Thinking Out Loud

May 28, 2016

Theology in Story

Clear Winter NightsRather unexpectedly yesterday, I found myself devouring all 160 pages of a 2013 novel by Trevin Wax Clear Winter Nights: A Journey Into Truth, Doubt and What Comes After (Multnomah). What attracted me to the book, besides some familiarity with the author’s many years of blogging, was the concept of using a story to teach.

As a huge fan of three novels by David Gregory which use this format — Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, Day with a Perfect Stranger and Night With a Perfect Stranger — I see the value in a genre for people who would never pick up a more commonplace ‘Christian Living’ title, let alone a book on basic theology. This is a book which has a storyline, but at the same time is using the plot at the front door to allow a lot of truth to enter through the back door.

Two words come to mind here, the first is didactic. The storyteller is truly the teacher. But the second, better word is the very similar dialectic, using a conversational style to impart knowledge, as did writers like Plato. This can also be called Socratic dialog or the Socratic method.

The banter is between two central characters, Chris Walker a disillusioned church planter whose job promise and engagement have both been broken; and Gil his grandfather, a retired pastor. You could call this Weekend with a Perfect… oh, never mind; that doesn’t work here; it’s a different dynamic.

Without giving away too much, I couldn’t get over how many of the topics Chris and Gil cover resonated with me. The book isn’t afraid to tackle some tough issues facing the church collectively and individual Christians, yet does so with tact, humor and grace. The key characters being male also makes this an ideal gift for men, something that is rarity in the world of Christian fiction, though I still prefer the dialectic label to override the fictional nature of the story.

While Trevin Wax and I are from vastly different tribes — he writes for The Gospel Coalition and works for LifeWay — I didn’t allow that to influence my reading and it doesn’t stop me from giving this book my full recommendation. In fact, a couple of times my eyes watered as the conversation unfolded. Clear Winter Nights works on many different levels.


Another author who writes in this genre is Andy Andrews. We reviewed The Traveler’s Gift and The Noticer.

Another fiction title that used the dialectic method was Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron.

My review of Dinner With A Perfect Stranger by David Gregory was more of an explanation of the DVD series which came from the first two books. He did the first two books with Waterbrook, part of the same publishing group as the title by Trevin Wax we’re reviewing today; but the third was published by EMI Worthy, who wouldn’t send a review copy, so I did the write up of Night With a Perfect Stranger in bullet points.

Apologies to UK, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand readers for spelling dialogue the American way. I know. What are we going to do?

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August 30, 2011

Three-Legged Gospel

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:35 am

The gospel is a three-legged stool. There is an overarching story, which recounts our history from first creation to new creation and demonstrates how God will be magnified as our all in all. Then there is an announcement about Jesus Christ — His obedient life, His substitutionary death for sinners, and His resurrection and exaltation as king of the world. This announcement finds meaning within the story. The announcement elicits a response that then births the gospel community, the church that puts on display the gospel announcement by holy living that provides a foretaste of heaven here on earth. (p. 26)

Trevin Wax as quoted in Chaplain Mike’s review of Trevin’s Counterfeit Gospels at Internet Monk.

June 2, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Our link list artist this week is David Hayward, better known as Naked Pastor.   He actually gave away the original water color of this  last week, so with blog giveaways like that, you might just want to become a regular reader.

Off to the links we go…

  • Rick Apperson reviews basketball fundraiser Austin Gutwein’s Take Your Best Shot, at the blog Just a Thought, while the whole genre — including some video clips of Austin — is examined at Christian Book Shop Talk.   Like Zach Hunter, Austin, pictured at right, got into the whole international relief thing at a very, very young age.  If I were still in youth ministry, I think I would build a whole evening around the videos describing what Zach and Austin are doing.
  • The whole Charismatic thing got started in the 1970s, right?   Not exactly.   If you’ve got some time to invest, Brazillian-born Leo Di Siqueira links to a lengthy article that blows apart the “cessationist” view that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit died off with the first apostles.  Writer Nigel Scotland documents examples of the “miracle” gifts occurring in the first five centures of the church.   The link is approximately a 15-page .pdf file.
  • Garrison Keillor explains the book publishing industry for all the children in the audience who are too young to remember what a book is on the pages of The New York Times.    (Here’s a related piece I wrote at my book industry blog.)
  • John Freeman at Ligoner Ministries suggests a balanced approach to dealing with the issue of homosexuality specifically and sexual sins in general; meanwhile…
  • …”When Ray Boltz and Azariah Southworth perform in concert at Covenant of the Cross in Nashville on June 17, 2010, they will kick off a national tour as well as an affirmation of their status as openly gay Christian music artists.”   Continue reading that story in Out and About a gay community blog.    But wait, there’s more…
  • …At the blog Monday Morning Insight, Todd Rhoades posts a piece about Boltz’ new album and some sample song lyrics which invite the broader Christian community to embrace greater tolerance.
  • For the time being, Raymond Hosier can wear his rosary beads to school, as reports the Washington Post.  Now the school in question faces a lawsuit.
  • Once-disgraced Colorado Pastor Ted Haggard announced today he is starting a new church and “will be happy if only a few people join.”  Read about St. James Church at NBC’s Denver affiliate.
  • They sold their house and named their RV after the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  This is actually an October, 2009 YouTube clip from Good Morning America, but someone sent it to me, and it is inspiring.
  • By their CD collection you shall know them:  Brett McCracken thinks true “hipsters” would be nostalgic for these contemporary Christian music classics.
  • Many a college or university began life with solid Christian roots which they would sooner forget in the secularized 21st Century; but sometimes, as Mark Roberts points out, the architecture of their older buildings betrays this history.  (My own alma matter, once proudly part of the now liberal United Church of Canada, is emblazoned with, “The Truth Shall Set You Free.”)
  • Trevin Wax had two great links last week:  First, when the Westboro gang decide to picket your church, if you’re in the deep south you serve them food!  Second, a link to Head Heart Hand, which suggests that bloggers are usually either Creators or Curators.
  • Relatively new blog:  Faith and the Law chronicles those times where Christians run afoul of the law in both the U.S. and around the world.
  • Our cartoon this week are from Doug Michael (upper) and Dennis Daniel (lower) at Baptist Press (we’re going to have to put these guys on the payroll…)  What’s with all the first-name last-names at BP?



May 26, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Another Wednesday rolls around… where did you go this week online?

  • Ruth Tucker at Christianity Today marks  the passing of Moishe Rosen, the sometimes controversial founder of Jews for Jesus, as does an article in the New York Times.
  • Readers of The Internet Monk blog can catch a free download of the first chapter of the late Michael Spencer’s book, Mere Churchianity.
  • A candid Leadership Magazine interview with Francis Chan — is he ever not candid? — about how things work at Cornerstone Church.
  • While I usually laugh at the blog, Stuff Fundies Like, here’s a piece that makes a very, very solid point about Outcome Based Justification.  If just one person clicks on this…
  • Yikes!  A 13-year-old student in New York State can’t wear a rosary to school because of a statute prohibiting “gang related dress.”  Who ya gonna call?  Jay Sekulow.   But wait a minute, could the school board be justified?  The police think so.
  • Blogger Jeff Leake has reason to be proud of his talented 16-year old son, Josh Leake who has released a new album.   Right now they’re selling actual CDs, but they might want to also consider downloads.   Check out his MySpace page.
  • Trevin Wax thinks that, “Traditional evangelistic strategies are not necessarily deficient in what they say, but in what they assume.”  Read more at Kingdom People.
  • I know a number of bloggers have already mentioned this, but if you’re a parent, you need to watch this Vimeo clip from Randy Alcorn about Pornography from 12 days ago, and also this more recent one — despite the audio problems — from 7 days ago for parents who have daughters.
  • What is God’s relationship to time.   Not an easy question.   Start your thinking process at this article at Prodigal Magazine.
  • Unequally yoked?  Russell D. Moore got a letter in April about a conservative, dispensational Calvinist marrying a tongues-speaking Pentecostal.  Two weeks later, he’s still getting mail.
  • Blog discovery of the week (but it’s been around since 2007) — E-Royal by Royal Farris.   Lots of good video embeds recently.  Which is where I first saw
  • “The Gospel According To Krispy Kreme” a ten-minute YouTube video of Louie Giglio from 2009.
  • Whatever happened to scripture memory.   Here’s a top ten list of some Bible passages everyone should know by heart.
  • It would be great if God spoke to us by sending little written notes to us throughout the day.   That’s the theme of this 2-minute free sermon video download at Floodgate Productions.
  • Currently reading:  I actually don’t limit my reading to Christian books; I’m currently enjoying The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee.  (Love that middle initial!)  The book is a fascinating history of Chinese food.   I discovered Jennifer at TED Talks.
  • Currently fundraising: Chris, our oldest is going to be working in the kitchen at a Christian camp for ten weeks this summer.   Based on a 48-hour (i.e. six day) week, they’re giving him $3.00 per hour; he has to come up with sponsors for the rest.   Contact us if you want to help.
  • Currently listening to:  A Ton of Worship.  A  collection of church worship from the UK, but check out the stats:  5-CDs.  20 songs per CD.   That’s 100 songs for only $12.99 US/$15.99 CDN.  Also a kids version for $9.99 US/$12.99 CDN.   From Kingsway Music.
  • Message to certain bloggers:  Your Twitter updates are really slowing down your page loads.   Is it worth it?
  • Question to video uploaders:  Why Vimeo and not YouTube?   I have a fairly high speed connection, but the Vimeo server — especially when embedded in blogs — doesn’t even come close to the speed of the YouTube servers.
  • Our cartoon panel this week is from Calvinist Cartoons by Eddie Eddings (c/o John Scaddington).

May 12, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Time for this week’s links.   I think I need to just be boring and call this by the same title each week, the perfunctory Wednesday Link List.   But the lynx, the chain links, the cuff links and the golf links will make an occasional appearance.    This was a very busy week online for a lot of people.   Pick a few of these and let me (or them) know you what you think:

  • Video link of the week is the animation of a great Sovereign Grace Music song, The Prodigal.
  • There are seven letters to different churches in the first chapters of Revelation.   Now it’s 2010 and you have the chance to write The Eighth Letter.    I don’t usually promote conferences, but that’s the premise of one coming to Toronto in October, with guests Ron Sider, Shane Claiborne, Andy Couch, and perhaps even you:  Three people will be selected to have their own 15 minutes of fame.
  • Shaun Groves talks to Christian business students and asks the musical question; “Is ‘Christian’ and ‘business’ not a bit of a contradiction?”
  • Ever read Jewish blogs?   Everybody knows cheeseburgers are not kosher (although your cat can has them) but here’s some detail why that is, and why adding cheese to your chicken sandwich is simply a case of guilty by association.
  • After a discussion with a police community support officer, who is also “the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered liaison officer” for his area, a UK street preacher is  jailed for saying homosexuality is a sin.
  • Most of the stuff on Wayne Leman’s blog about Bible translation issues may be over the heads of many, but here’s a simple post on how a Bible version expert appreciates a titanic translation.
  • Trevin Wax rightly calls into question the tradition in some churches of noting (in small ways) or giving an entire service over (in really big ways) to Mother’s Day.
  • Are there things we know about God that we don’t know from the Bible?   Dan Phillips launches a series on this topic that will make you think, but not everybody is going to agree about, on extra-Biblical revelation.  (Hit the home page to continue to locate subsequent discussions.)
  • Here’s a very new question-and-answer blog that bridges the gap between parents and teenagers.   Later this week we’ll introduce Matt who started it, but meanwhile, checkout ihaveaQ.
  • Mark Batterson thinks we need to listen to the voice of innovation, but also the voice of wisdom if we want to avoid making the classic mistake.
  • Some classic Ben Arment this week on the difference between a teacher and an exhorter is reposted at Christianity 201.
  • The media may have moved on, but the messy cleanup in Nashville continues, with one particular church — operating out of a building where they’ve yet to hold their first service — doing a lot of the heavy lifting.   Pete Wilson also thinks a 1,00o year flood is a 1,000 year ministry opportunity.

  • Liberty University’s seminary president Ergun Caner says he grew up Muslim, but now others are saying his claims are unsubstantiated.

  • Coming soon to a Holiday Inn near you… (not really) The reunion of the veteran Christian rock band Petra.  Tour kicks off in October.
  • Okay, so I’m the billionth blogger to link to this, but North Point Media did a really good spoof of “contemprovant” Churches in this Vimeo clip, Sunday’s Comin’.
  • In our “scariest thing done in the name of Christianity” department, check out the people “aisle running” at Stuff Fundies Like.  (But I’m sure next week SFL will find something scarier.)
  • In our “beating up Donald Miller” department, here’s a look at the question, “Is it really authentic to publicly confess sins you didn’t commit to people who weren’t sinned against?”   I always thought it was a rather inspired thing to do, but here’s an opinion that it’s really done out of pride.
  • In our “Let’s just keep to ourselves” department, here’s a critique of the mechanics of Tim Challies latest Christian book reader’s survey.  Also, here’s how the Calvin Crowd responded.

  • Here’s a worldwide look at what our online search terms say about our spiritual interests versus our interest in sex.

  • Our cartoonist today is a return visit by Joe McKeever at Baptist press, who does a new cartoon daily.

asdf

March 29, 2010

Passion Week 2

Filed under: Jesus — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:47 pm
A Tale of Two Gardens
All this week, I’m repeating the links to the five-part series I ran last year at this time, “Setting Our Faces Toward Jerusalem.”    This one is a short meditation by Trevin Wax from 2007 contrasting Eden and Gethsemane.   To read this part of the series, click here.

January 13, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Oh, Oh, The places you’ll go!   This week we open with some lighter fare, and then move something more “think-provoking:”

  • Perry Noble asks the musical question, “What if the Pharisees Had Twittered?”   Read the tweets here.
  • Got 65 minutes?  Apparently, Mark Driscoll finds the Bible rather funny.   Personally, I was taught a little more reverence for scripture than this.
  • From the humorous to the ridiculous:  First came pet blessings, now comes the blessing of laptops and cell phones.
  • Mike Wittmer has 15 Signs That Your Sermon Isn’t Going Well — you may disagree on #13 — as he Monday Morning Quarterbacks at the blog Don’t Stop Believing.
  • At last!  A webpage that tells you the religious affiliation of every known superhero.
  • Blog of the week:  Can you handle another Atlanta blogger?  Tom calls his blog More Than Useless.
  • When it comes to church buildings, conferences, leadership and missions, Tim Stevens looks at the changes that have taken place in one decade here (part one) and here (part two).
  • The Christian Ranter notes that technology is currently taking us backward, not forward, in this piece, Devolution and Idiocracy.
  • Dean Lusk, inspired by Francis Chan’s church’s 100% giveaway of their Christmas Sunday offering, ponders what might be the reaction if he proposed this at his own church.   At the blog ‘egbdf’ check out Our Bottom Line.
  • Our YouTube non-embed of the week is from Craig Groeschel lifechurch.tv and gives us a whole new (disturbing) perspective of Church Online.
  • Next on the list was going to be a link to the Top 50 Bible Blogs that I assure you, you’ve never heard of, but the BiblioBlogTop50 blog on wordpress is now invitation only.   A secret blog about mystery blogs.  Wish I’d done a screenshot when I was in yesterday.   Anyone know a magic password? Update: And suddenly it was working again.
  • Shouldn’t news anchors be somewhat impartial?   It took a lot of courage for Brit Hume to suggest on Fox News that Tiger Woods would experience more forgiveness in a Christian context than his Buddhist faith offers.   But was it a wise move?
  • Cathleen Falsani thinks that — next to the whole prosperity gospel thing — the use of Jesus as a marketing tool is The (Second) Worst Religious Idea of the Decade; as she states here at Sojourners.
  • Trevin Wax reviews a new IVP title that focuses on a very specific subsection of the baptism debate, the baptism of infants.   Does the book get the job done?   Check out his thoughts on Baptism: Three Views.
  • Today’s cartoon is a 2005 classic from Reverend Fun

December 30, 2009

Last Link List

…of 2009

  • Trevin Wax at Kingdom People ends the year with The State of the Blogosphere.  I especially like is 5th point on ‘blog congregations’ at the expense of real ‘blog conversations:’  “The people who subscribe to these blogs already know what kind of information they are going to receive. They subscribe because they know and like what this person has to say.
  • Andrew Jones, aka Tall Skinny Kiwi, pronounces the Emerging Church Movement officially dead, but author Tony Jones (no relation) disagrees (again) with TSK’s perspective in this rebuttal.
  • The spiritual autonomy of 1,200 Christian organizations in Canada is under threat as the appeal in the Christian Horizons case continues.   Read this December 29th story in Christian Week for a summary and update.
  • Tullian Tchividjian suggests that The Jesus Storybook Bible, though originally written for children, can help adults understand that “the Bible tells one story and points to one figure: it tells the story of how God rescues a broken world and points to Christ who accomplishes this…” and that the book “…is, in my opinion, one of the best resources available to help both children and adults see the Jesus-centered story line of the Bible.”  Read more at On Earth As It Is Heaven.
  • The link that originally appeared in this space was deleted on January 2nd due to some unforeseen content.
  • The Pew Forum suggests that two-thirds of the world’s population live in countries with some kind of restrictions on religion.
  • Today’s cartoon is a T-shirt available in adult and baby sizes from Zazzle.com
  • Don’t forget that here in North America we can reduce the taxes we pay through deduction of charitable donations.   There are many Christian organizations that can use your help.   As of this blog post, you’ve got 30 hours to make a difference to your bottom line for tax purposes, and make a huge difference to a Christian charity or agency.
  • Looking for more?  Use the search window on this blog’s sidebar and type “links” to see some excellent link lists from previous Wednesdays.

December 2, 2009

Best of this Week’s Links

Before we get into this week’s lynx links, I want to refer back to something on this blog a few days ago.

When I wrote a post a few days ago questioning some aspects of the Samaritans Purse Christmas shoebox project, I was simply giving voice to some things that were rumbling in the back of my mind.   I was hesitant to formulate much more than a few random thoughts because I really thought I was alone in criticizing a program that is so widely subscribed to by local churches.

I was wrong.   When Sarah’s comment came, I realized I had only begun to scratch the surface of issues raised by the program.   Here’s a reprint of her comment, but I want to strongly recommend you visit the link, which documents why in one Canadian province, a large denomination isn’t encouraging support of the program.   It takes you to a 16-page (.pdf file) report of which pages 4 to 11 are most important and will only take you a couple of minutes.

Thanks for this article–I think all your questions and concerns are excellent. If you’re interested in more, with a powerful eyewitness story about shoebox problems, see http://ucskco.sasktelwebhosting.com/TheGiftMattersSchoolkit.pdf

It shouldn’t be about followup for the giver at all; that’s a form of strings-attached giving.

Additional questions:

Does this encourage children to value Western cultures more than their own?

Do “shoebox” gifts become better than something simpler made lovingly by a family member?

Are they introducing commercial gift-giving into a culture that doesn’t celebrate Christmas in that way?

Do they respect people of other faiths who don’t celebrate Christmas at all?

Do they portray one race/culture as being better or more successful than others?

Most importantly, how do they work to bring about real change, in places where the needs are for justice, peace, and access to the necessities of life?

~ Comment by Sarah Shepherd

Your responses to this can go here or in the comment section of the original post.    If anyone has seen other good pieces online where the program has been critiqued, feel free to put the link in a comment as well.

Other links this week:

  • Bill Kinnon looks at youth culture ministry and points out that, “What we win them with, is what we win them to. Win them with entertainment, and you’ve created customers – who expect to be continually entertained.”
  • Here’s a book that’s got me curious.   Trevin Wax reviews Chris Armstrong’s book Patron Saints for Postmoderns. “Chris focuses on ten ‘saints’ from Christian history and offers insights from their lives that can be learned and applied today.”
  • Some of the Christian cartoons I use here are a lot of fun.  This one digs a little deeper, and could only be written by someone with an intimate understanding of life in the Charismatic or Pentecostal environment.  So some of you are going to really, really connect with this, and others maybe not so much.   But if you’ve been in those circles, you won’t want to miss this.   Check out World of Dod’s blog.
  • Speaking of all things Charismatic, over a week ago Christianity Today did a really good article on that community’s voice of reason, Charisma magazine editor J. Lee Grady.   I also recommend subscribing to Lee’s weekly e-mail, although it’s bundled with other things from Strang Communications, so it’s an all or nothing subscription.
  • Our iKettle still needs the support of our Canadian readers.   Money given to the Salvation Army stays in the donor’s community.   Click here.
  • Jessica at the general-interest blog, Indexed accurately sums up why people feel the way they do about their wealth.    It’s all relative.    Ain’t that the truth!
  • Paul Stoecklein, author of the general market humor book You Had Me At Idiot, has a very irreverent post about surviving the Thanksgiving holiday in a ‘religious’ family.  Sample:  “Protestants are different. With them, saying grace is like really bad performance art. I swear, I think these people believe that saying grace should have been one of the categories on Star Search… Read — if you dare — the whole piece here. [HT: Shallow Frozen Water blog]

  • Christian apologist Josh McDowell and coauthor David Sterrett discuss why they wrote a book, titled ‘O’ God, about Oprah Winfrey and why they don’t think Christians are equipped to respond to Oprah’s ‘teaching.’  This link takes you a four minute video on YouTube.
  • Speaking of Christian Apologists, New York Magazine profiles Timothy Keller and his Redeemer Presbyterian Church in the Big Apple.  “Although relatively few secular New Yorkers know about it—Keller prefers to keep Redeemer mostly under the media radar… —an Evangelical Christian megachurch is growing in the heart of Manhattan.”
  • Carlos Whitaker invites readers at his blog, Ragamuffin Soul, to leave their favorite quotation.   So far, over 80 responses, but plenty of room for you to add yours.

April 7, 2009

Setting Our Faces Toward Jerusalem — Part Two

Filed under: Christianity, Jesus, theology — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:40 pm

In this 2007 post from the blog, Kingdom People, Trevin Wax contrasts two gardens, Eden and Gethsemane.

golgotha.jpg

“It is finished!”
Jesus, from the cross (John 19:30)

From one garden to another, Eden’s paradise to Gethsemane’s agony, we see God’s redemptive plan unveiled: Satan, sin and death forever defeated, only through the death and resurrection of God’s only Son. The fulfillment of prophecy, the climax of history, the culmination of God’s eternal plan came crushing down upon Jesus of Nazareth as He hung on the cross that Friday afternoon.

Jesus had lived a sinless life, teaching and preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom – the Kingdom He had come to inaugurate. This Kingdom had arrived with miraculous signs: bread for the hungry, healing for the sick, and sight for the blind. Now, in His death, Jesus was taking the weight of the world’s sin and suffering upon Himself. As He bore the punishment for the sins of the world, He was completing His earthly work.

On the sixth day of creation, God had made man in His image. Behold the man: Adam, the first human, the man whose sinful choice cast all of humanity into the powerful grip of sin and death. Now, on the sixth day, Friday, Pilate stands next to Jesus and declares, “Behold the Man!” Jesus, the “second Adam,” the true human being, the one whose sinless life will undo the curse of sin and death. Behold the Man who will pay for our sins! Behold the Man who is our Messiah and Lord! Behold the Man who is our Savior and God!

Piercing through the dark storm clouds and echoing through the valleys surrounding the hill of Golgotha, Jesus cried out from the cross, “It is finished!” announcing that His work was complete. On the sixth day, God had completed his work of creation. Now Jesus finished His work, as the spotless Lamb who died as our sacrifice. “It is finished” – the victory cry from the cross. The sacrifice had been accomplished. And God saw that it was good.

written by Trevin Wax © 2007 Kingdom People blog

We’ve linked and reproduced this week’s series of meditations as we set our faces towards Jerusalem, knowing that many of you don’t get around to clicking the links. Both our posts so far have been original material created by the bloggers. If someone asked you to write a mediation about this season, with what themes or thoughts on Christ’s sacrifice would you begin?

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