Monday, July 31, 2017

"The Revenge of Analog" by David Sax: A Review

The digital world values analog more than anyone. . . .

What was more interesting was where these views on analog dovetailed with their work in digital. More and more I began to encounter individuals and even whole companies where analog tools and processes played a significance role in building digital software and hardware. In some cases, this came down to personal habits. Nearly every single startup founder, investor, adn programmer I met with carried a well-worn paper journal that they used to take notes and make designs, despite having access to every available digital alternative. "This is my company!" one startup founder told me, cradling the black Moleskine notebook  in his arms.

The more I looked into this, the deeper it went. I read articles about the lives of technology industry leaders who spoke about their personal aversion to digital gadgets with their families. Steve Jobs didn't let his kids play with the very iPads he created, Chris Anderson from Wired and The Long Tail set time limits on technology for his children, and Evan Williams, who cocreated the digital publishing platforms Twitter, Blogger, and Medium, lived in a technology-free house, with a huge library of books. Silicon Valley and San Francisco, the mecca of ed tech, were also home fo the most analog alternative schools in the country, from screen-free Waldorf and Montessori schools to outdoor kindergartens and a wild warehouse I visited called Brightworks School, where the children fo digital titans built their own classrooms with saws and drills. (207-208)

If you haven't been paying attention, the analog world isn't going quietly into the night. In fact, it is making a surprising comeback. Although the digital and technological world dominates our lives, from phones to tablets to personal computers to smart homes to online streaming to ebooks to online education and the rest, it does not have a complete monopoly. This reality is chronicled in the book The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David Sax.

The book begins with a personal reflection from the author about a record store opening near his house which sells actual records. From there he shows that analog technology like "old-school" record albums are making a comeback. Although digital streaming and mp3 players like ipods and Pandora are convenient, they cannot and will never replace the classic record. The sound is unique and the possession is a prize.

The same is true for other aspects of our economy. Most notable is film and paper. One may recall dropping off a film of photos at their local convenience store and being frustrated when they weren't developed in an hour. The digital revolution changed that. Pictures are instant. We can snap, edit, delete, post, and repeat in seconds. As a result entire companies went out of business and local stores that profited from the industry had to restructure. Yet over the past few years, companies like Polaroid are coming back.

The same is true with paper. It is convenient to take notes with either Evernote or a stylus on your tablet, but the author notes the increase sales of actual journals and notepads. Most notable, however, regards magazines, newspapers, and especially books. The digital revolution produced the eReader and put countless bookstores out of business. But they are returning. Recent reports are showing that buyers are increasing, purchasing real books in increasing numbers as opposed to eBooks.

Most significant regards his chapter on education. What works best for children is not personal computers and access to technology, but what has always worked: a caring teacher that invests in them. The author notes one school that gave all of their students personal iPads that ended in disaster. For those who have taken online courses, clearly having a professor you can learn from and talk to in person is much better.

The reasons for these are many and I will let the author give them, yet most readers likely already have an idea. There is a difference between holding a book in your hands and reading words on a screen, for example. The author also notes that digital is no longer novel to the digital generation. Records and film are. They, after all, did not grow up with boxes of music in their attic collecting dust or with countless heavy albums detailing every vacation. Likewise, going to a store and being helped by an assistant and being served with customer service is a better experience than online shopping. The digital revolution is the height of convenience, but convenience isn't always better.

Sax has written a unique book that chronicles one of the more fascinating economic trends of our day. I have long considered myself a rebel who has hardly bought a digital book (unless it was free!) and has more recently considered investing in records (and never gave up on CDs). Now I've discovered I'm not so rebellious after all.

All Around the Web - July 31, 2017

Kevin DeYoung - 12 Pastoral Commitments (Or, How To Pray for Your Pastor)

Doug Wilson - Christian Disobedience

Baptist Press - Trump reverses Obama transgender military policy

Stephen McAlphine - Dawkins’ Berkeley Delusion

Christianity Today - Trump Picks Sam Brownback as Religious Freedom Ambassador

Eric Metaxas - Good News about Sharing the Good News

Thom Rainer - Six stages of a dying church

WORLD - More growing pains, more great gains

The Blaze - Surprising survey reveals Americans are changing their minds about polygamy

Chuck Lawless - 8 Characteristics of Believers Who Don’t Give Up in the Battle

Babylon Bee - New Bible Interpretation Goggles Now Available

Thursday, July 27, 2017

My New Book: "The Pioneer Baptist Preacher"

When I surrendered to the call of ministry, I was told that a number of my ancestors were themselves Baptist pastors. Ever since then, I have had unquenchable interest in knowing more about their story. I have already published one book on my earliest Protestant ancestor, John Craig, who was a colleague of John Knox in Scotland as well as the history of Baptist migration from Virginia into Kentucky during the time of religious persecution (here).

My new book continues this trend. It is a republished biography of Lewis Craig, first published by Lewis Thompson in 1910. Lewis was a baptist pioneer who suffered religious persecution in Virginia and established some of the earliest Baptist churches and associations in Kentucky. The book is entitled The Pioneer Baptist Preacher: The Life, Labors, and Character of Lewis Craig. Here is the description:
In the decade prior to America declaring independence from England, the Virginia colony persecuted, prosecuted, and abused over thirty Baptist ministers. One of the first preachers hauled before the court was Lewis Craig (1737-1825). While on trial, Craig preached Christ launching the Baptist fight for religious liberty in Virginia. Years later he would migrate to Kentucky and become a prominent pastor and church planter. This volume tells the story of this pioneer Baptist preacher from his struggle for liberty in the Old Dominion to his pastoral work in the Bluegrass. First published in 1910, Lewis Thompson offers the only full biography available. This volume has updated Thompson's original volume with additional information.
You can buy the book on Amazon here and from the publisher here.

The book includes the original biography fully cited (the original lacked citations) as well as numerous footnotes filling in the story of Lewis Craig. It also includes a new introduction, a timeline of Virginia and Kentucky Baptist history, as well as an essay on Separatist and Regular Baptist theology.

The book is currently at its lowest price, so now is the time to buy.

For more:
"Baptists and Persecution in Virginia": A Lecture by Steve Weaver
New Book Announcement - "Knox's Colleague: The Life and Ministry of John Craig"
"Esteem Reproach" by Harper & Jacumin: A Review
An Introduction to the Life and Works of Scottish Reformer John Craig

All Around the Web - July 27, 2017

Joe Carter - 9 Things You Should Know About Eugenics

Evangelical History - A Brief History of the Altar Call

Kevin DeYoung - Remembering Haddon Robinson

Tim Challies - Control Your Sexuality

Thom Rainer - 7 Internal Barriers to Growth in a Church

Gospel Coalition - Hugh Freeze and the Peril of Public Faith

Chuck Lawless - Sources of Church Growth: Your Church’s Evaluation

Pastors Today - 5 Ministry Dilemmas Caused by Insecurity

Thom Rainer - Seven Dangers in the Last Few Years of Your Ministry

Eerdmans - The Legacy of John Stott’s Between Two Worlds

Babylon Bee - Phil Vischer Still Unable To Eat Vegetables Without Pervasive Sense Of Guilt

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

From Lewis's Pen: On Forgiveness

From the essay "On Forgiveness" as published in The Weight of Glory.

·         If you had a perfect excuse you would not need forgiveness: if the whole of your action needs forgiveness then there was no excuse for it. But the trouble is that what we call “asking God’s forgiveness” very often really consists in asking God to accept our excuses. What leads us into this mistake is the fact that there usually is some amount of excuse, some “extenuating circumstances.” We are so very anxious to point these out to God (and to ourselves) that we are apt to forget the really important thing; that is, the bit left over, the bit which the excuses don’t cover, the bit which is inexcusable but not, thank God, unforgivable. And if we forget this, we shall go away imagining that we have repented and been forgiven when all that has really happened is that we have satisfied ourselves with our own excuses. They may be very bad excuses; we are all too easily satisfied about ourselves.

. . . What we have got to take to him is the inexcusable bit, the sin. We are only wasting time by talking about all the parts which can (we think) be excused. When you go to a doctor you show him the bit of you that is wrong – say, a broken arm. It would be a mere waste of time to keep on explaining that your legs and eyes and throat are all right. You may be mistaken in thinking so, and anyway, if they are really all right, the doctor will know that.

All Around the Web - July 26, 2017

Joe Carter - Should We Encourage Sterilization of Prisoners?

Carl Trueman - The Church of England’s Nietzschean Proposal

Willima Lane Craig - Must a Biblical Doctrine of the Atonement Comprise Penal Substitution?

GetReligion - Race and Southern Baptists II: Why not cover the national meeting of black SBC leaders?

Tim Keller - 3 Wrong Ways to View the City

Sam Storms - 10 Things You Should Know About Augustine

Evangelical History - What Andrew Jackson Could Teach Donald Trump about Religion

Tim Challies - A Quick Fix for Low Self-Esteem

Chuck Lawless - 8 Ways to Respond to Spiritual Attack

Timothy Paul Jones: Rome Burned But Nero Never Fiddled

Babylon Bee - Feminist Dismisses Bible As ‘Godsplaining’

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire

Our heroes have made it out of the dark mountain. Gandalf and the dwarves have escaped the goblins while Bilbo has finally escaped Gollum. Now they begin their journey together again . . . or so they think. It doesn't take long before, having survived the frying-pan, they jump right into the fire.

We see early in the chapter Bilbo learning to use the ring to his advantage. For the first time he is earning the respect of the dwarves. Up to this point, the dwarves have considered him to be a burden and distraction. They all doubt Gandalf's wisdom in inviting Bilbo to join them. But coming out of the goblin-infested mountains changed all of that.

While the fellowship still must battle with the goblins, the threat of the mountains is largely behind them. What is before them is the world of the wild and it will dominate their adventure for the next few chapters. The first threat in the wild (beside the hunting goblins of course) are the wolves. "There were no wolves living near Mr Baggins' hole at home," Tolkien tells us, but Bilbo "knew that noise." (91) We all do. The problem for Bilbo, however, is that
Even magic rings are not much use against wolves - especially against the evil packs that lived under the shadow of the goblin-infested mountains, over the Edge of the Wild on the borders of the unknown. Wolves of that sort smell keener than goblins, and do not need to see you to catch you! (91)

Gandalf leads the fellowship to find shelter in the top of trees - a place where the wargs cannot get them. The problem, of course, is the the wolves are waiting to meet the goblins who are mourning the death of their chieftain. Gandalf knows that once they arrive, they are in serious danger.

It is here we meet the eagles who become important characters later in the story and in the Lord of the Rings. As has been the pattern of the last two chapters, I wonder if we are expected to compare the wargs and the eagles. Both are wild creatures and both have opposite dealings with the goblins. The wargs cannot reach the fellowship in the trees, but that is no challenge for the eagles. To the wargs, an enemy of the goblins must be an enemy of the wargs. To the eagles, an enemy of the goblins must be friends of the eagles. Neither the wargs or the eagles are kind, but the latter are not unjust. Finally, food becomes a literary tool. In the goblin song while the fellowship are stuck in the trees, the goblins suggest they are going to eat "the birds" (a metaphor for Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarves). Later, while in the company of the eagles, the company eat to the full.

The wild, then, is a place of adventure. None of it is safe, even among those who are good. The same could be said of the next character they meet: Beorn.

The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - An Unexpected Party
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Roast Mutton
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - A Short Rest
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Over Hill and Under Hill"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Riddles in the Dark
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Queer Lodgings
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Flies and Spiders
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Barrels Out of Bond
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - A Warm Welcome
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - On the Doorstep
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Inside Information
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Not at Home
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Fire and Water
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Gathering of the Clouds
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - A Thief in the Night
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Clouds Burst
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Return Journey
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - The Last Stage

For more:
"The Hobbit" by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review
A Few Thoughts on The Battle of the Five Armies
"The Fellowship of the Ring" by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review
"The Two Towers" by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Review
"The Return of the King" by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Review
Longing for Eden: Tolkien's Insight into the Longing of Every Human Soul
An Encouraging Thought: Gandalf on Providence
How to Read J. R. R. Tolkien
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Dramatized Audio
"Beyond The Movie": A National Geographic Documentary on the Lord of the Rings   

All Around the Web - July 25, 2017

Merer Orthodoxy - Gotta Serve Somebody

Resurgent - “Tolerance” : LGBT Kingpin Brags About Punishing ‘Wicked’ Christians

American Conservative - Jesus Shrugged: What if Christian organizations just went on strike?

Church Tech Today -  5 Common Myths About Mobile Giving

Kevin DeYoung - Why I Love the Evening Service (And You Can Too)

Chuck Lawless - 10 Signs that Your Pastor Needs Prayer

Baptist Press - Survey: Good deeds by Christians often go unseen

Gospel Coalition - Remember the Rural: Does Modern Church Planting Overemphasize the City?

Evangelical History - The Banner of Truth Trust Turns 60 Years Old

Business Insider - Why you should never add two spaces after a period

Babylon Bee - Joel Osteen Cuts Self While Attempting To Rightly Divide Word

Monday, July 24, 2017

"The Happiness Effect" by Donna Freitas: A Review

And soon, growing up online will be all anyone knows.

But this generation is the test generation, the one that faces working out all the kinks and complications, while we - their parents, coaches, teachers, mentors, professors, admissions officers, bosses, and future employers - are likewise faced with helping them through this massive cultural shift as best we can.

What I have called the happiness effect throughout this book - the requirement to appear happy on social media regardless of what a person actually feels - is an effect of our own making. We are the ones who have created this problem. Young adults have internalized the lesson that if you can't say something happy, you shouldn't say anything at all, even if you feel despair, dismay, anger, or any number of other emotions common to human experience, from us. We have burdened them by obsessing about how people in power might react when confronted with evidence that sometimes we are silly, do stupid things, get angry, say something dumb, appear less than perfect, and maybe even drink a beer before we turn twenty-one. This lesson on our part is obviously well-intended and, at least on its surface, sounds like excellent, rational advice. But the consequences are disturbing. Posting on social media for so many young adults means pretending one's true feelings are not really there; it requires hiding them and, ostensibly, lying for the sake of one's audience. Because of this, most of what anyone ever sees on social media are gleeful timelines of joy and accomplishment - the highlight reel. This can make anyone who isn't blissfully happy all the time feel even worse.

And none of us are immune to this part of the happiness effect - not really. No matter what age we are. (252)

We are officially living in a digital age. It is a revolution of sorts. The world we live in today is nothing like the world of two decades ago. The average citizen has access to more information in their pocket than any generation previously. This digital age, still in its infancy, is a real challenge and we are still waiting to see what the long term affects will be. For this reason, I was interested in the book The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost by Donna Freitas.

The thesis of the book is straightforward and made clear in the title and subtitle. The digital generation lives online and as a result feel pressure to be happy all the time. The reason is simple. Everyone online appears happy which reinforces the pressure to present oneself as happy. It is a vicious cycle and given the threat of cyberbullying, sexting, anonymous gossip sites, etc., the pressure continues to mount.

Much of the authors argument is based off of a survey done among mostly college students as well as personal interviews that are focus of the book. As such, the book provides great insight into the minds the average college student that has largely grown up in this digital age. The author explores the dominant social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, YikYak, Instagram, Snapchat, and others. What makes these sites popular is different from the others, yet what unites them is this need to give the allusion that we are happy.

In other words, our online world is filtered but the real world is not. The digital generation has realized that what they post online could be used negatively against them by future employers, spouses, children, and others. As such their only online options are anonymity (which leads us down a dark path) and fantasy.

What is most striking about the book, at least to me, is how this is a a retelling of an old story. The author notes near the end that humans have always filtered out the bad for the good (though she notes that the digital age documents every moment unlike previous generations). This need to hide our discontentment is not new, it is as old as Eden's Fall.

The pastor in me, however, draws me to two conclusions. First, this pursuit for happiness is vanity in the tradition of Ecclesiastes. Happiness can not be faked nor can it be portrayed by an Instagram filter or discovered on Pinterests. The interviews made this point abundantly clear. Whether the students were fighting social justice from the comfort of their local coffee shop or guarding their online reputations, what they are looking for is vanity. We cannot live bifurcated lives as our online lives do not reflect reality.

Secondly, contentment is found exclusively in Christ, not in filtered images or in status updates. We used to keep up with the Jones's, now we seem to be doing the same with our online selves. The book discussed happiness and rightly so. Happiness is the best we might obtain on earth apart from Christ, but that is largely a vain enterprise. Only Christ gives us joy and that joy is not based off of likes or retweets.

What will become of the digital age remains to be seen but I am confident that its challenges, at the root, will not be new. All us are still longing for meaning and joy. It is our responsibility as Christians to show the world that it is found in the Savior, not on any social network.

All Around the Web - July 24, 2017

American Conservative - The Church Of Identity Politics

Evangelical History - Politics and What It Means to Be an ‘Evangelical’

Denny Burk - Why intersectionality may be at odds with the gospel

Thom Rainer - 10 Outreach Ideas for Your Church This Fall

Chuck Lawless - 10 Things Pastors Should Be Cautious about Saying

Tim Challies - Guard Your Health

Gospel Coalition - Preacher’s Toolkit: What Book Do I Preach First?

LifeWay Pastors - 3 Common Ways Leaders Miscommunicate

Gospel Coalition - When Kids Ask Hard Questions

Real Clear Politics - Bret Weinstein to Evergreen College Board: Do You Know The Campus Descended Into Literal Anarchy?

Babylon Bee - Federal Judge Orders Chris Tomlin To Stop Adding Choruses To Perfectly Good Hymns

Friday, July 21, 2017

"The Gospel According to Joel" Sermon Series

I am in the process of moving my sermon podcast to Soundcloud. My hope is to post both my weekly sermons as well as a podcast (more on that as it develops). You can access my sermons here at Soundcloud. Below is my series on the prophecy of Joel entitled, "The Gospel According to Joel."

Joel 1:1-20: The Day of Suffering

Joel 2:1-17: The Day of Grace

Joel 2:18-32: The Day of Restoration

Joel 3.1-21: A Day of Deliverance

All Around the Web - July 21, 2017

Denny Burk - The intersectional case for teenage sodomy

Doug Wilson - 21 Theses on Submission in Marriage

Evangelical History - The Day Martin Luther Luther King Jr. Prayed at the Billy Graham New York Crusade

Chuck Lawless - 10 Mistakes Churches Make in Evaluating Pastors

Michael Bird - Why is the Gospel of John Different?

Kevin DeYoung - For the Sake of Your Conscience

Pastor's Today - Should a Church Have Financial Reserves?

Christianity Today - Immigrants Are Reshaping American Missions

The Blaze - Astonishing number of UK Christians say their faith is marginalized

AP - Netflix still piling up viewers and big programming bills

Babylon Bee - Man Wonders What People Will Think When They Hear He Went On Jesus Freak Cruise 2017

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Rainers: Seven Signs of a Dying Church

In their book Essential Church?, authors Thom and Sam Rainer offer seven signs of dying churches. They are:
1. Doctrine Dilution - "Teaching anything less than the absolute truths in Scripture will make the younger generation feel betrayed when they learned that a large gap exists between what the Bible really says and what they were taught in church." (16-17)

2. Loss of Evangelistic Passion - "Dying churches have little evangelistic passion." (17)

3. Failure to be Relevant -". . . there is nothing more relevant to a lost world than the saving grace of Jesus Christ. . . . Churches that keep their internal culture unchanged for fifty years while the world around them goes through continual periods of metamorphosis typically die with that old culture" (17-18)

4. Few Outwardly focused Ministries - "[D]ying churches gorge themselves on closed study groups and churchwide fellowship events while neglecting outreach in the community. . . . [I]t must reach into the community with outwardly focused ministries." (18)

5. Conflict Over Personal Preferences - "When the church focuses on trivial matters, the greater gospel message is left on the sidelines." (18)

6. The Priority of Comfort - "Dying churches are comfortable with their ministries. . . .Churches that flourish get outside comfort zones and reach into areas that are uncharted for them." (19)

7. Biblical Illiteracy - "One of the major sins of a dying church is the neglect of theological teaching." (19)

All Around the Web - July 20, 2017

Albert Mohler - The Agonizing Ordeal of Eugene Peterson — You Might Be Next

Evangelical History - The Pro-Life Movement Before ‘Roe v. Wade

Resurgent - Have You Prayed for President Trump?

Resurgent - They Mock Christians for Believing in the Resurrection, But They Believe This

Thom Rainer - Ten Roadblocks to Church Revitalization

Chuck Lawless - 11 Responsibilities for Parking Lot Greeters

Tim Challies - Master Your Finances

The Good Book - 3 Responses to Eugene Peterson's Affirmation of Same-Sex Relationships

Sam Storms - Should Women Wear Head Coverings in Church? Historical-Cultural Context and the Challenge of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

Chuck Lawless - 9 Reasons People Slept in Church Yesterday

CNBC - Superheroes are almost single-handedly saving the US box office

Babylon Bee - Top 5 Most Hilarious Satire Sites

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

From Bonhoeffer's Pen: The Ministry of Proclamation

From Life Together:

Where Christians live together the time inevitably come when in some crisis one person will have to declare God’s Word and will to another. It is inconceivable that the things that are of utmost importance to each individual should not be spoken by one to another. It is unchristian consciously to deprive another of the one decisive service we can render to him. If we cannot bring ourselves to utter it, we shall have to ask ourselves whether we are not still seeing our brother garbed in his human dignity which we are afraid to tough, and thus forgetting the most important thing, that he, took, no matter how old or highly placed or distinguished he may be, is still a man like us, a sinner in crying need of God’s grace. He has the same great necessities that we have, and needs help, encouragement, and forgiveness as we do. (105)

All Around the Web - July 19, 2017

Joe Carter - Why Didn’t the Planned Parenthood Videos Change the Abortion Debate?

Evangelical History - What Did It Mean to ‘Hit the Sawdust Trail’?

Chuck Lawless - 10 Balancing Acts in Ministry

Tim Challies - The Damning Devastation of a Single Coddled Sin

Pastors Today - Ministry Leaders: When Values Collide, Make the Right Choice

Sam Storms - 10 Things You Should Know about James Arminius and Arminianism

Thom Rainer - Five Sobering Realities about Evangelism in Our Churches

Bible Gateway - Did You Know Jesus’ Ancestors Are Not Who You Think They Are?

Joel Beeke - Reformation Tour: The Martyrdom of Patrick Hamilton

Crossway - 10 Things You Should Know about Dementia

Tim Challies - 5,000 Days

Babylon Bee - Report: 92% Of Conversions Occur After Heated Facebook Argument

Practical Shepherding - A video testimony of Brian Croft’s crazy first 5 years at his church

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Riddles in the Dark

One of the best chapters and scenes in both the book and the first movie is without a doubt Bilbo's interaction with the mysterious character Gollum. What transpires here will have tremendous effects on the adventure of The Lord of the Rings.

The previous chapter concludes with Bilbo falling away from the fellowship in their attempted escape from the goblins. So for the first time in the story, Bilbo is alone (the very thing he desires) and in danger (the very thing he fears). The scene begins by describing the stark darkness of Gollum's lair and it is only with Sting, Bilbo's elvish blade, that he is able to see anything. It is here that he encounters the strange creature.

I trust we are familiar with the scene. Bilbo discovers the magical ring that dominates Tolkien's trilogy and puts it in his pocket. The two engage in an entertaining riddle game. If Bilbo wins, Gollum must lead him out of the mountains. If Gollum wins, Bilbo becomes dinner!

If Tolkien wanted us to compare the goblins with the dwarves, it seems he wanted us to do the same between Bilbo the Hobbit and Gollum. For all their similarities, they could not be more different. Gollum's backstory remains a bit of a mystery, but his original form (before being consumed by the ring) was a Stoor Hobbit. The ring has led him to pursue isolation and wickedness and now that Bilbo bears the ring, he runs the risks of going down the same path.

Comparing the two riddles is fascinating but will go beyond the purposes of this brief blog. Gollum's riddles reflect his dark life and nature. Bilbo, on the other, chooses riddles that reflective his more sunny (and hungry) worldview. Yet the risk Tolkien wants us to see is the power of the ring (especially for those who have already read The Lord of the Rings) to transform this Baggins-Took into a confused and wicked creature that lies under the mountain.

The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - An Unexpected Party
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Roast Mutton
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - A Short Rest
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Over Hill and Under Hill
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Riddles in the Dark
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Queer Lodgings
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Flies and Spiders
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Barrels Out of Bond
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - A Warm Welcome
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - On the Doorstep
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Inside Information
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Not at Home
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Fire and Water
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Gathering of the Clouds
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - A Thief in the Night
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Clouds Burst
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Return Journey
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - The Last Stage

For more:
"The Hobbit" by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review
A Few Thoughts on The Battle of the Five Armies
"The Fellowship of the Ring" by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review
"The Two Towers" by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Review
"The Return of the King" by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Review
Longing for Eden: Tolkien's Insight into the Longing of Every Human Soul
An Encouraging Thought: Gandalf on Providence
How to Read J. R. R. Tolkien
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Dramatized Audio
"Beyond The Movie": A National Geographic Documentary on the Lord of the Rings  

All Around the Web - July 18, 2017

Russell Moore - Should We Still Read Eugene Peterson?

Denny Burk - Eugene Peterson will always exist

Denny Burk - On Eugene Peterson’s Retraction

Evangelical History - What Is Revisionist History?

Kevin DeYoung - Theological Primer: Limited Atonement

Thom Rainer - Seven Costs to Being an Evangelistic Leader in Your Church

The Gospel Coalition - Every Book of the Bible in One Word

Joel Beeke - Reformation Tour: George Wishart

Brian Croft - 4 Questions you should ask before joining a church

Pastors Today - 10 Short Steps to Long Tenure

Tim Challies - Are You in the Dangerous Time In Between?

Babylon Bee - Charismatic Tired Of Clarifying She’s Not One Of Those Weird Charismatics

Monday, July 17, 2017

"The Kingdom is Always But Coming" by Christopher Evans: A Review

One of the most important theologians and thinkers in the past 150 years is Walter Rauschensbusch whose social gospel movement continues to challenge orthodox Christianity and remains popular among many well-intentioned, yet misguided postmodern evangelicals. One cannot read the writings and listen to the lectures, sermons, and presentations of people like Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren, and others (like Walter's great-grandson Paul Rauschenbusch) without seeing Walter Rauschenbusch standing on their shoulder.

In other words, many liberals today continue to stand on the foundation built by Rauschenbusch and in his recent biography The Kingdom is Always But Coming: A Life of Walter Rauschenbusch Christopher Evans shows us just why Rauschenbusch was so influential, what he really believed, and why he still matters.

Evans has written the best modern biography on Rauschenbusch. Evans is an academic who has clearly done his homework and presents a thorough survey of his life, ministry, theology, and thought. Rauschenbusch is the most recognizable voice in the social gospel movement, but he was not the first. Rauschenbusch, though not the best theologian of his time, made a case for the social gospel that was popular and timely and Evans shows how he did this.

I have found that when focusing in on someone's theology, it is important to understand their story and biography and Evans is without a doubt the best place to start.  Evans offers the reader great insight into what made him tick, the challenges he faced academically, pastorally, theologically, and in his own family.

A couple of things I found particular helpful.  First, Evans' survey of August Rauschenbusch, Walter's father, was insightful. In many ways, Walter was following in his father's footsteps. Though August was a pietist and Walter essentially left it behind (though his pietist background greatly influenced him), his father remained a huge influence in his life. August instilled the families German heritage by returning his children to their home country and Walter continued this practice for the rest of his life and for his family. In order to understand Walter, in many ways one must understand his father.  Evans offers a great survey of this relationship and who August was as a man.

Secondly, though Evans does not offer a robust survey of Rauschenbusch's theology, he does give the reader some great insight into what drove his theology.  One cannot separate theology from biography and Evans shows how his experiences as a pastor in New York, his reading of theologians like Horace Bushnell and Albrecht Ritschl, his reading and study of political scientists like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and his upbringing as a German pietist in America shaped his theology.  The social conditions of his congregation, for example, led him to reject American capitalism and to call Christians to abandon a "too heavenly minded" faith.

Thirdly, Evans takes us into the world of Rauschenbusch as a husband and a father.  We know him as a professor, writer, theologian, historian, preacher, pastor, and social activists, but few of us think of him as a husband and a father.  I would love to know more about his wife.  Evans quotes her as saying how she was so dedicated to her husband that she was driven by how else she could help his ministry.  At the same time, Walter's schedule kept him away from home a lot and this caused some problems with his relationships with his children.

What I found particularly interesting about his children is the direction of their own theology - something that says a lot about the implications of Rauschenbusch's own theology.  The social gospel is dependent on liberalism.  You can't separate the two.  Thus naturally many who embrace Walter's theology are liberals and liberalism is a spiraling theology.  It continues to sink deeper and deeper towards Process Theology and then towards Deism, Theism, and to Christian Atheism.  That's exactly what we see in Walter's family.  And that is exactly what we saw in modern liberalism and what we are seeing in postmodern liberalism.

For those interested in understanding the story behind the leading thinker in the social gospel movement, I can think of no better place to turn than to Evans' helpful biography.  He's a great writer who understands Rauschenbusch.  Walter is a hugely important thinker and Evans shows why.  Though Evans fails to dive deep into Walter's theology, he offers some great insights into what he believed and why.  A great read.