Four for (Another) Friday

I trust your Memorial Day Weekend plans are in full swing. Here is some music to help pass the days…

Widespread Panic – C. Brown // This one comes by special request. Jamey brought it to my attention that these fellas will be opening up Riverfest tonight.

Arcade Fire – Speaking in Tongues (feat. David Byrne) // I believe this song is going to be included in some special re-release of Suburbs later this summer.

Ivan & Alyosha – Glorify // While we are working with biblical allusions for song titles, here’s a song that strays a bit from what I think St. Paul was after.

Typhoon – Summer Home // Saved the best for last…

Happy weekend!

Four for Friday

What do to after you’ve had your mind blown by my man N.T.? That’s easy… take in some great tunes.

Been a good music week, so let’s get to it.

Blue Scholars – Cinemetropolis // Title track from their brand new album.

Bon Iver – Calgary // Vernon and company have been working on a new album as well. Here’s the single they’ve released.

Pinback – Sherman // My nearly hitched friend introduced Pinback to me a few years back. I’ve been a fan ever since.

Canopy Climbers – Break // Another friend turned me on to Canopy Climbers last Sunday and their songs have been the soundtrack for the better part of my week.

See you next Friday! Unless, of course, the world ends tomorrow.

Always Wright

Don’t get flustered. I realize it is Friday (our very last according to some). I will be getting around to our beloved Four for Friday a little later today.

But first, I wanted to drop some wisdom on the reading masses. It is no secret that I have a man-crush on N.T. Wright. I don’t think he knows everything… but pretty close to it. Anyway as chance would have it, I came across two articles written by him. Both well worth reading.

The first is a piece he wrote on “The Rapture” nearly ten years ago that someone thought fitting to resurrect in light of our pending doom.

The second is a lengthier more recent article written on Bible translation. It seems that 2011 is going to be an interesting year in the world of Bible translations. The venerable King James Version is celebrating it’s 400th year anniversary. The NIV is getting a fresh update. And Wright himself is offering up his own translation of the New Testament. This article is well worth reading every word. I can’t begin to unpack every issue he touches on, but there are many. Here’s a taste…

Translations must be concerned with accuracy, but there are at least two sorts of accuracy. The first sort, which a good Lexicon will assist, is the technical accuracy of making sure that every possible nuance of every word, phrase, sentence and paragraph has been rendered into the new language.

But there is a second sort of accuracy, perhaps deeper than this: the accuracy of flavour and feel. It is possible, in translation as in life, to gain the whole world and lose your own soul – to render everything with a wooden, clunky, lifeless “accuracy” from which the one thing that really matters has somehow escaped, producing a gilded cage from which the precious bird has flown.

You really should read the whole article.

If any of this sparks an interest in getting more into the mind of one of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars, as always I recommend starting here

Readable and Insightful

So good. Really.

Alright folks, now time to crank out some Four for Friday. I will resist the urge to theme it around the end of the world.

favorite spot (continued)

I left off a few days ago talking about my favorite spot… within the pages of a really good book. At least one person took issue with my “spot” not being a more substantial location. Like I said at the outset, I felt like the question was vague enough for whatever creative license a person felt inclined to exercise. So maybe my spot is really an activity. My activity might end up being a spot. No need to split hairs.

Plus, as I sometimes have to point out, I do whatever I want around here.

Like write about boring theology books. Which brings me back to my recent favorite “spot”. Here it is…

Thrilling, I know.

You might be tempted to jump to at least two conclusions about this book based on the cover and title alone.

First, you might think that what you will find on the inside is some pretty heady stuff. And you would be right. As usual, I make no apologies for books written on a college (or perhaps in this case graduate school) reading-level. It is ok to every now and then read books that are a little ahead of us. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are good. Or that they are even “right”. It does mean we’ll need to work a bit more. And that’s ok. There’s a reason that the Harry Potter series was a best-selling phenomenon, and that this one, well… isn’t.

One could also be lead to believe that because of the above statements that the book is cold and lifeless. On that count, you would be dead wrong. This book spans the gamut… How we engage culture? What does it mean for the Spirit to speak through the text? The importance of community? How our destiny informs our present? Of course, it does so in an attempt to answer the question suggested in the sub-title.

“How does one engage in doing theology in a post-modern world?”

I can tell that you aren’t sold. Let come at it a different way.

Have you ever been suspicious of the certainty that some religious people/institutions/organizations exhibit when it comes to explaining “truth?”

If you answered “yes” (and let’s be honest, you most likely did), then that “certainty” with which you have a problem is what this book calls foundationalism. And that “suspicion” of yours more or less demonstrates that you are most decidedly a “post-modern” person… whatever that is.

I can see we are getting nowhere fast, so let’s wrap up with a few choice quotes…

“Disengagement from the objectified world formed the foundation for the modernist ideal – namely, individual autonomy – understood as the ability to choose one’s own purposes from within oneself apart from the controlling influence of natural and social forces and hence to create one’s own identity or self.”


“The contemporary acknowledgment of the relationality of personal identity suggests that the divine image is a shared, communal reality. It implies that the image of God is fully present only in relationships, that is, in ‘community’… the doctrine of the Trinity asserts, throughout all eternity God is ‘community’ … According to the New Testament, the focus of this image-bearing function is humans-in-relationship but, more specifically, the church as the foretaste of the new humanity … Only in community can we truly show what God is like, for God is the community of love, the eternal relational dynamic enjoyed by the three persons of the Trinity.”

For some, this might sound more than a little familiar. I may have shared a thought or two along these lines last Sunday.

But to get to the goods, one occasionally has to work through slightly denser material. Like this…

“The Christian tradition is comprised of the historical attempts by the Christian community to explicate and translate faithfully the first-order language, symbols, and practices of the Christian faith, arising from the interaction among community, text, and culture, into the various social and cultural contexts in which that community has been situated.”

Well, there’s more. So very much more. But at this point, I would recommend that you just take it up and read it for yourself.

P.S. I would be remiss if I didn’t share that this book was given to me nearly ten years ago by a student in the youth ministry I helped lead in Seattle. So Jeff, a heartfelt ‘thanks’ goes to you for putting such a wonderful book into my hands. It has been a breath of fresh air.

P.S.S. Stan Grenz (one of the authors) unexpectedly passed away a few years back. Nevertheless, he was fairly prolific and managed to write more than a few books during his lifetime.  If the two or three that I’ve read are any indication of the quality of the others, I imagine that they are all good.

Four for Friday (the 13th)

Sort of pressed for time today, so this is going to have to be quick.

First, none of these songs have anything to do with today being Friday the 13th. I’m simply noting that it is in fact the 13th.

Second, I realize that I didn’t supply the music goods last week. While I don’t think I have legally breached any any contractual obligations with you, I understand that we have something of an informal agreement. I post music, you listen to it, your taste in music improves, and then when we hang out (like that ever happens) you and I can enjoy the same music together. Everyone wins. Love wins.

Third, I’ve used up all my time for any sort of commentary on the songs themselves. The tracks will now be posted comment-less.

Manchester Orchestra – Apprehension

matt pond PA – Lovers Always Win (feat. Ariel Abshire)

Teddy Afro – Hab Dahlak // Thanks Jacob.

Other Lives – For 12

And as penance for missing last week…

Blue Scholars – John DeLorean

my favorite spot

A week or so ago, my good friend Bobby threw out “One Big Question”…

Where is your favorite spot,

what is your favorite activity to seek God?

Like the faithful blog companion that I am, I’ve been meaning to follow through with a response, but I knew that my answer would have to be a blog post of its own. In fact, it will probably end up being two… or three… or maybe four posts, because as I read it more than one question is being asked. That’s how I took it anyway, and judging from the other folks’ responses people did whatever the heck they wanted with the question(s).

Speaking of what the others had to say, many of the things mentioned certainly would have been on my list as well. Meals with friends. Alone with a cup of coffee. Praying with others. And yes, even empty school parking lots.

Yet my favorite spot is found between the pages of a book. As I’ve explained elsewhere, it isn’t just any old book that will do. No, my preference is for the sort of book that “makes demands of me.” And the kind of demanding books that I appreciate most are the ones that plumb the depths of who God is or what he has done and is doing in the world. Or books about His people are and what they are to do in the world.

True confessions time… I said that I wouldn’t discuss a certain book here, but if you want my most honest response to it, here goes…

I thought it was boring.

I know it was meant to be all controversial and revolutionary and all that. But it just didn’t do much for me. It wasn’t that I was bothered by what he was saying. There were tons of things he said that I thought were fine things to say. And a few that were not. My main problem was that it just wasn’t all that interesting… for me.

Now, the guy who wrote it isn’t uninteresting. I’ve heard his preaching and he is far from boring. In fact, entertaining is his long suit. And yet, sadly our culture has gotten so muddled in its thinking that we have confused being engaging with being right. Something stated with enough rhetorical flair or with “authenticity” is passed off as truth, while writing that explains complicated truths with precision doesn’t tend to be very well-received. It is the old form over content dilemma. Naturally, one would love to have both. But having both is very, very rare.

I understand that what constitutes a “good read” is a fairly subjective thing. I am regularly reminded that the books I find most engaging would cause others to fall asleep two paragraphs in. None of that changes the fact that the “love” book joins the long list of books in the pop theology category.

These are the sorts of books that show a surface level understanding of the Scriptures, almost no appreciation for the history of theology, a lack of awareness of the interpretive tradition in which they are situated, or that they stand within an interpretive tradition at all.

Therefore, I find it refreshing whenever I come across a book that is so clearly not that. And over the past few weeks, just such a book has afforded me this pleasure. But since I’m drawing perilously near my self-imposed post length limit, sharing about this “life-giving” book will have to wait.

Instead, I’ll let my old friend C.S. Lewis wrap-up how I feel about my “favorite spot.”

For my own part, I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await others.  I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.

C. S. Lewis, quoted in R. L. Green and W. Hooper, C. S. Lewis: A Biography (New York, 1974), page 115. (HT: Ray Ortlund)

(Not) My Thoughts on Bin Laden’s Death

Like many in America today, I have been spending some time reflecting on the significance of Bin Laden’s death. I think the internal struggle that I’ve been having with it arises out of the sheer complexity of the military’s role in foreign policy.  We live in a crazy and confusing world, and I don’t think there are any simple answers or solutions on how to deal with terror, cruelty, and injustice in the world.

I see this play out in the area of knowledge with which I’m more familiar. In dealing with the Bible, well-intentioned people will oversimplify what is a highly complex collection of writings from various authors, centuries, locations, and cultures. It ain’t easy. I get it. How we deal with our would-be enemies (especially on the global stage) isn’t like 2nd grade arithmetic. So I’ll offer just a thought or two of my own, and then pass you off to people who have said things that resonate with me in some way or another.

Despite my strong left leanings, I do believe in the idea of a “just” war. I’m largely (though not completely) in agreement with the case the C. S. Lewis lays out in God in the Dock. I’m not as clear on what determines whether a war is “just” or not, but I recognize that there are people in the world that need to be restrained. Therefore, I’m grateful for the men and women who serve in the armed forces. I realize that the life I lead is in no small part made possible by their sacrifices. I know more than a few who serve in the military, and I have nothing but deep and sincere gratitude for our soldiers.

However, I don’t believe that the death of our enemies is something to celebrate. No matter how much pain or suffering they may have inflicted. Like I said, some wars may be necessary, but the thought of killing (even if necessary) should be cause for sorrow, not rejoicing.

All throughout the day, different bits of writing and perspectives passed before my eyes. I can’t say that I agree with every single thing said by each one, but each expresses my own thoughts and feelings in different ways.

Ryan Byrd // We live in the same city (almost) and we still haven’t met face-to-face!

Jeff MacGregor // Who knew I would have something in common with a sports-writer?

Michael Bird // Yes, I follow two Byrd/Birds. This one’s a bit thick, but it was written before news broke of Bin Laden’s death.

David Leong // Says all that I feel and more.

Doug Wilson // More great thoughts.

Read and pray and reflect.

Grace and peace.