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Thoughts for the Journey
(A day in the life of a Baptist preacher. This is my blog. Sometimes I update it every day and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I ramble, sometimes I rant and every so often, I have something relevant to say.)
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The following is a transcript of Todd's morning commentary – heard on hundreds of radio stations around the nation.
Katelyn Beaty's critique of evangelical fame-worship is wise but overly tame.There’s a scene in The Fellowship of the Ring in which Bilbo Baggins, the hero of the earlier book The Hobbit, has just received a small bit of counsel from his friend Gandalf the wizard. Gandalf tells Bilbo he needn’t attempt a task that would be challenging and quite likely deadly. And it makes Bilbo suspicious: “I have never known you to give me pleasant advice before,” he says. “As all your unpleasant advice has been good, I wonder if this advice is not bad.”Though Bilbo turned out to be mistaken in this case, there is still a lesson in his words: There is such a thing as making a problem too easy. And there are times where that error can yield devastating consequences.This thought came to mind while reading Katelyn Beaty’s book Celebrities for Jesus: How Personas, Platforms, and Profits Are Hurting the Church. The book has much to admire. Beaty, a writer and former CT editor, is a keen observer of power dynamics within institutions and movements, for starters. She also is a good student of contemporary technological trends, with a well-developed understanding of how digital technology has transformed and exacerbated the problems of fame and celebrity both in the church and outside.What’s more, I found her prudent counsel for how we might curb the worst excesses of celebrity to be wise and admirable. Her conversation partners in the final chapter are, if predictable, also wise: Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, Andy Crouch, Dallas Willard.Pulling punchesYet for all its merits, I found the book to be ultimately too moderate in its critique. While Celebrities for Jesus is a wise book, it is also, for a certain type of evangelical, a relatively pleasant book, if I can borrow ...Continue reading...
A thought I did not have time to include in our online video Bible Class entitled “John 6:14-21 … Jesus Walking on the Sea!” The Lord, in John 6:20, uses the great Phrase … “I AM!” It’s true that in English those two words are translated “It is I.” But the Greek Text our King […]
His theories of conversion and competition shaped widely held views of church growth and decline.Rodney Stark, the influential and controversial sociologist who argued for rational choice in religion, died last month at age 88.Stark made the case that religious conversion, commitment, and cultural vitality should be understood in terms of costs and benefits. He rejected the common assumption that people practice a religion because they agree with the theology, arguing creedal affirmations are secondary to social connections. And he rejected academic accounts of belief as “false consciousness” or fundamentally irrational.In more than 30 books published across seven decades—including The Churching of America 1776-1990, with Roger Finke; The Future of Religion, with William Sims Bainbridge; and The Rise of Christianity, by himself—Stark countered that religious life wasn’t any different from other human activity. It could only be understood in terms of social connections and people’s rational choices.“That is the basis for my whole sociology of religion: people are as thoughtful and rational about their religious choices as they are about other choices in life,” Stark once said. “If you assume that people make rational choices about religion, you start seeing how the world works a whole lot better.”The “rational choice theory,” as it was called, also led Stark to make influential arguments about religious competition and why some movements grow and others decline. According to his research, religious groups that make it easier to join and participate will—counterintuitively—see fewer people join and participate. Those who emphasize their difference and social deviance, on the other hand, will see numbers increase.“Thousands of articles ...Continue reading...
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