Book: The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor

Book: The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry

Saw this on a discount shelf at Koorong, and thought I’d pick it up. Joint authored by John Piper and Don Carson, this is the story of two gifted academics and church ministers who took quite different paths.

Piper started out as an academic, and ended up pastoring a church for 30 years. Carson sought to be a pastor, but ended up an academic instead. Each author shows how including the skills of the other role is important.

If you’re interested in biographical details of either author, it’s worth a look. It’s a short read, at just over 100 pages.

life, the universe and nothing – part two

Life, the universe and nothing

City Bible Forum paid to bring both Lawrence Krauss and William Lane Craig from their respective universities for a three-part series of conversations called “Life, the Universe and Nothing”. The series is a little hard for the average person to attend – the first session was in Brisbane, the second in Sydney, and the third will be in Melbourne.

Having read a summary of the first session, I had fairly low hopes of a meeting of the minds taking place before me.

Here are a few of the tweets and other items from the night:

The event was more civil than I was fearing, but Krauss still spent a little too long playing the man, rather than engaging with the arguments. There was a palpable calming down over time, and by the end they seemed to be talking to each other rather than over each other. Kudos to the moderator: though she had problems keeping her questions on track, and I would have liked to see her pose more questions from the floor, she tried to give each speaker the floor in an appropriate way.

I found it much more productive talking with a skeptical friend afterward than listening to much of the debate, though I’m interested to read further on the topic of consciousness (and of the soul using the brain as an instrument to control the body), and of quantum gravity, where physics is trying to reach right back to the big bang and explain what happened.

I’m not sure I am any closer to understanding the topic at hand after attending the debate, but it was a good way to start a discussion going, and the two speakers were lively and thought-provoking.

Thanks to CBF for organising the event.

Movie: The World’s End

I saw The World’s End with a friend on Friday night. Both the same age, somewhere around 20 years out from high school, this was a good film to see.

Are your school days the happiest days of your life? Almost certainly not, for a range of reasons. But the enduring friendships that are formed during the school days, and the issues involved in overcoming the challenges of time and other life changes are somewhat universal, especially to people of a certain age.

This movie (the third in the loosely formed “Three Colours Cornetto” trilogy, after Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) mashes up the idea of a reunion movie with (spoilers ahoy, but not if you’ve seen the trailer) a sci fi apocalypse movie, with lots of rather colourful language and copious drinking and drug references throughout.

As a fan of the previous two movies, I found this one to have a greater sense, if not of maturity then at least of a deeper understanding of the characters they’re writing and portraying. If you too are a fan of the previous films, you’ll enjoy this one.

bible software and the commercialisation of spirituality

Last week I read the NYT article on the YouVersion bible app – it talks about YouVersion – an ad-free Bible on your phone, tablet and computer. The very notion of an ad-free bible took me by surprise a little, but that’s the direction that the majority of bible apps seem to be taking. When I was still using a Windows computer with floppy drives in it, I had a copy of a program called QuickVerse (now up to version 10) – it was very much a program (this was before everything was an app) that emphasised the uniqueness of the bible apart from other works.

I tried QuickVerse in later versions, but it had fallen into a common trap: thinking you’re as likely to search other books as search the bible in a piece of software you’ve bought to study the bible: a subtle, but significant problem started to creep in. As I started to do further language study, I moved across to Accordance for Mac and bought the Greek New Testament with it so I could try and read that. It was a perfectly workable program, but when it came time to learn Hebrew as well, the upgrade path looked like it would cost just as much as to buy Logos outright, and I thought I’d test it out as well.

I think I prefer Logos over Accordance for actual ease of use, but Logos is relentless in trying to sell you additional books, and to upgrade the software you have and the collection of books you have. It has reached the point now where I was using it for some vaguely spiritual purpose, and there was a pop-up window, encouraging me to buy the paid upgrade at a limited-time discount price. 

Knowing what I do about digital marketing, they’re just trying to pull out all the stops to sell more of their product in the most effective way possible, but what it feels like is that people-who-buy-Christian-books are a particular target market, and that every tactic possible is fair game. It has reached the point where even as a paid user of their app, I feel like I’m getting ads presented to me in ways that are too intrusive.

As much as the NYT article above talks about printed bibles sitting on the shelf gathering dust, the blaring, commercialised software that we’re heading towards seems too great a contrast from the still small voice of God that we’re trying to listen to in these apps.

Is it just me?

book: do you feel called by God?

Having finished college, I finally feel like image time to read books again, rather than just doing endless readings on a particular topic. I spotted this one in a recent Briefing magazine, and thought I’d give it a try. Author Michael Bennett is an ordained minister who never felt the sense of God leading him in a particular direction, but just sought to be faithful to what he thought a Christian with his skills should do, and this kept him heading in that direction.

There’s an overview of the way the word “call” (kalein) is used in the bible, and he puts forward a theory: not of the priesthood of all believers, but that all Christians are to be involved in living for god, and hence in ministry. A thoughtful, practical book.