Tuesday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • Ed Stetzer asks, “Are You an Interventionist Leader?” I particularly loved this quote: “God didn’t call you to babysit. God called you to lead people so that they can be on mission.” Amen to that!
  • I review Winsome Persuasion by Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer. If Christians are going to engage the public effectively on hotly contested social issues, we need to think through the kinds of issues this book so deftly examines.
  • We note a Gallup poll that indicates Americans have complex views on creation and evolution: “Although Americans disagree about the age of the earth and the role of evolution in humanity’s development, three-quarters still say God was involved.”

Please make sure to follow and like InfluenceInfluence magazine on Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes!

Advertisements

Evangelical Scientists Debate Evolution, Bible


Over at HuffPost Religion, Travis Loller writes about an interesting dialogue between Southern Baptist theologians and evangelical scientists at the BioLogos Foundation:

Many Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant Christians today see parts of the Bible such as the creation as metaphorical, but for many evangelical Christians such a belief is untenable.

Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler, a young-earth creationist, has called the attempt to reconcile evangelicals to evolution a “direct attack upon biblical authority.”

Keathley, meanwhile, calls himself an old-earth creationist who accepts that the universe is billions of years old, but also believes that God directly intervened at certain points in natural history.

In an introductory essay to the series, Keathley lays out several points where he believes Southern Baptists are at odds with the BioLogos model. Among them is whether Adam and Eve were real people who experienced a real fall from grace with God that brought sin into the world. The concept is also central to the idea that Jesus saved the world from sin through his death on the cross.

Falk and two other writers state respond that science tells us “there was never a time when the human population from which all modern humans descended was as small as two individuals.” Instead, they suggest the possibility that “God began a covenantal relationship with a real, historical first couple who brought about spiritual death as a result of their disobedience.”

Keathley also points out that for some Christians, evolution presents a problem because it implies that suffering and death have been with the world from the beginning, rather than resulting from rebellion against God.

“Young-earth creationists ask, `What does this do to the nature of God if God created the world with pain and suffering from the beginning?'” Keathley said in an interview.

Another essayist, Bill Dembski, who is a research fellow at the Discovery Institute and one of the leaders of the Intelligent Design movement, takes it a stretch further when he says, “In terms of strict logic, nothing takes you from natural selection to atheism, but, as a practical matter, many people find that Darwin makes atheism seem plausible.”

Falk and others say in their essay that the problem of evil is a challenge, but that “Scripture does not take a universally negative view of suffering and death in the present age. Rather it is recognized as being both a tragedy and a creative force.”

So far, BioLogos has published four essays and responses with three more planned. Writers on both sides say the dialogue has been useful. Keathley said the response he has heard from other Southern Baptists has been overwhelmingly positive.

You can read the essays for yourself here.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Monday, June 6, 2011


The June 2011 issue of Christianity Today includes an interesting article, “The Search for the Historical Adam,” that examines contemporary evangelical views on the historicity of Adam and Eve from scientific and theological perspectives. Here’s a link to the American Scientific Affiliation articles mentioned in CT.My own fellowship, the Assemblies of God, is wrestling with these kinds of issues, which is why I found the article so interesting. The national office is hosting a Faith & Science Conference, June 27–28, 2011, in Springfield, Missouri.

_____

Assemblies of God / Convoy of Hope relief efforts continue in Joplin, Missouri.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Relief Efforts Continue in Joplin, posted with vodpod

_____

“Republican Candidates Seek Values Vote at Faith and Freedom Conference.” I don’t like the term values voters. Everyone has values, after all. The important question is, from a political point of view, whether they have the right ones.

_____

Newsweek ponders the secret to Mormonism’s success.

_____

“Would Captain Kirk Race for the Cure?” Obviously not! That would be Dr. McCoy’s job.

_____

“Actually, that’s not in the Bible.” A nice examination of “phantom scriptures,” that is, a “scripture that sounds like it belongs in the Bible, but look closer and it’s not there.”

_____

“Jim Tressel should make us rethink sports evangelism.” As a Christian, I’m disheartened from this fall from grace. As a USC Trojan fan, I think, “It’s about time.”

_____

“‘Christian’ Colleges, the Gospel, and Identity,” Gene Fant writes:

If the word “Christ” doesn’t appear in the hiring principles, the curricula, the governance policies, or student outcomes, when how exactly is an education “Christian”?  If the words “Scripture” or “Church” likewise are absent, then I have a hard time seeing exactly what is “Christian” about the identity.  If the historical creeds are absent from any sort of voice in defining the identity, then what is “Christian” about it?

Makes sense to me.

_____

Jack “Dr. Death” Kervorkian died over the weekend. Wesley J. Smith, one of Kervorkian’s leading critics, reflects on his death here and here. He then reviews various media obituaries for Dr. Death, mostly negatively: Bloomberg, New York Times, Washington Post, and Barbara Walters on ABC News.

_____

Margaret Feinberg asks “A Question of Civility: Why We Can’t Resist the Urge to Compare someone to Adolf Hitler?” What do you mean “we,” Margaret?

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Thursday, May 12, 2011


What is the gospel? Dallas Willard’s answer: “How to get into heaven before you die.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

_____

A Leap of Truth explores the relationship between Christian theology and evolutionary theory.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

_____

Allen C. Guelzo asks, “Whither the Evangelical Colleges?” Hunter Baker replies with a thither.

_____

“Presbyterian Church to ordain gays as ministers.” The Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards, a Presbyterian minister, considers this a “moral awakening.”Mark Chaves, a sociologist of religion at Duke University, comments: “They’re making this change amid a larger cultural change. General public opinion on gay rights is trending pretty dramatically in the liberal direction.” On a (cor)related (but not necessarily caused) note, mainline church attendance is tanking. Perhaps this illustrates the truth of W. R. Inge’s comment that those who marry the spirit of the age will find themselves a widower in the next.

_____

“Catholic Church should reverse opposition to in vitro fertilization.” What’s interesting about this story is that the author, Sean Savage, and his wife, Carolyn, used IVF. Due to a lab mistake, she was implanted with the wrong embryo. Incredibly, she not only gave birth to the child but also gave the boy back to his biological parents. Sean and Carolyn tell their story in Inconceivable: A Medical Mistake, the Baby We Couldn’t Keep, and Our Choice to Deliver the Ultimate Gift.

_____

Robert H. Gundry on “The Hopelessness of the Unevangelized.”

_____

Just what we need: Yet another English translation of the Bible. And does anyone else find it odd that a graduate school—my alma mater—prefers a translation “written at the seventh or eighth grade reading level”?

_____

“Scientology in Illinois’ public schools?” Only in Springfield would L. Ron Hubbard and Bart Simpson make common cause.

_____

“Adolescents, Identity and Spirituality.” Something for parents to keep in mind:

While adolescents may question or review their spirituality, it remains a critical aspect of adolescent stability. While research on spirituality and adolescence is limited, studies of religiosity have found a positive correlation with an adolescent sense of well-being, positive life attitudes, altruism, resiliency, school success, health and positive identity, as well as a negative correlation with alcohol and drug use, delinquency, depression, excessive risk-taking and early sexual activity.

In short, as adolescents develop, they will need to confront their own spirituality and incorporate it into their sense of identity. Continuing the dialog while respecting that process and acknowledging the quest may be difficult. Yet it really remains the only option.

_____

Is Buddhist pacifism a Western myth?

_____

Over at Patheos.com, J. E. Dyer pens these words in “Social Conservatism and the Quality of Mercy”:

The moral horizon of our society has been narrowing for some time to a closed equation featuring selfish vindication and death, and it is this process that only God and His concept of mercy can reverse. If Christians are “salt and light” in the earth, as Jesus said we would be, then we cannot do better, in the project of propagating God’s mercy, than to start by absorbing its meaning ourselves.

_____

“Black Preacher: Why I forgave George Wallace”: Because George Wallace needed forgiveness? According to the Rev. Kelvin Croom, “If a lot of us would forgive people, we could find healing. We could find peace.” Another path to peace would be if a lot of us would repent of our sins against others.

_____

A little bit of philosophical theology in closing: How do we reconcile the social ought with the personal good? Thaddeus J. Kozinski answers:

The phenomenological dialectic of right and good could be resolved if we could understand what is at the heart of human moral experience; but to understand this heart, we require more than what, unaided, human moral experience and purely philosophical speculation on this experience can provide. My argument for this conclusion is thus: What the duty aspect of moral experience suggests is the reality of justice, which is inherently relational and thus irreducible to any interpretation of morality as mere personal fulfillment. What the happiness aspect of moral experience suggests is the reality of desirefor-the-good, which is inherently personal and thus irreducible to an interpretation of morality as mere social or divine obligation. So, any explanation of the moral ought must include both others-related justice and self-related desire, and this is precisely what is provided by a theological ethics of creation and gift: If we are creatures, then we are inherently relational, with any actions related, above all, to our creator; and if creation is a gift, then we are supposed to enjoy creation as a good. And if God Himself, in essence, is a relation of three persons eternally bestowing upon each other and enjoying each other’s perfect divine goodness—God giving and receiving Himself—and if humans are made in the image and likeness of this Trinitarian gift-friendship, then we have the definitive—though still inexhaustibly mysterious—archetype in which the paradoxical human experience of simultaneous goodness and oughtness can ultimately be resolved.

You might also want to check out Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality by David Baggett and Jerry L. Walls.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Monday, May 9, 2011


This year is the 400th anniversary of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. Over at ChristianityToday.com, Mark A. Noll asks, “What would it have been like if the KJV had always been only one among several competing English-language versions of the Bible?”His answer:

When the KJV became the cultural and literary standard for the entire English-speaking world, it was easier to focus on the literary excellence of the translation without stopping to face the divine imperatives and promises that are any Bible’s primary reason for existence. The pervasive cultural presence of this Bible also made it easy to exploit scriptural words, phrases, images, and allusions for their evocative power, even when those uses contradicted the Bible’s basic spiritual meaning.

Yet even soberly considered, the immense good accomplished in and through the KJV is a marvel. When the KJV became the cultural and literary standard for the entire English-speaking world, the spiritual impact of the Bible was certainly enhanced because the scriptural message was carried far and wide via an all-pervasive cultural standard. The substance of divine revelation that lay immediately beneath the words of the KJV could also exert a dramatic public impact for good, precisely because this translation so dominated the English-speaking world.

__________

Over at Patheos.com, John Fea concludes an excellent four-part series on the Civil War as a war between two “Christian nations.”

  • Part 1: “One Nation, Under God, Indivisible”
  • Part 2: “God’s Judgment Upon the South”
  • Part 3: “The Confederacy’s “Christian Nation”
  • Part 4: “A Slaveholding Nation is a Christian Nation”

Fea’s conclusion is worth keeping in mind when you hear talk about America as a “Christian nation”:

As we’ve seen over the past four columns, by 1860 there were two visions of Christian America. Many Northerners believed that the national Union was sacred because it was created and blessed by God. Many Southerners argued that the Confederate States of America was a Christian nation because the Bible’s teachings were compatible with a southern way of life.

Throughout American history there was seldom a common understanding of what it meant to be a Christian nation. The Civil War is merely one example. This is certainly something to remember whenever we get the urge to talk about America’s so-called Christian roots.

If you like what you read, check out Fea’s America as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction.

__________

C. S. Lewis on Evolution and Intelligent Design.

 __________

The Arts & Faith Top 100 Films does not include The Mission but it does include The Story of the Weeping Camel. Something’s seriously wrong with this list.

__________

Who is the devil like? David Bentley Hart offers these thoughts:

  • “the sort of person you try your best to get away from at a party”
  • “A merciless real estate developer whose largest projects are all casinos.”
  • “Donald Trump—though perhaps just a little nicer”

Ouch. And, heh.

__________

“Faith unshaken by tornado.” Well, yeah. Psalm 46:1–3.

__________

“Bin Laden’s theology a radical break with traditional Islam.” That’s both true and good to know, although Mollie Hemingway has some questions.

__________

“Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” There Be Dragons, a new film about Opus Dei founder Josemaría Escrivá, gets a good review from Cathleen Falsani Possley.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Here are ten religious posts that caught my eye today:

Lee Strobel discusses how Easter killed his faith in atheism. If you’re interested in the topic, check out N. T. Wright’s exhaustive study, The Resurrection of the Son of God, which—at 740 pages is not merely exhaustive but exhausting…to hold, anyway. Or read Michael Licona’s The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, which is 22 pages shorter.

President Obama hosted an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House, and a reporter can’t help but note a political angle (in the penultimate paragraph). Personally, I cheer the president’s statement of faith. Raspberries on his politics, though.

Did the Last Supper occur on Thursday or Wednesday? I wouldn’t mind a few New Testament scholars weighing in with their evaluations…

Walter Russell Mead on how Christian faith matters in a world where the pace and intensity of change is so unsettling.

If capital punishment is a sin, is God a sinner (Genesis 9:6)?

Edward O. Wilson and other evolutionary biologists are having a fight about the origin of altruism, specifically, whether group selection or kin selection best explains its origin. Interestingly, forty years ago, Wilson promoted kin selection as the best explanation. For me, this argument demonstrates how difficult it is to overturn scholarly consensus.

The Barna Group reports on what Americans believe about universalism and pluralism.

Historian John Fea is halfway through a four part series on “the Civil War as a battle between two ‘Christian’ nations”: Part 1 is “One Nation, Under God, Indivisible.” Part 2 is “God’s Judgment Upon the South.” Fea is author of Was American Founded as a Christian Nation? Mark Noll has an excellent book on the Civil War you might want to read if you like Fea’s series: The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.

Ben Witherington posting a chapter-by-chapter critique of Bart Ehrman’s book, Forged: Writings in the Name of God—Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are: Introduction, Chapter 1, Chapter2 , Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, and Chapters 7 and 8.  I’m reading the book too and hope to have a (much shorter) review up in the next few weeks.

James Hannam argues that science and Christianity can get on better than you think. I always thought they can get along just fine, but evidently there are some atheists who think otherwise. Hannam is author of The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution, which I’m also reading and hoping to review in the near future.