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writing about this land while waiting for another
I've tried to give the evangelical pastor (and interested layperson) some good resources by which to stay up on current trends in theology and culture. Day one covered explicitly Christian resources; day two provided a mix of blogs and magazines; today I offer up another scattered mix of outlets that you might check once in a while to see what's going on.
1. Relevant Magazine email list (click the link and look to the lower right of the page for a sign-up box) has some good links and gives you a little snapshot of what young, hip, "cool" evangelicals are thinking. Some of it will make you scratch your head, but if your goal is staying in touch with what various groups of people are thinking, this email will help.
2. The 9Marks blog provides lots of good thinking on the church. It asks great questions, questions that most people leading the church won't ask, such as "How does the Bible teach us to structure our churches?" Also, check out Mike McKinley's writing--he can be hilarious (he's the cool 9Marks guy).
3. For that matter, let me recommend the 9Marks site. Have you checked it out? I talk about it pretty often on this blog, but if you've never bookmarked, you really should. The site has a ton of good content--interviews, book reviews, and articles, all of which center around the church and its life. The bimonthly newsletter is nothing less than exceptional and will acquaint with current conversations on the church.
4. The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has a great blog called GenderBlog. Because gender issues are so important and contested right now, you should avail yourself of the content on this blog. Some pieces are brief, but you'll be able to stay up with current trends on this hugely important subject. Also, go to GirlTalk for helpful writing on Christian womanhood (and check out Carolyn McCulley's blog on womanhood from a single's perspective--excellent).
5. Once in a while, take a spin through some cutting-edge cultural reference points--sites like The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, People, Conde Nast, Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, and so on. You'll want to be careful on some of these sites about what content you view, but if you are, you'll gain a healthy perspective on what people in various pockets of culture are thinking, coveting, and struggling with.
One of the most helpful things you can do as a pastor and a thoughtful Christian person is to acquaint yourself with local media. For example, now that I'm in
This is one of the most helpful ways you can think culturally as a Christian, and therefore minister more effectively in your setting (like Paul at Mars Hill in Acts 17). Identify the leading thought media of your area and browse it to learn what people are thinking and talking about. I learned to do this from my former boss, Dr. Al Mohler, and also from
I hope that this brief series has been helpful to you. There is an avalanche of resources I could recommend and there are many that readers will identify as personally helpful that I have not listed here. However, I'm confident that the fifteen to twenty resources listed here will greatly assist pastors across the nation (and perhaps the world) to stay up to date on both Christian and secular culture. You and I need to know the Word, preeminently, before anything else; but beyond this, it will really help us to know what people are thinking. The world is constantly changing, and we should not fall behind as we engage it.
Ministering as if we're in a vacuum may not prevent us from faithful ministry, but it won't do much to help us. Bookmark some of these links, get in touch with the world, and get passionate to reach all corners of your world for Christ.
The resources I shared yesterday were mostly blogs. They're all free, and they will, if you check them regularly, keep you very much up to speed on the basic thought trends and events of evangelicalism. Even if you don't have time to scan them every day, taking an hour or two each week to scan the listed blogs will help a great deal to keep you aware of challenges to the faith and positive developments.
Here are some other miscellaneous resources that you could check if you have a little extra time beyond the five cornerstone outlets. These are sites to visit on, perhaps, a bi-weekly basis.
1. The Kairos Journal. As a pastor, you have to sign up for this and have someone recommend you for the site. It's geared for pastors who want to think in a Christian way about culture. It's a great preaching resource. The "Daily News" feature compiles important news stories from around the world.
2. The Al Mohler Radio Show link list is a compendium of top news stories and feature pieces from the leading print media. It's a fantastic resource that you should have to pay for, but don't. Subscribe to it by email and it will be delivered daily. Separate from Dr. Mohler's writing.
3. Time or Newsweek. Both of these popular print magazines have their biases, but they do a pretty good job of capturing the latest cultural trends. If you don't want to subscribe to the print versions, you could always scan their websites for the latest headlines. That would be helpful.
4. World Magazine is a solid counterpart to the secular print magazines. It provides Christian perspectives on current events and key trends. I enjoy and benefit from World and find its subscription price worth it.
5. National Review is also a current events-and-trends print magazine, but it's explicitly conservative, often helpful, and sometimes quite funny.
No one wants to pay for news anymore, but if you have a little extra in your church budget, pay for a few of the above magazines. You can of course visit the websites of these outlets, but I personally think it's worth supporting a magazine that you find helpful if you can. It ensures that you'll keep getting what you want: the news. Most magazines don't cost much, either. With that said, it may not be worth getting many magazines due to cost and time concerns.
More resources tomorrow, the final day of this series. Hope it's helpful--please share any useful ones I'm missing in the comments.
The current drive to indoctrinate, not educate: "For middle-class parents who spend a king’s ransom to send their children off to college, there is the expectation that their offspring will receive an education in science, math, the humanities, and the social sciences. This rite of passage is not merely an expensive dalliance; it is regarded as a union card for success. After all, the education pundits are always saying that a college degree pays for itself in increased earnings. What these parents don’t know, however, is that universities have become reeducation centers on the model of the old communist institutions that manipulated opinion for “higher” purposes.
Professor Richard Rorty, the much acclaimed philosopher who shuffled off this mortal coil last June, argued that professors in the university ought “to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own.” Rorty noted further that students would be fortunate to find themselves under the control “of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents.” Indeed, parents who send their children to college should recognize that professors “are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.”"
The essence of postmodern education: "At one point in the history of the university, “educate” was a reflexive verb. You educated yourself through exposure to great books, scientific analysis, and logical exegesis. In the Rorty age, students do not have this privilege. Now they are obliged to be browbeaten into submission, mere clay in the hands of ambitious professors who are bent upon shaping students’ beliefs."Northwestern teaches a one-sided view of the Cold War (shocking): "In order to fulfill a requirement for a major in history at Northwestern University, my daughter took a course called “The Cold War at Home.” As one might imagine, left-wing views predominated. The students read Ellen Shrecker rather than Ronald Radosh; Joseph McCarthy was transmogrified into Adolf Hitler; and victimology stood as the overarching theme of the course.
Despite the recent scholarship on the period, such as Alan Weinstein’s well-researched book on Alger Hiss or Stanton Evans’s biography of Senator McCarthy, views that did not fit the prevailing orthodoxy weren’t entertained. Pounded into students instead was the notion that America engaged in “totalitarian practices” not unlike the Soviet enemy we decried.
Class session after class session was devoted to the drumbeat of criticism. I asked my daughter if she had read anything about Gus Hall and the American Communist Party, if she had ever heard of I. F. Stone, or if any class time was devoted to the Venona tapes. She looked at me perplexed. There was only one theme in that course: The US government was wrong. There wasn’t any justification for harassing communists, and Edward R. Murrow and Victor Navasky were the real heroes of the period."
To sacrifice grades, or not sacrifice them--this is the current question: "When I suggested that she write her final paper on the role of anti-communist liberals such as Sidney Hook, Irving Kristol, Stephen Spender, and Midge Decter, among others, my daughter said, “My instructor doesn’t admire these people, and I don’t want to jeopardize a good grade by writing about them.” So much for open discussion.
Such bias is not atypical, unfortunately. Courses in the soft disciplines have largely become propagandistic exercises, as instructors have increasingly arrogated to themselves the role of moral arbiter. Invariably, the United States is wrong; our historical role in the Cold War was malevolent; and our civil liberties are still being put at risk by demagogic politicians."*****
I'm excited to pass on word of an October 2008 debate between four excellent theologians on the Trinity. Below is the announcement of the debate, originally posted on the blog of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding (bookmark this link if you haven't already!). I added the bit at the end about the Henry Center, which is the academic center that I manage at TEDS. Hope to see you at the free debate in October--should be very stimulating and worthwhile as four theologians tackle the matter of how the persons of the Godhead relate to one another.
Here's the formal announcement (feel free to spread word of this as you can):
"The Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is excited to announce that on October 9th, 2008 at 6:30pm, it will host a Trinity Debate at the TEDS Chapel in Deerfield, IL featuring Drs. Bruce Ware (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) and
“Do relations of authority and submission exist eternally among the Persons of the Godhead?”
This debate follows current argumentation in the academic sphere between the two sides. Though a theological exchange between expert scholars, this event will prove beneficial for Christians of all backgrounds. The doctrine of the Trinity is at the heart of the Christian faith and takes into account questions of scriptural interpretation, theological synthesis, and philosophical reasoning. Determining the identities and roles of the persons of the Godhead is thus of great importance not only to the academician, but to the pastor, the layperson, the student and all who would seek to probe and comprehend the beautiful complexity of orthodox Christianity.
The Center anticipates that the debate will be lively, informative, charitable, enjoyable, and, we trust, helpful to a wide variety of Christians and even non-Christians who wish to better understand one of the central realities of the faith. This event is not intended to be intramural, but rather to stimulate discussion that clarifies the Word of God in the life of Christ’s church. All should consider themselves invited and welcome to this free evening of debate and dialogue over theological issues that matter.
About the Henry Center: Led by Director Doug Sweeney, professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought at TEDS, the Center seeks in the spirit of its namesake, theologian Carl F. H. Henry, to bridge the gap between the evangelical academy and the Christian church through conferences, lectures, and events. The Center focuses on the concerns not only of the Western church but of the international Christian movement. It is committed to the exchange of biblical wisdom, the authority of Scripture, and the advancement of kingdom work among diverse groups and peoples for the greater glory of God."
“Every great civilization has its superheroes,” says Miller. “America is just a much, much younger civilization… You couldn’t find a better version, in America, of the Pantheon of ancient Greece [than superheroes],” which could be why they’re such an enduring draw.
Del Toro seconds the point: “There is still a longing for mythos, for a spiritual Pantheon. And in an era where we have enshrined materialism to such a degree and we have killed off every conceit that seems to be weak and based on religion—New Age, all those types of things—the only sort of acceptable mythology, I think, is superhero mythology.”That may sound like comic-book-nerd hyperbole, but the comparison with Greek mythology is actually relevant, to a point. For one thing, to the ancients, preposterous tales of heroic feats were not to be taken literally. “It’s not that they were ‘believed,’” says Harvard Classics Professor Gregory Nagy. “That is a Christian concept. Rather, myths about heroes were accepted as valid narratives about moral truths that helped explain life.”