Book Review: The Wisdom Pyramid

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Quick, easy read; short (< 200 pages)

Summary

Modeled on the old school (though not as old as I thought) ‘food pyramid’, McCracken seeks to give us guidelines for what to consume to gain wisdom. The book is broken into two parts. First, keeping with the food metaphor (eating too much, too fast, and unbalance) is the ‘source of our sickness’ which has three chapters: Information Gluttony, Perpetual Novelty, and ‘Look Within’ Autonomy. Part two lays out the pyramid in these chapters: Part Two Intro, The Bible, The Church, Nature, Books, Beauty, The Internet and Social Media, and What Wisdom Looks Like (which is part summary and part conclusion for the whole book). There is also an introduction (An Unwise Age) that does well to diagnoses many of our current issues.

My Thoughts

The first part of the book was unexpected. I thought the focus would be just the pyramid, but McCraken does a great and concise job of diagnosing the problem. That made the book stronger and I appreciate his continued use of the food metaphor. Overall, I agreed with most of his food groups, but not all. In his defense, he points out that the metaphor breaks down a bit, but the overall focus was balance. Starting with the Bible is a good choice, obviously you can’t really read it more than all other books combined, and his point isn’t that you should read other books.

The next two levels, the church and nature, were really well done. Considering these are all short chapters, everyone should read this the book, but these two chapters were probably the best. He does a great job of pointing to the communal aspect of church, and reading this now (hopefully with the end in sight) in the pandemic, is an important reminder of what we are missing. I was skeptical of nature at first. I enjoy the outdoors (fishing, hiking, camping, etc.), but I’m usually wary of Christians how push it as necessary (conflating the outdoor life with ‘manliness’), but that is not at all what he did. He writes of the value of nature for our brains, touching on neuroscience, and the enjoyment of God’s creations. He reaches back to Augustine and Calvin and the ‘two-book’ theory of general revelation. It is probably one of the best handlings of nature by a Christian author that I have read.

Books, of course, was great. He is a big book guy, I’m a big book guy. I remain skeptical that if you are not an avid reader, that you would agree with him. Most people aren’t going to read 30-50 books a year, but maybe he could have set a goal for people on the lower end, or people who don’t challenge themselves to read, preferring, instead, to live a life of functional illiteracy. I must point out, because it is so often incorrectly quoted, that C.S. Lewis said read ONE old book for every three NEW books. People often flip the quote.

The weakest chapter for me was beauty. I understand he was likely being vague so that it could encompass various arts, but I wonder if the point would be clearer/stronger, if he dove into one think (i.e. Music). Or at least encourage people to actively participate. This may not be what he actually believes, that we must create, but I find that to be a little closer to the truth. The final chapter is on social media/internet. He makes a compelling argument to not abandon them completely and offers strong guidance on how to cultivate use. I am not a heavy social media uses, so much of what he offered seemed simple, but I know it is more difficult for others.

I thought one thing that was missing, or maybe just not pointed out clearly enough, was TV. I could see how quality TV/Movies (he is a professional movie critic) could fit into beauty, but also (he points to bingeing on Netflix) social media/internet. Maybe I’m just old for thinking of TV as a separate category (don’t worry, I do stream shows, no cable at the MMT household), but on the other hand, I don’t know many things that waste as much of peoples time in mindless consumption as TV. Sure, you may mindlessly scroll for 30 minutes on Facebook, but people will eat dinner in front of the TV, then watch for another four hours, before going to bed.

The only other issue I had, and to stick with his food metaphor, was this was really just a sampling. Again in his defense, I believe this was by design. I will likely pull more books from his end notes than I typically do. I’ve read most of the tech ones (his big omission was Irresistible, about the way tech has been made to be ‘addictive’. I had not read many of the books from the nature chapter, that seem like the integrate theology and nature well or on a psychology and nature level.

Overall, I think everyone needs to read this book. It is relatively short and can give you great guidance on your consumption. Extra points to him and the publishers for adding discussion questions. I already know a guy who is doing this book with his men’s group. This book would be a great discussion starter on how you are spending time and ways you can reorder your intake, especially on tech and books. It isn’t perfect, and many people will disagree with the levels (outside of the top and the bottom, hopefully), but it is a compelling starting point and a must read.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The City of God and the Goal of Creation

My Rating: If you are looking for something

Level: Moderate read, short (just under 200)

Summary

Alexander traces the concept of ‘City’ throughout the Bible, starting with Genesis (specifically Tower of Babylon) through the rest of the OT (specifically Jerusalem as the temple city) to the end of the New Testament (with the coming of the New Jerusalem as described in Revelation). 

The book is broken into eight chapters, The Godless City, The Temple-City, The Holy Mountain City, The Royal City, Envisaging a Transformed City, and Hope for Jerusalem beyond Divine Judgement, Seeking the City That Is To Come, and Anticipating New Jerusalem. There is also an introduction (plus the series introduction), a ‘further reading’, as well as general and scriptural indices. 

My Thoughts

If you are expecting the title to be drawn from Augustine’s book of the same name, you’ll be a little disappointed. This is where it is important to closely read the book description. That is not the fault of the book, but I was expecting something else. I’m sure the Augustinian influence was part of the title choice, but if you are looking for a well known book from the past to play off of, I would have gone with ‘Tale of Two Cities’. The bulk of the book, the first six chapters, deal with the Old Testament dichotomy of Babylon vs. Jerusalem. Chapter 7, deals with Christ/Us as the new temple/new city, while only the final chapters discusses the future New Jerusalem in the New Earth.

As a professional city planner, any discussion of cities is interesting to me. Alexander does an excellent job in his exegesis of the various Biblical Passages that deal with the two cities. I would have liked to have more about the New Jerusalem, but I suppose as part of the ‘not yet’, we don’t know a good deal about it, nor do we have much to say. As far as the physical attributes of the New Jerusalem, his understanding and interpretation is one of the best I’ve read.  

Overall, this was a good book, particularly for anyone specifically interested in the Biblical treatment of cities. However, I wonder how broadly interesting it may be. Again, this is not the fault of the book. When I finished it, I went back to review the series intro. Each book is narrowly construed, by design. I don’t know if the long term plan is to bind them all in one massive take on a Systematic, with each book being a section, but that is ultimately how they read. I’ve read Work and Our Labor in the Lord, it is also pretty good, and I see a few others I’d like to read. However, popularily, I think most will enjoy this book, but it is probably best for those looking for something specifically about cities.  

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Ash Wednesday 2021

A few years ago I wrote post that became fairly popular, called, Some Thoughts on Lent (pretty clever title, right?), most of what I said in then is still most true, I don’t know how to Lent. My church is trying to help this year, especially in a year in which people are not meeting in person, by sending home a box with everyone that has contents to be used the Ash Wednesday and Good Friday services, as well as devotional/calendar to be used for Lent in general. 

After church on Sunday, our guys group was talking about the Ashes, and a some people stated they wouldn’t be using them. Classic Reformed, ‘it isn’t in the Bible’. I didn’t have many thoughts, and I asked if anyone knew the history of the ashes. No one did, so I decided to look it up. 

The short answer is, ashes were used in the Old Testament as a sign of penitence and mourning. My boy Tertullian believed that confession of sin should be accompanied with ashes and sackcloth. So, clearly, early on the Christians still associated ashes in a similar manner as that of the OT. The basis of Lent is Christ’s 40 Days in the Wilderness in preparation for his ministry, which culminated in his death and then resurrection on Easter. Those who practice Lent engage in 40 days (technically 46) of reflection and repentance leading up to Easter. So, that is it, that is the connection. Looks like Ash Wednesday was really official until the 10th Century for Catholics. Apparently, Orthodox do not do it at all. I had no idea, I kind of always view them as have the same church calendar (even if the days are different) and liturgies. After the Reformation, Lutherans/Anglican didn’t stop. Today other liturgical churches such as Methodist and Presbyterians often hold the service and it appears to be growing in popularity. Other Baptist and non-denominational churches are starting to hold the services. 

I actually like it. Then again, I like history and tradition. This will hurt the heads of the academics and teachers who read this, but the Wikipedia article on Lent is pretty good, if you want more info. Along with ashes, two other things are popular, one is saying ‘from dust you came and to dust you will return’, while imposing the ashes. People seem to like it as a reminder of mortality and their short time on the earth. I think it somewhat detracts from the pentinance part, by trying to make the ashes represent too many things. The other is the reading of Psalm 51, which is David’s repentance after being confronted by the Prophet Nathan. 

Back to the Anglican thing for a minute, Cranmer, who wrote the Book of Common Prayer, banned the ashes, but it (obviously) came back. This somewhat ironic, as the church I attend is non-denominational that loosely follows the BCP. Interestingly, I have never done the ashes or attended an Ash Wednesday service. You can read in my prior Lent post, I grew up Baptist with no church calendar at all, not even Good Friday. Mrs. MMT and I were members of a Presbyterian church that would have like to do Ash Wednesday, but we met in a community center, so it was difficult to get a service going. I’ve never attend my current church’s service, because MRs. MMT is usually the music for it and I would stay home with Sprout. This year, it is only online, it has actually already been recorded (I ran the sound, on a soundboard that isn’t set for streaming output, so, should be interesting), and we are streaming at 3:00, 6:00, and 8:00 tonight; go here if you are interested. 

So, that is a little history of the ashes for Ash Wednesday. I feel like it can be a worthwhile tradition and plan to participate for the first time, tonight. I also found a cool infographic on Twitter that pretty well sums up everything:

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Book Review: A River Runs Through It, and Other Stories

Rating: Must Read

Level: Easy narrative, short (just over 200 pages).

Summary

This book consist of three short stories: A River Runs Through It; Logging and Pimping and “Your Pal, Jim”; and USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky. All are quite short at 104, 20, and 90, respectively. The first is his most famous story, and the one that was made into a movie. The movie actually does a pretty good job, but of course misses some things, yet often quote directly, which is always a nice touch. It is a somewhat meandering story of his life in relation to his brother, as well as his brother in law (which the movie downplays). There are many funny stories and anecdotes of his early adult life, underpinning the story is that of needing help, and helping ‘brothers’ (of which he includes his BiL, in contrast).

The second story is about his summers spent in a logging camp, and his competition with ‘Jim’. He showcases his own pride, but it is also one of the best portrayals of love/hate relationships between men, in such a short story. It is also quite funny. The final story is about a summer working for the US Forest Service. Again, themes of pride, respect for his boss, and dislike for ‘the cook’, but this story has an point/ending you may not be suspecting, in that they attempt to rob a casino. Not quite, but that makes it sound more dramatic, more of being cardsharks in a poker room, that they know will end in fights and them running away with money.

My Thoughts

While the other two aren’t quite as good as his more famous first story, try to buy a copy that has all three instead of just A River Runs Through It. It is the same price or cheaper, and if you ever want to read an author because of a story that was recommended, buying the anthology book is a good way to decide if you want to read more. In Maclean’s, these three are his only writings for general audiences (apparently he also wrote a field manual for the Navy and a textbook while teach at Chicago). That is my general tip for buying books.

Maclean is a fascinating person. Famous to me for fly fishing and the movie made from this book. He also worked for the Forest Service and spent summers working in logging camps. He spent most of his life as an English professor at the University of Chicago; the publisher of this book. Interestingly, this is the only fiction the press has ever published. Again, fascinatingly, he refers to it as fiction in the sense that they are stories that he believes to be true, somewhere between historical fiction and autobiography. This book was a huge success and then he died, which is truly tragic. He was old, so, not tragic in that way, but if he had more stories in him, I’d read every one of them. His uniqueness also stems from his time and place in life. He was born over 100 years ago, but overlapped with my life. However, in some instances his life seems even longer before the modern are due to living out in the intermountain west. The jobs and aspects of his daily life as a teenager/young adult seem so foreign now as I write this.

I’m not a big highlighter, I don’t like my books marked up, but I intend to read back through this a note a few things. There are at least 10 worth note in A River, and maybe three to five in the other stories. Half the quotes from the latter made it into the movie, fortunately. One of my favorite quotes, and the movie fails a bit at this, as I said above, though there is still a focus on the brotherly relationship, is his bit about once brothers reach a certain age, the question of who can beat who, if not settled, must be put down and left alone. This maybe stuck out more to me than others. My brother and I are unusually close in age (7 months), so the question of the better fighter (me) still looms in our 30s, and now I also have twin sons.

The second two stores are just great short stories of summer work and life in manual labor a century ago. Though perhaps logging camps today aren’t as different, certainly the pride/personality differences he highlights remain.  I think anyone interested that time or life, would find these stores interesting. I worked for a summer in Montana when I was 19, which got me into fly fishing, which naturally led to this book (I spent time on the river the movie was filmed, but not his actual river), so the notion of summer work or migrant (by choice) work is familiar, in some ways, to me (though, I moved on and did not continue the life).

However, A River, stands on its own a great American work of literature. You will not find as much about marriage/family, brothers (in all senses), the existential issues of family and needing help, fishing, fighting, drinking, the Westminster Standards, or outdoor life, all packed into 100 pages in any other book. Sometimes when I read a book, I can become almost frustrated, because I read it and think, if I ever could write well, this is how I would want to write. Maclean had me putting this book down in multiple points to stop and thing, this is exactly how I feel and the perfect way to write this. This is easily one of my favorite books of all time, probably top three in fiction (broadly defined), and if you are interesting in anything mentioned, this book is a must read.

On Inerrancy and Literal Interpretation.

A while ago, I wrote a review on Five View on Biblical Inerrancy, which is a book I cannot recommend enough. It had been on my list for quite some time, and I just never got around to it. I really wish I had read it earlier, because the mainstream Evangelical framework for reading the Bible is shaped by Inerrancy far more than you may think. It isn’t even really just inerrancy, but instead, the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. The issue with this statement is that it isn’t as natural as it appears to be, and doesn’t just defend the Bible, it pushes a very specific hermeneutic framework and interpretation. Specifically, what some call ‘literalistic’ or ‘literalism’. This is the overly literal view of scripture, that is taking it ‘literally’ even when the text may not call for it. 

That was the defensive cry I heard most of my Christian life, ‘I take the Bible literally.’ It was supposed to be a short, definitive statement about your Biblical beliefs. I certainly took the statement seriously, but it wasn’t until I was probably 30 that a pastor asked me, ‘how do you take poetry literally?’. Depending on how you count it, between a quarter and a third (or even more) of the Bible is poetry. I had never really thought about that; and of course, most of the poetry is in the Old Testament, which is usually skimmed or skipped by Evangelicals. 

It seems that the fight over ‘literal’ mostly comes as a response to the overwhelming evidence of the fact that the universe is billions of years old and that evolution is true. Some defenders of the Chicago statement, which is Mohler in the book, point out that the statement says, ‘rightly interpreted,’ which gives room for different interpretations of chapters/verses such as Genesis 1. However, it goes on to say that science cannot overturn scripture. I can’t think of a clearer signal to say, you must interpret Gen 1 (please don’t ask about Gen 2, which doesn’t match creation order of Gen 1) as straight literal than that. Mohler can act like a politician and point to the statement, but when see a book/article/podcast/video with something like this in the title- ‘are science and the Bible in conflict?’, you know exactly what they are talking about. So, embedded in the statement is the interpretive framework. For good reason, Mohler’s article was criticized by all the other authors for arguing inerrancy of his interpretation. 

But he wasn’t really wrong, in a sense, as he is only conveying the message of the statement. The issue for us today, is how the statement was used and pushed and trickled down to all of us in the pews, because it tied a particular view to inerrancy, and inerrancy was view as protecting the Bible, and even more so, God himself. As Mohler points out, when the Bible speaks, God speaks. This is absolutely true, I believe this, as do most Christians, but you can see through the simple flow of thought, that if you don’t interpret passages a certain way, then you don’t believe in God. It looks something like this: a particular interpretation – that interpretation as implied by the Statement – inerrancy as a concept – the writers who were inspired by God – God Himself speaking – the goodness, omnipotence, etc of God; so that a particular interpretation equals belief in God. I don’t know if this was the original intent of the authors of the statement or just how it ended up being abused. 

The damage of literalism cannot be overstated. It is something I really wish people cared more about, unfortunately, it often seems that people have to leave the Evangelical work entirely, before they can say much about it. Or maybe they left because of it, and then write about it. The biggest problem, is it really is fear based. Fear is a pretty big motivator for most people, but it appears to be the easiest way to get Evangelicals to move on something. We’ve seen this in politics, with devastating effect, for decades, but rapidly accelerated over the past five or so years. We see it in the attack on public school and education in general. But our fear for the Bible and God is not necessary. We can’t protect them, nor need we to do so. When we try, we end up putting them in small boxes of protection that leads us to weak faith. 

Fighting for a particular view of inerrancy comes from the fear that if one thing is ‘wrong’ then the whole Bible is wrong, and we need to throw it out. To me, that is an incredible weak faith. There seems to be a fear that if you admit that ancient writers believed the world was covered in a dome, that we have to abandon the resurrection. As if we should only believe God if the Bible is written and read like a factual report coming in from the AP wire. To not admit the different (non-modern) views of the authors, or that scribes could err seems ridiculous. Especially, when we know there are essentially typos (actually, transcription) errors in our manuscripts. Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:7 for example, about half say infant, the other half says gentle; clearly one of them is an error (though it really doesn’t change much, see my study notes here). Other prominent examples included the longer ending of Mark or the extra few lines of the Lord’s Prayer, both of which have since been thrown out in most translations.

That brings us to the ‘autograph’ argument, which says the Bible is inerrant in the original documents. It is used in some ways as an argument against in perceived errors or contradictions. We can just wave them away and say that out there, in some unknown (and unfindable) document rest the fix to all that ails. It, again, is just a reach for the hope that God must have, at some point, given us a perfect (in our modern sense) document. We know that it is not perfect, and even if we were given something that was, you would still have to question why God would allow it to become ‘corrupted’. Right? This is another error in thought that comes from literalism, that the book was just handed to us and God isn’t really involved anymore and allowed issues to happen so that we, in some senses, most not really know what is happening now. Alternatively, isn’t it possible that God used imperfect people, who existed in a world different than our own, but then actually intervened in the millenia so that we have a Bible today that pretty well reflects the original writing?

Of course, the other issue is that some ‘errors’ aren’t really errors, or conflicts.  Is the Bible in error or in conflict with science the world was created in a literal, 24 hour, six day sequence? No, because, that isn’t what the Bible is trying to say in Genesis 1. But that is really the problem with literalism, we’ve put ourselves into a tiny box that leads to odd interpretations or readings or understandings of part of the Bible. The sub-title of one Enns’ books points to the problem well: Our obsession with defending the Bible has left us unable to read it. I want to talk about a few specifics, then probably wrap up.

I was thinking about this yesterday while listening to a sermon on Proverbs at my church service. He points out what Proverbs is (are), that they are wisdom, not promises. That was probably a shock to some people, but as he rightly pointed out, how many children have been ‘raised as they should go’, but left the ‘path’? I know people in the fundamentalist world that have this transactional view of God, if I do X, God should do Y. However, if we read the Bible as a collection of different genres (still, all inspired by God, that is not something I doubt/reject) with different purposes, we might not need a preacher to explain that wisdom poetry is not a literal, transactional promise. However, this is the clear consequence of  ‘taking the Bible literally’. 

I’ve said/written much on Genesis and the age of the Earth/evolution question over the last few months, which I won’t repeat here, you can go watch this video and/or read the notes underneath. I will point out that the overly literal (again, in our modern western version) has had two negative impacts. One is that people will just leave the church altogether, they go to college or read a book and see the fact of evolution and then throughout the whole Bible, because that is the weak faith with which they’ve been conditioned. Second, they reject science in some whole disciplines. Of course, all of us believers reject some level of science, but we have a name for that – miracles. Science says you can’t be born of a virgin, yeah, we know, thank God for the Incarnation. Science says you can’t be resurrected, again, yeah, that is why it is a big deal that Christ did come back to life. That’s not what I’m talking about here, it is the rejection of whole disciplines (biology, geology, etc.). Unfortunately, it is another step in that line that causes so many issues, not just rejection, but conflict. Seeing the ‘other side’ as against you, or evil. Evolution is a lie and only told by atheistic scientist out to get you and even worse, your children. Which inexplicably leads us to reject other forms of science (or be susceptible to conspiracy theories related to them) such as climate change or (currently) pandemics/vaccines. 

Interestingly, one oddity from literalism, is that it actually reduces belief in the miraculous. This isn’t always the case, but it pops up now and then, where someone will want to defend a point by explaining how it can happen naturally, to show that it could be ‘literal’, but in a way that downplays God’s involvement. I’ll give two types of examples. One is Jonah and the what? Fish? Or was it a whale? It has to be a whale, right, because you couldn’t live inside a fish. I find this to be a strange line of thought. Of course you can’t live in a fish, but also, a plant can’t grow up in a few hours that is big enough to give a man shade, not can it shrivel enough to no longer provide shade from a worm ‘attack’ in a few hours. Jonah says all these things happened, I take it be actual events with God’s intervention. Another example is natural but literal ways that things like the 10 plagues could have happened (blood in the river caused all the frogs to leave then they died and had swarms of bugs) or the walls of Jericho falling (could it have been some sonic acoustic weapon from the horns?). 

We see instances like this in a way with Revelation, especially the ‘Left Behind’/Dispensational view. Remember, we have to take the Bible literally, so when it says hornets attacked, then they must have, it can’t be apocalyptic imagery, it must be literal, so clearly, those are fighter jets. Wait, what? Is it literal or no? Yes, it is literal, things are attacking, by John didn’t really know (erred?) what he was seeing, they are jets or attack helicopters. 

Some of those last few are amusing, but the worst is when we just straight up change the text. Two quick examples, the mustard seed and one wife. Jesus says the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds. Well, it isn’t. If the Bible must be ‘without error’ in a modern literalist sense then we have a problem. The solution, well, learn to read the Bible in historical context, right? No, our translations will just add ‘of your’ to the text. Paul tells Timothy an elder should be a man of one wife, but we don’t want context and to ackwonwled that polygamy existed, so…let’s just change that to be ‘married’ or ‘faithful to his wife’, neither of which is what the text says. I said two, but also, go read Acts and Paul’s conversion stories, most translation change hear to understand in the last instance; again, despite the actual text. We are literally (in the actual sense) adding words to the Bible to protect the … Bible? We should probably take literally what Revelation says about adding or taking away from the book. 

This ended up being a lot more about the problem of literalism than inerrancy, I should probably change my title. However, the two (in the modern, American, evangelical context) have become nearly synonymous. Unfortunately, the word inerrancy has become nearly meaningless. People use it to mean too many things, or too narrow a thing (literalism) that discussions have almost become worthless. Often this causes people to jump around, redefine it, or use other words like inspired or authoritative. Some treat those words as synonymous, and we go around the circle again. I had no idea this issue came pretty much all from the Chicago Statement. It has greatly influenced my life, in mostly negative ways, where I feel like after years of thinking I knew the Bible pretty well, I’m having to actually study and learn basics in my 30’s. Add all this up, and I don’t think I can call myself an inerrantist. The word inerrancy is too lied to a hermeneutic (let alone a political ideology) that I don’t fully support and often find problematic. Maybe that puts me on the outside of current evangelical thought, but I think I’ll stick with inspired. As Bird points out in the book, this is the word use both by the Westminster and London Baptist confessions. 

 

 

Book Review: Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy

Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)

My Rating: Must Read

Level: Moderately difficult (four of the five are academics and some of the terms/phrases used reflect this), medium length (300+)

Summary

I’m finding this harder to summarize than you may think. If you grew up in the conservative Christian world, as I did, you’ve doubtless heard the word ‘inerrancy’ without much clear meaning, making this book incredibly compelling. You might not know that the inerrancy as you know it came from a relatively recent development and statement called the ‘Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy‘ from the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. This book is more a debate on the statement, specifically its use, than inerrancy writ large, though that is discussed. If you haven’t read the statement, go read it before reading this book. Due to this, and the multitude of discussions that can come from the topic, this book is different than others. So in this series have clear delineations – the world is thousands vs. billions of years old, the millennium is pre/post rapture, etc. – yet, even in those, often, the writers speak past each other and don’t always remain in topic. This is the most dramatic of those instances, except, the essays are so far apart, that it actually works, for the most part. 

This is one where you need to read the introduction, they explain that they sent these authors the assignment or reacting to the Statement, then sending back three problematic verses that challenge the statement. The editors then editors then selected three of the verses and each author was to respond. The authors were chosen to be on different spectrum of evangelism, and in different disciplines with Frank/Vanhoozer being theologians, Bird (who wrote one of the best systematics out there)/Enss as Biblical Scholars, and Mohler being a historical theologian (if you listen to his podcast, you know that he changes his title often, but in reality, at this point, he is a political pundit). 

In the intro, the editors point out how different the essays ended up being, and so grouped them differently than planned, so they broke the book into three parts – Perspectives on Inerrancy and the Past (with Mohler writing what he calls the ‘classical view’ and Enns writing that inerrancy isn’t what the Bible does), then a break into the International View from Bird who writes that inerrancy isn’t necessary, and finally, Renewing and Recasting Inerrancy (Vanhoozer writing for an ‘Augustinian View’ and Franke writing the Racasting essay). As is typical in this series, after each essay were responses from the other authors. Unlike others, there was no rejoinder, probably due to length (and possible the jumbled way the essays mixed), which was a good decision overall. While this likely had the best Intro, it probably had the worst Conclusion of any in the series, but it still made some good points.

My Thoughts

I understand why the editors set it up they way they did, I’m sure it was a long and agonizing debates, trying the suffel these essays around in a coherent flow. As I wrote, I came up with other ways to rearrange, but as I finished, all but one were clearly inferior. However, I do think there is a better way (I doubt my idea is unique, and it was surely discussed and discarded for reasons, likely behind the scenes, of which I am unaware), that would also flow better in the typical ‘views’ sense – I’d keep Mohler first, as the cheerleader view, then group Bird/Vanhoozer together as generally supporting inerrancy in concept (maybe they disagree) but not supporting the Statement/ICBI or how it has been used, and then finishing the book with Enns/Franke as supporting neither the Statement/ICBI, how it has been used, nor the concept itself. This layout also accomplishes having a theologian/scholar in each section. 

That being said, I was excited to read this book, it has been on my list for about five years before I finally got around to it, which is too bad, I wish I had read it years ago. I don’t want to sound fanboy, but just having Enns, Bird, and Vanhoozer in one book is worth the cost. I had never heard of Franke before, and after reading his essay, I see that is probably due to him being outside of my perspective, so that is a nice addition. Overall, the book lives up to the hype and is the best of the Counterpoint Series, and contro a comment from Bird in the book, the place I would recommend someone start if they want to dive into theological topics. I will attempt some brief thoughts on each essay and then an additional recommendation on how I think the book could have been improved.

Few Christian authors today have the rhetorical flourishes and persuasive writing abilities of Mohler. I read his essay and came away think, ‘how is this a debate, all Christians should affirm the Statement as written’, even if I was a little skeptical of his historical claims. Then you read the responses, which were universal (in a way unlike any other essay) in pointing out that he didn’t actually say anything. Again with universal agreement, the responses criticized both his use of classical and history, as well him more advocating his interpretation as inerrant that the Biblical text. In this sense, his essay very aptly pointed out all that is wrong with the statement and how it has been used, that the remainder of the book will point to. But man, is his writing good. I think now (almost 10 years after writing the book) that he has solved CRT, he can move on to a life fully in politics.

I think I have read all of Enns’ book so far (if you haven’t, this is probably a good intro to Enns), so I mostly new what he was going to say. His essay was twofold in pointing to our modern view of ‘inerrancy’ and reading the Bible as if it were written by journalist is a completely different way the Bible would have been read for thousands of years, which is why there are clear contradictions (but only insofar as we have overly literalized our reading of the text) and that we are making a category mistake in the way we approach the Bible. The second part criticizes the Statement/ICBI itself as being a small subset of evangelicals from the beginning, being a political statement, and essentially arguing a hermeneutic more than a view of scripture. While the Statement saw the Bible has truth in what it affirms, but then states that science cannot overturn the Bible. Whether you want to admit it or not, this latter statement necessarily implies a literalist interpretation. Enns calls the statement an intellectual disaster for evangelicals. 

Bird’s essay is probably the best of the book for me, as I tend to agree with most of his scholarly and theological points. He is also an outsider from the American evangelical world (which is why he doesn’t know that the Canada has its own football, distinct from American, or that only yankees say ‘iced-tea’, Southerns says sweet tea or simple, tea), which separates him from the Moral Majority/Political right playbook interpretation of scripture that Mohler is beholden to. Bird is also funny, you get funny visions like ‘Kim Kardashian attending a Jihadist for Jesus fundraiser’ and bad puns like ‘not for all the iced(sic)-tea in Kentucky (presumably pointed at Mohler?). Bird affirms what he calls infallibility, which is an actual historical use and term. He agrees with most(all?) of the points of the Statement, but mostly criticized for its narrow view of interpretation and the fact that the ICBI is about as ‘international’ as the winner of the ‘World’ Series (see, that’s funny). He rightly points to it being used as a bully pulpit of hermeneutics in that if you don’t agree, you are rejecting scripture and therefore God, and that there are over a billion Christians around the world who do not insist on inerrancy nor does the Westminster or London Confessions use the word. 

Vanhoozer’s essay similarly affirms infallibility and most of the words of the Statement, while criticizing its use and interpretation, but from the (American evangelical) inside. He differs slightly from Bird in that while Bird seems to say drop it or rewrite it entirely (this time actually internationally), vanhoozer would like it to be revised. The crux of his argument is an interpretation based on Augustine’s view of scripture, which took a high view, stating that if something seemed wrong it was either the translation (though he was referring to the poor latin copies in existence in that day, during the decline of Kiona Greek) or in his understanding. Yet, it seems Augustine would reject the Statement, as he doesn’t think it has to do with science (he did not believe in a six day creation, though not due to ‘science’ as it was in his day). Vanhoozer also points to the ‘affirm’ piece of inerrancy (which is somewhat contradicted elsewhere in the statement) in that the Bible is not a textbook for geology/biology (also, an actual historical view as Calvin said ask an astrologer). Vanhoozer is a long writer and uses pretty high end academic terms, so get ready.

With all due respect to Franke and his position, I don’t have much to respond to. While I really enjoyed all of his responses (probably the best responder behind Bird), his essay was, well, odd. He clearly rejects inerrancy as a concept, but not in the concrete way that Enns does. In fact, I’m not entirely sure what he believes. He refers to an understanding of the Bible as a ‘missional community’, and at times sounds like a charismatic/pentecostal while at others sounds more like a ‘classical’ liberal protestant. He refers to himself as post-liberal, post-modern, and post-foundationalist. As with the others, he had many criticisms of how the statement is used and I found myself in agreement or learning for these, but not much from his positive articulation. He simarlily uses high academic language, including concept I had to go look up, such as foundationalsim.

He did bring up one interesting critique of this volume itself, that it is five white guys talking about inerrancy.  While that is a little too reductionistic, as I think it diminishes Bird’s view as a non-American (though maybe he deserves it for disparaging football), just for the problem of being white.That being said, various surveys put black Christians as making up about 1/4 to 1/6 of the US Christian population, depending on how you define things. Let’s meet in the middle can call it 1/5 and there are five authors of this book. I would have been very interested to hear a black church (either a historically black denomination or a SBC pastor who serves in a black community) theologian/scholar talk about the view on inerrancy in the black community. I think this would have been more valuable than Franke’s essay (I’m an American in the South, so my apologies to the international readers, as this clearly would benefit them less). 

A few other concluding thoughts, the attempt to interpret the three scriptures was a mixed bag, but perfectly illustrates the issues of true ‘inerrancy’.  I don’t know if this is an academic thing, or just because it is a ‘Christian’ publication, but I liked that everyone praised each other before disagreeing with them, I think that attitude of humility is sorely needed right now. While it was disjointed at times, I think the diversity of perspective or even essay topic helpful and interesting. I think for anyone interested in inerrancy, Biblical interpretation, Biblical studies, theology, American evangelicalism, or even study the Bible, this book is a must read. 

 

Video Discussing the Attack on the Capital

I was sent this video yesterday. This is Steve Heimler, who has a YouTube channel (Called Heimler’s History) that teaches AP History. He is a history teacher with a Christian homeschool network and an adjunct teaching pastor at my church. I appreciate his focus on facts, as a historian, and the way the lays out what happens and what it means. Too many people in the broader evangelical camp do not believe in many of these facts. It is important that we, as Christians speak truth and not get caught up in political conspiracy theories. You can read my thoughts on what happen, here

Thoughts on the attack at the US Capitol

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Like many people, I couldn’t sleep last night. I laid in bed, honestly just confused. It is surreal. I thought of all the things I wanted to say. Wrote this post in my mind, you know? Kind of lack reenacting an argument in your head after you’ve had some time. I felt like I had a few good things going. Of course, today, after not sleeping and then an odd day at work, I feel as confused as ever. 

This was wild (which, to be fair, is what the president called for), shameful and embarrassing. You can go here for a pretty good group of pictures. Mrs. MMT and I wondered last night, which ones will end up in the history textbooks. 

I’m not typically an emotional person, but it was hard not feel that way watching this. Our capitol was under siege, lawmakers were being escorted at by secret service members while wearing dollar store gas masks, non-American flags were raised, including the Confederate Battle Flag (something that never even happened during the Civil War) and, perhaps more frightening, flags with Trump’s name on them. 

Cult of Personality

It was a sight to behold. People, with no sense of irony (or, apparently, logic, grammar, history) stormed the capitol building, broke windows/doors to stop a ceremonial democratic process (the definition of sedition), carried a treasonous flag, all while chanting ‘USA’. It was truly bewildering for everyone watching at home, and around the world. We weren’t the only ones confused, it seems, the insurrectionist didn’t seem to know what to do next. Like a dog that finally catches a car, they seemed lost as to what to do with it. I was watching TV live (while on a Zoom call) and you could see people just, milling about. Walking around, taking pictures, stealing things and engaging in general jackassery. 

Their dear leader had held a rally earlier in the day, told them to march to the capital and inhibit democracy and overturn the election. The did just that. Then, well, not much for bit. Then their leader tells them they are special and he is proud of them, and to go home peacefully. They do just that. They actually just walked away. Nothing else happened that night. I guess they are awaiting orders, and again unironically, et. al, posting online that people who wear masks are sheep. 

To their credit, I suppose, if you can say that about sedition, there was no more violence last night or so far today. I honestly don’t expect there to be. Not until Trump gives the order to attack again. If you can stomach the cesspool of Twitter, go look at the comments under hardcore Turmpers such as Pence and Cruz, when they call this a terrorist attack, the ask why they are backing down, they are asking what about the storm, and they are accusing them of turning on America. If you want even more unhinged, look at the replies to Trump telling them to go home. You get some of the same questioning, but no attacks, and then the most loyal try to decipher of the other, less informed, by pointing out that ‘they’ must be regrouping and encourage everyone to go back and wait. 

I don’t know how to describe this as anything other than a cult. This is pure cult of personality. The live and, now actually, die on his every word. They are not America First (while misguided, is at least arguable) they are Trump First. Even worse, they are Trump only. 

Rewriting the Narrative

As they had no plan, there is no coherent narrative coming out of the attack. Once the Capital Building was clearing, the Senate and Congress came back in and finalized the election. Again, this is a ceremonial display. They only count the votes toward the electoral college. The states have already certified. The people voted long ago. People can object, which rarely happens (one person attempted in ’16, but was gaveled down by none other than Biden). Ted Cruz had recently finished his long, rambling speech which said nothing at all and continued the lie of ‘stolen election’, which has been heard in over 60 court cases, in which the Trump team has won one case (election observers were allowed to move from 10 feet away to six, kraken indeed). 

Then the attack happened. Interestingly some of the of the lawmakers changed their mind and decided not to object. They were never willing to stated that they bought of the lies they had been spewing and were only doing it for political theater. Of course, they never explained why they changed their minds. Either you believe, whith no basis in facts whatsoever, that the election was stolen, or you don’t. I doubt we will hear from any. Cruz continues his QAnonsense attacks on democracy during the counting, but today called the attacks terrorist actions. That is some fine tight rope walking.

So, what is the narrative? Claim victory? Not quite. As nothing could happen regarding the election, nothing did happen, other than the counting of certified votes. However, they claim blue lives matter and to be for law and order, so the whole violent sedition, death and destruction thing is a bit problematic. Pretty quickly, these were the lines:

  1. It was a non-violent protest. Well, no. Right now it looks like dozens of officers were injured, 15 of which were hospitalized, one of which is in critical condition (curiously, many of the blue light houses were dark this morning on my way to work, not sure if they are ashamed Trumpers or no longer support the police). This should also dispel the myth that the police opened the doors and let everyone in. Though, there were clearly some shaking hands and taking pictures, but they are easily identifiable, and should be fire and arrested. Even worse, four people are dead. One lady, in her 30s with two kids, was shot by secret service for getting too close to Pence. Which I suppose it what happens when Service and police barricade a door with furniture, point guns at the door and then say if you break the door, they will shoot. She apparently tweeted that she can’t be stopped, before being killed. This is a tragic loss of life for an unbelievably stupid reason. Over night, there are reports for three other deaths, all from ‘medical issues’. Not many details out yet, but it seems like a fellow Georgian, in her 30s, was trampled in the attack, and another person was testing his taser, which he apparently didn’t know how to use, tased himself and had a heart attack.  I am actually skeptical of this one, because it just can’t be real. No word on the fourth death. All tragic and entirely unnecessary and directly caused by Trump. 
  2. So, clearly there was violence, what does that mean? Wasn’t us. It was obviously Antifa (it is always worth noting that according to Trump’s FBI director, all law enforcement, facts, and reason, Antifa is not a group), or Black Lives Matter. It doesn’t matter, apparently, that many of these people are social media famous maga and Q-Anon people, most of which recorded themselves. It doesn’t matter that there are videos of people stating they are taking the people’s house back (I hadn’t heard this term before, I could be wrong, but I feel like that should be the white house), all of which are easily identifiable (from prior posts, years worth in some cases) on social media. Most people have probably heard of Elizabeth from Knoxville. She seems absolutely incredulous that she would be maced while breaking into a federal building to, in her words, start a revolution. 
  3.  Alright, obviously violent and obviously Trumpers, so now what? Kind of a mix of random things, but mostly conspiracy theories and false equivalencies (all at once, even the ones that contradict each other, and why not, especially if 1 & 2 above are both out there at the same time). The former is vast, so I won’t go into them (some include lizard people), other than my favorite – the police let this happen. I literally saw some of my Trumper friends calling for an investigation. Not because of the absence of support that was requested, but because, apparently the absence of police made people violent. Essentially, the police made us violent by not stopping our violence. Poe’s law, y’all. I’ll hit false equivalencies below, since the new, dumber, unwieldy version of wordpress doesn’t let me have a second paragraph with my number. 
  4. Actual honesty? We did it, we caused the deaths, we were seditious, but it is because we are starting a revolution, saving America, stopping the steal, etc. I don’t have much else to saw for that.

False Equivalency

There are two false narratives within this, once is people have objected/not conceded before or, once violence has been admitted, what about Antifa/BLM. The former line might be a little more popular where I am, but I’ll get to that shortly. There were objects to Ohio electors being counted in the 2000 election and some unclear objection in 2016 (mentioned above). No president has even not conceded. Should also be noted that none of the people making the political stunt of objecting  believed the election was stolen or advocate sedition. I might have heard the conceded line more, because Stacey Abrams never conceded. It is beyond me that she is a national media star, but here in Georgia, no one thought much of her. Same as Trump, she telegraphed her play from the beginning, and did what most people expected her to do, ignore the middle, lose, claim fraud, leave Georgia (she isn’t from here) and get a tv show/book deal. That is largely what happened. Quick excruses on Georgia. I do not know how elections are handled in other states, but Kemp was the Sec of State when the election happened. Now, that is a bad look, he should have resigned, but he cannot impact polling locations. Elections are held by local county boards of elections. For the record, I think he won legitimately, even if it had a bad look for democracy to oversee your own election. Back to Abrams, it is true she never conceded, but, I feel like this should be obvious, she never attempted an overthrow of democracy. 

*For an additional side note on Georgia, Gabriel Sterling (the COO of Sec of State for Georgia) has right pointed out that if Republicans had spent less time attack him, Kemp, and Raffensperger (current SoS) and more time getting out the vote, Republicans would have won. The seems to be right, as turnout was down, relative to the main election, in rural areas and by white voters. Also, if many of them were in DC yesterday, they might not have actually been here two days ago to vote in the election, which is a wild thought. For the record, I think even without election fraud nonsense, Warnock still would have won. Georgia has never elected a yankee (Leoffer bought an appointment from Kemp). On a sadder note, Sterling pointed on almost six weeks ago that if the dangerous conspiracy theories continued, someone would die.

Back to Antifa/BLM. People point to their violence and destruction. These actions were condemned by the right (not sure why it changed, if it is wrong, it is wrong) and most of the left. I’ve seen different numbers, but it appears well over 10,000 people were arrested. Not sure if it is the case, but I don’t think law enforcement was forced to kill any of them. No one was trampled. Maybe by those points, they are equal, maybe not, it is debatable. Here is what isn’t, none of them were looking to overthrow democracy. None of them were driven by the president and Q Anon to attack and take over the government. There is a big difference between breaking a window at Target and stealing TV and breaking a window in the Capitol Building to overturn democracy. I don’t feel like I should have to write this.

Christian Response

Not that the basics are out of the way, what should any of this mean for Christians? It is one of the reasons I don’t care as much, am not as deeply hurt by, BLM (again, Antifa is not an organization) is not a Christian group. Other than calls for equality, which are based on general revelation, nothing about them is religious. Nothing, no one says you aren’t a real Christian if you don’t support BLM or that our only moral choice is BLM, most say quite the opposite, actually. Among other aspect of idolatry yesterday, there was a cross and gallows put up on the steps. Think about that. People with ‘Jesus Saves’ flags were violently opposing an election they lost. There were flags with stars and stripes crosses and ichthys overlaid with the American flag. This is the very definition of syncretism. The mob that attacked America yesterday, unfortunately, think they did it in God’s name. They certainly attempt to wrap the rhetoric in ‘Christian language’. There are myriad examples, most people are familiar by now. If you want to see some good reporting/responses, head over the Gospel Coalition. I’ve written about them before, and I’m tired. 

I’m tired, because we are part of this. We as conservative Christians follow these Court Evangelicals and celebrity pastors/political commentators, often uncritically. Albert Mohler, who was a never-Trumper, until his family members were hired by the administration, then he said Trump was the only moral choice for Christians. Then the terrorists attack of yesterday happens, and now he is opposed. Unsurprisingly, though he typically tweets all day, he only had one yesterday (none yet today, as I write this). As I’ve said, he is well known for lying in public, but he this actually shocked me, a report today (behind a paywall, unfortunately) he made the ridiculous claim no one could have seen this coming. As I mentioned above, Sterling predicted death, also there have been actual death threats to all the top Republican officials in Georgia. Even worse, Eric Metaxes held a rally and stated he was willing to give his last drop of blood to overturn the will of the American people.

Mohler will, of course, never repent and his rhetorical flourishes and debated skills are nearly unparalleled, no one will be able to hold him accountable. He should resign from Southern Seminary and if he is actually elected president of the SBC, it will be the end of them. I’m still waiting for CRT to place pipe bombs at both the RNC and DNC headquarters (something that has really been under reported). Which brings me to his buddy, fellow cower-er in fear, and Doctrine of the Trinity denier, Owen Strachan. He was also oddly quiet yesterday and today. He stated months ago that anyone who was ‘woke’, whatever that is, needed to be excommunicated. I wonder if he feels the same about QAnon or seditionist, terrorist or insurrectionist. My guess is no, but of course, I pray for these men, they are influential leaders and their repentance or admission of quilt would be incredible.

Speaking of denying orthodox Trinitarian beliefs, Wayne Grudem. What happened to this man? I’ve written much about him, because I am truly confounded. He has literally stated that he does not believe Trump has told a lie while in office. It is a good reminder that Trump once said he has never asked for forgiveness, because he has never done anything wrong. Technically, Trump said this while campaigning, so I guess Grudem gets to ignore it. Just like the ‘Christian Ethicist’ ignored the man that said you can grab women by the pussy (language!) if you are rich (so sexual assault, and different rules for the rich, if only there were a book that disagreed with this) or who paid off a pornstar to be quiet about their affair or the man who called sitting secretaries of state, threatened them, and told them ‘find votes’, a clear admission of disbelief in fraud (but Raffensperger is wrong for recording it), supported that man and said that morals/character don’t matter for the president (contra prior public statements, the Bible, common sense). 

Where do we go from here?

Am I hopeful for the future? No. Not really. Or, rather, only in the eschatological sense. We will have Trump apologist and enablers and Trump himself, for years to come. I fear the Christian language that goes with it may only get worse (there are Patriot Churches now, their trinity is Trump, guns, and dying from preventable diseases). One problem is that even non-Trumpers still support Trump Republicans. I was talking to a friend just yesterday, who state he had voted for a Trump supporting, election denying Republican in the runoff (one, but not the other). We didn’t get a chance to talk much, but I did find it curious. There are QAnon people at my church community. Who knows? Hopefully, I am wrong. Hopefully repentance comes to those in the church and we stop worshiping Trump. More likely, it will swept away. I full expect a lot of, ‘time to move on’, ‘heal’, ‘come together’, ‘stop the division’. Not talk about what brought us here. Ignore all the crazy conspiracy theories our brothers and sisters go into. No calls for change. If anything, we will go the other way, ignore the plank in our own eye, and spend much of the next four years attacking the nonsense left. 

Outside of the church, I do think there is a longshot hope in politics. Trumpers want to start their own party, to break away from conservatives in the Republican party. I say, let them keep it. The conservatives need to break away and take the middle. The need to reach across the aisle and get the moderate (often pro-life) Democrats, typically the middle of the country ones. If this group happened, I think it would dominate. Democrats don’t want the middle, they don’t want me, they’ve said so and I’m center right, at most. They think they need to keep going crazy, while the moderate Dems blame them for loses. Take the middle make a new party, be the most powerful influence in American politics. Both sides would need them to do anything, and the extremist would be cut off, because they wouldn’t have votes.  

Then I could be done with politics. I think Christians would find their home in this middle. More importantly, I want Christians to rediscover the Bible and read it with the intensity with which they read twitter. That is why, as I’ve said before, I’m dropping some of my current news/political writing to focus on another project. Hopefully, I’ll have more details soon. Unfortunately, a coup attempt warrants some thoughts. 

Thanks if you’ve made it this far. I hope you enjoyed, please feel free to share any thoughts. 

Edit – One of the capital police officers has died; over 40 injured. Also, apparently, the taser thing is real; the guy gave himself a heart attack trying to use it. 

Looks like many are sticking with Antifa (see above, if you skimmed to the bottom). Of course, much talk of moving on, buzz words seem to be – ‘no need to re-litigate’ and ‘healing’. On twitter today, I saw both Russell Moore and Tim Keller attacked (virtually, sadly, I have to note that now) for speaking against the violence. Marxist and Globalist are some of the terms I left off my bingo card. I have even more respect for these guys, because, of course, the left/non-church people who have no idea who they are, are hitting them with ‘too late’ and you are just ‘jumping off a sinking ship’. Y’all, they were never on it, praise God. 

I’ve said it before, but I should note here. Clearly there is nothing wrong with voting Republican. I think the moral issues and problems with Trump makes voting for him questionable, but obviously not sinful. What I completely disagree with, is the all Christians must vote Trump or that he is somehow the Christian candidate  mentality and statement put out by so many Christian leaders. Of course the idolatry of him is sinful, as is QAnon (Gospel Coalition has a great primer on them here). 

Here is the best part, though, some of them will be back in our churches on Sunday. I know some of them have refused because masks wearing is the sign of the beast or government control or some nonsense, but I do believe some will be back, maybe not this Sunday but soon. They are waking up to the realization of what QAnon and Trump are. They are realizing the lies Trump told about the election, that he never cared for them, and that he used them for political gains. We need to welcome them back with open arms. We need to avoid saying anything political, as much as we may want to. They followed a false prophet, and now are coming back to the Truth, knowing that the only true power comes from the risen Christ. We must pray for them. 

Edit 3 – Leaving edit 2 below this one, because of the pictures. Also, this will be the final edit. Another police officer has died, apparently by suicide. No reason know yet. Other officers are still hospitalized, hopefully no more die. It is important to remember that the one who died was beaten to death. I want to link two good articles, one from David French called Only the Church can truly defeat a Christian insurrection, and one from Ed Stetzer about the Evangelical reckoning. Both of these say better than I, what many are feeling now and what needs to happen for use to move forward.

On a lighter note, this post brought me my first troll. In my 6+ years of meandering ramblings, I’ve not had one. It accused me of not thinking and being destroyed by the propaganda machine. No idea if it was a bot or a person, but I deleted and marked as spam, because back in my formative years of the early internet, there was one thing on which everyone agreed – don’t feed the trolls. 

Edit 2 –  A few of these collections are floating around online. I think they are interesting from a historical perspective, especially the photos used. Just thought I’d share. 

 

 

2021 Reading Challenge

It is that time of year again, time to lay out the books I want to try to read this year. It is much better than reading Twitter. I know my posts auto-tweet and some of you come here from there, but man, is that place awful. I keep saying I’m not going to log on, and then I look briefly in the morning and see dear friends completely lost in conspiracy theory. Back to books, I have a goal of hitting 24 books this year, most of them you can see in the picture above. I beat my goal last year, so I’m starting to inch it back up and and hopefully in a few years when the Nuggets are older, I can get back to 48 books a year. 

I usually break down by large categories, but I don’t really have that this year. No devotional this year, as we are reading the Bible as a church. I only have one non-fiction, A Brief History of Time, then three fiction books, there CS-Lewis, and the rest Theology/Bible Studies.

I actually just finished Heart of Darkness last night, so I am ahead of the game. I read The Old Man and the Sea last year, and sitting next to it on my shelf was To Have and to Have Not, so I added that in. Also, I few years ago, someone gave me Bleachers, it is a short little book from John Grisham, who is one of the best story tellers alive. I wanted to keep it short, due to the big boys I have on the list this year. 

A top three of sort – The New Testament in Its World, Evangelical Theology and Basics of Biblical Greek. The first two are heavy weights in NT Studies and Systematic Theology, both over 800 pages. For Greek, I finally broke down, bought the textbook, workbook, and DVD’s (yeah, that’s right, DVD’s are still a thing and they are much cheaper then the digital downloads or the ‘streaming’ option which is only good for a year). I plan to read ET first, and hopefully relatively quickly, then on to NT before my church gets there in our reading plan. No idea when/how to do the Greek. Not sure if it is daily, weekly, or what watching the lectures may be like.

But first, I have to read Five Views on Inerrancy, this has been on my list for years. Others in the Christian studies vain include: Cry of the Soul (about Psalms), Volume 1 (of 4) of 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, Pastoral Theology in the Classical Tradition, Knowing Scripture, and Biblical Theology. 

I put the CS Lewis Signature Classics anthology in there, but I don’t intend to read all eight of the books. I’ve read three already, so this year, I will read three more – The Problem of Pain, A Grief Observed, and The Abolition of Man. These are all shorter, but the ratio of amount of Lewis I’ve read compared to what gets quoted is quite small.

That gives me 16 books. My community Group started (well the intro) The Meaning of Marriage last year, the week before the pandemic, so I might pick that up. I also dropped a devotional to switch to a Bible reading plan, so I may finish that when I finish the Bible. I have two books out from Crossway that I need to review, so that I can get some others. The problem with them, they don’t send books, just Kindle files and, well, I forget about them. As for other ARC books, I know Baker was looking at revising theirs. As of now, they have either stopped it completely or cut me out without notification, as I have not received any books to review in months. I may read Concise Theology with Mrs. MMT. The remainder of the books will be (hopefully) filled with either library books or ones I can bum off of friends. 

We will see how it goes, as always I will update at the end of the year. 

 

Thoughts on 2020

Well, 2020 has been a garbage year. I am ready to turn the page on this year and start a new one, but there isn’t much hope that this coming year will be any better, at least not the first half or so. Even this post, two sentences in has gone off the rails; my goal was to attempt a ‘best things’ lazy year end post. I just got an email from a buddy who posted his ‘favorite things’ of the year, it was a top 10 in multiple categories. I was sitting here just trying to come up with three things I’ve posted that would be worth celebrating. 

Is hard to think of those things right now. We have had 9/11 level of deaths every day since the election (when it was supposed to magically go away, accord to ‘conservatives’), over 20,000 people died this past week (Merry Christmas), a little more than one in 1,000 Americans have died since March (and the ‘all lives matter’ crowd is quick to point out it is only the old and those with pre-existing conditions). All this, and that only has to do with Covid, which far too many people I know still downplay or straight out deny exists, including a distressing (and depressing) number of Christians. Similarly, those same people agree/support delusion of a president who, without any evidence or basis in any facts, has frequently claimed ‘fraud’ or ‘rigged’ election. He has been so busy doing this he hasn’t even mentioned the Christmas day suicide bomber/terrorist(?), who, luckily didn’t kill anyone but himself. Half of the SBC has seemingly gone insane in fear, and care more about denying racism than heterodox views of the Trinity.  This is also the year that school was canceled in my area for a hurricane and snow, within about two weeks from each other. 

It has been an exhausting year.  It has been bad for me on almost every level, mentally, emotionally, spiritually (though I’ve had some encouragement lately), physically. I sleep only a few hours a night, which would be cool if I was too tired to do something with my waking hours. Often I feel like I can’t go on. I might have to go full on crazy with big outlandish New Year’s resolutions just to shock the system. On top of the actual tragic events related to Covid (oh yeah, there is also a new more contagious strand now), this disaster of a president, the civil unrest around racial issues, WordPress updated to a new editor system and for me, it is just trash. It is clunky, has odd spacing, and randomly highlights things I’m not working on. Worst of all, you have to search around to find the ‘classic’ editor, just to link to your own site. You might be think that I just don’t know what I’m doing, that is obviously the case (this much should be clear by now), but that hasn’t stopped me before. To add to that, even our Christmas Eve service, which was a big outside production so we could space out and have open air, was cancelled due to weather. I am deeply concerned with the future of the church and the attendance after things are back to normal. Many people have not come back in person, even though they can. Unfortunately, some of those were planning to come to our outdoor service. I have some hope that more will return next year. 

So, here is my attempt, in no particular order to point to three things of 2020 that I enjoyed, which is as close to ‘best of’, as I can probably get to right now:

  1. Why not start with something still related to Covid. Working for the Government, I never had the opportunity to ‘shut down’ or quarantine for a time (I first went back to the office in early April). However, not much else was happening in the world, so most of the time, I just need to log on and check some things for those first few weeks. I attempted to start a ‘covid dairy’, it wasn’t very good, and was a much more appealing exercise when this was supposed to be temporary (in the short term sense). So, I would log on around 6:00 am and work for a few hours, this was back when the Nuggets took two naps a day, so I would then spend the morning with Sprout (going back to work after lunch). I wrote it about it here. I will certainly always remember the time, we logged 8-10 miles a day walking and exploring. She was about 5.5 at the time, so who knows. At one point she told me about a dream she had about driving a car, then told me her top five ‘musics’ (basically genres-ish). You can listen to here playlist here
  2. Our church started an incredibly ambitious sermon series of preaching through the entire Bible in and year and asking the the congregation to read the entire Bible in a year.  A spin off of this was that we started a video series of panel discussions called ‘that stuff in the Bible’, in which we discuss some of the wild, strange, or hard parts of the Bible. I was on the first panel, which of course (being in Genesis) was a discussion on the age of the Earth and evolution. I usually don’t do things like this, as I hate being in public view. I have terrible anxiety for these things, such that I basically didn’t eat that day or sleep the night afterward. However, I am proud of it and I think it turned out pretty well. Please watch it here
  3. I am really struggling for number three. I don’t have anything I can link to or post. I guess I will kind of cheat and tease something that will come later. I formed an idea for a project a few months ago and have been steadily working on it since. As I’ve alluded to in the past few posts, it might mean the end of MMT, but only insofar as it is a new chapter and time to move to something else. It should be fairly comprehensive, and we haven’t figured out all the aspects yet. Hopefully, there will be a few test runs soon to make sure it is worthwhile, and then a launch planned in March. If you never see that, then it failed to get off the ground, but some of the content will likely be ported over here, so either way, I hope to expand what I’m doing in some capacity, after a listless half decade of being a fake theologian.

That is it. That is all I have for 2020. Better luck next year.

We aren’t in Psalm 88, darkness is not my only companion, there is One who will pull us from the pit.