Worth Reading - 12/17

1. Russell Moore affirms the cosmic importance of Sunday School. It's something we often take for granted, but his account reflects the importance of investing time and resources into kids on a weekly basis.

I’ve often said that I wouldn’t want to have to choose between my seminary education and my childhood years in Sunday school, but if forced I would choose Sunday School each time. Now that’s saying something since I believe so strongly in seminary education, and gave most of my ministry to it. I’d never want to give that up. But as important as theological education was for me, Sunday school was more so.

There was nothing about my Sunday school experience that would be commended by a seminar on children’s development or Bible teaching. My teachers weren’t theologically trained, and probably not one of them could have explained the hypostatic union or the Pauline doctrine of election. They also weren’t pedagogically equipped. Some just had us go around the room taking turns reading, monotone, from the curriculum shipped from the denominational publishing house. Sometimes the biblical text was incomprehensible to us, since we were, at the time, a King James Version-only church (not out of some theological conviction but because we didn’t know about other translations).

2. Trevin Wax finished his PhD about a year ago. This brief post documents some of the considerations he would have looking back on starting the program. I think it's a pretty good summary of what folks should consider.

The one thing I wish I’d known before I started is just how much of a spiritual battle would be involved in pursuing the PhD. There are devilish traps everywhere. From the idea that more knowledge equals more maturity in your faith, to the ease with which one can fall into pompousness and pretentiousness in writing and criticism. . . . Or the low points of mental exhaustion, where your head literally hurts from all the reading and writing you’ve done. . . . There is a spiritual dimension to that struggle that I wish I’d anticipated beforehand, so that I could have better fortified myself spiritually for that moment.

The evil twins of pride and despair show up frequently, either causing you to throw your hands up and say, “This is terrible, and so am I” or to burst with excitement because you think, “This is amazing, and so am I.” The line between taking pride in your work or in yourself is thin. The ease with which we forget what a massive privilege it is to study truth in an institution of higher learning (and the stewardship we exercise in that situation) still haunts me. We so easily forget the spiritual identity we have received when we focus on the intellectual title we want to earn.

3. This video documentary highlights the strategy of Richard Spencer, a popular figure in the Alt-Right movement, to normalize White Nationalism. The video is presented without commentary or narration, but it reveals how a particular identity group is borrowing tactics from hard left identity groups (some of which are now considered mainstream) to normalize their activities. We need to be aware as media consumers.

4. Tim Keller is always worth listening to, reading, or watching. This podcast with the Mere Fidelity crew is fun, delightful, and informative. Well worth your time.

5. The horror of Aleppo is significant. Somehow we have lost track of it (it seems) because of our distraction with internal politics, but our proper reaction should be horror and sympathy, as Richard Stearns argues at the ERLC.

And it seems we’ve lost the capacity for outrage over what’s happening to innocent people in places like Syria and Iraq. In between spikes of interest like 3-year-old Alan Kurdi’s body on the beach; 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh’s vacant stare after being pulled from the rubble; and now the heart-wrenching goodbye videos from people trapped in Aleppo, we revert to complacency.

How do we keep our hearts tender for the suffering in our world? How do we see as God sees, care as he cares, love as he loves?

Most Christians have heard the powerful prayer of World Vision’s founder, Bob Pierce: “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” I suspect it was as much a prayer for himself as for others. A broken heart can be healed, and Bob wanted his to stay broken, to keep him in the place God wanted him to be: absolutely intolerant of a child’s pain.

We need to do the same if we want to be used by God in these situations. We have to let suffering into our hearts. Other people’s pain should touch us deeply and set off our rage and move us to action.