- Why Bible Study Doesn’t Transform Us: Much of what passes for Bible study in Christian bookstores and church resource libraries just isn’t: while it may educate us on a doctrine or a topic, it does little to further our Bible literacy. And left to our own devices, we pursue a host of unsavory (and un-transformative) self-constructed approaches to “spending time in the Word.” Here are several that I encounter on a regular basis.
- Do as I Do, Not as I Say: It’s election season, and once again Democrats are flummoxed by evangelical voters. They think that “those people” vote against their own self-interest. They cannot believe that same-sex marriage matters so much to so many people. They don’t get why Obamacare is controversial. To them, evangelicals don’t make sense.
- Feedback Is Scary – But You Need It: The worst person to be leading an organization is a person who is insecure. Yes, we’re all insecure to differing degrees, but there’s a type of leader who is deeply insecure and avoids all feedback in order to not be hurt, threatened, our found out. That is sin. That is pride. And that is incredibly dangerous for the leader and for the people being led.
- New Form of Christian Civic Engagement: Christian Millennials are now coming of age and recognizing the flawed strategies and broken agendas embraced by their forebears. They’ve seen how the religious right (and the religious left, for that matter) has used the Bible as a tool to gain political power and reduced the Christian community to little more than a voting bloc — and they are forging a different path.
Last week I attended a conference at the Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame. The conference intentionally brings analytic philosophers and theologians together to discuss issues of relevance to both. And the hope is that the discussions will be mutually sharpening as each group brings its own resources and perspectives to bear on the issues.
It was a fascinating experience. Although I enjoy enjoy philosophy, I’m not a philosopher. And it’s not often that I get to sit and talk with people who study and teach philosophy for a living. At times, I was thoroughly confused. Concepts like four dimensionalism, stage theory, phenomenology, fundamentality, and thin/thick particulars are a little outside my normal frame of reference. But most of the time I was intrigued to watch the interplay of philosophy and theology as we all wrestled with what it means to be a “human person.” Overall it was a great experience, and one that I would repeat without a second thought.
In my next post, I hope to reflect more generally on the nature of the philosophy/theology relationship itself. But today, I’ll just offer a few observations from the dialog that I got to be a part of last week. And, since the conference focused specifically on analytic philosophy as a resource for theology, my comments reflect only that branch of the philosophical tree.
As with many such interactions, we need to note both the baby and the bathwater, appreciating the former and guarding against the latter.
If you haven’t seen this infographic yet, you should definitely check it out. It’s a great resource for helping anyone use Google more effectively, but it’s particularly helpful for students.
- The Top 5 Things Introverts Dread about Church: Awkward encounters are so much easier with caffeine and sugar.
- Forgive Us Our Student Debts: Who wants to study four years just so you can work a job the next 20 to pay for it? Student debt isn’t worth the price of freedom to follow God in your career, marriage, and family choices.
- How the Unrelenting Threat of Death Shapes Our Behavior: hundreds of published academic papers have shown that worrying about death affects everything from our prejudices and voting patterns to how likely we are to exercise or use sunscreen….People deal with death by upholding worldviews that are larger and longer-lasting than themselves, and opposing anyone or anything that violates these “cultural anxiety-buffers.”
- Defending the Bible Literally: ll these years later, I’m learning that understanding the literal meaning of the Bible is a more nuanced adventure than my college friends and I imagined. We’d been blithely unaware that there is more than one genre in the Bible, or that literary context profoundly matters to meaning.
- Muscular Christianity: In the drive to make churches more guy-friendly, we risk confusing cultural (especially American) customs with biblical discipleship. One noted pastor has said that God gave Christianity a “masculine feel.” Another contrasted “latte-sipping Cabriolet drivers” with “real men.” Jesus and his buddies were “dudes: heterosexual, win-a-fight, punch-you-in-the-nose dudes.” Real Christian men like Jesus and Paul “are aggressive, assertive, and nonverbal.” Seriously?
- Fiction and Literature: I’ve found that most people who tell me that fiction is a waste of time are folks who seem to hold to a kind of sola cerebra vision of the Christian life that just doesn’t square with the Bible. The Bible doesn’t simply address man as a cognitive process but as a complex image-bearer who recognizes truth not only through categorizing syllogisms but through imagination, beauty, wonder, awe.
- It’s a Brain Puzzle: When we look at prayer through the lens of neuroscience, we can make an interesting observation: Talking to God is not really different from talking to one’s friends and neighbors.
- Were the Church Fathers Universalists? I’ve read more than once the claim that most early Christians were universalists. And this is occasionally supported by the further opinion that several early (first six centuries) theological schools were universalist in their teaching. This seems implausible to me. However, I’m certainly not someone who is a student of the history of the early church. So what am I to do? I’m to look for evidence.
I realized after writing that title that someone might think I’m announcing some major job transition. Nope. I am happily entrenched in sunny Portland, OR. But I am heading for Notre Dame this afternoon to spend several days at a philosophy of religion conference. The theme of the conference is “Minds, Bodies, and the Divine.” And here’s the description of what we’re supposed to be doing:
Various ancient religious/philosophical systems (Orphism, Pythagoreanism, and Stoicism) maintained that the divine mind ‘embodied’ itself in the world in much the same way in which immaterial souls are supposedly embodied in human organisms. Christianity has likewise traditionally endorsed a duality of mind and body, and maintains that, in becoming incarnate, the Son of God somehow took on both a human soul and a human body.
In the 20th and 21st centuries mind-body dualism has come under heavy fire; philosophers in the Christian tradition have begun to explore what implications contemporary materialism might have for their doctrines of incarnation and afterlife; and other philosophers have begun to explore naturalistic and materialistic variations on panentheism.
In this workshop, we bring together philosophers and theologians with interests in contemporary philosophy of mind to explore questions about the nature of embodiment and about the relations between minds (human and divine) and the material world.
You can read more about the conference and the papers being presented here. If you’re curious, I’ll be presenting a paper on Jonathan Edwards and how he viewed the human person. It’s a little too complicated to summarize quickly, but basically it focuses on summarizing Edwards’ understanding of “created reality,” how it relates to God’s existence, and what implications this has for how Edwards’ understands the human person. I know that’s not a terribly helpful description, but it’s the best I can do in one quick sentence.
And as usual when I attend a conference. I’ll try to post some highlights from the various sessions when I get back. So you can (hopefully) look forward to that sometime next week.
- Is Megachurch the New Liberalism?: Once again, the megachurches are on the leading edge. We must pray that they will lead into faithfulness, and not into a new liberalism.
- Do Denominations Still Matter?: Denominations are, at their core, structures that help support and enable a diversity of Christians. They are not Christianity; they merely make space for different varieties of faith to flourish. If we can understand denominational labels as descriptors rather than terms of value—who is right and who is wrong—perhaps we can see beyond the walls that separate us and begin to see the beautiful diversity there is among Christians. This may not be easy, but here are some reasons it’s worth trying.
- The Gospel and Immigration: If you want to disrupt a beautifully harmonious dinner party, all you have to do is bring up the radioactive issue of immigration. There might not be a more heated political topic in contemporary American life.
- My Son Went to Heaven and All I Got Was a No. 1 Best Seller: Whichever side of this divide you sit on, you’re unlikely to seek rapprochement with the other. In our à la carte media world, most of us seek only to reinforce what we already think, and it’s zealots who drive the discourse.
April was an interesting month around here as I was wrapping up a paper for a conference and finishing the semester here at the seminary. So the top five posts for April come mostly from quotes and videos I posted. But I’m glad you found them interesting.