Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Numbers 20: a reading and some critical readers needed

CaptureThe venerable (I think it is the longest-running religious periodical in NZ) Baptist has had a makeover for 2015.No longer newsprint, and with a web edition that looks pretty good.

The trouble is most of the writers are (to put it politely) experienced, and most of the readers inherited from the old format newsprint are (frankly) old folk.

It needs new writers I’d love to see Carey graduates from 5, 10, 15 years ago take up the keyboard. If any of you read this how about either offering yourselves an occasional piece, or bullying your colleagues into writing?

It also needs new readers, online readers, who will argue back, question or add new ideas… all or any of you who read this might be such…
What Kiwis think about sin could be a place to start… (and let’s hope Dale Campbell becomes a more frequent contributor along with others like Mike Crudge, Thalia Rowden, Nigel Irwin, Johnathan Robinson and many many more… mention those I have forgotten or not thought of in the comments here or an email and I’ll add them…)

Getting students to read your comments in a Jetsons world

"Jetsons" by http://www.hogwild.net/images/Misc/jetsons.jpg. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of List of Characters in The Jetsons via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jetsons.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Jetsons.jpg

“Jetsons” by http://www.hogwild.net/ via Wikipedia

The Sydney College of Divinity 2014 Teaching and Learning Conference “Teaching Theology in a Technological Age“is an interesting experience. Listening to so many teachers who are as a matter of course teaching distant students using a variety of computer mediated tools is in some ways like seeing a Jetsons “future world”, from only five or six years ago, come to life.

Yet the progress seems mainly to represent the greater importance of flexible teaching which has been driven by student demand, and so economic forces, rather than pedagogy. Pedagogy for an electronically mediated age seems still too much for most teachers and administrators. (More on this when I am less tired, a long day’s travel and two very short nights mean I can’t write clearly enough at the moment.)

There have been the usual “aha moments” not least (the only peripherally technological) suggestion of giving students their assignment with comments but no mark and asking them to assess the grade. One then, of course, may need to discuss and adjust the grade with the student, but the process forces the student to read the remarks, and to think about their performance in useful ways.

It’s been great to meet ACOM colleagues that I have only previously had email contact with, I feel much more part of a team now.

“Notes” quick thought starters from NZ Christian Network

NZ Christian Network have begun to produce a series of thought starters. Aimed to fit on one double-sided sheet of A4 (in PDF format for printing and folding). The goal is to be simple, clear, and to start people thinking. They call them “Notes“. So far they have:

S14-01     Secularism 101 – What it is, why does it matter and how to address it

M14-01     Marriage – Why it matters, where it’s heading and what we need to do

M14-02     Marriage – Towards a strategy for Building a Healthy Marriage Culture

S14-02     Secularism is religious – A gospel by any other name

M14-03     There’s more to marriage! – Is marriage for you?

The format is great for people who still live in the print age (like many church people, especially those too old to have grown up in the Internet and mobile ages). 

Since I wrote the last one, I am delighted that they are also making them available in a format that’s more user-friendly for the e-age. As blog posts (with a Feed if you want to subscribe, mine is here, I hope the others will be appearing soon :)

Looks good to me on laptop, tablet and phone, how about you?

Tenth Blogiversary

It is a strange thing, and one I never expected to experience (see the archive of my first post) to be celebrating ten years of blogging. Actually I won’t be celebrating today, as I will be flying to the Philippines via Thailand “on the day”, so this post is “prepared earlier” and scheduled thanks to the wonders of WordPress.

As I noted recently, I have not been posting much for quite some time. Is this a weariness with blogging? Does it represent some loss of faith in the medium?

Well, as so often, in part “yes” and in part “no”. I have been very busy with journal articles and book chapters, as well as learning to rear pigs and make ham and bacon. But this busyness alone would probably not account for my silence if blogging retained it’s early excitement. It is not that readership has dropped, it hasn’t. It is not that Google loves blogs less, if anything Google’s infatuation with blogs seems to have increased with the growing maturity of the medium. It is the lack of interaction that silences me.

I do not blog because WordPress is an easy way to make a website, I used to make quite complex websites well before blogging platforms were invented. I blog because the medium encourages interaction between authors and readers. And, in it’s heyday blogging did that with flair, enthusiasm and sometimes flaming excitement. Sadly no longer, most of us post away, and the punters read what we write, but they do not comment… And so for me much of the fun has been taken from this medium. In a sense that’s what my experiments with various formats for Reading the Bible Faithfully is seeking to restore… I wonder if the course format will encourage readers to become (once again) conversation partners?

Time will tell… but if nothing does restore the conversation, I suspect ten years will be about the length of my blogging career…

Grace, poverty and relationships

Paul Windsor had a fine post a few days ago, on living alongside the poor which should be required reading for anyone who will be living, moving or having their being where others are poor. This means all of us, unless we hermetically seal ourselves away and shut off the Internet.

Then this morning I read Richard Beck’s Widows and Orphans: On Evolution, Election and Love. Two posts that each gain depth from being read together :) If you have read one but not the other, please do read it now. If you have read neither, you have a double treat in store and plenty of thinking to do!

Paul is a Kiwi Evangelical living in India, who grew up as a MK in India, and trying to negotiate how to live, move and have his being in a place where the poor (often the extremely poor) are always with him. Richard is a psychologist who thinks deeply and creatively about Christian faith and life. Both will teach you much, and both will make you think and pray.

Bright Sparks

 

Honesty compels me to admit that there are times when exactly the wrong person at exactly the wrong time with exactly the wrong motives has nevertheless said exactly the right thing.

Tom Marshall, Understanding Leadership, 1991, p97 (HT: ξἐνος)
 
Of course, the reverse is also true: There are times when exactly the right person, at exactly the right time, with exactly the right motives, has said exactly the wrong thing. And this version seems to fit my experience better.
 
“Humankind, bright sparks since BC” (cf. Job 5:7)

Striking News from Egypt: or the Silence of the Pundits

The news from Egypt (indeed all the “Middle East”) over recent months has varied between being silence (most of the time) and shock-horror (when some new tragedy/atrocity manages to break through Western media’s apathy about the rest of the world. 

Vinoth Ramachandra again does us all a service by posting material written by one of his Egyptian contacts he titles it The Other Egypt. It begins:

When more than 85 Churches and institutions were viciously attacked and burned (a profound blow of disgrace and humiliation in this culture of ‘honour’), the non-retaliation of Christians was both unexpected and unprecedented.

If you haven’t heard about this please read his post! In fact do yourself a favour subscribe to his blog, or visit it regularly. It is constantly sensible and provocative a difficult balance given the topics he covers.

Moral critique of theism?

The Flannagan blog, M&M, can be really annoying or hugely stimulating, it is seldom boring. But the new post There probably are no duties. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life! really is something special. Matt neatly turns all the standard old chestnut Atheist arguments around to attack “moral duties” like the duty not to rape or murder. The post is a hoot and well worth a read, you’ll be chuckling or laughing all through.

Comments are open, but so far no atheist has risen to the challenge. If any brave non-believer is reading this do please provide a response! A one sided argument is less fun :)

Dumb and dumber, or how not to use a blog

I’ve been unusually quiet here for a while now for two reasons.

The first is dumb. Something has “broken” this installation of WordPress and half the editing features don’t work. I have to turn off JavaScript, and save the post, to change from Visual to Text mode, but neither way will “Add Media” work, I have to FTP and handcode to get pictures… all that makes blogging hard work. But I’m dumb, I haven’t made the time to either start again (like I did in 2009) so I suffer through :(

The second reason is dumber! I have been busy writing, two deadlines loomed. One of them was a chapter about the genre of the prophetic books.1 Somehow, being busy and having a looming deadline I did not do the sensible thing and post here (much) about the ideas.

That was dumber, because I am not longer in daily contact with scholars from other disciplines in a real common room. Thus I did not hear a physical New Testament colleague say ftf: “That’s a bit like the discussions around the topic of the genre of the gospels.” That piece of wisdom only hit this morning, when I saw that Euangelion Kata Markon had posted a kind notice (HT James McGrath) to my 5 minute Bible podcasts on introducing genre and prose & poetry.

As I wrote in a comment there:

I am now kicking myself. Disciplinary boundaries so often do us a disservice! I should have thought of the probability that there was discussion of the nature of the genre of the gospels. But I didn’t, and I don’t sit regularly in a scholarly common room, so no one pointed it out to me as I wrote my article on the genre of the prophetic books.. I really should have blogged it as I wrote, then someone would have pointed to your stuff and I’d have been able to weave those discussions into mine, but I submitted the article on Monday :(

  1. Basically I am arguing that, rather than any other genre description like “career biography”, “sayings collection” or even “presentation of a prophet” , it is helpful to think of them as “prophetic fictions”. []

Are convenience and ubiquity killing conversation?

I’ve been posting my podcasts (mainly from http://5minuteBible.com/) to Facebook and YouTube recently, it seems a good way to enlarge the audience. It also seems to have achieved this effectively, with scores of people seeing them via each channel (YouTube seems especially to reach mobile users).

 

Yet both media are less than my ideal. Facebook by its form encourages short swift responses and You Tube enforces this with a strict and tight character limit on comments. The result in both media is that knees jerk and somewhat trite ping-pong arguments result. (I can’t really call many of them conversations, as few have been productive or really informative.)

 

As a result of this experience I was saddened by some remarks on Facebook, from a blogger I really respect, explaining that he now blogs less and less, but uses Facebook and G+ more and more. I have little experience with G+, but what I have does not suggest it is a much better way of nurturing conversation than Facebook. And yet “God knows it, I am with them, in some things.”1 Blogging, except for the uber-bloggers has ceased to provoke many comments, the excitement is gone, but the effort required to write a post remains the same. Diminishing returns mean, for many of us, less frequent posting…

 

So, if you accept that YouTube, Facebook and G+ are not becoming venues for real conversation, and agree that blogs are dying as such venues (except for the few who attract large audiences) please tell me how you think e-mediated serious conversations at a distance will continue…

 

If, of course you don’t accept my pessimistic diagnosis, then please tell me that too, and ideally explain why :)

  1. Misquoting Oscar Wilde’s “Sonnet to Liberty”. []