$4.2M Dollar Study…on Joy?

Joy. Theology. The good life.

$4.2 million dollars?


The John Templeton Foundation has awarded a $4.2 million grant to the Yale Center for Faith and Culture at Yale Divinity School to conduct a three-year research project to develop a theological account of joy and the good life, in order to recover joy as a central theological category and human experience.

Read the full announcment here.

Visit the Theology of Joy and the Good Life Project here.

Listen to the Huffington Post interview the project’s “principle investigator,” theologian Miroslav Volf, here.

Watch scholars answer “What Is Joy?”:


David Bowie Recites The Lord’s Prayer

Few people would likely identify David Bowie as a Christian. Yet nearly 25 years ago during a tribute concert for Queen’s frontman Freddie Mercury, Bowie publicly did a very Christian thing (apparently to honor Mercury): reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Here’s one fan hoping that Bowie passed from this life to the next experiencing firsthand the Lord’s Prayer’s truths, i.e. the presence of a heavenly Father and sins forgiven.

The Downside of Immanuel

Cornelius Plantinga:

We must not get cozy with the idea of Immanuel. It’s not just a notion of Christmas cards and hymns, offering just the right little movement of joy for late December. The fact is that we might not enjoy Immanuel very much at all. Peter found him reproachful. Pharisees heard the sound of a whip in his voice. And any seedy, shifty human being might find it disconcerting to be absolutely transparent to a person who never compromised with evil, never shifted ground to make a better appearance, never sacrificed integrity for the sake of getting on with others. Would we dare to have God with us? As Malachi puts it (3:2), ‘Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?’

                            —Deep Down Faith (Study Guide)

“J.I. Packer: In His Own Words” Extended Trailer

In honor of the Homer G. Lindsay Lifetime of Ministry Award for 2015  on  a 90 minute video was made about the renowned Reformed theologian J.I. Packer, called J.I. Packer: In His Own Words. Crossway (who obtained the rights to the video) will be releasing it November 3. Crossway even created jipacker.com in conjunction with the video’s release. Is this a sign of a dedicated Packer website (even outside of anything Crossway related)? One can only hope.

You can watch an extended trailer here.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 12.22.56 PM

Not coming to a theater near you! (Screenshot of “J.I. Packer: In His Own Words.”)

Striptease, Biology and Perversion: C.S. Lewis on Sex


Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, “Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.” Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong,

But I have other reasons for thinking so:

  1. Biology: The biological purpose of sex is children, just as the biological purpose of eating is to repair the body. Now if we eat whenever we feel inclined and just as much as we want, it is quite true that most of us will eat too much: but not terrifically too much. One man may eat enough for two, but he does not eat enough for ten. The appetite goes a little beyond its biological purpose, but not enormously. But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined, and if each act produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.
  2. Striptease: Or take it another way. You can get a large audience together for a striptease act—that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theater by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?…
  3. Perversion: You find very few people who want to eat things that really are not food or to do other things with food instead of eating it. In other words, perversions of the food appetite are rare. But perversions of the sex instinct are numerous, hard to cure, and frightful….We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the old Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, you see that it is not.

—C.S. Lewis, The Joyful Christian, pp. 127-128 (Reformatted for readability)

Tim Keller Video on the Christian Imagination

When you hear the words “imagination,” “creativity” and “innovation,” what first comes to mind?

Raise your hand if “Christianity” or any subsets of Christianity came to mind, i.e. the Church, Christians, God, etc.

At the 2014 Faith and Work Conference, pastor Tim Keller gave the keynote address on the Christian imagination and innovation.

In the talk, Keller appeals to three important Christian doctrines that have massive implications for creativity and innovation: the doctrine of creation, the doctrine of the Word, and the doctrine of grace.

Doctrine and imagination? Yup.

Watch Keller’s talk “Where Imagination and Innovation Meet”:

Ego-Death: A Prayer of Confession

This week I’m in Grand Rapids, MI attending a week-long seminar on Cruciform Humility in Christian Preaching and Worship. Along with 15 other students sitting under Neal Plantinga, Jr. (an exemplar of humility and mentoring, he also wrote a devastating and highly readable book about sin), it’s been a rich, rewarding and refreshing time defining and unpacking cross-shaped humility.

Before our seminar began, we had to submit two prayers fit for congregational worship that promote humility. Here’s a prayer I wrote (with obvious and unapologetic allusions to John Donne, St. Augustine, Robert Bellah, and Phillip Bliss, and who knows what else):

A Prayer for Ego-Death

Batter my heart, three-person’d God.

Take your wrecking ball of holy grace

and obliterate my prideful Self.

You know how much I love Me,

recklessly pursuing my wayward loves no matter the cost.

But the carnage is clear.

In thought, word and deed,

by what I’ve done,

and by what I’ve left undone,

I’ve dirtied my relationship with you and others.

There is no health in me.

And no matter how hard I try,

I can’t renovate this rebel heart.

Please have mercy on me.

Please help me.

Please forgive me.

Remove the hardened, hurtful habits of my sinful heart.

Reorder my disordered loves.

Renew my love for you and others.

I ask these things because of Christ who,

“bearing shame and scoffing rude,

in my place condemned he stood,

Sealed my pardon with his blood,

Hallelujah! What a Savior!”


Emotion Commotion? How a Book, a Class and a Movie Unexpectedly Collide

Just when you thought Pixar lost their mojo, in swoops Minnesota born and bred director Pete Docter (who also directed Up and Monsters, Inc.) with Inside Out. A movie about 11-year-old Riley and her conflicting emotions over a three-day period following a move from Minnesota to San Francisco, it’s sure to set off healthy discussion about emotions (without hopefully succumbing to over-psychologizing them). And if one places stock in respected movie critics’ two cents, it also looks like a great film. (The WSJ’s Joe Morgenstern writes that Inside Out is  “the best [movie] I’ve seen for a very long time.” And Morgenstern’s no slouch.)

Here’s the first trailer:

Here’s the second trailer:

Inside Out’s release interestingly coincides with a class I’m taking next week, Cruciform Humility in Christian Preaching and Worship. One of the required texts is a book I wouldn’t normally be inclined to read, Spiritual Emotions: A Psychology of Christian Virtues, which instructor Neal Plantinga calls “a stellar Christian psychological approach with a highly intelligent, but controversial, definition of spiritual emotions” (from the syllabus).

If you’re looking for a deeply thought-provoking book on the role of emotions from a distinctly Christian perspective, discussing contrition, joy, gratitude, hope, peace and compassion, and the key role that humility plays in cultivating these virtues, check it out. You may not agree with everything (and is that such a bad thing?), but you will think about emotions in a way that you probably never previously considered.

Here are a few random quotes from the book:

We must become friends of despair if we are to be drawn above it to genuine and heartfelt hope. (p. 61)

Creaturely humility is relative to the kind of creature under consideration. (p. 59)

In seeking the eternal, or welcoming it passionately when it comes to us, we are not being like the emperor who wants to be a god, or the existentialist who wants tobe his own moral lawgiver. We are being much more like a collie seriously pursuing the business of being a dog. (p. 59)

The ego is a very hard nut to crack, so hard, in fact, that nothing short of confronting its absolute annihilation will bring it to the humility that is the foundations of all the virtues. (p. 73).

Moods are not emotions, but since they are sometimes caused by emotions, we are inclined to think they are. And when we think of emotions as moods, it is natural to make the mistake of thinking that they are irrational. (p. 155)

That’s just a sampling. Aside from Roberts infusing the book with biblical references, literary allusions abound. And while I began reading prepared to gut it out or have its pages double as a drool absorber, I was instead repeatedly drawn into Roberts’ gifted prose.

Aside from better preparing me for the upcoming class on humility, reading Roberts’ Spiritual Emotions has an unforeseen benefit: I’ll now watch Inside Out with a fresh and biblically informed perspective on emotions. (And pairing Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” with a Pixar film? Strangely curious but it works.)

Little did I know how a book, a class and a movie would strangely yet wonderfully collide in my life.

Ah, such is the Providence of God, no?

Tim Keller Mentioned at Tony Awards

Not your usual shout-out.

While watching the 2015 Tony Awards last night, Ruthie Ann Miles won an award for Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance in The King and I. Accepting her award, among others she thanked “Dr. Keller.” While she doesn’t specifically state “Dr. Tim Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York,” one can likely infer that’s precisely what she meant:

I’d say Keller’s ministry to Christians involved in the theater arts at an influential level is sticking.

Bravo, Tim. Bravo.