That Was The Week That Was

Some of what’s been happening around the blogosphere while I’ve been taking a break:

Smith, Imagining the Kingdom• With his new book, Jamie Smith continues to develop his argument (from Desiring the Kingdom) that “Human beings are at their core defined by what they worship rather than primarily by what they think, know, or believe. That is bound up with the central Augustinian claim that we are what we love.” Get a preview in this Christianity Today interview with David Neff.

• Did you know that only 41% of M.Div. students plan to pursue full-time church ministry?

• One of my favorite moments on our January trip to Europe was attending an Epiphany carol service at St Martin-in-the-Fields, a historic Anglican church off Trafalgar Square. I enjoyed the three-part (gold, frankincense, myrrh) homily by its new pastor, former Duke University chaplain Sam Wells, who wrote recently on the homeless asylum-seekers he lets in when he opens the church’s doors in the morning: “For me, these people are a daily encounter with the face of Christ.”

• I loved this critique of the “New Radical” movement by a sympathizer-turned-suburban mom: “It’s driven by a stereotypically male way of thinking that often values the dramatic over the mundane and loses sight of people who engage the greater good through the invisible monotony of home-making, childrearing, and other unseen acts of service. Men and women alike pine to make an impact—it’s human nature at its best and the imago Dei at work in us—but by virtue of child-bearing biology and traditional ties to the domestic economy, women have been forced to come to terms with the ‘mundane good’ in a more systematic way than most men.”

• Also from the often-strong her.meneutics blog at Christianity Today‘s website: the “MRS” degree at Christian (and other) colleges.

• For a doctrine the denial of which imperils salvation and the attempted understanding of which risks insanity (so said Luther, or was it Augustine?), the Trinity sure has been a popular topic lately… Greg Boyd confronted the argument that his view of Jesus’ abandonment on the Cross destroys the Trinity, and Allan Bevere warned that “It is important that we not treat the Trinity as an appendix to the Christian doctrine of God, which is the unfortunate legacy of too much twentieth century theology.” (H/T CC Blogs)

Star Trek Into Darkness• Okay, now that our heads are spinning, let’s regain equilibrium… I watched the second J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie last night (here’s a terrific essay on the place of those movies in the larger story of Star Trek), and it got me thinking about Sherlock Holmes: both because it gives a meaty role to Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch and because Abrams treats the Trek “canon” somewhat like the Sherlock creators treat Conan Doyle’s… There’s a blog post there, but in the meantime, learn that Cumberbatch is even more versatile than you think.

• On to history… writer Richard Rubin interviewed some of the last surviving American veterans of World War I — here’s a taste of his new book.

• A fun infographic from 1921: the United States scaled by proportion of electricity used.

Also a great map… of every place ever mentioned in a Bob Dylan song!

• Were you as surprised as Rachel Held Evans by some of what she learned from eminent church historian Justo Gonzalez?

• Not that The Gospel Coalition was about to ask a Pietist historian which day after AD 70 most changed the course of Christian history, but I would have simply deferred to George Marsden’s answer anyway. (Not because it’s Marsden, but… c’mon. The only real debate is whether it’s actually the day Constantine “converted” — whichever day that was — or the day at the Milvian Bridge, the day the Edict of Milan was issued, or the day he called the Council of Nicea.)

• Miles Mullin continued to corner the market on excellent posts about how Christians approached death.

• Adding to the argument presented so effectively by Mullin’s fellow new Anxious Bench-er David Swartz in Moral Minority, a new collection of essays on American evangelicalism seeks to “recover the diversity of evangelicalism by highlighting the fluidity and contingency of its politics. They view the period from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s not simple as a prelude to the New Christian Right, but as a time when opportunities for rather different political alignments offered themselves.”

Coffman, The Christian Century• I love book reviews that become something more than just a review without losing sight of the original book — case in point, Jason Byassee’s response to Elesha Coffman’s history of The Christian Century.

• My dissertation ended up being just shy of 300 pages, smack-dab in the middle of the typical range for historians — on average, the most long-winded of dissertation-writers.

• You don’t see this much any more: an essay arguing that maybe graduate school is the right destination for many who love history, literature, philosophy, etc…. Not that it’s going to be easy: even if you get a job, argues Spencer Lenfield, “it’s not enough for a modern professor to do their research, teach their classes, and go to a minimal number of faculty meetings. We need professors with ambitious visions for how to fix the academy — its system of accreditation, its labor market, and the tenuous role of the humanities within it. And they need to be able to weather the politics, bureaucracy, and inertia of the academy, as well.”

• I’ve started to talk more about digital humanities around our faculty, but perhaps those of us at smaller schools like Bethel should resist the urge to build up DH on our own and instead seek partnerships with larger research universities

• Speaking of digital humanities… I attended a couple of sessions of a DH symposium at the University of Minnesota last week (“SparkFest“). Some of what I heard will probably come out in posts over the summer, but you can also find some of my tweets from Mark Tebeau’s keynote address on curating urban history at the hashtag #DHSparkFest.

• I also live-tweeted our West by Midwest event this past Wednesday. Look for an expanded version of my keynote address — on innovation, teaching, and the liberal arts in a digital age — to be posted here next week.

• Almost as long as I’ve been in my current position, I’ve heard calls for reform of how we teach writing. My response — back in the days when I was on our general education committee — was that it was near-futile to try to teach students to write well if they hadn’t already learned how to read well. Or, as Scot McKnight put it, more concisely and effectively, if you want to write well, you need to learn to read slowly.

• Private schools may be dying out in this country, but in Africa they’re fast overtaking public education.

• We’re not getting everything right in Minnesota these days, but at least our choice of state bird is impeccable — unlike almost every other one of the Fifty Nifty.

Common loon
Keep your cardinals, chickadees, robins, and mockingbirds… I’ll take the common loon – Creative Commons (John Picken)

One thought on “That Was The Week That Was

  1. Chris-

    In his book on theology for emerging churches, Ray S Anderson comments in passing that the MDiv replaced a bachelors degree. He did not say whether requirements were increased, they probably were, but since then of course “degree inflation” has made the MDiv easier to obtain. At one time I would have bemoaned this trend as an example of lower standards but now I am more democratic and more populist Let everybody who can complete the course work online get the degree. But the degrees should be less expensive since they carry less earning potential with them. MDiv students who do not plan to enter full time ministry are wise.

    Since education is more easily accessible, the barriers to ministerial preparation have fallen and the era of bivocational ministry has begun. Hallelujah. Professional/full time pastors hustle to fill the collection plates so that their salaries can be paid. I know large groups of them see the flock as their source of financial support and indeed feel entitled to that support because of their ordinations. So, most of the tithes only support the local institution. Is it not better to use bivocational pastors (several of them at each church), meet in a store front, and give more money to charity? (The sacred cow screams in outrage at this point.)

    PS I earned one of those MDivs online this year. It was fun and helpful; everyone who seeks to be an elder should consider doing it.

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