The World Wide Religious Web for Tuesday, January 24, 2012

OPTIMISM & HOPE ARE DIFFERENT CREATURES: Disability: A Thread for Weaving Joy.

The great French Jesuit Henri de Lubac once wrote, “Suffering is the thread from which the stuff of joy is woven. Never will the optimist know joy.” Those seem like strange words, especially for Americans. We Americans take progress as an article of faith. And faith in progress demands a spirit of optimism.

But Father de Lubac knew that optimism and hope are very different creatures. In real life, bad things happen. Progress is not assured, and things that claim to be “progress” can sometimes be wicked and murderous instead. We can slip backward as a nation just as easily as we can advance. This is why optimism—and all the political slogans that go with it—are so often a cheat. Real hope and real joy are precious. They have a price. They emerge from the experience of suffering, which is made noble and given meaning by faith in a loving God.

STATISM AS RELIGION: Secular Theocracy: The Foundations and Folly of Modern Tyranny, Part 1.

The point is this: the rise of the modern state was in no way the solution to the violence of religion. On the contrary, the absorption of church into state that began well before the Reformation was crucial to the rise of the state and the wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

FROM DOMINION TO DEMISE: For the religious right, faith without works.

The movement of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson has been in decline for some time, but recent events suggest that they are wandering in the political wilderness.

Just last year, the Left was portraying religious-right “Dominionists” as an imminent threat to American democracy. Now it’s saying they’re nothing to worry about. If the Dominionism bubble burst so quickly, was it ever really a threat in the first place? Or just a bunch of hype from the usual suspects?

GROSS, GOD, OR GIFT: Why Christians are criticizing my Christian marriage and sex book.

God has a plan for sex: that it is to be enjoyed between one man and one woman in the context of marriage. This means that there are certain types of sex acts that abuse and misuse the good gift of sex that God gave, and that we are to honor God with our bodies by living our sexual lives in a way that glorifies him and honors the scriptures.

In our book, we blow up some common misconceptions about sex (like that the Bible prohibits stripteases or oral sex). We help people understand that it’s God’s intent that we steward and enjoy the gift of sex, like every gift he gives, in such a way that is glorious to him, good for our marriages and a lot of fun.

CAN WE SEE OBAMA AND GINRICH’S TITHE RECORDS TOO? Tax records show Romney donates millions to Mormon church.

“This is a country that believes in the Bible,” Romney said. “The Bible speaks about providing tithes and offerings. I made a commitment to my church a long, long time ago that I’d give 10 percent of my income to the church. And I’ve followed through on that commitment.”

BELIEVING SIX IMPOSSIBLE THINGS BEFORE BREAKFAST: Strong meat, not milk: Are some things impossible to believe?

Given all that Hodge says about this subject, I can only conclude that if someone asked him “If it were revealed to you in a way you could not doubt that God does what is morally wrong would you still worship him?” he would reply that he would not because then, by dint of sheer intuition (as he means it), that would not be God. In other words, it’s an impossible hypothetical situation. The only difference between him and me is that, somehow, in a way I cannot grasp, he didn’t think “doing, approving or commanding what is morally wrong” includes what Calvinism says God does. I think he contradicted himself because it is intuitively true that “morally wrong” includes what Calvinism says God does (whether Calvinists grasp that or not). But he was no less “judging God’s morality” than I am. Neither of us is. We are simply explaining what it is possible and impossible to believe.

FAKE, BUT ACCURATE? Why Women Leave the Church—and Come Back Again.

On a foundational level, the vision of Henderson’s book is important. As Henderson notes, the topic of gender and the church is rarely marked by genuine listening. Opposing parties tend to approach the debate with preformed conclusions and generalizations, which produces little in the way of progress. A book in which women’s stories are allowed to “speak for themselves” (xix) is a welcome change.
It should here be noted that the Barna study, which Henderson cites at the outset, has been contested. After its publication, The Wall Street Journal ran a response from Rodney Stark and Byron Johnson in which both scholars discredited the study’s findings. They concluded that “across 38 years, there have been only small variations in church attendance, and Barna’s reported 11 percentage-point decline in women’s church attendance (to 44% from 55%) simply didn’t happen.”
Whether or not Barna’s findings are legitimate, the church is still called to reach the millions of lost women in this world. It is therefore incumbent upon Christians to listen to the voices of women inside and outside the church if we are to make disciples and retain them.

HAPPY (BELATED) RADICAL REFORMATION DAY! Why W Celbrate Radical Reformation Day.

Radical Reformation Day? Absolutely! But isn’t Reformation Day enough? Absolutely not! While Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary continues to celebrate the biblical progress made during the Protestant Reformation with Reformation Day on Oct. 31, we are compelled to honor the recovery of New Testament Christianity with Radical Reformation Day on Jan. 21. On this day in 1525, after an extended period of intense Bible study in the original languages, a period described by an early chronicler as an “extraordinary awakening and preparation by God,” [1] the first Anabaptists or “Brothers,” as they called themselves, recovered the New Testament practice of baptizing only believers.

LOVER IN A DANGEROUS TIME: Interview: Bruce Cockburn.

Cockburn says when he first became a Christian in the early 1970s, “it was unfamiliar territory. I listened a lot to people who claimed to know a lot about it which—the people on TV and the fundamentalist types who were quick to tell you they know all the answers. After a while, it was very clear that they were deluding themselves. At least I wasn’t cut out to have that kind of approach to things.

“To me, everything in life is a process. There is no stopping point; you never land. If you think you’ve landed somewhere, watch out, because God or whoever is gonna pull the rug out from under you, and you are going to have to start thinking again, trying to understand how you fit into things.”

Cockburn says he doesn’t care whether people believe he’s a Christian or not.

“What’s important is recognition that there is a spiritual side of life, and that needs to be paid attention to,” he says. “There’s a real distinction between materialism and a sense of the cosmos being a deeper place than that. If it’s a deeper place, then what does that ask from us? I don’t know the answer. I’m still working on it, and that is perhaps why people are willing to listen to the stuff I put into songs.”

NOT A GOOD IDEA: Westboro Baptist Church Plans To Protest Joe Paterno’s Funeral. If memory serves, Nitney Lions fans rioted when Penn State fired Paterno. I can’t imagine they’re going to cotton to a bunch of fundamentalist cranks protesting his funeral.


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