I’ve Got an Article in a New Book

The new Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia has an article in it from yours truly, namely “Love.”

A few friends have credits, too, including (but not limited to) Joe Tyrpak on David Brainerd (he wrote his DMin dissertation on Brainerd); Ryan Martin; and Nathan Lentfer.

I counted at least six graduates of my alma mater among the contributors. Congratulations to them. Where I’ve dipped in, the articles have been solid, and the editors are Edwards superstars. Neele and Minkema are associated with the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale. Neele teaches at Joel Beeke’s Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.

How to Listen to Lots of Lectures and Sermons and YouTube Videos

Updated Jan 12, 2018

I see many interesting lectures and interviews on YouTube that I know I will never, ever have time for. I simply cannot sit in front of a computer and watch a video. Email beckons too hard. But I can listen to these videos on the bus, while doing yard work, and at many other odd times that add up fast. I listened to about five 30-minute textual criticism lectures (on more than double speed) from Dan Wallace last night while cleaning out our family car.

I listen to lots and lots of sermons and lectures and interviews and podcasts. However, I subscribe to only three podcasts: Lexicon Valley (with the inimitable John McWhorter) and Thinking in Public (Al Mohler), and the amazing History of English podcast. Everything else I listen to is some kind of one-off instance.

I’ve refined my system to make it maximally easy to take any YouTube video or MP3 and get it into my podcast app. So though I’ve posted on this before, I have now reached MP3 nirvana and I have to share it with you.

I actually have two systems, one for MP3s I download directly, and another for YouTube videos. The two systems converge, as you’ll see.

Each will take some setting up, and my instructions are geared for Mac, but once you’re set up it takes literally one click to get almost anything into your personal podcast feed. Here’s what I do.

Preliminary Steps for Each System

  1. Sign up for Justcast, a rock-solid app which creates a podcast feed from a Dropbox folder you choose. A little bird told me that they might give you their service for $1/mo. if you tell them you’re only making your own personal podcast, not something for general consumption. But the free service may be sufficient for you (it certainly isn’t for me because of the sheer number of items I listen to in a month).
  2. Subscribe to your own personal podcast, generated by Justcast, within Overcast.fm (iOS), Pocket Cast (Android) or whatever podcast app you prefer. I listen to most things at least double speed.

Now let’s get some MP3s into that folder so you can listen to them in Justcast.

System 1: Downloaded MP3s

  1. Set up a Folder Action in Automator that will automatically move audio files to that Justcast folder. Here are the instructions I mostly followed, but here’s what my workflow ended up looking like after I modified it for my needs. (Don’t forget to turn on Folder Actions.)
  2. Anytime you download an MP3 into your Downloads folder, it will be automatically moved into your Justcast folder and then show up in your personal podcast feed on your phone or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Now let’s get a lecture off of YouTube:

System 2: YouTube Lectures

  1. Get Downie. It’s awesome (I have it as part of Setapp).
  2. Set Downie to automatically to Extract Audio Only and Enforce MP3; and have it save the resulting audio file to your Justcast folder in Dropbox.
  3. Install Downie’s Chrome extension. Now navigate to any YouTube video, Soundcloud audio page, Vimeo video, or just about anything you can listen to, and click the Downie icon in your menu bar—the audio will show up in your podcast app soon afterwards.

Done.

Postliminary Steps

The key to this system is that I only want to listen to each of these items once. Having my own personal podcast that only I listen to means that each item leaves my feed as soon as I’m done with it. It’s so much easier to manage these files if I don’t have to manually delete them from my phone when I complete them.

But I still have the MP3 files in Dropbox. So every so often I move all the MP3s out of my Justcast folder and into an archive location in Dropbox (not on my hard drive) so I can find them again if I need to—and sometime I do, like if I want to cite an illustration from one of them or transcribe a portion of it for use in an article or sermon or lecture of my own.

I got an older iPhone but spent a little extra to get 64GB of space so that I could fit as many files in my feed as I needed to (plus audio books, for which I use Audible, Libby, and Christian Audio). The main thing I use my phone for is listening to stuff. I highly recommend Bluetooth headphones, and the ones I’ve found most comfortable and usable are the Plantronics Backbeat Sense.

My wife bought me the AquaAudio Cubo for Christmas, and I love it. I love to listen to lectures, sermons, and audio books in the shower. It feels cheap, but it works great.

I’m a bit manic about listening to stuff all the time, so I also have a Plantronics M70 earpiece for when it’s too ostentatious to be wearing white headphones (like while driving).

I even saved my monthly budget for a little bit and got myself 3M Bluetooth work headphones/ear protectors for while I do yard work. I’m kind of dedicated to this personal podcast thing…

My system has given me access to some truly memorable YouTube interviews, like this one with Amy and Leon Kass. It’s a rare one I listened to three times. Recently I nabbed a speech someone recommended from a “Sheologian” who turned out to be James White’s daughter. It was excellent. I never would have heard these things without my precious personal podcast. =)

Introduction to the New Testament for Bibles International

I wrote the following introduction to the New Testament for Bibles International; it is being translated and placed into Bibles all around the world.

The Bible tells one story, because God has one plan for all of history (Isa. 46:9–10; Gal. 4:4–6). The 27 books of the New Testament bring that story to a climax and then explain its significance.

The Story

The Old Testament was the story of how God created a good world, man plunged it into sin, and God worked through the family of Abraham to bless and fix it again.

God promised Abraham that kings would come from his line. He promised King David that his line would hold the throne of Israel forever. But at the beginning of the New Testament the Jews have no king. The Romans rules their land. How will God fulfill these promises?

The Gospels (Matthew–John) open with the answer: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ.” Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One (Ps. 2) who would save His people from their sins (Isa. 53). He will be their king. He will establish peace in their land. And the angels who announce His birth express an even greater hope: peace on all the earth!

How is it that 33 years later, that miracle-working King lies dead in a tomb?

In Jesus’ apparent defeat lay His greatest triumph. His death was all part of the plan of God (Acts 2:23; 4:27–28). God was justly angry at human sin, and He sent His own Son to pay the massive debt for that sin (Rom 3:21–26).

But the sinless King Jesus did not deserve death. And as the divine Son of God, He was granted power over it. He conquered that enemy and rose gloriously from the tomb. He rose to sit at the right hand of God.

The Church

But He did not leave us without guidance. He sent His Holy Spirit to fill all believers and to form up a special body on this earth: the church. In the church, believers come together to hear God’s teachers deliver God’s Words (Eph. 4). They provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 3).

The 13 letters of Paul—and the other New Testament books after the Gospels—give all sorts of instructions for members of the church. And they explain the significance of Jesus’ death.

Eschatology

In the church, believers offer a foretaste of what the renewed earth will look like. Through the church at least some of mankind can have dominion over God’s world as His representatives. And they can be God’s tools to spread His rule by telling others about the good news of forgiveness in Christ for those who repent from their sins (Matt 28:18–20).

One day, through Jesus, God will fulfill all His promises to Abraham. All true believers, whether Jewish or not, will live together on the New Earth. God will dwell with men for all eternity (Rev. 21).

Introduction to the Old Testament for Bibles International

I wrote the following introduction to the Old Testament for Bibles International; it is being translated and placed into Bibles all around the world. Come back tomorrow for the intro to the New Testament.

The Bible tells one story, because God has one plan for all of history (Isa. 46:9–10; Gal. 4:4–6). The 39 books of the Old Testament begin the story but stop just short of the climax.

The Story

The first five books (Genesis–Deuteronomy) set the foundation for the story. God creates the world and declares it “very good.” And He sets apart two special beings who are made in His own image: Adam and his wife Eve. They have abilities no animals share, and they are to use those skills to complete a special task from God: they are to have dominion over God’s world as His representatives.

Very little time passes before Adam and Eve fall and sin enters God’s perfect creation. All creation falls under “slavery to corruption” (Rom. 8:21). But God promises that “the seed of the woman” will one day come and crush the head of the serpent who tempted Eve (Gen. 3:15).

Many years later, God chooses one man, Abraham, to be the father of that seed. God promises that Abraham will become a great nation and receive a special land. And God will bless all families on the earth through him.

But Abraham’s family, the nation of Israel, falls into sin too. They are not the solution to the fall; they are part of the problem (Joshua–Esther).

God, however, refuses to break His promises to Abraham. He swears to Israel’s most godly king, David, that someone from his line will sit on the throne of Israel forever (1 Sam. 7). This king will one day crush the serpent’s head and reverse the effects of the fall!

Wisdom

Wisdom books (Job–Song of Songs) tell believers how to live consistently with God’s big plan. Proverbs tells us where to start: by fearing the Lord. Ecclesiastes and Job demonstrate that that wise living is complex and difficult in a fallen world. The Psalms lead the believer to trust and delight in God.

The New Covenant and The Future

Prophetic books like Isaiah tell of that day when God will restore creation—and man in it—to the way He meant it to be (Isa 11). And even before that day, God tells of a New Covenant He will make which will start fixing the fall where it has done the most damage, in people’s hearts (Jer. 31; Ezek. 36). The prophets also give us precious truth about the Suffering Servant who will bear the sins of many. Who is this Servant? The answer—and the climax of the Bible’s story—comes in the New Testament.

Complementarian and Egalitarian Straw Persons

I recently ran across the the master’s thesis of an ardent evangelical egalitarian, written at Regent University Divinity School (Virginia Beach) in 2010. You can Google it if you want to, but I don’t want to pick on the (female) author in particular, so I’ll leave her name out of it. It opens this way:

INTRODCTION [sic]

The argument has grown tiresome, redundant, and frustrating: should women be allowed to hold leadership roles over men in the Christian Church? Many Christian leaders and biblical scholars have agreed to allow women in their pulpits, but many still cling to a view that makes the Apostle Paul look like a male chauvinist, who has given a universal principal [sic] that women are to be silent, and never hold a church office.   Many from the latter group are known as complementarians. Well known complementarian frontrunners, John Piper and Wayne Grudem, reason that the Apostle Paul taught that the husband/father figure of each family is ordained by God to lead his household, wife, and children. She and their children are to submit to his every rule, whim, and decision; life as they know it is a male dominated monarchy. Boys are taught to be strong leaders and providers, while girls are taught to be good followers and dependents.

I got this far and decided I would not read further. The misspellings of “principal” and “introduction” in a master’s thesis (and a few strained phrases like “well known complementarian frontrunners”) are not what led me to throw up my hands, but rather the frankly malicious straw man she sets up in this very first paragraph. There may be self-described “complementarians” out there whose view of male-female roles in marriage means that women and children must submit to the father’s every “whim,” but I personally can’t say I’ve met these extremists. I’m a complementarian, now a published one, and my whim is generally to read quietly without interruption (though I like to have my wife nearby so we can be together). Let me tell you: my whim is rarely if ever obeyed in my household. If the only way you can get something you want is to get up an hour before the rest of the family, I wouldn’t call it a “whim.” I aspire to be a strong leader and a provider, but my home is not a monarchy; far from it. I think this author has set up a straw man.

But, mutatis mutandis, here’s the reason I didn’t read the rest of what this woman wrote: I don’t want to set up a straw-man (or straw-woman!) of evangelical egalitarianism. I recently got a copy of a CBE newsletter in the mail (unsolicited), and I stayed up past my bedtime last night reading one female scholar’s observations about the role of women in ETS. She raises some difficult and even uncomfortable questions: if ETS allows female scholars as members (its official doctrinal statement is silent on complementarianism/egalitarianism), why haven’t any of them been presidents, executive committee members, or givers of keynotes? (One or two women did give keynotes in 1986, apparently, when the topic of the annual conference was gender roles.)

I think the writer found conspiracies and malevolencies where there were none—she doesn’t seem to permit complementarians to have Christ-loving, Bible-honoring motivations for their viewpoints. But there were some objective things the writer pointed to that I had to admit I had little answer for. I’m prepared to have a conversation with egalitarians. I believe—and how can any of us know before we’re tried?—that I have an open mind, and would bend where the Scripture bends, stand where it stands.

I repeat here what I’ve said before: the evangelical left loves to critique complementarianism. And more power to them. Marshal your best exegetical arguments, egalitarians, and put pressure on us to be biblically faithful. Don’t let us remain complacent, assuming that our gender-role traditions are necessarily worth preserving. It’s hard work to weed the garden of one’s own cultural and religious customs, and sometimes the only person who can spot a particular dandelion (or even a gargantuan kudzu vine) is the gardener next door. But when you set up a straw man and paint all complementarians as extremists, you make it hard to listen. I will try, by God’s grace, to continue to believe that egalitarians have something valuable to teach me. Will you try, egalitarians, to do some field work observing complementarians? Do some statistical studies about how often men like John Piper and Wayne Grudem insist that their wives “submit”? (Hint: I’ve never done it, except when I was certain my wife needed a nap and she was resisting!)

This seems to be the crux of the issue as it’s playing out right now: how do complementarian and egalitarian viewpoints affect praxis? Does complementarianism, statistically speaking, lead to overbearing husbands and dispirited wives? On the flip side, does egalitarianism lead to liberal views on homosexuality? These are important questions, not as important as what, in fact, the Bible teaches—but they bear on our interpretation of the Bible. If all complementarian men were petty tyrants, that would tend to undercut the plausibility of their biblical interpretation. But I’m not buying it.