In Case You Missed It

In a recent article at the Intersect Project website, Dr. Bruce Ashford writes about how to engage culture like C.S. Lewis.

As Lewis scholar Michael Travers has noted, Lewis viewed evangelism as the main purpose of a Christian’s life. Lewis’ literary career can be viewed as an extended exercise in evangelism. Not only in his explicitly theological books, but also in his literature, Lewis wanted to translate Christianity into popular language for ordinary people who were not theologians. In his fiction texts, he tried to create in his readers a longing for God, and to help them “see” the gospel in concrete form. He called this type of writing praeparatione evangelica, or “preparation for the gospel.”

So for Lewis, “evangelism” is something that Christians do with their whole lives, not only through interpersonal encounters, but in the work they undertake and the shape of their professional lives.

We can learn many things about Christianity and culture from Lewis’ life and writings. Three significant lessons stand out.

At the Southeastern Literary and Art Magazine, Rebecca Byrd has written the worn-out student’s guide to break reading.

Final papers and exams are turned in. The mild shakiness of a days-long caffeine overload wears off. The semester’s books are relegated to the (ever-expanding) bookshelf in a triumphant gesture of victory. You actually sleep… for the whole night! Now it is time for one of my favorite celebrations: finding my break reading! While you may have just spent the entire semester with your head in your books, this type of reading is different because YOU get to decide what to read. I’ll acknowledge that some people may just want to put the books down for a while, and that’s okay. But for me, I like to take those weeks or months (if it’s summer!) to read something different. Here is a list of some possibilities for your break reading if you don’t know where to start

Dr. Andreas Köstenberger recently added a post to his blog titled “Christmas: A Call to Witness.” Dr. Köstenberger writes:

As a little boy, I was blessed to grow up in the small country of Austria, the land of “Silent Night, Holy Night” and of The Sound of Music. Christmas was truly a special time of the year, and many Christmases were in fact white. My sister and I would leave our wish list for the Christ child on our window sill the night before Christmas (we celebrated on Christmas Eve), and then, on Christmas Eve, behind closed doors, we heard our Christmas tree being set up and decorated by (we surmised) angels. Later that evening, we would enter our living room, and, lo and behold, find most of the presents we had wished for. What a joy for a child’s heart! Receiving presents! Little did it dawn on us that Christmas was not only a time to receive presents but, at least in the original instance, entailed a call to witness.

Chris Martin writes at his personal blog about three ways to encourage people in a world of negativity.

Perhaps what could set Christians apart most in this cultural moment isn’t a baptized belly-aching, but an atmosphere of encouragement. Everyone is angrily advocating for their value systems with every passing tragedy. What if we just took a break from that and tried to lift each other up? I don’t know. I’m just tired of being upset—sad, angry, or otherwise—and I would love to see a bit more positivity in general.

Here are three ways I try to encourage people from time to time. I value words of affirmation and encouragement, so I am most likely to do #1 below, but any of them (and more) are great. Maybe you need to encourage family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, cashiers, waiters, or others. Here are just a few general ways you can encourage people.

Spence Spencer recently published an article discussing the importance of amateur theologians.

There are two very important aspects of the Christian theological enterprise that need to maintained in order for the church to be (or become) healthy. First, there need to be professional theologians. Second, the discipline of theology needs to be accessible to amateur theologians.

The terms “professional” and “amateur” are intended to refer to more than the status of being paid for thinking and writing. It is certainly true that someone who is paid to think theologically and express those thoughts cogently (we hope) for others to read should be able to be more productive theologically and, perhaps, research and think more deeply. However, the bigger concern here is the training for becoming a theologian. The discipline of theology needs to be accessible to those that have the professional credentials (read advanced degrees) in the discipline and those that don’t.

Recently, a group of professional Catholic theologians got together to call on the New York Times to silence columnist Ross Douthat. It wasn’t just any Catholic theologians, it was a group of leading Catholic thinkers from Georgetown, Loyola, St. Thomas University, Yale, Harvard, Lasalle, and more. In other words, a pretty big group of well-credentialed theologians got together to call for the muzzling of one journalist.

 

In Case You Missed It

Dr. Andreas Köstenberger recently published an article at his personal blog discussing Community and Mission. Dr. Köstenberger writes:

As we read at the beginning of the book of Acts, the early church was devoted to fellowship, koinonia (sharing things in common; koinon = common): “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. … And all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:42). The emphasis on fellowship is interesting, because Acts is a book about mission. So we see that in the early church, community was the foundation for the church’s mission.

Keelan Cook recently posted a blog discussing 3 things churches think they cannot do with Internationals (but really can). Keelan writes:

Not only do I work at a seminary, I am also a local church pastor. As our church gets serious about discovering and engaging internationals in our area, I am starting to see a pattern. There are several things well-intentioned church members feel they are not supposed to do when engaging internationals that are, in fact, really good things.

Of course, everyone exists inside a culture, and church members here in America are no exception to that rule. That means certain aspects of our culture and worldview give us “rules” to live by when interacting with other people. For instance, here in the States when we meet someone we typically shake hands. It happens so naturally that we do not even realize it is a culturally conditioned response. However, when we start engaging cross-culturally, some of these cultural responses cross wires and short out communication. In other words, there are “rules” in our culture that make no sense in other cultures.

The following are three such examples where our “rules” in American culture tell us not to do something that would actually benefit our relationship with people from many other cultures. These are things we think would be wrong to do, but are actually good.

Michael J Kruger shared his top ten favorite books on the authority of Scripture in a recent blog post:

One of the most enjoyable aspects of speaking to different groups on the reliability of the Bible is the Q&A time. It is an exciting (and risky) affair because you never know what you are going to get.

Then again, sometimes you do know what you are going to get. Over the years, one question has been asked more than all others combined: “What are the best books to read on the authority of the Bible?”

Due to the popularity of that question, I have compiled an annotated list of the 10 best books on this topic. It goes without saying that such a list is highly selective (and debatable). So many good books deserve to be included.

Dr. Joe McKeever recently posted an article discussing the things we do for a great story:

“And without parables (great stories!) Jesus did not teach” (Mark 4:34).

I once sat through a long session of a convention of realtors just to hear a motivational speaker.  The story with which he opened quickly became a mainstay in my arsenal of great illustrations and sermon-helpers.

Time well spent.

I’ve read entire books and come away with one paragraph that became a staple in my preaching thereafter.  It was time well used and money well spent.

SEBTS Student (and Library Assistant) Nathaniel Martin recently shared this short biographical sketch of A.T. Robertson.

A.T. Robertson was a faithful teacher, preacher, and denominational leader. Although he came be remembered for many things and in many ways there is little doubt he will be most remembered as the greatest scholar in the history of Southern Seminary.

Finally, be sure to check out this great short story shared by George (Chef) Trudeau, a student at the College at Southeastern: “Meditated Grace

Book Notice: God’s Design for Man and Woman (by Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger)

God's Design picMany of the influencers in the West are working to blur the lines between genders, and apparently now are enjoying a significant amount of popular approval. Even the notion of gender is up for grabs. (Witness Facebook’s recent announcement that its users can select from over 50 gender options.) The culture is awash with “gender questioning” (one of Facebook’s new options). We are naïve if we think that we, or our churches, will not be affected by this cultural shift. Responsible resources are needed to equip Christians living in this gender-neutral culture.

For this reason, we are grateful to Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger for writing an excellent book that presents Scripture’s witness to God’s design for man and woman, God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey (Crossway). They address God’s intentions for man and woman in the home, but also in church and society. They are clear about the importance of the topic: “Biblical manhood and womanhood is too important a subject not to think through carefully as a Christian. While it is undeniable that there’s no current consensus on this issue in the church, the probable reason isn’t that Scripture is inconclusive or conflicted.” (14-15) The authors believe, instead, that Scripture is clear and consistent on the topic. Thus, they see Scripture as the source and guide for clear thinking and loving application on what it says about man and woman, individually and in their relationships together.

In the book, the Köstenbergers seek to provide a biblical-theological treatment of God’s design for man and woman. That is, they trace the biblical storyline to see what God has said about man and woman throughout the ages. The structure of the book illustrates this helpful approach:

Introduction

Chapter 1: God’s Original Design and Its Corruption (Genesis 1–3)

Chapter 2: Patriarchs, Kings, Priests, and Prophets (Old Testament)

Chapter 3: What Did Jesus Do? (Gospels)

Chapter 4: What Did the Early Church Do? (Acts)

Chapter 5: Pauls’ Message to the Churches (First Ten Letters)

Chapter 6: Paul’s Legacy (Letters to Timothy and Titus)

Chapter 7: The Rest of the Story (Other New Testament Teaching)

Chapter 8: God’s Design Lived Out Today

Appendix 1: The Three Waves: Women’s History Survey

Appendix 2: The Rules of the Game: Hermeneutics and Biblical Theology

Appendix 3: Proceed with Caution: Special Issues in Interpreting Gender Passages

In Chapters 1–7, then, the biblical-theological teaching on man and woman is presented. Each chapter contains discussion of key passages and the relevance of those passages for today. Controversial texts such as 1 Tim 2:15 (“she will be saved through childbearing”) receive special attention. On this text they conclude that “save” refers not to religious salvation but to spiritual preservation from falling into error, namely Satan’s deception (pp. 212–19). Chapter 8 contains a summary of the key points from the book and application points for churches, married and single men and women, including the biblical roles and activities for men and women. The three appendices provide interested readers with resources and arguments for further study into this important and controversial topic.

Since this book is about God’s design for men and women, nearly everyone will benefit by reading it. Pastors, small-groups, married couples, singles, and students pursuing clarity on this topic will especially benefit. The Köstenbergers begin their introduction with a testimony of God’s grace to them through the lives of faithful men and women who, in their relationships together, showed the power and beauty of the gospel (pp. 15–16). We can be helped by this book to do likewise.