- D.A. Carson
This topic came up tonight at dinner and someone suggested I ask the blogosphere.
What do you consider to be the greatest American novel, and why?
Put your thoughts in the comments thread. Thanks!
I got this question from a friend today and thought I'd get our readers' thoughts: "Do you have any recommendations on a good bible study/book that walks the OT and emphasizes what was happening around other world civilizations as part of what was happening biblically at that time?"
Let me know if you have any recommendations in the comments. Thanks!
I'm interested in your thoughts. Why did God give us the law? I'm thinking specifically of the ten commandments, but the question also covers the larger topic of the entire law in the Pentateuch.
I'm not at all questioning the value of the Law and I know that God has perfect wisdom and purpose in all he does. I'm just interested in perspectives as I'm teaching on this soon.
Your thoughts welcome in the comments thread.
As a follow up to the comments thread on the Oompa Loompa post below, here's a very interesting conversation between Keller and Piper regarding C.S. Lewis:
I'm looking for a worship album to take with me on a sabbatical. It might be too late to get any suggestions in, but if you have any I'm all ears.
Here's what I'm leaning toward:
- I'd like to tone down the drums and electric guitars, but the music doesn't have to be too quiet. I'd be good with a mix of songs that have some with more volume than others. But I definitely want at least some quiet, reflective songs.
- New. Again, not a hard and fast, but I'm looking for something that has come out in the last few years. I want it to be new to me.
- Biblical. Besides the obvious that I'd like the music to be theologically sound, I'd like something that has a decent amount of scripture in it.
If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments. Thanks!
It may be a mistaken impression on my part, but it seems that in the last few years one quick way of getting smacked down in a debate is by making "slippery slope" arguments. The general retort is that slippery slope thinking leads to logical fallacies.
Is this really true? It occurred to me tonight that many debates that people engage in are "slippery slope", if they have anything to do with the future. So arguments about Calvinism may not be SS, but arguments about global warming, or marriage, or foreign policy generally are. Maybe I'm not catching the distinction, but most discussions that have to do with where we're headed include weighing the probabilities of where we will end up. It seems to me that calling someone out for their fallacious "slippery slope" argument may just be a lazy persons way of avoiding debate. But I may be missing the distinction.
Let me give you a famous example of a societal debate that, I'm sure, included a lot of slippery slope argumentation: In 1965 the Moynihan report was published, which raised alarms about the state of the African-American family.
I would imagine that opponents of certain family-hostile welfare policies, no-fault divorce legislation and overall loosening of sexual mores in the 1960s offered slippery slope arguments. For setup, take a look at this line from the report.
"Both white and Negro illegitimacy rates have been increasing, although from dramatically different bases. The white rate was 2 percent in 1940; it was 3.07 percent in 1963. In that period, the Negro rate went from 16.8 percent to 23.6 percent."
Among those of us who look in dismay at the awful state of marriage and family cohesiveness in 2013, an illegitimacy rate of 23.6% would be a miracle right now. The current rate for the country is over 40% (source, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The percentage for African Americans is quite a bit higher than this average.
Haven't we traveled a good distance down a slope here?
I was reminded of this after seeing this opinion piece in Slate tonight: Legalize Polygamy! No. I am not kidding.
The definition of marriage is plastic. Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less “correct” than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults. Though polygamists are a minority—a tiny minority, in fact—freedom has no value unless it extends to even the smallest and most marginalized groups among us. So let’s fight for marriage equality until it extends to every same-sex couple in the United States—and then let’s keep fighting. We’re not done yet.As the marriage debate got revved up over the last few years, I wasn't the only one to point out that the same logic used to legitimize same sex marriage was completely applicable to legalizing polygamy and polyamory.
Every cultural change and trend alters the terrain that we as a society walk. Some of them take us down paths that have an angle. It doesn't seem like a logical fallacy to wonder where we'll end up.
[H/T for the polygamy article: Instapundit]
I need help figuring out how to check the Google rankings of specific keywords and phrases. I know that simply clearing my private data and typing in a search will give me results, but those results are somehow tailored to my geographic area (i.e., the "location" on the left side of a Google search).
I'm hoping that there's a tool or website that will allow me to see national average rankings for specific keywords in a certain industry.
Can anyone help?
I'd like some recommendations on books dealing with entrepreneurship and/or leadership. I'd like to hear about paradigm-changing books – stuff that has changed your life. Either from a Christian or non-Christian point-of-view is fine, because, as Justin Martyr said, “All truth wherever it is found belongs to us as Christians.”
Why in the world does anyone still use Yahoo mail or Hotmail? Every single time I get an email like this, it's from a Yahoo or Hotmail user:
this is interesting http://www.gotothisvirussite
Two years ago when our church transitioned to a blended worship service, we learned a new/old song entitled, "Before the Throne of God above." It's been covered by quite a few contemporary artists, and I suspect that it's probably been sung at your church.
I haven't been able to figure out who reworked it and reintroduced it to the contemporary christian community. Originally it was written by Charitie Lees Smith in 1863. She originally entitled it "The Advocate".
Here's the original lyrics:
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great High Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Saviour and my God!
Here's my question: What does this line mean:
"One in Himself I cannot die"
Does anybody have any idea? I am strongly of the conviction that we should understand what we sing (Which is why I explain the term "ebeneezer" every time we sing "Come, Thy Fount of Every Blessing")
So when we sang this in church the other day, I realized I didn't understand it, and I'm the pastor!?!
Here are my theories:
1. Because I am united with Christ I am identified with him and his righteousness is now mine. This is certainly a Biblical concept and 3 final lines following the line in question seems to support this interpretation.
However the use of the term "himself" is really throwing me. Shouldn't the line be "One in him" or "one with him" or "Joined with him"? I don't remember my English Grammar, but if Interpretation #1 is correct, is "himself" the right form of the 3rd person singular? The use of "himself" leads me to wonder if the whole line is about God only. So being "one in himself" is a reference to the unity of the trinity, or of the Father and the Son. (I and the Father are one.) So in that case, another interpretation would be:
2. Because the Triune Godhead is in harmony with himself, One God, three persons, and therefore unchangeable and immutable, and because God the son does the will of God the Father, the writer, the human Christian has eternal life. So in this interpretation, there is almost two clauses - "Because he is one in purpose and divinity, I have been forgiven and have eternal life.) The 4 lines ABOVE the line in question seem to lend themselves to this interpretation.
See what I'm saying? The lines above the confusing line seem to support interpretation 2, and the lines below the confusing line seem to support interpretation 1.
I'm wondering now if the author meant both. Is the line vague and obscure on purpose. No other line in the song is so hard to interpret. The other lines seem to be pretty straightforward to anyone familiar with Christian doctrine.
My music minister and I discussed changing the lines in keeping with the original author's intent in order for our people to understand what they are singing. If we really believe that theology matters in our worship music, then it seems to me not to be right to let people sing a line that doesn't make sense.
So we came up with three alternative lines:
1- Our Spirits joined, I cannot die
2- One with Himself I cannot die (changing the preposition only)
3-Now we are one I cannot die
I like the third one best, I think it's clearer and follows the authors intent if interpretation #1 is correct. But I still don't know if the author was talking about the unity of the Godhead or the unity of the believer and Christ.
The advantage to the second alternative lyric above is that it maintains some of the original ambiguity of the author, and so either interpretation is still possible. But I still can't figure why the author used "himself" unless that was just poetic license to get the right number of syllables.
What do you think?
1- What do you think the line means?
2- How would you rewrite the lyric?
3- What do you think, in general, about rewriting old hymn lyrics?
First, I want to define some terms, as otherwise a question like this causes lots of confusion.
By "happy", I don't mean happy in the way the health and wealth gospel does. I'm not talking about perfect or even better life circumstances. I mean "happy" in the way we use it in our day to day conversations. And I'm not too interested in semantic arguments about the difference between happiness and joy.
Secondly, I'm not asking if Jesus "should" make you happy or if you expect him to (or don't expect him to) make you happy. I'm asking if he does make you happy. And I don't mean "you" in a generic sense. I mean you.
Finally, this isn't a loaded question. I don't have an agenda, although I confess that one might develop based on the conversation, if any, this inspires.
Leave your response in the comments thread. Thanks!
Here is a real-life scenario of a friend of a friend of mine. I'll call the young lady Laura. She has been dating a Baptist guy for a year (I'll call him John). Her parents are Church of Christ and pretty hard-core about it.
John talked to her parents last week to ask for Laura's hand. The parents told him that the only way they would give their blessing is if he becomes CoC. He told them that was going to be a decision they would make as a family, but neither he nor Laura have a desire to become Church of Christ (or, in her case, to remain Church of Christ). They have been attending a non CoC church together. Laura has expressed that she has learned more about God's grace from her friends, John, and her new church than she ever did from her parents or their church.
Her parents have made remarks to Laura that John is leading her to hell, and they are worried about her soul. The parents want to sit down and talk with them both.
What advice would you give this young couple? They are both believers. I am not familiar enough with the Church of Christ to know how to approach this.
John and Laura gave me permission through my friend to post this on Thinklings. Any help will be greatly appreciated. I'd especially love to hear from those of you in the Church of Christ or who have CoC friends or family, but if you have any advice or knowledge at all on this your insight will be greatly appreciated.
Do you have any predictions for 2012?
I'm going to posit a few:
1. Here's a bold prediction: Barack Obama will not win re-election.
No, I am not underestimating the man. He's very, very good at campaigning, he is personally popular (though his current job approval ratings are pretty low). And, though I disagree with most of his policies, I believe he is a smart and talented politician.
But . . .
I don't think you can underestimate how bad the global economy is looking. There are just too many downward pressures: the financial ailments of the Eurozone, the instability in the Middle East, our large debt burden. For most voters, the economy is the biggest issue right now, and I don't expect it to improve very much between now and November 2012, though I hope I'm wrong. If it hasn't improved, I think Obama is done.
As a side prediction, Obama will replace Joe Biden as his running mate with someone else - perhaps Hillary.
2. Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination and will be elected President. This is, of course, a corollary to my first prediction, and if I'm wrong on #1 I'll get a twofer fail. Regarding Romney, like him or not, he will be the most palatable alternative to Obama for most Americans. And they will vote for him, if things don't improve significantly in the economy.
3. The New Orleans Saints will beat the Pittsburg Steelers in the Superbowl. I'm never right about sports predictions, but I had to try. I'm assuming Big Ben's ankle gets better. And I realize that the Packers are having a great year. But what the hay.
5. Blo will post on Thinklings at least once in 2012. Hey, a guy can dream.
So, what do you think? Do you have some predictions, or want to take me to task for mine? Have at it in the comments.
I lifted this verbatim from the excellent Inklings blog. This was written by C.S. Lewis' brother, Warnie, following the death of their friend and fellow Inkling Charles Williams.
I'm intrigued by Charles Williams, who is often left in the shadow of C.S. "Jack" Lewis (the "J" written about above, I'm pretty sure) and "Tollers", better known as J.R.R. Tolkien. Recently I read the novel Looking for the King, by David C. Downing, which is a piece of historical fiction featuring the Inklings. Downing's portrayal of Charles Williams and his grail-lore is fascinating, and I think it's time I picked up something written by Williams. Any suggestions?
[The King's Arms on the junction of Parks Road & Holywell Street, Oxford]
Tuesday 15th May, 1945.
At 12.50 this morning… the telephone rang, and a woman's voice asked if I would take a message for J — "Mr. Charles Williams died in the Acland this morning". One often reads of people being "stunned" by bad news, and reflects idly on the absurdity of the expression; but there is more than a little truth in it. I felt just as if I had slipped and come down on my head on the pavement. J had told me when I came into College that Charles was ill, and it would mean a serious operation: and then went off to see him: I haven't seen him since. I felt dazed and restless, and went out to get a drink: choosing unfortunately the King's Arms, where during the winter Charles and I more than once drank a pint after leaving Tollers at the Mitre, with much glee at "clearing one throats of varnish with good honest beer": as Charles used to say.
There will be no more pints with Charles: no more "Bird and Baby": the blackout has fallen, and the Inklings can never be the same again. I knew him better than any of the others, by virtue of his being the most constant attendant. I hear his voice as I write, and can see his thin form in his blue suit, opening his cigarette box with trembling hands. These rooms will always hold his ghost for me. There is something horrible, something unfair about death, which no religious conviction can overcome. "Well, goodbye, see you on Tuesday Charles" one says — and you have in fact though you don't know it, said goodbye for ever. He passes up the lamplit street, and passes out of your life for ever.
There is a good deal of stuff talked about the horrors of a lonely old age; I'm not sure that the wise man — the wise materialist at any rate — isn't the man who has no friends. And so vanishes one of the best and nicest men it has ever been my good fortune to meet. May God receive him into His everlasting happiness.
Warren (Warnie) Lewis
Brothers & Friends (Harper & Row 1982)
As a side note, the Kings Arms, pictured above, is still in business. I had some fabulous bangers and mash there last year when I visited Oxford. What I wouldn't give to be enjoying a day in that amazing town right now.
. . . I don't understand these iPhone frenzies.
Apple employee in England hugs iPhone buyer
Have you heard of Gungor? Gungor is a Christian band (or, if that bugs you, a band that happens to be Christian :-) that has put together some pretty good music over the past few years. I'm not that familiar with them, but our College and Young Singles ministry contains some young people who are huge fans. I've heard that their concerts are great worship experiences. We've even used some of their songs for our before-teaching worship on Sunday mornings and at our homegroup on Friday nights.
Gungor has a new album out called Ghosts Upon The Earth. Our friend Quaid pointed me to the blog post in which Michael Gungor and his wife Lisa describe the album.
Now, before I excerpt part of it, I have to come clean: while I consider myself fairly current and I have a taste for newer music, if you're under the age of 25 or so, I could be your dad. So keep that in mind. I'm not exactly a hepcat. Plus, I admit that I've had this little yellow warning light going off on my discernment panel in my inner control room for awhile when it comes to Gungor. It's not a siren, just a small warning that now and then goes beeeep. One concern I have is that, while their music is great, I haven't been able to detect a clear Christology in it. That's for what I've listened to, which is certainly not their whole catalog. Of course, I could be wrong. I've been wrong plenty in my lifetime.
So, with that said, I'd be interested in your thoughts on Michael Gungor's notes about his song "Wake Up Sleeper".
This song puts music to that side of Jesus’ message. When Jesus spoke most of his nice, comforting words like “blessed are the poor”… or “don’t worry about tomorrow”, etc., he was primarily talking to a group of people on the underside of power. He was talking to the poor. To those who had fallen short in their weaknesses, Jesus said things like “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”So, what do you think of that? Should most of us drop the Christian tag and start calling ourselves "Bible-ians"?
But he wasn’t always so gracious toward those with power and religious authority. He would say “Woe to you Pharisees…you whitewashed tombs…you brood of vipers” and so on. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day worshiped a religious system, a book, or a law more than they did the very Spirit of God. They worshiped their own place and thoughts and understandings of God rather than simply worshiping God. This seemed to infuriate Jesus.
In my opinion, this hasn’t changed much. Much of the Christian world right now worships the Bible more than it worships God. If you go to the website of a typical protestant, evangelical church right now, there’s a good chance that under the belief section you will come across the Bible before you come across any language about Jesus. You will probably find more theology about what you need to do to go to Heaven than you will about following the teachings of Jesus, or the Kingdom of God, or anything like that.
I feel like much of modern American Christianity should actually change its name to something else, maybe something like Bible-anity. As a whole, we’re rich, we’re arrogant, we’re judgmental and we’re dead inside. Sounds like the Pharisees to me.
This song is a call to repentance, a call to wake up. It’s an invitation to join the poor and the sinner and the broken once again that we may come alive and join with God again.
I have to admit this troubles me. I'm wanting to cross-check my opinion on this with some of you. Let me acknowledge first that there is probably some truth to his point. But is it accurate?
For what it's worth, I went to my church's website to see our statement of belief. The first three paragraphs deal with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, before paragraph four, which deals with the Bible. And we're fairly conservative, evangelical and protestant. So maybe we're an outlier?
Secondly, I read every lyric of the new album. There isn't a mention of Jesus anywhere, or much of anything that couldn't be sung in a Unitarian church, even though the whole album deals with spiritual themes. Now, of course, just because you are a Christian and you make music doesn't mean you have to sing about Jesus in every song, or in any song. But if you're going to scold others for not mentioning Jesus prominently enough on their websites . . .
Thirdly, trust me, I know that there are plenty of problems in the American church. But I've never thought that one of them is that we pay too much attention to the Bible.
Finally, I get spooked when people begin talking about the Bible like it's something that is getting between a person and God, especially when it's so easy to create a false god for oneself when sailing the windblown seas without the Bible for a rudder.
I am interested in your thoughts on this, so if you have any, especially if you are a Gungor fan, please leave them in the comments. Thanks.
A thought experiment for you:
Is there any event in your life that you would not miss in exchange for $1,000,000?
Thought Experiment Rules: the event still happens, but you're just not there. Everything else, though, before and after the event, is the same.
For example, it could be your wedding: If you take the $1,000,000, you will miss your own wedding, but when the wedding's over, you're married.
Can you think of anything? I have a couple. One that I'm thinking of right now, because it's fresh on my mind: I recently was honored to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding. If you had offered me a million dollars to miss that (heck, ten million), I would have told you to stick it in your pie-hole.
How about you? Is there anything you would not miss in exchange for a million?
I'm looking for edification. Not really after the provocative sites, or argumentative sites.
I'm pretty hungry for some good edification. Let me know if you have any recommendations. Thanks!
Here is a BBC News column that asks, "Why do people get married after having children?" And the author is serious!
For many people having a child is the ultimate commitment to a partner. A life you have created together and are responsible for raising. It's a commitment many people make without getting married. But some then go on to tie the knot, like Ed Miliband and his partner of six years, Justine Thornton. Why?
There are the obvious financial and legal advantages to getting married. For older people issues surrounding pensions and inheritance are often the reason they decide to get hitched after years together. But Miliband and Thornton are still young.
And while the pressures on the leader of the Labour party will be slightly different to those of the average person, there is no mistaking that attitudes to marriage and family have changed. Getting married used to be about sex, living together and having children, but research shows this is no longer the case.
According to the latest British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey, which was conducted in 2008, almost two-thirds of people now see little difference between marriage and living together. Fewer than a fifth of people took issue with it. Just under half thought cohabitation showed just as much commitment as getting married. When it comes to children, where opinion can often be a bit more traditional, only 28% said they believe married couples make better parents.
So why do it? Psychologist Donna Dawson, who has specialised in sex and relationships, says it is often about making a public statement. "Having the children take part is like a ceremonial creation of a family and a public statement that they are all in it together. It's very much a 21st Century ritual, which more and more people will be doing."
She says even when couples say there isn't a specific reason, there is "always something going on underneath. Sometimes it is about marking a different stage in a relationship, or they might have taken a long time because of the bad example they were set by their own parents. There is usually a reason, even if they are not fully aware of it."
Chris, 41, and his partner were together for nine years and had two children when they got married. He didn't feel any direct pressure from his partner or family, but says as his children got older he wanted them to have parents who were married. "For me a big part of it was the children," he says. "I didn't want them to be asked at school why their parents weren't married. I suppose you could say that was me feeling a slight pressure to conform to social norms, but if I hadn't wanted to get married in the first place I definitely wouldn't have done it."
In 2009 231,490 marriages were registered in England and Wales. It was the lowest number since 1895. The long-term picture for UK weddings is of decline, from a peak of 480,285 marriages in 1972
"Obviously, people wanted that freedom as soon as they could," says Mansfield. "The average age of people getting married was 21 for women and 23 for men. Now you can put a decade on those ages and that's because sex and cohabitation outside of marriage are largely accepted. Now I think people get married after the house and kids because it is very much a public celebration of what they have, rather than the passport to adulthood."
Guardian columnist Zoe Williams has been with her partner for six years and has two children - just like Miliband and Thornton - but says she thinks it is a "weird gesture" to get married at this stage.
"It's now socially acceptable to have sex, live together and have kids outside of marriage, so why spend £10,000 or more on a wedding?" she says. "Having kids is a much bigger deal than marriage, a much bigger statement of commitment. Personally, I just don't think about getting married. I simply have never felt a need to be married."
In the end it could all be about having a big party for Ed and Justine. According to BSA survey, 53% of people now think a wedding is more about a celebration than a life-long commitment.
Wow! Is this where America is headed? Are we already there? (I don't think we are there yet.) If this is where we are headed, then why all the fuss about homosexual marriage? I mean seriously, if marriage is an outdated and unnecessary institution, then why are so many progressives fighting to open it up for homosexuals? Could it be that they are more "traditional" than they realize? (Kind of like the atheist who describes the God he doesn't believe in as the Christian God.)
I wonder if the homosexual marriage fight is a uniquely American issue because Americans value marriage in a way Europe does not.
I have a question, and I'm genuinely interested in your insights here.
Question: Do you feel a need to simplify?
You may not. Perhaps most of you don't, and in that case this post will probably mean little to you. But, man, I do. I've taken steps toward more simplification, in small online ways: I've quit facebook statusing, although I have continued using FB as a convenient communication medium. I got completely out of twitter and have resolutely stayed away from other online social media, besides (of course) still blogging a little. I cheerfully traded my new Droid to my wife - who loves it! - for a four year old Blackberry that, thankfully, doesn't do near as much.
I have so far to go, though, on this quest. I'm working very hard right now to learn effective ways of quieting my mind. I think this has great spiritual benefit and is a vital aspect of my stewardship of my time, my spiritual focus, and my interactions in real-life community and family, while hopefully making me more productive to the people who sign my paycheck.
Where are you at in this? Have you felt the same way? Or do you feel a need to expand your presence in the social networking sphere? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments thread.