HAPPY REFORMATION DAY! “Abandon the Reformation, Abandon the Gospel.”
While many other challenges to Reformation theology could be identified, these two examples sufficiently demonstrate that Reformation theology continues to be at the center of discussion. Many younger evangelicals are embracing Reformation theology today. But the challenge we will face lies in how to defend Reformation theology to light of new ideologies that seek to undermine its credibility. I believe that the linchpin in the effort to defend and apply Reformation theology today can be found in the simple truth made so clear by Luther himself—namely, that the gospel itself is at stake, just as it was in the 16th century. To abandon Reformation theology is to abandon the gospel.
Make sure to read Martin Luther’s 95 Theses sometime today. On this day in 1517, Luther nailed the theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, setting off a chain of events that (unwittingly) led to the Protestant Reformation.
FACTS WITHOUT VALUES? “Why Christians Need a Secular World.”
To be secular is to be “non-religious” not “anti-religious.” Science requires the acknowledgment of simple facts without regard for their “value” in supporting any grand system. The separation of fact and value is what has empowered the great engine of knowledge-creation we call science. It is another of the important changes wrought by science as it matured. We must be able to pursue simple facts about the world — the mass of the proton, the mechanism of cell division, the age of the earth, the origin of life, the relationship between humans and other life — without an a priori assumption that these facts will necessarily support any particular religious worldview.
I see no reason why a religious believer should regard a simple fact as somehow hostile, just because it is a so-called secular claim. The discussion of the planetary status of Pluto, or the veracity of recent claims that neutrinos are exceeding the speed of light are secular discussions, with no obvious religious significance — and certainly no anti-religious aspect.
This is what secular should mean to religious believers: finding facts without worrying about how they fit into their value system. Such facts can then be analyzed to see whether or not they support a religious worldview but as simple facts they should not be perceived as threatening.
DAWKINS, “JESUS WOULD’VE BEEN AN ATHEIST”: “A little quiz for Richard Dawkins, super-duper Scripture scholar.”
Now, there is no doubt that Jesus interpreted and understood the Law and the Prophets in ways that were viewed as radical or unsettling by his first-century Jewish audiences. But—and this is crucial—it wasn’t because he “publicly advocated niceness” or rebelled against the “Ayatollah-like God of Abraham and Isaac”; on the contrary, he said, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them” (Matt. 5:17), and he also made the startling claim, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am”, thus claiming divinity and aligning himself fully with the afore-mentioned “Ayatollah-like God of Abraham and Isaac”.
The key point is this: the radical and startling nature of Jesus’ statements about the Law and Prophets is rooted in his clear claim to be the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, his insistence that he was the definitive and final interpreter of the same; and his belief, in sum, that he was, in his very person, the New Law and the final and great Prophet promised by Moses. In other words, the “interesting and remarkable about Jesus” was not that he rebelled against aspects or characteristics of Yahweh (since he didn’t), but that he claimed to be one with Yahweh, who he addressed as “Abba”: “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:30)…
THE IMPORTANCE OF DEFINING TERMS: “Debate: Is Social Justice Essential to Church’s Mission?”
Although the debate never really turned into a heated exchange, the discussion also became an exercise in attempting to define the Gospel and its relation to social justice.
I HOPE NOT! “Are Christians Losing Their Generosity?”
Tithing to churches has reached its lowest level in at least 41 years — and of the smaller amount churches are receiving, a smaller proportion of church funds is serving the needy outside the congregation. These are two of the findings from an analysis of church tithing and giving patterns from 1968 to 2009 by Empty Tomb, Inc.
The study focused on mainline denominations but also included some evangelical Protestant bodies.
FREE SPEECH FOR ME, BUT NOT FOR THEE? “The Westboro Problem: Free Speech, Public Decency, and Constitutional Doctrine.”
This modern approach to freedom of speech makes it almost impossible for our society to maintain a decent standard of public discourse and public conduct. Laws seeking to enforce such a standard must now face the Supreme Court’s rejection of presumed constitutionality. They approach the bar as constitutionally guilty until proven innocent, so to speak. Moreover, the substance of the modern speech tests tends to disfavor the very idea that society has any interest in protecting the moral quality of its public discourse. Civilized societies—even societies that must be regarded as free by any reasonable historical standard—always have recognized that some forms of expression are harmful to individuals and to the common good. Yet the Court’s modern approaches—preoccupied with clear and present dangers, or imminent lawless actions—deny such moral common sense, insisting instead that speech may only be regulated when it threatens some other harm beyond itself.
EXODUS, EXILE, EXPECTATION: “A New Kind of Urban Ministry.”
Is there a biblical model, then, that describes better the situations of churches and Christians in cities today—that retains the valuable features of Exodus and Exile while accounting for our responsibility for our communities? Yes, and it is rooted in the 50 days that make us Christians—from Resurrection, through Ascension, to Pentecost. This story redefines our relationship not just to God but to our world. It is a story summed up in one word, Expectation, that keeps us rooted in and responsible for the flourishing of the world precisely because we have a hope outside of history in the usual sense.
MY SMOKIN’ HOT WIFE: “Beauty and the Beast.”
It’s fair to say that—for all our pious jabbering about being attuned to other, “higher” criteria for our spouses—Christians really don’t contest the top priority many give to comparative physical attractiveness. Christians and non-Christians alike tend to marry at or near “their level” of attraction, neither scoring someone “out of their league” nor dipping too far down into the barrel. It’s a very human thing, and a permanent trait in the marriage market. Don’t feel you have to apologize for it. But nor should you deny that it’s true.
My discussion of marital mentalities in Premarital Sex in America hints that Norval was onto something. In Chapter 6, I explore not only who marries young, but who divorces young, and why. Wouldn’t you know it—physical attractiveness plays a part. Attractive mates are the most apt to wonder whether they “settled” too easily and too early, especially given their own (presumed) recognition of their continued elevated value in the wider mating market. Thus, predictably, more beauties than beasts opt out of marriage and back into the pool. Although only 9 percent of young-adult men in the sample reported being divorced (by age 24), 19 percent of the most attractive men—rated as such by themselves and the interviewer—were divorced. The same pattern is present but weaker among women, which makes sense: as I’ve stated elsewhere, women are in a structurally weaker position in today’s mating market, and comparative physical attractiveness is typically not quite as big a deal to women as to men. I talk about why that is in Chapter 3 of Premarital Sex in America. (Tune into this blog long enough, and you’re sure to hear more about sexual economics.)
The Church of England is threatening to use its financial power to stem the tide of internet pornography.
It is considering withdrawing the millions it has invested in Internet Service Providers (ISPs) unless they take action.
Concern over the easy availability of vile images which demean women and corrupt the young has intensified following the disclosure that Jo Yeates’s killer Vincent Tabak was obsessed with websites showing sexual violence, bondage and strangulation.
TULIP ALERT: “The Calvinist Infiltrators.”
On October 19, a high-ranking official in the Southern Baptist Convention named resurgent Calvinism as the “top challenge” facing the congregation for the foreseeable future—quite a statement, especially when considering what an outside observer might imagine to be the usual suspects (social issues, religious liberty, or theological disagreements with other faiths). Yet, though this internal rift began quietly, it has been the subject of a number of recent books, including the new pair “For Calvinism” and “Against Calvinism”, written by Michael Horton and Roger E. Olson, respectively. The proliferation of introductory primers like these seem to testify to the growing awareness of this debate, and the effort to get older-style evangelical leaders to ‘wake up’ to this ‘threat’ seems to be shifting into a higher gear.
Speaking of Against Calvinism, make sure to watch my interview of Roger Olson about that book:Vodpod videos no longer available.