Category Archives: Culture

TheologyGrams: Theology Explained in Diagrams

Meme’s and infographics are today’s preferred choice of communication for a lot of people – Millennials I’m looking at you…(and myself).

For those of you who don’t know, infographics are “graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly” (Thanks Wikipedia)

So for example, here is a cool infographic about coffee:

3539a5028859416976f2408ab0f3770f-drink-coffee-coffee-coffee

Infographics have also been used to communicate theological concepts. Here’s one on the Fruit of the Spirit:

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TheologyGrams

This year, Rich Wyld (such a cool name!), an Anglican priest educated at Durham, turned his blog into a short book titled: Theologygrams: Theology Explained in Diagrams.

The book is pretty simple and straightforward. It uses diagrams to offer a more visual way of thinking about theological topics. He moves from the OT to the NT and then deals with practical issues in the life of the church. He concludes with a chapter on theology.

The chapters include some really interesting topics. In the OT chapter we get “Jonah’s Mood-O-Meter” and its pretty funny. The NT chapter gives us a very helpful diagram on “Resurrection Appearances.” Also, a hilarious graph on Paul’s defense in 2 Corinthians 11. I’m definetly showing this one to my class at Eternity Bible College. His Theology chapter has a diagram on the Trinity – and guess what: Its not incorrect!

This is a really fun book to flip through. It would make a really cool stocking stuffer for theology nerds. It would also make a cool coffee table book for theology nerds. Also… if you are a nerd and into infographics and like theology you are going to like this. Also, if you are into nerdy puns or nerdy cultural references you are going to be into this book. Basically, if you are a theology nerd get this book. And if you aren’t a theology nerd, but know a theology nerd get them this book. *Enough Said*

In all seriousness, this book is really cool. You should get it.

Here are some older TheologyGrams from Rich’s Blog:scripturetradreason

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(Review) Beyond the Modern Age

In Beyond the Modern Age: An Archaeology of Contemporary Culture Bob Goudzwaard (Free University Amsterdam) and Craig Bartholomew (Redeemer College) provide an in-depth examination and critique of four modern worldviews. These four worldviews are: 1) the classical modern worldview, 2) the structural-critical worldview, 3) the cultural-critical worldview, and 4) postmodernism. In formulating their critique they lean on the work of Philip Reiff on culture and religion, Rene Girard on desire, and Len Goodman & Abraham Kuyper on pluralism. 513vpc01u1l-_sx322_bo1204203200_With this arsenal of contemporary thinkers, they proceed to put forth a positive proposal for a worldview which can contend with modern worldviews. This is a worldview which is thoroughly Christian but also fits well within our increasingly pluralistic world.

So what does this proposed Christianity for public life look like? The authors propose that Christianity which will be able to engage in our pluralistic world, and compete among the panoply of worldviews will be marked by the following:

  1. It will be self-critical, willing to take a close look at itself, explore how it has been positively and negatively shaped by modernity, and resubmit itself to the authority of Scripture and tradition.
  2. It will see clearly the relevance of the gospel for the whole of creation, for the whole of society and not just the individual soul or the institutional church.
  3. It will be genuinely committed to the flourishing of all creation.
  4. It will have a preferential option for the poor.
  5. It will take spiritual formation seriously.
  6. It will attempt to “live the solution.”

Their positive proposal is essentially and expansion upon points 3, 4, and 6. The problem of modernity, as they see it, boils down to an interconnectedness between population growth, environmental crisis, material production and consumption, economic crisis, decreasing global security, and deepening world poverty. The four modern worldviews have proposed solutions to these problems, however, they have not only failed to provide an adequate solution, some of these worldviews exacerbate the problems! Their answer to these problems is to set forth a solution in light of Reiff’s work on the sacred in culture, Girard’s work on desire, and the preferred option for the poor. They call this solution an economy of care. An economy of care flips upside down what modernist economies say is the “bottom line”:

Suppose our first priority is not dynamic economic growth but rather the ability to safeguard time, provide justice for the poor, protect and restore the environment, create more opportunities for meaningful employment, and care for the vulnerable. There is nothing to prevent these needs from becoming the starting point in an economic approach rather than expansion of material prosperity at all costs. (235)

They call this approach an “economy of care.” Although it may sound crazy, they are convinced that it is not simply wishful thinking. The authors point to several small scale instances in which an economy of care has worked for local communities. They also point to how an economy of care has had an impact upon the well-being and even economy of Holland. A Dutch study has shown that long term an economy of care would have a more favorable impact than either the market economy or welfare state on 1) employment levels, 2) quality of work, 3) the environment, 4) energy saving, 5) capital transfer to the South, and 6) government deficits. (254) And this economy of care could be implemented if “the Dutch people were willing to maintain average income and consumption levels at their present level and if they agreed to cooperate in orienting society, as a whole and in parts to these broader ends.” (254) All this to say, an economy of care seems not only plausible, but realistic! That is until we start thinking about the sinful condition of humanity. Maybe its my Calvinist bent (or maybe my realism), but I tend to believe that people are actually pretty selfish. Maybe they aren’t selfish with people they love and know, but they are certainly selfish about people that bear no relation to them. Not only that but people have a near future bias. In other words, people are prone to taking actions which serve their near futures rather than their further out futures. This means, that even though it may be irrational, people in general will be less likely to make sacrifices in the near future for the sake of a more secure future further out. Think about how people treat their health. Most people are more likely to not workout now because its painful for the near future even though rationally they know it is best for their far out future. If we can’t even get people to work out, how will we convince people to sacrifice their economic good in the near future for the sake of their far-out future, and more so, for the sake of the far-out future of other generations and of people from other nations and states! There is absolutely no reason to do so. That is, unless, there is a stronger drive compelling them to do so. Something like the gospel. The gospel has the power to reshape our desires, to shift our desires from self-centered and near-future oriented, to other-centered and eschatologically focused. The gospel really does have power. This book shows that the gospel really could have an impact on the flourishing of this world, and if taken seriously, provides a stronger alternative to the current worldview that are available.

 

Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.

 

Rogue One and the Return of Reverence (Spoilers)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

(Donnie Yen)

Ph: Film Frame

©Lucasfilm LFL
This morning over at First Things, Marc Barnes published a wonderful article on “reverence” and the Force in the Star Wars movies. Here he argues that Episodes 4-6 display a sort of religious reverence for the Force. But in the prequels, the Force loses its sacred status and becomes a magic weapon. He connects this to the secularization of the Force (think Midi-chlorians). The secularization of the Force in the prequels leads to irreverent use of it. “The Force is used so often, and for so many purposes, throughout the prequels—from eating pears to throwing people—that it loses its religious valence and becomes just another technological element: blasters, lightsabers, X-wings, Force.” You can read the article here: Rogue One and the Return of Reverence (It contains spoilers).

Barnes says,
But the prequels give us a lesson that life repeats. No matter how amazing something is, if it is susceptible to our power and manipulation, it gets boring….Only that which is not “currently” out of reach, mysterious “by the research standards of today,” can be approached with reverence…..Reverence is an emotion that responds to the presence of a value higher than ourselves—a value that exists in its own right and does not need us. Reverence is not oriented toward the useful, no matter how awesome the use. The prequels irreverently secularized the Force, making it a controllable entity, measurable and understandable, infinitely use-able.

He then praises the new films, Force Awakens & Rogue One, for how they bring back a sense of Reverence to the Force, and really to the world. Its really a great read. You should check it out. Thought it does contain some spoilers if you haven’t seen Rogue One Yet (who hasn’t!!!!).

Now, the real reason I’m writing this is to make a comment on his thesis. Barnes seems to think that the irreverence displayed in the sequels and the “commercialization” of the Force was more so a reflection of the film makers/writers pandering to audiences. The audiences wanted to see the Force in full effect! They wanted to see some spectacular fights and some super powers! However I disagree. I think the irreverent use of the force in the prequels is intentional. Reverence is something that only returns once the Jedi are forced into exile.

Think about the story line of the prequels. Part of it revolves around the idea that the Jedi losing touch with the Force. E.G. Yoda can’t even see the Sith before him and the council is a mess. They have lost touch with the Force and what it was intended to be used for. The fact that the Jedi irreverently start using the Force is part of the story line.

Also, I think there’s something to be said about the Jedi reclaiming the true “meaning” of the force when in exile. Exile tends to bring clarity. It’s in exile that one gets vision. Think of Scripture for a minute, who is known as The Seer? John, who is exiled on Patmos. When does Israel finally see its vocation? When does it begin to see its future liberation and God’s kingdom? It’s in exile. Think of the book of Ezekiel & Jeremiah… This is where the real parallels come out.

Ezekiel & Jeremiah chide the Elders of Israel for being BLIND, for making alliances with foreign kings. They chide the Elders of Israel for trusting in the Temple as a power, rather than God himself. Israel has sought safety in the power of God rather than in God himself. Much like the Jedi in the prequel, Israel has commercialized & mechanized God’s powers. In doing so, they have treated God irreverently, even desecrating the temple. Its only when Israel is sent off into exile that they begin to the real power of God. Similarly, its only in exile that the last surviving Jedi (Obi-Wan and Yoda) recover a greater reverence for the force.

Books Read in 2016

At the end of each the year I put out the list of books I have read that year. Usually they consist of a lot of theology books, followed up by a good chunk of philosophy books, and a few fiction books thrown in. In 2013 I read 106 books. In 2014 I read 87 books. In 2015 I read  88 books. This year, my numbers went down drastically. However, that was mainly because I was in school again, reading lots of journals and book chapters, and writing a whole bunch. The numbers also dropped because I stopped reading at the gym. My workouts sort of changed (became more intense) so I no longer read while doing cardio. Anyway, this year’s total is 52 book. That’s one per week!

book-piles

Books Read in 2016 = 52!

January

  1. Systematic Theology Volume 1 – Wolfhart Pannenberg
  2. Experiences in Theology – Jurgen Moltmann
  3. The Nature of Doctrine – George Lindbeck
  4. The Nature of Confession – Phillips & Okholm

February

  1. Beyond Foundationalism – Grenz & Francke
  2. The Drama of Doctrine – Kevin Vanhoozer
  3. Black Theology of Liberation – James Cone
  4. Models of God – Sally McFague
  5. Introducing Radical Orthodoxy – James K.A. Smith

March

  1. Analytic Theology – Crisp & Rae
  2. An Invitation to Analytic Christian Theology – Thomas McCall
  3. Four Views on Hell – Preston Sprinkle
  4. Strong and Weak – Andy Crouch
  5. The Problem of Hell – Jonathan Kvanvig
  6. Hell: The Logic of Damnation – Jerry Walls

April

  1. Gaining by Losing – J.D. Greear
  2. The Unfolding Mystery – Edmund Clowney
  3. Jonathan Edwards Among the Theologians – Oliver Crisp
  4. Sacrifice and Atonement – Stephen Finlan

May

  1. Knowledge and Christian Belief – Alvin Plantinga
  2. Living on the Devil’s Doorstep – Floyd McClung
  3. How I Changed My Mind About Evolution – Stump and Applegate
  4. The Trinity Among the Nations: The Doctrine of God in the Majority World – Gene Green, Stephen Pardue, K.K. Yeo

June

  1. Prodigal God – Tim Keller
  2. The Father Heart of God – Floyd McClung
  3. Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous – W. Jay Wood
  4. The Pastor Theologian – Gerald Heistand & Todd Wilson
  5. Reading Romans in Context – Ben Blackwell, John Goodrich, and Jason Matson
  6. You are What You Love – James K.A. Smith

July

  1. The Claim of Humanity in Christ – Alexandra Radcliff
  2. The Lost Letters of Pergamum – Bruce Longenecker

Lost Track of Dates

  1. Writings on Pastoral Piety – John Calvin (ed. McKee)
  2. Calvin and the Consolidation of the Genevan Reformation – William Naphy
  3. Infant Baptism in Reformation Genega – Karen Spierling
  4. Calvin’s Ladder: A Spiritual Theology of Ascent and Ascension – Julie Canlis
  5. America at the Crossroads – George Barna
  6. The Uncontrolling Love of God – Thomas Oord
  7. Pentecostal Outpourings – ed. Robert Smart, Michael Haykin, and Ian Clary
  8. Crossing Cultures in Scripture – Marvin Newell
  9. Rational Faith – Stephen Evans
  10. What is Reformed Theology – R.C. Sproul
  11. Judaism Before Jesus – Anthony Tomasino
  12. Reordering the Trinity – Rodrick Durst
  13. Delighting in the Trinity – Michael Reeves

November

  1. A Little Handbook for Preachers – Mary Hulst
  2. Love Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life – Henri Nouwen
  3. Christological Anthropology in Historical Perspective – Marc Cortez

December

  1. The Vulnerable Pastor – Mandy Smith
  2. Serving a Movement – Timothy Keller
  3. Saving Calvinism – Oliver Crisp
  4. Paul’s New Perspective – Garwood Anderson
  5. Soul Keeping – John Ortberg

Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary use words.

Supposedly Francis of Assisi said those famous words. Likely he didn’t, regardless, those word’s don’t mesh with Scripture’s understanding of BEING witnesses to the gospel. As Michael Gorman says: Witness-bearing calls for interpretation.

“Walking little old ladies across the street” may be appropriate Christian behavior, but it does not lead to persecution. It only leads the persecution when one explains such behavior as a manifestation of true power, or when one excuses oneself from attending an event honoring the emperor, the empire, or other cultural deities – like youth soccer or professional football or a Fourth of July Parade – in order to walk those little old ladies across the street, or to worship as Lord the one who essentially did the same thing when he willingly became humanity’s slave. (Gorman, Becoming the Gospel, 129)

Would the church learn to heed this word in a day and age where it is “hated” for its “conservative” values. Would it espouse those values not because they are “conservative” but because it means bowing the knee to Christ and not to the gods of this world. Would the church not confuse self-serving “servant-hood” for real “put your life on the line”-servanthood.

America and the Imperial Cult

The emperors use of this but bears some resemblance to modern politicians’ identification with American symbols…as a way to gain the trust and respect of its citizens. For much of its existence, the United States has had an informal mixture of Protestant Christianity and patriotism, a so-called civil religion, that has some of the feel and impact of the emperor cult. For example, this informal union gave political and economic notions such as individual liberty, democracy, and free enterprise a sacred or sacrosanct status, concepts that one may oppose at the cost of harsh criticism. The phrase “America, love it or leave it” gives something of this flavor. In addition, American Civil Religion meant that those who were not members of a Protestant Christian Church, such as Jews and Roman Catholics, were at times seen as un-American. -James Jeffers in The Greco-Roman World (103)

A Storm is Brewing…

For those of you who aren’t privileged to be member of ETS, you may have not heard but there is a storm brewing on the horizon about gender and sexuality in relation to the society’s “Doctrinal Basis/Statement of Purpose.”

Below is the abstract to Stan Gundry’s open letter to members of ETS:

In the last business session of the 2015 national Meeting of ETS a set of four resolutions was moved and passed that affirmed human dignity and worth, marriage as a life-long union of one man and one woman, sexual intimacy as reserved for such marriages, and an affirmation of distinct traits of manhood and womanhood as an unchangeable gift that constitutes personal identity. In the aftermath some ETS members expressed dismay that any ETS member would vote against passage of the resolutions. Others, I among them, were shocked that resolutions of this nature would be proposed and passed by a substantial majority. In this open letter to ETS members, I explain the problems with the resolutions and the real issue at stake: Will ETS be true to is Doctrinal Basis and its Statement of Purpose? Hence, my open letter to ETS members, Whence and Whither ETS.


You can read the whole thing here.


With this and the Trinity debate looks like ETS is going to be a lot of fun this year!