Hi all, sorry for the lack of an article last week, but between travel for a seminary class and a stomach bug, I was pretty much out of commission. The articles this time will stretch back to the last Conversations, and actually a bit further, in one case.

Public Reading of Scripture – This is a podcast from Reformed Forum where they discuss Bible reading broadly, both personal and public, but I was especially interested by some of their discussion around what Bible reading looks like in our worship. I actually believe that this is an area in which we are often derelict in our duties to submit our people to the “full counsel of scripture.” The focus you see in so much of the Reformed community at the moment upon sequential, expository preaching is useful and appropriate, but due to the pace of our treatments of the text, the relative infrequency of our preaching opportunities (in contrast, in one span of his ministry Calvin was preaching 10 times every 2 weeks!), and the frequent mobility of people in our culture, it would not be a strange thing to have someone’s entire tenure at a church to be taken up with the preaching of only one or two books of the Bible. While other educational ministries, like community groups, Sunday school, or whatever your church does should be helping diversify the scriptural diet of the congregation, many people in our congregations will either not partake of those ministries or only partake of them intermittently. We should be willing to bear more of the weight for significant scriptural reading during the gathered corporate worship of the church.

They have some specific suggestions in the podcast, but I would encourage you all to give it a listen. As usual, Christ the Center is a relatively dusty and academic approach to podcasting, but the issues they’re addressing are eminently practical.

What’s in a Name

I have decided, after mulling over it for some years now, to discontinue identifying myself with what has come to be called the federal visionDouglas Wilson

I link this article not because I’m a fan of Doug Wilson (I’m not), but because of the strange “shift” which this implies. For those of you who haven’t interacted with much of Doug Wilson’s material before, he is (or was) one of the central figures in the development of “Federal Vision” theology (offering a definition for this is problematic and complicated, but you can look here for a basic statement issued by some of the main proponents and here for an article from the OPC summarizing some issues), a major figure in the classical Christian education movement, and one of the more talented controversialists that the conservative, Reformed world has to offer. He’s both worth engaging and worth keeping at arm’s length. Frequently, people do neither.

In any event, concerning the actual article, this is essentially Wilson’s attempt to dissociate himself from some of the more extreme proponents of Federal Vision theology whose views get attached to Wilson himself by virtue of his position as a type of figurehead of the movement.  While I would consider Wilson no longer defending Leithart a gain for the Reformed world, Federal Vision has had a pervasive and pernicious tendency to muddy the ideological water by using established terminology in non-standard ways. Since confusion has always haunted the movement, Wilson’s move here to dissociate himself from the name “Federal Vision” without modifying his position at all seems likely to make the entire issue even less intelligible.

To sum up, even though Wilson is changing labels, his position is the same as it has ever been. If it was problematic before (and I believe it was), it still is.

Media Consumption

Being online isn’t just something we do. It has become who we are, transforming the very nature of the self.David Brooks

This article points to a reality of which I have become personally more and more aware the last couple years: that the way we consume media profoundly affects the way our minds operate. I realize this sounds stupidly obvious, but hear me out. If you can take a step back and view the incentive structures of your actions, consider how many of the small, social calculations you make on an average day are driven by social media concerns. Not only is it a massive time-sink (which virtually everyone acknowledges), but it trains our behavioral patterns to seek approval deliberately, ostracize and flatter to address existing social structures to gain said approval, be hostile and reactionary because that gains attention on social media, etc….

Personally, I was finding myself doing more and more reading in a digital format, which is not inherently a problem, but since I was doing that reading on my tablet, I was finding that my ability to focus and really drill down into the text was slowly degrading. Because Facebook/email/etc… was only a click a way, even when I resisted the impulse to check those things, I spending a significant portion of my mental energy rejecting those options. My professors at RTS have mentioned, frequently, that students with computers in front of them, even when they aren’t doing anything inappropriate with them, simply learn slower and more superficially than students without. You might think that you are completely ok with your media consumption habits, but let’s be honest – you’re probably wrong.

I would strongly encourage you to consider some sort of detox plan, if you do feel that some of these statements are true of you. If breaking away from that context seems absolutely unthinkable to you, you probably need to do it. If you spend more than 10-15 minutes a day on social media (yes, I realize that’s virtually an unintelligible statement in our current media climate, but I make it deliberately), I would challenge you to think seriously about how that engagement is shaping you. I would wager that it’s not positive. I know it wasn’t (and perhaps isn’t) for me.

“Alternative Facts”

Too many Christians these days are “gullible skeptics.” Skeptics toward establishment type media outlets, and gullible toward other websites or toward political spinmeisters who already line up with their preexisting beliefs or worldview.Trevin Wax

I won’t comment extensively on this, but I basically agree with this entire perspective. I share the broad skepticism stated here concerning mainstream news, but I believe that the dysfunction of mainstream news introduces a serious crisis. This is the destruction of an institution of which there is not a meaningful replacement. My suggestion is mainly to consider listening to those who treat the mainstream news with a more discerning eye (think Al Mohler’s The Briefing), rather than completely embracing third-party news services likely to be catering deliberately to a niche audience.

Our Secular World

we now represent a worldview that is not only considered marginal but subversive of the new intellectual and moral regime. Even the people in our churches believe in a way that is more provisional and less theologically grounded than in previous generations.Albert Mohler

This article poses the questions which we really need to be asking: considering the cultural shifts which the West has undergone, how has our stance toward the culture changed? I completely agree that our stance has changed from being insiders to being outsiders, and now, we need to figure out how to speak into a culture from the outside. Those we seek to convert should be presumed to be hostile to our perspective now, rather than friendly or indifferent.

Jason Waeber

Jason Waeber is an elder at Grace Bible Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, OH, where he worships with his wife and three children. He is also a seminary student, under care with the Great Lakes Presbytery. As GBPC is looking forward to planting a church with him in the next few years, he felt called to develop the online presence of the denomination, both for outreach and the doctrinal maturity of the denomination. The Manna and the Stone is his attempt to pursue this. Currently, Jason is serving as the general editor for the site.

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