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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Different Prescription Glasses

Yesterday I watched a thought provoking video presentation by Sam Harris. He is described as "one of the Four Horsemen of Atheism." I have not read any of his books but have watched some videos. He is one of the more pleasant New Atheists, as he actually writes and speaks as a capable philosopher. More pleasant is his tone––he actually asks important questions and attempts to provide coherent answers without all the rhetorical fluff masquerading as an argument.

He and I observe the same world (only difference, he is much more intelligent), but we come to very different solutions to life's problems. Which of course reveals another difference–humans are limited by the extent of our knowledge. There is a ceiling, so to speak, that prevents us from grasping full knowledge. Full knowledge can only be ascertained by an outside source revealing it.

After watching his video, it struck me that everybody has a theology of God, theology of salvation, and theology of eschatology. Of course the categories, definitions, terms, and frameworks are viewed from very different focal points with the aid of very different lens. For instance, how one responds to the question, "Who is Jesus?" reveals much about how you view God, humanity, and the world.

Tim Keller's presentation, "Who is this Jesus?" offers a vivid contrast to Sam Harris' presuppositional starting points. You can download it for free by clicking the link or listening to it in the embedded player.

I encourage you to listen to both Tim Keller and Sam Harris. What are each offering the listener in their presentation? What are the future ramifications in the world if one of them is correct and the other wrong?

[UPDATE: I cannot figure out how to get the player to work. Please click the "download" link to stream it.]

The below video was embedded from TED: Ideas Worth Spreading:

(the irony of me sharing this video is that I don't consider the presentation's implications worth spreading)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pursuing Ad Fontes: an Example

One of my professors, Jay Sklar, begins every class with the following mantra:
Jay: "Shalom, class."
Class: "Shalom, Jay."
Jay: "Start with the Bible."
Class: "Not with the commentaries."
Jay: "Context..."
Class: "is king."
Apparently this call/response is Tivoed into my brain because it came to the tip of my tongue as I left the library this afternoon.  I have an upcoming exegetical paper on Deuteronomy 28, and I am genuinely excited about studying the passage.  However, if I am honest, walking out of the library with an arm full of Deuteronomy commentaries made me eager to read what these commentators have to say regarding the passage.  How easy it is for me to first gravitate towards what other scholars and pastors have said about God's Word!

Growing in our relationship with God and developing the scope of our theology must be done in community, and this involves what other scholars and pastors have gleaned from their studies.  To be sure, we are surrounded by a wondrous cloud of witnesses!  But, may we look to the One who their fingers point to, rather than to the one who is pointing––the validity of their witness properly corresponds to the One who they bear witness to.

Therefore, let's first start with our Bibles.  My prayer is to recall this mantra for the rest of my life.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Just found out how to rotate my screen 90 degree. I can now hold my Mac like a book and use it as an e-reader.

Recent thoughts about the Kindle...

Technology shifts and sifts the way we think about life. Yesterday I came across a free, Kindle download for my Mac. I wonder about the Kindle, the uncertain future of the iPad, and where the dust will settle?

Although the question is posed and we sit waiting for the answer, I believe books will never go out of style. There will always be a market demand for printed books because of me. That's right, I will forever want to physically handle a printed book. I like to physically hold it; I like to physically turn the page; I like to physically underline and handwrite comments in the margin; I like to judge books by their covers. If I am just one of millions who feel the same way about books, then I am pretty confident that there will always be a market for printed books.

Am I a book snob? Am I a book hypocrite? If I am honest–"Yes, to the former and "No," to the latter. Technology is neutral–it has things to affirm and to challenge. First off, a quick list of things I like about the Kindle (this is not exhaustive):

  • In the long run, I know it would save money on books.
  • It would save physical shelf space.
  • It would allow for easy access to a library of books at your fingertips while traveling, etc. (Which makes me pose the question, "With such availability, are we really reading or accumulating?" That sounds like a great post for another time!)

Now, the main reasons why I am hesitant to fork out the mullah:

  • It would take me years to "save" the money. Why? Right now in my life I am buying more printed, reference books than pleasure reading.
  • I am waiting to see what the iPad does in the coming years. I think if the iPad does all that I think it will able to do, then why spend $400 plus on a gadget that can do one thing, when you could spend a little bit more and get a gadget that does multiple things.
  • The books I would buy for Kindle are books that I want to read but don't want to spend much, if any, money on them. Nor would I care to read them twice. For these types of books, I am content to either read someone else's review about the book or skim the book at Barnes-n-Noble for free (OR USE THE PUBLIC LIBRARY).

Why spend $20-30 on a new book that will be read by millions this week but then be out of date as fast as the next book is off the press next week? So then, why spend the money on a Kindle that potentially will have the same fate as this week's bestseller? I suppose that is what at the end of the day holds me back––the future Kindle upgrades, soon-to-be-released iPad, or some other gadget that makes the first generation of e-readers obsolete.

Which is another reason I don't think printed books will ever be obsolete––as a technology, they have been tested by several thousands of years. With all this said, I installed the Kindle app on my Mac and went browsing for Kindle books. I found my first book that cost $0.00 and got really excited (I enjoy G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy and Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice). My next task is to figure out how to rotate my screen so I can turn my Mac into an e-reader. I can dabble with the technology without experiencing buyer's remorse.

UPDATE: After writing but before posting, I found out that the Kindle is not $400 plus anymore. The price is going down, but my reasons still stand at this time.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What's MacGyver's first name?

We don't have cable so I don't get to watch one of my favorite shows: Mythbusters.  Last night, however, I found the show on Netflix.

Here is an excerpt of the episode I watched last night:

No one can sport a mullet like MacGyver!

Does anyone know MacGyver's first name? 

Litmus or Taboo?

The words "inspiration" and "inerrancy" are used in doctrinal statements, spoken in friendly debates, and thrown like grenades in theological war zones. But what do they mean? I think I have an okay grasp of their meaning but long for greater understanding, especially as Christians become more and more biblically illiterate.

Issue Image

The current issue of "Modern Reformation" includes the following:

Points of Contact: "Snow" by Orhan Pamuk (Book Review) By Ann Henderson Hart

Monday, March 15, 2010

"A zeitgeist film!"

We've all heard the metaphor, but The Joneses, and upcoming movie, brings it to life. Go watch the trailer for yourself. I think it will be an interesting commentary on American Dream-isms. What do I mean by "American Dream-isms?" I don't know really because I just made it up. I mean for it to mean the cultural narratives that tell us, "If I have this or that, then my life will be better and complete."

Who doesn't want the next best thing? The new, bigger and better thing promises to fix all our problems; however, those promises always end up unfilled. I only know of one thing that fulfills all my longings, needs, and desires.

The movie will most likely be sad, frustrating, and (unfortunately) self-indicting. Despite this, it will be an opportunity to affirm and challenge the narratives with which our culture inundates us. The trailer includes critic's quotes. One such quote, I think, captures the movie very well: "A zeitgeist film!"

I look forward to watching it; most likely a rental.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Links & Misc. Stuff: 3.14.10

Happy weekend to everybody! My week was really busy so a lot of my internet browsing happened on Friday and Saturday. Just want to pass some links your way:
  • Check out a promo video for Trevin Wax's Holy Subversion.
  • upcoming DVD study on the Gospel in Life by Tim Keller. Check out the trailer.
  • A thoughtful, pastoral response to a young woman concerned about her boyfriend's sexual past.
  • some helpful reminders about the joys in pastoral ministry
  • a pastor considers what vocational evangelism might look like in the future
  • NPR's Freshair ran a 2009 interview with Bart Ehrman on Friday. Brethren, we must be able to give a reason for the hope we have in Christ, appropriately handle Scripture, and to teach in order to build up the body so people are not blind-sided by such mis-information.
  • let the conversations begin! Cape Town 2010-3rd Lausanne Congress; 12 Cities-12 Conversations

Also in South Africa 2010!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Living Letters: John Pennylegion

Please welcome Penny to the blog. He is a friend, a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, and currently serving as an assistant pastor. I'll let him explain more himself, but you can also learn more here.

Please introduce yourself.
My name is John Pennylegion, most everyone I know calls me “Penny” and I am an Assistant Pastor at The Covenant Presbyterian Church (CPC) in St. Louis, MO. I graduated in May 2009 from Covenant Seminary with an MDiv and started at CPC on June 1. I was married to my wife, Kat, in September 2003 and we have two daughters, Laine (3 ½) and Mead (1). When choosing names, we were going with different but not weird.
Tell us more about the work you are doing there, particularly your involvement with the Schaeffer Fellows.
While having regular pastoral responsibilities at CPC, my primary role is the Director of the Schaeffer Fellows Program. This is a new endeavor for CPC which began out of discussions between our Sr. Pastor (Ryan Lauglin) and some professors from Covenant Seminary. The Schaeffer Fellows program is a nine month internship where recent college graduates will come to St. Louis, work part-time internships, take seminary level classes, and be actively involved in the church community. The purpose is to help young Christians, who have plans to enter the marketplace, learn to integrate their faith with their vocation. Thus, we are seeking to train future lay leaders of our churches to be better equipped to engage the world through their vocation.

The foundational premise of the program is that God-honoring, kingdom valued work can and does take place in the context of ‘secular’ vocations. It is based off of an understanding that when Paul says in Colossians 1 “by [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth...all things were created through him and for him…. and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” that he really means “all things” not just things that we determine to be “spiritual.” Thus, Christ’s dominion, his rule, is extended into every sphere of his world. And because of this, we act as his ambassadors not only by sharing our faith but also by extending his authority into our areas of vocation - be that the law, medicine, marketing, home building, home making, etc.
What have you learned during this process and the past year?
Since June, I’ve been working (with a board) to establish the foundational aspects of the Fellows program in preparation for the arrival of, what we hope will be, 10-14 Fellows in September. During these months, the thing that I find myself saying again and again in my prayers to God is, “I need your help.” I’m constantly confronted by the fact that I need more of Jesus; that all my hard work, determination, talent, etc. is all for not if Jesus is not intimately and actively involved. While this is not a new realization, over the last eight months it has become a more true realization to me. I find myself asking God for his grace and trust more often and desiring to depend upon him.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Upcoming Guest Bloggers

Starting tomorrow there will be a new segment on this blog called "Living Letters."  My goal is to have two posts per month from guest bloggers.  Each person is an encouragement to me, and I want to share with you who they are, how the gospel is impacting their lives, and the work with which they are involved.  Topics will include anything and everything as I have a developing vision for it.

Tomorrow's guest will be John Pennylegion.  With his permission I divided his post into sections to make it feel more like an introductory interview. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

If you enjoy audiobooks then you might...

Check this link: download free audiobooks.  There are some great books available! 
My first downloads: The Federalist Papers and The Man who was Thursday.

Give Yourself an Assignment

Today's brainstorm:
  1. learn how to use a compass and a topographic map
  2. plan an upcoming weekend get-away with your spouse or a group of friends
  3. refurbish an old piece of furniture you found at a yard sale or antique shop
  4. get ready for spring cleaning

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Read some Books!

Click this link to see pictures of spectacular libraries from around the world. There are a lot of them. I can only imagine the books found in these collections; likewise, imagine the scholars browsing their halls down through the centuries.

Now here is some motivating humor to read some books: "Go. Go away. Read some Books." ~Nacho Libre

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

YouTube - Kevin Martin: Superstar in the Making

 I found this video in my "drafts" folder.  I meant to share this two weeks ago but forgot about it.  The video is about Kevin Martin.  We had some classes together in college.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Conundrum

My wife makes fun of me.  I like Murphy Beds.  Well, as she says, "You like anything that can fit inside a compartment."

I don't think she is right, but I do like intuitive packing–space saving–IKEA–like stuff.  I like the way people in NYC have to live by maximizing their living/eating/work space.  I appreciate creativity because I am not very creative myself. 

My conundrum: I am 6'5'' and hate small, compact spaces.  I need head and leg room.  I wish I was about 4-5 inches shorter so I can fit more comfortably in the world.

So, check the link for some cool ideas to save living space; the bunk beds are my favorite.  Also, whenever I verbalize my likes/dislikes, it usually confirms my wife's theories about me.

Stylish Space Saving Furniture on Third Avenue | - notable designs and functional living spaces