Monday, December 20, 2010

Fasting - Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a fantastic author.  I greatly respect him, and so I was thrilled at the chance to review his book for The Ancient Practices Series on Fasting.  McKnight does not disappoint.  This is certainly one of the best books on fasting I have ever read.  He suggests that, "Fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life" (xviii).  There are simply times when we are confronted with situations (our own sin, sin of a nation, death, etc.) That we need to bring our bodies into line with our prayers, emotions, and spirit.  Fasting is a whole body act.  McKnight shows that fasting is not an A to B resulting in C activity.  If we fast we are not guaranteed that our prayers will be more effective or that we will meet God in a special way, but rather that as we respond to A with B we may discover C in ways we didn't expect.  McKnight also calls for Christians to rediscover the practice of regular fasting as well as fasting before baptism, communion, and other important days in the church calendar.  This is a great book.  A must read.


I received this book free from the Thomas Nelson Publishers "Booksneeze" book review program.  I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.  
 

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Gospel According to Jesus

I first heard of Chris Seay through his book "The Gospel According to Lost." That was a great book with interesting insights into how faith and pop culture meet.  So I was excited to read his new book "The Gospel According to Jesus."  Seay's primary question for us is, "Is it possible that we have ignored Jesus - our wild, messianic King - and chosen to re-create Jesus in the image of the Pharisees themselves?  Seay got the Barna Research Group to do some studies on how Christians define "Righteousness" the result was that MOST people do not actually know what it means.  But here's the problem.  Seay does a poor job of explaining what it does mean.  As a whole I felt like the book falls flat.  With a title like "The Gospel According to Jesus," you would expect it to rock your socks off, but it doesn't even come close.  That said, it is not a bad book.  There are a few very interesting comments and lines.  So if you have extra time, a few extra bucks, and you like Chris Seay it is worth getting.  Just keep your expectations low.   

I received this book free from the Thomas Nelson Publishers "Booksneeze" book review program.  I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Are you an average book reader?

My brother-in-law posted this on his blog.  I thought I would pass it on.
According to a recent study done by the BBC the average person has only read six out the one-hundred books on the list below. Most are classics but a few modern literary works are included. 

The titles highlighted in ORANGE are the ones I have read.And PURPLE I may have but I can't remember for sure.
1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien (More times than I can count)
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (Honestly I am not quite done the series, but close enough to say I have done it)
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (Listen to Q debate about the over hype of this book here)
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (I haven't read them all, but I have read
All's Well That Ends Well, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Taming of the Shrew (I really liked this one), The Tempest, Twelfth Night, Hamlet (many times), King Lear, Macbeth, Othello, and Romeo and Juliet (Also more than once).
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien (Again, more times than I can count)
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis (Do I need to even say that I have read all of them repeatedly, sometimes a whole book in one day).
34. Emma -Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis (Why is this here... see #33)
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (HIGHLY overrated)
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens (I think this is one of Dicken's best).
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville (I've started it, but never finished. I think that is about par for the course).
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker (Also stared but never finished).
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Inferno - Dante
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert 
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (not sure if I have read this)
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas (one of my all time favorite books)
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (I can't remember if I have read it or not)

In the end I have read 28, with a few more (like the Shakespeare's books) and a few that I can't remember if I have actually read it or notThere are a couple here that I would still like to read, and a few that are actually some of my all time favorite books (Three Musketeers, Tale of Two cities, Brave New World, 1984 to name a few).   I do have to admit though, that much of this is my mother's doing.  I am as well read as I am because of her.  A number of these books (read anything that sounds girly or is by Dickens) I have not actually "Read" as much as my mom read them to me.  But that reading to me sparked a love for books and good stories that I have continued on my own. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Strategically Small Church

We can't all be mega-churches. In fact only half of one percent of churches qualify for that prestigious title.  Yet they influence nearly all of the church growth and strategic planning material that is consumed by the other 99.5% of pastors and churches.  The ironic thing is the effort and resources that those mega-churches put into trying to be like a small church.  The Strategically Small Church is a must read for pastors.  It sets out to encourage pastors and church leaders to view a new way of doing ministry.  It sets out to destroy the myth that bigger is better, and that growing numbers means a successful ministry.  I think that it is a very encouraging book for pastors of small churches, and should encourage a paradigm shift in the way that we think about our churches.  O'Brian will undoubtedly be criticized for not giving enough steps for small churches to practice what he has talked about, but that is the point.  The Strategically Small Church is not a how to manual.  It is a book that should encourage pastors to seek new ways of serving in the church they have, not the one they wish they had.  It is a book that will challenge many pastors, but one that is well worth the time to read.  I give it 5 Stars!    

Friday, October 01, 2010

Confessions of a TVholic

I love TV.  I watch lots of TV.  Probably more TV than I should.  I am pretty sure that there are better things that I should do with my time, but I don't.  However, that aside, the last two weeks have been premier week.  All the studios have released their new shows for us TVholics.  I remember a few years ago when I discovered the high attrition rate of new Television shows.  You find something you like and then two weeks later it has been canceled and replaced with something else.  That said there was one new show that I watched this last week that I liked.  No Ordinary Family is the story about a family that is falling apart and no longer connects with each other.  While on a family trip to try and 'reconnect' and build a stronger family they end up in a plane crash and all receive super powers.  Think The Incredibles but as a live action show.  As a TV show it is alright.  It isn't great... maybe slightly above average.  What I found most interesting is the portrayal of the Dad.  Dad's are not liked by mainstream television.  Think Peter from Family Guy, Hal from Malcom in the Middle, and by far the funniest, but also maybe the worst father, Phil from Modern Family (This is just a snapshot, the list goes on forever).  It isn't just comedies either.  Shows like Private Practice and Grey's Anatomy also tell stories of fathers who have been absent from their children's lives and are completely clueless.  This is where No Ordinary Family is different.  It is the father character who has been holding the family together.  It is the father who knows what is happening in the kids lives.  The father in No Ordinary Family is a genuinely good guy who loves his family and wants them to be together.  It is refreshing to see a good father on TV.  I really hope that this is something that we will see more of and that this show isn't canceled next week.        

Monday, September 27, 2010

God the Idiot: Part 2

In the previous post we looked at some of the characteristics of God as portrayed in Family Guy (Click Here for part 1).  Today we are going to ask how to respond.

What is the Christian response to the “Family Guy god”?  For some it is simply to call it heretical and blasphemous, and boycott it.  While I understand and sympathize with those feelings, we then miss the opportunity to respond to and correct the picture of who God is.  Instead we must respond by correcting the images that are out there.

    First, it is important for evangelical Christians to reaffirm the truth that God is neither man nor woman.  God is portrayed in the Bible as being personal and involved, but never male or female.  “Indeed, the Old Testament avoids attributing sexual functions to God, on account of the strongly pagan overtones to such associations” (McGrath, 2007, p. 204).  Sallie McFague has said that, “God is she and he and neither” (Kraus, 1991, p. 96).  Norman Kraus also says, “To think of God exclusively in masculine gender turns him into an idol” (Kraus, p. 96).  Kraus goes on to argue that in each context it is important to find the right metaphors to use when talking about God (Kraus, p. 96).   However, because of the predominance of male language about God, I wonder if North America would benefit from more feminine language about God.  The Bible is full of this language (Hos 11:3-4,13:8 Deut 32:18, Isaiah 66:13, 49:15, 42:14 Mt 23:37 Lk 13:34, 15:8-10). God is described as one who gives birth, nurses, has a womb, and is like a mother bear.  In fact, when one begins to search the Scriptures for feminine language of God it does not take long to find an astounding number of verses.1 I once heard a prison chaplain who talked about how a card company gave a bunch of Mother’s Day cards to the inmates in a prison.  It was a huge success.  All the cards were taken and sent to the mothers of these inmates.  Because of the overwhelmingly positive reaction, the card company decided to do it again for Father’s day.  The result was the exact opposite.  Not a single card was taken by the inmates.  In a culture full of fathers who are absent, abusive, or both, there is value in recognizing and using the feminine language of the Bible to talk about God.  In the book, The Shack, William Young does this exact thing. Because of the main character’s own problems with the word “papa,” God chooses to be self-revealed as a black woman.  The “Family Guy god” reveals the need for us to more clearly articulate our belief that God is she and he and neither.

   Secondly, what do we mean when we talk about God’s omnipotence?  C.S Lewis stated the problem well, “If God were good, he would wish to make his creatures perfectly happy, and if God were     almighty he would be able to do what he wished. But the creatures are not happy.  Therefore God lacks either the goodness, or the power, or both” (McGrath p. 216).  It seems that this is part of what drives the “Family Guy god.”  If God is powerful, why is it that we are not all supermodels?  Why are some children born with malfunctioning hearts?  The answer lies in a better definition of what omnipotence means.  While the literal definition of omnipotence is that God has all the power and can do anything, the Christian understanding is different (Kraus, p. 81).  When we follow this first meaning of omnipotence we are quickly led to ridiculous questions about whether or not God can make a rock so heavy that he can’t lift it.  Stanley Grenz writes, “In contrast to such misguided discussions, to say, ‘God is omnipotent’ is to acknowledge that God is able to bring to completion the divine design for creation” (Grenz, 1998, p. 98).  Kraus points out that God’s omnipotence means that God is not locked into God’s created system.  “God is not limited to the causality of the so-called natural process” (Kraus p. 81).  Perhaps one of the most important things we can say about God’s omnipotent power is that it is exercised, “though self-limitation and defenselessness of the incarnation.... God in his own freedom     chooses to accomplish his goals through our freedom of response to him.  He joins with us in the struggle to overcome death and evil in such a way that his victory will also be our victory.  His power is for us.  It is not independent and exclusive of us, but inclusive of us” (Kraus, p. 82).  God has self-limitation of power, which gives us freedom.  At the same time, God still retains the power to see that creation is brought to its final goal.  God chooses to join us in the struggle and share power with us.  Perhaps the “Family Guy god” is not a poor reflection of God doing a sorry job of creating things, but of Christians failing to respond to the structures and sin in the world that dehumanizes and devalues those in the world.  Instead of wondering why God does not simply make the world a better place, perhaps the world should be asking what has the Church done lately to make the world a better place?  God will one day rule fully in all power and nothing will be able to stop this plan.  However until that day God has chosen to be self-limiting and to work primarily through those who respond to God’s call.

    Finally, the “Family Guy god” is disinterested in humanity; he is an absent god.  It is vital for Christians to speak up and remind all who will listen that God has not abandoned humanity.  Rather, God cared so much about this planet that the Divine became human.  God has suffered with humanity, so that God could restore humanity.  In the midst of all the difficult things that happen in life, God is the relational Being whose presence can be known.  When I think back to the bar scene, I know that God is, in fact, present in the bar, but God is present in a fundamentally different way than MacFarlane sees it.  MacFarlane sees God torching the place and running, whereas the incarnation shows me that God is in the bar suffering with those who suffer.  God has not left the world to burn.  God is present in it and will one day fully restore it into a new earth.

    The “Family Guy god” is nothing like the Christian God.  However, it does seem that the “Family Guy god” character is created from a number of misunderstandings and assumptions that are drawn from the language we use as North American Christians.  God is not a bumbling idiot who chases women, uses his power poorly, and fails to take an interest in the world he created.  Rather, God is she and he and neither, at the same time, God is personal!  God is actively involved in the lives of God’s creation.  God limits God’s power so that people can freely respond to God, and then God shares that power with us.  In the incarnation we see that God chooses to suffer with humanity, sharing our pain and sorrow.  We know that God is working towards a goal that will be accomplished.  I believe that, as Christians, it is important for us to respond to the “Family Guy god” in a way that carefully corrects these misrepresentations of God.  As Christians, we must watch the language we use about God.  We must take action and use the power God has given us to alleviate the things that are wrong in the world.  And we must continually remind people that God deeply loves humanity and the world, so much that God took on flesh to be among us.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

God the Idiot: Part 1

A few months ago I had to write a paper using a "cultural" text to talk about our understanding of God.  For my paper I chose the portrayal of God in Family Guy.  What follows is some of my thoughts about both the portrayal of God and ways that we should respond.

Recently I was watching the highly popular cartoon “Family Guy.”  The son, Chris, is talking about how he is afraid to try and do homework because there is an evil monkey living in his closet and says that he has proof that it exists there.  Peter responds, “You’ll have to do better than you did on your science exam, or than God did when he left the iron on too long on Ellen Barkins face.”  The scene cuts to a clip of God, distracted, ironing a lady on an ironing board.  He looks down and the conversation goes as follows:
God; “ Oh *$%#.”
Ellen; “How is it?”
God: “Get in the van we’ll put you in the 80s where you’ll pass for hot” (Family Guy Hannah Banana season 8 Episode 4 Two minutes in).

“Family Guy” is no stranger to insulting God.  In season 3, there is a scene where God is trying to pick up a girl at a bar.  He uses his finger to light her cigarette and a second later he makes the same motion and sets the girl on fire.  Then he proceeds to run away, leaving the girl and bar to burn down.  Most of the time I was just offended by these clips.  However, when I started to put them together, I noticed something about the way that God is portrayed in these clips.  Seth MacFarlane, creator of “Family Guy,” portrays God as old, male, pudgy, balding, and completely inept.  In fact, one could call MacFarlane’s god a bumbling idiot.

    What leads a person to picture God this way?  How do I as a Christian respond to MacFarlane’s portrayal of the God I love?  As I reflect on these clips, three things seem to me to be a driving force behind the “Family Guy god.” 

First is the idea in western Christianity that God is male.  For the non-believer, is it understandable that the logical path leads to gods being womanizers?  This was certainly the case for the Greeks, Romans, Ancient Mesopotamians etc.  In those cultures the gods were always sneaking around having sex with women.  As the culture in North America has shifted, it is little wonder that our predominant language of talking about God as male has led to a view of God being more like Baal or Zeus than like the God of the Bible. 

Secondly, I wonder how much of the Christians’ belief in God’s omnipotence plays into MacFarelane’s view.  If MacFarlane grew up within any proximity to Christianity, he would have heard about how God has all the power in the world; that God is able to do all things.  Yet, when one looks at the world, it is clear that things are not all good.  If God is all-powerful, why is it that some people are born with physical defects that will go on to limit them in life?  Children are born all over the world with abnormalities and diseases.  If God is the creator of all these lives, why would he not do a better job?
  
Finally, there is the idea that God is absent and disengaged from the world.  In the clip, “god’s” flippant remark to Ellen about getting into the van indicates that God can’t be bothered to fix his mistake.  Or perhaps an even better example is the scene of “god” setting the woman on fire with his finger.  His reaction is to run out of the bar after setting her on fire.  Our very language sometimes seems to indicate that this is the case.  When a hurricane or flood hits we call it an “act of God” and are then left asking “where was God in this?”  Did God just set the world in motion and then leave?  The world spirals into disaster and God can be seemingly absent.  In brief, the “Family Guy god” is a jumble of distorted images that come from the language we use to talk about God the Father.

Friday, September 17, 2010

God is Love: and the Flannel-graph

I saw this video today and I thought it was pretty sweet.  Perhaps best of all the video was constructed using felt.  The flannel-graph makes a come back!  What do you think?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Brrr....

It's cold.  It feels like winter. I really can't believe that I am not going to be in California when the snow starts to fly here.  These are my hobo mitts that I am wearing in the house.  I had Niki cut the tips of so that I can type, but at least the rest of my hands stay sort of warm.  In case you care, the book is Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf.  It is incredible!  One of the best books ever written.  If you have never read Volf, you need to.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Beyond Opinion

Beyond Opinion is a mixed book.  Since it is only edited and not written entirely by Ravi Zacharias some chapters are better than others.  The chapter by McGrath on a response to Atheism is by far my favorite  chapter in the book.  On the other side the responses to Post-modernism and Youth Culture were not very good.  I also really unsure what to do with the chapter on Islam.  We already live in a culture that has so much misinformation on Islam, and I am not sure if this chapter adds to this or clarifies things. 
All in all this book was pretty good.  If you have a chance pick it up and give it a read.

**Disclosure of material connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishing as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Man vs. Toddler

I think when McBaby comes I will have to do something like this :D

Monday, July 19, 2010

Gonna Read Something...

I decided to read something just for fun. Well actually I have done a lot of reading just for fun over the school year (a lot more than most of my seminary friends).  In fact 19 out of the 45 books I've read so far this year were for my own pleasure not for school. That said, I decided to read something easy, something fun, and something that is not related to religion, society, or technology... or maybe it is related to all of those.  I realize that I am 13 years late getting onto this bandwagon, but this week I am going to crack open Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.  Hard to believe that all this Harry Potter craziness began while I was still in high school.  But as the old saying goes, "better late than never."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Christians are Hate-filled

Right.  Now that I got your attention.  The book, "Christians are Hate-filled Hypocrites... and Other Lies You've been told" by Bradly Wright is not for everyone.  In fact it is hardly what I would call a page turner, unless of course you are a big fan of statistical information.  Wright, is trying to correct what he sees as some dangerous inaccuracies about the state of Christianity in the United States.  On nearly every page he calls into question the findings of the Barna Research group.  In fact Christianity is doing very well in the United States, and many of the popular statistics you have heard (e.g. Christians are just as likely to get divorced, we are losing our young people, etc) are false.  Why would you want to read this book?  Wright makes the case that if we are putting our energies into fixing problems that don't really exist we will miss the problems that really do matter.  Rather than worrying about the coming generation, or the divorce rates among Christians we need to look at the more serious problems in evangelical Christianity.  What are those problems?  Racism, and intolerance would be two of the greatest failings of evangelical Christians.  This is an alright book definitely worth a skim if you are interested in statistics and the state of Christianity in the United States.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

BookHunter

I have a lot of books.  I love books, the way they feel, the smell, the look.  I have also lost a few very good books.  When I was working at the church I loaned out a few and they never did get back to me, and I forgot who had them.  A few months ago I discovered this program call Delicious Library that keep track of all my books.  The problem was it costs about $40.  There was just no way I was going to spend that kind of money on a program that only tracked my books and looked pretty.  But I have found the solution to my problem, and if you have the same problem hopefully to yours as well.  It is called BookHunter (Download HERE).  It looks just like itunes, it is simple to add your books, and best of all it is totally free.  I am loving it, and it's nice to know that I have an easy way to keep track of my books from now on.  Yeah, for BookHunter!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Dawn Treader

I am pretty excited about this.  I hope it's better than the last one.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Make mine on the Lego.

Cool idea for your Canada Day (or in a few days Independence day celebration).

I found this on The Toy Zone and thought it was a pretty cool idea. I would have never thought of this, but I can't wait to try it now.


Here is what they said:
"These are an extremely funky way to add fun to a party. However, if you haven’t got any friends you can add them to your glass of whiskey and revel in your retro funk.
To make these all you need is some old LEGO bricks and a slab of modeling clay. Insert each LEGO piece into the clay and remove – bake, fill with water and freeze."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Sacred Journey: "Let's Go for a walk together"

In his book "The Sacred Journey" Charles Foster argues that our spiritual lives are like water.  "If water stops moving, it gets foul (p. 36)."  For our Christian lives to stay vibrant we need to learn the art of pilgrimage.  There are a number of really good sections of this book.  I really enjoyed chapter three "Bias To The Wanderer" and I think he nailed it.  Chapter 7 "Where To? Thin Places" was another one of my favorite chapters.  Fosters' book is certain to challenge the reader.  Either you will be challenged by his use of many non-Christian pilgrims, monks, mystics, gurus and you will give up on him.  Or you will grasp the message that he is trying to give and will be challenged by your complacent lifestyle.  Not every pilgrimage requires leaving and going somewhere new.  Pilgrimage can also happen on your daily commute our your trip to Starbucks.  There is a challenge in this book to go, and do it with new eyes.  While this is hardly the best book I have read, it is certainly a valuable book.  It is good to be reminded of the value of going, of pilgrimage, and for that reason if you find this book in a used bookstore one day make sure you pick it up.

**Disclosure of material connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishing as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Books I've Read in 2010

So my friend Erica decided to try and read 110 books in 2010.  I thought it sounded like a good idea and so I've been keeping track of everything I've read so far this year.  Here it is

1) Religious No More - Mark Baker
2) Thirteen Moons: A Novel - Charles Fraizer
3) Interpretation First Corinthians - Richard Hays
4) Take This Bread - Sara Miles
5) Justification - NT Wright
6) The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture - Shane Hipps
7) Free of Charge - Miroslav Volf
8) Paul a Very Short Introduction - EP Sanders
9) Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform - William G. McLoughlin
10) A Wind In The Door - Madeline L’Engle
 11) The Gospel According to Lost - Chris Seay
12) The Art of Reading Scripture - ed. Ellen F. Davis and Richard Hays
13) The Souls of Black Folk - W.E.B. Du Bois
14) Double Take -Tim Geddert
 15) All Right Now - Tim Geddert
 16) Jesus Matters - ed. James R. Kraybill and David W. Shenk
 17) A Multi-Site Church Road Trip - Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, Warren Bird
 18) Drops Like Stars - Rob Bell
19)  Ungodly Women - Betty A. DeBerg
 20) The Story of Christianity Volume 1 Justo L. Gonzalez
 21) The Story of Christianity Volume 2 Justo L. Gonzalez
 22) Canadian Evangelicalism in the 20th Century - John Stackhouse Jr,
 23) The Burning Land - Bernard Cornwell
 24) St. Patrick - Jonathan Rogers
 25) Texts Under Negotiation - Walter Brueggemann
 26) Different Eyes: The Art of living Beautiful - Steve Chalke and Alan Mann
 27) The Little Book of Restorative Justice - Howard Zehr
 28) The Little Book of Biblical Justice -Christ Marshall
 29) The Act of Bible Reading - Edited by Elmer Dyck
30) Reading Scripture with the Church: Toward a Hermeneutic For Theological Interpretation  -   A.K.M Adam, Stephen E. Fowl, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, and  Francis Watson.
 31) Between Two Horizons - Edited by Joel B. Green and Max Turner
 32) Sensual Orthodoxy - Debbie Blue
 33) A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada - Mark A. Noll
 34) The Moral Vision of the New Testament - Richard Hays
 35) The Nature of Atonement - ed. James Beilby and Paul R. Eddy
 36) Mark: the way for all Nations - Willard Swartley
 37) Inca Gold - Clive Cussler
 38) Proclaiming the Scandal of the Cross - Ed. Mark Baker
 39) Christus Victor - Gustaf AulĂ©n
 40) The Smell of Sawdust: What evangelicals can learn from their fundamentalist heritage - Richard J. Mouw.
41) Recovering the Scandal of the Cross - Joel Green and Mark Baker

If you need something to read here are the best I think from the list

Best Sermons
#32 Sensual Orthodoxy - A nice collection of sermons.  Debbie is an incredibly gifted writer/preacher.  While sometimes it seemed like she stretched a text a bit it was a great read, and very nourishing.

Best book on Ethics
# 34 The Moral Vision of the New Testament - What can I say, Hays is amazing.  This is a must read. 

Best book on Forgiveness
#7 Free of Charge - This is the book that really got me thinking about my Thesis, so obviously a favorite.

Best book on Electronic Culture
#6 The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture - Hipps blew my mind.  If you want to think about church and the place of technology within it, you need to read this one.

Best Commentary
#3 Interpretation First Corinthians - An amazing commentary on 1 Corinthians.  I gave it to my mom and she used it for teaching her sunday school class.  It is both scholarly and accessible, a beautiful combination.

Best Biblical Interpretation book
#12 The Art of Reading Scripture - A great collection of essays written by a bunch of different men and women (Hay's 3rd contribution to my list).  One of my favorite parts is at the end when they take all the tools they have given you and work them into sermons.  Very powerful and great reading.

Best History Book
#9 Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform - McLoughlin looks at the social factors that surrounded the great awakenings and revivals in the United States.  It is an incredible book that shows some of the other factors that influenced the outbreak of these revivals.  It is a must read for pastors and those who work in the church, it explains so much about why the church is the way it is, and why it is that some people resist change, even when it is a good thing.  I have to say that also #19  Ungodly Women was a great book.  It is especially helpful in understanding some of our fundamentalist roots as evangelicals. 

Most Controversial
#4 Take this Bread - I loved it.  But I am sure that there are many people who will just be downright offended by this book.  It is a radically different look at the Lords Supper and what Jesus means when he says eat my body. 

Best by a MBBS Faculty
Ahhh... you caught me... I have to say all of them #1 # 14 #15 #38 #41 all worth the read.  If I could only pick one though I would choose #1 AND #14

So far I have been blessed to have read a lot of books this year. I am already a good way through numbers 42 and 43 and have a few more lined up to go.  I'm not sure if I'll make my goal or not, but I will give it a try... if only some of these books weren't 600 pages or more life would be a lot easier :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Thesis Proposal

For those interested in what I am going to be studying for the next year, here is my now approved Thesis proposal

A Theological Exploration of Forgiveness, Judgement and the Wrath of God
Nathan McCorkindale

Introduction/Rationale
We live in a world that likes the idea of peace and love, but is unwilling to seriously look at the issues that cause people to be alienated from each other.  Perhaps one of the greatest causes of alienation in our society today is a lack of forgiveness.  This lack of forgiveness is just as evident within the church as it is in the broader society.  Forgiveness is a necessary action if any community or society is to live together.  For people both in and out of the church, there is a growing assumption that to forgive someone is to let them go, free of consequences, and to forget the wrong that was done.  These ideas are what drive the popular saying, “Forgive and forget.”  However, is this really what forgiveness is?  How can we “forgive and forget” when something truly terrible has happened to us?  And is this what God has actually done with our wrongdoings?  If so, how can God be a God of justice? 
    On the opposite side of this spectrum is the idea that, before I can forgive, you must pay for your wrongdoing.  Popular culture shows us this picture in sitcoms where the wife will not talk to her husband until proper penance has been paid.  In this case, forgiveness has a retributive cost.  The husband is forced to discover the right action or word that will release him from the hold of his wife.  While on television, this is played up for laughs, but when this actually happens in marriages the results are anything but funny.  Rather than forgiveness and reconciliation between the married couple, bitterness and resentment grow.  Sadly, this sort of thinking about forgiveness has seeped its way into our theology of the cross.  In a current popular sermon, a preacher has God saying to sinners,
    "Do you know what your forgiveness cost me? Don’t you know God the Father beat me     to pieces? He obliterated me beyond recognition, He took the cup of wrath that had your     name on it and splashed it onto my perfectly sinless and bleeding face and what it is     worse is that God did this to me with a smile.   It pleased Him to crush me for you, that is     what your forgiveness cost me."

Does God’s forgiveness really mean that God’s wrath must violently be poured out on Christ this way?  If God is all-powerful, why does God not choose to simply forgive?  How do we understand God’s wrath in relation to God’s forgiveness? 
    Growing up as a child in the church, I was often confronted with a dual vision of God.  The first was of Jesus dressed in white holding a lamb.  The other was of the terrifying God of the Old Testament who brought wrath and judgment on sinners.  However, the trouble with these images is that it pits two gods against each other, rather than being sufficiently Trinitarian.  The Biblical story of God’s forgiveness is not one of simply letting sinners off the hook for their wrongdoing.  The Biblical story of forgiveness is a powerful one because our forgiveness was not cheap.  The trouble is that, for many in Christian circles, the cost of forgiveness has become associated with retribution or punitive justice.  This understanding of punitive justice is one that stands in contradiction to the worldview in which the Bible was written.  The Biblical authors wrote of God’s forgiveness, justice, and wrath from a Hebraic judicial model.
    Recently, in one of my seminary classes, there was another student who would often make comments about how we need to take God’s wrath, or anger, or judgment seriously.  I often wondered what he meant by this.  Later in the semester, I began to read Miroslav Volf and his understanding of forgiveness.  I have also read bits and pieces of L. Gregory Jones and Chris Marshall.  All of these men have been influencing my thinking about forgiveness and justice.  I am interested in bringing these men into conversation with what the Scriptures teach us about forgiveness, wrath and justice of God.       
    It is my thesis that embracing a relational Hebraic sense of justice and a biblical understanding of forgiveness will challenge common punitive notions of wrath and justice with the resulting discovery that God’s wrath is restorative and not punitive.

Methodology    The majority of my research will be library research.  I will read widely on issues of forgiveness, atonement, and wrath.  I will also be taking a class on the Theological Understandings of Jesus.
    This paper will start with a definition of what Hebraic relational justice is and how it is different from our current Western judicial lens.  I will then look at both the Old and the New Testaments in places where our understanding of God’s forgiveness, justice and wrath may have been misinterpreted because of the lenses we were using.  Finally, I will try and formulate a better understanding of God’s forgiveness, justice, and wrath.

Expected Conclusions    I expect to find our previous notions of God’s wrath to be challenged by a theological understanding of forgiveness.  We will find that forgiveness does not soften the challenge of God’s wrath, but will help us see that God’s restorative initiative is to bring forgiveness to the world.  I also expect to find that, as we think about God’s forgiveness and wrath, we may find that the restorative justice movement in our society today can help us better understand God’s forgiveness and justice.

Monday, April 26, 2010

More on Heresy

 
Here is a little quote from Donald Miller's blog. I thought it was pretty interesting and relates a bit to some of the other things I have said recently here.  Just some more food for thought.
 
"We commonly believe that the Evil One wants us to teach bad theology, and I suppose he does. But what he wants to do more is to have us teach right theology in a way that devalues human beings, insults and belittles them, and so sets them against the loving message of God.
So if we teach right theology in a way that is condescending, we are just as guilty as being heretics. That’s why the Bible spends as much or more time talking about love as it does about doctrine. My guess is we love doctrine because it makes us feel superior, but neglect love because it calls for personal sacrifice and vulnerability." - Donald Miller  (read the rest here)


 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Rewards of Simplicity - Book Review

Can you give a book zero stars?  No? Ok then it gets just one.  I think I can sum up my dislike for this book like this: There is a difference between Simplicity and just being Simple.  The book is written poorly with meaningless rabbit trails and stories about their family that don't add to the book.  There is a constant equation of this happened and then we found this that is just too formulaic to be any help.  I just found the whole book frustrating.  There are a few nuggets in chapters 3 and 4 but not enough to be worth picking up the book for.  We need good books about simplicity!  I appreciate that the Pierece's were trying to write a book that looks at the spiritual side of this important topic, but my feeling was that they didn't succeed.  In summary: I feel that the book is poorly written with a serious lack of content.  Please go and find a different book on simplicity to read.



I was given a free copy of this book by Bethany Publishing House for reviewing purposes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Perhaps a Model?

In the 1600s there was a man named Georg Calixtus.  He was a man who believed that Luther's interpretation of scripture was the best.  This was his theological stream.  But he was also uncomfortable with the rigid dogmatism and rigidity that was surrounding the Lutheran scholastic world at the time.  Here is a little bit of what he thought.

"Everything that is in Scripture has been revealed by God, and ought to be believed; but not all is of equal importance.  Only that which relates to salvation is fundamental and absolutely necessary.  The rest is equally true, and is also important, for otherwise God would not have revealed it.  But it is not essential for being a Christian.  There is a difference between heresy and error. The former is the denial of something that is essential for salvation.  The latter is a denial of another element of revelation.  Both heresy and error are evil, and should be avoided.  But only heresy is of such gravity as to keep Chrsitian from communion with each other... (There is more about how to tell what is essential for salvation and an example of Justification by Faith as something which is Biblical but not essential for salvation)  Therefore, although it is important (Justification by Faith), it is not to be required by all, as if any who reject it were heretics.  Luther was right in affirming this doctrine, and Lutherans are also right in insisting on its truth.  But this does not mean that Catholics are heretics.  And the same can be said regarding the differences between Lutherans and Calvinists on the manner of the presence of Christ in communion.  Although Calvinists are in error, they are not heretics."
(Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity Vol 2.  NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1985) p. 177-178

I like this idea.  Though it does need to be said that originally Calixtus accused of being a syncretist (which doesn't really makes sense since that wasn't what he was doing but....)  All of this is to say after my last post, I think that we need more people who are like Calixtus.  Who are willing to have strong theological convictions, who believe that they are right, but also very concerned that Christians stay in communion with each other.  Even Christians who really really disagree with each other (Like Luther and the Catholics)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Plea

I've been thinking about theology, heresy, and orthodoxy.  Look, the reality is that we don't agree.  I don't even agree with my wife about everything theological.  Maybe it's just me but it seems that things are just getting crazier.  I don't know.  I just watched a video in which Driscoll talks about the emerging church.  It kind of bothered me.  Mostly his tone, he has a bit of a sarcastic ring when he talks about those who disagree with him (to be fair it's a pretty typical tone for us younger people).  Then I was just reading some stuff on John Piper's blog. Apparently he has invited Rick Warren to speak at his conference and people are going off the handle saying all sorts of crazy stuff about both Piper and Warren's beliefs.  I have been in a History of Christianity class, and there was this whole period of time when the church was so consumed with theological controversies that they forgot about the poor around them.  People became marginalized and exploited.  Then in one of the far off corners of the world where there was this mix of Judaism, Christianity, and tribal religions, this man had a vision and Islam rose to great prominence.  In my reading of History I have become convinced that one of the great attractions of Islam was that it didn't have the theological baggage of Christianity.  I am a little concerned that Christianity as a whole is losing a lot of credibility with the incredible divisiveness and tone of our current theological debates.  It seems that our current point in history is very similar to this point of Church history.  I am all for theological debate.  I totally think that we need to have strong theological beliefs.  I realize that perhaps at the moment Brian McLaren is not the best person to use to make my point (Especially since his newest book has come out), but I encourage people to pick up Generous Orthodoxy and read the first chapter.  The reality is that the church is incredibly diverse.  Reformed theological beliefs are absolute miles away from my Anabaptist beliefs but I will never say that John Piper is not a Christian, or even a false teacher.  What I am trying to say is this: Have your theological convictions, hold on to them, but lets watch the tone we use, and be very slow to cast any final judgments.  As a side note.  If I can be like anyone in the current theological debates it is like Dan Kimball.  I don't know a lot about him, but I love reading his blog, but most of all I love the tone that he has.  He is one of the best voices for loving dialogue and careful theological thinking currently out there.         

Monday, April 12, 2010

Different Eyes: The Art of Living Beautifully (another book review)

Different Eyes by Steve Chalke and Alan Mann is an awesome must read for anyone who is interested in Christian ethics.  Rather than write a book which argues a position on an ethical topic and tries to convince the reader that this is what they should believe, Chalke and Mann write in a way that should inspire the reader to try and live differently in the world, or as they say live beautifully.  There are no answers on what is right in this book.  There are however, many suggestions on how the Christian life is to be lived, which should help you make the "big" ethical decisions.

The book is made up of four parts.  The first two sections work on explaining what it means to live beautifully in the world and laying out the foundation for us in what God has done and how God has worked in the world.  At the end of each part there are two letters written by people on opposing sides of an ethical issue with some discussion questions at the end.  Chalke and Mann never come out and take a clear position on any issue (although I think that for most of them you can guess what they think).  This may be frustrating for some readers, but I found it refreshing.  This would be a great book for discussing in small groups, Sunday school, or with some friends in a coffee shop.

Part way through reading the book I had to stop and find our what theological stream these guys were writing from, I honestly thought that they might be Anabaptists, *sigh* this is not the case, but there are certainly some similarities to be found.

If you are looking for a scholarly work on Christian ethics, this is not the book for you.  However, if you are looking for something that is short, easy to read, and a great way to start thinking about ethics than this book is a must read.

If you are interested just click HERE for a sample chapter.

(A free copy was given to me by Zondervan for the purpose of reviewing.  I was under no obligation to write a positive review... The book just kicked butt)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

New Kicks

It was time for new shoes.  I have had my last pair for a long time now.  They were old, and getting pretty disgusting, and they were starting to fall apart.  So last night Niki and I were walking around Riverpark and I found myself a sweet new pair of kicks.  Best of all they were 50% off so I only paid 20 bucks for them.  Here are some before and after shots.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Dreams... not the good kind

I don't dream.  Or at least I never remember my dreams.  There are those who are much wiser than me that tell me that you always dream when you are asleep, but I can honestly say that I never remember what I dreamed about in the morning.  That is, until I learned about Baby McC.  In the last week I have had two dreams about babies that I remember vividly the next morning.  The first was one where I was very excited about having a baby, I would touch the growing belly of my wife, I would talk to the baby, I would tell it all the things we were going to do together... the problem was.... Niki wasn't the mother!  In fact there was this really awkward tension between us.  It was so awkward to try and talk into the belly when you didn't really know the person, and weren't at all sure how you felt about them.  Which sort of makes me wonder why people touch random pregnant ladies bellies... HELLO! That is just weird (unless you know the person well and ask permission).  Anyway, I just felt weird when I woke up after that one.  And then the other night I had this dream where Niki and I were camping somewhere, and this raccoon climbed into our babies graco crib and started to eat our baby, picking the flesh off it and stuff.... Terrifying! I actually woke up, told Niki about it, and swore that I would never take my child camping!  I also decided that I wouldn't watch Bones before bed anymore.    All of this is to say.  How do you parents do it?  My child hasn't even been born yet, and I am having these crazy dreams.  Yikes!  Niki may have the changing body, but these dreams are starting to make me feel like I'm crazy.  Ok, enough sharing, back to my Bib Inter paper.