Category : Books

(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews Steve Bruce’s new book ‘British Gods: Religion in Modern Britain’

Steve Bruce, Professor of Sociology at the University of Aberdeen, is a leading proponent of the secularisation thesis. Religion has been in decline in Britain for 150 years, he argues, and there is little reason to think this process is going to be halted. Religious believers will not find his new book a comforting read but it does have lessons to teach us. Members of the Church of England concerned with evangelism and church growth would do well to read it.

Bruce is adept at dismissing those who have argued in defence of the persistence of religion. Grace Davie has spoken of vicarious religion in which a small proportion of the population are seen as carrying out religious activities on behalf of a larger number of people who are not directly involved. The role clergy often play when disaster strikes could be seen as an example of vicarious religion but Bruce argues clergy are candidates to act as honest brokers because they no longer have religious significance. ‘Like eunuchs working in a harem,’ he writes, ‘the clergy are invited to play significant social roles because they are impotent’.

For many Christians the charismatic movement is an important sign of renewal. Bruce argues this has not brought many new members into the churches. Most of those who have been at attracted were already Christian. Only 1 per cent of those who attend Alpha courses have not at some time been regular church goers. Bruce sees dangers for Christianity in the way the charismatic movement prefers feelings over doctrine and moves away from a distinctive culture of church architecture, liturgy, dress, ritual and hymns. In some ways it represents a secularisation of Christianity. Examining New Age beliefs and practices Bruce, correctly argues, they are not widespread enough to take the place of Christianity.

When it comes to new African or West Indian churches, Bruce maintains that their language and style is too alien to enable them to be effective carriers of the gospel to the white, British population. He may have a point here but he is mistaken in arguing that church growth in London is only fuelled by the immigration. The Diocese of London has seen significant growth and John Wolfe has analysed why this has happened. David Goodhew has also written of growing churches in London and elsewhere but Bruce nowhere refers to his work.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(PW) Fear and Hope: When Timothy Keller’s Book Met His Life

“Most books you write after you have gone through an experience, but in this case what was so strange was I was having the experience while writing the book,” he told PW. “When you realize this may be the end and you have this abstract belief in heaven and the promise of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, you have to ask, do I really believe this? So writing the book was really a struggle with that question.”

It’s not much of a spoiler to say that the 70-year-old Keller, founder of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in the sodom known as Manhattan does believe in a literal resurrection of Jesus. While writing, he spent extra time in prayer and “experiencing the presence of the risen Christ,” as he put it. “I was just shocked at how much more experience of God there was than I found before. So I have grown and I have confidence in the resurrection after a combination of faith and experience.”

Keller has buckets of experience as an author. His first title, The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism (Dutton, 2008) hit number five on PW’s Bestseller List and sold more than 150,000 copies in its first year. That was followed by more than 20 titles on everything from love to suffering, Christmas to church planting. He hit PW’s twice more, with Prodigal God (Dutton, 2008) and Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Dutton, 2014), both of which hit the 100,000 copies sold mark. Hope in Times of Fear is intended as a bookend to Hidden Christmas, a holiday book published by Viking in 2016. In between books, Keller became one of the pioneers of the now-standard megachurch model of multi-site worship. Before retiring in 2017, he spent years of Sundays hopscotching across Central Park, going uptown and down, giving three or more sermons a day at Redeemer’s five different sites. Today, there are Redeemer-affiliated churches in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Throughout his publishing career, he has been with one editor — Brian Tart, president and publisher of Viking Penguin. Tart heard about Keller and his popular church in 2006 and headed there one Sunday to hear him preach. “Obviously, he knew the Bible inside and out, but he also took a lot of examples from stories and myths and movies and books. He was really engaged in the cultural conversation of the moment and there wasn’t a barrier of entry for people to understand him. He reached people where they were,” Tart told PW. “That Tim is talking about cancer makes his personal journey to God helpful to people. He is saying ‘I’ve been through a dark time, we all been through a dark time, and yet I feel this great reservoir of hope.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(TLC Covenant) Gareth Atkins reviews Bruce Hindmarsh’s new book ‘The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism: True Religion in a Modern World’

Among historians of evangelicalism it has long been an article of faith that the movement they study was an Enlightenment phenomenon. Rooting its self-examination in Lockean empiricism, its offers of salvation in consumer-driven individualism, and its optimism about an imminent millennium in notions of human progress, David Bebbington, David Hempton, Phyllis Mack, and others have situated early evangelicalism squarely within the wider Anglo-American and European intellectual universe. But has anyone else noticed?

Thanks to J.G.A. Pocock, J.C.D. Clark, and others, we no longer think of Enlightenment as the rise of modern paganism. Indeed, recent scholarship is coming to emphasize continuity: Enlightenment as late humanism, with the “new” philosophy sharing many of the concerns of the “old,” and borrowing many of its intellectual tools, too. Sermons remained probably the most popular single literary genre in a print sphere dominated by divinity. But even so, among social and cultural historians what may be termed the Roy Porter view predominates: that if religion still mattered it was because it hitched itself to the coat-tails of the political order; and that if it was still taken seriously intellectually it was because it was prepared to dilute itself with enough rationalism to make it palatable to polished literati. Enthusiasm was the province of a few extremists. And few were more enthusiastic than John Wesley, George Whitefield, and their ilk, who are therefore assumed, according to this view, to be fundamentally anti-enlightened. Exhibit A for exponents of the Porter view is William Hogarth’s Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism: A Medley (1762), which depicts an unhinged preacher – possibly Whitefield – ranting about witches and demons to a congregation of drooling misfits.

Bruce Hindmarsh’s magnificent new book underlines how misleading that over-reliance on hostile caricatures has been. “The rise of evangelicalism,” he states crisply at the outset, “occurred in tandem with the rise of modernity and in the midst of a hugely consequential turn away from transcendental frames of reference to the authority of ‘nature’ in multiple fields” (p. ix). Lockean sensibility, Newtonian physics, Shaftesburian politeness, and the growth of the public sphere, he argues, opened up fresh cultural and intellectual space for more personal, emotional and individualistic forms of belief, allowing and indeed impelling figures like Jonathan Edwards in New England and Whitefield and the Wesleys in Old England to pose an urgent question: “Is it possible to experience the presence of God in the modern world?” Their answer was urgent, disruptive and democratic, offering the possibility of spiritual rebirth to all, not as the result of incremental, ordered contemplation, but as an immediate, transformative and potentially explosive experience: “be born again”; “expect it now” (pp. 2-3). Wesley preached on the “one thing needful” more than fifty times, while Whitefield’s pious mnemonic, “one thing is needful,” scratched onto a friend’s window with a diamond, was still visible a century later (p.3). The simple but fervent piety thus produced overtopped denominational and national boundaries, as Methodists in England and Wales, “New Lights” in North America, evangelicals in the Churches of England and Scotland, Moravians, and evangelical nonconformists strove to experience God for themselves.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church History, Evangelicals

An Interesting new Book–‘Refuge Reimagined: Biblical Kinship in Global Politics’

From there:

The global crisis of forced displacement is growing every year. At the same time, Western Christians’ sympathy toward refugees is increasingly overshadowed by concerns about personal and national security, economics, and culture. We urgently need a perspective that understands both Scripture and current political realities and that can be applied at the levels of the church, the nation, and the globe.

In Refuge Reimagined, Mark R. Glanville and Luke Glanville offer a new approach to compassion for displaced people: a biblical ethic of kinship. God’s people, they argue, are consistently called to extend kinship—a mutual responsibility and solidarity—to those who are marginalized and without a home. Drawing on their respective expertise in Old Testament studies and international relations, the two brothers engage a range of disciplines to demonstrate how this ethic is consistently conveyed throughout the Bible and can be practically embodied today.

Posted in Books, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

(Church Times) Theology Slam winner considers roots of compassion

An exploration of the relationship between compassion and the womb was declared the winning talk at the third Theology Slam final, on Thursday evening.

It was given by Imogen Ball, who is a final-year ordinand and MA student at Trinity College, Bristol. For a second year running, the final took place online.

The Theology Slam — a competition to find engaging young voices who think theologically about the contemporary world — was organised jointly by the Church Times, SCM Press, and the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC).

In her talk, Ms Ball noted that the Hebrew words racham (to have compassion), rachum (compassionate), and rachamim (compassion) all share the same three root words as rechem: R-H-M. “Rechem is uniquely reserved for the female reproductive organ, the womb.”

She continued: “Now, just because these words share the same three foundational letters does not mean they have the same meaning. But there is something that catches my attention, a depth of meaning to be mined, when we mirror these strangely related terms. By mirroring the womb and compassion, we reveal glimpses of creative compassion.”

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Theology

(ISCAST) Physicist John Pilbrow writes a nice tribute article about the late John Polkinghorne

Theologically, while John held a very orthodox Christian position, he had a capacity to engage with people from across the broad Christian spectrum. Another rare gift. In my opinion his book that expresses that orthodoxy most eloquently is Science & Christian Belief: Theological Reflections of a Bottom-up Thinker based on his 1993–1994 Gifford Lectures. Here John reflects on the Nicene Creed both theologically and scientifically in the light of the best of modern science. As well, he placed much emphasis on the centrality of the resurrection as a strong basis for hope. Aspects of his thought here may be found in Tom Wright’s Surprised by Hope.

John was also able to engage with other faiths without compromising Christian faith. He often reminded us that different faith traditions actually make rather different truth claims. But for him that was a reason to keep dialogue open.

John’s other books are all, of course, excellent in their own way. They are all deliberately relatively short and address one or more specific issues. This makes them readable and accessible resources.

After 1979, John focussed on encouraging and enabling good conversation and dialogue amongst and between scientists and theologians. Establishment of the ISSR was consistent with this and he served as its first President.

John certainly believed in the the unity of knowledge and one reality: the world of our experience that we seek to describe scientifically. Further, he was a critical realist believing that truth, whether scientific or theological, needs to be carefully assessed. This is a big theme and there is not space to deal with it in any detail here.

In the following we get a taste of some of his key insights.

If we are seeking to serve the God of truth then we should really welcome truth from whatever source it comes. We shouldn’t fear the truth. … The doctrine of creation of the kind that the Abrahamic faiths profess is such that it encourages the expectation that there will be a deep order in the world, expressive of the Mind and Purpose of that world’s Creator. It also asserts that the character of this order has been freely chosen by God, since it was not determined beforehand by some kind of pre-existing blueprint … As a consequence, the nature of cosmic order cannot be discovered just by taking thought … but the pattern of the world has to be discerned through the observations and experiments that are necessary in order to determine what form the divine choice has actually taken. (Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship, 2007).

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Science & Technology, Theology

(PD) The Censorship of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the Unbooking of Ryan T. Anderson

Unperson: “A public figure, especially in a totalitarian country, who, for political or ideological reasons, is not recognized or mentioned in government publications or records or in the news media. A person accorded no recognition or consideration by another or by a specific group. . . . Introduced in George Orwell’s novel 1984 (1949)”—Dictionary.com

It seems somehow fitting that the great beat poet and artist Lawrence Ferlinghetti, departed this mortal realm (at the age of 101) on February 22, 2021, the day after Amazon.com digitally unbooked When Harry Became Sally. Authored by Ryan T. Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and founder of Public Discourse, When Harry Became Sally offers a critical assessment of the transgender movement.

Anderson is an honest and careful scholar, one who makes a real effort to understand his opponents’ arguments and answer them with charity and rigor. Anderson’s views are not in ascendancy among elites these days, as is evident by the vitriol hurled at him by activists as soon as When Harry Became Sally was published. These critics, I am afraid to say, are not at all interested in debate, discussion, or a careful sifting through the evidence and arguments. What they seek is absolute unquestioned conformity to their views, policed by roving cyberspace inquisitors whose mission is to extract confessions from their targets and to inculcate in them the habit of unforgiving social justice scrupulosity. This is not to say that Anderson does not have some serious academic critics who raise penetrating questions about the quality of his sources, the strength of his arguments, and the nature of his project. Here I am thinking of two critical reviews that appeared in the Journal of Medical Humanities and Studies in Christian Ethics.

But that’s all the more reason why Amazon’s removal of Anderson’s book from its catalog is so pernicious: it marginalizes from the public conversation an intelligent and informed voice that should be confronted and taken seriously by those who disagree with him. As my esteemed Baylor colleague, Alan Jacobs, points out:

The censors at Amazon clearly believe there is only one reason to read a book. You read a book because you agree with it and want it to confirm what you already believe. Imagine, for instance, a transgender activist who wants to understand the position held by Ryan Anderson and people like him in order better to refute it. That person can’t get a copy of the book through Amazon any more than a sympathetic reader like me can.

What does all this have to do with Ferlinghetti? More than you may think. Founder of the small press City Lights Books, he published in late 1956 Howl and Other Poems, authored by the beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Soon after the book was published, Ferlinghetti was arrested on obscenity charges. The reason? The book’s poems included lines that contained graphic descriptions of sex acts, and thus, the government reasoned, it was legally obscene.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History

(LRB) John Lanchester reviews two recent books on China–Document Number Nine

This progress in facial recognition and big data is all part of the other development in the Chinese digital world, the social credit system. This is a credit score analogous to those which are run in the West by credit reference agencies such as Experian and Equifax. The complete view of our lives and finances owned by these firms seems largely to escape attention in the West, but it hasn’t escaped the attention of the CCP, which has multiple trials running of social credit systems that build on and expand the existing Western model. The Chinese pilots look not at consumer creditworthiness but at social behaviour, with the criteria for desirable behaviour defined by the party. Strittmatter cites a pilot in Rongcheng, where citizens get points – not a metaphor, they actually are awarded points – for helping aged neighbours move house, giving calligraphy lessons and offering use of their basement for a CCP singalong. Conversely they lose points for pouring water outside their house so it turns into ice, letting their dogs shit on the pavement, driving through red lights and so on. In some versions of these schemes, your social credit is affected by the social credit of the people you hang out with; a bad reputation is contagious.

At the moment, the main impacts of people’s social credit are on activities such as travel: people with bad social credit can’t fly, can’t book high-speed train tickets or sleeper berths; they have slower internet access and can’t book fancy hotels or restaurants. It isn’t difficult to project a future in which these sanctions spread to every area of life. The China-wide version of social credit is scheduled to go live in 2020. The ultimate goal is to make people internalise their sense of the state: to make people self-censor, self-monitor, self-supervise. Strittmatter quotes Discipline and Punish: ‘He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection.’ The Chinese version of social credit is the closest thing we’ve ever seen to Foucault’s system in action at a national level.

Put all this together. Imagine a place in which there’s a police post every hundred metres, and tens of thousands of cameras linked to a state-run facial recognition system; where people are forced to have police-owned GPS systems in their cars, and you can buy petrol only after having your face scanned; where all mobile phones have a state app on them to monitor their activity and prevent access to ‘damaging information’; where religious activity is monitored; where the state knows whether you have family and friends abroad, and where the government offers free health clinics as a way of getting your fingerprint and iris scan and samples of your DNA. Strittmatter points out that you don’t need to imagine this place, because it exists: that’s life in Xinjiang for the minority population of Muslim Uighurs. Increasingly, policing in Xinjiang has an algorithmic basis. A superb piece of reporting by Christian Shepherd in the Financial Times recently told the story of Yalqun Rozi, who has ended up in a re-education camp for publishing Uighur textbooks in an attempt to preserve the language. One of his crimes was using too high a percentage of Uighur words. The system allows a maximum of 30 per cent from minority language sources; Rozi had used 60 per cent Uighur, and ‘China’ had appeared only four times in 200,000 words. Uighurs get into trouble for attending mosque too often or too fervently, or for naming their children Mohammed, or for fasting during Ramadan. There are about 12 million Uighurs in Xinjiang: 1.5 million of them have either spent time in a re-education camp or are in one right now.

China has​ been a dictatorship for seventy years. The idea that prosperity and the internet would in themselves make the country turn towards democracy has been proved wrong. Instead, China is about to become something new: an AI-powered techno-totalitarian state. The project aims to form not only a new kind of state but a new kind of human being, one who has fully internalised the demands of the state and the completeness of its surveillance and control. That internalisation is the goal: agencies of the state will never need to intervene to correct the citizen’s behaviour, because the citizen has done it for them in advance.

Read it all (my epmhasis).

Posted in Books, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(New Atlantis) John Sexton–A Reductionist History of Humankind: The trouble with Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens”

Harari’s claim that has drawn the most media attention is that we may be on the cusp of an era of super- (or possibly sub-) humans, with newspapers running such sensationalistic headlines as “Humans ‘will become God-like cyborgs within 200 years’” and “The age of the cyborg has begun.” He seems to believe that the “Singularity” is a certainty; that some “Dr. Frankenstein” will likely create “something truly superior to us, something that will look at us as condescendingly as we look at the Neanderthals.” But here again there are practical and technical obstacles that Harari overlooks. As Steven Pinker, of all people, has recently pointed out, most features of organisms, including senescence, are built deep into their genomic structure. If there were easy fixes to mortality and many other conditions, they would have been low-hanging fruit for natural selection, which will always prevail in the long run over the kind of “intelligent design” Harari envisions us undertaking in the near future.

Harari tends to think that it’s onward and upward for the modern project to master nature through technology, though he doubts whether the trajectory is really “upward” in the sense of involving genuine improvement in the human condition. But it may be that the golden age of technological progress has already passed. As Peter Thiel and others have observed, the development of new technology has arguably slowed in recent decades, a fact disguised by the dissemination of old technology in the form of consumer goods like personal computers and smart phones.

Still, Harari is right to suggest that scientific advancement potentially threatens much of what we now hold dear, including our humanity as we traditionally understand it. He is also right to point out that questions about the moral character of scientific experimentation always meet with the response that it is being done to “cure diseases and save human lives.” Harari says that “nobody can argue with” such a response. He is right, up to a point: given the value that modern societies put on health, it can be very difficult to question research conducted in the name of medicine. But arguments can still be made against some forms of experimentation and “enhancement.” One could also point out that science itself provides no reason to save human lives or care about curing diseases, whereas moral principles do. One might also ask whether physical health and longevity are the highest goods.

But Sapiens provides us with no resources for answering questions about the moral implications of scientific and technological change. A commitment to a reductionist, mechanistic view of Homo sapiens may give us some insight into some of the aspects of our past most tied to our material nature. But Harari’s view of culture and of ethical norms as fundamentally fictional makes impossible any coherent moral framework for thinking about and shaping our future. And it asks us to pretend that we are not what we know ourselves to be — thinking and feeling subjects, moral agents with free will, and social beings whose culture builds upon the facts of the physical world but is not limited to them.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy, Science & Technology

(Church Times) Stephen Spencer reviews Jesus and the Church, by Paul Avis, and asks whether missiology now trumps ecclesiology

Many in…[Paul Avis’s] position might now decide that this was enough and it was time to hang up his or her pen, as it were. Not Avis. This volume represents the first part of a multi-volume project on the theological foundations of the Christian Church.

With impressive ambition and energy, Avis is now embarking on a great undertaking and widening the scope of his scholarly investigations, from what has been mainly an exploration of the ecclesiology of the Reformation and modern eras, back to the sources and character of the Church as a whole, which in this instance means an engagement with the writings of the New Testament as well as some recent theology from Roman Catholic and Protestant sources. Using a phrase from F. D. Maurice, his concern is to dig for the foundations of the Church as a whole.

The purpose of this first volume is to explore in what ways the Church is rooted in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, undoubtedly a key question. As Avis puts it, when one looks at the history of the Church over 20 centuries, with “the emergence of its power structures, hierarchies and bureaucracies, the fact of its divisions and bloodshed, its sins, crimes and mundane human failings — we may well exclaim, ‘What has all that to do with Jesus of Nazareth?’”

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Ecclesiology, Missions

(American Affairs) Patrick Deenen reviews Michael Sandel’s recent book “The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?”

In the end, Sandel flinches: in spite of accusing the new ruling order of “tyranny,” he fails to locate any tyrants. This silence on the meri­tocracy’s self-deception, in what is otherwise a singularly powerful critique of the pathologies of meritocracy, is telling. Sandel is remark­ably incurious about whether meritocrats’ justifications of their moral eminence might in fact shroud the deeper “will to power” one would expect to find among tyrants.

For instance, Sandel evinces a lack of suspicion when listing a string of dubious actions by the meritocrats, concluding simply that they “have not governed very well”—not that they have governed with malevolence. He cites a string of failures from 1980 to the present, includ­ing “stagnant wages for most workers, inequalities of income and wealth not seen since the 1920s, the Iraq War, a nineteen-year, incon­clusive war in Afghanistan, financial deregulation, the financial crisis of 2008,” and so forth (29). In each instance, however, these were not “failures” if you were a member of the meritocracy. Almost to a person, the ruling class benefited from these crises, or at the very least, were not harmed by their consequences, even as they collectively diminished the prospects for flourishing among the meritocracy’s losers. Sandel regards these outcomes as failed policies of otherwise well-intentioned leaders, rather than identifying them as the expected outcomes of a ruling class’s efforts to maintain its position.

We return to where we began. At its outset, meritocracy, like most regimes, was defended as a just and beneficent new departure. It would replace the injustice of the ancien régime by encouraging and rewarding people for their talents. If inequality was to be an inescapable result, nevertheless the “industrious and rational” would afford benefits to the society as a whole. Prosperity, progress, and enlightenment would spread even to the “quarrelsome and contentious”: as Locke wrote, the life of the day laborer in England was better than the mightiest king of the Indians in America. Unlike in a vicious regime, the ruling meritocrats would govern not (merely) for their own advantage, but for the advantage and even common good of all.

Although it has barely been a century since Conant began his transformation of Harvard, and about a half century since the full realization of the new meritocratic regime celebrated by Gardner with the ascent of the “best and the brightest,” overwhelming evidence suggests that the meritocracy’s claims are altogether unbelievable, useful mainly as the self-serving subterfuge of an oppressive ruling class. For those outside the charmed meritocratic winner’s circle, prospects for flourishing have precipitously declined in recent dec­ades, as documented in such works as Charles Murray’s Coming Apart and Robert Putnam’s Our Kids. Among the noncredentialed, life spans are declining, deaths of despair increasing, material circumstances have worsened, social stability and moral formation have cratered. By their own admission, meritocratic elites have failed to improve race relations in America. The meritocrats’ claims to benefi­cence might once have been widely believed before this accumulating evidence, but now they largely function as a form of self-deceit among the rulers. Awareness of the potential for malevolent, even tyrannical intention behind these developments seems to be missing in Sandel. Yet such evidence seems increasingly apparent: approximately half the country showed its disbelief and contempt for elite ruling claims by voting for a demagogic anti-elitist. The reaction of the ruling class was four years of denying the legitimacy of the election, denouncing those who dared to vote for the demagogue, and unremitting efforts to “resist”—with hardly a moment to spare to reflect about their complicity in bringing about this wrenching period in our national history.

Sandel’s title, The Tyranny of Merit, is arguably more accurate an assessment of meritocracy than the ultimate thrust of his book. Ac­cording to the classical definition, meritocracy is a tyranny because its ruling class accrues benefits for itself while causing material, social, and spiritual impoverishment among those it governs. Sandel states that “merit can become a kind of tyranny,” but avoids discussing the motivations of the tyrants.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General

(CT) An Interview with Joel Clarkson: Ordinary Life Is Crammed with Heaven–How our senses can point the way to God’s presence

What does it look like to cultivate a theology of the senses?

We live in a world of experience, and this is a core aspect of our faith. It’s not that faith is on one side, with everyday experiences on the other. These actually go together. Within our daily lives, there are many touch points: the food we eat, the music we listen to, the people we meet, and the nature we encounter.

I hope my book conveys the idea that the world, and our lives within it, are crammed with heaven. Heavenly activity doesn’t just occur during transcendent moments, like seeing the northern lights or hearing a beautiful concert. Even amid the mundane, we can encounter God’s presence. And this isn’t a matter of doing something new so much as changing our perspective within the space we already occupy.

Enjoying God through our senses opens up a larger experience of the world and life in Christ. Scripture is full of the language of desire, and we are called to worship the Lord in the beauty of his holiness. Our intellect and senses work together toward the end of loving God with our whole hearts.

In the book, I argue that we love and desire beauty because beauty begins and ends in God, as manifested through the whole of creation. Ephesians 2 says that we are God’s “masterpiece” (v. 10, NLT). The Greek term, poiema, is associated with making, with creating. God is a creator, and to deny the value of creativity, of beautiful things, is actually to limit our vision of who God is and the works he might call us to do.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Eschatology

(The Observer) Britain must reset its compass, from housing to wages, says archbishop of York

Britain needs to reset its compass in a political climate in which “we’ve learned to accommodate things that we know are wrong”, the archbishop of York has said.

Stephen Cottrell, who was enthroned in October, told the Observer: “Our compass has slipped; we’ve allowed ourselves to believe that things can’t change, that this is just the way the world is. Politics has, I think, shrunk. There’s a loss of vision about what the world could be like.”

As the number two in the Church of England, he said that he wanted the church to have a louder political voice. “I simply don’t accept a separation between the church and politics, faith and politics or, for that matter, anything and politics. It’s about how we inhabit the world – and everybody and every organisation and every community has a voice and a stake.”

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, Books, England / UK, Religion & Culture

(CC) Stephen Healey interviews Douglas F. Ottati–Teaching theology in anxious times

Who do you write for?

The book is primarily for the guides, the pastors and theologians. They are inclined by vocation to reflect on these things in detail, and my systematic theology tries to clarify things by showing the interrelation of different beliefs.

I’m working on a book tentatively entitled An Introduction to the Christian Faith. It’s a write-up of a course I teach to undergraduates here at Davidson College. It will be keyed to the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Lord’s Prayer. That was the introductory catechetical setup for much of Christianity in the West. It’s a starter set that is inherently more accessible than my systematic theology or any other.

But I’d also like to revisit the theme of teachers. I once called Father Nicholas Ayo to thank him for translating a book of Aquinas’s sermons. He accepted my thanks, but he added that we’re all indebted to St. Thomas. Well, that’s right. Theologians stand in relation to people who have gone before. When I teach Aquinas or Luther, they’re not in the room. I try to let students encounter them through their writings. That’s what my teachers did for me, and I try to thank them by encouraging my students to do the same.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

Gary Saul Morson–Fyodor Dostoevsky: philosopher of freedom

On December 22, 1849, a group of political radicals were taken from their prison cells in Petersburg’s Peter and Paul Fortress, where they had been interrogated for eight months. Led to the Semenovsky Square, they heard a sentence of death by firing squad. They were given long white peasant blouses and nightcaps—their funeral shrouds—and offered last rites. The first three prisoners were seized by the arms and tied to the stake. One prisoner refused a blindfold and stared defiantly into the guns trained on them. At the last possible moment, the guns were lowered as a courier galloped up with an imperial decree reducing death sentences to imprisonment in a Siberian prison camp followed by service as a private in the army. The last-minute rescue was in fact planned in advance as part of the punishment, an aspect of social life that Russians understand especially well.

Accounts affirm: of the young men who endured this terrible ordeal, one had his hair turn white; a second went mad and never recovered his sanity; a third, whose two-hundredth birthday we celebrate in 2021, went on to write Crime and Punishment.

The mock-execution and the years in Siberian prison—thinly fictionalized in his novel Notes from the House of the Dead (1860)—changed Dostoevsky forever. His naive, hopeful romanticism disappeared. His religious faith deepened. The sadism of both prisoners and guards taught him that the sunny view of human nature presumed by utilitarianism, liberalism, and socialism were preposterous. Real human beings differed fundamentally from what these philosophies presumed.

People do not live by bread—or, what philosophers called the maximalization of “advantage”—alone. All utopian ideologies presuppose that human nature is fundamentally good and simple: evil and apparent complexity result from a corrupt social order. Eliminate want and you eliminate crime. For many intellectuals, science itself had proven these contentions and indicated the way to the best of all possible worlds. Dostoevsky rejected all these ideas as pernicious nonsense. “It is clear and intelligible to the point of obviousness,” he wrote in a review of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, “that evil lies deeper in human beings than our social-physicians suppose; that no social structure will eliminate evil; that the human soul will remain as it always has been . . . and, finally, that the laws of the human soul are still so little known, so obscure to science, so undefined, and so mysterious, that there are not and cannot be either physicians or final judges” except God Himself.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Russia

(NC Register) Re-Reading Father Richard Neuhaus’ ‘American Babylon’ in Light of U.S. Capitol Attack

Father Richard’s engagement in political activism never led him to messianic politics. He died after Barack Obama’s election but before his inauguration, and long before the current president came down the escalator at Trump Tower. He was suspicious of the messianic dimension of Obama’s candidacy and would have been troubled by those who regarded Donald Trump as having some kind of messianic anointing.

Father Richard would have been dismayed at the apocalyptic tone of politics today. The future of the republic does not hang on a presidential election, let alone a senate election in Georgia. Elections have consequences, sometimes, grave consequences, but electoral politics does not heal a corrupt culture.

“Moral progress is far from being self-evident,” Father Richard wrote. “We should at least be open to the possibility that we are today witnessing not moral progress but a dramatic moral regression.”

That possibility was the risk of freedom, and Father Richard knew well that the great American experiment in ordered liberty was just that, an experiment, which would be tested. His commitment to the pro-life cause made him all too aware that that test could be failed….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

Flannery O’Connor on the idea of the Need for Redemption being Squashed

My own feeling is that writers who see by the light of their Christian faith will have, in these times, the sharpest eyes for the grotesque, for the perverse, and for the unacceptable. In some cases, these writers may be unconsciously infected with the Manichaean spirit of the times and suffer the much-discussed disjunction between sensibility and belief, but I think that more often the reason for this attention to the perverse is the difference between their beliefs and the beliefs of their audience. Redemption is meaningless unless there is case for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular belief that there is no such cause.

The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may well be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs as you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock, to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind, you draw large and startling figures.

Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969) pp. 33-34 [my emphasis]

Posted in Books, Christology, Church History, Soteriology, Theology

(Guardian) Guarding the apocalypse: inside the fortress of the new Lambeth Palace Library

A dangerous-looking porcupine scuttles across the bottom of a page of a medieval manuscript, amid scenes of fire-breathing dragons, bodies bubbling in cauldrons, and boats deluged by biblical floods. Known as the Lambeth Apocalypse , this 13th-century illuminated text is one of the lurid highlights of the magnificent collection of Lambeth Palace Library , the most important religious archive in the UK and the largest in Europe, after the Vatican in Rome. For centuries, this precious hoard has been kept in a series of leaky, draughty rooms in the palace, gradually filling up every cramped corner. Now, after 400 years, it finally has a purpose-built home – and it’s safe to say that, if the apocalypse ever comes to south London, this fortified building will probably survive it.

“Noah could float past in his ark and the collection would be all right,” says Clare Wright, the Scottish architect behind the £24m new library. “We’ve created a concrete bunker with more bunkers inside, all lifted up above the one-in-1,000-year flood risk level.”

As bunkers go, it is pretty refined. Clad in a sober costume of red bricks, the building stands as a proud bastion at a bend in the busy Lambeth Palace Road, its nine-storey tower poking up above St Thomas’s hospital to peer over at the Palace of Westminster across the Thames. It meets the street with a sheer redbrick cliff-face, its monolithic mass punctured only by a few tiny square windows and the steel gates of a dark grey entrance. Crowning it all is a covered terrace with the air of a rooftop lookout station. This is a public facility, but its primary purpose is clearly the security of the collection. All that’s missing are the cannons.

“Protecting the archive was our main priority,” says library director Declan Kelly. “One of our new trustees asked where the cafe and shop are going to be, but we don’t have either. There’s a little room for readers to make themselves a cup of tea and a small exhibition space, but the emphasis is on safeguarding the collection.”

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of Canterbury, Books, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, History

(CC) Jessica Hooten Wilson reviews Esau McCauley’s new book ‘Reading While Black–African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope’

What does it mean to exercise hope while reading the Bible? Esau McCaulley approaches this question through the perspectives and questions Black readers bring to the interpretation of scripture. Reading While Black is a much-needed addition to the shelves of hermeneutic resources available to preachers, students, and teachers. Its insights, although designed for Black readers, should be read by others as well.

As a military spouse who attended many events meant for the wives of soldiers, McCaulley learned that there are advantages to being the one man listening to the conversations in a room full of women. In this book, he offers a similar advantage to White readers: the chance to visit a majority Black space and see how Black people talk differently than they would if they were the minority in the room. For both insiders and outsiders to its conversations, Reading While Black opens up fresh ways of seeing ancient truth.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Evangelicals, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

The BBC Obituary for John le Carré

John le Carré was the pseudonym of the author David Cornwell, judged by many to be the master of the spy novel.

Meticulously researched, and elegantly written, many of his books reached a wider audience through TV and film adaptations.

Le Carré stripped away the glamour and romance that were a feature of the James Bond novels and instead examined the real dark and seedy life of the professional spy.

In the twilight world of le Carré’s characters the distinction between good and bad, right and wrong was never that clear cut.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History

(Vox) How a New Hampshire libertarian utopia was foiled by bears

Sean Illing
Then what happened over the next few years or so?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling
By pretty much any measure you can look at to gauge a town’s success, Grafton got worse. Recycling rates went down. Neighbor complaints went up. The town’s legal costs went up because they were constantly defending themselves from lawsuits from Free Towners. The number of sex offenders living in the town went up. The number of recorded crimes went up. The town had never had a murder in living memory, and it had its first two, a double homicide, over a roommate dispute.

So there were all sorts of negative consequences that started to crop up. And meanwhile, the town that would ordinarily want to address these things, say with a robust police force, instead found that it was hamstrung. So the town only had one full-time police officer, a single police chief, and he had to stand up at town meeting and tell people that he couldn’t put his cruiser on the road for a period of weeks because he didn’t have money to repair it and make it a safe vehicle.

Basically, Grafton became a Wild West, frontier-type town.

Read it all; quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology

(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews ‘J.I.Packer – His Life in Thought’ by Alister McGrath

McGrath outlines Packer’s views on a number of issues. He was an enthusiastic champion of the Puritans, believing that they have much to teach us today. As McGrath puts it, Packer believed ‘the wisdom of the past can be re-appropriated by today’s Christians allowing it to enrich and challenge our own ideas and lives’. Although McGrath does not draw the parallel, there is much in common with Packer’s approach and the way of ‘ressourcement’ advocated by Catholic theologians who sought to learn from the early church and whose work was a major influence at Vatican II.

To the wider Christian community Packer was known as the author of ‘Knowing God’. This book really expressed the heart of Packer’s theology. Knowing God does not just mean knowing about him; to know God is to enter into a transforming relationship. His account of what it means to know God is cognitive, experiential and relational. There is an emotional element as in all close personal relationships and also deep change within us just as those we love change us.

As years went by, Packer gained a reputation as a conservative in the church. Many were surprised that he cooperated with two Anglo-Catholics, Eric Mascall and Bishop Graham Leonard, in opposing Anglican-Methodist reunion but Packer saw both Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics as allies in defending orthodoxy and the importance of doctrine in Christianity. He would have no truck with the WCC slogan ‘doctrine divides, ministry divides’. This led him to play an important role in the dialogue between evangelicals and Roman Catholics in the US.

It could be said that conservatism led Packer to a progressive attitude to ecumenical relations with Catholics. He showed the same progressive attitude in his readiness to engage with the charismatic movement although early life he opposed the holiness teaching of the Keswick Convention.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Books, Evangelicals, Theology

(CT) Thomas Jefferson Tried to ‘Fix’ the Bible. He Only Succeeded in Making It Sad.

His first effort at revising the text came while he was president—in a 46-page booklet he called The Philosophy of Jesus. The volume has been lost to history, but at one point he explained the project in detail to his frenemy John Adams. He said he had extracted, reduced, and cut down the gospel until the only thing left was “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals that has ever been offered to man.”

It was an easy process, Jefferson said. He cut the text up verse by verse, and the good parts stuck out “as diamonds in a dung hill.”

It wasn’t until 1820, more than a decade out of office, when he finished the fuller second version of his edited gospel. He called it The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. He read from it devoutly, Manseau says, until he died in 1826.

But the Jefferson Bible may have proved the opposite of what Jefferson intended. It doesn’t show Jesus to be a great moral teacher once his story is stripped of the miracles, exorcisms, and other acts that the former president found hard to believe. It presents Jesus rather as someone who didn’t do anything. As Manseau writes, “Jefferson’s is a hard gospel. The blind do not see; the lame do not walk; the multitudes will remain hungry if loaves and fishes must be multiplied to feed them. Even those who look to Jesus for forgiveness of sins are left wanting.”

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church History, Office of the President, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(RNS) Robert Putnam thinks religion could play a role in healing divisions

Given the huge decline in churchgoing beginning in the 1960s, can religion play a role in turning things around like it did at the beginning of the 20th century?

Garrett: I definitely think there’s a role for religion to play. But religion will have to be innovative in meeting the moment. We have seen some religious innovation aimed at combating the decline in churchgoing — in such things as megachurches, for example. But some of those megachurches are characterized by a theology that is highly individualistic — the prosperity gospel — the idea that God blesses the righteous with riches for themselves. That’s been used to draw people back into religion, but it’s reflective of the destructive, highly individualistic drift over the past half-century, which we chronicle in the book.

For religion to play a role in another upswing, it’s going to have to find a way to speak to a changed social landscape and to remind us our religious traditions speak directly to the situation we find ourselves in today — a situation where we need to take better care of our most vulnerable. We need to think about how we organize a society more fairly. There are great templates in every great religion for how to do this but we have to choose that religious narrative. There’s a moment here where our religious leaders have the ability to shape a religious narrative in order to inform our social problems. We’re seeing some early signs of that happening. For example, the Rev. William Barber, who is organizing “moral marches on Washington” and taking up the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign.

Putnam: King moved America from the bottom up as well as the top down. He did it above all by using the Exodus narrative. He knew it appealed well beyond the Black church he was in himself. The point is religious narratives and religious symbols have a huge power to move lots of people.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews Gareth Atkins’ new book ‘Converting Britainnia – Evangelicals and British Public Life, 1770-1840’

‘God Almighty has set before me two great objectives’, William Wilberforce wrote in his diary in October 1787, shortly after his conversion, ‘the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners’. As Gareth Atkins comments in this wide-ranging account of evangelical influence on public life in England from 1770 to 1840, it is important not to let the spotlight fall only on Wilberforce or his allies in Parliament. Historians have often failed to give enough attention to extensive networks that supported Wilberforce and to the care he took to form alliances with other groups that were not completely of his way of thinking.

Not that Atkins seeks to play down Wilberforce’s importance. The picture he paints of a politician seeking lobbying William Pitt and others to influence legislation as well as trying to secure promotion for evangelicals in the church is extraordinary. His energy was enormous. Atkins describes the money and support he raised to secure re-election to his Yorkshire constituency and in an amusing touch adds that the evangelical author, Hannah More, was so anxious about the outcome that she had to be prescribed opium.

Wilberforce’s evangelical faith did not mean that he could not be forceful and cold-blooded if he situation demanded it, even thinking about wrecking an opponent’s career. ‘It is the fashion to speak of Wilberforce as a gentle, yielding character’, remarked one official at the Colonial office, ‘but I can only say that he is the most obstinate, impractical fellow with whom I ever had to do’.

But supporting Wilberforce and the other ‘saints’ in Parliament were large networks of evangelicals which Atkins describes in the church, in the City, in the empire, in the Royal Navy and in the East India Company.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture

(CT) Rebecca Toscano reviews Rich Villodas’s new book–The Antidote to Spiritual Shallowness Isn’t ‘Believing Harder’ but Going Deeper

When I was a kid, I had a recurring nightmare that a loved one in my life was possessed by a demon. Immersed in this dream world, I often thought of Jesus’ words from Matthew 17: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed,” then “nothing will be impossible for you” (v. 20). This spurred me on to fresh efforts at casting out the demon, but nothing ever worked. In response, I tried conjuring up even more faith from somewhere within myself.

A similar impulse remained throughout my adolescence and early adulthood. Whenever I came to a spiritual or religious difficulty—whether it was trying to break a sinful habit, discerning God’s will, or growing in intimacy in my relationships—my impulse was the same: If I could just believe harder (whatever that meant, I was never sure), then I’d be able to move whatever mountain lay before me.

I’ve learned over time that deepening faith is not just a mental exercise. It requires action. This lesson was recently reinforced by Rich Villodas’s The Deeply Formed Life: Five Transformative Values to Root Us in the Way of Jesus, which invites Christians to penetrate further into the mysteries of our faith, the history and traditions of our global church, our relationships with others, and the reality of our own inner lives.

In the midst of a national pandemic that forces us to cover our faces and mediate our social engagements (including worshiping God) through computer screens, Villodas’s book could not come at a more opportune moment.

As the lead pastor of New Life Fellowship in Queens for seven years, Villodas guides the reader from experience. He leads a flock that is one of the most multiracial Protestant churches in the United States.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(WSJ) A Former Catholic Dances With the Torah

Given the social distancing mandated by the current pandemic, this will be a Simchat Torah unlike any other. In Israel, currently mired in an intense lockdown, many synagogues will be closed. Around this side of the world, whatever dancing takes place will be muted. Nevertheless, the fragility of life we’ve experienced in the past months allows us to appreciate better what the Torah means to us. The pandemic has made us understand what we often took for granted: how the ability to gather weekly in synagogue and study the Torah together is one of our greatest gifts. And we better appreciate how, in the face of life’s trials, it is the Book of Books that sustains us.

Strikingly, this point about Jewish learning was made by one of America’s most insightful Catholic thinkers, who experienced a moment that mirrors Mr. Dubner’s revelation in a synagogue. A decade ago, Charles Chaput, then archbishop of Philadelphia, visited the study hall of New York’s Yeshiva University, where hundreds of students spend much of their day learning Torah. Archbishop Chaput returned to church to deliver a homily about what he saw. He said he realized how “the Jewish people continue to exist because their covenant . . . is the foundation and glue of their relationship with one another, with their past, and with their future. And the more faithful they are to God’s Word, the more certain they can be of their survival.”

Mr. Dubner and Archbishop Chaput, former and current Catholic alike, discovered the heart of our faith. When all else fails, it is the Torah that sustains us. We know that now more than ever. This year, what is usually a jubilant song on our lips will become a clarion call in our hearts.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology: Scripture

(1st Things) Stephen Barr–On The Origins Of Specious Myths

Conventional wisdom has it that science and religion have perennially been at war. This “conflict thesis,” as historians call it, can be traced to the late nineteenth century and to two influential books in particular: John ­William Draper’s History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, published in 1874, and Andrew Dickson White’s two-volume History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, published in 1896.

Draper stated the thesis this way:

The history of Science . . . is a narrative of the conflict of two contending powers, the expansive force of the human intellect on one side, and the compression arising from traditionary faith and human interests on the other.

What Draper meant by “traditionary faith” was Catholicism, a religion he detested. The eminent historian of ­science Lawrence Principe has characterized Draper’s book as “little more than a thinly disguised anti-Catholic rant.” For Andrew Dickson White, by contrast, the problem lay not with any particular religion, or with religion in general, but with “dogmatic theology.” “The theological method,” as he saw it, “consists largely in accepting tradition and in spinning arguments to fit it.” The history of science is “full of ­interferences” by theologians fearful of new ideas:

Religious men started, centuries ago, with the idea that purely scientific investigation is unsafe; that theology must intervene. So began this great modern war.

Of course, Draper and White did not invent the notion that scientific ideas and theological ideas can sometimes be in tension, even to the point of conflict. This had been ­obvious since at least the time of Galileo. What they did invent was the notion that there had existed two distinct and warring camps, Science and Religion (or Science and Theology), and that history was replete with clashes between them. This notion is belied, of course, by the fact that the great majority of scientists well into the nineteenth century were themselves religious. Draper and White, in addition to inventing the conflict thesis, amassed much of the evidence that has since been cited to support it. This they did by variously misconstruing, taking out of context, garbling, embellishing, distorting, and in some cases simply fabricating historical facts and events.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, History, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(SA) Jesus made “a sinner and a killer” in Chinese textbook

Disturbing reports from China say Communist Party officials have rewritten the story of the woman caught in adultery from John 8, claiming Jesus stoned the woman to death.

The incident in John 8:3–11 is a powerful testament to Jesus’ forgiveness and his divinity. The account says a mob had surrounded a woman accused of adultery. After facing down the crowd seeking to stone her, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (v7).

After the crowd leaves, Jesus stands up and says: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (v10-11).

Reports from Roman Catholic sources and carried by the religious liberty group Bitter Winter say this event in the gospel has been drastically changed in a textbook published by the University of Electronic Science and Technology Press. The book is reportedly used in ethics and law courses in Chinese secondary vocational schools.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, China, Christology, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(MIT News) Why social media has changed the world — and how to fix it

The numbers make this clear. In 2005, about 7 percent of American adults used social media. But by 2017, 80 percent of American adults used Facebook alone. About 3.5 billion people on the planet, out of 7.7 billion, are active social media participants. Globally, during a typical day, people post 500 million tweets, share over 10 billion pieces of Facebook content, and watch over a billion hours of YouTube video.

As social media platforms have grown, though, the once-prevalent, gauzy utopian vision of online community has disappeared. Along with the benefits of easy connectivity and increased information, social media has also become a vehicle for disinformation and political attacks from beyond sovereign borders.

“Social media disrupts our elections, our economy, and our health,” says Aral, who is the David Austin Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Now Aral has written a book about it. In “The Hype Machine,” published this month by Currency, a Random House imprint, Aral details why social media platforms have become so successful yet so problematic, and suggests ways to improve them.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Science & Technology