Saturday, February 15, 2020

Another week...

Well, it's been almost a week since the last round-up of stuff I found interesting. As always, read the posts for yourself to make sure I'm not misrepresenting them! Let's begin then...

Remember last week I said it would be interesting if someone used the dispensationalist framework to look at the current state of affairs in the US? Well, Benjamin Corey did it.

I’d honestly started this post intending to be silly, and during my research began to find the coincidences and certain numbers happening to match a bit amusing the first few times. But at a certain point the coincidences added up or got too specific, and it wasn’t funny anymore– it was deeply unsettling.

And by the end? Well, stick with me as the prophecies grow more specific, and you’ll see why my mind was a bit blown–and why as a Christian my spirit was deeply unsettled by the the end of it

Read the whole (or at least skim it for the headers). If dispensationalist theology is accurate (and I don't believe it is), then we had better head for the hills (Matt 24).

And another theologian, Roger Olson, weighs in. Mind you, he's no fear-monger, but he ends the post with this:

The time has arrived to fear every government led by a would-be dictator as soon as he or she punishes subordinates for nothing other than obeying the law.
That prayer breakfast fiasco takes a slam; a Classicist looks at the fall of the Roman Republic and the acquittal vote.
But the Senate impeachment trial has shown us how far along the identification of leader and state has moved in the Trump era. A central part of the president’s impeachment defense is, as we have seen, that the personal will of the president is indistinguishable from the will of the state and the good of the people.

Will the GOP-led Senate’s endorsement of this defense clear a path for more of the manifestations – and consequences – of authoritarianism? The case of the Roman Republic’s rapid slippage into an autocratic regime masquerading as a republic shows how easily that transformation can occur.

Mind you, I'm with him. But, let's move on to other, happier things. Scot McKnight gets interviewed on his own blog about his book Kingdom Conspiracy—a very good book. And Nathan Hatch looks at what only the church can do (HT: Jim E.).
Churches clearly need to form the faithful in how to think—and sometimes act—in the arena of politics and society. But that task needs to be done with great humility and with a depth of historical and theological reflection rarely seen. Such nuance will definitely not conform to current political orthodoxies and may make it very difficult for believers to become full-throated advocates for either major American political party.

Most of all, our nation needs communities of faith that give meaning, dignity, and love to twenty-first-century people who are lonelier, more stressed, and with less sense of hope than at any time in recent memory. People need acceptance for who they are, not for what they do, and forgiveness for the stray paths that all of us have stumbled onto. Let the church be the church, in concrete places, in specific places and neighbourhoods. Let it renew and manifest its primary reason for being: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.”

Amen! George Yancey remarks on the loss of moral authority on the part of the church because of its current support for the current ruler. He ends with this:
This should not be hard stuff. As Christians our ultimate protection comes from God and not the government. This does not mean that we cannot participate in the government or support our chosen leaders, but it should mean that we do not depart from our values in order to look for governmental protection. Instead, we are to live out our values even as we engage with our government.

So, to my Christian friends, reality offers you a choice. You can continue to lose your moral authority and ability to speak to our society or you can begin to challenge this president. When he calls his ex-mistress Horseface or denigrates the National Prayer Breakfast you can call him out. You can begin to establish that you do not approve of his gross sins. Or you can continue to be ignored by everyone except those in your own inner circles.

And speaking of changing, here is a nice look at growing in holiness. He starts out by stating what most think salvation is:
A prevalent understanding of Christianity in the western world, both inside and outside the church, goes something like this: Through Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven so that when we die, we will go to heaven instead of hell. This, it is assumed, is what salvation is all about.
Wrong answer. That's a truncated gospel, just the beginning of what God wants to do in you:
Coming to know God’s love for us in Christ enables the new birth, the beginning of sanctification. The Holy Spirit specifically brings to birth holy tempers in the heart, most especially love for God and neighbor. Sanctification is the process of growing in that love and other marks of the new birth such as faith, hope, humility, peace, and joy. This transformation of the heart leads to transformation of life as we begin to live these out in the world.

Holy tempers are dispositions of the heart; they make us increasingly the sort of persons who love God and neighbor, who have the mind of Christ. As a result, we have new motivations and desires; our intentions are increasingly aligned with God’s. We also see the world with new eyes, looking at persons and situations through the lens of love.

But some would say that sin is just too powerful (I've heard that argument! As if sin were more powerful than God!!!). He finishes with this:
Wesley’s optimism of grace then extends from prevenient grace to Christian perfection. He is fully aware of the power of sin, but even more confident that through grace love triumphs, in this life and the age to come. Whatever God has promised, Wesley is certain that in God’s own way and time God will do.
Amen! I agree. The power of God via the Holy Spirit within us is more powerful than sin. Of course, that means a moment-by-moment surrender. His ways, not mine. Yep, never said it was easy, but it isn't a list of dos and don'ts. It is from the heart, which is why many like to call it "heart holiness." Ponder that for a bit, and then read this on why we should read. I'd love to quote the whole thing, but here's the last few paragraphs (do read the whole thing, though):
Reading causes us to reflect on the human condition. What is admirable? What is despicable? And what kind of person do I want to be? How have people faced adversity? What makes the difference between those who become bitter and those who become better?

And lest we get too serious, reading can be fun. Silly rhymes can make us laugh. Stories can amuse us and bring us joy.

I wonder whether in the press to pass standardized reading tests, our children may miss the opportunity to discover these humanizing aspects of reading, that also make reading deeply satisfying. I also can’t help but wonder if parents and educators who are in touch with these deeply human longings and weave them into their practice will educate more highly motivated readers.

He's correct, of course. Reading isn't about passing tests or the power of knowledge—or any kind of power except the power to empathize. And lest we move too quickly away from theology, here is a piece on penal substitution and its many problems. He offers an alternative with good pedigree, Irenaeus:
Offering a credible alternative that competes with the storied character of penal substitution is the larger challenge, but it can be done. Irenaeus of Lyons (b. 130 AD), for example, sketches a powerful picture of God’s redemptive effort in terms of “recapitulation.”
Personally, I think any one "theory of atonement" is too small, and he acknowledges that. Do read the whole thing.

OK, this is getting long, but if you use a smart phone or computer (and especially if you use one of those voice contraptions like Alexa), you will want to read at least this, part one. It would be good to read part two as well.

Let's end with a high note: Independent bookstores are making a strong comeback. If you are in the book business, this is old news, but it's finally getting mainstream media attention. And how they are doing it is being held up as a model for others who want to prevent the apocalyptic mess in the preceding two posts.

Based upon the 3Cs practices of community, curation and convening identified in Raffaelli’s research, the American Booksellers Association reversed its membership slide that bottomed out at 1,651 in 2009 to rise 49% to over 2,500 last year.

Even better, the ABA stores are thriving. While big-box bookseller Barnes & Noble reported revenues decreased by 3% in fiscal 2019 ending April 27, 2019, the ABA reported sales among its members grew an average of 5% year-over-year in 2018. That is a level of growth any retailer would be over-the-moon to report.

Stop and think about those 3Cs: community, curation, and convening. Doesn't that sound like what the church should be doing?

And that's it for this week. Happy reading!

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