This week our friends at Patheos are hosting a symposium on the future of evangelicalism. There are a number of noteworthy contributors—Mark Noll, Marvin Olasky , Andy Crouch, William Lane Craig, Rodney Stark—and a few of lesser interest (namely, me). Along with my submission (“Our Unevenly Distributed Future“), you can find essays by our Evangel bloggers Matthew Anderson (“New Life in Ancient Sources“), and Justin Taylor (“The Evangelical Reformed Movement: A Comeback“).
Timothy George, Evangelical leader and member of the First Things board, shares his favorite five biographies of theologians.
Joseph Kanon, spy novelist, explains how he chooses his subjects.
The Anchoress gives a Rosary meditation for job-seekers.
David Klinghoffer discusses the move from neo-cons to crazy-cons.
Fifteen Anglican bishops explain that they cannot accept the CofE’s latest innovation.
The Prince of Wales declares that he has been born to save the planet and the whole of humanity.
A Harvard professor points to the benefits of adult stem cells.
A senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute explains how little social science can actually tell us about the human condition.
England’s Conservative-led government supports, as part of advancing the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, the provision of ”safe” abortions.
In 2008, we rescued the banks. It 2009, we pledged $900 billion to rescue the rest of the economy. Last month, we extended jobless benefits to 99 weeks to rescue the unemployed. Call it bailouts. Call it stimulus. Call it emergency aid. America seems to be losing its stomach for failure, and that’s very bad news if we have any hope for a robust economic recovery.
Not that we should be surprised by our growing aversion to failure. After all, the richer we get, the more we have to lose. Almost every wealthy nation tries to guarantee a high standard of living for its people through extensive wealth redistribution and welfare. That America has been slower to follow suit may have something to do with our history. Our immigrant ancestors knew much of failure. Hardship was the beginning of their opportunity, and it’s taken us a while to forget that.
I am not saying people used to like failure more than we do today. Winston Churchill probably hated every one of the bumps that made his life’s road so inspiring. But he also knew that winning and losing are inseparable. “Success,” he said, “is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” It’s not fun to fail, but it’s inevitable. Try as we might, we can’t get rid of failure in our lives unless we all agree to never get out of bed (and even that’s not without risk). The sooner you get used to dealing with things going wrong, the sooner you can get on with the business of finding ways to make things go right.
But is failure just a necessary evil? A way to build character and that’s it? One reason I think we’re so eager to remove failure from our lives is that we miss its biggest benefit.
Suppose the Catholic Church proposed to build a 13-story, 50,000 square-foot showpiece at Ground Zero? Or the 92nd St. Young Men’s Hebrew Association proposed to relocate its facility to the site of the attack on the Twin Towers? Or the Billy Graham Evangelical Association offered to construct a megachurch on the property? They wouldn’t, of course, because it is entirely inappropriate to assign a disproportionately prominent role for any religious denomination at the location of the most heinous foreign attack on American soil. The issue with the planned Muslim center at Ground Zero is not religious freedom, but favoritism towards Islam.
Liberals believe that if the West bends over backwards to be respectful towards Muslims, Muslims will cease to hate the West and stop killing Westerners. That is why New York’s Mayor Bloomberg and liberals everywhere support this grotesque accommodation to Muslim triumphalism.
The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith has ignited a firestorm of attacks for its refusal to play along with this charade. Peter Beinart, the critic-du-jour of the Jewish establishment, complains that what the ADL really has demonstrated is indifference to the plight of Palestinians! Beinart complains today in the Daily Beast:
As Wesley J. Smith said this past Thursday in a post on Secondhand Smoke, the fact that the government of Catalonia has voted to ban bullfighting in that region of Spain starting in 2012 is a good thing. As Smith pointed out, bullfighting “is like dog fighting. . . . It is cruelty for sport. . . . it is the last remaining vestige of the Roman games in which humans and animals were set upon each other to satisfy the blood lust of the crowd.” Smith was careful to note, however, that this new ban is not a matter of animal rights but of animal welfare: “This measure doesn’t elevate the bulls to moral equivalence with people. It is people exercising human exceptionalism by recognizing their duty not to treat animals cruelly.”
On Friday, LifeSiteNews.com made note of the fact that this regional bullfight ban was passed into law just as Spain’s new, more liberal abortion law is coming into effect, and that “the irony has not been lost on pro-life observers.” Spain’s new abortion law, as LifeSiteNews reported in an earlier dispatch, “abolishes penalties for all abortions during the first fourteen weeks of pregnancy” and “allows minors to obtain abortions without parental permission, although they must first inform their parents of their intention to do so.”
Whenever I doubt my own powers of naivete and rationalization, I remind myself that I once considered Ayn Rand to be an admirable and important philosopher. Somehow I was able to justify her atheistic nihilism with my views of Christianity by telling myself that she really didn’t mean what she said.
For instance, since no moral person could truly be against altruism, her frequent rants against the behavior must be referring to something else, something much more nefarious than caring for the welfare of other people.
Similarly, when the hero of her novel The Fountainhead raped a woman I used Whoopi Goldberg’s moral reasoning: It can’t be “rape-rape”, can it, if the victim consents after the fact?
Eventually, I could not longer dismiss the evidence that Rand was an apologist for wickedness. But I was shocked to learn today just how far she would go to condone evil in following her views to their logical conclusion:
The new president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, announced that his dicastery is preparing a document on the effects of abortion on women, often called post-abortion syndrome. The document will focus on the study of the “habit of abortion” and is expected to be published next year.
Armed with a new $400,000 grant and the support of the Episcopal Church, a Berkeley seminary is convening priests from across the country to craft the liturgical rite for same-sex couples to receive religious blessings.
A string of sex abuse scandals in the German Catholic church has led to a dramatic fall in the number of young men wanting to become priests, Germany’s top Catholic bishop said Sunday.
Speaking to the German Press Agency dpa, Archbishop of Freiburg Robert Zollitsch, who is the Chairman of the German Episcopal Conference and thus spokesman for the church, said that the church was now suffering from a serious lack of manpower.
Tradition holds that St. Peter was jailed in Rome’s maximum security Mamertine Prison before he was crucified upside down and buried on the hill where St. Peter’s Basilica was later built.
And now after recent excavations in Rome’s oldest prison, archaeologists say they have uncovered evidence that, while not providing direct proof, does support that belief.
In “The Last Gasp”, Scott Christianson, the author of a new book on the history of the gas chamber, reflects on that subject and capital punishment in general, though not with as much detail as one would like. This claim surprised me: the gas chamber was invented in the twenties, argues Christianson, and
After WWI, which saw the first widespread use of poison gases, it became a method of execution that was actively promoted by Americans who were part of the eugenics movement. They advocated the use of the gas chamber to kill not only criminals but other classes of individuals who were deemed to be unfit or undesirable. There were industrial forces at work as well — businesspeople who wanted to use some of these poisons for fumigation and other purposes — which helped increase interest in the idea of death by gas.
It caught on because it “was thought to kill people very quickly and painlessly. But, belatedly, it was discovered that death by gas was not nearly as fast or as painless as had been assumed,” and in 1994 a judge declared it unconstitutional. But before that, after the moratorium on executions in the seventies, President Reagan suggested lethal injections and
This came at a fortuitous time for conservatives who were beginning to make capital punishment one of their main political issues. They realized that a lot of people were still squeamish about capital punishment based on the experience of the gas chamber and other methods. So lethal injection helped to placate that uneasiness on the part of the American public.
In the Times Literary Supplement, Anthony Kenny reviews a new biography of John Henry Newman:
. . . Newman’s own character is full of paradox. Here is a man who spent the first half of his life trying to persuade the Church of England to be more like the Church of Rome, and the second half of his life wishing that Roman Catholics were more like Anglicans. Beyond other theologians, he exalted the episcopal office; yet he spent much of his life annoying the bishops of both his Churches. A Catholic of liberal bent, he repeatedly denounced liberalism as one of the greatest evils. Even his most obvious virtues provide obstacles for his biographer. Anyone who writes about him quickly discovers that he is such a gifted writer, and his style is so bewitching, and so superior to one’s own, that one hardly dares to paraphrase his thought, and ends up overloading one’s text with verbatim quotations.
How should we treat thinking machines and human-like robots? David Gelernter, is a professor of computer science at Yale University, says that Jewish thought offers us a way to proceed:
One way to discuss the problem is in the terms developed by Martin Buber, who created an ethics and theology based on relations among I, you, and it. For Buber, I and you can enter sympathetically into each others’ lives; our mental worlds flow together. But I and it are permanently separate. When I converse with an it, I do not actually converse at all; I conduct a monologue in which one party is me and the other is also me. This “other” is my own private, personal conception of someone or something else.
Buber used these terms to describe relations among human beings and between human beings and God. But we can press them into service in a different, simpler context. We can say that an I always has moral duties to a you. But ordinarily, an I has no moral duties to an it.
Does a machine, once it has become intelligent, make the transition from it to you? Or do I sometimes have moral duties to an it as if it were a you? Could I have moral duties to a mere thing that is unconscious, has never been conscious, and never will be?
In his new book, Heavenly Merchandize, Mark Valeri, professor of church history at Union Theological Seminary, finds that the American economy as we know it emerged from a series of important shifts in the views of Puritan ministers:
IDEAS: You’re saying that the market didn’t rise at the expense of religion, but was enabled by it?
VALERI: You need to have a change in your basic understanding of how or where God works in the world before you can envision different economic behaviors as morally sufferable. These religious changes come first. The market–networks of exchange, converging prices, things being adjudicated in courts–is not put in place in North America until the 1740s,1750s. The religious changes come before that. They’re integral to it.
IDEAS: Your book comes out at an interesting moment for America’s relationship with free-market economics–to a lot of people, it looks like everyone in the financial markets has been behaving in defiance of the broader interests of the society.
Today in “On the Square,” Joseph Bottum reflects on Anne Rice’s dramatic rejection of Christianity. In Rice’s Release, he writes that she is
Always a day behind the fair. Always a beat behind the crowd. Mind you, that can be a very profitable position to hold: You can catch the popular wave, when you’re not too inventive, and you can ride it to good sales. As she did with her novels.
. . . She rejoined the Church just in time to get whacked around, and she left the Church again just in time to look like a woman who can’t stand the heat. From all her hipster friends. And all her relatives.
From National Geographic:
The recent decoding of a cryptic cup, the excavation of ancient Jerusalemtunnels, and other archaeological detective work may help solve one of the great biblical mysteries: Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?
The new clues hint that the scrolls, which include some of the oldest known biblical documents, may have been the textual treasures of several groups, hidden away during wartime—and may even be “the great treasure from the Jerusalem Temple,” which held the Ark of the Covenant, according to the Bible.