Weekly Meanderings, 19 May 2018

Weekly Meanderings, 19 May 2018 May 19, 2018

As we come to the completion of the Spring Term at Northern we also come to the end of the school year with meetings and events and completions and readings of DMin projects (I have fifteen, count ’em, graduates in our DMin in NT Context program graduating!), and add to that a wonderful time on Northern’s campus with Bishop Todd Hunter and the Telos Collective … lots of stimulating conversations.

Thanks to JS for so many links this week.

Peter Wehner:

Mr. Patterson’s comments are hardly the worst of it. Bill Hybels, the founder and senior pastor of one of the most influential churches in America, Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, recently resigned after charges of improper conduct and abuse of power that he denies. The pastor Andy Savage recently resigned from his megachurch in Memphis after it was revealed that he had sexually assaulted a high school student years earlier. Les Hughey, the founder and pastor of another megachurch in Scottsdale, Ariz., resigned after several women accused him of sexual misconduct when he was a youth pastor in California decades earlier (conduct that Mr. Hughey claims was consensual). And the flagship evangelical magazine Christianity Today published a story in March by its editor in chief urging an independent investigation into Sovereign Grace Churches over allegations of sexual abuse and cover-ups that the network denies.

Complicating matters has been the rock-solid support of white evangelicals for President Trump, a man who has been accused by nearly 20 women of sexual misconduct and has a long history of misogynistic attacks; and for the losing Republican Senate candidate from Alabama, Roy Moore, who was accused of varying degrees of sexual misconduct by nine women, including one who was 14 years old when the alleged incident occurred. Watching all this unfold has been painful for many of us who have identified with the Republican Party and the evangelical movement for much of our lives.

However we feel about these developments, it is clear that large segments of evangelical Christianity have a serious problem related to women. It’s disturbing, in part because this is contrary to the early history of Christianity, which did so much to elevate and dignify the role of women in the ancient world.

Part two, Matthew Bates.

Question 3:

If the content of the “gospel” (euangelion) is Jesus’s story and “faith”(pistis) is best considered allegiance when speaking about what is necessary for salvation, then how does “justification by faith” fit?

The dikaio- word family in Greek stands behind English translations involving justification and righteousness. Dikaiosynē in Greek means “righteousness,” the quality of being legally just or innocent. Meanwhile the verb dikaioō (“to justify”) means somehow to cause that righteousness. Yet in English we must use an extra verb such as “to declare” or “to cause” to explain the verbal action connected to righteousness.

The “by” in justification by pistis (“faith”) describes the means or the agency by which justification is brought about. It involves both Jesus’s allegiance and our own allegiance. How so?

Jesus as the righteous one showed pistis (allegiance) to God the Father by dying on the cross. He did this so that we might then show pistis (allegiance) to Jesus as the king. This is why Paul says in Rom 1:17 that the righteousness of God is revealed ek pisteōs eis pistin (best translated as “by allegiance for allegiance”). When Paul says the righteousness of God is revealed ek pisteōs eis pistin he is saying that it is revealed first of all “by allegiance”—that is, by Jesus’s allegiance to God the Father in living an obedient life even unto death. Second, the “for allegiance” means for the sake of bringing about our allegiance to Jesus the king as we are united to him.

In this manner, Paul’s citation of Hab 2:4 in Rom 1:17 intends both Jesus and humanity in general: “the righteous [one] will live by pistis.” Jesus was the ultimate righteous one. He gave trusting allegiance to God, and he was raised, so he lives. The same is true for us when we are united to Jesus the king and follow the same pattern. We live because allegiance unites us to his resurrection power now and beyond the grave. It is just as Paul indicates, for both Jesus the king and for us in him, “The righteous one will live by allegiance.”

The gospel proper includes Jesus death for sins and his justification, as his resurrection is proof of his innocence. The resurrection proves God declared Jesus “not guilty.” Our own justification is not part of the gospel itself, but rather the effectof the gospel. We are united to Jesus the righteous one by publically declaring allegiance to him as the Messiah-King. Our own justification depends upon on-going union with Jesus the king. This allegiance (pistis) need not be perfect, for Jesus is the forgiving king, but it must be relationally embodied and externalized—for this is what pistis means.

Although it is imperative that the church never neglect the truth of justification by faith, it remains the most surprising false gospel of all. The gospel is not justification by faith. The gospel declares how Jesus became the atoning king. Allegiance to Jesus as the forgiving king is the only saving response to the gospel, and the premier occasion to express it is baptism. For allegiance alone unites us to Jesus the righteous king so that we are justified in him.

Sarah Thebarge, Smile!

Somehow my cancer treatments affected my ability to fall — and stay — asleep.  So I haven’t slept through the night in more than a decade.

I’ve tried everything — Ambien, Valerian root tea, melatonin, meditation — but nothing has helped.   So I’ve just lived with it.  Lived with anxiety at bedtime, wondering how much sleep I’ll be able to get before it’s time to get up in the morning.  Lived with fatigue that caffeine barely lifts.  Lived with giving myself pep talks when I get out of bed after having lay awake most of the night.

A few months ago, my insurance forced me to switch to a new oncologist.  I filled out a symptom survey at my first appointment.  Fatigue?  Check.  Hot flashes?  Check.  Joint pain?  Check.  Insomnia?  Check.

My oncologist asked me about each symptom, including insomnia.  When I told him I haven’t slept through the night since my mastectomy 12 years ago, he asked if anyone had referred me to a sleep specialist.

No, I said.  And I was a little embarrassed because I’m a health care provider, and I feel like I should’ve thought of that, but it never occurred to me.

A few weeks ago, I had a consult with a sleep specialist at UCSF who referred me to a sub-specialist and ordered some tests to see what’s going on inside my brain that’s disrupting my ability to sleep like a normal person.  At the end of the visit, he pulled a blank piece of paper from his desk, wrote something down, and handed it to me.

“This is your assignment,” he said.

The assignment was a single word:  “SMILE.”

I was baffled.  Why is an internationally-respected specialist who practices at one of the top hospitals in the U.S. critiquing my facial expressions!?  I thought, slightly offended.

When he saw my raised eyebrows, he began to explain.

“When you’re lying in bed and you can’t sleep, you get anxious, which releases adrenaline and cortisol, which make it even more difficult for you to sleep,” he said.  “So when you can’t sleep, instead of getting anxious and worried about the fatigue you’ll experience the next day, just smile.  It counteracts your stress response, and increases the likelihood of you falling asleep.” …

I also learned that most of us have the association backwards — we think happiness causes people to smile, but often it’s the opposite.  Smiling causes people to be happy.  Somehow changing our expression changes our mood and makes us more positive and hopeful.  It changes our biochemistry and our neurotransmitters.


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — One used to deal drugs on the streets of New Orleans. Another grew up in Chicago with two drug-addicted parents. A third survived the tough streets of New York and Washington, D.C., where he once stared down the barrel of a gun.

All three young black men became board-certified doctors.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Pierre Johnson, Maxime Madhere and Joe Semien Jr. said they knew the odds were stacked against them when they entered Xavier University of Louisiana in 1998 with hopes of becoming doctors. Black men make up a small percentage of doctors in America, and they knew getting through college and medical school wouldn’t be easy.

Their early lives, college struggles, and victories are chronicled in “Pulse of Perseverance: Three Black Doctors on Their Journey to Success.” They said they wrote the book to show African-American boys that athletes and entertainers aren’t the only examples of black achievement and success.

Madhere, an anesthesiologist in Baton Rouge, said they’re fortunate and have a responsibility to share their experiences with the next generation.

“Young boys need to know it’s not a game in these streets. They need to know that we are completely marginalized as people of color when we mess up. They also need to know you don’t have to rap or shoot a ball to get out of their circumstances,” said Madhere.

Semien, Johnson and Madhere each set a goal early on to become a doctor. Semien, an obstetrician/gynecologist from New Orleans who practices in Lake Charles, describes in the book how he became intrigued by a sixth-grade anatomy class. Madhere discovered his love for medicine after volunteering at a hospital. Johnson said he “just knew” he wanted to heal people after dealing with his parents.

Getting there, however, wasn’t easy.

Dan Rabb:

BEIT SAHOUR, West Bank (RNS) — Smiling as he sings, Pastor Danny Awad faces his flock with eyes closed and palms turned skyward. The 30 or so worshippers scattered across two narrow rows of benches clap or sing along as the synthetic drone of an electric keyboard hums out a song of praise.

“Hallelujah!”Awad says, still smiling, as the song comes to an end. He rests his hands on the lectern, looking comfortable in front of the wooden cross that stretches floor-to-ceiling on the wall behind him. He motions for the others to be seated and prepares to deliver his sermon.

At first glance, this airy little church, modestly decorated with artificial flowers and faded posters of New Testament verses, could be any evangelical gathering from Topeka to Texas. Sunday morning hymns spill out its open windows into the small pasture outside. One detail sets this small community of believers apart, however, and has made it something of an apostate within the global evangelical community: the Palestinian flag that hangs prominently from the pulpit.

This is not the heartland, but the Holy Land. The Baraka Bible Presbyterian Church, led by Awad, sits off the main road in the West Bank village of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. It’s an evangelical church that is proudly, defiantly Palestinian.

In the context of the Middle East, where “evangelical” has become political shorthand for conservative Western Christians with a distinctly pro-Israel orientation, the idea of a Palestinian evangelical can seem like a contradiction in terms.

Time and again, the Baraka Church has found itself caught in the conflict inherent in that moniker. The congregation broke off from its parent organization, the Bible Presbyterian Church, after a dispute over what Awad and others saw as the American church’s pro-Israel leanings.

Only Hauerwas:

No task is more important than for the Church to take the Bible out of the hands of individual Christians in North America.”

Perhaps the only surer way to enrage an American Christian than threatening to take the Bible out of his hands is threatening to take away his gun (no doubt, Hauerwas would bid both farewell gladly). Hauerwas wants to remove bibles from the pews because he is worried that individualism—the conceit of self-sufficiency—has thoroughly corrupted American Christians’ ability to interpret Scripture.

Lost in the smoke, American Christians “feel no need to stand under the authority of a truthful community to be told how to read.” This despite centuries, if not millennia, of church teaching that a rule of faith is necessary to preserve orthodox theology. In the end, it was not so much a commitment to Scripture that separated out the world-hating gnostics from those who worshipped God enfleshed, nor raw assent to scriptural authority that separated out the Arians from the Trinitarians. All sides used the Bible to make their arguments. In the end, it was the rule of faith, the pattern handed down across time by the apostles, that enabled Christians to interpret Scripture rightly.

By taking the Bible out of the hands of Christians, Hauerwas hopes to remind them that the Bible can only be read well when it is handed down. Interpretation, where it is faithful, always occurs within a tradition. As G. K. Chesterton would remind us, “Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead” (Orthodoxy). Hauerwas has no patience for individualism, for it denies the necessity of thinking with those who merely happen to be dead. But even more crucially than Chesterton’s point, individualism forgets that we are indebted to the dead, those whom the tradition gives voice, for collecting, preserving and passing the Bible, as well as its proper interpretation, along to us. We inherit a set canon from those who came before. Without the tradition, we would not have a Bible.

“I do not want students to think for themselves[.] I want them to think like me.”

At the beginning of a course, Hauerwas never fails to tell the classroom, with grinning candor, that his goal is not to make them independent thinkers but instead little Hauerwasians. His point, beyond quite literally desiring to make a peaceable army of minions, is this: we never think for ourselves; we learn to think by submitting ourselves to instruction by others. As John Maynard Keynes warned any would-be freethinkers, “practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” Individualism pretends as if humans were actually capable of independence, forgetting that we owe our life and our ability to think to others. Insofar as individualism is a refusal to submit to the authority and critiques of others, individualism is a refusal to think.

Together, individualism and liberalism eat away at the conditions and virtues necessary for community, leaving Americans incredibly lonely and without any story by which to make sense of their sad condition. As Jesus warns, when an unclean spirit is driven out of a man, “it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself … And the last state of that person is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26). So it is when liberalism drives out religious narratives from our self-understanding. Just as Legion is the name of the myriad demons Jesus drives out in Mark 5, Nationalism is the name of the many demons that have taken residence in American churches.

Elissa Nadworny:

A teenage brain is a fascinating, still-changing place. There’s a lot going on: social awareness, risk-taking, peer pressure; all are heightened during this period.

Until relatively recently, it was thought that the brain was only actively developing during childhood, but in the last two decades, researchers have confirmed that the brain continues to develop during adolescence — a period of time that can stretch from the middle school years into early adulthood.

“We were always under the assumption that the brain doesn’t change very much after childhood,” explains Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London.

But that’s simply not the case, she says, and educators — and teens themselves — can learn a lot from this.

Blakemore has a new book, Inventing Ourselves, The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain — where she dives into the research and the science — and offers insights into how young adults are thinking, problem-solving and learning. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Cleveland Clinic and CVS:

The eyes have it — strain, that is. As our enthusiasm for using computers, tablets and smartphones grows, our eyes are paying the price.

Upwards of 90 percent of computer and device users experience a problem so common there’s a name for it: computer vision syndrome (CVS). CVS comes with symptoms such as decreased or blurred vision, burning or stinging eyes, sensitivity to light, headaches, and back and neck pain.

If these symptoms affect you, use these tips from ophthalmologist Rishi Singh, MD, to ease the strain and avoid the pain.

1. Adjust your viewing angle

The angle of your gaze plays a key role in CVS. For the best angle, the center of the monitor, tablet or phone should be 20 to 28 inches from your eyes and 4 to 5 inches below eye level. If you’re looking back and forth between a screen and reference materials, keep those materials where you can see them with minimal head movement.

2. Reduce glare

Letters on a screen are not as clear as letters on a printed page. Too little contrast between letters and background or glare on the screen makes your eyes work harder. The result: sensitivity to light. Position your screen to avoid glare from overhead lights or windows. Close the blinds on your windows or switch to lower-watt bulbs in your desk lamp. If you cannot change the lighting to minimize glare, buy a glare filter for your screen.

3. Rest your eyes

When using a computer or device for an extended period of time, take regular breaks to prevent eyestrain. Every 20 minutes, look away from your computer and look at a distant object for 20 seconds. This will give your eyes a chance to refocus. After two hours of continual computer use, rest your eyes for 15 minutes.

4. Blink often

People normally blink about 18 times a minute, but computer users tend to blink only one-fourth as often. This increases the chance of developing dry eye. To reduce this risk, remind yourself to blink more often. And refresh your eyes periodically with lubricating eye drops.

5. Get your eyes checked

Uncorrected vision problems — farsightedness or astigmatism, problems focusing or coordinating the eyes and eye changes associated with aging — can contribute to eyestrain and musculoskeletal pain.

Even if you don’t need glasses or contacts for daily activities, you may need them for computer or device use. If you do wear glasses or contacts and need to tilt your head or lean toward the screen to see it clearly, your lens prescription may need to be adjusted. Get an eye checkup to make sure your prescription is right. Doing so can help prevent pain in the neck, shoulders or back that results from contorting your body to see the screen.

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