Worth Reading - 4/21

1. In the interest of presenting an accurate history, very often people rush to tell us the worst about the heroes of history. For example, Calvin didn't stop the killing of Servetus, Luther got venomously anti-semitic at the end of his life, Thomas Jefferson never freed his slaves. These are valid critiques, but are often used to indicate that everything about the individual should be condemned. In an engaging post at The Gospel Coalition, Phil Moore shows that Charles Darwin has a pretty awful racist past, which is often overlooked by those that rely on his worldview.

Victorian Britain was too willing to accept Darwinian evolution as its gospel of overseas expansion. Darwin is still celebrated on the back of the British £10 note for his discovery of many new species on his visit to Australia; what’s been forgotten, though, is his contemptible attitude—due to his beliefs about natural selection—toward the Aborigines he found there. When The Melbourne Review used Darwin’s teachings to justify the genocide of indigenous Australians in 1876, he didn’t try and stop them. When the Australian newspaper argued that “the inexorable law of natural selection [justifies] exterminating the inferior Australian and Maori races”—that “the world is better for it” since failure to do so would be “promoting the non-survival of the fittest, protecting the propagation of the imprudent, the diseased, the defective, and the criminal”—it was Christian missionaries who raised an outcry on behalf of this forgotten genocide. Darwin simply commented, “I do not know of a more striking instance of the comparative rate of increase of a civilized over a savage race.”

Meanwhile, several thousand miles away, Cecil Rhodes was gleefully embracing Darwin’s thinking as justification for white expansion across southern Africa. He was so inspired by Darwinian evolutionist Winwood Reade’s The Martyrdom of Man that he later confessed, “That book has made me what I am.”

2. Aaron Earls gives a compelling exhortation for Christians to keep pursuing holiness and avoid coasting.

How much did you enjoy coasting down a hill on your bike as a kid?

You can put your feet off to the side (or on the handlebar if you’re feeling really daring) and let gravity do all the work. Enjoying the wind against your face is the reward for all the effort you spent pedaling up.

As a kid, that was one of the greatest feelings, but sometimes things can go wrong.

Once, I was going too fast down a hill. I hit a bump, flipped over my handlebars and rode upside down for a few feet before crashing into a briar patch.

Attempting to coast spiritually, has put many Christians in a similar predicament without their even realizing it. Coasting is not an option for the Christian.

You can coast on a bicycle after you’ve put the work in to get up a hill, but as Christians we have not reached the top yet. That does not come until we reach our home—the new heavens and new Earth.

In the meantime, while we are living this life, we are still striving to move uphill. And the headwinds we face are strong—our flesh, Satan, the world (Ephesians 2:2-3).

3. There have been a torrent of posts this week about the benefits and dangers of "platform building." Some of this comes because some well known Christians (who already have a platform) are critiquing those seeking to have a voice in the public square for trying to build a platform. This is a debate in which there seems to be fault on all sides. Karen Swallow Prior does an excellent job cutting through the chatter to get to the heart of the issue by asking what a platform really is and what sort of platform matters eternally.

I don’t think platform is quite what many imagine it to be.

Our real platform is the life we are living and the work and ministry we are already doing. Platform is our proven track record and the authority we’ve gained in whatever area God has called us to—whether we work out of the home and take care of children, or teach and research as a professor.

The classroom is my particular platform, and everything I write flows from the authority I have gained there through teaching literature, writing, and cultural criticism. That authority has taken a long time to acquire, something that always surprises people when they ask how I have achieved success as a writer: it took 16 years for me to get a BA, MA, and PhD (all in English), and another 13 years after that of teaching and writing articles before I published my first non-academic book (and even that was with a small independent publisher). Clearly, I’m a slow study and a late bloomer compared to some, but I think my long trajectory looks more like the rule than the exception. It’s no different for pastors, even if it seems every young church planter has multiple book deals.

Platforms look different for everyone, depending on life circumstances. I have a friend who has managed to overcome years of childhood sexual abuse and to come out of it pretty healthy and whole. That’s not the only thing she’s accomplished, but that alone is far more than I will ever do. My friend has an authority to speak into and about certain issues that I will never have. The platform her authority provides has nothing to do with Twitter followers, pageviews, or book contracts (even if she has those), but rather is the way she uses her experience to help and serve others.

In the end, that’s what we’re all called to do with our platforms: serve others and, in so doing, glorify God. There is no place better from which to do that than in our everyday lives. And there is no greater human affirmation we can get than from the people who live with us in our families, communities, and churches. No number of likes or shares or accolades from strangers on the internet is more important to me than getting a message from my own pastor telling me that I’m doing good work for the kingdom. Because only in connection to the Lord and his church can I find my true identity—and my true platform.

4. Paul Akin writes for the IMB on the connection between sola scriptura and missions. It's a great read.

It may seem obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway: the primacy and necessity of the Bible must never be assumed—especially in the Great Commission. The importance of keeping this truth ever before us cannot be overstated.
As I write this from a plane in East Asia, I can’t help but reminisce over recent days engaging others in spiritual conversations and praying for the salvation of people across this vast continent. As I do, I’m reminded of the vital role of Scripture in the work of Christian mission.
No matter the location, whether Taiwan, Singapore, San Diego, or anywhere in between, the words of Scripture are true: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). Only the Bible can make someone “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15).

5. A beautifully produced video the explains the connection between marriage and the Christian gospel:

6. In light of the Facebook Live murder that hit the news, Jemar Tisby wrote an excellent piece for the Washington Post about the more significant legacy of forgiveness. As Tisby notes, this is particularly evident in African American Christianity.

Forgiveness is a hallmark of the Christian faith, a powerful act African American Christians facing racism have continually offered.

The families of the murdered Emanuel Nine famously forgave the killer who visited a weekly Bible study at the historic Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston in 2015. After an hour of hearing God’s words of love and charity, he began shooting. By the time he finished, nine women and men had been killed. Days after one of the most blatantly racist and deadly attacks in recent memory, the families of the victims stood in front of the shooter and forgave him.

They, too, cited faith in God as the reason they could forgive.

The sister of Depayne Middleton Doctor, one of the people killed in the attack, said it this way, “For me, I’m a work in progress. And I acknowledge that I am very angry. But one thing that DePayne always enjoined in our family … is she taught me that we are the family that love built. We have no room for hating, so we have to forgive. I pray God on your soul.”

7. I wrote a piece for the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics this week about carrying an attitude of reconciliation with us into the workplace.

The hardest aspect of being a Christian is sustaining a focus on being fully gospel-centered over the long haul.

It’s relatively easy to get dressed up on Sundays to do gospel work at church. It’s possible to be energized on any given day to serve faithfully and point to our savior through the everyday work we do.

However, it is much more difficult to be consistently focused on the ministry of reconciliation for months and years.

Paul anticipated this, which is why he begins his list of practical ways the ministry of reconciliation is implemented with “great endurance” (2 Cor. 6:4). This, no doubt, serves to characterize the magnitude of the real persecution he faced, but it also qualifies the nature of the perseverance in the ordinary efforts he outlines.

Worth Reading - 4/14

1. An excellent post by Fred Sanders, an expert in trinitarian theology, on the nature of the incarnation of Christ with respect to the Godhead. It's well worth your time.

When the Word became flesh, he didn’t morph from a to z. In fact, when the Son of God came to earth, he didn’t leave heaven behind and stop being there in order to be here. As Athanasius says, “he was not enclosed in the body, nor was he in the body but not elsewhere.” He stayed everywhere and added a special human locatedness to it; the everywhere is what must be true for his divine nature, and the human locatedness is what must be true for his human nature.

On the other hand, when the Word became flesh, the Son of God wasn’t looking down from the ramparts of heaven at a human Jesus far below that he moved around like a puppeteer would. The entire human nature may be thought of as a special kind of instrument wielded by the Word, but it’s wielded from within as something that is as much his as your human nature is yours. Notice, by the way, that at all times we are talking about the entire human nature, not just the physical body.

You might say it this way: It’s no good thinking of the Son as departing from heaven and landing on earth, morphing from God to man on the journey. That assumes that the divine nature turned into the human nature. But it’s also no good thinking of the Son as operating a Mr. Jesus device by remote control from his distant control center in heaven. One is too close; the other too far. The first option would say goodbye to the Word, turning it into someone Jesus used to be. The second option would never make it all the way to the flesh, settling instead for a fleshy automaton. In neither case would you have the Word becoming flesh in the Christian sense. We need the real Word, really becoming real flesh: the Son of God as both fully God and fully human.

2. I wrote a piece a few years ago for the Institute for Faith Work and Economics for Holy Week. They reposted it this week for their audience, and it may be worth your time.

One of my favorite hymns is “Joy to the World.” We usually sing it around Christmas, but for years I have thought of it as an Easter hymn.

The first verse calls for us to have joy because the Lord has come, and calls for heaven and nature to sing. Nature is singing in anticipation of the redemption spoken of in Romans 8:19–21, when the effects of the Fall are removed.

3. This is a fun piece about the duties and responsibilities of the junior Supreme Court justice.

No one could have known it at the time, but at the end of last summer, Justice Elena Kagan gave Neil M. Gorsuch a face-to-face tutorial on what it means to be the Supreme Court’s newest justice.

It starts in the kitchen.

“I’ve been on the cafeteria committee for six years. (Justice) Steve Breyer was on the cafeteria committee for 13 years,” Kagan said at a Colorado event where she was being interviewed by Gorsuch and Timothy M. Tymkovich, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

4. People are calling for a moratorium on overbooking flights because of last week's debacle with the United passenger (though the flight wasn't overbooked). However, the reality is that overbooking saves everyone a whole lot of money. This article begins to explain why it's worth it.

Economist James Heins says the shift to passenger compensation led to a savings in the U.S. economy of about $100 billion over the last three decades. This has allowed airlines to operate at a higher capacity and makes flights more profitable while reducing air fares and increasing tax revenues.

“People know about the system, but they don’t know where it came from,” said Heins, who worked with Simon at the University of Illinois. “I think they should. There are a lot of important research breakthroughs on campuses, but few generate $100 billion in savings to the American economy.”

Simon understood a basic fact of economics—one that United Airlines seems to have temporarily forgotten: People respond to incentives. If United had simply provided a proper economic incentive (i.e., increased compensation for the hassle of missing a flight), they could have saved the company millions in lawsuits and bad press. Instead, they are learning what happens when a corporation treats interactions with customers as a zero-sum game rather than as an opportunity to use incentives to make everyone involved better off.

5. A midwife in Sweden has been blacklisted from participating in the marketplace because she won't commit abortions.

In Nordic countries, and Sweden especially, elite institutions create what political scientists call “opinion corridors,” setting the parameters of debate. Ms. Grimmark was locked out of the opinion corridor on medical freedom of conscience. When she sued the Jönköping council in 2014, claiming religious discrimination and violation of her freedom of conscience, she became a public enemy.

Speaking at a panel on Islamist extremism in 2015, Mona Sahlin, a prominent politician and former government antiterror coordinator, argued that “those who refuse to perform abortions are in my opinion extreme religious practitioners” not unlike jihadists.

In January a TV segment framed Ms. Grimmark as part of “a global wave of oppression against women.” On another TV panel the same month, feminist writer Cissi Wallin mused, “Those who are against abortion now, can’t we abort them—retroactively?” Another panelist replied, “Yes, a really great idea!” The others chuckled.

During the trial, in the fall of 2015, an attorney for the defendants asked one of Ms. Grimmark’s would-be hospital directors, Christina Gunnervik, if it would be possible for someone “who stands for these opinions and is willing to express them publicly” to work at her hospital, even temporarily. Ms. Gunnervik responded: “Unthinkable. Completely unthinkable!” Attorneys for the county council declined to comment.

6. This is an excellent piece at Christ and Pop Culture about the possibility of people with vastly different perspectives learning to get along and debate. Public discourse continues to be one of the most important concerns of our time.

Robert P. George holds the esteemed McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence at Princeton University, and is one of the most respected conservative intellectuals in the nation. Cornel West is currently Professor of the Practice of Public Policy at Harvard Divinity School, a self-proclaimed “radical liberal,” and a leading luminary of the left. If these two men followed the contemporary precedent set by politicians, celebrities, and media personalities, they’d be utilizing their platforms to score points for their respective parties, adding their own brand of academic infective to the public square. Instead, they’ve set their ideological differences aside to pen a joint statement extolling the virtues of academic inquiry, freedom of thought, and civil disagreement. Titled “Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression,” the statement opens with a striking exhortation: “[All] of us should seek respectfully to engage with people who challenge our views. And we should oppose efforts to silence those with whom we disagree—especially on college and university campuses.”

7. Five reasons you should delight in theology. This is a post I resonate with strongly and is well worth your time.

Theology is the language of Christianity. We of all people should be consistent, contagious God-talkers. Yet many act as though theology is alien to the nature and works of God. Loving God isn’t about a set of doctrines, they say—it’s about a relationship. For them, theology is just an academic sport for professionals, but it’s not vital for the Christian’s daily life; theology belongs in outer space, not in our hearts.

When theology feels like a professional sport for the elite few, it will feel like a set of shackles to be avoided. But rightly understood, theology is eternally freeing, because we cannot be Christian without theology. A theology-less Christianity is a mute, lifeless religion. The Christian God defines and demonstrates theology. I can’t talk about my wife without describing Christa Smith, and Christians can’t talk about theology without describing God.

Worth Reading - 4/7

1. Bruce Ashford put together a very helpful outline of the reasons theology is valuable in practical ministry.

I will never forget my first day of seminary. At 8:00 a.m., I walked into a classroom for the first time for a course in Systematic Theology taught by Paige Patterson. I sat on the back row with J.D. Greear and several other embryonic theologues. As Dr. Patterson began class, he announced that he would begin by handing out the class “syllabi.” As he said this, I leaned over to a friend and mentioned—being the willing servant of linguistic propriety that I was—that the proper plural of syllabus is “syllabuses,” not “syllabi.”

At this point, my friend raised his hand, was acknowledged by Dr. Patterson, and proceeded to say, “My friend Bruce has a problem with your grammar.” Dr. Patterson looked at me and said, “Yes?” To which I responded, “No sir, there is no problem with your grammar. My friend is joking.”

Dr. Patterson, however, told me that if I were man enough, I’d put on my big boy pants and tell him what I really thought. I, being man enough, as it were, proceeded to tell him. I offered my humble opinion that the word “syllabus” was not derived from the Latin and therefore the plural should be syllabuses rather than syllabi. Dr. Patterson thought about it for a second or two, looked at me, and said, “no, –buses are things that children ride to school, and since you seem to know so much about everything, I will grade your weekly quizzes out loud, in front of the entire class, for the rest of the semester.” And that he did. Can you imagine what a never-ending carnival of theological wedgies the remainder of the semester was for me?

2. A National Geographic article that outlines the significance of maps in WWI.

Throughout most of human history, people could only take aim at an enemy they could see. By WWI that had changed, thanks to powerful artillery that could fire well beyond the line of sight. But this created a new challenge: how to aim at a target that’s not directly visible.

One approach was to use spotters, who’d take up a vantage point on a hill or other elevated area and send messages back to the gunners about where their shots were landing. Radios had been invented by that point, but they were still too bulky to be widely used in the field. Instead, both sides used cable telephone lines—and human runners when the lines got cut by enemy fire.

3. A very interesting article at Radical on the need to develop a theology of persecution to understand the plight of the church in closed and marginalized contexts:

Contextualizing persecution into the bigger picture of salvation and their new life with Christ is often a great challenge in the Iranian church. For former Muslims, it can be tempting to see persecution as punishment from God. The prevalence of the prosperity gospel doesn’t help either, as it teaches that good people are rewarded and bad people suffer.

What is needed early on in the discipleship of new believers is what a Christian worker called a “theology of persecution”:

To help the persecuted church, we have to have this metanarrative that looks beyond the here and now to the Second Coming when Christ fixes this mess. There has got to be this sense that I have hope that one day my sitting in this jail cell is worth it—or that my going hungry because I can’t find a job is worth it. It’s the thing that the Bible says over and over—don’t invest in this world, there’s something better coming. The church in Iran must teach each person how to do ministry at a time when the government and the community is against them.

4. An engaging discussion at Desiring God about allowing ourselves not to know everything. Science simply cannot explain everything.

The Bible reveals some things to us that are “hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). We recognize some of these things in our experience, but when we try to define or explain their essential nature or how they actually work, we find ourselves utterly perplexed.

Take, for instance, the Trinity. Relating to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is, in many ways, much easier experienced than explained. A child can believe in, interact with, and trust the triune God, but the combined power of the greatest theological minds of the past two millennia have not been able to explain triune mechanics. We know it works, but we don’t know how.

Or consider the coexistence of God’s universal, absolute sovereignty (John 1:1–3; Ephesians 1:11; Hebrews 1:3) and human personal accountability for our moral choices (Matthew 12:36; Romans 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 9:14–23). We know this reality by experience. We can all point to God’s sovereign interventions in our lives that go way beyond appealing to our wills, and yet we know instinctively that we are not machines, and that we are responsible for our moral choices. We know it works, but we don’t know how.

5. Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute considers the relationship between a living wage and minimum wage:

Worth Reading - 3/31

1. About the time we think the political situation is completely irreconcilable and we are stuck with years of belligerent railing, the Democratic Committee of Lynchburg, VA put out the letter to the editor below. It's good to see two distinct thoughts as they refuse to organize protests for Trump's visit to Liberty University for graduation: a. Protests are only appropriate when they are targeted at the subject of concern. In this case, the committee recognizes that the grandmother of the Liberty graduate is the one most effected by a protest and the least beneficial target; b. Activism in the community is better focused at productivity rather than trying to impede the progress of innocents. This is a good sign and a much appreciated effort by these individuals.

The Lynchburg Democratic Committee is organizing a Day of Action in Lynchburg on May 13, full of community service opportunities for willing volunteers. Rather than waving signs at grandparents attempting to get onto campus, we will be planting flowers, painting and picking up trash elsewhere in the city. We will take our emotions, our energy and our protest to communities most likely to be hurt by the actions of this federal administration.

We will go high. We will stay out of the way so the students can have their day. We were asked, “When will Lynchburg have another opportunity to protest” this guy? The answer is November 2020. May 13, 2017, is simply not about him, nor does he deserve to have it made so.

Graduation is not about the speaker. Graduation is a day to celebrate the hard work, sacrifices, and educational achievement of students. It is their day to celebrate with their families. We will not stand down to this federal administration. We will stand up for these students who have earned a diploma.

2. Many Americans believe they live in a world without slavery. While black chattel slavery may be a thing of the past in the U.S., the present reality for many--including many children--is continued worldwide slavery. This short article and photo essay by AlJazeera is powerful, and should help motivate us as we continue to fight against this global injustice.

On the West Coast of Africa, thousands of children are sold by their families, often for as little as $30. In exchange, they are offered the vague promise of a better life for their child. But what actually awaits is a life of slavery. The children endure physical and psychological abuse as they work from dawn until dusk far from their homes.

As part of its child protection programmes, UNICEF develops strategies to prevent trafficking, as well as working with local organisations to identify and care for those children who have already been trafficked. Alongside governments, civil society and NGOs, it provides medical, psychological and social care to rescued children, as well as facilitating access to education, vocational training and job opportunities.

NGOs Mensajeros de la Paz in Cotonou, Benin, and Carmelitas Vedruna in the Togo capital Lome, and Misioneros Salesianos in Kara and Lome, Togo, have cared for hundreds of child victims of slavery. By February 2017, these organisations between them had successfully reintergrated 1,527 children into communities.

3. A recent scientific study shows a correlation between reading and a longer life. This post from Smithsonian Magazine helps unpack the findings of the study.

A new study in the journal Social Science and Medicine suggests that elderly people who read books have what authors call “a survival advantage” over those who don’t. Researchers used information from the National Institute on Aging’s Health and Retirement Study, a large public resource on adults 50 years and older in the United States, to tease out correlations between reading and longevity.

The study includes a survey on activities that categorized aging adults’ reading habits. The researchers gave participants a reading score that characterized the amount of time they spent reading books or periodicals per week. They also assessed participants’ cognitive engagement using scores that take the ability to perform cognitive tasks, like counting backward from 20, into consideration. Then, they matched up each participant to information in the National Death Index, a central database of the names of people who died based on state reporting.

After poring over data from 3,635 participants and adjusting for factors like age, sex, race and education, researchers found that 27 percent of respondents who replied that they had read a book within the last week during the survey had died during 12 years of the study, compared to 33 percent of people who did not read books. People who read books lived an average of 23 months longer than those who did not. The amount of time people spent reading seemed to matter too: People who read up to 3.5 hours a week were 17 percent less likely to die, and people who read more than that were 23 percent less likely.

4. Jonathan Leeman posted a nuanced and helpful discussion of justice and racial relations. This is an essay that legitimately advanced the discussion and deserves attention. Leeman offers a corrective to both the narrow focus on the system and on the individual. Take the time to read it.

A just law and just government will uphold the inherent equality of every human’s dignity and worth.

In a society of angels, this is easy to affirm and implement. It’s much harder in a society of sinners.

One man spends his life making wise decisions, another man foolish decisions. The first offers his family a comfortable home in a safe neighborhood, the other abandons his children. The children of the first man enjoy health care, a good education, the benefits of their father’s Ivy League alumni status, and access to his network of friends with job offers. The children of the second are statistically more likely to end up in prison or on drugs.

And yet, the children of both men are equal in dignity and worth. What, then, does justice require? What does it require of us in regard to their now differently-situated children?

5. Thomas Kidd is one of the most prolific Baptist historians of our day. He writes frequently and well. He recently wrote a guest-post for the St. Andrews School of Divinity that explains his idea of a "writing pipeline." Writers take note.

The writing and publishing process has lots of starts and stops. Say your first draft of your revised dissertation/book is done. Or maybe just your latest chapter. You submit the draft, and then you wait for feedback from readers, editors, or an advisor. Often you wait for weeks, or even months. What do you do during that time?

One of the keys to long-term productivity in writing is “pipelining” projects. That is, when you’re waiting for the next step on a completed manuscript, you should have an early-stage project you’re working on. This can be difficult when you’re suddenly required to drop everything and go back to the other project, giving you a bit of intellectual whiplash. But having at least two projects at different stages means that you’ll know intuitively how to fill the down time when you’re waiting on a response from a professor, editor, or commissioned reviewer. (I am definitely aware that here I am envisioning a work schedule, like mine at Baylor, that allows for – and even requires – ongoing writing.)

Maybe for you this is as simple as plowing ahead with your next dissertation chapter. Or maybe working on an article you’ve had on the back burner. One of my latest experiences in the writing pipeline involved the later stages of writing my religious biography of Benjamin Franklin.

6. You should follow Anne Kennedy's blog if you don't already. In the meanwhile, this post she wrote on 30 March works through some of the ongoing social craziness about male-female relations and stay-at-home mothering with wit and grace.

Maybe a good place [to begin] would be Thanks Crazy Ladies for making femaleness irrational again. I was trying to imagine what it would be like to be a woman in, say, 1900, and the first thing I did think is that a corset would absolutely make me hysterical and constantly needing a lie down. When I consider what it would have been like living within the social and even material (as in clothes) strictures imposed on women of the day, I could see myself being unable, mentally and emotionally, to cope. The women way back then must have been super strong. And, you know, I couldn’t put a measure on how grateful I am for not only the right the vote, but for the right to speak and make choices about my own life. The women of the suffrage movement, as far as I can make out, would most definitely weep in despair over the existential, emotional, and intellectual weakness of the modern woman, me included.

The very idea that I, as an individual with agency, can do whatever I want is pretty amazing*. Besides being the recipient of an awfully good education (though, also, sorely lacking in some points, like, western civ, I kid you not, I spent way too much time wandering around gender studies and when I graduated all I was equipped to do was go back to school) there was not a living soul who would have presumed to tell me what to do. Not even my parents, though I often begged them to make up my mind for me.

Worth Reading - 3/24

1. Harry Emerson Fosdick's famous sermon, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?," shaped a generation of revisionist Christians. That sermon, calling for steadfastness in rejecting Christian heritage motivated mainly in the liberal denomination to resist biblical doctrine. John Piper's 2000 sermon, "You Have One Life - Don't Waste It," preached at the One Day event that brought about 40,000 college students together may have had a similar impact. Time will tell. This post at The Gospel Coalition on the influence of that sermon is worth reading. The sermon itself is also worth your time.

The morning of May 20, 2000, dawned damp and grey over a grassy field in Memphis, where a portable city had sprung up overnight. Thousands of muted tents stood in wet rows; fog made everything hazy.

About 40,000 college students had arrived for the fourth Passion Conference, its first outdoors. It was a day they wouldn’t forget, one they describe with words like “special” and “holy” and “weight of glory.”

Even people who weren’t there remember it, because that day author and pastor John Piper gave his famous “seashells” message.

“What an epic message it was!” said Desiring God executive editor David Mathis. “When we trace the history of Desiring God and John Piper’s rise in influence over the years, One Day 2000 may be the single most significant event in terms of exposing a wider audience to Piper.”

Before he spoke, Piper asked God for “a prophetic word that would have a ripple effect to the ends of the earth and to eternity.”

He got it. The message exploded out, sparking a book, a study guide, tracts, and even a rap song.

2. The promotion of a wellness lifestyle by the government and big business is a gateway to being controlled by others. This article at First Things argues that point well:

Promoting wellness is becoming a means for government and big business to exercise control over our lives.

The pretext is cost-cutting—the idea that if employers and government can persuade us to live healthier lifestyles, then society will benefit from less government spending on health care and reduced business costs from lowered health-insurance premiums and fewer employee sick days.

But when does helpfully promoting wellness—say, by providing exercise classes, or professional assistance to employees who decide to quit smoking—become an intrusion into personal privacy? When does a laudable desire to reduce healthcare costs become an obsession with controlling how we live our lives?

Here’s one example. Republicans in the House of Representatives want to empower employers to induce their employees to be genetically tested so that the obtained information can be compiled and used in fashioning company wellness programs. Currently, employees can volunteer to be genetically tested if their employer’s wellness program offers the service. However, it is illegal under federal law—the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—for an employer to punish those who refuse such testing or to offer incentives to persuade workers to allow their genetic makeup to be assessed.

3. The ongoing Russell Moore kerfuffle in the SBC has had the potential to distract from the promulgation of the gospel. This week, the Board of Trustees of the ERLC issued a statement. Russell Moore also issued an apology. Hopefully this is a step toward reconciliation and continued pursuit of the Great Commission.

As the year progressed, I felt convicted—both by my personal conscience and by my assignment by Southern Baptists—to speak out on issues of what the gospel is and is not, what sexual morality and sexual assault are and are not, and the crucial need for white Christians to listen to the concerns of our black and brown brothers and sisters in Christ. I stand by those convictions, but I did not separate out categories of people well—such that I wounded some, including close friends. Some of that was due to contextless or unhelpful posts on social media about the whirl of the news cycle. I cannot go back and change time, and I cannot apologize for my underlying convictions. But I can—and do—apologize for failing to distinguish between people who shouldn’t have been in the same category with those who put politics over the gospel and for using words, particularly in social media, that were at times overly broad or unnecessarily harsh. That is a failure on my part.

I was aware that there were many—including many very close to me—who were quite vocal in critiquing on those areas even candidates they were able to support. These people made clear what they were supporting and what they were rejecting on the basis of the biblical witness, and did not celebrate or wave away the moral problems. I did not speak much about those people because I wasn’t being asked about them, and I didn’t think they were causing the confusion that frustrated me as I was talking even to people I was seeking to win to Christ. But I didn’t clearly enough separate them out. Again, that is a failure on my part, and I apologize.

4. Fake news isn't a new thing. This is a really interesting article in the Smithsonian Magazine about how fake news (a.k.a., propaganda) helped to turn the tide in World War II.

Although this was hardly the first instance of a wartime disinformation campaign, Delmer’s “Black Propaganda,” as he called it, shared plenty with today’s “fake news.” It was agitprop masquerading as inside dirt. To be sure, British intelligence agents played a role, but it was behind the scenes, unlike traditional government propaganda. By most accounts the broadcasts were insidiously effective: Hitler’s high command repeatedly attempted to block the signal.

It turns out that Delmer, the subject of a new documentary, Come Before Winter, developed a fake news factory aimed at disrupting the Nazis. He introduced several other radio stations, including one anchored by a young German named “Vicki,” who read a mixture of real news culled from intelligence sources and fake items, including a fabricated report about an outbreak of diphtheria among German children.

In November 1943, Delmer ended Der Chef’s reign of error by penning a script that had Nazi troops storming the studio and “shooting” him mid-broadcast, but many other ruses lived on. Beginning in May 1944, he produced a German-language newspaper called Nachrichten für die Truppe (News for the Troops), which was air-dropped to soldiers on the Western front.

5. Bruce Ashford of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary takes on the common assertion that Jesus was not political during his time here on earth.

So, was Jesus “political” during his time on earth?

In certain contemporary American senses of the world “political,” no he was not. He never took out newspaper ads telling the folks in Nazareth to “vote for option C in the sewage referendum.” He was not a government official and never ran for public office. He never spent his free time on Facebook yelling at people from the other side of the political aisle, employing a generous use of the CAPS LOCK and !!!!!!!!!! keys to make his points.

But in a deeper sense, Jesus’ ministry was profoundly, thoroughly, and inescapably political.

6. If you are interested, I had an article published in the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies. In the article I argue that work has value inasmuch as it glorifies God. Work is not valuable in and of itself.

In his 1972 book, Working, Studs Terkel begins with a startling description of the purpose of his book and the nature of work. He writes, “This book, being about work, is, by its very nature, about violence––to the spirit as well as to the body. It is about ulcers as well as accidents, about shouting matches as well as fistfights, about nervous breakdowns as well as kicking the dog around. It is, above all (or beneath all), about daily humiliations.” But he goes on to note that the book is “about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash . . .; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.” For Terkel the reality falls far short of the ideal, but there is an ideal for which people earnestly yearn. For Terkel’s subjects, work is instrumentally necessary to earn a living but lacks deeper value. He interviews dozens of workers and mostly finds out how unhappy they are. The accounts are poetic, rich, and raw. His work is powerful, but it leaves the reader longing for a better ending. It conveys the deep human longing to find value in work.

Worth Reading - 3/17

1. What one writer learned from being off Twitter for a few weeks. A balanced account of gains and losses.

I’ve been on Twitter long enough to learn who holds ideological worldviews distinct from mine but nonetheless write or link to interesting things to read. And I need those guides, because they’re great time savers. I tried going on Salon and the Federalist and the Intercept and the Washington Examiner. Each of those sites produced articles worth reading, but my goodness the wheat-to-chaff ratio was low. A properly-cultivated Twitter feed makes it possible to stumble across essays like this one that I would have otherwise missed. I also missed links to smaller newspapers and academic journals outside my specialty and other subcultures to which my Twitter feed has often pointed the way. What I missed the most about Twitter was that it exposed me to more views in less time than if I were searching on my own. And that’s worth the minor cost in trolls.

I suspect that I will need to take short Twitter breaks a couple of times a year to make sure I stay relatively sane. I would encourage all of those who use social media to take similar sabbaticals. It is through being away from these sites that we remember their value — and how best to minimize their costs.

2. Here is Ross Douthat's column in the New York Times that is referenced in the above article. There are some worthwhile ideas about limiting the internet.

Search your feelings, you know it to be true: You are enslaved to the internet. Definitely if you’re young, increasingly if you’re old, your day-to-day, minute-to-minute existence is dominated by a compulsion to check email and Twitter and Facebook and Instagram with a frequency that bears no relationship to any communicative need.

Compulsions are rarely harmless. The internet is not the opioid crisis; it is not likely to kill you (unless you’re hit by a distracted driver) or leave you ravaged and destitute. But it requires you to focus intensely, furiously, and constantly on the ephemera that fills a tiny little screen, and experience the traditional graces of existence — your spouse and friends and children, the natural world, good food and great art — in a state of perpetual distraction.

Used within reasonable limits, of course, these devices also offer us new graces. But we are not using them within reasonable limits. They are the masters; we are not. They are built to addict us, as the social psychologist Adam Alter’s new book “Irresistible” points out — and to madden us, distract us, arouse us and deceive us. We primp and perform for them as for a lover; we surrender our privacy to their demands; we wait on tenterhooks for every “like.” The smartphone is in the saddle, and it rides mankind.

Which is why we need a social and political movement — digital temperance, if you will — to take back some control.

3. I've recently come across a blog by Anne Kennedy that is consistently very good and worth following. This week, her treatment of the fashion industry's ill considered attitude toward normal women was well worth sharing.

The dismissive attitude of the fashion industry for the bodies of real women is also demoralizing. In the face of constant discouragement I’ve managed to come up with a uniform for myself. I wear the same thing every day–a pair of ill fitting jeans, a black shirt, and two gray sweaters. Oh, and big winter boots, the only shoe that keeps my foot warm in the winter. In the summer I lose the boot and the second gray sweater and just stick to the one because I’m always cold. I wear this every day, day in day out, day after day after day. And I look at beautiful clothes online and feel sad because I know that if I try to buy them, they won’t look like that on me.

There is no, “her dress was right, her stockings were right, her hat was right” for me because as a woman in America I have to shove myself into stuff that was not originally considered for me, but was rather conceived of for a 100 foot tall slender demigod who apparently sometimes can now be even a man. I can’t compete with that, or shove myself into it. I’m clinging to my five feet (dear sweet saints of God please don’t let me shrink yet) and trying to rid myself of my middle, which I can’t do, because I’ve given birth six times.

My body is broken, and sometimes my spirit rejoices, but most of the time it is mired in jealousy and covetousness. I don’t look at my beautiful healthy offspring and then at my own shape and think, ‘this is so great, I’m so glad I have something to show for this,’ I usually think, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to get saggier until I die.’

4. With reviews of Rod Dreher's Benedict Option flying around and a public spat between Dreher and another evangelical author over some catty criticism, Andy Crouch framed the debate well, showing that most of what is being argued about (i.e., the degree of political engagement or avoidance Dreher calls for) is a sub-theme within the book. Crouch presents his analysis of the Benedict Option controversy by some estimated percentages:

1. Social hostility and legal restrictions will undermine the viability of many Christian institutions, and significantly limit individual Christians’ participation in many professions and aspects of public life, in the United States within a generation or so.

Portion of The Benedict Option devoted to this claim: 20%

Portion of journalistic coverage of the book devoted to this claim: 90%

Portion of social media buzz (pro and con) devoted to this claim: 98%

Likelihood of this claim being true: 50%

How much this should cause acute distress for those who believe that Jesus is Lord: 5%

2. Due to a lack of meaningful discipleship and accommodation to various features of secularized modernity and consumer culture, the collapse of Christian belief and practice is likely among members of the dominant culture (and many minority cultures) in the United States within a generation or so.

Portion of The Benedict Option devoted to this claim: 80%

Portion of journalistic coverage devoted to this claim: 10%

Portion of social media buzz (pro and con) devoted to this claim: 2%

Likelihood of this claim being true: 90%

How much this should cause acute distress for those who believe that Jesus is Lord: 100%

5. Robert Plummer from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary explains why there are manuscript variations in Scripture.

Worth Reading - 3/10

1. Tim Challies published an excellent, common sense call to stop calling everything that you don't agree with hate. The word is becoming meaningless because it is being used to stifle disagreement rather than indicate actual malice.

In so many ways, what is now described as hate is actually love. We guard against error not because we hate people, but because we love the truth and mean to defend sound doctrine. We enforce church discipline not because we hate sinners, but because we love the church and mean to protect her integrity. We proceed cautiously when evaluating current issues not because we hate homosexuals or transgendered individuals, but because we love purity and mean to live according to Scripture. We must be willing to love, even when we are told it is hate. We owe it to God and man to continue to love, no matter how it is perceived, no matter how it is described.

2. Karen Swallow Prior penned an important, well-considered, personal reflection on childlessness as a calling. She walks through her own infertility and shows how the church has sometimes made that calling more difficult than necessary.

Sometimes God’s calling is not one we want. Yet, obeying that call is the only thing that will bring us true and lasting joy. Recognizing my childlessness as a call of God has transformed the way I see my whole life and the work of the Lord in it. For many years, my desire was to be a mother. My desire now is to be the woman that God calls me to be. No more. And no less.

If the church has made an idol out of a certain mold, then we are hindering each other from finding and following—confidently and contentedly—God’s calling on our lives even when, or especially when, that calling doesn’t fit the mold.

We know that in heaven there will be no more marriage or giving in marriage; our earthly unions are but temporal signposts of the eternal union of Christ and his bride. If, for now, we are poor or broken, childless or spouseless, waiting or wanting—yet obedient—we are not failures. We are called his children.

3. A very good post by Anne Kennedy at her blog, Preventing Grace, wherein she tackles the common problem (for all of us) of dehumanizing those who espouse beliefs with which we disagree.

The first is that the problem of dehumanizing other people is both so deep and so broad that, I would say, it has become the cornerstone of our political and cultural discourse. In order that the world may see my goodness, I have to signal my proper rejection of the evil one, whoever it is at the moment I happen to scroll through Facebook.

At the same time, though, demonizing disguised as virtue signaling is not the least bit new or unusual in human terms. To be human is to deny the humanity of other humans. When Adam looked over at Eve and stuck his young as the world was new finger in her direction, and said, ‘she made me do it,’ he was laying the way for us all to be ‘better than her’ which is to qualify one’s own humanity as better and more worthy than that of the other. What is new for Christians is that we thought we were better than this. We never were but we thought we were, and so now we have to bash social media, which is just the newest expression of our truest humanity.

4. Roger Scruton, an excellent conservative philosopher, contributed to the NY Times recently. He offers an argument that humans are not just animals, but that "science" seems bent on stripping any sense of the uniqueness of humans away from us.

Much 20th-century philosophy is addressed to the question of how to define this fact in secular terms, without drawing on religious ideas. When Sartre and Merleau-Ponty write of “le regard” — the look — and Emmanuel Levinas of the face, they are describing the way in which human beings stand out from their surroundings and address one another with absolute demands of which no mere thing could be an object. Wittgenstein makes a similar point by describing the face as the soul of the body, as does Elizabeth Anscombe in describing the mark of intentional action as the applicability of a certain sense of the question “Why?”

Human beings live in mutual accountability, each answerable to the other and each the object of judgment. The eyes of others address us with an unavoidable question, the question “why?” On this fact is built the edifice of rights and duties. And this, in the end, is what our freedom consists in — the responsibility to account for what we do.

5. A recent Washington Post article takes aim at homeschooling. Basically the idea of that article is that public schools are terrible, but homeschoolers aren't monitored, so lets try to ruin the homeschool process by making them more like the public schools. The Weekly Standard deconstructs the weasel words in the Washington Post and points out the unfounded assertions of the authors of the Washington Post hit piece.

So what Hunt’s campaign for government “monitoring” of the educational activities of home-schooling parents boils down to is an attack on the faith and cultural ways of the Mennonites or any Christians, adherents of other traditional religions, and perhaps people of no religion at all who wish to shield their children from school cultures that oblige students to learn how to put a condom onto a cucumber, force girls to shower with biological males, or even just plain skip the three R’s in favor of lessons in trendy political correctness.

Fortunately for the Amish and the Mennonites, the Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that the First Amendment’s religious-freedom guarantee allows them to educate their children as their faith demands. Other “fundamentalist” Christians may not be so lucky. Lednicer’s story includes some digs at President Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos and her support of home schooling and other alternatives to public schools. Trump and the current Republican-dominated Congress want to “roll back regulations,” Lednicer warns. Regulations that could undermine any notion that parents ought to be able to transmit their religious faith to their children.

6. Tim Keller recently announced he will be stepping down as senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC. This is sad for those of us who have appreciated his regular sermons. His former associate pastor, Scott Sauls, penned a lovely tribute.

A week ago Sunday, my phone started blowing up with messages from friends living in NYC. The occasion was that my friend, former boss, and long-time pastoral and thought mentor, Dr. Timothy Keller of New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, announced his retirement from pastoral ministry effective July 1 of this year. This announcement from Tim is especially significant to me because more than any other person…and by a landslide…Tim’s influence has shaped me into the pastor, communicator and leader that I am today.

I first met Tim eleven years ago. I believed it then, and I still believe it now…that he is the best English-speaking Christian preacher, thinker, and visionary of our time. I am not alone in this. And yet, having also gotten to serve “up close” under his leadership, there are other things about Tim that endear me to him even more than these things. I suppose that now is as good a time as any to tell about them, because that’s what you do when one of your mentors announces such a significant transition. So here are a few important things that Tim’s example has taught me…

Worth Reading - 3/3

1. Trevin Wax released a new book this week. He's been doing analysis on the contemporary cultural soup. One recent piece of that is a hope for more (better) arguments online.

In his autobiography, G. K. Chesterton remarked that the bad thing about a quarrel is that it spoils a good argument! He hated when bad feelings overshadowed the making and countering of good arguments.

The ability to argue well is the hallmark of a civil society, and it should be the goal of thoughtful Christians. Chesterton provided a model of this in his frequent debates with George Bernard Shaw, a lifelong friend who saw the world almost completely differently than he did. The two of them argued, but they did not fight.

C. S. Lewis did the same. Michael Ward says Lewis “relished disagreement and debate.” He mentions one student, Derek Brewer, who remembered how Lewis would sometimes say, “I couldn’t disagree more!” But Lewis never “indicated he was offended or that Brewer was somehow unjustified in holding an opinion Lewis considered mistaken. Though they often differed, this led to a ‘fruitful dichotomy of attitudes,’ not to a chilling of their pedagogical relationship.”

2. Imaginations should be exercised because it helps us love those who are opposed to us.

It’s not just the sacrifice of love that’s hard. It is getting far enough outside ourselves to remember that other people experience the world differently, and have needs, desires, and insecurities apart from ours.

The less imagination we have, the less we are able to empathize with those in need. And the less we empathize, the more likely we are to miss the deeper issues. (Issues in the old sense, that of waters which seep up from subterranean deposits, poisoning clear streams with the alkalines of rejection or fear.)

If we cannot imagine, we are likely to see others’ sin as alien (and worse!) than ours. To say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I” depends on a vibrant imagination. It needs the ability to see similarities between ourselves and the fallen, and to understand by imagination what our sinful natures would do without divine mercy. Without imagination, this saying becomes the prayer of a Pharisee: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.”

3. Samuel James at Mere Orthodoxy wrote about the over-reaction of the anti-purity police to a well-intentioned, but over-reaching article calling for guards on marital fidelity. He rightly wonders whether the reaction is due to concern over perceived patriarchy or a rejection of the call of holiness in Scripture.

Is there a point to be made about unnecessary sexualization of male-female friendships in the church? You better believe it. A church body that looks like a middle school dance, with boys on one side and the girls on the other and awkwardness in the middle, is a deeply sad sight. When the Bible says to love, serve, prefer, forgive, bear with, rejoice with, admonish, and care for one another, it is not addressing only males or females. And evangelicals have often failed to grasp this. I heard a man once advise single guys in the church not to date the girls there because a breakup would cause awkwardness on Sunday morning. That kind of advice reinforces all kinds of bad ideas about how men and women should relate to one another in the body. We can, must, do better.

But I’ll be honest. I don’t think we’ll get there if we make critiquing purity culture a priority. The article about texting was written by a man who sounds like has some ill-formed notions of what the church community should look like. But that doesn’t mean all of his notions are wrong. He is absolutely right that 1) adultery is wicked, 2) sexual sin begins way before the clothes come off, and 3) preventing sin, abuse, and devastated families requires active obedience, not just passive. Do many of the people calling his article “outrageous” and “sexist” and “ridiculous” agree with these 3 points? If so, why the outrage? Why the scorn? Why can’t we admonish someone for following his noble intentions to an ignoble end? Why is the reaction to an article like this so fervent, so incandescent in its sarcastic dismissal of the very idea that we ought to fight for sexual purity, rather than merely hope for it?

4. At World, Anthony Bradley critiques the current overemphasis on urban ministry in much of the evangelical church. It is certainly strategic, but it neglects the importance of ministry to small, rural towns.

While the city church planting emphasis emerged as a needed corrective to the suburban focus of evangelicals in the 1980s and ’90s, today’s “missional” efforts tend to neither encourage future leaders nor raise money to reach the white underclass, people from Rustbelt towns, and working-class white populations in metropolitan areas. Why? Because those people don’t live in urban centers, and there won’t be much “multiplication” due to low population density. These communities, however, are the very communities where we get America’s white police officers, construction workers, truck drivers, mechanics, teachers, and active voters.

By overlooking the working class and small towns, we are inadvertently missing new opportunities to bring the gospel and holistic redemption to areas where the majority of America’s poor people live, where suicide rates are surging, where we find the new frontier for America’s worst HIV problems, where the mortality rates for middle-aged white women are at all-time highs, where manufacturing is dying out, where Americans are the most depressed and nihilistic about life, where America’s drug use is the highest.

5. Chuck Quarles delivered a phenomenal sermon on evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Take the 40 minutes or so to watch it.

Worth Reading - 2/24

1. Trevin Wax asks whether every action, every decision, every purchase has to be viewed as a political statement.

Remember when you could go to Chick-fil-a or Burger King without feeling like you were making a political point?

Or when you could buy a few things from Walmart, stop in at Whole Foods, and check out the sales at Target without wondering how either your support or boycott would affect public policy?

Or when you could watch an award show on TV or a sports event without hearing political speeches or seeing protests?

A couple weeks ago, I nearly tore my hair out when the news broke that Chili’s had an affiliate who wanted to help diners donate a portion of their meal’s proceeds to Planned Parenthood. Chili’s is where my family eats most often. (Yes, Chili’s—to the jeering of my foodie friends who like to mock!) Thankfully, within just a day or two, Chili’s issued a statement to assure their patrons that the restaurant was not supporting Planned Parenthood and that donations to the abortion giant would not be taking place.

2. David Brooks from the New York Times laments the state of things and notes that reality isn't that great right now, but our perception of it might not be entirely correct, either.

Most of us came of age in the last half of the 20th century and had our perceptions of “normal” formed in that era. It was, all things considered, an unusually happy period. No world wars, no Great Depressions, fewer civil wars, fewer plagues.

It’s looking like we’re not going to get to enjoy one of those times again. The 21st century is looking much nastier and bumpier: rising ethnic nationalism, falling faith in democracy, a dissolving world order.

At the bottom of all this, perhaps, is declining economic growth. As Nicholas Eberstadt points out in his powerful essay “Our Miserable 21st Century,” in the current issue of Commentary, between 1948 and 2000 the U.S. economy grew at a per-capita rate of about 2.3 percent a year.

But then around 2000, something shifted. In this century, per-capita growth has been less than 1 percent a year on average, and even since 2009 it’s been only 1.1 percent a year. If the U.S. had been able to maintain postwar 20th-century growth rates into this century, U.S. per-capita G.D.P. would be over 20 percent higher than it is today.
On a chilly morning in December 1988, computer analyst Jack Barsky embarked on his usual morning commute to his office on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, leaving his wife and baby daughter at home in Queens. As he entered the subway, he caught sight of something startling: a daub of red paint on a metal beam. Barsky had looked for it every morning for years; it meant he had a life-changing decision to make, and fast.

Barsky knew the drill. The red paint was a warning that he was in immediate danger, that he should hurry to collect cash and emergency documents from a prearranged drop site. From there, he would cross the border into Canada and contact the Soviet consulate in Toronto. Arrangements would be made for him to leave the country. He would cease to be Jack Barsky. The American identity he had inhabited for a decade would evaporate and he would return to his former life: that of Albrecht Dittrich, a chemist and KGB agent, with a wife and seven-year-old son waiting patiently for him in East Germany.

Barsky thought of his American daughter, Chelsea: could he really leave her? And, if he didn’t, how long could he evade both the KGB and US counterintelligence?

4. The Babylon Bee argues the best way to communicate with people is to call them Nazi's or equate them with Hitler, according to a recent study.

“We found that when one person called the other a Nazi, the subject’s mind was immediately changed, no matter what topic was being discussed, almost every time,” a Purdue rep told reporters. “More respectful tactics like trying to listen to the person’s perspective, using logic, appealing to emotions, pointing out fallacies, or merely agreeing to disagree were almost totally ineffective, but as soon as any of the subjects played the Nazi card, their dialogue partner was almost instantly swayed to their way of thinking.”

“The data is clear: calling someone a Nazi is a persuasive, compelling way to communicate ideas,” he added.

According to university researchers, screaming at the top of your lungs that the person you are conversing with is “literally Hitler” is similarly effective.

5. This was an outstanding sermon by Chuck Quarles at SEBTS:

Worth Reading - 2/17

1. From the New York Review of Books, The True History of Fake News. An interesting and engaging article.

The production of fake, semi-false, and true but compromising snippets of news reached a peak in eighteenth-century London, when newspapers began to circulate among a broad public. In 1788, London had ten dailies, eight tri-weeklies, and nine weekly newspapers, and their stories usually consisted of only a paragraph. “Paragraph men” picked up gossip in coffee houses, scribbled a few sentences on a scrap of paper, and turned in the text to printer-publishers, who often set it in the next available space of a column of type on a composing stone. Some paragraph men received payment; some contented themselves with manipulating public opinion for or against a public figure, a play, or a book.

2. An amusing blog post about the trouble of making life's little celebrations into absolute blowouts. This should make you smile.

Because as soon as Mother had made breakfast, Mother had to begin making lunch. Now, remember, my thyroid looks like it’s been beat with a blunt instrument. It is definitely healing on its own, but I still stand around, wan and pale, looking like someone who’s thyroid has been beat with a blunt instrument. In my world, I either make food, or I do something else, Like The School We All Need To Be Doing. Furthermore, I’m not a big fan of not doing school just because it snowed or it’s someone’s birthday. I don’t have a house full of little kids for whom school can entail making play-dough or taking a nature walk, or, worse yet, Helping Mother Cook (spare me, O My God, for the waters are rising up to my neck). But this brave new world meant that we didn’t do school. Or, at least, I didn’t, which meant only the two children who can function on their own did anything.
Little Eglantine picked her Special Birthday Lunch out of the perversity of her heart that we have all come to endure day by day–Ham, Mashed Potatoes, and, wait for it…Broccoli. Mmmm Mmmmmm. Of course, she didn’t really want to eat this lunch, fattened as she was on pancakes, and neither did anyone else. I mean, mashed potatoes are delicious. But most children pick the lyrical delights of Peanut Sauce, Meat Pie, or Crepes. No one, literally No One has ever picked broccoli. Anyway, I burned it so we don’t have to eat the left overs today, thank heaven.

3. An opinion piece in the LA Times that asks whether proponents of radical gender theories are undermining science through wishful thinking.

Gender feminists — who are distinct from traditional equity feminists — refuse to acknowledge the role of evolution in shaping the human brain, and instead promote the idea that sex differences are caused by a socialization process that begins at birth. Gender, according to them, is a construct; we are born as blank slates and it is parents and society at large that produce the differences we see between women and men in adulthood.

The idea that our brains are identical sounds lovely, but the scientific evidence suggests otherwise. Many studies, for instance, have documented the masculinizing effects of prenatal testosterone on the developing brain. And a recent study in the journal Nature’s Scientific Reports showed that testosterone exposure alters the programming of neural stem cells responsible for brain growth and sex differences.

Gender feminists often point to a single study, published in 2015, which claimed it isn’t possible to tell apart male and female brains. But when a group of researchers reanalyzed the underlying data, they found that brains could be correctly identified as female or male with 69% to 77% accuracy. In another study, published in 2016, researchers used a larger sample in conjunction with higher-resolution neuroimaging and were able to successfully classify a brain by its sex 93% of the time.
We read the stories and ask, “How could the Israelites possibly abandon God to worship the idols of their surrounding culture?” But we never consider how much our own individualistic, consumeristic culture pulls us away from God.

We critique the legalism of the Pharisees and wonder how anyone could want to challenge Jesus the way they did, yet we frequently reject grace and use the law (or our own expansion of it) to hammer others or ourselves.

We lament the people who stopped following Jesus because they found His teaching on morality and sexual ethics too difficult. But then we seek our own escape from the force of His spoken words and the other written words of God in Scripture.

If we are honest we are ourselves, we can easily find ourselves in the pages of the Bible—just not among the heroes.

We are the failures, the rejects, the idolaters, the sinful, the prideful, the villains. But that’s the most wonderful part. God hasn’t called us to be the hero, only to follow the One who actually is.

5. The commercials during the Superbowl this year were pretty boring. There were a huge number of activist commercials, which were generally targeted toward the Left, approving of their approach to cultural issues. Most on the Right have learned to ignore this, because we've come to recognize the bully pulpit liberals have created in their microcosm of reality. Surprisingly, though, Saturday Night Live took a swipe at the heavy-handed antics of Madison Avenue: