Monday, March 28, 2011

So, media round #2, the audio portion. Audiobooks don't count, so these are all lectures/debates/sermons.

...Now that I've got all these up here, I realize that all of them have neat accents. Except Tozer, who sounds like an ornery great uncle, but even he's unique sounding enough to be interesting.

Gerald Bray's "Church History I"
You may have to create an account with BiblicalTraining to access these, but it's free and very much worth it. This is the absolute best Church History survey I've found. He's engaging, fun to listen to, makes good connections between subjects, and makes you think about how the decisions made early on affect what we believe today. He's really bright and well-respected, and also prays before every lecture. Move on to Church History II if you finish!

Ken Spiro's Crash Course of Jewish History. You have to scroll all the way down to the bottom for the MP3s. They're free on this site, but they cost a pretty penny on his personal site. Really helpful for everything between the return from exile to Jesus' birth, and then for everything up to the present. I wish I'd listened to this before having gone to Israel. Ken Spiro's also fun to listen to. Caveat Auditor, he does not like Jesus or Christians, although I emailed back and forth with him for a bit and he accepted me as a friend on Facebook.

N.T. Wright audio. Especially his stuff on Jesus and the Resurrection. Scroll down to the "Audio/Video" section. Even if you don't agree with everything, you will learn a lot, and will raise your ceiling of understanding re. the significance for both Jesus and His resurrection.

A.E. Wilder Smith. Some of the audio quality is terrible, but the content is great. I definitely recommend "Cause/Cure of the Drug Epidemic", The Great Debate: "Evolution or Creation", "Time & Creation", "Logos in Biology: Introduction", and "Is Man a Machine?"

John Lennox's Conversation with Richard Dawkins Really good stuff. And they're for the most part civil. I hope to be as loving in conversations as John.

A.W. Tozer's sermons. Tozer is even better heard then read. (I would recommend Schaeffer's audio but unfortunately the opposite is true for him.) There's a sea of stuff here, so you may have to dig to find something to match your interest, but most of these are golden. Challenging, powerful, and scriptural. I can't think of any sermons I like to listen to as much as these.

Os Guinness cut his Chops at L'abri with the Schaeffers and moved on to become a sociologist. Really insightful messages and critiques on big picture issues.

Ravi Zacharias, Meaning of Life or you can wade through RZIM . There's no one like Ravi, he touches on just about everything, and manages to get you to take it all seriously.

Greg Bahnsen debate with Gordon Stein. The clearest example of the truth of presuppositional apologetics. Nothing makes sense without God.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I've been thinking about media, the good kind. Last night I was thinking about how I love to recommend books, and thinking how badly I wish certain books were required reading. So I'm going to post a short list of books that have been most helpful and formative for me:

The C.S. Lewis complex (Mere Christianity, Screwtape Letters, Great Divorce, Space Trilogy, Pilgrim's Regress, and Abolition of Man)
Mere Christianity was very helpful, especially the section on theories of Atonement and Toy Soldiers to real men. Screwtape letters was helpful especially in encouraging me to pray and recognize the psychological aspects of disciplines. Great Divorce was for beauty and expanded my hopes for heaven and the meaning of repentance. Space Trilogy was epic food for the imagination and taught me a lot about the meaning of gender and the methods of evil. Pilgrim's Regress was Cathartic and educational, Abolition of Man made me think about the relation of the passions and virtues to the intellect, as well as what I believe about education.

Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer (Especially the Trilogy and Church and the End of the 20th Century, as dated as the title now is.)
Francis reassured me that every human being has inherent value since they're created in God's image, even though sin has made us cruel, we're still human. He taught me Truth can be All Flame. He taught me that Christ is Lord of all creation, including beauty and art and philosophy. He helped me realize that Christianity is, in some sense, a rational system as well as a relationship with God in Christ, vocalized what I'd thought about presuppositional apologetics before I knew they had a name, and gave me a sense for the development of thought and culture. He also reminded me that the Church always seems to be half a century behind the times in addressing needs and the prevailing world spirit and prophesied about the grandchildren of postmodernism. And so much more.

Church History in Plain Language, by Bruce Shelley. Great overview of Church History. Really filled in a lot of gaps for me, as I'd previously had this naive and confusing impression that after Paul died, Christianity was lost until the reformation, and even those guys were on the fringe until our brand of Christian came along.

Sermons and Journals of John Wesley John showed me that the book of Acts is still being written, and that so much more is possible with God than the plodding indifference we usually see in ourselves and other Christians. He reassured me that it's not only OK to hunger and thirst for Righteousness, but that we must seek Holiness, for "Without Holiness no one will See the Lord". He told me it's wrong to gossip, that plain dealing is Godly, that Christians should be able to agree to disagree while still holding to their convictions, and that the New Birth is real.

Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho a Jew/Martyrdom of Justin Short early church work, reaffirmed to me that Christianity is the True philosophy, reincarnation is silly, the Prophets spoke truth, that I have brothers in the second century, and that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Favorite excerpt just before his martyrdom during his examination:

The prefect spoke to Justin Martyr first. "Listen, you who are called learned and think you know true doctrines. If you are scourged and beheaded, do you believe you'll ascend to heaven?"

"That is my hope," Justin replied. "If I endure these things, I shall have his gifts. I know that for all who have lived according to our teachings, the divine favor remains on them until the completion of the whole world."

Though death is decreed against those who teach or at all confess the name of Christ, we everywhere both embrace and teach it. And if you also read these words in a hostile spirit, you can do no more … than kill us; which indeed does no harm to us, but to you and all who unjustly hate us and do not repent, brings eternal punishment by fire.

"So you suppose that you will ascend into heaven to receive some payment for your faithfulness?"

"Not suppose, I know and am fully convinced of it," Justin Martyr replied.

Augustine's Confessions. You probably could have guessed that one. "Our hearts are restless 'til they rest in You, Oh God". Part biography, part philosophy, part poetry, and all worship.

Richard Baxter's The Reformed Pastor - If only I could be like Richard Baxter! Reformed doesn't mean what you think it does (i.e. Calvinist) it means repentant and reformed in the image of Christ. I would easily take this and leave aside all other church administration/preaching/ministry type books.

Heaven By Randy Alcorn. confirmed my Eschatology and made me wonder how the Church could substitute something so pallid and unattractive for what the Scripture teaches about the Resurrection of the Body & the New Heavens and Earth. Reminded me that Spiritual does not mean non-physical. It has the cheesiest cover of any book I own, but I still recommend it rabidly, even though I know almost no one will read it (please prove me wrong!).

For a far longer and more Scholarly work I'd also recommend N.T. Wright's "Resurrection of the Son of God" which is almost an apologetic for the Resurrection of Jesus, but more so a confirmation of what Resurrection means (bodies), and that the disciples really did believe Jesus rose physically, bodily, from the dead never to die again. Also, caffienating myself through 738pp. of annotated respected scholarship gave me courage to tackle other academically oriented books. Curiously, N.T. Wright congratulated Randy Alcorn for writing "Heaven", but Randy tempered his "thank you" with "I don't agree with some of your theology". I would've just said thanks, but Oh well. Randy's a much better Christian than I overall.

Man's Origin, Man's Destiny A greatly neglected book by A.E. Wilder smith, the very respectable grandfather of Intelligent Design. Even Richard Dawkins respected him in debate back in the seventies when he was still alive. You can listen to it here. This isn't just an anti-evolution book though, the best parts in is the section on the "Destiny of Man", our metamorphosis. Wilder-Smith was the first camp-free-no-corny-insults-or-straw-man-argument piece I read against the foundations of chemical-biological evolution. Just like any other book addressing science, parts are dated, but the core is still solid.

Case For Christ, by Lee Strobel. Not a masterpiece of literature, but a really good starting place and a great help, however much I normally steer away from sensational apologetics, he's actually quite measured. Got me on the road to reading Bruce Metzger's Text of the New Testament, its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration.

Thomas Wingfold, Curate- A great novel by George Macdonald. Reminded me that obedience brings certainty, and that Jesus' statements "If anyone wills to do God's will he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I'm speaking on my own authority" and "For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world, to bear witness to the Truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." are foundations beyond academic evidences.

Tortured for Christ and If Prison Walls Could Speak - by Richard Wurmbrand. Helped confirm me in the desire to avoid comfort and prepare my mind for suffering, taught me to have compassion on people with heretical thoughts, forgiveness, and that our inability to grasp God with coherent thoughts doesn't mean he's not there-God is not limited by our insanity. He sobered me to the reality that torture isn't good or fun, and the blood of the martyrs ,while precious to God, isn't always the seed of the church. Always helps me remember my suffering brothers and sisters throughout the world.

Revolution in World Missions -by K.P. Yohannon. Reminded me that I'm NOT poor, no matter what my tax bracket says. Confirmed my convictions that consumerism and western luxury isn't just a passing vapor, it's bad gas. Best to breathe through a filter. Also convinced me to support native missions and to make good use of the resources God's blessed us with for the Kingdom. for these, also see Randy Alcorn's The Treasure Principle.

The Brother's Karamazov Dostoyevski. Who doesn't want to be Alyosha? Reminded me that we're all Karamazovs, but we can also be Alyoshas -people are very, very complex and irrational. Gave me renewed desire to be Christ for people. Made me think about redemption, the real anguish behind Theodicy questions, and that sometimes the best apologetic is a kiss from Jesus Christ.

Sadhu Sundar Singh-not a book but a man. All his biographies convinced me that apostles of sorts are still among us, and not necessarily American. Or even white.

These are bones, there's a much longer list of muscle, skin, and organ tissues attached to and contained by it, but I won't burden anyone with that. Unless you ask.

Next up, a list of Audio.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Above are the links to my two big final papers. I completed them at 4:30AM. I realized the morning after that they have several spelling and grammatical errors. I also realized I did not have any motivation left to correct them. If you'd like to read them, please do! but "Caveat Lector".

Beyond that, I'm on spring break, of sorts, so I have time to write a Blog!

I'm still in process of studying to figure out what I believe about Eschatology. I've ruled out "covenant" theology as best as I can understand it, since it's supersessionist (believes the church kicked the Jews out of the "Israel" driver's seat and are now the real Israel). There's no way I could reconcile that with Scripture. So that leaves me with Premillenialism. The main issue for me in all this is really the Rapture, as ever since I became a believer and started reading my bible, it always seemed like the rapture was referring to us meeting Jesus on his "Final descent" like fighter jets going to escort a Bomber to the landing strip. This would make the "rapture" not refer to a secret coming of Jesus to whisk us off to the balcony to watch while He throws molotov cocktails at the rebels down below, but rather it would be the same time as the second coming. There is a lot in scripture about how he'll protect us from His wrath when it comes, and a lot about how we'll face a lot of wrath and persecution from the world before that happens. These seem to me to be the plainest readings of Scripture, which don't seem to jive with the classic pre-trib rapture I've been taught.

I bought a book on early Christian Eschatology called "Hope of the Early Church" which documents through all the significant church Fathers 'til the 600's and explains their take on what happens when we die/when Jesus comes back. The author (Brian Daley) writes impartially, but confirms that the Fathers of the first two hundred years were almost without exception premillenial. None of them seem, though, seem to believe in the "rapture" as the first part in a two-part coming.

On another interesting note, seeing as how universalism's so hot right now (with the Rob Bell book), the book I'd mentioned also touches on that too. Of the church fathers who wrote about this kind of thing before 250, the following ones believed the punishment of unbelievers was "everlasting fire": Justin Martyr, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Hippolytus and Cyprian all believed this in a "literal" way.

Clement of Alexandria (who thinks of himself as a Christian "gnostic") suggests that everyone gets saved in the end 'cause hell is remedial, and Origen follows suit. Then in the mid to late 300's Gregory of Nyssa agrees in large part with Origen. Origen often talks about how the simple majority can't handle the "higher, spiritual" meaning of these sorts of things, indicating that the majority of believers he had converse with wouldn't have agreed with him. Origen belittled literal interpretations of the Millennium, calling them "Jewish".

It seems like where a lot of these doctrinal swerves come in is by divergences from "Jewish" ways of understanding things. It makes sense, really, since the writers of Scripture were all Jewish (w/ the possible exception of Luke), to do our best to figure out how a first century Jewish person (as much as that's a generalization) would've understood what the Bible is saying.

Of course, I don't believe the final word is the Fathers. Even the Fathers would say that the final word is the Scripture, the "apostolic teaching". However I do think it's helpful to see how the early disciples read the bible and understood it, especially the first couple centuries as they were that much closer to the apostles themselves. It's also helpful to see how we got where we are today and realize which things are peculiarities of our time and place and which things are (at least nearly) universally held by Believers.

But I'm sure to most of you this is all a big fat tranquilizer, so I'll clip it off here and get on to less obscure thoughts.