Archive for March, 2014

DC

March 20, 2014

Here are some lessons about DC several friends recently mentioned. A bit of rough language, but an interesting perspective.

Urban Church Plantations

March 20, 2014

Some thoughts on contemporary urban ministry. Strong words, but a lot of thruth.

Mumford and Sons

March 17, 2014

Here’s an odd title for a post: “I Wish Mumford & Sons Would Play at My Church.” It’s a follow up to the recent post on praise bands and medieval priests and adds some more depth to the discussion. If you’re interested in this issue it’s worth a read. Key idea: liturgy is a work of the people (not a form or style), and praise bands often work against that simply by the kind of thing they are.

Arguing Like Jerks

March 17, 2014

Some good thoughts, especially relevant to online interactions. The conclusion:

Next time someone posts that absolutely egregious link bait on Facebook, let’s try this as an exercise: call for a cease fire with our keyboards, make a phone call (remember those?) and grab some coffee with that guy or gal that doesn’t think like us. I promise you will be one step closer to a productive and enriching discussion—where grace, truth, and understanding rules over bitter sniping and strings of exclamation points.

Authority

March 17, 2014

Some thoughts by Scot McKnight on church authority. Includes observations like this:

[In Paul] you will see a man whose concept of pastoring was established by the Way of Jesus, outlined in poetic form inPhilippians 2:6-11, instead of anything approaching the authority-obsessed expressions we hear so much of today.

Praise Bands

March 16, 2014

I always appreciate new takes on contemporary worship. Here, praise bands are compared to medieval priests. If the guitar fits…

On Marijuana

March 15, 2014

Andy Crouch encourages Christians to be cautious about exercising their liberty in light of legalization of Marijuana. It’s thoughtful and gentle, but I wonder if the people will find his argument persuasive. Similar arguments about alcohol have not been that persuasive.

Book Summaries

March 15, 2014

Here’s a service that provides book summaries. Not sure what I think about it. I’ll make several observations:

1) I’m at least aesthetically repulsed by the idea, while recognizing its practical benefit. Maybe that’s just the bibliophile in me.

2) The site does do some other things. It provides some book reviews, author interviews and links to author blogs, but it isn’t clear to me how the whole thing is integrated. Most of these functions exist elsewhere, so they seem a bit of duplication.

2) I have tended to use good book reviews to do similar things (give me a sense of main points of boks). And there are tools like Books & Culture and The New York Review of Books that perform a similar function and expose me to a broader range of books and some analysis of the books. Granted the service described here offers summaries rather than reviews, but I think that reviews are arguably more valuable. I want some evaluative help, especially if I can’t get into the details and personally evaluate the quality of writing and argument. If the goal is to decide what books to buy, I really feel reviews are more helpful. But that seems to be one of the things that the summaries are meant to help me do.

3) I’m a bit concerned about the limited number of books and their limited perspective. What if I don’t want these books? What if they don’t interact with a broad enough range of materials? I note that all three endorsements come from the Reformed direction, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But if it is a service oriented to quality Reformed books, then I think it should be more transparent. That was my first thought. When I explored a bit more (board of reference, theological commitments) it became clear that my initial sense was correct; this is a Reformed focused site with a very detailed theological agenda. Not that there is anything wrong with that (it’s my general orientation) – but I do wonder if this limits the reach of the service and limits its effectiveness because it will focus on a narrow range of books. Beyond that, there’s no clear indication of how books are selected, who does the summaries and what the criteria are for summaries, how close summaries are provided to the time of publication, etc. I wonder about stuff like that.

4) Or to expand and redirect the last point, if I read 5 ten page summaries each month, perhaps I could read a good chunk of another book (with a bit of skimming and selectivity). I wonder if that isn’t more intellectually robust. Or if something is lost in reading a summary rather than the whole book (and if not – why don’t people just write summaries?). Losing the texture of the argument means it is hard to evaluate and undercuts critical thinking. Is this another way to thin out deep evangelical thought? Is this more a magnification of efficiency (that American ideal) than really promoting thought and reflection? Maybe I need to try it out and see what I think about these points.

5) Let me provide a more problematic, though very imperfect analogy. We’re very busy and it’s hard to read the Bible – so let’s provide a service that summarizes the daily Bible readings so you can read through the Bible in a year. I know this isn’t the purpose of the service, but our response says something about how we think about reading texts that is probably relevant. The big point – reading a summary is not reading a book. This may not be the right way to accomplish the goal the service admirably hopes to accomplish.

6) Rather than a fee-based service, if this is such a good idea, why not a crowd-sourced version? It would be cheaper and available to more people. It could be funded by links to the books that are summarized (for the Amazon referral fee; which the site uses in addition to subscription fees) or by a tip jar. It could include links to helpful reviews alongside the summary – or when they become available – so that people would engage the books rather than just absorb a summary. Not quite a million dollar idea, but certainly a plausible business model. All you’d need is about 50 or so scholars to promise to read a book and prepare a summary once a year and you’re ready to go. It sounds tempting….

Despite all these reservations, I’m a bit tempted – but it’s that ambivalent kind of temptation.

Science

March 15, 2014

We had a conversation about this very issue this evening, including several examples we know who have followed a similar trajectory. Granted, belief (and loss of belief) are most often more complex than one issue. But doubling down on difficult issues is perhaps not the best strategy.

14 Obsolete Things

March 15, 2014

For the most part, maybe. It’s complicated. Wifi – sometimes, but I’m not so sure at what level this becomes true. I want to be able to turn it off in class sometimes even for graduate school. Libraries – I love and promote electronic research, but too much important stuff is still not available online or electronically. And so on. Read and ponder.