Weekly Meanderings

Weekly Meanderings May 19, 2012

Greetings from Adelaide Australia!

From Bob Jones University to the Roman Catholic Church, the story of Dwight Longenecker. “I began to study the writings of the early Church fathers and got a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In our [Anglican] parish Bible study I took our people through a study of the New Testament Church. We considered the role Jesus gave the apostles. We considered what St Paul had to say about the Church. We considered the New Testament’s clear teaching that Church unity must be maintained at all costs. We confronted the verses which taught that the Church was built of the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20) and that it was the Church through which God has made manifest his wisdom. (Eph. 3:10) and that the Church is the ‘pillar and foundation of truth’ (I Tim. 3:15) I was stunned when one lady in the Bible study said, ‘If what you are saying is right vicar, all of us ought to become Roman Catholics!’ She had drawn the very conclusions that I was trying to run away from.” Longenecker’s conversion landed on the issue of authority: “To offer a universal Christ in a personal way the Church had to speak with an authority that was bigger than any one individual. That authority had to have certain traits to offer a Christ who was both personal and universal. I began to draw up a little list to outline what traits such an authority ought to have.”

Is fellowship simply fellowship in mission? Chaplain Mike pushes back against Francis Chan. “Francis Chan must be reading a different Bible. The other day I watched a video clip from a message he gave at the 2012 Verve Conference in which he asserted that genuine Christian fellowship is missional fellowship. I think Francis Chan is partly right there, but the way he said it was striking and revelatory of the way many evangelicals today read and interpret Scripture…. Francis Chan rightly objects to temple-oriented “churchianity” and the kind of “fellowship” that primarily serves the personal comforts and needs of the church members. Too many churches, of course, are inwardly focused. Our fellowship is greatly enhanced when we break up the “holy huddle” and serve together for the sake of others. But to say — “If I just read the Scriptures, I wouldn’t even think so much about the gathering. You know–Like, my first thought wouldn’t be, ‘Let’s have a gathering.’ Out of the Scriptures, I would think, ‘I’m on a mission…’” — that is the kind of reading and application that gets evangelicals in trouble regularly. This view ignores the Story of the Bible and its consistent testimony to the ecclesial nature of salvation. The Story of the Bible is not only not about “me and Jesus” it is also not about “me on a mission.” It is about God forming a people, a family, a holy nation, a kingdom, a community for the new creation. It is a missional community, yes, but that’s not all it is.”

Bill Kinnon: “The separation of church and pastor is largely responsible, in my never humble opinion, for both the abuse of pastors, as well as abusive pastors.”

Marks of a good theologian by Michael Patton.

God thoughts and control: “But how does religion do this? The scientists think that faith-based thoughts may increase “self-monitoring” by evoking the idea of an all-knowing, omnipresent God. Previous research, which showed that priming people to think of a vengeful, angry God reduces the likelihood of dishonesty, supports this view. If God is always watching, we better not misbehave—he knows about the pepperoni. For Rabbi Wolpe, these results are an important reminder that human nature is deeply shaped by external structures. “People need a system of rules to live by,” he says, adding: “People drive slower when they see a police car. God is a bit like that police car: Thinking about Him makes it easier to do the right thing.” [HT: SS]

From The Anxious Bench blog by Thomas Kidd: “This Sunday was the final meeting of Falls Church (Va.) Anglican at its historic location near Washington, D.C. The parish dates from 1732, the church’s brick sanctuary from 1767. George Washington and George Mason were among the church’s early vestrymen. Falls Church’s removal from the property resulted from the latest in a series of nationwide court decisions regarding congregations who have broken away from the Episcopal Church USA, often to re-affiliate with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a “missionary district” of conservative churches sponsored by the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

Will religious (in)tolerance ruin Christianity in the UK?

Redemptive history preaching has its advantages and its disadvantages, and Jared Moore makes this clear. I find it more than a little odd that I searched “Israel” in this post and not one hit. I’m for the Trinitarian relations, but the best place to begin this is to learn to read the Bible from beginning to end, which means there’s a whole lot about Israel on the plane of history and whole lot about Jesus and another whole lot about the church. Redemptive history quickly succumbs to what I call “covenant soterian” frameworks. In the end, it cherry picks soteriological themes and calls that the Bible’s narrative.

Meanderings in the News

The “moral molecule”: “In 2001, I started studying a then little-appreciated molecule called oxytocin that initiates uterine contractions during mammalian birth and milk flow during breastfeeding. What else might this ancient nurturing chemical do, I wondered? A lot, it turns out. I found that oxytocin is the master “connection” molecule in human beings. It makes us care about our romantic partners, our kids, and our pets. But here’s the weird part: when the brain releases oxytocin we connect to complete strangers and care about them in tangible ways. Like giving them money.”

One of NPU grads (BTS major!), Nolan, is working on an engineering degree in Milwaukee and his group — the Rexnord group — is working on a specialized cyclone vacuum.

Franciscan Univ in Steubenville cancels health care plan.

Do you read Marilynne Robinson? “Since her first novel,1980’s Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson has written just six books: two novels—Gilead (2004) and Home (2008)—and fourworks of non-fiction, Mother Country (1989), The Death of Adam(1998 ), Absence of Mind (2010), and this year’s When I Was A Child I Read Books. Can a novelist who produces only three works of fiction in 32 years be considered great? Can an essayist whose primary concerns—the compatibility of Christian dogma with science, the liberal origins of Calvinism—are far outside mainstream American thought be considered great? Robinson is an American original.”

Jonah Lehrer and the value of a second language: “Samuel Beckett, born in a suburb of Dublin in 1906, was a native English speaker. However, in 1946 Beckett decided that he would begin writing exclusively in French. After composing the first draft in his second language, he would then translate these words back into English. This difficult constraint – forcing himself to consciously unpack his own sentences – led to a burst of genius, as many of Beckett’s most famous works (MalloyMalone DiesWaiting for Godot, etc.) were written during this period. When asked why he wrote first in French, Beckett said it made it easier for him to “write without style.”

Ezra Klein: “[About ten days ago], on a mostly party-line vote, the House passed an amendment by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to prohibit the National Science Foundation from funding political science research. And, in doing so, it politicized one of the main ways this country funds scientific research. “My amendment does not reduce funding for the NSF,” he explained. Rather, “this amendment is simply oriented toward ensuring, at the least, that the NSF does not waste taxpayer dollars on a meritless program.” Well, what Flake considers a meritless program, anyway. As Christopher Zorn writes, the NSF runs a widely respected peer-review program that decides what science to fund. If Flake wanted to reduce the funding available to the NSF in total, that would be one thing (and, to be fair to Flake, he has proposed that in the past). But what he’s doing here is telling the NSF what is and isn’t acceptable science to fund. That’s not how scientific decisions are supposed to work. And the effect could be chilling. Flake was quick to give examples of the “waste” that motivated his amendment. There was the “$700,000 to develop a new model for international climate change analysis” and the “$600,000 to try to figure out if policymakers actually do what citizens want them to do.” In other words, Flake didn’t like the kind of research that the NSF was funding in the political science arena, and so he barred the NSF from funding political science at all. Now imagine you’re part of a discipline that isn’t political science, but that relies on NSF funding. Or imagine you’re on one of the NSF panels that funds those disciplines. Think you’ll be a bit more careful about submitting or greenlighting work on climate change? Of course you will.”

Coffee and life expectancy: “(Health.com) — Drinking a daily cup of coffee — or even several cups — isn’t likely to harm your health, and it may even lower your risk of dying from chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests.”

Carson C. Chow, mathematics and obesity: “That the conventional wisdom of 3,500 calories less is what it takes to lose a pound of weight is wrong. The body changes as you lose. Interestingly, we also found that the fatter you get, the easier it is to gain weight. An extra 10 calories a day puts more weight onto an obese person than on a thinner one. Also, there’s a time constant that’s an important factor in weight loss. That’s because if you reduce your caloric intake, after a while, your body reaches equilibrium. It actually takes about three years for a dieter to reach their new “steady state.” Our model predicts that if you eat 100 calories fewer a day, in three years you will, on average, lose 10 pounds — if you don’t cheat. Another finding: Huge variations in your daily food intake will not cause variations in weight, as long as your average food intake over a year is about the same. This is because a person’s body will respond slowly to the food intake.”

Meanderings in Sports

It was 1936, it was Germany, it was the USA men’s basketball team, it was the Olympics, they played outdoors, they played on sand, it rained, and the opponents — the Canadians. A picture tells a hundred stories.

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  • FYI, the “5 things we can recycle” link is broken. I kept hitting the recycle button but it didn’t help. 😉

  • scotmcknight

    Michael, I deleted the link… the site is down for a while.

  • I’d love to hear RJS on the oxytocin-as-the-cause-of-altruism article. Does he think lovingkindness can be explained as a chemical reaction? I know this is simplistic and sarcastic, but if he’s right, let’s get all prisoners, deadbeat dads, and war criminals on an oxytocin treatment regimen as soon as we can figure out how to do it.

  • Mark Stevens

    Welcome to the most beautiful city in all Australia and home of the best coffee this country has to offer. Looking forward to the intensive.

  • Diane

    Longenecker writes (Bob Jones University …) “But to follow Christ means to lose yourself, not to worship yourself.” But most of the rest of the article is about … Longenecker. “More and more *I wanted* an objective Jesus– one who was not my own reflection. *I wanted* a Christ who was cosmic, not a Christ who was comfy.” Following are the six rules that *Longenecker* decided “had to” be (I would argue that most, if not all of them, are either fantasies and/or unbiblical) for *him” to be at ease. … I would also argue that he misunderstands “body of Christ” when he conflates it with an institution … but I won’t go on … Longnecker obviously has a great need for order, whether in fantasy or not–but Christianity is messy.

  • Scot,

    In regards to the Jared’s post, how would you define the metanarrative of the Bible in one sentence? I could piece together a few of your thoughts from the KJG (you like that?) but wanted to hear from you directly.

  • Pat Pope

    I don’t understand why Franciscan University would cancel the health plan for students but not for its employees. They say they’re hoping legal challenges will prevent much of the health reofrm bill from going into effect, so if that’s the case, why not wait before canceling the students’ coverage? Either that or just cancel it altogether.

  • John W Frye

    There is so many issues in Bill Kinnon’s post that need addressing. I want even bother commenting on the stupid hyper -authoritarianism of some wolves in sheep’s clothing. Hopefully pastors will wake up from the dream that they can attend a conference and buy the “how to grow a big church” kit. All pastoral work is intensely local and fiercely particular. Think fingerprint or retina scan : none alike. Church cloning is the curse of the North American pastoral mentality, and it’s killing churches and destroying pastors.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    I wonder if Francis Chan meant me on a mission with God and others than the more individualistic interpretation in how Mike took it? I will say unless we unpack our messages more, Mike certainly has a point on how others hear the message.

    Michael Patton thoughts about thinking of God as a moral policeman or police car; I agree that thinking about God is better than not thinking about God. But then I would say sensing and knowing God’s presence with you is even better than just thinking by itself. I just saw a Christian movie recently called “The Encounter” which in this movie, the moral policeman was the Devil (something I more connected with).

    Something I disconnected with was the new Christian movie “The Genesis Code” which has science proving the Bible. Basically, it says there is a seeming contradiction between the world/universe being 13 to 16 billion years old and God making the universe in 6 days. They go to elaborate lengths (some Christian geek physics student I suspect) came up with Genesis coming from God’s perspective outside of time where he sees these long cycles he calls days whereas because we are in time and space, it took billions of years to happen. Supposedly this is better than ‘God of the gaps’ theory but I think the whole line of thinking is flawed at so many levels, much less it takes modern man to crack some kind of intellectual code to really understand what Genesis is really about.

  • Sorry I couldn’t make it up from Mount Gambier to attend the intensive.
    I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time.
    Make sure they give you a pie floater.

  • EricW

    @Diane 5.:

    Longnecker obviously has a great need for order, whether in fantasy or not–but Christianity is messy.


    The Gospels aren’t univocal, nor is early church history or early Christianity or the New Testament. Those who think “The Church” is or must be, or that such a one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church can be surely found, and can be found in Rome or Byzantium, are on a noble but Quixotic mission, pursuing a χιμαιρα.

    I went on that mission once, and thought I had found Her in a specific branch of the Faith.

    But, as you say, “Christianity is messy,” and claims to be The One True And Apostolic Church founder on the shoals and rocks of history.

  • I confess I didn’t read the original link, but in the bit about Chaplain Mike and Francis Chan, this bit struck me:

    “If I just read the Scriptures, I wouldn’t even think so much about the gathering. You know–Like, my first thought wouldn’t be, ‘Let’s have a gathering.’ Out of the Scriptures, I would think, ‘I’m on a mission…’” — that is the kind of reading and application that gets evangelicals in trouble regularly. This view ignores the Story of the Bible and its consistent testimony to the ecclesial nature of salvation.

    Mike may well disagree with Chan’s interpretation of the Bible, but he makes a poor case for suggesting that Chan’s view “ignores the Story of the Bible” when the quote he uses to cite Chan’s view itself contains the words “If I just read the Scriptures…” followed quickly by “Out of the Scriptures, I would think…”.

  • On the Franciscan University issue, I have extended family that works there, and I can say that they fully support the institution’s decision. That said, it’s hard for me to see this as saying anything other than “we would rather not offer students medical aid at all than see some of that money go to support abortion.” Even if I accepted their position on birth-control as causing abortion, I find that position hard to accept as reasonable.

  • CGC

    Hi Mark,
    I think you are right about Chan. I just went and listened to Chan’s words and Chan is basically saying that the church is to be the sent-out community and not just come here and gathered community. In that specific aspect, I doubt if the Internet Monk would disagree!

  • DRT

    Regarding the Chan/Mike issue.

    One of the most beneficial things I learned in my MBA program is evident in this banter. Everyone wants to know, which is the best organization, what are the best things to focus on, what is the best way to communicate etc. The answer is that we need to focus on many things, but as humans it helps a lot to concentrate on just a few or a couple for some time, then switch to different things. Every 6 to 12 to 18 months switch things up. Focus on something different.

    When I listened to Chan’s talk (before today), I liked it. But if that becomes the sole focus then it will be in error.

    Do what you are going to do with gusto! Then do something else, with gusto! I believe that is what Jesus did.

  • Chris

    Scot, may I just add my welcome to Adelaide as well. We’ve turned on some cooler weather for you, but hopefully you’ll still see the sun occasionally. Although I can’t join the intensive I’m looking forward to hearing from those who did. Hope you have an opportunity to have a look around our fair city and enjoy the coffee! Blessings to you.

  • Steve Sherwood

    I heard Chan in January at a conference for my ministry organization. He made a number of good points but repeatedly said there was no need to involve others (theology, church history, church present) in reading the Bible. “It’s simple, pick it up and do it.” Over and over. In fact, he said not only were others not needed, they were an impediment. I found it VERY worrisome. Particularly because a lot of young folks find him deeply compelling. This post sounds much the same.

  • Steve Sherwood

    I believe RJS is a woman.

  • Isn’t Adelaide beautiful! Any chance you’re coming to Melbourne as well Scot?