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nonviolence
Dec
21
2014

10 Books I'm Reviewing in 2015

One of the best things about being a blogger is reviewing books. And if enough people visit your blog, authors and publishers will send you books to review! This is particularly great when the books that I'm sent are books I'm excited to read. The next crop of books I'm reading to review might be my best yet. So here are 10 books I'm reading (or have already read) to review in 2015:

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Jul
04
2014

July 4th PSA from Brian Zahnd

My wife, some friends, and I have been reading Brian Zahnd's new book A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace. We've only just started reading it, but already we've been challenged and inspired.

Since today is July 4th, and no doubt some of the US Americans who will be celebrating the birth of the United States today will be self-professed followers of Jesus, I wanted to share this Public Service Announcement from brother Zahnd in the form of an epic poem that will rock your socks off.

Enjoy!

 

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Apr
13
2014

Messiahs, "Success," and the Way of Jesus: A Palm Sunday Sermon

Text: Matthew 21.1-11

Success is the most important thing in life, and failure is to be avoided at all cost.

That’s the message I hear when I listen closely to the world around me. Success is celebrated; failure is mocked. Success means: you matter; failure means: you don’t.

I live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, five minutes from Harvard and ten or fifteen minutes from MIT. For a lot of people, just getting here is a success in itself. For others, getting here is only part of the journey to success. Not everyone completes their journey; some journeys end here. Here is where success and failure often hang in the balance.

How do You define “success”?

If you’re smart, what does “success” look like for you?
If you’re attractive, outgoing, what does “success” look like for you?
If you come from a wealthy family, what does “success” look like for you?
If you come from a poor family, what does “success” look for you?
If you’re spiritual, devout, what does “success” look like for you?
Whatever your background or current situation, ask yourself: What does “success” look like for me?

When I became a Christian at close to 17 years old, I discovered theology and fell in love. I read every theology book on I could get my hands on. I devoured them, because I wanted to know everything about God, the Bible, Christianity. Before I’d even left for Bible college, I made a goal for myself. I wanted to have a PhD in theology by 33. (It rhymes, so it’s gotta be God’s will, right?!)

I’ll be 32 next week, and I’m still working on a Masters degree with no plans to apply to PhD programs anytime soon! So, I could look at that and see failure—if that’s how I measure success. But another thing I have to ask myself is: Is that God’s definition of “success”, or mine?

What is God’s definition of “success” for you?

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Jan
23
2014

That Time When Wright Was Wrong: On Christians in the Military

Anyone who knows my theological steeze knows that I dig me some N. T. Wrizzle. I've lost track of how many books I've read by him—both his tomes and his popular-level work. And when he was in town (at Harvard), I got the perfunctory theogeek/fanboy selfie with the Bishop himself:

 

See how happy I look!

So, naturally, on 99% of theological issues, I'm going to see eye-to-eye with Dr. Wright. But, it's important to realize that even the theologians you admire most aren't perfect. Everyone has their blind spots—even the Bishop!

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Sep
13
2013

Farewell Preston Sprinkle: A Review of _Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence_

Author: Preston Sprinkle
Format: Paperback
Publisher: David Cook (2013)
Language: English
Pages: 275
ISBN: 9781434704924

Amazon 

An Overview of Fight

Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence (hearafter, just Fight) opens with a graphic description of a genocide in Mozambique that is reminiscent of the opening chapter of Mere Discipleship by Lee Camp. Only, in Camp's book, the genocide described was in Rwanda. This is a bit of a "shock and awe" technique. Few U.S. Americans, let alone evangelicals, will be bothered to read detailed accounts of such atrocities, yet end up holding strong views on the subject of war. Sprinkle clearly wants to challenge this comfort, and suggest that we should see war for the horrific, dehumanizing, demonic nightmare that it truly is, before we even attempt to construct an ethical position on the subject. I think Sprinkle's instincts here are correct. Far too much writing on violence and war from U.S. evangelicals is written through rose-colored glasses. Sprinkle will expose some of this as well.

After that, Sprinkle spends three chapters examining the nature of warfare in the Old Testament, the violent passages, and puts forward several theories of interpreting them. I think this section is the book's weakest by far, but I'll get to that shortly. Before leaving the Old Testament entirely, Sprinkle adds a chapter about themes in the Hebrew Bible which point to the developing ethic of nonviolence that more fully appears in the New Testament—particularly in the life and teachings of Messiah Jesus. This capstone chapter is titled for the prophecy found in both Isaiah and Micah of the coming Messianic age when "swords will be beaten into plowshares." 

When Sprinkle turns his attention to the New Testament, Fight turns into an outstanding book. With the next four chapters, Sprinkle will cover a lot of ground, but manage to do it in a way that is both scholarly and yet highly accessible. He covers the nonviolent ethic of Jesus, the nature of Jesus's "kingdom," our citizenship in Jesus's kingdom, the nonviolent meaning of Revelation, and more. These chapters alone are well worth the cost of the book. But for added value, the final third of the book includes a survey of the early church fathers' attitudes toward war, militarism, military service, and killing; responses to several common objections to Christian nonviolence; and an imaginative parable that illustrates the type of cruciform discipleship he's been teaching throughout the book. To top it all off, he even throws in an appendix on Just War theories. Truly, Fight is closer to a library of resources on Christian nonviolence than merely a book. I think readers will be thankful.

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Aug
23
2013

Guns Don't Stop Killers, People Stop Killers: Love, Shared Stories, and the Power of the Holy Spirit

Depending on your access to social media, you may not have heard about this story, or you may think you're hearing about it everywhere. Either way, this story is not getting enough attention, and it probably won't. I'm convinced human beings want Good News, but we've been conditioned by our world to settle for and wallow in Bad News. This is the condition that helps media outlets determine what stories will get ratings, which in turn feeds the culture to which the media is trying to cater. What we end up with is a vicious cycle perpetuating a culture of death. We're entertained, fixated, horrified, and mesmerized by violence!

After the Sandy Hook school shooting, NRA President Wayne LaPierre famously said,

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun."

http://youtu.be/aASfk-ii0BM

This logic seems sound to millions of U.S. Americans who have been conditioned by our culture of violence and death. Then along comes a story like Antoinette Tuff's, and the presumption that only greater violence can prevent violence is utterly shattered. Tuff's story beautifully illustrates at least three things:

  1. The power of faith to produce love for the 'other';
  2. The power of shared stories;
  3. The power of the Holy Spirit.

Combined, these powers overcome the powers of mental illness, violence, hatred, and death. Take note people—is what Christian discipleship looks like in real life!

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Jun
03
2013

The Right Kind of Indoctrination: A Review of Donkeys and Kings by Tripp York

Author: Tripp York
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Wipf & Stock (2010)
Language: English
ISBN: 9781606089408

Amazon

Christian Children's Books [sigh]

I love reading to my kids before bed. But I find it very difficult to find books that I’m truly excited to read with them. Many Christian children’s books out there are just too hokey. Before finding Donkeys and Kings: And Other “Tails” of the Bible by Tripp York, the only Christian books I'd ever been excited to read to my kids were those from The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. Part of it is just pure selfishness. It’s not just that I don’t want to subject my kids to the subpar storytelling of some Christian children’s books. It’s more that I just can’t tolerate hearing myself read them—and I can only roll my eyes so much before they are bound to get stuck in the back of my head. That's why I'm so thankful for Donkeys and Kings. It’s biblically-literate, theological-astute, accessible to children, and interesting to adults—all at the same time! Also York is a genuinely great writer. His storytelling is compelling, he creates interesting characters, and he skillfully utilizes dialogue.

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Apr
22
2013

Why C. S. Lewis Was Wrong About Pacifism

C. S. (Clive Staples) Lewis lived from nearly the turn of the 20th century to the early 1960's. He was a British Christian scholar and author. More specifically, he was an expert on medieval European literature, history, and mythology. In practice, Lewis was an Anglican layman. He was not a clergyman nor an academic theologian.

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Feb
03
2013

Ask a Pacifist FAQs - Hitler and Home Invasion

Since I'm a Jesus-disciple, I'm committed to Jesus's nonviolent Way. Since Jesus's nonviolent Way is not typical in Americanized Christianity, I naturally get asked a lot of questions—often the same few questions. What follows are a few responses I've given lately to two of the questions I'm asked most frequently.

1. What should Christians have done during WWII? (a.k.a. "The Hitler Question")

As far as WWII goes, I think two of the biggest fallacies out there are: 1) Bonhoeffer abandoned pacifism when he resorted to violence; and 2) War was the only possible way to stop Hitler from killing all the Jews and taking over the world.

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Dec
29
2011

Hosting the Word in the Shadow of Empire: A Review of Countdown to Sunday by Chris Erdman

Author: Chris Erdman
Paperback: 206 pages
Publisher: Brazos Press - 2007
Language: English

Amazon

Introduction

Reading Countdown to Sunday by Chris Erdman felt like a blessed ambush. It's difficult to express just how timely this book is for me. I stumbled upon Countdown, seemingly by chance, from a recommendation on a pastor's blog. Little did I know that it would reinforce much of what God has been teaching me for nearly the last 6 years, and reinvigorate my passion for ministry.

I'm reading this book just before beginning the awe-inspiring task of church-planting. On the one hand, the confluence of all my experiences and passions in church-planting gives me confidence that it is precisely what God has been preparing both myself and Osheta for. On the other hand, it is also a terribly intimidating feat that no sane person embarks upon with immodest self-confidence. Therefore, this word of encouragement is no small blessing.

Preaching has been one of my life’s passions since I was seventeen and felt the call to serve as a leader in God's church. My pastor discipled me as a preacher, and preaching has characterized my life ever since. But since moving to Boston, preaching opportunities have not been as plentiful as they were in New Orleans. I have felt stifled, bottled up. Perhaps that is biggest reason I have taken to blogging. Communication is like air for me, and writing has replaced preaching as my primary means of expression. I'm not complaining; I've grown to love writing. Nevertheless, Erdman's book cut me to the heart in a most fantastic way. It brought me right back to my love for preaching, and energized that love. Erdman reframes preaching as the adventure, the risk, the challenge, and the joy that it once was for me. Erdman also reminds me that preaching is God's chosen method of remaking the world. And before anyone misunderstand what he means by that, I’d recommend you read the chapter in which Erdman writes about social justice as street preaching (chapter 24).

I'm not entirely sure I will be able to capture just how inspiring I've found this book in such a brief review, but it's my hope that I can highlight at least a few aspects of this book I found brilliantly compelling. And if you find yourself in need of energizing, I hope this review compels you to pick it up and read it—whether you're a preacher or not!

A Brief Preliminary Note on Note-making

There comes a point when underlining passages in a book becomes nearly pointless. I'm not entirely sure I didn't underline more lines than I left unmarked. Every sentence of this short book is carefully crafted to provide maximal impact—and it delivers! It's quite possible that I've added as much ink to my copy of Countdown as did the printer. Each time I'd underlined a thought worth returning to, I'd end up continuing to underline the next two or three or four lines. Before long, I'd underlined half the page, and it would have been easier to just draw a big bracket next to the whole section. If you do end up buying Countdown, just go ahead and buy yourself a couple highlighters too.

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Welcome to TheologicalGraffiti.com

T. C. and Tyson Moore

Theological Graffiti is a blog written by T. C. Moore @tc_moore ...a Jesus-disciple, husband, father, urban minister, sometimes designer, writer, preacher, and theology geek. For more about me, visit my Personal Website or my Online Profile. Otherwise, enjoy the graffiti.

Shalom,
T. C.

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