Worth Reading - 3/25

1. Making an idol out of theology is a real possibility for seminary students. Desiring God considers that problem today:

We have often loved what we’ve learned about God more than God himself.

The Bible warns us about the dangers that come with our knowledge of God, especially for the theologically refined and convinced. “You cannot serve both God and theology.” Good theology is a means to enjoying and worshipping God, or it is useless.

Has your theology turned into idolatry? Has your knowledge of God ironically and tragically drawn you away from him, not nearer to him? Here are nine questions that might help you diagnose theology idolatry in your own heart and mind.

2. "What would Jesus do?" is the wrong question according to Ellen Painter Dollar. I've thought this for a while and her blog helps explain why this is so:

In the 1990s, evangelicals by the thousands began wearing simple bracelets also posing the question “What would Jesus do?”—abbreviated as “WWJD.” While I never wore a WWJD bracelet, in the same time period I worshipped at a church that voiced traditional Christian doctrine but, because of our very nontraditional practices (no church building, no clergy, a two-year process toward membership, required tithing, etc.), also attracted people disillusioned with traditional Christianity, sometimes including doctrine. For a number of my friends in that church, believing that Jesus was God incarnate was a stretch they couldn’t quite make. But they did believe that Jesus clearly modeled a more compassionate, just way of living that we ought to follow.The church was full of people—those who accepted Jesus as God incarnate and those who didn’t—doing works of mercy and justice in Jesus’s name.

3. My post yesterday at the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics on 1 Corinthians 15 and our life in this world:

We are called to serve faithfully in our callings in light of the gospel, just as Paul was called to fulfill his task.

Our vocation may not be to take the gospel to new places and preach it to people who have never heard it, but it is no less important to be faithful in the mundane.

As we do our daily work, we should do it in light of the gospel, which ends in the hope of the resurrection when everything will be set right and sin will be no more. Our aim should be to live in that future state as well as we can in a fallen world. We should strive to bring order from disorder, treat others with love, and demonstrate integrity in all that we do.

4. Do we read Scripture for information or for delight? Here is an essay designed to encourage us in that spiritual discipline:

This reminded me of something that Alan Jacobs observed in his book The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. He noted that with the advancement of technology, in particular web media, we are becoming people who are relentless scanners for information. This is not a bad thing of course, but we must remember that technological advancements are never free—they always cost us something. In this case our grazing for information is costing us our love for reading. His book, in my view, is eye-opening.

I have seen a similar phenomenon in the church. When I visit with people and ask them about their Bible reading they often look and sound guilty. Comments include: “I need to get back to that.” “I just need to be more committed.” “I really need to do a better job.” However, when I ask why they don’t read the answer is almost always the same: “I don’t know.”

I certainly don’t know the precise reason, however, I have a hunch that it is somewhere between what Jacobs observes and what I concluded about my lack of devotion to the Omaha newspaper: we don’t delight in the Bible. We just scan it for information we don’t drink it in and digest it.

5. Union University's C. Ben Mitchell reflects on the growing trend toward commodification of education and why a relational approach is necessary:

“As low as $157 per month!” What does that sound like to you? An ad for a used car? A pitch for a new sofa? No, it’s a recent advertisement for college courses at an institution of higher learning. The ad reeks of crass commercialism and turns education into a commodity like bathroom tile or truck tires. But education — at least education worthy of the name — is not a commodity.

Think about what our elementary and secondary school teachers do every day. They aren’t just teaching lesson plans, they are shaping, forming and molding entire generations of future citizens. What’s that worth? Chances are, among their students is a future physician, nurse, firefighter, college professor, judge, or mayor. Teachers invest themselves in the lives of their students far more than their time in the classroom might suggest. They give their energy, imagination, gifts, talents, resources, and skills to their students. And more often than not they give their love, care, and their very selves to ensure that those under their charge not only get correct answers on exams, but, as much as possible, flourish as human beings. How much is that worth per month? Treating education like laundry detergent, pickled pig’s feet, or other consumables trivializes what teachers do.