Archive for month: May, 2011

An Interview with David Flowers, and his review of Faith Without Illusions

30 May Andy
May 30, 2011

Having written a book is allowing me to begin friendships with a host of like-minded people out there that I would have otherwise never met.  One of them is David Flowers.  This guy is thinking hard about the nature of “church” and posting some really good stuff.  I encourage you to check out his blog, The Centrality and Supremacy of Christ (you can’t get a better blog title than that).

David has been kind enough not only to review Faith Without Illusions, but also to explore more behind the book by sending me a number of interview questions.  Those questions have really helped spur my own thinking about topics in my book and beyond.  You can see the review here, and the Q & A here.

Most Cynical Characters in Literature & Film: Who comes to Mind?

27 May Andy
May 27, 2011

I like how Busby’s last post encouraged reader participation.  Let’s continue thinking about a theology of work—keep sending in your thoughts so we can think through those issues together.  We have had some good comments so far.

For a much less important project, I want to ask for your contributions as well.  I had this question in my mind this morning that I want to throw out to you readers for fun: who are the most cynical characters in literature and film?  Who comes to mind?  Here is a start:

Books:

Ivan Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, The Brothers Karamazov)

Movies:

Melvin Udall (played by Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets)

Theology of Work/Vocation

26 May Joel Busby
May 26, 2011

Joel here. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Now that another semester is done, I hope to be a little more active.

Lately, my thoughts have been consumed by the theology of work. My closest friends are not vocational ministers and I’m wanting to think hard and create a resource for them as they seek to be kingdom people in “secular” jobs (the quotation marks are meant to imply that there may not be a sacred/secular divide).

Here is the reader-participation part of our blog. I’d love your help!

1. How do you think the “typical layperson” conceives of the connection between faith and work? What kind of framework is up and running for them?

2. Do you know of particularly good resources on this subject?

Let us know what you think!

Another Review

24 May Andy
May 24, 2011

Cogito | Credo posted a review of Faith Without Illusions.  Again, reading reviews of my book is such a strange—yet usually satisfying—experience.  It is comforting to know someone actually took time to read what one has poured so much of his life into.  In many ways, my wife and I feel as if the book is like a 5th child—you want to show your precious little bundle off to both friends and strangers.  You want people you know to rejoice with you, and you want folks you’ve never met to notice the precious little thing out in public.  You want to hear their comments.  You want to hear their observations:  “He has your eyes;” “where did she get those beautiful long toes?”; “Oh, I love that red hair!”  Now, of course, my book is no way as significant a fruit in my life as any of my four children.  But there certainly is the sense for a newly published author that a tough gestational period and an intensive, overdrawn process of labor has occurred.  But whereas it is natural and totally legitimate to show off your newborn child, it feels so weird and pretentious to show off your newly released book.

All that to say, it is nice to have someone read the book and make comments about it.  So thank you, Credo | Credo.

Click on the icon to see the review….

Review of FWI

The Day After the End of Days (on eschatological cynicism)

22 May Andy
May 22, 2011

[Related to this post is "1988" below.]

What do you do when the alarm starts chirping the morning after the world was supposed to end?  What do you do when the most precious of all promises (the return of Christ) fails to happen on (the latest popularized) schedule?

You get up, you brew another cup of coffee, and you live another day knowing that it could still be your last.  You do your homework.  You pay the bill on the dining table.  You change a diaper.  You drive to work.  You put the trash out on the street for the garbage truck.  You enjoy conversations with your friends… but you also fight to maintain a sense of eschatological urgency.

What most troubles me about end-of-the-world predictions is the potential for cynicism and disillusionment over the most glorious of all Christian hopes, the Second Advent of Jesus.  He will reappear at some point in tangible, visible fashion to finalize Death’s reign and to establish New Creation.  But the more t-shirts advertising a particular date for that moment, the more radio broadcasts announcing that date with exactitude, the more street preachers verbalizing their confidence in the latest prediction, then the more likely it is that our greatest hope as Christians will become associated with quack theology.  The more likely it is that our greatest hope as Christians will become associated with idealistic pipe dreams.

I do not fault anyone for urging a sense of imminence regarding Christ’s return.  They find good company with both Jesus, Paul and John the Seer.  But to claim a date is to create a delicious media spectacle that amuses or annoys non-Christians and leads Christians into becoming more sheepish about living in the imminent urgency that Jesus is indeed coming one day with unstoppable force.

The premise of Faith Without Illusions is that idealism is a farce but cynicism is a dead end.  I write that cynicism is rendered obsolete by Christian eschatology.  Since Jesus rose from the grave, initiating the encroaching of New Creation into our present sphere, then we can exchange cynicism for a hopeful realism.

This hopeful realism is therefore eschatological.  So it is very hard for me personally to wake up the day after the supposed end of all days knowing that Christians have exploited eschatology in such a way that cynicism is the more likely response than hopeful realism.

Paul urged the Thessalonians to stop using their eschatological urgency as an opportunity to check out of their daily, communal and personal responsibilities.  This morning, let’s not use someone else’s eschatological urgency as an opportunity for cynicism.

Review of FWI at Englewood Review of Books

21 May Andy
May 21, 2011

I was very excited to see that the Englewood Review of Books has posted a review of Faith Without Illusions on their website.  You can check it out here.

It is both nerve-wracking and exciting to read these reviews.  The most interesting fact to report on the experience is that I always seem to learn a little more about my own book by reading its other readers.  Thanks so much for those of you out there taking time to work through it!

1988 (what do boys do when the world fails to end?)

20 May Andy
May 20, 2011
From the movie 2012; photo found at National Geographic

I was in the minivan with my sister.  The side door was propped open and my buddy Kevin was standing there looking up at the sky.  His parents owned the little video store on main street where we had parked.  My mom had gone inside to return some VHS cassettes.

There was an eerie calm in the heavens. I remember that it was a bit overcast.  We were waiting.  Waiting for the end.  It was due at any moment.  While our parents were going about normal daily affairs like manning the video store or returning overdue movies, we were poised for apocalypse.

Not sure how the news got to us.  But we even knew the exact time on the clock.  As we pensively scanned the horizons of the small town landscape, a sleepy North Georgia village minding its own business beneath a sky doomed to explode at any moment, I kept glancing at my little Casio wristwatch.  The digital ticking of the seconds marched without hesitation into the approaching conclusion of all things.

When the sky refused to collapse and burst on time, we did not let out the sigh of relief.   Though barely teenagers, we knew that calendrical dating and time-keeping can be a bit off—and maybe my Casio was a bit fast.

But after several minutes, we gradually began  swallowing the reality that perhaps someone had given us bad info.  Like when some kid flips the fire alarm in the school hallway after a bathroom break, sending everyone out to the playground for a non-existent catastrophe.

Kevin and I were relieved.  But a bit disappointed.  Disappointed that normal, everyday life just kept going on.  There was no hiccup in the pace of life around us on main street—the cars kept driving past the minivan; customers entered and exited the video store; our few stop lights kept doing their job.  We both wanted to live, of course.  But we also wanted to see something, something… well, awesome.  Something extraordinary.  We wanted to be there on the cusp of the end and ride out the globe as it made its final spin.

But my mom came back to the minivan to drive my sister and me back home.  Kevin went back into the store.

Then I guess I finished my homework.

At least the scheduled end of the world in 2011 will happen over a weekend.  Not as much homework to do…  in case nothing happens.

A Sermon on a Biblical Theology of Sex, and the Distortions of Pornography

17 May Andy
May 17, 2011

I have not yet posted links to any of my sermons on this blog.  I have decided to post this one because it is a bit unique—I am specifically addressing pornography.  The sermon was delivered on Valentine’s Day (appropriate, huh?) at Southeastern Bible College earlier in the year.  I am grateful to my friend Micah Simpson, the school’s Campus Pastor, for the invitation… and I am proud of the bravery he demonstrated in asking someone to speak on such a controversial topic at a Christian school!

The sermon provides a concise biblical theology of sex and then covers a variety of ways that pornography twists and damages that beautiful vision, thereby sabotaging our capacity for enjoying sex as a healthy, vibrant part of marriage.  If you want to give it a listen, you can click the link below.

Biblical Sex, Porn Sex

“Doctrine”: a bad word or a good one?

15 May Andy
May 15, 2011

“Doctrinal warmongering.”  That is a phrase I have been using here in the blog on occasion to describe the rather uncivil theological discourse taking place through social media.  When Christians see those claiming some theological competence clanging swords against others claiming similar competence, then the anti-intellectualism I have been writing about becomes an natural response.

I just began Kevin J. Vanhoozer’s The Drama of Doctrine.  Here is a quote from his introduction hefty with wisdom concerning the bad taste “doctrine” often leaves in our mouths:

“Sound doctrine—authoritative teaching—is vital for the life of the church, and hence for the life of the world.  This is hardly a truism; yet in many circles, doctrine is thought to be the problem.  On the one hand, it is divisive, an obstacle to love and unity; on the other hand, it all too often appears insipid and irrelevant, maintaining no vital contact with the complications and particulars of everyday life.  Unfortunately, there is more than a little truth to each of these charges.  The fault lies less with sound doctrine, however, than with its mishandling, and with a misunderstanding of its nature and purpose.  A false picture of doctrine has held us captive.  We begin, then, by setting the stage: sound doctrine is suffering from confusion about its nature, from disagreement concerning the locus of its authority, and above all from its captivity to a debilitating dichotomy between theory and practice.”  [1]

Dr. Vanhoozer, well said—you have my attention….

[1] Kevin J. Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), 3.

How Pornography Decontextualizes Sex

13 May Andy
May 13, 2011

After seven years of college ministry and with two small sons under my care, I have been burdened over the last six months to preach, teach, and write on the unpleasant topic of pornography.  Here are the previous posts so far: “‘Sexology’“…; “Preaching on Pornography.”

For this post, I am arguing that porn decontextualizes sex….

Sex always has context.  Sex never occurs in a vacuum.  There is baggage.  There are conjoined histories.  There are dual sets of longings and disappointments.  There are complex motivations.  There is some ongoing dialogue.  Sex always has context, the context of two complex and complicated individuals with pasts, with pains, with joys, with questions, with hopes, with failures.  Sex never occurs in a vaccuum.

Except porn-sex.

This is a bit explicit, so be warned (explicit material requires explicit address)—I sometimes pose to young guys questions like these about their sexual fantasies or about the sexual footage they are watching on their screens: “Is the female in the images bored?  Does she have a headache?  Are there dishes in the kitchen sink that she might be worrying about?  Does she pause to ask if the baby monitor is on?  Did she have a good day at work?  Was her boss a jerk that morning?  Are the clothes still in the dryer?  Is she pleased with how kind you have been to her over the past couple of hours?”

These are shocking questions for a college guy.  What in the world do any of those factors have to do with sex?  And the fact that such a question might arise exposes just how little is really known about sex, including the reality that all sex has context.

Expect porn-sex.

In porn-sex, and in porn-generated fantasies about sex, there are no headaches, no dirty dishes in the sink, no projects due the next day, no children sleeping in the adjoining bedroom, no need for kindness, no history of gentle listening or patient care-giving, and no thrilling or threatening acknowledgement of the fact that two minutes in bed can irreversibly alter the entire course of one’s life should two particular cells collide.

But in real sex, there is context.  There are two people with emotions, fears, joys and lingering doubts and uplifting joys.  There is the conversation that just took place over supper, the overdue bill on the dining room table, the telltale odor in the hallway indicating that the diaper pail is full again, the scent of coffee ground and prepared for the morning cup to be enjoyed with the cereal bought with those precious coupons dutifully clipped out of the weekend paper.  Even when real sex is outside of marriage, there is still the context of anxious fears about how the interaction is going to go the next day, with the anxious or excited prospects of what friends will say, with the foreboding sense that some will find out, with the exciting sense that others will.  All sex has context.

Except porn-sex.

Most young people presumably use pornography because they do not have such ready access to the real thing.  But if our expectations and understanding of sex come from secular media, then there will be a great deal of shock to overcome when the messy (but beautiful) factors of context become so obviously important.

The context of healthy, beautiful sexual intimacy includes the hard, back-breaking work of exalting someone else over oneself minute by minute, year after year, decade after decade.  Kindness showed in the dining room affects what happens in the bedroom.  Odd, I know, but the scent of a $4 bottle of anti-bacterial kitchen cleaner might have more rewarding impact in someone’s sex life that the scent of a $50 vial of cologne.

The decontextualizing of sex by pornography requires years of painful unlearning when it comes to real, live contextualized sex.  And decontextualized sex trains porn viewers that it does not matter how you treat the kids before bedtime or how you treat your spouse day after day, decade after decade.

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