Christian Teens and Faith

This is an interesting article concerning teens and their faith that my son, a youth leader, sent my way.  While the author defines Christian teens broadly, Kenda Creasy Dean does make some observations that are worth considering: “No matter their background, Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future” and “she says parents who perform one act of radical faith in front of their children convey more than a multitude of sermons and mission trips.”

Pastors, parents and youth pastors take note.

Follow Up to “Is There an Historical Adam?” by Tremper Longman

Here is an essay by Tremper Longman.  This is a follow-up to his earlier video comments on the historicity of Adam. It seems that Longman’s non-literal understanding of Adam is driven by his desire to harmonize evolution and Genesis.  Longman states. “It is wrong to challenge people to choose between the Bible and the science of evolution as if you can only believe that one or the other is true. They are not in conflict.”

The Bible & Fiction

I finished reading/skimming Christopher D. Stanley’s new book, The Hebrew Bible: A Comparative Approach (Fortress, 2010) yesterday. It is an introduction to the Hebrew Bible for beginning university or college students. While there are some good points to the book, (Stanley understands the importance of the Exodus for the Pentateuch as well as the rest of the OT, 232), one of his weaknesses is his devaluation of the historicity of the biblical texts. For instance, speaking of the Torah (Ex and Deut), “Today only uncritical scholars would take these statements seriously as history” (46); concerning Ruth: “Whenever it was written, most scholars agree that the book is a work of fiction similar to a modern short story….” (279); concerning the events of Esther: “None of this can be taken seriously as history” (281); concerning Daniel: “Daniel 1-6 are yet another example of religious fiction such as we saw in the books of Ruth and Esther” (283); concerning Job: “Only conservative scholars would argue that Job was a historical person who actually experienced the events reported in the book that bears his name” (508).

Stanley should read C. John Collins’ Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary and Theological Commentary (P&R, 2006) which I started today. Collins acknowledges that approaches like Stanley’s may win “an academic hearing for one’s literary reading…but as a reading of the biblical passages, it raises serious questions” (15). Collin notes well the issue: “If it is part of an author’s intention to have his readers believe that his events actually took place, and we bracket out such matters, then we cannot claim that we are reading what the author wrote” (Ibid.).  

While the historical events of Job, Jonah and Esther may seem “unbelievable” to some readers, these books are written in such a detailed way that the individual authors want the readers to know that he is employing history to make a theological point.

Collins’ observations are a breath of fresh air this morning.

Pastors & Congregations

There is an op-ed piece in the NY Times (published August 7, 2010) that states that several new studies show that American clergy are suffering from burnout–which is really no surprise. The reason for burnout, according to G. Jeffrey MacDonald is the congregation’s desire to feel good.   MacDonald observes, “The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them.”

Pastors and future pastors should read MacDonald’s thoughts (and maybe someone should make copies to put in the church bulletin this week).

Implications of Quitting

I have not read any of Anne Rice’s literary work. But I was somewhat intrigued when she shifted her writing interest from interviewing vampires to writing about Jesus and angels. This change was occasioned with her embracing her once jettisoned Roman Catholic faith. Recently, Rice has made the news with her announcement that she is quitting the faith once again. (See article here). While this is not necessarily blog worthy, Michael Wittmer’s analysis of people “quitting” is well worth the read since the implications of “quitting” are also found in churches just like ours (see Wittmer’s article @ koinonia here).