1. How Our Culture Justifies its Sexual Freedom: Michael Kruger engages the compelling argument progressives make to push sexual freedom further and further down the line. Ironically, that argument often goes something like this, "'We should care more about love and less about sex.' Of all the postmodern cliches that abound, this one may be the most common. And it’s quite effective, rhetorically speaking. After all, it tells people what they already want to hear. They want to hear that they have all the sexual freedom they desire and, at the same time, that they are good people who are just about “love.” It allows a person to keep their questionable behavior and congratulate themselves on their own moral superiority–at the same time."
2. Pharisees, Tax Collectors, and the Politics of Self-Righteousness: Duke Kwon says that while many have considered the issue of anger in the public square, there is a problem upstream to anger: "It’s what ties political rage to what’s right and “just plain wrong.” It’s what establishes the perceived “worthiness” of one’s indignation, transforming anger into a political virtue. I’m referring to self-righteousness. Allow me to wonder aloud: Have American Christians succumbed to a politics of self-righteousness?"
3. You Become What You Trust: Insightful post on the impact of idolatry from Brianna Lambert. She warns us, " The idols we create are blind, deaf, and mute, and if we continue serving them, we’ll eventually become the same. If left undisturbed and ignored, we may begin to lose our own sight, become deaf to others, and render our speech useless to the surrounding world."
4. National History Museum Photographer of the Year: What's particularly fun about this contest are the different age categories. It's fun to see the great photos young photographers are capturing.
5. When you Crave Chic-Fil-A on Sunday: Ha! Enjoy!
In class, philosopher Cornell West once said that every story that has ever been told is either a tragedy, a story with a sorrowful ending, a comedy, a story with a happy ending, or a tragicomedy, a story with elements of both. The tragicomedy, West said, is the most difficult story to tell, but it is the most powerful.
Angel Mateo was 17 months old when he entered our lives. We were his first non-family placement, but his fourth placement in four months. He had been shipped from one family member to another until none were left. We expected a traumatized child to arrive at our front door. But Angel Mateo had almost no signs of trauma. He slept like a rock, met every strange new face with poise, and greeted every ball he saw with an enthusiastic “BALL!” as though it was the first time he had encountered this spherical admixture of magic and fun. Joy exuded through every pore of this boy.
We fell in love.
One of the beautiful things about fostering is that you learn to love the other. When you look at your own child in your arms, you can be captivated by the ways this being reflects yourself back at you. There is a powerful beauty in beholding oneself in another.
1. Almost Half of US Births Happen Outside of Marriage: Riley Griffin reports, " Forty percent of all births in the U.S. now occur outside of wedlock, up from 10 percent in 1970." In addition, " The average age an American woman has her first child is now 27, up from 22 in 1970."
2. The Solution of Our Political Problems is Believing in Satan: Michael Bird has a surprising suggestion regarding our devolving political climate: believe in Satan. He says, " [U]nless you believe in demons, you will begin to demonize whatever political apparatus you find yourself opposing. You will treat your political and cultural opponents not as compatriots with wrong opinions, but as the ultimate enemy of the human race, and imagine that you are involved in a life or death struggle against them. And that, in turn, justifies whatever you think you need to say about them or do to them in order to stop them."
3. 5 Troubling Shifts that Mark Modern Culture: JP Moreland's list is insightful. He says, " The second shift is in the realm of guidance for living one’s life, and it goes from truth to the immediate satisfaction of desire."
4. Don't Reap the Edge of Your Field Michael Kelley on Old Testament harvest laws and the application to our lives: "God did not want His people reaping to the edge. He wanted them to have some margin at the end of their rows. Now, before we disregard this verse as something inapplicable to us, consider why the Lord would make this command. It wasn’t just about preserving His own people. He didn’t tell them to create this kind of margin because doing so is personally healthy and psychologically balanced. He gave the command for the sake of other people who might wander into those fields."
5. Baffling Illusionist: This is a really impressive act... a lot of fun to watch and slow down to try to figure out.
The premise of Our Secular Age doesn’t have strong curb appeal: evangelical Christians grappling with the contribution of a contemporary philosopher’s nearly 900 page tome. Despite the fact that one of my favorite authors, James KA Smith has been significantly influenced by Charles Taylor, I still have yet to pick up Taylor’s A Secular Age.
Despite the less-than-enticing premise, Our Secular Age is a book that should be broadly read by Christian leaders. Even for the reader (like myself) who has no first-hand experience with Taylor, his theses are laid out clearly and the wide-ranging impact of his thought is explored and at times critiqued.
Taylor’s central thesis is that the secular world is a world that has turned its focus on the self and lost its sense of the transcendent. Collin Hansen says that Taylor traces the beginnings of this age to Martin Luther: “Taylor faults the Protestant Reformation and modern evangelical Christianity for disenchanting the world and turning the focus on the self rather than on God through and turning the focus on the self rather than on God through shared religious rituals.”
I read 54 books in 2018: about one a week. I love learning and books are one of my favorite forms of learning. I tend to read five types of books: Christian Living, Theology, Leadership, General Non-Fiction, and Fiction. If you’re interested in tracking my reading, getting fuller reviews, and sharing with me your favorites, I use Goodreads and would be happy to have you friend me there. Here were some highlights for me in 2018:
Everyone suffers. And yet perhaps because of the age in which we live, there have been few cultures that have struggled more with suffering than ours. I’m currently reading a popular book on loss and I’m struck by how vapid the wisdom of our age is in the face of suffering.
Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering is, quite simply, the best book on suffering that I’ve read. Keller deals with the subject philosophically, theologically, and practically. Each treatment is successful on its own, and combined they pack a unique punch as Keller engages mind and heart alike.
Timothy Keller is such a unique author. His books range from the incredibly accessible: The Prodigal God and Counterfeit Gods, to the slightly more rigorous, but still very accessible apologetic, The Reason for God, to the more rigorous practitioner’s guides such as Generous Justice or Preaching. Part of Timothy Keller’s unique gifting is his ability to write so well in each of these genres. Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering is the most rigorous book by Keller to date and yet the book is every bit as well written as any of his best.
Contemporary westerners are repelled by suffering and death. On the stage of world history, our fear of death is abnormal. Keller quotes an author at The New York Times Magazine, who, after the tragic sniper shootings in the Washington DC area reflected, “The fact is, staving off our own death is one of our favorite national pastimes. Whether it’s exercise, checking our cholesterol or having a mammogram, we are always hedging against mortality. [And yet] despite our best intentions, it is still, for the most part, random. And it is absolutely coming.”[i] This aversion to suffering and death is a cultural blind spot and means that we naturally approach the topic with naiveté.
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