kind that usually does well this time of year.

Here are some of my thoughts about the film. (Caution: a few spoilers follow!)

First, I was pleasantly surprised at the respectful portrayal of the Touhy family. I’m used to seeing Christians portrayed as self-righteous and hypocritical, so it was refreshing to see a family that prays together and tries to live according to their Christian convictions.

The Touhys take seriously the idea of “Christian duty.” They also expect other Christians to live up to their name. My favorite part of the film was when one of Leigh Anne Touhy’s friends was interrogating her about having a “black boy” sleeping in the same house as her daughter. Leigh Anne’s response was to look her square in the eyes and say calmly, “Shame on you.”

Secondly, the movie makes a case for adoption that avoids the cynical worldview of many Hollywood films. When investigators charge the Touhys with taking in Michael Oher in order to groom him to play football for their alma mater, the accusation is intended to anger movie goers, who have already come to see the Touhys’ charity as coming from a sincere heart.

In many films, directors and writers explore the selfishness of the main characters. The Blind Side, on the other hand, shows Christians doing hard things because of their religious convictions. The nonchalance of the family in taking in this teenager is what most stands out in this film. The Touhy kids have no trouble calling Michael “brother” and treating him like one of the family. In this story, we see a picture of God’s grace in adoption.

But some evangelicals, in our zeal to embrace a movie that treats us respectably, have given this movie too much credit. I have heard a few rumblings about how “the gospel shines through in this movie.” Actually, no. You won’t find any mention here of Jesus dying for our sin and rising again. This is a movie that portrays Christian family values and makes a positive case for adoption. It should be appreciated as such. But family values are not the gospel.

Also missing is the church. We see the family with Christian school friends, but when it comes to portraying the community of faith, the Touhys seem to be on their own.

Finally, the family dynamic may be accurately portrayed, but it is not always worthy of emulation. The family doesn’t decide together to take in Michael Oher. Leigh Anne does. Tim McGraw does a good job portraying the likeable husband, but there is little for him to do except nod in agreement to the spiritual leadership of his wife. Leigh Anne wears the pants. Mr. Touhy is just an accessory.

In the end, The Blind Side is a pro-adoption, pro-family movie. We don’t need to say that it is a Christian movie, or that it’s a picture of the gospel, or anything else, in order to appreciate its pro-family message for what it is. My wife and I enjoyed the movie and we hope that it continues to do well at the box office.

 
 

Dec

30

2009

Trevin Wax|2:30 am CT

Worth a Look 12.30.09

World magazine lists the top ten news stories of 2009.

Michael Kelley on two kinds of New Year’s Resolutions:

There’s a huge difference. One is centered on sweat; the other is centered on faith. One lifts up the power of humanity; the other lifts up the power of God. One is about me; the other is about the gospel.

Tim Keller on creation, evolution, and Christian laypeople:

Keller considers three main clusters of questions lay people raise when they learn of anyone teaching that biological evolution and biblical orthodoxy can be compatible. Keller offers some ideas on how to provide responses that take these concerns seriously.

Pre-modern, Modern, and Post-modern: What do they mean for evangelicals?

How about we take a both/and approach instead of an either/or approach? Let’s be static in the right ways and cutting-edge in the right ways.

Yes, we realize that Postmodernism is relativistic. That’s bad. But Modernism, through its absolute adherence to science and secularism, often kicks God out of the picture, and that’s pretty bad too.

Modernism has a love for absolute truth, and that’s good. But Postmodernism (and Premodernism) are more receptive to spirituality and religion, and that can be very good if oriented in the right direction.

A multifaceted approach with regard to Premodernism, Modernism, and Postmodernism, is what we need.

 
 

Dec

29

2009

Trevin Wax|3:56 am CT

Book Notes: Ford County / Fearless / That Hideous Strength

Brief comments on three books that I have read recently:

Ford County: StoriesFord County: Stories
John Grisham
DoubleDay, 2009
My Rating: *

I should have loved this book. I have always thought that Grisham’s best book was his first (A Time to Kill), which was set in Ford County, Mississippi. I also love short stories. So when I heard that Grisham was turning his attention back to Ford County and that he was trying his hand at short stories, my interest was piqued.

Unfortunately, Grisham seems bent on displaying the absolute worst side of Southern life. I didn’t even finish this book. The first story alone takes readers into some of the seediest sites of Mississippi. Grisham tries to be funny and to make a point, but he fails on both counts. Don’t waste your money.

Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without FearFearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear
Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson, 2009
My Rating: *** 1/2

Max Lucado may not be the most theologically profound writer on the market, and his Arminian theological persuasion may cause readers of this blog to raise a Reformed eyebrow, but I believe evangelical pastors should read his books. Why? Lucado is a brilliant communicator. A master of words, Max knows how to paint pictures and get across his point in ways that anyone can understand.

Fearless may not be Lucado’s best book, but the power of his pen is still on full display. Fearless contains plenty of good illustrations and spiritual insight. The best chapter is the last, in which Max describes “fear of God.” He asks:

“How long since you felt this fear? Since a fresh understanding of Christ buckled your knees and emptied your lungs? Since a glimpse of him left you speechless and breathless? If it’s been a while, that explains your fears. When Christ is great, our fears are not. As awe of Jesus expands, fears of life diminish. A big God translates into big courage. A small view of God generates no courage.” (169)

That Hideous Strength (Space Trilogy, Book 3)That Hideous Strength (Space Trilogy, Book 3)
C.S. Lewis
Scribner, 1945
My Rating: ** 1/2

In 2004, I decided to begin reading through C.S. Lewis’ “Space Trilogy.” I loved the first book, Out of the Silent Planet. Lewis turned upside down my expectations, as he imagined how sin would affect (or not affect) life on other planets. In 2005, I read the second book in the series, Perelandra. While I did not enjoy the second as much as the first, I recognized and appreciated Lewis’ literary genius in recasting the Adam and Eve story.

It took four years to get around to the third book in Lewis’ trilogy. That Hideous Strength is quite different than the first two. All the action takes place on Earth. The book is about twice as long as the others. And the main character from the other books doesn’t appear until midway through the story. This work reminds me of 1984, except that it starts out much slower and ends up with an explicitly Christian interpretation. I enjoyed parts of this book, particularly the ways in which Lewis pointed out the ease with which men of the academy can be led astray by the desire for popularity. But That Hideous Strength was my least favorite of the trilogy.

 
 

Dec

29

2009

Trevin Wax|2:33 am CT

Worth a Look 12.29.09

An interview with Os Guinness: Where Have all the Evangelicals Gone?

Evangelicalism is primarily theological and spiritual; people who define themselves and their lives and their faith by the good news of the announcement of the kingdom by Jesus of Nazareth. That is the historical and theological definition, if it was only this miserable cultural business, I wouldn’t be an Evangelical.

Praying simple prayers:

This small insight has been really helpful to me.  Instead of remaining silence because I don’t have the right words, I have found myself praying “Jesus, help me!” throughout the day.

Collin Hansen lists his top ten theology stories of 2009.

 
 

Dec

28

2009

Trevin Wax|3:44 am CT

The State of the Blogosphere

BLOGWhen it comes to making predictions about internet usage and blog-reading, I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. However, in the past few years, I have noticed some recent trends in the blogosphere – developments that will probably become more pronounced as we enter the next decade.

Because each of these trends follows a logical progression, I suggest you read them in order.

#1. The Slow Death of a Large Number of Blogs

Back in 2005-07, blogs were popping up all over the place. Many people discovered that starting a blog is quick and easy. Few realized how difficult it is to maintain one.

Today, millions of blog start-ups still exist on the web, but much of the blogosphere is beginning to look like a graveyard. “Sorry I haven’t posted lately” is the first line of many a front-page post.

People who began blogging as a way of keeping friends and family up to date about their goings on have now discovered other avenues of communication, which brings me to point #2…

#2. The Turn to Other Social Media for Connection

Back in 2007, a college friend of mine took a road trip to Montana. I told him I wanted to see the pictures. He said, “They’re on FaceBook.”

My response: “I don’t have FaceBook. Can you send me the pics on email?”

His answer: “No. Get a FaceBook.”

I held out another year, but finally relented. I’m not the only one who eventually gave in.

In the past five years, we have seen an explosion in social media through sites like MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These sites enabled former bloggers (who didn’t always feel inspired to write long blog posts) to access other ways of communication.

Why keep up a blog for friends and family? FaceBook is much simpler. Twitter is even faster.

Blogs are content-heavy. The other social media sites keep it simple and light. With the turn to other social media, the number of active blogs is on the decline. The explosion in social media leads to development #3…

#3. The Solidifying Reading Patterns of Blog Readers

When I first discovered Google Reader, I thought I had died and gone to blog heaven. No more clicking through to visit each blog I wanted to read, I now could read blogs without ever leaving one page. I could conveniently scroll through dozens (even hundreds) of blogs and find the content that most interested me.

When “RSS” first came on the scene a few years ago, Google Reader, Bloglines and other blogging services became tools for millions of blog readers. But many of these RSS feed readers are like me. For awhile, we added blogs to our Reader. But now, I rarely add a new blog to my RSS unless I know the blogger or have seen the blog highly recommended by another well-respected blog.

What does this habit signal? Simply this. Patterns for blog reading are solidifying. People find a comfortable number of blogs they consider worthwhile reading and then stop looking for new additions. Some have abandoned Google Reader altogether and rely solely on Twitter for their blog perusal. These facts lead to another development…

#4. The Difficulty of Beginning a Successful Blog without an Already-Existing Platform

I have no doubt that it is more difficult today for an unknown blogger to begin a successful blog than it was five years ago. In the early 2000′s, anyone and everyone could begin a blog. If you wrote well and figured out your audience, you could build a following. Just ask Hugh Hewitt, Tim Challies, or Justin Taylor.

But today, with the social media revolution and the solidifying reading habits of many blog readers, it is much more difficult to carve out an audience. Blog saturation makes it difficult to start a new blog.

Most of the evangelical blogs that have popped up in the past year (and seen success) are from people who already have platforms: Kevin DeYoung, for example, coming off the success of Why We’re Not Emergent or the “Evangel” blog that includes a number of popular bloggers, including Joe Carter.

At the beginning of the blog wave, bloggers were rogue. They stood against the mainstream media, delighting in the democratization of information. Today, many blogs are as respectable as their mainstream counterparts.

In Southern Baptist life, bloggers were once criticized as troublemakers. Today, a surprising number of SBC leaders have started blogging themselves. There’s no one-size-fits-all category “blogger” anymore (not that there ever was).

More and more, blogging is a tool of the “establishment,” not just the “fringe.” This leads to one more development…

#5. The Building of Blog Congregations at the Expense of Blog Conversation

Since it is harder for new blogs to build a following, it becomes more common for people with already-existing platforms to maintain successful blogs. The people who subscribe to these blogs already know what kind of information they are going to receive. They subscribe because they know and like what this person has to say.

Unfortunately, congregation-building diminishes conversations that cross through different streams of religious life. Popular blogs build big congregations – hundreds or thousands of readers who agree in large part with the bloggers they read. Blogs continue to be a place for in-house conversation, but they are less likely to be places for serious conversation with people from other groups.

Blogs create people who agree – whether they be Reformed, Emerging, Republican, or converted Catholics. You find a niche, write for that niche, and then get pats on the back from the readers who enjoy your writing.

Where to Now?

Where will blogging go in the 2010′s? I’m not sure. I suspect that the initial stage of the blog wave is over. What we are seeing now is the maturation of the blogosphere, as blogging continues to take on characteristics of traditional media, while leaving the door cracked open for newcomers to make their voices heard.

 
 

Dec

28

2009

Trevin Wax|2:27 am CT

Worth a Look 12.28.09

How N.T. Wright Stole Christmas (and you should be glad he did):

As it turns out, Wright is no Grinch.  He didn’t steal Christmas.  What he stole was a false Christmas, a de-contextualized and apolitical Christmas.  But we shouldn’t have bought that Christmas in the first place, and should have been embarrassed to display it so proudly on the mantle.  Good riddance, and Bah humbug.

Chris Castaldo on the Catholics Come Home marketing campaign:

I haven’t heard too many proponents of the New Evangelization compare their efforts to the legacy of Loyola and his Society of Jesus; but for me, an armchair church historian, the parallel is striking. With this connection in mind, I would like to offer two words of caution: one for Catholics and the other for Protestants.

The Noughtie List: the 2000s in Review

Denny Burk’s Top Ten YouTube Videos from 2009

 
 

Dec

27

2009

Trevin Wax|3:25 am CT

My Brother's Paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer

worship_kneeling

Our Father in Heaven,
Let your name be honored and set apart as Holy.
Please, we want your Kingdom to fully come to earth.
We want your will to be done here as it is already done in heaven.
We ask that you continue to give us food for our bodies
and provide for the physical needs we have.
We also ask that you forgive us,
and restore us to the right relationship with you that our sin has hindered.
We will forgive others like you have forgiven us.
Keep us from Temptation,
you know how weak we are.
Please spare us from the evil one in this world
who wants to kill steal and destroy.
You alone can do these things,
because you have the power.
It is your kingdom.
You are glorious!
You are eternal, unchanging God!
Bless your name!
So be it.

- Weston Wax

 
 

Dec

26

2009

Trevin Wax|3:16 am CT

A Beautiful Word from Augustine on the Incarnation

VirginMaryWithBabyJesusSonofGodMan’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.

- Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)