Here's a sampling of some of the things I've been reading and reviewing this week. The hope is that these bite-sized sections of books, articles, blog posts, etc will stand on their own and be beneficial in-and-of-themselves. But I also hope that some of you will like these excerpts enough that they pull you into the larger work from which they've been taken.
Let's start sampling:
Skye Jethani, "Is Church Too Easy? Brain research says our efforts to make church comfortable may backfire." Posted online at skyejethani.com, on August 29, 20914.
"Recent brain research has shown that when a person is comfortable the more analytical functions of the brain necessary for learning remain disengaged. Psychologists refer to the brain as having a 'system one' and a 'system two.' System one is the more intuitive functioning that is active when relaxed, like when vegetating in front of a television or listening to a simple, clear sermon in a comfortable seat on Sunday morning.
"System two is the analytical functioning of the brain that is required to rethink assumptions, challenge ideas, and construct new behaviors and beliefs. System two must be active to learn. Research shows that the brain shifts gears from system one to system two when it is forced to work; when it is challenged and uncomfortable....
"These findings have made me rethink my tactics when preaching or teaching. I used to believe the best communication was crystal clear, simple, and easy to listen to....But is easier the right goal or should we be seeking engagement which requires more work on the part of our listeners rather than less? ...If someone is going to 'get' something from my sermon, I now want them to have to work for it–at least a little.
"....Jesus taught in a manner that engaged his listeners and challenged them. He expected them to work in order to understand his teaching. He asked them questions, wrapped his teaching in opaque parables, and often taught in distracting settings. Jesus was anything but crystal clear, simple, and easy to listen to. Even now, when we engage his teaching through the Gospels, it requires effort–and a large dose of grace–to understand his words."
Click here to see the full post from which this excerpt was taken. Please note the usual disclaimer, that my recommendation of this post is not necessarily an endorsement of everything else on the site where this was posted.
Owen Strachan and Douglas Sweeney, Jonathan Edwards: Lover of God. Moody, 2010. pp. 82-83:
"For Edwards, truth and doctrine were not minor matters, mere footnotes of the Christian faith that believers arranged as they saw fit. If he and his fellow ministers tinkered with these truths, Christians would grow weak and worldly. Their minds would grow confused, their hearts weak, and men and women would suffer spiritually even as God lost glory due Him. If churches held fast to truth, however, and preached it passionately and vigorously, Christians would flourish and stand firm in their faith. They would taste the rich blessings of theological confidence and spiritual hope. Unbelievers would see this distinctive way of life and question their beliefs and behaviors. Though embattled, the church and its members would remain faithful and fruitful. God, observing and orchestrating these events from His throne, would gain glory.....Doctrine, then, was a means to love, the factory of passion, the genesis of joy."
Darren C. Marks, "The Mind Under Grace: Why theology is an essential nutrient for spiritual growth." in Christianity Today (March 2010), pp. 23-24:
"I see doctrine not as a boundary but as a compass. Its purpose is not to make Christians relevant or distinctive but rather to make them faithful in their contexts. Doctrine is a way of articulating what God's presence in the church and the world looks like. It can orient us by helping us...major in the majors.
"...I believe the crisis in the Western church is not about information itself but about the kind of information we absorb in our churches. Philosopher James K.A. Smith put it best: 'Theology is not some intellectual option that makes us "smart" Christians; it is the graced understanding that makes us faithful disciples."
Click here to be taken to Christianity Today's website where you can search for the full article from which this excerpt was taken, or find other articles broadly relevant to evangelical Christianity that may be of interest to you.
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