Modern Cloister: A Guide to Understanding the Psalms

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Over at Modern Cloister, we are excited to launch a new six part series on the Psalms. We start with todays episode, A Guide to Understanding. The next episode will get into how to use the Psalms. In the remaining four, we will dig into the different types/genres of Psalms (variously broken down, typically, between five and 12, we landed on eight).

Over the past few years, the Psalms have become one of the most important books to me. As I read how much the book was used in history – reading, singing, praying – it is almost disheartening how little we (most protestants) use them today. 

I’ve reviewed two of the best books out there (that aren’t commentaries) on the Psalms – How to Read the Psalms & Learning to Love the Psalms – if you are interested in reading more. 

You can listen to the Pod on the player below, or subscribe anywhere podcast are found. You can also listen at our YouTube Channel. Or, of course, come check us out at ModernCloister.com

An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021 Modern Cloister

In this episode, we share an update on what's been happening with the Modern Cloister podcast along with our plans for 2022. We also run through our favorite books from 2021 for anyone looking for ideas for Christmas gifts or their own reading lists for 2022.  Books mentioned in the episode: New Testament In Its World  How Shall We Worship? Worship Matters Writing Worship Reformation Anglican Worship To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism The Wisdom Pyramid How To Read the Psalms Learning To Love The Psalms The Five Solas Series: God’s Word Alone The Five Solas Series: Grace Alone The Five Solas Series: Faith Alone The Five Solas Series: Christ Alone The Five Solas Series: God’s Glory Alone Five Views on Inerrancy Two Views on Women in Ministry Heart of Darkness A Brief History of Time Rediscover Church LEAD On The Incarnation Evangelical Theology A Christmas Carol Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021
  2. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms
  3. Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms
  4. Lament and Confession In The Psalms
  5. Praise and Thanksgiving In the Psalms

In The News: Losing Our Religion, Refugee Cap, Human/Monkey Embryo’s, Women Songwriters, and Dawkins Excommunicated

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We are almost at the end of the month, so it is time for our latest Modern Cloister edition of In The News. Last month we did more of a deep dive on a major story, a smaller story, then one story from each of us. This time we are trying something a little different, with just firing relatively quickly, through five stories over the past month. Please let me know if one is better than the other.

Our five topics are:

Losing Our Religion (Gallup Poll, Russell Moore, 538 Podcast)

Refugees Cap (Christianity Today, Religious News Service, My Review of Seeking Refuge)

Human/Monkey Embryo’s (Nature)

Women Songwriters

Dawkins Excommunicated (Guardian)

Hope you enjoyed this episode, please visit ModernCloister.com for more.

An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021 Modern Cloister

In this episode, we share an update on what's been happening with the Modern Cloister podcast along with our plans for 2022. We also run through our favorite books from 2021 for anyone looking for ideas for Christmas gifts or their own reading lists for 2022.  Books mentioned in the episode: New Testament In Its World  How Shall We Worship? Worship Matters Writing Worship Reformation Anglican Worship To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism The Wisdom Pyramid How To Read the Psalms Learning To Love The Psalms The Five Solas Series: God’s Word Alone The Five Solas Series: Grace Alone The Five Solas Series: Faith Alone The Five Solas Series: Christ Alone The Five Solas Series: God’s Glory Alone Five Views on Inerrancy Two Views on Women in Ministry Heart of Darkness A Brief History of Time Rediscover Church LEAD On The Incarnation Evangelical Theology A Christmas Carol Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021
  2. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms
  3. Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms
  4. Lament and Confession In The Psalms
  5. Praise and Thanksgiving In the Psalms

Book Review: Learning to Love the Psalms

Learning to Love the Psalms

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Medium read (can get slightly technical), moderate length (250+)

Summary: Godfrey takes a different approach than most books on the Psalms. Instead of looking into categories of Psalms, he studies them in their original five ‘books’, and looks for similarities within each ‘book’; plus he breaks out the final five Psalms and treats them separately from the other five books.

There are no chapters in  this book, but there are seven broad sections. After a large intro section that includes chapters introduction the Psalms, poetry, difficulties, speakers, and structures, there are the five sections (one each on the five ‘books’), a section on the final five Psalms, and a short afterward. Each section has chapter on the structure and character of the ‘book’, followed by a mini-commentary on six or seven of the Psalms in the ‘book’. The final section has a brief intro chapter, then reviews each of the last five Psalms. 

My Thoughts: He has attempted a relatively difficult task in trying to find the original reason for the groupings in each book. I appreciate what he has done, and I think his work is the best I’ve seen that doesn’t use the typical category/genre, but I remain unconvinced. It is a fascinating way to try to study the Psalms and as modern western people, we really want a reason for the layout of the Psalms. He makes the most compelling argument I’ve seen, but as I said, I’m not entirely convinced. 

The other oddity of this book is his mini-commentary on numerous Psalms. These just didn’t land correctly. Some were a little academic, some were devotional, others were likely draw from sermons (as they point to Christ in our life now, in an application way), the remaining was a mix of all these. While they were mostly good, and all educational, the inconsistency bothered me. This could have been an editorial decision, to lay out his notes this way, but it should have been a bit more focused. 

For these reasons, this book would not be the first I would recommend if you wanted to start a study on the Psalms. That being said, the intro section was quite valuable. The chapter on difficulties in the Psalms was particularly valuable. Likewise, the chapter on ‘recurring themes’ functioned as a mini-lesson with a different take than the most usual genre discussions. The structure and character chapters are interesting, but how much you gain from those will be dependent on how strong you find his overall argument. Outside the intro, the final five Psalms section is probably the best, as it is a very clear division and we know much of how these particular Psalms have been used throughout history. Overall, a good book, written well, and if you are looking to dig into the Psalms and are purchasing multiple books for your study, this is one to put on your list. 

 

 

 

Modern Cloister: Impact of Covid on Community

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Slightly different, and shorter, pod today. We wrap up our series on community by discussing the impact of Covid-19. This similar to our Future of Community episode, in that we try to predict what may happen, with the biggest impact being that Covid is certainly accelerating existing trends. We also discuss church and family life over the past year, and a few positives that have seemed to emerge. The main one being people meeting new neighbors, this is true for us, but is also a trend that surveys have show. 

We hope you enjoy this final episode being a bit of excursus and that the series overall was beneficial.  Community is something that is quite important to us, and it only seemed fitting to start the Cloister cast with this topic. If you haven’t listened yet, you can find all the episode in the player below and every where podcasts are found. You can find my commentaries about our previous episodes – History of Community, Decline of Community, and Future of Community. You can find all episode, show notes, and more at ModernCloister.com. We’d love to hear any comments, questions, or criticisms you may have. 

An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021 Modern Cloister

In this episode, we share an update on what's been happening with the Modern Cloister podcast along with our plans for 2022. We also run through our favorite books from 2021 for anyone looking for ideas for Christmas gifts or their own reading lists for 2022.  Books mentioned in the episode: New Testament In Its World  How Shall We Worship? Worship Matters Writing Worship Reformation Anglican Worship To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism The Wisdom Pyramid How To Read the Psalms Learning To Love The Psalms The Five Solas Series: God’s Word Alone The Five Solas Series: Grace Alone The Five Solas Series: Faith Alone The Five Solas Series: Christ Alone The Five Solas Series: God’s Glory Alone Five Views on Inerrancy Two Views on Women in Ministry Heart of Darkness A Brief History of Time Rediscover Church LEAD On The Incarnation Evangelical Theology A Christmas Carol Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021
  2. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms
  3. Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms
  4. Lament and Confession In The Psalms
  5. Praise and Thanksgiving In the Psalms

Modern Cloister: Future of Community

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I was out of town last week, so this is a little old, but the most recent Modern Cloister Podcast is up and live. We continue out series in Community and discuss the future of community. Most of it is speculation, but also following various trends. A week or so ago, a Gallup survey came out that shows that church membership dropped below the 50% threshold for the first time since they have tracked. It is worth noting that it is not the lowest in US history, most Historians peg Colonial to pre-Great Awakening membership to something like 20-30%. The survey points to many of the things we discussed in out Decline of Community podcast, such as the rise in the 30’s and the peak in the 50’s, with major changes come in the 70’s and 80’s. They also have a few speculations about the future, and the implications.

I personally do not believe we will drop to the 10% mark in other post-Christian democracies, mostly due to immigration; however, a return to the pre-revival American age of 20-30% seems imminent. I wouldn’t be surprised to see those levels be 2050. We will talk in the next Pod about how we believe Covid will accelerate the trends of the declince.

An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021 Modern Cloister

In this episode, we share an update on what's been happening with the Modern Cloister podcast along with our plans for 2022. We also run through our favorite books from 2021 for anyone looking for ideas for Christmas gifts or their own reading lists for 2022.  Books mentioned in the episode: New Testament In Its World  How Shall We Worship? Worship Matters Writing Worship Reformation Anglican Worship To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism The Wisdom Pyramid How To Read the Psalms Learning To Love The Psalms The Five Solas Series: God’s Word Alone The Five Solas Series: Grace Alone The Five Solas Series: Faith Alone The Five Solas Series: Christ Alone The Five Solas Series: God’s Glory Alone Five Views on Inerrancy Two Views on Women in Ministry Heart of Darkness A Brief History of Time Rediscover Church LEAD On The Incarnation Evangelical Theology A Christmas Carol Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021
  2. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms
  3. Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms
  4. Lament and Confession In The Psalms
  5. Praise and Thanksgiving In the Psalms

In the News: Atlanta Spa Shootings, Beth Moore, Audrey Assad, and Evangelicals the Least Likely Group to Care for Others

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Today we are taking a break from our Community Series to kick off something we plan to post near the end of each month. In it we will discuss two or three major news stories as well as one other story from each of us. We aren’t just trying to report the news, but to discuss either why the story matters or how we should think/act in response to the events from a Christian viewpoint.  

In the first segment, we discuss the recent Asian Spa shooting that happened here in Atlanta, which now has its own Wikipedia page (which is actually quite good), in which eight people died, six of which were Asian. I should note that during the recording we wondered the ethnicity of the other two and assumed they were both women. However, it was actually a man and a woman, both of which were white. We also failed to note that there was another person shot, a hispanic man, who did survive. We try to touch on both the asian violence over the past year and the issues with ‘purity culture’, as well as our response to both issues as Christians. I mention Kevin DeYoung’s remarks, his podcast is called Life and Books and Everything does not appear to have a website, and our friend Steve Heimler, who’s video you can watch below the podcast feed. 

Our second segment is on Beth Moore leaving the Southern Baptist Convention, for whom she has authoring numerous books over the past few decades. She is likely the most famous in a long line of people who have left the SBC, including whole congregations of black churches. This is notable in that there seems to be no issue of hersey, but rather a lack of will to support Trump that is causing such deep divisions. You can read what Russell Moore (no relation) has to say about Beth here.

Mrs. MMT discusses the news that one of her favorite singers, Audrey Assad, abandons Christianity. 

We wrap up with an article from David French about white evangelicals being the least likely group to say they will get vaccinated, and if that isn’t enough, they are also the least likely to say that the effects on the community are important. This is, of course, a complete disregard for love your neighbor and they will know you by the love you show.

We went far longer than intended, so the format may change. I hope you enjoy the discussion, please feel free to comment below.

An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021 Modern Cloister

In this episode, we share an update on what's been happening with the Modern Cloister podcast along with our plans for 2022. We also run through our favorite books from 2021 for anyone looking for ideas for Christmas gifts or their own reading lists for 2022.  Books mentioned in the episode: New Testament In Its World  How Shall We Worship? Worship Matters Writing Worship Reformation Anglican Worship To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism The Wisdom Pyramid How To Read the Psalms Learning To Love The Psalms The Five Solas Series: God’s Word Alone The Five Solas Series: Grace Alone The Five Solas Series: Faith Alone The Five Solas Series: Christ Alone The Five Solas Series: God’s Glory Alone Five Views on Inerrancy Two Views on Women in Ministry Heart of Darkness A Brief History of Time Rediscover Church LEAD On The Incarnation Evangelical Theology A Christmas Carol Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021
  2. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms
  3. Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms
  4. Lament and Confession In The Psalms
  5. Praise and Thanksgiving In the Psalms

Book Review: How to Read the Psalms

How to Read the Psalms (How to Read Series)

 

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Easy read, short (<200 pages)

Summary

The book is what the title says, a guide to reading the Psalms. The book is broken into three parts – The Psalms Then and Now (chapters 1-5), The Art of the Psalms (6-8), and a Melody of Psalms (9-11). The chapters are The Genres of the Psalms; The Origin, Development and Use of the Psalms, The Psalms: The Heart of the Old Testament; A Christian Reading of the Psalms; The Psalms: Mirror of the Soul; Old Testament Poetry; Understanding Parallelism; Imagery in the Psalms; Psalm 98; Psalm 69; Psalm 30. Part three (the last three chapters) is essentially a mini commentary on these three Psalms, in which Longman shows the aspects of the Psalms that he has covered in this book. There is also an intro and epilog, as well as an answer key to the exercises and a guide to commentaries, which is quite helpful. 

My Thoughts

The Psalms is probably my favorite book in the Bible, and Longman is one of my favorite Old Testament scholars/authors, so this is a pretty straight forward must read for me. The book is short and cheap to begin with, but it is over 30 years old now, so you can find copies for a few dollars. Buy the ones with a harp playing shepard on the front, it is the older one. They have since repackaged the book with a weird eyeball on the front. 

The best part of the book is probably Part 2, where he goes through Old Testament poetry. This disconnect between ancient Hebrew poetry and the modern western conception of poetry is probably what keeps most people from diving into the Psalms as much as they should. It is not only one of the longest books in the Bible, but it is the most quoted in the New Testament. All kinds of prayer and reading plans for centuries have called for an immersion in Psalms. It is an important book, and I think a large subset of Christians (low church/baptist/non-denom people like me) really miss the value of the Psalms. 

Longman spend Part 1 of the book arguing for the value of the Psalms, especially how they have been used historically. I would have liked him to go a little deeper into the genres chapter, but the Psalms are notoriously hard to categorize (and some fit many or all categories). His short exegesis of the three selected Psalms is also helpful in understanding the different genres and poetic structures.

Overall, if you want to start reading the Psalms regularly or already are, but are struggling to understand parts, this is a great, short book that will give you a broad overview into some of the confusing aspects. The book itself is actually short the Psalms, so well worth it. His commentary guide at the end is also helpful (though slightly dated) in diving even deeper; but if are wanting to get into a better understanding of how to read the Psalms, this book is a must read. 

Modern Cloister: Decline of Community

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In this week’s episode, we discuss the decline of community in America. This is probable most famously captured in the book, Bowling Alone. The changes in communal life in general had two major impacts on Christians, first the pursuit of individualism and consumer focused churches leads to over an overall decline Christian community, second the decline of each lead to a broader decoupling of church culture and American culture. I should note that when we think of 50’s American culture and Christianity, we are talking about White Protestant Americans. I know that leaves many people out, especially black people and Catholics, but the sad fact of American life (as far as culture shaping) and politics of the time is that these groups specifically were excluded (think segregation and the controversy of JFK being Catholic). 

Our last episode discussed the history of Christian community, and today’s is still a little but of history, but it is a turning point that brings major change and will lead us into our next episode of where we are today. We’ll have one more offshoot episode, on the impacts of Covid, to wrap up the series. You can find us on all the major platforms (if you are on one that doesn’t have it, let me know) or listen to it here or on my Modern Cloister page from the tabs at the top. 

 

An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021 Modern Cloister

In this episode, we share an update on what's been happening with the Modern Cloister podcast along with our plans for 2022. We also run through our favorite books from 2021 for anyone looking for ideas for Christmas gifts or their own reading lists for 2022.  Books mentioned in the episode: New Testament In Its World  How Shall We Worship? Worship Matters Writing Worship Reformation Anglican Worship To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism The Wisdom Pyramid How To Read the Psalms Learning To Love The Psalms The Five Solas Series: God’s Word Alone The Five Solas Series: Grace Alone The Five Solas Series: Faith Alone The Five Solas Series: Christ Alone The Five Solas Series: God’s Glory Alone Five Views on Inerrancy Two Views on Women in Ministry Heart of Darkness A Brief History of Time Rediscover Church LEAD On The Incarnation Evangelical Theology A Christmas Carol Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. An Update From Us + Our Favorite Books of 2021
  2. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms
  3. Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms
  4. Lament and Confession In The Psalms
  5. Praise and Thanksgiving In the Psalms

Covid: One Year

Depending on how you count it – the pandemic had already been called, I was still at work for a week, but Mrs. MMT had just shut down, and schools shut down this week – it has been a year with Covid in our lives. I have written a few thoughts during the past year about Covid and the impact on my life. I don’t have much more to add. As of this writing, more than 530,000 Americans have died from the virus, and while numbers are down, there are still more than 1,500 people dying a day. It didn’t have to be this way, we have the second or third highest per capita death rate, depending on the source. Meaning, we are literally one of the worst three, none of which include Sweden, whose entire plan was to do absolutely nothing. We committed to neither lockdowns and safety measures, nor to completely running the economy as normal, but with distancing and masks. For that, our economy has suffered more than most others (our GDP drop again puts us in the worst performing five). The Republican president at the time recommend we ‘inject bleach’ for the virus, while many Democratic governors in blue states have shuttered their schools (but kept casinos and bars open) against almost all science and pediatric recommendations. I won’t rehash the politics of the past year (most of which are still ongoing), suffice it to say, it is an embarrassment.

I do want to point to one thing, quite disconcerting as David French noted in an earlier article, white evangelicals are the least likely to take the vaccine (though some churches and ‘leaders’ are actively promoting the vaccine). Anti-vaxx isn’t really part of the white evangelical culture, so it seems to be the influence of politics (Trumpism, QAnon, etc.) more than anything else. In some senses, it is ‘fine’ (I guess), to not want the vaccine, but is worst of all, is that white evangelicals were the least likely (only 48 percent, while most others were in the high 60’s) to say that concern for others welfare mattered. Between this and the currently trending argument that empathy is sinful, I don’t know what else to say, so I’ll just leave the words of Christ.

Luke 10:27; Matthew 22:36–40; Mark 12:28–31
 
27 And he answered, sYou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and tyour neighbor as yourself.

36 Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? 37 And he said to him, gYou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And ha second is like it: iYou shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 jOn these two commandments depend kall the Law and the Prophets.


The Great Commandment

28 uAnd one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, Which commandment is the most important of all? 29 Jesus answered, The most important is, vHear, O Israel: The Lord our God, wthe Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. 31 xThe second is this: yYou shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment zgreater than these.