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Updike’s “Seven Stanzas at Easter”

March 16, 2011

In one of the hundred or so Rob Bell articles written recently, I saw one quote from John Updike’s poem Seven Stanzas at Easter. I found it edifying and beautiful. You should read it.

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Buddy Miller: The Majestic Silver Strings

March 4, 2011

Buddy Miller is exceptional. Here he has formed a supergroup of allstar studio musicians and crafted an excellent album of covers with various singers. You should check it out. Check it out:

Book Review: The Hidden Life by Adolph Saphir

March 4, 2011

I heard about this book from Fred Sanders in his excellent and highly recommended book on the trinity The Deep Things of God. It can be a bit dry at times, but it is very thorough and an important book to work your way through if you are in need of deepening your understanding of what it means to be trinitarian. Just as important and perhaps more enjoyable is Sanders blog. It is theological and historical and wonderful.

Sanders recommends and uses Adolph Saphir’s little known book The Hidden Life: Thoughts on Communion with God throughout his book. Intrigued by the excellent quotes, I found an affordable edition and was blessed to use it as devotional material for the past few weeks.

Saphir was born to a prominent Jewish family in Hungary (?) and was later converted with his entire family through the ministry of a Scotch Presbyterian missionary. He studied for the ministry in Glasgow and Scotland and became a Presbyterian minister, eventually working his way to London and began a teaching ministry that appealed to Christians from various denominational backgrounds in the 1860’s and 1870’s.

The Hidden Life is an extended meditation on James 4:8, “Draw Near to God and He Will Draw Near to You.” Saphir’s contention is that this verse is ultimately the core of the New Testament message, that through Christ a way is made to draw near to God, and that He will draw near to us. I would describe the book as a theological and practical meditation on how to have communion with the trinity in everyday life. One word of caution, this is the kind of book that will keep you from being able to stomach anything from your local Christian bookstore.

Is Live Action Wrong to Deceive Abortion Clinics?

February 28, 2011

I’m not sure if you’ve seen the work of Live Action, a student led Pro-Life group, in exposing the wickedness and unlawful behavior of Planned Parenthood clinics, but here is a video that should get you caught up fast:

Now this video has spawned a bit of a debate in the Christian “blogosphere.” See some criticism of Live Action here and here for instance. Is it ok to lie in a situation like this?  While many concerned Christian bloggers are worried about Live Actions methods, I answer an emphatic YES! Yes, deceive in order to publicly display the wickedness of the abortion industry. For heaven’s sake…do we not realize that actual lives are at stake! This isn’t just a political talking point, this is war, and a little deceit in nonviolent resistance is a wartime necessity.

To further flesh out this point I would encourage you to read this brief sermon on 1 Samuel 19 and Psalm 59 from Douglas Wilson. Here is his concluding thought which bears weight on the issue at hand:

“The issue is God’s law. Those who won’t deceive when God’s law requires it are likely to be the same ones who will
lie when His law forbids it.”

Best Album of 2011?

February 1, 2011

I jumped the gun a bit on my pick for the best album of 2010, but Mumford and Sons album Sigh No More still came in at #2. How will my early pick for 2011, The Civil Wars album Barton Hollow which releases today, fare? I’m loving it so far. Here is the title track:

Book Review: “All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes” by Kenneth A. Myers

January 25, 2011

All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes is one of the most thought provoking books I have read in a long time. If you’ve ever stepped back from modern evangelical culture and stared at it with a confused expression, a strange feeling gnawing at the pit of your stomach, while scratching your head, this just might be the book for you.

Kenneth Myers has some serious concerns with popular culture and what it is doing to our society. More specifically, he has problems with evangelical pop culture and what it is doing to the hearts, minds and spirits of evangelical Christians. Myers issue is not so much with the content of pop culture, but with the form itself. He insists that even the “Christianized” forms of pop culture emphasize the immediate and shallow over the transcendent and deep. It promotes numb mindlessness over deep reflection.

This book is a call for Christians and the Church to stop imitating pop culture with our own versions of celebrity, television, music and magazines (just visit any Christian bookstore to get a sense of the magnitude of Christian pop culture knock off), but to provide a true alternative, as a living example of alternative methods and content.

Myers distinguishes between Folk culture, High culture and Pop culture. He traces the history of Pop culture, a relatively new phenomenon. Basically it is a result of the lowest common denominator. It is a leveling out and smoothing over of high and folk culture to appeal to a mass audience in a global and industrial society. It is designed and marketed not to encourage reflection, but to maintain the status quo.

High culture is designed to elevate the thoughts and emotions and to encourage reflection on the transcendent. It takes an engaged mind and work to understand and appreciate. It doesn’t leave a person the same. Folk culture is a product of a place and a community, the product of a worldview. It is a shared tradition and contains shared values. Folk culture holds one accountable to shared community values while pop culture is all about the individual. I think anyone who has listened to much modern worship music will recognize this effect working it’s way into Christian culture.

Myers points to Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” For Myers these are definitely exhibited easier and better in folk and high culture and rarely if ever in pop culture.

One of the key issues that Meyer is seeking to address is the wholesale embrace of the methodology of pop culture by the church under the banner of contextualization. He points out that the church has long been the bastion of High culture, elevating minds and hearts and focusing people’s attention to the transcendent, and folk culture, instilling communal values and cultural heritage. Now, however, the church is often simply imitating the worst of pop culture and mixing in a little Jesus. A major result of this is that the church has adopted the marketing stance of pop culture, luring people with cool music and advertising rather than the Gospel. Myers believes that this is a direct result of evangelical Christianity’s wholesale embrace of popular culture’s methodology.

I don’t always agree with Myers. I’m not sure that rock music, movies, etc. cannot become high or at least folk culture. I’m thinking here of some great and transcendent films or music with excellent lyrics. Basically I’m saying things aren’t always as cut and dried as Myers makes them and he obviously never cared much for rock or television or film to begin with.

I do agree with most of what he says because his point is basically this: Christians need to stop selling out to trite and cheap imitations of a trite and cheap world. We need to think about the means as well as the end. We need to think about what our methodology conveys. Instead of asking what people want and giving it to them (pop culture) we need to ask what they need and help them come to understand their need for it and we need to remind them of their great cultural heritage (high and folk culture).

While you may not agree with everything here, I would strongly recommend this book.

Happy 466th Birthday Heidelberg Catechism

January 19, 2011

It’s hard to believe it is so old. Check out an excellent article on what the Heidelberg Catechism is and why you should read it from Fred Sanders.