Are the life and teachings of Jesus a proper focus for the development of a Christian ethic, and could such an ethic fit into the framework of the rest of the New Testament? In The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder answers with a circumspective but enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ Yoder sets out to show why Jesus was of direct significance for social ethics, and why we should consider Jesus normative (POJ, 11).
Specifically, Yoder argues for a “messianic ethic” of non-violence from the New Testament – first, by interpreting Jesus’ ministry in the context of the “Jubilee Year” principle that pervaded Jesus’ teachings and self-understanding, and second, by addressing the challenges that orthodox theology surrounding Pauline writings poses to such a stance. Lastly, Yoder rounds out his apology with a discussion of John’s apocalyptic visions, and how they too might be understood within the non-violent ethic.
1. Machen employs a cool, evaluative, intellectual, dialectic approach
My first observation is that I love the cool intellectual style of the book – this is no mere name-calling polemic, this is an attempt at a logical explanation of the differences between orthodox, biblical Christianity and the more liberal form it can take.
The purpose of this book is not to decide the religious issue of the present day, but merely to present the issue as sharply and clearly as possible, in order that the reader may be aided in deciding it for himself.Read more at location …. Clear-cut definition of terms in religious matters, bold facing of the logical implications of religious views, is by many persons regarded as an impious proceeding.
One of the more informative podcasts I listen to regularly is Issues Etc. Recently, they interviewed Joel Heck, who’s written a very inexpensive book entitled In the Beginning, God: Creation from God’s Perspective, which examines the questions surrounding the historicity and interpretation of Genesis.
I was impressed with his answers, and learned some new reasons why Genesis should be interpreted as history, not metaphor, and that Chapter 2 should be seen, not as a recapitulation, but as a detailed examination of the 6th day (the creation of man). His explanation of why the verbs in Chapter 2 should be interpreted as past tense (God “had planted”, not God “planted”) easily clears up the ‘problems’ with chronologies. Download the mp3 here.
With the upcoming Sesquicentennial (150 years) of the Civil War, a lot of discussion is occurring around racism in America, as well as the role of religion and politics in the making and unmaking of slavery and racism in America.
Here’s two really good resources, both podcasts.
First, in Evangelical Fervor and the Crisis of the Civil War: A Conversation with Historian David Goldfield, Albert Mohler interviews historian and award winning author David Goldfield on his new book America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation.
A recent book by E. Calvin Beisner entitled Where Garden Meets Wilderness: Evangelical Entry into the Environmental Debate gave me the idea for this post (you can hear Beisner talk on the environment here and here).
There are at least three possible views when it comes to how we view environmentalism – the leftist ‘Wilderness’ view, the rightist ‘Wasteland’ view, and the more balanced ‘Garden’ view. The extremes are lack of concern for the environment, or virtual worship of the environment, while the Garden view is one possibility between the extremes. Which camp do you lean towards?
NARTH has a nice reprint of an original article from The Catholic Standard & Times which discusses the roots of homosexuality. The author, Dr. Richard Fiztgibbons, contributed to the Catholic booklet on this issue called Homosexuality and Hope.
The main section titles are:
- Weak Masculine/Feminine Identity
- Distrust of Men/Women
- Gender Identity Disorder
- Narcissism and Profound Selfishness
- Dysfunctional Family Life
Many evangelicals have joined the chorus in support of reducing greenhouse emissions, but I am still on the fence about global warming. Like Bill O’Reilly, think we should get off of fossil fuels for both environmental and economic/political reasons, but I have not bought into the Global Warming Panic (GWP).
As Aaron recently noted, this past year’s hurricane season failed to meet the dire predictions of the GWP lobby – and while that may be too small a sample to be conclusive, it does show the speculative nature of the whole apocalyptic approach of the GWPers.
We’ve argued whether or not GW is a threat, or a hoax perpetrated by misinformed environmentalists. But there’s one more unusual perspective – that global warming, whether man-made or not, will be the worldwide catastrophe that unites the world in one cause, and under one world leader – the antichrist.
Leon Kass, former chair of the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2002-2005, has a nice lecture on the University Channel Podcast. He is also the author of many books, including Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics.
We are largely unaware that we have, as a society, already embraced the eugenic principle, “defectives shall not be born.” Because our practices are decentralized, and because they operate not by coercion, but by private reproductive choice.
Was doing some reading today, and came across the word “assertoric,” which forced me to the dictionary. As it turns out, it is a word typically used in philosophy, and I found the definition below. What is notable about it is not just the interesting three types of arguments, but the fact that they were written by the now infamous Anthony Flew, the great atheist philosopher who recently decided that he had to be an agnostic based on his appraisal of the philosophical arguments, and wrote about it in There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.
An assertoric proposition in Aristotelian logic merely asserts that something is (or is not) the case, in contrast to problematic propositions which assert the possibility of something being true, or apodeictic propositions which assert things which are necessarily or self-evidently true or false. For instance, “Chicago is larger than Omaha” is assertoric. “A corporation could be wealthier than a country” is problematic. “Two plus two equals four” is apodeictic.
~ Flew, Anthony. A Dictionary of Philosophy – Revised Second Edition St. Martin’s Press, NY, 1979
The more I ready about incidents like that of the Nigerian teacher whose home was burned to the ground for disciplining a Muslim student, or any of the other ways that "radical" Islam is trying to intimidate the free world, the more I keep asking myself, what would I do if they were coming for me?
I’ll tell you what I would not do – I would not let myself be slaughtered like a sheep. I keep thinking of the movie The Mission, where Jeremy Irons and Robert Deniro play two Jesuits who have to choose to fight or passively resist – tough choice – it shows the value of both positions (and I think both are valuable and "right.")
I am excited to have just discovered Dr. Peter Hammond, "the Founder and Director of Frontline Fellowship and the Founder and Chairman of Africa Christian Action. Over the last 21 years, Peter has been dedicated to assisting persecuted Christians and to working for Reformation and revival in Africa." His work in Sudan in confronting Muslim aggression has earned him death threats, and this latest article, The Challenge of Islam According to the Reformers, won’t make him any Muslim friends. Below, I discuss the article, but check out his other books, which include Slavery, Terrorism & Islam, Biblical Democracy, and Character Assassins, which looks really interesting.
In response to the recent spate of in-depth pro-gay theology comments, I have been reading and researching, and came across this debate between Christian exegete James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries and liberal activist Barry Lynn, an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ. Their debate covers many of the scriptures and contextual questions discussed, and I thought it pertinent. However, it does not address all of the arguments at hand, but merely a good number of them. I have excerpted the arguments against homosexuality by James White below. White has also penned a book entitled The Same Sex Controversy: Defending and Clarifying the Bible’s Message About Homosexuality.
One of the great and tragic myths of our time is the materialist view that faith hinders science, and has largely opposed it in the past. AIG has a nice review of For The Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the End of Slavery by Rodney Stark, which addresses the revisionist history of science and faith, and how faith, and specifically the Christian faith, is responsible for the science we see today. And here are some quotes, with my headings inserted in bold brown (bold red is my emphasis on their text):
The Story We’ve All Been Told
Even children know that in 1492 Christopher Columbus proved the world is round. They also know that he … [faced] years of opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, which ridiculed all dissent from the biblical teaching that the world is flat. … Andrew Dickson White, founder and first president of Cornell University, and author of the most influential book ever written on the conflict between science and theology, offered this summary:
“… Columbus’ voyage greatly strengthened the theory of the earth’s sphericity [yet] the Church … stumbled and persisted in going astray
… But in 1519 science gains a crushing victory. Magellan makes his famous voyage. He proves the earth to be round, for his expedition circumnavigates it … yet even this does not end the war. Many [religious] men oppose the doctrine for two hundred years longer.”
John Calvin coined the phrase Sensus Divinitatis (Sense of the Divine) to describe the innate sense and awareness of God that all humans possess, as well as the ‘organ’ of awakening acted on by the Holy Spirit in awakening us to salvation.
William Lane Craig, the eminent Christian philosopher and apologist refers to this in his arguments for the existence of God, calling it “the self-authenticating witness of God’s Holy Spirit” – that is, that God can be “immediately known and experienced.”
Of course, such claims irritate anti-theists because such subjective experiences defy reasonable inspection or discussion, and the fact that the typical born-again process itself seems to lead with experience rather than intellect frustrates them even more. (See Are you a Christian because of your experiences, or because of logic?) Read more
Here’s my list of resources for those interested in the history of religion and science, both pro and anti-religious.
Stark argues that faith in God encouraged Christians to invent science. Having read other books making the same claim, I think Stark’s approach to this question is one of the best. Not only does he go over the development of technology in the so-called “Dark Ages,” and show how the “Enlightenment” picture of Copernican era science is a myth, he studies 52 key early scientists, and shows that more than 60 % were “devout,” while only 2 were skeptics. The critic below who asks why Christianity did not produce science in Russia did not read attentively: Stark argues that faith in God was a necessary, but not sufficient, cause of the rise of science. Other factors were also involved. ~ From this excellent review
I wrote this essay back in 2001 during my period of away from Christianity, while I was exploring Vipassana Buddhist Meditation.
Although it has been a few weeks since I did the 10 day course, it is still worthwhile to try and remember. In retrospect, I find Vipassana a premium tool for self-knowledge and control, though not comprehensive as a spiritual/emotional tool for healing and growth. In addition to yoga, devotional study, and prayer, it fills out (almost) a complete set of inner spiritual disciplines (don’t forget the outer ones of service, etc.)
A good friend of mine has wandered full force into the positive thinking, humanistic, Dale Carnegie type of success training that is popular in professional circles these days. Now, I don’t necessarily disparage it, and there is a lot of good stuff to learn. But sometimes, the overly simplistic, boiled down talking points lack sophistication, and give an unbalanced idea of what is good and bad.
Case in point? Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 10 Powerful Tools for Life and Work, which lists the characteristics of Judgers (bad) vs. Learners (good). Now granted, I only skimmed the book, but the charts below reveal what I think is our culture’s buy-in into subjectivism, and our rejection of any objective morals or truths.
I just discovered (via the Secular Nation podcast, one of the many atheist/anti-theist/secularist podcasts I follow) Margaret Downey's answer to the Christmas Tree, the Tree of Knowledge – that is, an atheists' substitute for the religious celebration of Christ.
Downey has a long reading list that represents perhaps the best (?) that skeptics of faith have to offer. I have reproduced the list below.
Downey is a true despiser of religion – she even hates when people exclaim "Oh God!" but you can bet she's not concerned about taking God's name in vain.
One of the most annoying voices on conservative talk radio is Mark Levin, author of the bestselling Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto. However, it's all I've got some days, and once in a while, he has an interesting guest rather than the lowbrow callers that frequent the more rant-ridden types of shows.
Today, he had Norman Podhoretz, author of the controversial new book Why Are Jews Liberals?
You can listen to the 10 minute interview I've excerpted from the Levin archive. But the main interesting points I got from the interview were:
- In the mid 19th century, it was liberalism that defended Judaism from the threats of fascism.
- In 1967, a great shift occurred in American politics. The left became increasingly anti-Zionist to the point of being anti-Semitic, while the right, esp. the Christian right, began seriously taking up the cause of Israel.
- However, Jews did not become conservative because
(a) Converting or turning to conservatism in Jewish culture is as objectionable as converting to Christianity, and most Jews abhor both.
(b) Liberalism has replaced the values of the Torah for most Jews – where the two disagree, most Jews now side with liberalism and NOT the Torah. That is, liberalism is now the predominant religious stance of most Jews.
There's much more great content in the interview, including Jews' support for Obama. Enjoy.
Atheists and secularists are fond of quoting the articulate Thomas Paine, author of the free-thinkers creed Age of Reason. Few know, however, that a founding father wrote a rebuttal in 1801, which American Vision has reprinted. Elias Boudinot’s book The Age of Revelation was seen as a powerful rebuttal. And now you can read it too. Below is the blurb about the book from American Vision.
How many times have you heard some skeptic claim that this or that non-Christian was a Founding Father of America? Thomas Jefferson is one of their patron saints, and yet he wasn’t even present during the drafting of the Constitution. Of course, Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence which states emphatically that God is the Creator and the Judge of the world. The ACLU plays down these words. Benjamin Franklin is another one skeptics love to trot out as an anti-religious Founding Father. But it was Franklin who stood up at the Constitutional Convention and quoted Psalm 127:1 as a warning to the delegates:
‘Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.’
Not much is said about these remarks by Franklin.