Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Naming your Christian Conference in the New Year

For those of you who plan conferences for Christians, in 2014 kindly remember the rules for naming your conference:

1) You may use no more than one (1) word;
2) The word must be imperative;
3) The word must be vaguely theological, even if it's not clear as to why.

Here are some suggestions, just for free:


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Did I meet the goal I forgot had I set for myself?

At the end of last year, Ross Douthat (just how do you say his last name anyway?) challenged us to

1) take out a subscription for (and read in its entirety) a magazine that holds the opposite political position that you do (so, liberals should take up National Review, conservatives The Nation, etc);  
2) read the writings of someone who lives in a different geographic setting that you do (urbanites, check out the rural-minded Front Porch Republic; middle Americans, why not read the New York Times?);  
3) read the fringes--libertarians, Evangelical social Christians, communitarians, etc.

So, how have I measured up?

1) fail, utterly. While I have spent significant time reading books (selections listed below) and articles written by those with whom I disagree, that is exactly what Douthat said doesn't count. I have not subscribed to any opposite-me periodical and read it in its entirety. And now that I'm in reduced financial circumstances, this one may have to be a wash. The score: 0-1
2) win, technically. This one may be a bit unfair, since when I lived in DC (in the early part of this year), I was a fairly devoted follower of Front Porch Republic and a handful of other rural-focused publications. And now that I'm in middle-America, it's fairly easy just to keep up with the on-the-coast publications that I had followed living in DC. So while I've obeyed the letter of this suggestion, I can't claim to have followed its spirit. Fortunately, I'm not a legalist, so I'm going to call the score at this point 1-1. 
3) I think in the strictest sense of the term, I've got to call this a tie--and that because I am one of those people on the "fringes", so I can't count the reading it's fairly natural for me to read anyway. But then again, I am reading in this category. So: a tie.   
Which leaves me at 1-1-1. Possibly, this is the best I could have hoped for in a year as busy as 2013 has been...

The books I read this year with which I disagree (politically, and culled from my Goodreads list):

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America by Bill Bryson
Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age by Steven Johnson (Review TBA)
What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael Sandel
Thinking the Twentieth Century by Tony Judt
Civilisation: A Personal View by Kenneth Clark
The Founders' Key: The Divine and Natural Connection between the Declaration and the Constitution, and what we risk by Losing it by Larry Arnn (Review TBA)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

If Christianity is truth...

If Christianity is truth, it ought to touch on the whole of life. The modern drift in some evangelical circles toward being emotionally and experientially based is really very, very weak. The other side of the coin, though, is that Christianity must never be reduced merely to an intellectual system. It too has to touch the whole of life, which means the devotional and so on... After all, if God is there, if it isn't just an answer to an intellectual question, then he's really there. We should love him, we're called upon to adore him, to be in relationship to him, and, incidentally, to obey him.
We are in a pincer movement. On one hand you have the theological existentialists who are devaluating the Bible in making their division between the spiritual and the space-time cosmos. On the other hand you have people who claim to hold to the total authority of the Bible but who then, you find, are getting easy divorces and remarried. They go on being Christian leaders even though they have unbiblical divorces. In this pincer movement the Bible is being hit from two sides.
If God is really there, he is to be worshiped, he is to be adored, but he's also to be obeyed. Think back over the last ten years. How many sermons have you heard on 'Thou shalt' and 'Thou shalt not'? It is very few, curiously. If you listen with care to a great deal of the emotional Christianity that's being put forth, it is always what God can do for you. You hear nothing about what we're supposed to do for God. This is a tremendous lack. The concept of Christianity being truth and touching the fullness of life ought to contain all these elements. But then we would all have to say that none of us do it very well. We sure ought to struggle for it. 
Francis Schaeffer, interview with Colin Duriez in Francis Schaeffer: an Authentic Life, 220-221.