Monthly Archives: August 2011

Proclaiming Truth Beautifully

Earlier this month, I posted a review of Francis Chan’s Erasing Hell, in which I commended the book for its substance and critiqued it for its style. The review ignited a conversation in the comments section, on Twitter, and via email. Most of the responders agreed with me. We are often good at articulating biblical doctrine, but we don’t give much thought to the role of beauty in communicating truth.

Jared Wilson has written some challenging things about this subject:

We need prose that sings. We need writers who aren’t merely authorities in their areas and can relay information to us in competent ways. Or we need readers who will not settle for that kind of writer. We need writers who receive on literary frequencies, writers who feel what they write, who convey poetry or beauty or some ecstatic sense in their writing. We need writers whose work emanates off the page the hum and buzz of adoration.

Some have asked me to cite some examples of the kind of writing we should see more of, and the kind of writing that we authors should aspire to. C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books quickly come to mind, of course. But there are other theologians and authors who also succeed at this well. Here are some examples:

G.K. Chesterton

I love the way Chesterton describes Easter morning:

On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways …

Posted in Art, Christianity, Church Issues | 24 Comments

Worth a Look 8.31.11

How To Destroy Your Own Research Paper in One Simple Step:

With one sentence, you’ve completely undermined my confidence in your argument. And, you’ve done it by making it exceptionally clear that you don’t have any confidence in your own argument. Nonetheless, I find sentences like this in papers all the time. Why is that? Why are so many students eager to destroy their own papers at the very beginning?

Robert Gundry reviews Christian Smith’s new book for Books and Culture:

Though Smith has justifiably brought to the fore a problem in pervasive interpretive pluralism, then, this problem plagues all literature, not just the Bible as perceived by biblicists. In regard to the latter, I find his arguments incoherent and his solutions inadequate. He cites Don Carson to the effect that solving the problem requires “better scriptural exegesis.” Indeed. So maybe someone should write a book arguing that pervasive pluralism in biblical interpretation is due to the lingering deleterious effects, even on biblicists, of nonbiblicism in the past. But what do I know? I’m neither a sociologist nor a theologian. Just a biblicist.

Thom Rainer – “Leadership and Decisiveness”

Many leaders fail simply because they refuse to make a decision. Some insist on more and more information. They fail as they experience analysis paralysis. Others will not make a decision because they fear failure. Ironically, they experience the failure they feared because of their failure to make a decision.

Do Not Neglect the Holy Spirit in Parenting:

If Proverbs 22:6 were a promise (and …

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3 Story-Focused Ways to Read the Bible

One of the core values of TGM, the curriculum I am helping develop for LifeWay, is that the materials be “Story-Focused.” By that, we mean “focused on the grand narrative of Scripture.”

Many Christians are familiar with certain Bible stories, but they are not always sure how the stories fit together into the Bible as a whole. By focusing on the grand narrative of Scripture, we want this curriculum will help participants connect the dots and think as Christians formed by the great Story that tells the truth about our world. We also believe this approach will provide a hope-filled outlook on our world because of the future God has promised. So even when we address theological topics from a systematic or topical standpoint, we want to keep an eye on how this theology is formed by God’s big plan.

Here are three Bible-reading plans that help us see the big picture of the Bible. Two are for adults, and one is for children. Let’s start off with the adult resources.

Reader’s Guide to the Bible:
A Chronological Reading Plan

by George Guthrie

As part of George Guthrie’s excellent Read the Bible for Life resource (intended to increase biblical literacy and help churches get the basic foundation of hermeneutics), this new Bible-reading plan takes readers through the Bible’s overarching storyline in a way that shines light on the individual parts. The Reader’s Guide provides small group discussion questions and personal devotional thoughts.

Guthrie’s daily commentary serves as a helpful guide through …

Posted in Book Reviews | 4 Comments

Worth a Look 8.30.11

Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk summarizes and interacts with the main points of Counterfeit Gospels, and then uses the book as a springboard to discuss the gospel as considered in the wider world of evangelicalism

Within its context and in terms of its intended audience, this is a helpful and much-needed book… The primary problems I have with Wax’s analysis are not reflections on Trevin or the book itself, but on the broader world of evangelicalism and the weaknesses that are inherent to the system itself. So, while I rejoice in any and every attempt to make the Gospel message itself more clear, I seem to always long for something more when I read even the best writing from evangelical authors…

Christian publishers count their blessings:

 In the past 12-18 months, the religious publishing category has seen its sales jump faster than those of almost every other category of books. The book publishing industry overall has remained relatively healthy during the recession, with a nearly 6 percent annual growth rate from 2008 to 2010, according to the Association of American Publishers.

Dungeons and Dragons and Doctrinal Debate:

I fear that, all too often, our theological debates fall precisely into this category. We fight them so fiercely because there’s so little at stake in the way we view them. The professional Calvinist in his Internet forum sees a reluctance to embrace effectual calling as a personal attack, as a rejection of him. The anonymous-letter writing anti-Calvinist sees in the Calvinist …

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On Generational Conflict: A Lesson in Fighting Our Instincts

Sometimes, older and younger pastors are more alike than different.

Yes, there can be a generation gap when it comes to style. Pastors from different generations may look different, dress differently, talk differently, and think differently. But sometimes, older pastors and younger pastors resemble each other in the way we frame all our opinions in black and white and leave precious little room for shades of gray. My way or the highway! is the unspoken mindset. And so… the elder goes his way, muttering to himself about the shortcomings of the next generation. Meanwhile, the young guy goes his way, openly mocking his father’s ideas as silly and outdated.

In a strange twist, pastors who serve in different ministry contexts and belong to different generations can adopt strikingly similar postures. The style may be different, but the demeanor is often the same. Hard-nosed. Bombastic. Over-the-top.

How to Respond?

So how should those of us who are younger respond to this generation gap? When I talk to friends in ministry, I notice that – instinctually – most of us resonate more with younger pastors, especially the ones who are well-known. They come across as hip, urban, and in touch with contemporary culture. Young guys are likely to give their favorite young pastor the benefit of the doubt. Quick to defend. Slow to find fault.

On the other side, I notice that – instinctually – most of us resist counsel from older pastors, especially when they come across as stodgy, unbending, or out of touch. We’re …

Posted in Church Issues | 8 Comments

Worth a Look 8.29.11

When Doctrine Isn’t Enough:

Doctrinal precision is absolutely necessary. But it isn’t enough. May God grant us grace to love others with no less fervor than we love the truth.

Religion and the Bad New Bearers:

The widely reported decline in women’s church attendance is implausible.

Why McDonald’s Wins in Any Economy:

The fact that fast food is a somewhat cyclical business makes McDonald’s sales streak all the more impressive. But Skinner doesn’t think McDonald’s should experience serious ups and downs based on seasons or swings in the economy. He’s constantly telling shareholders and analysts that the company’s success doesn’t hinge on consumers trading down when times are tough; when customers have more to spend, they’ll spend it at McDonald’s, he says.

Gospel Indicatives and Imperatives: Where is the Debate Anyway?

 The crux of the debate seems to be the relative balance given to the communication of these two concepts in the sanctification process. The folks arguing for the indicative side of the equation might argue that 80% (I am making up the percentages for illustrative purposes only) of our communication should be focused on a theology of “remembering” or “appreciating” all that God has done for them in Christ Jesus.  “Preach the gospel to yourself everyday” seems to be one of the key phrases.  Their position is that the more God’s people meditate on the gospel in their daily lives, the more they will be motivated to put the commands of Scripture into practice.  Since the motivation is already …

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Prayer for Perseverance

Father, keep us from vain strife of words.
Grant to us constant profession of the Truth!

Preserve us in a true and undefiled faith
so that we may hold fast to that
which we professed when we were baptized
in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
that we may have Thee for our Father,
that we may abide in Thy Son
and in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

– Hilary of Poitiers, 300-368

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Self-Consciousness Destroys Self-Revelation

One of the thousand objections to the sin of pride lies precisely in this, that self-consciousness of necessity destroys self-revelation.

A man who thinks a great deal about himself will try to be many-sided, attempt a theatrical excellence at all points, will try to be an encyclopaedia of culture, and his own real personality will be lost in that false universalism.

Thinking about himself will lead to trying to be the universe; trying to be the universe will lead to ceasing to be anything.

– G.K. Chesterton, Heretics

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Friday Funny: Why Titanic's "Rose" is a Villian

Following up on my book review about the Titanic band members, I submit to you what is – by far – the funniest review of the movie Titanic ever written:

Camille, how can an educated, classy woman like you not see through that horrific film Titanic?

Kate Winslet’s character, Rose, was one of the vilest and most disgusting characters ever to grace the silver screen. From beginning to end, she displayed nothing but character flaws and a lack of concern for everyone else around her.

As the movie starts, she is a rich brat who is depressed that she has to marry an incredibly rich and handsome man because he treats her badly. Perhaps she should have taken into account his personality rather than his bank account when she accepted his proposal. Rather than take responsibility for her own actions, stand up to her mother, and tell him to his face that she is not in love with him, she instead decides to take the easy way out and kill herself.

Now, the whole world would be better had she just jumped off the back of that boat. Instead, our boy Leonardo DiCaprio talks her down from the ledge, and she sees him and thinks, “Ooh, cute poor boy.” So then she decides to slum it for the weekend and hook up with the cute poor kid. Then, to prove her total lack of morals, she decides that she will ask Jack to “draw her” — naked, of course.

So, while engaged to …

Posted in Friday Funny | 4 Comments

Trevin's Seven

Links for your weekend reading:

1. 9 Habits that May Do More Harm than Good

2. Go West, Young Confederacy: The South’s Ill-Fated Plan to Conquer the Southwest

3. New study shows that fewer doctors are willing to do abortions

4. TGC Review of Darrell Bock’s Recovering the Real Lost Gospel

5. Michele Bachmann as a “Dominionist”: The Straw Man Strikes Again

6. John Piper: Don’t Be Afraid of Doctrine. Be Afraid of Disconnected Doctrine!

7. A list of all the mega-churches in the Southern Baptist Convention

Posted in Trevin's Seven | 1 Comment