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steven m. erickson is 27 years old and lives in boston, ma. he writes code, reads books, plays music, thinks deep thoughts and enjoys life.

blog theology, technology, personal

a new smerickson.com

January 03, 2009 personal 7 comments

Welcome to the *all new* smerickson.com. It has been over 2 years since I last updated the blog. Not a whole lot has happened since then. I've still been online tumbleblogging and twittering, but I've long wanted to bring back the main hub, smerickson.com. That day has finally come. Let me show you around my new home.

homepage

The homepage is the main hub of what's going on in my life. The homepage consists of four main sections. First, the blog is the main place where I will post longer essays on my life, theology, and technology. The blog probably won't be updated as frequently, but I'm slowly trying to work my way back into a regular routine. Second, the tmblg is the place for short little snippets of interestingness that I find around the internet. These include things like quotes, links, videos and pictures. Third, on the far right is my most recent tweet. Fourth, you can see what books I am currently reading or I have recently purchased and the music that I have been listening to recently.

about

The about section of the site is there you can find out all about me. There is a short biography about me as well as some of the other work around the internet that I have built.

books

I have spent a while cataloging all of the books in my library. For now you can just view them. In the future, I hope to write a few reviews of books that have been particularly influential on me.

music

In addition to the book library, I have also published my entire audio library.

stuff

Finally, there is a link to my stuff. This is a catalog of the significant items that I use on a regular basis. Perhaps you'll find them interesting. Everything I use is highly recommended.

you

The best part about this site isn't me, but you. I'd love it if you were to interact with the different bits on the site. Feel free to leave and comment or send me an email. I'd love to hear from you. Even better would be if you were to start your own site and share some information about yourself.

So, that's about it. Welcome to the new site.

3 ways of living

April 08, 2006 theology 5 comments

The other day I took the day off of work to go and hear Tim Keller speak at Gordon Conwell. For those of you who don’t know, Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC. He is a great pastor who has a great vision for the church in the inner city. I wanted to share one of the things that he said today in his talk that I found to be most helpful.

Keller’s series at GCTS was called “Preaching to the Heart”. To better explain what that means, preaching to the heart can be contrasted with two other ways of preaching, namely preaching to the will and preaching to the emotions, both of which do not get at what Gospel preaching is all about. To illustrate the difference he examined Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthian church to give money. The way that Paul preached to the heart was by recontextualizing the Gospel in terms of the issue he was addressing. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9). Here Paul states the Gospel message in terms of wealth and poverty. If he was to preach to their will he could have appealed to his authority as an apostle and commanded them to just work up the energy to do what he said. Or if he was preaching to their emotions he could have told them about the details of the condition of the poor Israelites to get them to give. But he does neither of those things. Instead he knows that a true understanding of the Gospel is motivation enough. What is more the Gospel is not simply the motivation to give, but is itself bound up with the ability to do what God commands.

One of the ways that preachers can “preach to the heart” is by distinguishing between three ways of living. Keller noted that traditionally preaching has focused on emphasizing two ways of living – man’s way or God’s way. We can choose to live our lives according to our own rules and desires or we can submit and live for God and in his way. This dichotomy is heard regularly in many contemporary Gospel presentations. And while on the surface the identification of these two ways is true, unfortunately we live in a day when these two ways of living do not accurately correspond to the reality of what Christianity and the Gospel are all about. Instead Keller says that we must distinguish between three ways of living. In his terms these are irreligion, religion and the Gospel. In other words, living according to our own ways, living according to the external religious regulations or living according to the Gospel. Distinguishing between these three ways is important for a couple of reasons. First, it is important because non Christians don’t realize there is a difference. They already know that there is the way they are living their life and the way that they see Christians live. But they think that Christianity is all about moralism; it is all about getting everything “right”. They don’t always realize that Christianity actually has a lot to say against legalism and moralism and they need to hear Christians deconstructing it. Moreover, Christians need to hear legalism and moralism (religion) being distinguished from the Gospel because sadly, many Christians (including myself) have a tendency to fall into that trap. The main Biblical example Keller provides of this distinction is the story of the prodigal son. He says that the story of the prodigal on pretty closely reflects what he is trying to get at by distinguishing between 3 ways of living. Irreligion corresponds to the younger brother and his quest to control the father’s wealth through disobedience and rebellion. Religion corresponds to the older brother who tries to control the father’s wealth through obedience and condescension towards the younger brother. The fact is that both of them are wrong and both ways of living need to be contrasted with the Gospel. The problem is that we often spend too much time contrasting just the story of the younger brother with the Gospel and not doing the same thing with the older brother and the Gospel. Both are wrong and both need to constantly be avoided. Finally, the Gospel is not simply some happy medium between irreligion and religion; it is on a completely different plane. In mathematical terms it would be like moving from a simple two dimensional plane of x and y coordinates to a third or fourth dimension. To those stuck in a two dimensional world, the third dimension comes a something completely foreign and new. It is unlike anything they have ever experienced before.

It is this careful thinking being done by people like Tim Keller that really gets me excited. Be sure to check out the work he and his church are doing; there is much to be learned from them. You can download audio versions of a couple lectures where Keller talks about these things from the Covenant Seminary website (LINK)

Covenental Corporate Worship

March 01, 2006 theology 6 comments

My good friend Josh is doing a great series called Covenantal Corporate Worship. He does a great job of explaining the “why” and the “how” of corporate worship from the perspective of Biblical Theology. Be sure to follow the whole series, I’m sure there will be plenty of gems there. Here are some of my favorites so far:

Worship is the primary matter of the universe, and life is a battle for worship.

Talking about worship is dangerous. Indeed, the first murder in human history took place between two brothers in a disagreement over worship!

Acceptable worship, then, is Israel's faithful response to, or continued expression of, their covenantal relationship with Yahweh that he initiated.

Truth and life

February 19, 2006 theology 1 comment

Recently, I’ve been following an interesting conversation started by a post by Alan Hartung at A Different Perspective Last week he wrote a post entitled The Idolatry of Truth . In it he contends that it is possible to, and many evangelicals have, “turned intellectual truth into an idol”. He means by this that sometimes those who seem to want to know the most and study the hardest in order to rightly order the truth, do not exhibit the same amount of effort in living as a follower of Jesus. It seems like a lot of confusion has come up around this post. I think some of the confusion stems from the somewhat misleading title. The post was entitled “The Idolatry of Truth”, but through his clarifications it seems like Alan isn’t really against the concept of truth but against people holding to their version of it too tightly and seeming to care about it more than seeking to live missionally.

While I would acknowledge that there are ways in which certain wordings of truth can become more important than actually understanding them or seeking to live them out, I think that Alan’s post makes these seem more at odds than they really are. Is a focus on living missionally really in opposition to studying theology and seeking to order God’s truth? Are not these things more intimately related than Alan’s post would lead you to believe? The other day, JollyBlogger wrote a post entitled How is the emerging church post-liberal? In it he describes the battles between “conservatives” and “liberals” around the beginning of the twentieth century. One quote from that post seems to fit the controversy surrounding Alan’s post pretty well. He writes:

The core rallying cry of liberalism was that Christianity was a life not a doctrine. [J. Gresham] Machen opposed this, saying that Christianity is a life founded on a doctrine. Doctrine was the foundation of Christianity – we are saved by what we believe, and there are historical realities which must be affirmed when we say what we believe.

I think Machen is exactly right. Why must we pit living the Christian life against doctrine? Are not these things more friends than enemies? More fuel to enflame the other than water to snuff it out?

I have found Kevin J. Vanhoozer’s book The Drama of Doctrine a wonderful work which seeks to move past what he calls this “ugly ditch” I see represented in Alan’s post. Permit me to quote a somewhat lengthy section from the book which I think is relevant to the discussion:

Theology is connected to the life of the church. Doctrines arise not from speculative theories but from core practices – baptism, the Eucharist, prayer, worship – that constitute the ongoing life and identity of the church. The theory/practice distinction, together with the contrast between doctrine and life to which it gives rise, is toxic to Christian faith and to the project of faith seeking understanding. The present work seeks to move theology away from theoretical knowledge in order to reorient it toward wisdom. It is this picture of theology as wisdom that, more than anything else, enables us to traverse the ugly ditch between theory and practice. . . . Theology involves both theory (knowledge) and practice (life) for the sake of its pastoral function: assisting people to enjoy and glorify God. Perhaps the best way to overcome the theory/practice dichotomy is to let the subject matter of Christian theology determine theology’s task. Jesus Christ is the word and wisdom of God, the revealer and the redeemer: the way, the truth, and the life. Several points follow for theology from this astounding identification. First, theology must be concerned with what each of these terms represents; it must deal with truth, with ways of living, and with the meaning of life. Second, it must keep all three in mind at once. Focusing on truth to the exclusion of way and life leads to a preoccupation with theory; conversely, a preoccupation with way and life can lead to pragmatism. Christian doctrine, similarly, should serve the purpose of fostering truthful ways of living.

I could go on, but I think the above section is well suited to address both those in the emerging church who come across as trying to pit doctrine against life, as well as those who, often too quickly and sometimes rudely, dismiss some of the more positive points the movement makes while rightly rejecting that which is false. The Christian life is a hard one to live and we all need to be challenged in different areas at different times, let us try to do that Biblically and in love.

The chatroom

February 18, 2006 personal 5 comments

Head on over to the smerickson.com chatroom. There you can see if I’m around or chat with others visiting the site. It should be a fun place. Enjoy.

The chatroom

Thoughts on Genesis 1-2

February 01, 2006 theology 11 comments

In our sunday school class this semester we are focusing on Genesis 1 - 3. This past week we focused on two issues, the meaning of the word "day" and the meaning of Sabbath. This class has been on my mind the past few days, so I wanted to offer a couple of random comments on both of these topics. I'll post part 1 tonight and part 2 soon.

It seems that whenever the book of Genesis is studied the question of what the word "day" means comes up. To be honest I think that this is completely misguided and very unhelpful. First, as I read the text, there doesn't appear to be any internal indicators given in the text by Moses that let us know what he means by the word "day". Realizing this, people then go off to other places of the Bible to try and "prove" that day means 24 hrs or day means a long period of time. This to me seems pretty fruitless because you're going to easily be able to make a case for both of those definitions. Finally, I just don't think that the point of the text is to emphasize that God created the world in 7 days; regardless of how you understand the word day. The point of the text is that God created, not that he did it in a certain time period.

While we were discussing this, one of the clearest examples of what happens when one asks the wrong questions of a text was given. One well intentioned student tried to prove the point that "day" in Genesis 1-2 means a 24 day by going to Jesus' first miracle. Jesus' first miracle is when he turns water into wine and not just any wine but the best wine, which also happens to be the oldest. This student's point was that in this story we see that Jesus performed a miracle of time. He accomplished in a very short period of time what usually takes a very long period of time. Just as Jesus performed a miracle of time with the wine, so too did God work a miracle of time by creating the world in seven 24 hour days. While this is very creative, it is just completely misguided; it misunderstands the points of both stories. Just as the point of the creation narrative is not the length of days, the point of the miracle at the wedding of Cana is not that Jesus can do things in a short period of time which usually take a long period of time. I don't mean any disrespect to this student, it was just too clear an example of what happens when you ask the wrong questions of a text.

Mark Driscoll videos online

January 25, 2006 theology 0 comments

Mark Driscoll announces that they have released a number of videos of his sermons online. This is a great thing. I encourage you to watch all of them, Driscoll is a great preacher.

LINK: http://theresurgence.com/free_sermon_video_footage

My room

January 14, 2006 personal 12 comments

Here are some pictures of my room in Boston. Enjoy.

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