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The BBG (138+1)th Post Spectacular

First things first, Happy Reformation Day (slightly belated)!  Dust off your Luther costume and enjoy this 492nd anniversary of Luther’s 95 thesis.  It’s way better than Halloween:  Several times more cultural importance with none of the empty calories!

A few weeks ago Danny had the great idea of paying homage to my favorite television show (and achilles heel?) The Simpsons, by way of a “138th Post Spectacular.”  So I don’t know what he was thinking when he posted on Tim Keller’s sermons, because technically, that is our 138th post.  I take solace in the fact that The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular is actually the 155th episode.  So who’s really counting?  Be that as it may, 139 is as arbitrary a number as any for us to celebrate meaningless, self-congratulatory milestones, and thank our tens of readers.

Danny also had the great idea of listing our “Top 10” favorite posts (5 from each of us) with some comments for each.  They are in no particular order, but we hope you enjoy this walk down memory lane.

Brian’s Top 5

(1)  Happy Winter Solstice from the Humanists! This post is a year old, and has a close friend in my latest thoughts on popular atheism.  I list this among my favorites because humanism, which may go by many names, is very common in my present context.  The ultimate aim is “just be a good person,” which is nice enough, were it not for the fact that in the absence of God (or even a god), it is an incoherent, indefensible statement.

(2)  Facebook: You’re Dead to Me Now. This post has very little theological or cultural value, save that it was great catharsis for me.

(3)  Defending Apologetics. Apologetics has a special place in my heart, thanks in part to the fact that the work of apologists is what helped me see the truth of Christianity, and come to Christ.

(4)  What Would Jesus Play? (Posted on my son’s first birthday, no less.)  The interaction of Christianity and culture has always been a great interest to me.  After all, it is something that I have to confront every day.  I’m still waiting for a book of answers, but even if one came, I’d miss the discussion.

(5)  The Starting Point of Missions. In my experience, missions is very easy to talk about, and very hard to do.  In a way that is a non-statement, because much of Christian life falls into the same category.  None the less, Danny and I both attend a church with a strong missions focus, and I’m always reminded in this context where missions got its start, and why its important.

Danny’s Top 5

First, allow me to set the record straight about the BBG 138th Post Spectacular controversy.  I did say something to Brian about writing this in honor of the Simpsons.  He, however, never replied and I figured it fell by the wayside of his packed schedule of engineering, bacon eating and tomfoolery on the drums.  After all,  it wouldn’t be the first time Brian went a prolonged period of time without posting on this blog (cheap shot).  Tim Keller stole Brian’s glory, so let that be a lesson to all of us.  Anyway, on with patting on our backs.  My top 5:

(1) I had a hard time deciding between Crafting a Crazy King and Why I Am A Premillennialist: Some Thoughts In Progress, but figured if I mention them I can get them both in here (cheating, I know, but Brian did it first).  I’ll go with the premillennialism post, mainly because it’s been debated recently on some prominent blogs and despite the fact that it isn’t a particularly well written post.  While I still maintain that all these positions have holes in them, I’m still convinced that premillennialism is the best option.  It seems to me that amillennialism is a theologically derived position rather than an exegetically derived position.

(2) Easter is my favorite holiday, and you can see why in What Are We Celebrating on Easter Sunday.

(3) Brian suggested I put this one in the list, so here you go.  It’s called The Spirit, the Law & Pentecost, where I take a look at how Exodus 19, Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36 and Joel 2 all intersect in Acts 2 and the Spirit’s coming on Pentecost.

(4) Back in June I wrote something regarding the potentially deceptive way we use the word “worship,” in post called Worship: A Most Dangerous Word.  Interestingly, in the Christian Carnival in which this post appeared it was attributed to Brian.  Nonetheless, I’ll include in my Top 5.

(5) Our most popular post was something I wrote called The Strange Comfort of the Rod and Staff, based on the ever popular Psalm 23.  Honestly, I never would have thought this would be our most read post.  I rarely write devotional type stuff, and I wasn’t necessarily intending to here, either.  I had just been pondering something for a few days, and had only been writing about books for a couple weeks and thought I’d throw this on our site.  I’m glad I did.

While the fourth wall is down, I (Brian) did want to make a few comments other about this blog:

Danny and I do take God’s Word seriously, even as we take our faith and its interaction with the world seriously.  Writing posts that interact with matters of supreme importance (i.e., God) is not something we take lightly.  Our mission states, “We are a website devoted to equipping and edifying Christians around the world to understand God’s Word more fully, and thoughtfully apply it to their daily lives and cultural context.”  We cannot judge our success in this matter, but it is certainly our hope that we’ve not strayed too far from this purpose.  There is a sarcastic quote about blogs from despair.com: “Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.”  Hopefully this does not apply to us…entirely, at least.

Also, please note that we do appreciate your comments and suggestions, be they favorable or not.  In fact, civil, thoughtful exchanges of differing views can be some of the most enlightening.  Muscles do not grow unless they are challenged, so please call us on something if you disagree.

Finally, do know that it is humbling for us both to consider that a few dozen people check in here every day.  It encourages us to think that others find our thoughts worth reading, and we hope the exchange is mutually beneficial.  I can say from personal experience that having to write about something can certainly benefit the author as much as the reader.  Codifying and expressing a thought without the body language or feedback of a conversation is challenging, helping one to think more clearly about the subject matter, and better articulate their views in the future.

From all of us (read: both of us) here at BBG, thanks again.

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Some of the most frequently asked questions I receive about this site are regarding book reviews.  How did we get started?  Why do we do it?  Do publishers really send you stuff for free?  Stuff like that.

I’ve been mulling over a post such as this for a while, but didn’t feel like anyone would actually be interested in reading a post about book reviews.  But, a recent ruling by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does impact this blog a little bit and is receiving some discussion throughout the internet.  I’ll comment more on it later, but basically the issue is one of compensation.  The FTC has declared that if a blog writer receives compensation (either payment or the book for free), they must declare so in their review.  Brian and I do fall under the category of compensated individuals, so in the interest of integrity, I feel it’s important to comment here.  Brian may add some of his own thoughts, either in the comments below or in his own post.

Let’s proceed, Q & A style:

Q. How did you get started writing reviews?

A. For me it was purely by chance.  You can read about it here at my old blog.  In a nutshell, I randomly happened upon a free copy of the Reader’s Hebrew Bible to review, and a guy named Chris at Zondervan agreed to send along Bruce Waltke’s An Old Testament Theology as well.

Q. How do you get publishers to send you books?

A. I ask.  It’s really as simple as that.  I write them, tell them who I am and why I want to review a particular book.  Sometimes they send it, sometimes they don’t.  That’s about it.  A couple publishers now send me books without me asking.

Q. Do you review all books you receive?

A. Not necessarily.  Any book that I request, I will review.  That’s part of the deal.  If a publisher decides to send a book along without my initiation, I feel no obligation to review the book.  I sometimes do, but the bottom line is that there’s only so much time in the day.

Q. Do you really read all the books you review?

A. Yes.  That’s actually why it takes so long sometimes.  I don’t want to review a book if I haven’t actually spent the time to work through it.  I feel like it’s a matter of integrity to read what I review.  The last thing I want is to mislead anyone with a review because of superficial reading on my part.

Q. Does the fact you receive a book from a publisher influence you to give a positive review?

A. The cynical reader might think we’re only being nice to publishers because they send us books.  The answer is actually quite simple: we generally give positive reviews because we pick the books we want to review.  It’s not like reviewing books is our job.  It is something we do on the side.  Naturally, since we only have so much time, we lean towards reading books we think we’ll like.  Also, and perhaps even more importantly, we tend to focus on books we think will be helpful to the church.  That means we aren’t going to request a book we think will be awful.  There have been books I’ve requested and was a bit disappointed in, but none I thought were awful.  My reviews reflect that.  But the bottom line is this: we request, read and review books we think we’re going to like and will be helpful to the church. We may pick a book that falls in the “stay away” category and thus give a negative review, but we won’t intentionally request such a book from a publisher.

Q. Will you change anything regarding after reading the new FTC Guidelines?

A. It’d help if I finished reading the 81-page document first (pdf here)!  I think there are 2 things going on here that are related to reviewing books here on BBG.  First, if a reviewer receives compensation they must acknowledge that in their review.  This is something we already do.  At the beginning of every review, we say something along the lines of this: Thanks to (person’s name) of (publisher) for a review copy of this book. Then sometimes we follow that up with an apology for taking so long (ahem, Brian).  As far as I can tell, this is what the FTC wants.  If we find out otherwise, we will make the adjustments accordingly.  We do not receive any money for these reviews.  The free book itself is considered, rightly so in my opinion, compensation.  We’re happy to acknowledge this.

Second, according to this interview with a member of the FTC, providing a link to Amazon under the Amazon Affiliates program may be problematic.  I’m not sure if we’d have to do anything more than what we’d already be doing.  Truth be told, I’m not sure we actually use our Amazon Affiliates link very often.  I don’t even know how to do it, and it’s not like Brian is my blog-maid who follows behind me to tidy up.  Anyway, I don’t think it’ll be an issue because we’re acknowledging that we have received a book for free.

Q. Why do you review books?

A. We touch on this a bit on our Book Review page.  A major goal of BBG is to help Christians and churches learn the Bible and learn how to apply it better.  Sometimes that takes the form of a post on a particular passage, sometimes we provide a link to something we found helpful on the internet, and sometimes we review books.  Some of these book reviews are geared towards laypeople, while there are a few of more academic books that would be more likely useful to pastors and students.  Either way, we hope that by reviewing books, we are assisting our readers in making fruitful choices in their book purchasing/reading.  There are a lot of books out there, and the number is growing fast.  It can be helpful to have someone help point the way to a useful resource.  Hopefully we accomplish this.

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A Late Summer Update

Why have the writers at BBG been reticent as of late?  The reasons are twofold:  (1)  Danny is overseas, and  (2) I’m the world’s worst blogger.  My guilt at being unable to post anything for close to a month compels me to write something, but the truth of the matter is that I have little to say that warrants an entire post (hence, my recent silence).  However, here is my best shot at trying to hold down the fort in Danny’s absence.  Put another way, here is what I’ve been up to, and what’s been on my mind:

(1)  Family.  I’ve been spending a great deal of time with my family this summer.  This is of course to the peril of my reading and writing.  I do not at all lament the exchange.  My son is weeks away from his second birthday, and my wife and I are a few months into our fifth year of marriage.  Few things in life bless me as deeply.

(2)  Summer.  August has (finally?) brought about good summer weather, making it hard for me to sit inside.  I read somewhere that one of the reasons acedemia flourished in New England is because the weather is so dreadful during the heart of the acedemic season.  Young students have naught to do but curl up with books and study.  The technological revolution has perhaps made this obsolete, but there’s still a taste of it for me today.  There is something unconscionable about staying inside when the weather is nice.  If I lived in San Diego perhaps I’d feel differently.

(3)  Reading.  Okay, so maybe I’m not reading voraciously, but I am reading in bits and spurts.  I continue to bite off small pieces of Willam Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith.  I bite off small pieces to keep my head from exploding, and because it’s embarassing for me to giggle so much while reading.  (You’ll find my pre-review here, and you’ll also note that I’ve had this book for close to a year now.  Sometimes I wonder why Danny lets me stay here.)  I also recently read a scathing review of The God Delusion by Terry Eagleton.  Ken Meyers (of the excellent Mars Hill Audio Journal) has written a review of a new compilation by Eagleton, that is also worth reading.  (As a side note, just about everything at the Mars Hill Audio Journal is worth reading.)

(4) The Gospels.  In early June I decided that this summer would be a “summer of the Gospels,” so my Bible reading has focussed on Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  I’ve been re-reading Blomberg’s Jesus and the Gospels as well, to deepen my understanding and appreciation for these four great books of Scripture.  One of my foci this go-around has been to try to foster empathy for the people of Jesus’ time.  I’ve been trying to put myself in their shoes:  To imagine what it felt like, physically and mentally, to be in first century Palestine.  Utlimately this is an exercise in understanding the cultural context of the Gospels, but I’m trying to connect better with how Jesus’ contemporaries would respond to Him.

So that’s all for now.  I have a post of two in embryonic stages in my head.  Perhaps I can cowboy-up (remember that? 2003 Red Sox season?  Bruce Willis in Tears of the Sun?) and write something before the summer is through.  Until then, don’t hold your breath, and enjoy the rest of August :)

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Welcome to Boston Bible Geeks!

Welcome to Boston Bible Geeks (or BBG, as we like to call it)!  This is the online home of Brian and Danny, two Boston area guys occasionally referred to as “Bible geeks,” hence, BBG.  This post serves as an introduction and a quick, guided tour of the site.

 

The objective of this site can be found in our mission statement: We are a website devoted to equipping and edifying Christians around the world to understand God’s Word more fully, and thoughtfully apply it to their daily lives and cultural context.  We hope to accomplish this in many different ways: posting on specific Bible passages and their interpretation, reflecting on how we can apply Scripture in our lives and communities, reviewing books that may prove helpful to Christians, discussing hymns and worship songs that we find particularly instructive, commenting on current cultural trends or events, etc.

 

Both Brian and Danny have had blogs in the past, but quite frankly, we found it takes two of us to generate the content of one competent blogger.  We trust this will work in our favor by taking away the pressure to publish frequently at the expense of quality content.  Moreover, we hope to give you our different perspectives on the Bible and church life.  Note also that our goal isn’t simply to put thoughts up on the internet for people to read, but for our readers to interact with God’s Word and what we’ve written in order to enrich all of us.  (In other words, leave comments!)

 

There are a couple distinct features we hope will be helpful to our readers.  First, every month we will select a Resource of the Month (RoTM…no more acronyms, promise), which can be found at the top of the page.  The Resource of the Month may be a website we find helpful, a book that is particularly useful, a sermon series that our readers may enjoy, and so on.  Throughout the month we will interact with that resource in hopes that we can all be edified.  Check out Brian’s first RoTM post here.

 

Second, also at the top of the page, you’ll find a tab entitled “Articles.”  This section consists of something we have written that we feel is worthy of “permanence” that doesn’t come naturally to a regular blog post.  If you read something we’ve written that you feel belongs in the Articles section, please let us know.

 

Third, you’ll notice all sorts of links to the right.  We’ve tried to break these down into easily navigable sections.  Our goal is to include links that are particularly helpful to our readers, not to include everything on the internet that could fit into one of those categories.  If you feel we are missing something, let us know and we’ll check it out.  Please note: including a link on these lists does not mean we necessarily agree with or endorse everything contained therein.  It’s just that we have found them to stimulate thoughtful interaction with the Bible, Church or theology.

 

Finally, you’ll notice that a number of our posts will arise from teaching in our church.  We will do our best to write in a way that those who attend different fellowships can be edified.  But we also don’t apologize for gearing what we write for those in our community.  We are unashamedly pro-local church, and see ourselves as servants to Christ’s body, specifically those with whom we have covenanted to share life.  While there is a temptation in the internet age to replace real, physical community with a virtual one, we do not want this site to encourage such behavior.  This site is meant to complement the Church, not replace it.

 

We hope you find BBG a place where you are encouraged, challenged and taught.  This is a first for us, so we welcome your feedback (just e-mail us: bostonbiblegeeks at gmail).  Thanks for stopping by; we hope you stick around!

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