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: