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Postman Still Delivers: Amusing Ourselves to Death

Posted by Dr. Keith Stanglin on May 8, 2018 at 10:22 AM

Back in January, I had the privilege of speaking at the Northwest Expositor’s Seminar just outside of Portland, Oregon.  In addition to the main topic that I was invited to address, I was also asked to be prepared to recommend and briefly summarize a few books that are outside my field of scholarship.  In reality, almost nothing that is non-fiction is really irrelevant to a historical theologian.  But I get the idea—something not directly about church history or Christian theology.  

In fact, I quite enjoyed the preparation and came ready to talk about some of my favorite books.  Sadly, and for no apparent reason, I became violently ill and was prevented from speaking for only that one session.  The next day, after my recovery, I even offered to abbreviate my final session in order to make room for some book recommendations, but no one took me up on the offer.  So here I provide something that I would not have done in the limited time I had there—a selective summary of and then brief riff on themes related to Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business(1985).

(If you have never read this book, please, don’t delay, open a new browser window right now and go purchase this book.  Then come back and continue reading.)

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Topics: Technology, Neil Postman, Television, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Brave New World

Where Are We? A Brief Reflection on the Death of Alfie Evans

Posted by Dr. Jeff Peterson on May 1, 2018 at 1:42 PM

Alfie Evans was a British citizen who died last Saturday, April 28, at just under two years of age, after an extended period of treatment for a neurological condition afflicting his brain. What do the events of his brief life tell us about the world we live in and how Christians should engage it?

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Topics: Teaching Moment, Ethics, Christ and Culture, Alfie Evans, Contemporary Culture

What is "the Way"? Part 1: Fulfillment of Philosophical Aspirations

Posted by Dr. Daniel Napier on April 26, 2018 at 10:04 AM

Three hundred years before Christianity was a religion, Jesus taught his disciples to walk in “the Way.” Alongside the simple term “students,” his earliest followers most common self-description was "the Way.” But what's that?

Categories can help us narrow in on the target. When asked by their Greco-Roman contemporaries to plug themselves into an existing category, early Christians had only one answer.

“Although we gather to worship, we are not a religion – much less a mere superstition.” (Superstition was the derisive term the Romans’ used to designate various religions of foreign extraction.)

“Although we provide, from our own pocket, decent burials for our members and others, we are not a burial society.”

“Though we are called Christians, and this follows the linguistic form for naming a political party (like Caesarians for those of Caesar’s party), we are not a political group.”

“Nor are we a guild – indeed we welcome people from every trade and every stratum of society.”

If you were to press this person, the Jesus follower would eventually offer a category. According to the early Christians, only one category comes near to working. “We are a philosophy. We follow the Way – the philosophy of Jesus.”

This self-categorization is full of significance. “If you want to understand our life and teachings,” the early Christians said, “you must compare us to your schools of philosophy.” Thus, they asked their neighbors and critics to form a judgment with one eye fixed on Christian behavior and the other eye fixed on the life and teachings of the Stoics, the Epicureans, the Cynics and the Academy, new and old.

May I ask you to take this testimony seriously?

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Topics: Teaching Moment, Discipleship, The Way

"Remember Me:" Worship, Stuff, and the Communion of Saints

Posted by Dr. Todd Hall on April 12, 2018 at 10:35 AM

Like most congregations, the church that I attend has our Sunday hymns projected onto the screen at the front of the building. This has been very helpful for several members who struggle with eyesight problems. But unlike some congregations, we’ve kept our hymnals in the pew as well. I always like to hold the hymnal in my hand and sing along that way—usually because the projected songs don’t have shape notes, which is the only way I can read music, but also so I can reflect on the words of the songs we’re singing.

On a Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago I took the hymnal from the back of the pew in front of me in preparation for the opening of our corporate worship. Like always, I opened the hymnal to the correct song number, but something made me flip to the front of the book. There I found a memorial plate to a member of our church who had gone to be with his Lord many years before. My mind was flooded with memories of the man as I read the words, “This hymnal is given to Holland Street Church of Christ in loving memory of…” He was a good man, a good husband and father and grandfather, and he had lost his battle with heart disease suddenly. My brother, our minister, the worship leader/youth and family minister, and I stood around his hospital bed and sang hymns over him from these very hymnbooks as he passed from this life. I read the plate again and tears filled my eyes.

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Topics: Teaching Moment, Worship, Incarnation, Communion

More Effective Ministry

Posted by Dr. Keith Stanglin on April 5, 2018 at 9:17 AM

I was recently intrigued by a student who shared with me his primary reason for coming to study at Austin Graduate School of Theology.  While heavily involved in prison ministry, he found himself on the receiving end of questions that he had a hard time answering.  And these inquisitive prisoners, who had quite a bit of free time on their hands for reading and contemplating, asked some tough questions. The prison minister admitted that he was getting tired of saying, “I’ll get back with you on that one,” and he sensed a little frustration from the prisoners who also noticed this continuing refrain.  He acknowledged that he needed to be better equipped if he was going to benefit these men.  But who is there to answer the minister’s questions?

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Topics: Teaching Moment, Seminary, Effective Ministry

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