Joey Day is a thirty-something IT professional (read: big nerd) living in Salt Lake City, Utah. When he grows up he’d like to be a Seminary professor (read: even bigger nerd).
I blogged rather cryptically several months ago about correlation and causation, referencing one of my favorite web comics. Today, as promised in that blog post, I’m finally able to provide more information.
I wrote a research paper a couple years ago for a language and communications course in my bachelors degree program: Essential fatty acids and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. This week I finally finished the second half of that language and communications course, a video presentation on the same subject, and I’m proud to be able to share it with you.
I want to say you should turn the lights down low, pop some popcorn and sit back and enjoy, but the reality is this will probably bore you to tears. Maybe you insomniacs out there can use this instead of your sleeping pills tonight.
Here are the documents I mention right at the beginning of the video:
I read a book this week quite by accident. I had purchased the Amazon Kindle edition of this book when it was on sale last fall, knowing I would read it eventually, but hadn’t touched it since then. But the topic of this book was relevant to something I was studying this week, so I picked it up with every intention of just thumbing through it for a few nuggets of info. Instead, I ended up reading it from cover to cover in about three days. For some reason this book was a page-turner for me on the same level as thrillers like Jurassic Park or The DaVinci Code. The weird part is it’s a non-fiction theology book.
Now, I suppose it’s not that weird that I would enjoy a book about theology. It is, after all, one of my favorite subjects to read. But generally it does take me some effort to maintain focus on any one book. There’s a reason I read them; I usually get a lot of educational value out of them, but they don’t usually grip me the way this book gripped me. This book captivated my interest until the very last page; I couldn’t put it down.
The book is Fred Sanders’s The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything. It is essentially a wake-up call to evangelical Christianity that we need to bring the Trinity back into the center of our doctrine and practice. Sanders’s thesis is that the Trinity is the gospel, and if we want to make the gospel central (something evangelicals have historically been very good at) we’ve got to make the Trinity central (something Sanders argues evangelicals should be very good at, but paradoxically aren’t). He succeeds in defending this thesis, and opened my eyes to the reality of the nature of God and how God reveals that nature to us in that God the Father sent the Son and the Holy Spirit so that, though their work, we can be reconciled to God and have an intimate share in the eternal fellowship of the Trinity.
I think one of the reasons this book engaged me so is how relevant many of its themes are to things that have happened or are currently happening in my life. Take, for instance, one of the first conversations I ever had with Janene about Mormonism and Christianity. I was explaining to her why I believed, as a Latter-day Saint, that I could become a god some day. I told her it was because when I imagined God all alone in the beginning, before he had created anything, I imagined he would be very lonely and unhappy. He could create a worm or an ant, but he wouldn’t be able to have real fellowship or love with the worm or ant. He could create a chicken or a dog or a cow or a monkey and still not experience real fellowship. The only way he could find happiness and fulfillment would be to create another being of the same species as himself. I remember she explained to me then that God wasn’t lonely in the beginning. God, the three persons of the Trinity, had experienced perfect love, fellowship, and companionship from all eternity, and didn’t need to create a race of gods to find fulfillment.
Here’s Sanders on this topic:
Creation was not required, not mandatory, not exacted from God, neither by any necessity imposed from outside nor by any deficit lurking within the life of God. The Bible does not directly answer the question, Why did God create anything at all? but it does let us know what some of the most glaringly wrong answers to that question would be. It would be wrong to say that God created because he was lonely, unfulfilled, or bored. God is free from that kind of dependence.
In Susanna [Wesley]’s Trinitarian worldview, the eternal Son has eternally existed alongside the eternal Father, always receiving the full goodness of divinity from him. The world, therefore, does not have to bear the burden of being God’s eternal recipient of self-giving goodness. To put it another way, unless the Son were the eternal recipient of the Father’s self-giving, the world would be metaphysically necessary to the being of God. The point Susanna made here has also been seen by numerous thinkers. The Baptist theologian Augustus H. Strong (1836–1921) put it this way: “Neither God’s independence nor God’s blessedness can be maintained upon grounds of absolute unity. Anti-Trinitarianism almost necessarily makes creation indispensable to God’s perfection, tends to a belief in the eternity of matter, and ultimately, leads . . . to pantheism.”
And still further:
It is unworthy to think that God without us is lonely or bored. God is not looking for something to do in the happy land of the Trinity. God did not create the world in order to fill the drafty mansion of heaven with the pitter-patter of little feet. God is not pining away for companionship in a lonesome heaven. Good theological reflection, taking its lead from the Bible, would always reject the idea of divine loneliness or boredom. But as soon as you entertain the truth of the doctrine of the ontological Trinity, the unworthiness of the idea of a lonely or bored God becomes patently obvious. The triune God is one, but not solitary.
The reason for my believing I could be a god one day is that I did not believe in the Trinity. It’s that simple. And when I came to believe in the Trinity, it changed everything, just as Sanders says it does in his sub-title. What’s more, as I’ve thought back to that conversation with Janene ten years ago, I’ve never thought of it as a conversation about the gospel. I thought of it as a conversation about the nature of God that needed to happen to prepare me to hear the gospel. What this book taught me, however, is that God himself is the gospel. If God is dependent on the world in order to further his own glorification and perfection, then nothing we get is ever truly undeserved mercy and grace; it’s what God needs to do, not what he freely and benevolently chooses to do. The idea that God doesn’t need the world (cf. Acts 17:24-25) is the very thing that makes both creation and redemption such amazing grace, and that is 100% gospel. So it turns out Janene was preaching the gospel to me all those years ago, and it was the gospel that got through to me in that conversation, even though it’s taken me ten years to realize that was the gospel.
And that’s just one example of how I found this book relevant to my life. This post is already too long for me to share further examples. I can’t recommend this book enough to any evangelical who wants to regain a clear focus on the Trinity in their theology, evangelism, and everyday Christian living.
It occurred to me just now, while reading the comments on an article about Internet Explorer market share, that something from the tech realm is roughly analogous to something in the theology realm: web browsers and Bible translations.
There are many different web browsers on the market today. They are all free, so cost is not a differentiating factor. What are the differentiating factors? Well, some browsers seem to care more about web standards and become the darlings of web designers. Some browsers care more about user features and become the favorites of web surfers and tinkerers, and some browsers come bundled with operating systems and become the default for people who don’t understand they have a choice.
Which browser do I use? Honestly, it depends on the mood I’m in. At work on my PC I go back and forth between Firefox and Chrome; at home on my Mac I go back and forth between Chrome and Safari. When I need my web development and debugging tools, I have to use Firefox. When I want something a little snappier for regular web browsing, I like Chrome and Safari. I’m kindof a snobby web designer, so I do try to avoid Internet Explorer, but honestly, I use it more than you might think. I do a lot of testing in IE, and I’ve even been known to use IE when I just need to look up something quick, or when I need to log into a different e-mail or Twitter account and I don’t want to log out of my main account in my other browser.
There are many different Bible translations on the market today. Comparable paperback, hardcover, or leather editions usually sell at about the same price point no matter which translation you choose, so, again, cost is not a differentiating factor. What are the differentiating factors? Well, some Bibles care more about getting the Word into a mode of speaking that is more vernacular, closer to the ground, so to speak, closer to the language of the common man. These Bibles become the favorites of youth ministries and evangelical outreach ministries trying to put the Bible into the hands of folks who’ve never read it. Other Bibles emphasize accuracy and literal conformity to the original languages. These become the darlings of seminarians and theology snobs.
Which Bible do I use? Honestly, it depends on the mood I’m in. I go back and forth between the ESV and the NLT, and this year, due to the momentous anniversary, I’ve been reading the KJV. If I’m doing intense study of a book or chapter, I prefer the ESV or the NASB. If I’m just reading straight through, I like the NIV (I don’t have a problem with the 2011 update), the NLT, and I’ve even been known to use The Message when I get in a really particular mood for that kind of thing.
One more thing…
One last similarity between these two seemingly disparate things, and this is what I was reading this morning that made me think of this whole subject, is that there are people who swear by one browser or one Bible and refuse to use the others. These people get so militant and evangelistic that they try to convert other people to their camp. Me, I just use all of them. I see value in all of them for various situations and purposes. Browsers are just tools. They all access the same web, and are really only as good as their developers and development philosophies, and some are better than others for various reasons. Bibles are tools too. They are all translations of the same Word of God, and are really only as good as the translators and their translation philosophies, and some are better than others for various reasons.
Am I crazy to see these similarities? Am I crazy to use more than one browser and more than one Bible? Let me know what you think in the comments.
Someone mentioned to me just the other day that I ought to watch the commencement speech Steve Jobs delivered to the Stanford University class of ’05. So, when I heard the news of his passing today, I decided to find it and watch it. I can’t think of a better way to honor him than by posting it here. It’s fifteen minutes long, but well worth watching.
I’m a stickler for user interfaces. In this case, the user interface of a toaster in the break room at my office.
There’s an icon at the top of the toaster, just left of the lever you push down to insert the toast. Here’s a better picture so you can see the icon more clearly.
The icon is of a piece of bread evidently coming out of the toaster. Now, you and I know exactly what this lever is meant to do, so I can only ascertain that this icon is intended to aid someone who has simply never seen or heard of a toaster before (perhaps he/she was raised with wolves or is from another planet). The thing that’s getting me, though, is how exactly the presence of this particular icon would help this hypothetical user? Why does the arrow go up and not down? Is the icon somehow meant to convey that, after I push the toast down, I can use the same lever to get it to come back up? But in that case, what is the “cancel” button for below and to the right of the lever?
Now, to be fair, I’m trying to think of an icon myself that would convey the intended meaning, and I’m drawing a blank. It seems to me the use of a toaster is so obvious that you don’t need an icon at all. What do you think? Would the icon make more sense if the arrow went down? Would you advocate the use of an entirely different icon or no icon at all?
I believe in the complete sovereignty of God over all human decisions and actions, but this doesn’t mean I believe we never make decisions or choices or that we lack our own will. This position is known as Compatibilism because it asserts that free will and determinism are compatible. I was reading 2 Corinthians 8 yesterday and two passages stuck out to me with respect to this issue.
2 Corinthians 8:1-5 (emphasis mine):
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.
So, Paul says right at the outset that he’s going to tell us about something God is doing in the churches of Macedonia. The Macedonian’s generosity, despite their great poverty, was a grace that originated from God and not from man. But then he turns right around and says the Macedonians were doing this “of their own accord”. Other translations say the Macedonians were “freely willing” or that they did this “entirely on their own” or “of their own free will”. He then turns right around again and says that the Macedonians submitted themselves to the Lord and to their leaders “by the will of God”.
So was it the Macedonian’s will or God’s will that accomplished this? It was both! Or perhaps, more accurately, it was ultimately God’s will to put it into the minds and hearts of the Macedonians so that they would will, even delight, to give so generously.
The other passage makes this connection even more explicit. 2 Corinthians 8:16-17 (again, emphasis mine):
But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.
Again, other translations have phrases like “by his own choice” or “of his own initiative”, but the meaning is the same. God, in his sovereignty, put the care into Titus’ heart so that Titus himself would freely will to visit the Corinthian saints.
I love the few passages in the New Testament that mention free will. They do not in any way deter me from glorying in the absolute sovereignty of God.