Christian Living

Book Review - Education or Imitation?

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Interpretation of Scripture, followed by right application, is the primary way that we are to be like God. This is not an issue of education. It’s an issue of imitation. (p. 23)

It has been the concern of many that the church has abandoned the task of serious Bible interpretation to the “ivory towers” of the academy and the PhD’s that dwell therein. This has resulted in an unhealthy and shallow church as well as a look of suspicion upon the academy. For too long the church has relegated the task of interpreting Scripture to those with formal education while churchgoers go along reading their Bible’s simply at “face value”.

This is the current model of thinking for many Christians. But according to Curtis Allen, this should not be the case. To combat this wrongheaded thinking he has written Education or Imitation?: Bible Interpretation for Dummies Like You and Me. This is a challenging and thought-provoking book that will shed new light on what it means for Christians to faithfully and fully imitate Jesus.

1693 reads

To Do: Nothing

todo

There are seasons in life where you learn to just hang on for the ride. My family’s in one of them now.

For several weeks, we’ve been in the middle of preparing for an interstate move (with husband there and me here), trying to find the “perfect” house (which apparently doesn’t exist), finishing all the end of school year activities for two kids, and trying to occasionally write interesting blog posts (although at this point I’d settle for adequate). And through it all, the one major take away has been learning that human beings were not intended to subsist on six hours of sleep a night, diet coke, and chocolate.

I confess I’m pretty much an idealist. In my world, if I want something badly enough, if I work hard enough, and if I just commit to making sure it happens, it will. Food, sleep, rest? What are those? They’re simply props for the weak. And yet, what I’m discovering—once again even after several decades on this planet—is my own weakness. I’m learning about my inability to do it all, how quickly stress affects every part of me and my tendency to be really mean when I’m overwhelmed.

But thankfully, this week I re-learned something even more important.

4468 reads

On the Subtle Sin of Jealousy

jealousI have always thought of jealous adults as childish. But as I thought more and more about matters, I came to realize that many of the sins we see so clearly in childhood carry over into adulthood. We simply learn to hide them better. For many of us, the weaknesses and sins we displayed in childhood are still with us: jealousy, laziness, a critical spirit, fits of temper, etc.

The other day, I was teaching our AWANA kids about how Laban was jealous of Jacob. God blessed Laban with wealth (in those days, measured in livestock). Jacob, who started raising livestock with Laban’s rejects, began to catch up to and surpass Laban (Genesis 30-31). Laban and his sons became so jealous that Jacob and his family had to escape for their lives. Had God not warned Laban in a dream, he may well have killed Jacob.

Johann Strauss Sr. was a musical genius, but he envied his son, Johan Strauss Jr., who surpassed him in genius and fame. When we speak of the “Strauss Waltzes,” we are usually talking about the work of Johann Jr. Time and time again we hear stories of parents jealous of their children’s talents, beauty, or “breaks in life.” I am among those who want my children to have everything so that I can move in with them!

Even those of us in ministry get jealous. Like something out of Ecclesiastes, I hear of ungodly pastors whose churches grow leaps and bounds. Some of these guys don’t know Genesis from Revelation and are professional manipulators, yet their churches blossom. In contrast, I sometimes notice faithful pastors who love the Lord yet see their churches dissolve. Of course jealousy over a good man whose ministry blossoms is tempting, too.

3963 reads

Good and Angry: Four Anger Myths

They may not be many in number, but they do exist: Christians who are thoroughly confused about anger. During counseling, reading, and sermon-listening, four myths have come to my attention repeatedly. Here’s a brief, non-expert—but hopefully thought-provoking—response.

Myth 1: If you don’t let it out, anger will drive you crazy.

This popular notion probably has its roots in Freudian psychoanalysis. Freud’s million-dollar idea (or at least the pop-psych version of it) was that the human subconscious sort of reroutes “repressed” emotions into psychoses that seem unrelated to their causes. Pent up anger can eventually make you think you’ve been abducted by aliens or that people you know and love are afflicted by a strange disease only you know about and that you have to shoot them to cure them. So, to be healthy, we must express not repress.

This kind of thinking about anger is common in popular film and television. If only the serial killer had openly expressed his anger, he would never have become such a monster. Cue commercial.

Sometimes Christians view anger this way as well. “I just need to vent,” they say.

But if we remove the Freudian assumptions, the idea that it’s healthy to openly express anger looks highly questionable. Is there really a place anger goes to lurk when we’re not feeling it? Certainly our thoughts and beliefs live in memory, but what if anger—and other emotions—really exist only when we’re feeling them?

4031 reads

Bored with Church

From the archives. Appeared at SI originally on July 27,’09. Reprinted with permission from Dan’s book Spiritual Reflections.

In the past two decades, a broad swath of Christendom has undergone a radical transformation in the way church services are conducted. Somewhere in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, it would seem, word leaked out that a most sinister disease was eating away at the foundations of the church. Self-appointed ecclesiastical physicians arose to sound the warning sirens. With impassioned concern they assured us that nothing less than radical measures had to be taken immediately and that nothing less than the survival of the church was at stake.

The malignant scourge that threatened the church, we were told, was boredom. North Americans in particular were becoming scandalously bored with church, and any local assembly that ignored the warning signs of this advancing disease, or refused to resist it, was destined to wither and die.

So with straight faced earnestness the experts prescribed the healing balm. “Make church fun and relevant to all” was the new mantra. One expert counseled me in his book that my sermons should be limited to twenty minutes, peppered with warm, affirming stories and free of “heavy theology.” Church music needed to be “updated” so that it immediately appealed to the visitor and skits and movie clips, you must understand, would communicate truth much more effectively than preaching. (And be sure to go light on that “truth” bit!).

We live in an age of information in which the sound bite is the trade language. We live in an entertainment saturated world of which fun and recreation are the warp and woof. There was only one hope for the church’s survival, we must eliminate boredom at any cost. Like an immoral affair, the partnership between church and boredom simply had to end immediately.

This counsel from the “boredom-killers” had a thread of truth woven into it. Many churches can be justifiably criticized for rendering boredom an art form. Bereft of spiritual vitality, sedated by dead ritual, and shackled by meaningless traditions, many churches have proven utterly bankrupt of all interest to even the most forgiving visitor. In this sense the warning sirens should be heeded.

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Nancy Drew and True Womanhood

I’ve decided that in my next life I want to be reincarnated* as Nancy Drew.

I’m not talking about the newer series post-1970s that’s filled with nasty bits and epic romance—my nine-year-old self was quite content with an amorphous Ned who appeared ever few chapters to escort Nancy to a seasonal BBQ or give her an occasion to wear her new taffeta party dress. And as far as violence, for me it was pretty dicey when Nancy was bound, gagged and left to starve.

No, I’m talking about that classic Nancy Drew that lived somewhere in the magical world post-high school but pre-matrimony. Old enough to drive and travel independently, but young enough to still need her dad. And, always, regardless of the situation, mature enough to help others with grace and style.

I’m not the only one who thinks so, either.

In this NY Times piece, all three women Supreme Court Justices identify Nancy as a formative literary role model. What captured them probably has less to with Nancy’s white middle-class upbringing and more to do with the essence of Nancy herself. As critic Melanie Rehak recognizes, “Nancy was courageous and independent but she never used that independence in an overtly rebellious way. Instead, she used her freedom to have adventures, but they were always in the name of doing good and serving justice.”

And that’s one reason why I’m purposefully directing my daughter to these books. (That and it gives me an excuse to re-read them myself.) I’m not vying for her to be a Supreme Court Justice one day—heaven knows we don’t need the High Court adjudicating whether or not Barbie Fairytopia is in copyright infringement of Disney’s Pixie Hollow—but I do want her to have a robust view of womanhood. I want her to know how to bake a cake for the elderly neighbor next door and have the guts to chase away the intruder who’s trying to steal said neighbor’s family silver. I want her to be smart and kind, pretty and unpretentious, appropriate and daring. I want her to be forgiving and humble, gracious and accomplished.

4993 reads

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