The World Wide (Religious) Web for Tuesday, November 8, 2011


GOOD QUESTION: “Megachurches: When Will the Bubble Burst?”

Am I predicting the demise of the megachurch movement? By no means. I think these large churches will continue, and we cannot lump all megachurches into the same category. Not all megas were started in 1980 by a baby-boomer in a growing white suburb. And many will navigate into the future with wisdom and skill.

But the cultural and demographic conditions that have fueled much of the megachurch movement, multiplication and growth are changing. And whenever a new movement tries to leap from one generation to the next there are some who don’t clear the gap.

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READ THE WHOLE THING: “Being Human in an Age of Unbelief.”

Part of a good education is learning the skill of appropriate skepticism. And that skepticism, that healthy wariness, should apply even to the methods and claims of science and technology. When a distinguished and thoroughly secular scholar like Neil Postman writes that “the uncontrolled growth of technology destroys the vital sources of our humanity. It creates a culture without a moral foundation. It undermines certain mental processes and social relations that make human life worth living” —then we need to be concerned.

There’s a proverb worth remembering here: “To a man with a hammer, every problem is a nail.” If modern man is scientific man, technology is his hammer. But every problem isn’t a nail. Knowledge without the virtues of wisdom, prudence, and, above all, humility to guide it is not just unhelpful. It’s dangerous. Goethe’s poem, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice—which some of us probably know from the Mickey Mouse cartoon based on it—sticks in our memories for a reason. We’re never as smart as we think we are, and we have a bad track record when it comes to preventing the worst uses of our own best discoveries.

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PIETY AND POLICY: “God: The Shakedown Artist For The Welfare State?”

Does God really insist that no program ever be eliminated and no expenditure ever be reduced if one poor person somewhere benefits?  Perhaps that is the long lost 11th Commandment.  Detailed in the long lost book of Hezekiah.

The budget does have moral as well as practical implications.  However, as Ryan Messmore of the Heritage Foundation observed, “The budget is indeed a moral document, but it is also a morally complex document.”  The fact that one is poor does not entitle one to any specific form or level of government benefits.

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GOOD FOR THEM! “The Islamic Case for Religious Liberty.”

The words of the Qur’an and hadith contain rich resources for supporting the democratic order. If Muslims are to embrace modernity, including life in a pluralistic, democratic society, without abandoning their faith, they must take up the argument for religious liberty that is embedded in their history and that stands at the center of their most sacred texts.

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FELICITOUS INCONSISTENCY: “And now…kudos to J. I. Packer for this brilliant article.”

This is a magnificent article decrying what Packer calls “mystification” of the doctrine of God.  He calls for a cautious “retooling” of traditional Christian theism insofar as traditional theism (Augustine, Aquinas, et al.) has tended to downplay the personal aspects of God’s being.  But he warns that any such retooling must purge “elements of mystification” from the doctrine of God.  “By ‘mystification’ I mean the idea that some biblical statements about God mislead as they stand and ought to be explained away.  A problem arises from a recurring tendency in orthodox theism to press the legitimate distinction between what God is in himself and what Scripture says about his relation to us.”

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SHOULD? WELL, KIND OF… “Why pastors should plagiarize their sermons.”

Pastors almost seem to feel guilty about using the ideas of others–as if somehow they are avoiding their pastoral responsibility.  To the contrary, I think that they would both give better sermons and have more time and energy for the many other responsibilities of pastoring if they more frequently summarized and illustrated the ideas of others for their sermons.

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YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION? “Sexual Revoltuion 2.0.”

In short: Sexual Revolution 2.0 must be rooted in the truth of persons and not the cravings of mammalian brains. It must be about love and the ways that love must always reach beyond the self, even beyond the other, to the goods of friendship, lifelong bonding, and children.

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FREE GRACE, NOT CHEAP GRACE: “Stones and Tweets and Kim Kardashian.”

I have a responsibility as an ambassador of Christ to issue grace freely. I don’t mean a cheap grace that ignores sin. I mean a grace that doesn’t hurl judgment at those who struggle. I—we all—need to think twice about who we tear down for our own entertainment, and even more specifically, who we tweet, Facebook, speak, or skywrite about for humor’s sake.

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