More tragedy, please

Tales of tragedy, crime, and corruption have value for several reasons. One is that those that read them do not usually lead tragic, criminal, and corrupt lives, at least not the extent portrayed in such stories.Don't mistake: Their natures are corrupt. As Paul says in the letter to the Romans, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God....” Greed, hatred, lust, lies — most people are marked by these in some measure. We all bear their stain. But forces internal and external, graces par … [Read more...]

Prayer by the book (2)

I have my children every other week. At night we pray. I’m not as consistent about it as I should be, but I find praying together valuable. Most often I use a prayer book, usually The Book of Common Prayer. Sometimes it’s the 1662 version. Other times the 1979, which is what we use at church.Before Fionn went to bed tonight we said compline together. Felicity did not join us because she cashiered earlier on the couch. Traditionally, compline is the prayer service conducted just before sleep. Th … [Read more...]

Prayer by the book

“Pray without ceasing.” “The fervent prayers of a righteous man avails much.” In the church where I grew up, I heard these verses a lot. For those who bandied them about they were convenient summaries of their prayer life, or what they wanted it to be. For me they were like slogans for products not for sale in my city.At best prayer was an uneven and elusive discipline. It was often triggered by a crisis: bad traffic, an upcoming test. “Heavenly Father,” I started, followed with a statement of … [Read more...]

Running fool

As I sit down gingerly to write this, it's Sunday, just before noon. Yesterday I ran the half-marathon here in Nashville. What was I thinking?I'm now hobbling like an old man. Every part of my lower body hurts. My knees, hamstrings, and other parts and pieces connected by various ligaments and sinews are all threatening a sit-in -- mainly because they can't manage a walkout any longer. The arch of my right foot has filed for divorce, charging physical abuse. I dreaded church this morning. We … [Read more...]

A source of innovation for publishers

The division of labor allows specialists to focus on their strengths in the marketplace. The idea is as good and useful today as it was when Adam Smith first talked about it in The Wealth of Nations. But the division of labor can also create other divisions -- divisions of assumptions, incentives, communication, and creativity. Sometimes I think that these divisions can do as much damage to a business as the division of labor does it good.Wise minds in the industry have addressed this problem … [Read more...]

Authors as entrepreneurs

Everyone wants to get published. It's universal. Read this from Justin Martyr’s Second Apology:And we therefore pray you to publish this little book … [Read more...]

God and man at last

Rush Limbaugh interviewed Bill Buckley in the mid-nineties for his radio show. I remember listening, but now after more than a decade I recall only one comment. Discussing his faith, Buckley affirmed that, yes, he was a Christian. But that he thought perhaps he wasn't a very good one. He wasn't being coy. The thing that struck me was the humility of it.Though his first book addressed the encroachments of atheism in academia, Buckley never shoved his faith in the face of others. The reason … [Read more...]

The wealth of (Western) nations

"Calvinism is evidently connected with the commercial vocation," writes Luigi Barzini in The Europeans. "It is not clear to an Italian [like the author], however, whether Calvinists, driven by their stern religious code, become the best merchants, or whether merchants become Calvinists because Calvinism is a superior guide for the successful conduct of business."It turns out that Barzini's is an avoidable conundrum. Like the great Italian scribe, I've long been influenced by the concept of the … [Read more...]

To the ends of the earth

In The Expansion of Christianity, a slim volume that is part of the IVP Histories series, Timothy Yates tracks the spread of Christianity from the earliest period of the faith through the twentieth century. In his sweep, he hits all the major missionary efforts and players, everyone from Patrick of Ireland to David Livingstone and Albert Schweitzer.As a survey, I found the book useful and rewarding, but I also personally found some of the material theologically troubling. I was, for … [Read more...]

Jesus, we hardly knew thee?

Since the publication of Dan Brown's spiritual thriller The Da Vinci Code popular buzz about alternative Christianities has been relentless. Otherwise dry bibilical scholars have seen miracles -- such as their tombly academic tomes climbing the bestseller lists. That's what happened to Bart D. Ehrman and his 2005 book Misquoting Jesus, which has sold more than 160,000 copies to date.Ehrman argues that New Testament documents are error-ridden to the point of unreliability and that one early Chri … [Read more...]

Adam Smith for dummies

Despite their obvious differences, Das Kapital and The Wealth of Nations share at least one similarity: Nobody reads them. In the case of Karl Marx, this is no tragedy. Thanks to the colorful antics of history (many of them sticky and sanguinary), anyone can see that the bewhiskered dreamer was full of crap.Not so with Adam Smith, whose tome revealed profundities from which anyone would profit -- that is, unless you count the cost of actually digesting The Wealth of Nations. Any edition of … [Read more...]

Miles from the truth

In 1995 author Jack Miles touched off a theological tempest in a teapot with his publication of God: A Biography, in which he attempts to tell the story of God by reading the Hebrew Scriptures as "imaginative literature." With the 2001 publication of Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God, Miles uses the same approach to explore the life and significance of Jesus, and the tempest is again brewing.The result of the Pulitzer-winning God was a radical revisionist take on its subject, imaging God … [Read more...]