There are three types of people in our great nation. There are, first of all, those who do not read. An AP-Ipsos poll recently revealed that 25% of Americans do not read books, while other polls have put the number higher, at around 50%. It is not that these Americans cannot read or that they do not accumulate knowledge. (No country’s citizens—and I mean none—bring more depth and import to subjects such as celebrity clothes, hair and makeup, and the intricacies of the Pitt-Jolie marriage than the citizens of the USA.) It is just that their knowledge is not gained from books. Second, there are those who read but do so aimlessly, choosing on a whim what to read and when to do so. Third, there are those who plan to read and who read with a plan.
If you are the third type of reader, or if you wish to become that type of reader, this post offers five tips for determining which books to read (and which not to read).
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Here are six sets of resources for pastors, professors, and students who wish to build their “theology and culture” library. I’ve included a variety of resources, some of which represent views I oppose. However, the majority of the resources fit my preferred “Reformational” model.
1. Differing Visions for Christianity and Culture
Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture is a minor classic in 20th century theology; it provides a historical classification of typical Christian views of the relationship between “Christ” and culture. In combination with Niebuhr’s book, you’ll want to read D. A. Carson’s Christ and Culture Revisited and Craig Carter’s Rethinking Christ and Culture. Carson critiques Niebuhr’s theological framework and argues for a more cruciform understanding of the Christian’s place in culture. Carter also critiques Niebuhr’s theological framework as well as Niebuhr’s privileging of Christendom in the conception of his categories. Finally, to cover all your bases, you won’t want to miss Jamie Smith’s brief article critiquing Carson.
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A long time ago, a pastor of mine mentioned to me the old adage that my development as a person will depend largely upon which friendships I chose to develop and which books I chose to read. He reminded me that the most important friendship was with Christ and the most important book was the Bible, but beyond that I would have to work hard to make sure that I was developing close friendships and reading helpful books. Shortly after that, I enrolled in Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where the President at that time–Paige Patterson–encouraged us to acquire a library of at least 1,500 volumes if we were going to be thoughtful ministers of the gospel in a Western context.
Those words of encouragement were wise. I am profoundly grateful for their advice and, over the course of the past two decades, have developed a habit of reading. As a way of passing along their advice, from time to time I will publish lists of books that “ought” to be read. For what it is worth, here is a link to one of those lists, published as an interview with Matt Smethurst at The Gospel Coalition and entitled, “On My Shelf: Life and Books with Bruce Ashford.”
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For the past 13 years, I have taught at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where I now serve as Professor of Theology & Culture and Provost / Dean of the Faculty. During those 13 years, we Americans have continued to experience the cultural “ground” shifting beneath our feet . In recognition of these shifts and of [ Read More ]
If we were to update Dante’s Divine Comedy for the 21st century, we might revise it so that persons in the inner circle of hell would be forced to spend their days reading and interacting with the comment chains of national news outlets, popular websites, famous YouTube videos, and celebrity Twitter accounts. In other words, humanity would be punished by having to interact with internet Trolls.
What is an internet troll?
An internet troll is a person who aims to start arguments and upset or humiliate people by posting accusatory, inflammatory, or off-topic messages in online comment chains or chatrooms. Trolls who have mastered the dark art of trollery will exhibit a number of skills, including: selective outrage; obstinate quibbles over petty details; the refusal to listen to or sympathize with interlocutors, purportedly on principle but mainly to distort or hijack the conversation; and the seizing of any opening to practice these dark arts from the safety of his own basement.
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