One of key emphases of the Brookside Institute is theological formation (along with biblical literacy, for the purpose of living on mission). A whole category of posts is devoted to this, and one of the Institute's core classes, "Fuel for Faith: An Important Class about Christian Theology" is devoted to building and reinforcing strong foundations in Christian theology. Theology is important!
All of this is why I love Jaquelle Crowe's (she's a teenager herself, by the way - 18 years old) recent post at The Gospel Coalition, reminding all of us that teenagers need theology too. Here are five reasons WHY teenagers need theology. (I've just listed them below - check out the full post to see how she develops things.)
Listen to how she concludes her piece:
So parents, pastors, youth leaders, church members, please teach us theology. More than anything else, we need to know God. He’s the answer to our questions, the solution to our problems, the only One worthy of our worship and trust.
This post is a (very slightly modified) duplicate of a post I wrote about a year ago. Since Brookside has recently read through Jeremiah 29 as part of the 365 Reading Plan, I figured it was fitting to update and re-post.
It doesn't take much for Christians to look around and observe that - in certain important, noticeable ways - our cultural landscape "looks" less Christian (from the standpoint of a traditional Judeo-Christian ethic) than it did even a few short decades ago.
As we notice these shifts, it's important that Christians NOT respond in panic or fear. Rather, we as Christians need to keep asking ourselves the sorts of questions we should ALWAYS be asking: What does faithful Christian living look like in our culture? What does faithful Christian living look like when we interact with others who hold different values - perhaps very different values? Or the specific question we'll be considering in this post: How can we as Christians keep our footing amidst the shifting soils of our larger culture?
Thankfully, we are not left to ourselves on how to answer this question. Back in the time of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, God's people spent some time exiled from their homeland. In this environment, they could look around and easily observe how much distance there was between their values as God's people (values given to them by God), and certain values of the dominant culture.
In Jeremiah 29, we see how the Lord counseled His people to keep their footing in the midst of this situation in Jeremiah 29. I read through this chapter again recently (I encourage you to read through the whole chapter as well), and see great wisdom in listening to five things we learn there:
Assuming I've been keeping tally of things correctly, you're officially reading Post #200 on this Brookside Institute site! Over the course of the last 12 months, we've had 16,600+ unique visitors to this site, and over 87,500 total page views. Whether this is your first intro to who we are or you've been tagging along for a while, thanks for joining in!
As the posts continue accumulating, I don't want that to keep us from looking back every now and then - to review what the Brookside Institute is all about, and for me to mention posts that are either some of my personal favorites or that have gotten lots of traction. These sorts of "review posts" also serve as a sort of index (or Table of Contents?), organizing the material and helping orient you to who we are and what we're about at the Brookside Institute.
What I've done with this post, then, is organized some links under the following categories:
Underneath each category, I've included a short list of links to pages on this site where you can learn more about who we are and what we're up to.
My recommendation? Scroll through the index that's below, and find 3-4 posts you want to check out. This is a great way to see what we're doing and get to know the Institute a bit better!
Every now and then, a new word or phrase is coined that takes on a certain life of its own. Sometimes, the word or phrase catches on because of its novelty or popular appeal - think of "yada yada yada," for example.
Other words catch on because they accurately label something that people have been experiencing, but don't yet have a term for - hence the words "tween" and "emerging adult" are now commonplace. Other words in this category may not be as widely used as "tween" but they're nevertheless very important, because of how they accurately and succinctly describe something that seems to be going on around us, that we need words for. This is where I'd like to introduce you to one such term (if you've not heard of it already), Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
It's tough to overstate how important of a term "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" (MTD) is. In an article on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, sociologist Christian Smith suggests it is the "de facto dominant religion among contemporary teenagers in the United States" (p. 46). In other words, MTD is the default, often-unconsciously held, religious perspective/worldview among many teens and emerging adults. Even if you've never heard the "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" label before, it's likely you've encountered one of the many ways MTD sends ripples out into many different areas of society. You may have experienced some variant of MTD in a religious service, a conversation with someone else, or in your own default perspective on things.
If Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is so prevalent and is such a big deal, there are at least two important follow-up questions that readers of this post are invited to ask: What exactly is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism? And how does it stack up against biblical Christianity? Let's dig more deeply into each of these.
One of the (many) things that I love doing as a pastor is fielding some of the various theological questions I get. As someone who cares a lot about helping build and reinforce foundations of the Christian faith, and helping form people theologically, these sorts of interactions provide a fun - and important - opportunity.
Last week, a question about one part of the recent Young Messiah movie came through my inbox. I've not seen the movie myself and so I don't first-hand experience with the scene that was described (there's my disclaimer!). Nevertheless, let me paraphrase/summarize the question that came my way, and then include the way I responded.
Here's the question I got: I understand that the Young Messiah is fictional, and that there's no scriptural support for much of Jesus' life before His public ministry. Nevertheless, I have a question about one of the scenes. The movie portrays Jesus as unaware (or at least unsure) of his divinity when he's young - about age 7. In fact, the climactic moment of the movie portrays Mary telling Jesus the story of his conception and birth after having withheld the information for his own protection up to that point. A few questions came to mind after watching that scene. How could Jesus have ever been unaware of his deity if he was "wholly God?" On the other hand, how could he have possessed such sophisticated self-awareness from birth if he was "wholly human?" One movie is not a big deal but I am curious as to whether there is a reliable answer to this question?
Here's my response (in a very-slightly-edited form):
Late last week, I was able to present at a Teacher In-Service for Cornerstone Christian School. The topic I was asked to teach on was "The Importance of the Christian Worldview." After studying for the talk and interacting with the teachers, I'm as convinced as ever that Christians need to understand what worldview is, why a Christian worldview is so important, and how we grow in our understanding (and embodiment!) of the Christian worldview.
This topic breathes purpose and perspective into how we think about the different "arenas" of our lives (e.g. jobs, entertainment, family, etc), and it prompts us to think well about God and His Word, the Bible.
Keep reading to see the talk I gave (in a somewhat modified, abbreviated form) on Christian worldview. At the very end of this post, I've included an "answer key" version of the handout I made available to the teachers.
No Brookside Institute "FOMO" Here: A Review of the Top 5 Blog Posts Each Month, for the Last Six Months
Many of you have heard the acronym "FOMO" (Fear Of Missing Out) - an anxiety or fear that something is going on somewhere that you're missing out on. Well, have no fear. In case you're experiencing "Brookside Institute FOMO," I've helpfully included all of the "top 5 blog posts" for each month, for the last six months (July-December 2015). If you're brand new to the Brookside Institute, be sure and check out our "About" page, our "Classes Overview," and our most recent "Speed Dating the Brookside Institute" as well.
Click on any of the posts included below to revisit posts you've already enjoyed and catch up on anything you may have missed!
If you're like me, you've perhaps seen some "Top Reading Lists of 2015" floating around the internet and social media. Rather than adding my own such list (though click here to see some other books I've recently recommended), I figured this year I'd continue my two-year tradition of highlighting some of the "Top Reading Lists of 2015" that I pay attention to.
In other words, check out these book lists and you'll find some books that are worth reading. Of course, keep in mind that not every book is created equal, remember to read discerningly, and always remember that a careful and responsible reading of the Bible should be our final authority. But I generally think these "sources" are worth listening to for some worthwhile reads (I know I'll hope to be reading many of these I've not yet!) - and to see what's current in Christian publishing today.
If you're still looking for some Christmas gift ideas or want some reading material for yourself while taking some vacation days, these lists can come in handy that way too!
Here are my top 5 "Top Reading Lists of 2015" - in no particular order:
What are the best books you've read in the last 12 months, that you'd recommend to others?
I've been a fan of Star Wars since I was kid. That means I've seen the movies and had the action figures. And yes, I was at a movie theater last night for the release of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. (And, for the record, I enjoyed it.)
As someone who is also a fan of theology (in a very different way than I'm a fan of Star Wars), I'm grateful theologian Michael Svigel from Dallas Theological Seminary looks at Star Wars through a biblical-theological lens in this recent post, "The Irresistible Force of Star Wars: 3 Theological Approaches". I resonate with his conclusion, and so figured I'd post it here:
As a theologian, I don’t embrace Star Wars as a kind of “fifth gospel.” But neither do I condemn it as devilish propaganda. Instead, I perceive the Story behind the story, the metanarrative behind the myth, and the fact behind the fiction. I see the contours of God’s drama of redemption even in the frames of Star Wars. And I’m reminded of the reality revealed through God’s creation and articulated in the Bible’s creation-redemption narrative—the Story centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ in His first and second coming.
So go, see the movie. Enjoy it. But as you anticipate and enjoy the advent of this latest Star Wars episode, allow it to stir your anticipation and enjoyment of the Advent of the One who has come to defeat sin and all its effects through His sacrifice on the cross.
Christmas is officially two weeks away, and that means many of us are considering gift ideas for others in our lives. If you're looking for ideas for the "reader" you know, here are six suggestions. Each of these suggestions has been recently published (in the last 2-3 years) and will be linked to an Amazon page where you can learn more. You'll see they're listed under 6 categories that I try and stay loosely tethered to:
What other books (in any of these categories listed above) would you suggest people consider? List 'em here!
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.