Weekly Meanderings

Weekly Meanderings March 3, 2012

Dear Mr CS Lewis, tell me a story about a castle!

We are praying for those suffering from the tornados in the Midwest,

and for the students in Ohio after the senseless shooting.

Wendy McCaig: “It was at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond that Junia finally found a place in my world thanks to the brilliant and passionate teaching of Dr. Scott Spencer.  Even though Dr. Spencer laid a strong biblical foundation for the role of women in ministry based on the New Testament, I still lived with the fear of once again being silenced by the church.  Upon graduation from seminary, I choose not to enter into the institutional church nor to pursue ordination within the Baptist tradition.  It was far easier for this Junia to find her voice and exercise her call outside the church. In the nearly ten years since I began my ministry, my voice has grown stronger and my fear of being shoved back into a box of silence has diminished.  God has brought affirming male pastors like Pastor Sammy Williams into my life – men who recognized me as a pastor and affirmed my call to ministry even ministry within the Baptist tradition. So here I am at age 45 hearing God’s call to re-engage in the institutional expression of the church.  Not as a staff member but as one who has discovered the church beyond the walls and the pews.”

If you’ve got time for a sermon, listen to this.

David Fitch has taken a 6 month sabbatical from blogging. I’ve always argued that hockey players are not as tough as golfers.

Brad Wright and “attribution theory” — worth a good read.

Shane Scott: “As a child growing up in Kentucky, I knew very few Christians at church who were Republican. Most of the people in my grandfather’s generation were Democrats because they thought the Republicans looked out for the special interests, while the Democrats cared for the common man. Those days the key “moral issues” were economic. Now, the tide has turned the other way, and most evangelicals identify themselves as Republican because of a different set of moral issues. I don’t think it is good for Christians to fall under the sway of any party. My plea to Christians is simple: please do not allow worldly political parties to artificially divide the teachings of the Bible into sets of issues we will care about and won’t care about. We need to care about everything the Bible says.”

Patrick on some thoughts on hope.

Derek Leman on a scuffle about christology/deity of Christ among messianists.

J.R. Daniel Kirk: “In practicing a narrative theology, the overarching conviction is that the revelation of God is a story: the story of the creator God, at work in Israel, to redeem and reconcile the world through the story of Jesus. Part of what this means for me is the possibility of transformation, reconfiguration, and even leaving behind of earlier moments in the story as later scenes show us the way forward and, ultimately, the climactic saving sequence. This is one point at which I differ from N. T. Wright. Regularly in Wright’s writing we will find statements such as, “This is what God was up to all along.” I don’t disagree here. But what often goes unspoken, and where I think we need to be more clear, is that one only knows “this is what God was up to all along” once one is already convinced that “this new thing is actually what God is up to.”

Out of Ur’s post on Mark Dever probing John Stott’s perception of gospel and justice. (Dever stands with Martin Lloyd-Jones, if you know what that means. I’m not sure Dever does justice to Stott.)

LaVonne Neff on apostrophes. (Note to self: If you like writing, and you don’t like this piece by Ms. Neff, then you don’t like writing.)

I quoted Ron Sider, who quoted Pastor Toms, who quoted Upton Sinclair, who was misunderstood by Toms, and then also by Sider and then so too McKnight.

Meanderings in the News

Good story: “Over the last three months, living in a chilly tent on the roof of a vacant South Side motel, there were several times when the Rev. Corey Brooks questioned whether his vigil against gun violence was worth it. He was often jolted awake by gunshots. He missed his son’s birthday and other family celebrations. He and his wife, who is afraid of heights, were limited to phone calls, Internet video chats, and a smile and a wave when she arrived at work at his church across the street. But at about 6 p.m. Friday, Brooks waved triumphantly as he was lowered to the ground by a hydraulic lift. A large crowd cheered his touch down in a block-partylike atmosphere. “We’re here tonight because of young men who have lost their lives,” Brooks told the crowd. “We’re here tonight because on any given night on the South Side of Chicago or the West Side of Chicago some young black man could be killed and his life could be gone prematurely.” Earlier in the day, a pledge of $98,000 (later changed to $100,000) from movie mogul Tyler Perry provided the final push for reaching the pastor’s goal of raising $450,000 to buy and demolish the decrepit motel, a haven for drugs and prostitution.”

Oh my, Owen, that can’t be you — where did you get the idea of that hat for a baseball game?

The Shel Silverstein story behind “A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash.

The never-ending scuffles in Jerusalem and Israel over archaeology, especially in and around the Temple mount, by Guilio Meotti: “Twelve years ago, on October 7, 2000, Arabs armed with pick-axes and hammers attacked Joseph’s tomb, Judaism’s fourth holy site, smashing the stone structure and ripping it apart, brick by brick. They burned Jewish books and religious articles and subsequently began to attempt transforming the site into a mosque. The same holds true of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where Israeli governments have failed to stand up to wanton Palestinian acts of desecration. It’s the greatest crime of all – a religious and cultural crime of historic proportions. UNESCO cried when the Taliban bombed the two Buddhas in Bamyan. But this time the UN didn’t say a thing. In Jerusalem, the Arabs are committing an archaeological crime intolerable to any cultured person, regardless of his political identity. Let’s call it archeological Holocaust.”

What happened to Google+?

The Whale industry, the story: “One hundred and fifty years ago, around the time Herman Melville was completing Moby Dick, whaling was a booming worldwide business and the United States was the global behemoth. In 1846, we owned 640 whaling ships, more than the rest of the world put together and tripled. At its height, the whaling industry contributed $10 million (in 1880 dollars) to GDP, enough to make it the fifth largest sector of the economy. Whales contributed oil for illuminants, ambergris for perfumes, and baleen, a bonelike substance extracted from the jaw, for umbrellas. Fifty years later, the industry was dead. Our active whaling fleet had fallen by 90 percent. The industry’s real output had declined to 1816 levels, completing a century’s symmetry of triumph and decline. What happened? And why does what happened still matter?”

Andrew Delbanco’s piece on the value (not economic) of a good education.

Imagination and creativity — they scare us — Maria Konnikova: “Creativity: now there’s a word I thought I wouldn’t see under attack. Don’t we live in a society that thrives on the idea of innovation and creative thought? The age of the entrepreneur, of the man of ideas, of Steve Jobs and the think different motto? Well, yes and no. That is, indisputably yes on the surface. But no in a way that you might not expect: we may say we value creativity, we may glorify the most imaginative among us, but in our heart of hearts, imagination can scare us.”

Emo music does not depress.

Can we decode dreams? “Even if those devices improve by leaps and bounds, reading a sleeping mind poses great, perhaps insurmountable challenges. The greatest of them is that you cannot really compare the images and stories you reconstruct with what a person actually dreamt. After all, our memories of our dreams are hazy at the best of times. “You have no ground-truthing,” says Gallant. It is like compiling a dictionary between one language and another that you cannot actually read. One day, we might be able to convert the activity of dreaming neurons into sounds and sights. But how would we ever know that we have done it correctly?”

Meanderings in Sports

Here’s what bothers me about the Ryan Braun stereoid issue: MLB voted against him, the union for him, and the arbitrator for him. If this story (link above) is accurate, MLB is playing politics and not reason. Now the one who carried out the test claims he did everything in the normal way.

Bring back the days of Johnny Wooden!

Andi’s on a roll!

Speaking of breaking rules, it appears the Ducks have been cheating. Should have known from those stealth uniforms. “A NCAA investigation into the Oregon football program has come to a preliminary conclusion that the Ducks broke rules in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 according to documents released by the school on Friday.”

Why do major league baseball managers wear uniforms? “Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?”

Dave Duerson’s family is suing the NFL; David Haugh points to the ironies of their suit.

Tiger Woods and the military — Navy SEALS.

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  • Scott Gay

    Owen Youngman is a terrific writer, a professor of digital media strategy, and a poor chooser of hats to baseball games. There is a lot of truth to his description of newspapers being in trouble, not because of the internet, but rather them making poor choices.
    And in laying off Randy Youngman, the Orange County Register lost more than a talented writer.
    And there is more here than a story about the Youngman’s, newspapers, or businesses trying to attract customers. It doesn’t matter if you are in a private business, a public entity, governement. Those who are close to retirement age are going to be treated poorly, even be it subconciously, by others in the group. It’s a fact. And not recognized by those not in that age bracket.

  • Susan N.

    Brad Wright on “attribution theory” – in the comments, one person linked to the ‘Learned Optimism’ test. I figured just for kicks, I’d take the test. Well, I had a very difficult time choosing from one of the two options given for each question. Since I was loathe to select the option that blamed others for what went wrong in the questions, I chose the only other option, which was to blame myself. (No third option?) Consequently, I rated extremely pessimistic.

    Then I read another commenter’s (‘Gruntled’) explanation, and it all made perfect sense to me (my disgruntled reaction to the Q&A). Pessimism is equated with self-blame, while optimism is equated with blaming OTHERS when things go wrong. I can buy the notion that excessive guilt and shame will lead to pessimism / negative outlook; but, blaming others is indicative of an optimistic outlook? Yeah, that’s a real improvement to one’s mental health! Not!!

    What I will agree with is that a Christian’s theological “blik” has a profound impact on general outlook of hopefulness or despair. Whether we blame God for all the bad stuff that happens to us (or blame our totally depraved selves) is the real question. Since I have consciously shifted my paradigm from God of wrath to God of love, I am a much more well-adjusted human being. 🙂

    Careful discernment of scientific claims is as important as with theological truth claims. Sometimes (usually) there is some truth in most propositions. Take what’s good and throw away what isn’t. It’s not all or nothing, either/or. Filing that under: “Life Lesson #1” in the red (hot) folder! I would expect that Brad Wright knows this, given his blog title, “Black, White and Gray!” <– emphasis on the "Gray."

  • Susan N.

    Ohhh…’A Boy Named Sue’ — 🙂

    Coincidentally, I was just searching at the library for the soundtrack to ‘Walk the Line.’ (No luck finding it, though.) One of my all-time favorite movies. What a story of redemption. Johnny Cash was a great man. My step-dad (#2 – my sister’s father), was a huge fan of Johnny’s. I grew up (pre-K to 4th grade) listening to JC tunes.

    Listening to the YouTube for ‘A Boy Named Sue,’ I immediately thought of Hurley’s affirmation of Sayid in the final episode of LOST. “Dude, don’t let anyone do that to you — tell you who you are (and are not).” I think Sayid’s character bears a lot of resemblance to Moses. I guess that’s what I like about both Sayid’s and Moses’s “stories.”

    Johnny Cash and his music “ministry” — what a national treasure!

  • Diane

    Andrew Delbanco’s piece on college was compelling.

  • RJS

    Fascinating discussion on Out or Ur about Mark Dever’s comments. Personally I think “gospel as personal salvation” will die out slowly by attrition, primarily because it is leading to a church full of people who don’t know and don’t do (or don’t connect their doing to their faith) and who are teaching their children the same.

  • Chip

    RJS, I tend to think the opposite. “The gospel as personal salvation” still represents the core view of most American evangelicals, from what I can tell. (I judge “most” based on factors such as megachurch beliefs and what’s taught on popular Christian radio.) Even in metro areas such as the DC one in which I live, the most well-attended evangelical churches — the ones that get many thousands on a given weekend — hold personal salvation as the essence of what it means to be Christian. You’ll certainly find more social justice work in such churches than you would have seen a few decades ago, but it is still not held to be part of the essence of the gospel at the same level as personal salvation. And out in rural areas, personal salvation is still the center of the Christian life in evangelical churches from what I observe, and I don’t see a larger sense of the gospel taking hold in such areas.

    I agree that a greater emphasis on social justice is here to stay. Still, I don’t see that, or in a larger sense, the restoration of all things, as supplanting, or even rising to an equal level with, the central place given to personal salvation. Such views haven’t trickled down from a largely academic setting (or groups that place value on the academic) to the majority of American evangelicals, it seems to me, and they will have to do so long before any decline in “the gospel of personal salvation.” The churches that attract the largest number of people in the DC area are nondenominational Bible churches that hold strong views on biblical inerrancy; defend young earth or 24-hour, 6-day creation views; and place priority on personal salvation.

  • Chip

    And yes, Scot, some of us know what it means that Dever stands with Martyn Lloyd-Jones! 🙂

  • MLB does not like the Braun win because it calls their infallible drug tests into question, opening a can of worms. They will fight him all the way to maintain their infallibility. No one should have even known about it except for the ESPN leak. Everything would have been different if that never happened.

  • scotmcknight

    Chip, are you talking white churches in the DC area? What percent of Christians in DC worship in megachurches?

  • Chip

    Scot, I have never seen a study of actual percentages, so I can’t speak to that. The most well-attended evangelical churches are well known (the largest one has received a fair amount of media attention, not surprisingly) and attract many more people than large denominational churches. It’s actually somewhat difficult to have evangelical friends in the area and not know people who go to the largest church; not only is it by far the biggest congregation in this area at its main campus alone, but it has opened several well-attended satellite campuses around the DC area. This church, and other large nondenominational evangelical churches, are largely white but have substantial minority populations and multiracial staff.

  • Thanks for posting on the Delbanco essay: I’ve ordered his upcoming book!

  • Bob Smallman

    Listening to Shel Silverstein sing, “Daddy,” in the story about “A Boy Named Sue” made my morning! Great stuff.

  • Scot McKnight


    What I would observe is that the personal gospel of 1-2 very large mostly white churches might say nothing about numbers of Christians in the DC area, where God’s work might be just as strong in smaller churches scattered all over the place and their gospel. Until we know what percent of Christians are in those megachurches we can’t say anything about numbers.

    But I agree that the gospel of personal salvation is the heart of evangelicalism. Without the former you don’t have the latter.

  • RJS


    I am not saying anything about social justice as gospel in my comment, or not intending to anyway. I am saying that I don’t think a shallow personal salvation gospel is going to survive in large numbers much longer. There is a phase change in culture that will reach a tipping point and make this view increasingly irrelevant and insufficient. It isn’t fast – and not, probably, our lifetime, but issues of race, gender, and sexuality as examples can indicate how things can change globally in a snowball kind of way.

    This is not subject to proof, except in hindsight, but is, of course, something we can debate.

  • Fred


    I also think it is just the opposite. They don’t know, which leads to a “gospel as personal salvation.” I’ll show my ignorance here but it somewhat like a person trying to find a cure for cancer and having no knowledge of the periodic table of elements. As I read the Bible, knowledge (basic understanding of the raw biblical data) comes before our understanding of doctrinal issues. And so our understanding of the Gospel is built upon a handful of verses that are often taken out of context. So, people like Scot have to come along and redirect our attention to the larger Story.

  • RJS


    Are you agreeing with me or disagreeing with me?

    Regardless I agree with what you say in your comment. There is a problem, I think, with an understanding of the gospel built upon personal salvation, a handful of verses, the bible as moral stories, and attendance in an entertaining worship service. This is a caricature – and overstatement – I know most churches don’t go quite this far; but many people, especially children raised in the church, have this implicit picture. We need, I think, to redirect the attention of Christians to the larger story so they know what they believe and why they believe. This includes how we act as agents through the Spirit of the Kingdom of God (or the story makes no sense).

  • Fred


    Your original post implied that bad theology (“gospel as personal salvation”) leads to inadequate knowledge (“a church full of people who don’t know”). I disagree. It is the other way around, and my understanding is that a biblicist hermeneutic and a soterian gospel is evidence (as well as some of the other things you mention your second post).

    To your second post, I agree that we need to redirect people back to the Story. My question is, how do we do that if not do a better job of teaching/learning Bible?

    Hopefully that is clearer.

  • AHH

    Interesting story about “A Boy Named Sue”, but its statement of the origin of the “Sue” idea contradicts historian Ed Larson, who in Summer for the Gods says the inspiration was a man named Sue Hicks who was the prosecutor in the Scopes trial.
    Larson cites a 1975 newspaper article looking back at the long career of Hicks (who later became a judge), but one might think Silverstein would know his own inspiration. I suppose the two stories are not totally mutually exclusive.

  • Chip

    Scot, I agree with you wholeheartedly: God’s work is (or, minimally, may be) just as strong in smaller churches. I also would not hold that the larger churches I alluded to reflect all evangelicals by any means. But the five or six large nondenominational Bible churches of which I am thinking attract evangelicals strongly, and we’ve lost a number of families from our evangelical Anglican congregation to them. (We’re far from the only church in this area to experience this loss to these other churches.) I’d love to know percentages as well, but even without them, it’s a noticeable trend around here (and in many other areas, from what I can see) that many evangelicals leave their former churches for larger nondenominational ones. In doing so, they sometimes leave churches that have a broader sense of the gospel (or at least God’s mission) for ones that emphasize personal salvation as the core or even the sum of the gospel.

    RJS, I didn’t think you were equating social justice with the gospel. You might be right; I just don’t yet see it. To take just one example, the view that we’re heading toward God restoring what was lost from the fall on this earth rather than destroying this earth and creating a new one is still very uncommon among evangelicals who do not read academic texts, from my experience.

  • nathan

    What a profoundly sad misunderstanding of what is at stake if the other side of “personal salvation” is simply “social justice”.

    The “Cosmic” agenda of the Christ who restores all things is SALVATION OF THE CREATED ORDER…of which humans are a part.

    It’s not about personal private salvation pitted against making sure the individual needs to do “nice things since Jesus was nice”. That’s sunday school party line dreck.

    What’s at stake is locating personal salvation as a component UNDER the larger restoration of a God who spoke a universe into motion and would rather die than live without God’s great creative work of which we are a part.