The World Wide (Religious) Web for Thursday, November 10, 2011


AL MOHLER TALKS SENSE: “Mohler says Penn State scandal holds lesson for Southern Baptists.”

“Sometimes Christians and indeed those in churches or Christian institutions seem to have the protective instinct that we need to find out more before going to any legal authority with that kind of suspicion,” Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said Nov. 8.

“We need to get over that reluctance,” Mohler said. “We have to leave it to the legal authorities to sort out whether or not abuse is taking place or whether there is any actual threat. When anyone reports to us the sexual abuse of a child, when anyone says that it was observed, or when any child complains of any kind of inappropriate activity, it’s not a case for the kind of investigation that we might want to launch ourselves.

“This is a case for calling in the authorities, because after all, this is not just about determining what is taking place in any event or accusation but what is the credible threat that even now if we delay, similar children might be put in similar danger.”

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THE SCIENCE & RELIGION DEBATE: “Religion answers the factual questions science neglects.”

Claims that the cosmos is created do not “trespass onto” scientific territory. They are factual claims in which scientific investigators are not, as such, interested. Scientific facts are, of course, relevant to many religious claims. But not all facts are scientific facts – the claim that I was in Oxford last night, unseen by anyone, will occur in no scientific paper, but it is a hard fact. So it is with the miracles of Jesus, with the creation of the cosmos and with its end. The interesting question is not whether religion is compatible with science, but whether there are important factual questions – and some important non-factual questions, too, such as moral ones – with which the physical sciences do not usually deal. The answer seems pretty obvious, without trying to manufacture sharp and artificial distinctions between “hows” and “whys”.

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EVANGELICAL LEFT WATCH: “Homosexuality, Democrats, & War—My Interview with Tony Campolo.”

If you talk to young people on these divisive issues [abortion, gay marriage], they say, it’s not that we’ve changed our minds but that they’re not as important to us anymore. George Santayana once said, ‘on such concerns, we do not reject; we simply bid them a fond farewell.’ So, as to the broadening of the evangelical agenda, there has been a shift. What appeals to young people is a call to do something heroic with their lives— they respond to our challenge when we say to them, “Through you Christ wants to help the poor, save the environment, end war, end oppression, bring justice.”

Are helping the poor, saving the environment, ending the war, etc. less divisive than abortion and gay marriage? I think not.

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SIMPLE-MINDED RELIGIOUS POLITICS: “Did God Really Tell Michele Bachmann to *Increase* Federal Spending?”

There is a strong, inverse relationship between tornado and earthquake deaths and federal spending. The more the government spends, the fewer people are killed in tornadoes and earthquakes.

Now, I would interpret this relationship as reflecting people responding more effectively to natural disasters. Government regulations result in safer housing; weather forecasting gives increased response time; medical technology gives better treatment to the injured; and so on.  All of these are supported, in part, by federal spending.

From Bachmann’s perspective, this empirical relationship would have to mean that  God wants more Federal spending, not less. While federal spending has increased four-fold in the last 60 years, deaths from tornadoes and earthquakes have dropped three-fold.  God must be very, very pleased with all this federal spending.

The moral of this story: Simple-minded insertions of religion into politics often don’t work out too well.

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JFK & CIVIL RELIGION: “Civil Religion in America Then and Now.”

Reflecting on the larger implications of this speech with regards to current debates about religion and politics, it is worth noting that if a specific form of religion sometimes appears in political events, civil religion also does. And I think we are a better nation, a nation more true to its character, if both specific forms of religion as well as civil religion have a place in important public events. Our nation was founded on constitutional guarantee of of religious freedom, and even if referring to one’s religion or to civil religion in a public speech may turn some people off, it is neither a new phenomenon nor is it unconstitutional. To ignore the history of any particular religion or civil religion in the U.S. at important moments presidential inaugurations would certainly offend other people. Even if we somehow muffled all references to God or civil religion in political speeches, wouldn’t we lose the ability to have our leaders reflect on the larger meanings of our nation, the world and humanity?

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POLITICAL HELP FROM THE EARLY 2ND CENTURY: “For ‘the Didache’ Voters’ Guide.” I think the author of this posts dates the Didache too early by three or four decades at least, but nonetheless…

Sounds like a good idea to me. And avoiding those who follow these precepts has the added benefit of freeing up my time for more profitable endeavors, such as the ones recommended in the Way of Life.  It also is pretty short, and can easily be compared to any sample ballot that I need to consult with when I’m at the polls.

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THE GROWTH OF GOVERNMENT: “Dependency and Democracy.”

The original justification for the modern welfare state was that it would be a “safety net”—an exception to the rules of normal economic ebb and flow, designed to lift up those who, through some oversight, had “slipped through the cracks.” But we now find ourselves in a situation where the exception is becoming the norm; where the government providing emergency relief is turning into the government simply providing.

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MORE, NOT LESS: “A Fresh Call for U.S. Missionaries.”

The key question is, how can the vast resources of Western Christianity on the one hand, and the vitality and dynamism of non-Western Christianity on the other, become a powerful synergistic whole for world evangelization? As we ponder the possibility that the 21st century may indeed be, in the words of Pope John Paul II, the “great century” for the advance of the gospel, this may well be the most important and urgent issue on the global missions agenda today.

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MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: “‘Tebowing’ prayer stirs debate, but quarterback is OK with it.”

What do you think? Are people being disrespectful of religion by Tebowing? Was Tebow asking for it?

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