Here are some links worth reading this weekend:
1. John Fea writes about a church library in Texas that does an amazing job providing resources for the people in the local church. This is the sort of church library I would dream of having:
JF: Christians are called, among other important things, to love God with their minds. How is the library making an impact on the intellectual life of your church?
RM: Our library has been described by several outsiders as comparable to many Bible college libraries. We have a full range of current and classic Bible commentaries, systematic and biblical theologies, Puritan classics, books on all categories of Christian doctrine or ministry, Christian living, biographies, and an extensive history section (church and general). So we have provided the resources to enable the members of our body to grow in the knowledge of Scripture and the doctrines of the faith, in order to equip them to fulfill their individual and collective ministries and strive toward Christian maturity.
In addition to managing the library itself, some time ago I began a library email list. Only those who requested to be included are on it. Presently there are around 75 people on the list, including some who don’t attend CBC. Every morning, I visit the Gospel Coalition website, along with a few other selected sites, and review that day’s articles. I then choose 3 to 5 of the most interesting articles and forward them to the library email list. Part of the purpose is to encourage library usage by articles featuring book reviews, but an additional purpose is to increase awareness of issues being discussed in the wider evangelical world.
Let me provide a quote from a response I received last week from a library patron who is on the email list:
“Ron, thank you, once again, for your diligence to spawn discussion and broaden our thinking.”
That is the impact that I would hope the library would have on the intellectual life of our church.
I was particularly influenced by three books that I read a number of years ago:
The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark Noll.
No Place for Truth: Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? by David Wells.
Between Faith and Criticism: Evangelicals, Scholarship, and the Bible in America, by Mark Noll.
I believe the library has contributed to our body gaining a fuller understanding of other traditions and perspectives. To take three examples of areas where there are often sharp differences of opinion, I have found a receptive audience for books featuring different views on end times theology, creation (young earth vs old earth, creation science vs intelligent design, etc.), and the on-going “Christian America” debate. And I am always quick to acquire new volumes in the several series giving four or five views on specific subjects, like Zondervan’s Counterpoint series for example. These enable the reader to, in one volume, see different perspectives all together.
In summary, I do think our library has had an impact on the intellectual life of the church. In the past, this was aided by our church leadership determining not to tie our church to hard positions on secondary matters, such a specific end times theology. And in the present, the library has been enabled by leadership’s continuing financial support for an aggressive library ministry.
2. Last week, Vox published a very reasonable piece on the wage gap between males and females. It gives a very good explanation of the phenomenon and, most importantly, suggests some practical ways that inequities could be addressed.
This might mean moving away from the traditional schedules we’ve become used to, the 9-to-5 hours that became standard when most workers had a spouse at home to handle the emergencies of daily life.
It also means not giving disproportionate rewards to those willing to work the longest, either. Numerous studies find that long hours aren’t always productive. published last year found that managers couldn’t tell the difference between those who worked an 80-hour week and those who pretended to.
"The research is clear," the Harvard Business Review declared last summer. "Long hours backfire for people and companies."
Closing the wage gap means making jobs work differently. There are some jobs where that won’t be possible. Adding more flexibility won't erase the gender wage gap overnight. But it is part of a larger shift in how we see jobs as different now that most workers are also responsible for some level of child care. And there are plenty where we could certainly try harder.
3. A Washington Post article outlines some of the steps a family with 13 children took to live frugally, get kids through college, and live without debt in a very reasonable economic situation.
Rob and Sam Fatzinger, lifelong residents of Bowie, Md., lead a single-income family in one of the country’s most expensive regions. Rob’s income never topped $50,000 until he was 40; he’s now 51 and earns just north of $100,000 as a software tester.
They have 13 children. Which means they require things like a seven-bedroom house and a 15-passenger van. Four children have graduated from college, three are undergrads and six are on the runway.
Yet they paid off their mortgage early four years ago. They have no debt — never have, besides mortgages. And Rob is on track to retire by 62.
This family gets the gold medal for being frugal. This family is the Einstein of economical.
These days, frugality is not about clipping coupons. It’s about rethinking your finances, and maybe your life.
4. An older post by Derek Rishmawy, which reflects on the reality that our ethics sometimes drive our faith. As Tim Keller pointed out to him, sexually promiscuous college students are more likely to become skeptical of Christianity. This is a few years old, but worth reading.
Keller illustrated the point by talking about a tactic, one that he admittedly said was almost too cruel to use, that an old college pastor associate of his used when catching up with college students who were home from school. He’d ask them to grab coffee with him to catch up on life. When he’d come to the state of their spiritual lives, they’d often hem and haw, talking about the difficulties and doubts now that they’d taken a little philosophy, or maybe a science class or two, and how it all started to shake the foundations. At that point, he’d look at them and ask one question, “So who have you been sleeping with?” Shocked, their faces would inevitably fall and say something along the lines of, “How did you know?” or a real conversation would ensue. Keller pointed out that it’s a pretty easy bet that when you have a kid coming home with questions about evolution or philosophy, or some such issue, the prior issue is a troubled conscience. Honestly, as a Millennial and college director myself, I’ve seen it with a number of my friends and students—the Bible unsurprisingly starts to become a lot more “doubtful” for some of them once they’d had sex.
And it makes sense, right? When you’re engaged in behavior you’ve been raised to believe is wrong, but is still pretty fun, more than that, powerfully enslaving, you want to find reasons to disbelieve your former moral convictions. As Keller pointed out, Aldous Huxley famously confessed in his work Ends and Means that he didn’t want there to be a God and meaning because it interfered with his sexual freedom. While most of our contemporaries haven’t worked it out quite as philosophically as Huxley has, they’re spiritually in much the same place.
5. An ironic (and intentionally humorous) guide to being a hipster.
1. Never try hard. Because trying hard smacks of earnestness which isn’t at all hipster.
2. Try incredibly hard to look like you’re not trying. This hair doesn’t dishevel itself. But then take/post hundreds of photos of yourself not trying.
3. Take something simple, like brewing tea, and complicate it so that it takes several hours and can then be called a “hobby.” (see also: making a pot of coffee, getting dressed)
4. Defend your hobbies like moral absolutes. Because TeaVana YouthBerry tea is ESSENTIAL to life.
5. Overpay for gross things like kale and quinoa and then defend your use of those things, again, as though life depends on it.
6. Take something simple and classic like ice cream and needlessly complicate/ruin it by adding flavors like bourbon and cayenne pepper. Then charge triple for it and serve it on a plate that used to be part of a barn door or a piece of sheet metal. (see also: hamburgers)
7. Do everything as though you lived in an era before iPhones so that you can post hundreds of pictures of whatever it is you’re doing, from your iPhone.