12 June 2012

June snippets

  • I really wanted to be at the Christians in Political Science conference at Gordon College last week, but was unable to make it. Fortunately one of the highlights, Miroslav Volf's lecture, was recorded and has been posted on youtube. One of the respondents, Dr. Paul Brink, is a former student of mine.

  • William T. Cavanaugh has written a very helpful article in the Harvard Divinity School Bulletin, titled, Does Religion Cause Violence? Conventional wisdom in the west today takes it for granted that religion is intrinsically divisive and that an enlightened secularism keeping religion in its proper place better contributes to the public good. But what if that's not the case after all? Cavanaugh draws attention to the reality that those most likely to charge religious believers with fomenting violence, such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, detect no inconsistency in their own willingness to excuse a (violent!) pre-emptive strike against those they view as religious fanatics. Here's Cavanaugh:
    We must conclude that there is no coherent way to isolate "religious" ideologies with a peculiar tendency toward violence from their tamer "secular" counterparts. So-called secular ideologies and institutions like nationalism and liberalism can be just as absolutist, divisive, and irrational as so-called religion. People kill for all sorts of things. An adequate approach to the problem would be resolutely empirical: under what conditions do certain beliefs and practices—jihad, the "invisible hand" of the market, the sacrificial atonement of Christ, the role of the United States as worldwide liberator—turn violent? The point is not simply that "secular" violence should be given equal attention to "religious" violence. The point is that the distinction between "secular" and "religious" violence is unhelpful, misleading, and mystifying, and should be avoided altogether.

  • Christianity Today carries an intriguing article that merits wide exposure and thoughtful discussion: Thomas E. Bergler's When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity. The youth rallies of the 1940s and '50s have remade the churches and not always for the good. As the subtitle puts it, "We're all adolescents now."
    Juvenilization happened when no one was looking. In the first stage, Christian youth leaders created youth-friendly versions of the faith in a desperate attempt to save the world. Some hoped to reform their churches by influencing the next generation. Others expected any questionable innovations to stay comfortably quarantined in youth rallies and church basements. Both groups were less concerned about long-term consequences than about immediate appeals to youth.

    In the second stage, a new American adulthood emerged that looked a lot like the old adolescence. Fewer and fewer people outgrew the adolescent Christian spiritualities they had learned in youth groups; instead, churches began to cater to them.

    This regression from adulthood to adolescence is a general phenomenon that others have remarked upon. Could the contemporary tendency to replace worship with litur-tainment be one symptom of this juvenilization of North American Christianity?

  • The standard narrative has it that religious observance is declining in the west. However, David Goodhew reports that Startling academic research shows widespread church growth in Britain. Here are some surprising statistics:
    There are 500,000 Christians in black majority churches in Britain. Sixty years ago there were hardly any. At least 5,000 new churches have been started in Britain since 1980 – and this is an undercount. The true figure is probably higher. There are one million Christians in Britain from black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities. The adult membership of the Anglican Diocese of London has risen by over 70 per cent since 1990.

    Nihilistic secularism is inherently unstable and cannot sustain a civilization over the long term. Perhaps Britons are finally discovering this for themselves.

  • Now we read of this important archaeological discovery: Ancient Bethlehem seal found; first reference to city outside Bible:
    Israeli archaeologists digging near the city of Jerusalem have discovered an ancient clay bulla, about 2,700 years old, bearing the name Bethlehem. The artifact is the only known ancient reference to the city of Jesus' birth found outside the Bible, experts said. The find shows not only that the city existed, but that it probably also had a thriving commercial trade.

  • The Hakka people of Taiwan and China finally have the complete Bible in their own language. Last sunday Dr. Paul McLean spoke at our church about his efforts to produce this treasured edition of God's word in the language of one of Taiwan's minority communities. It's an inspiring story.

    McLean's son Peter bicycled across Canada to raise money for this important project. May God use this new translation to further the advance of his kingdom amongst the Hakka people.
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