Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Monk and Mallet

My dear friend, Steve Nichols, whom I have known longer than anyone other than my wife and parents, has just written a wonderful introduction called, The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World. You can find out more about this book on this very cool website.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Globalizing Theology, No. 1

A number of us at the seminary are reading a new book, edited by Craig Ott and Harold Netland, called Globalizing Theology. Meant as a festschrift for Paul Hiebert, the eminent missiologist who has taught for a generation at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the book actually serves as a thought-provoking collection of essays, meant to prod theological educators into thinking about what it means to do theology in and for a "global" church.

After all, if God's mission is the transformation of his world by his people bringing his Gospel to all the nations, then that means we cannot allow our understanding of God to be boxed into our regional or national cultural systems. Through intentional ways, we must be in conversation with the church in other places and circumstances in order to discover our cultural blind spots and to gain wisdom and insight from other parts of Christ's church.

This represents a series of questions about which I've been thinking alot recently, both because we are in the midst of our self-study process and "globalization" is a major theme for our professional accreditors (the Association of Theological Schools) and because we are also beginning a new round of strategic planning. And so, these questions: What is God calling this little Presbyterian seminary to be and to do for the world's church? How can this be accomplish simply by paying attention to the internationals whom God has brought to St. Louis (which serves as a relocation center for internationals seeking asylum in the United States)? Even more, how would taking our "kingdom perspective" core value seriously lead to a transformation, or at least an augumentation, of the seminary's mission?

I don't know all the answers, although I think I sense some of the possible trajectories. But above all, it strikes me that if institutions like ours are going to be useful for the world-wide church, we need to take more seriously than we ever have that theological education must be for the whole church and must reflect the sense that God's mission in this world is for everyone from everywhere. What role a seminary like ours should play in this is open for question and dreaming.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Carl Trueman Strikes Again

As readers of this blog know, I greatly admire Carl Trueman's insight into things cultural and historical. This analysis of postmodernity is one of his best bits of work.

The Pistol

Since we had a snow day yesterday, I was able to finish Mark Kriegel's Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich. For someone who knew more about Pistol Pete by reputation than personal experience (I didn't start paying attention to the NBA until 1981 when the Houston Rockets made it to the NBA finals; Pete had retired the year before), I found the book to be a useful introduction to one of the most prolific college scorers in the history of basketball.

But Kriegel's story was much more--it was really about the difficult relationship between Pete and his father, Press. The father had groomed Pete to be the first million dollar basketball player; through the intense practice (Homework Basketball) to the intense criticism and perfectionism, Press shaped Pete's world. This shaping, however, was not positive--rather, it taught Pete that he could never measure up to Press's exacting standards and hence, was not worthwhile.

The result was a pattern of destructive behavior, centering mainly on fast women, fast cars, and booze. But it also resulted in Pete struggling to find something or someone outside of himself that would "take him" away (including UFOs--he actually wrote "take me" as a message to UFOs on the roof of his Atlanta condo). His behavior become increasingly destructive, extreme or bizarre and centered on crazy fads until he finally retired in 1980.

Then, in a life without basketball, Pete was left to review all his "failures," the games where he could have been "perfect," the destructive alcohol abuse, the relationship with his father. At the end a long, dark night, Pete prayed for God to save him--and God did. Everyone testified that Pete's life radically changed: for the first time in his life, he seemed happy and at peace. And though it seemed like Christianity might be just another extreme fad, Pete's faith commitment "stuck" and led to his father and wife both professing faith in Jesus. He poured himself into Bible study and other spiritual disciplines and shared his faith constantly.

That part of the story made me nearly cry several times--this insecure boy-man who was transformed by a security found in Christ. And because this story was written by a sports biography who had no real interest in "faith," but great interest in his subject, I believe this story was worth reading and sharing with others. It also led me to find other sites dedicated to Pete Maravich: two of the better ones include the official Pistol Pete site and a YouTube site that a very cool 6 minute video of Pete highlights.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Further Odds and Ends

1. I find that I hardly have any time to write posts. I was actually prolific on Friday because I was sitting at a conference; I'm terribly fidgety at conferences and so it seemed a good time to write. Please don't give up on me; I'm still posting two or so times a week--it is just that the volume and velocity of my position makes it hard to breathe sometimes.

2. Of course, you who read this blog probably realize that the Big Game turned out like I hoped it would (for those of you who don't, I am a big Colts fan). For someone who predicted that Peyton would never win the Big Game and who whined that all his sports teams were cursed by his support, the past four months or so have been very, very good to my teams.

3. Two books that I recently bought, very different in character: Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich by Mark Kriegel and On Prayer: Conversation with God by John Calvin with introductory essay by I. John Hesselink. I'll probably read the book on Pistol Pete first.

4. In heavy rotation in my F-150's CD player, The Beatles' Love. I've been very pleased with the way Giles Martin has brought these tracks (which are older than I am! I was born after the Beatles broke up...) into the postmodern age. They sound like they were recorded yesterday (hmmm, that would make a good title for a song..."Yesterday"). My favorite Beatles' song is still "Revolution."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Banality of Mainline American Protestants

I am sitting right now at a meeting of Seminary administrators, listening to a very prominent evangelism professor who teaches at an East Coast mainline Protestant seminary. I was familiar with his work before, but listening to his "semiotic" analysis of American culture, I can say with some certainity that if this is what attracts mainstream Protestants, then that branch of Protestantism is hopelessly banal.

While he said nothing false, he also said nothing new. He told 35 academic deans that American culture is characterized by postmodernity, post-Christendom, and post-scale (under this point, he also listed posthuman, post-"cold," and post-"round"). Whew. You don't say. I had never heard about this before; you mean that I have to put my 8-tracks away??

Again, everything he said is amply declared in the literature (philosophical, theological, historical, sociological, and political literature). But that is just the point--he said everything in such a "Gee Whiz" tone of voice, it made me wonder whether and why most people who hear him talk find him "innovative." The only answer that I can come up with is that mainstream Protestantism is so far behind the curve that they seize onto this man's work as "cutting-edge."

And that can only mean that mainline Protestantism is hopelessly banal.

Faithful Witness

This interview with Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is an excellent, winsome relation of the doctrines of grace to his recent illness. It represents faithful witness of the best kind.