Daily Archives: May 20, 2011

Alan Jacobs–A Bachelor's Degree in Atheism

Secularism is moving slowly in America, but the story of religious belief and practice here looks even more complex if one takes a long view. More than 60% of Americans belong to some formal religious body today. In the late 18th century, that number was less than 10%.

Any intellectually serious program in secular studies will avoid triumphalism and deal with the complexity of secularism’s history. It will know that the recent history of Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand is not the history of all humanity. It will also acknowledge that there is not merely one variety of secularism””some secularists have strong beliefs in paranormal phenomena, which disgusts other secularists. A serious program will also acknowledge that some of the best work on secularism has been done by Christians, foremost among them the Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor.

A few years down the line, how can we know that secular studies at Pitzer is living up to its promise? One sign: If some of its students come in as devout atheists or agnostics and leave as religious believers.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Atheism, Education, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Young Adults

"Baptism is common to us all" – an update from the Anglican-Catholic dialogue

(ACNS) Today, Friday, the Commission looked particularly at the mandate given to it, which is to engage in theological dialogue and reflection with the tasks of:

– Re-examining how the goal (to seek “restoration of complete communion in faith and sacramental life” is to be understood today
– Presenting the work of ARCIC II for reception
– Continuing to work in the established dialogue method
– Discussing the Church as communion, local and universal, and
– How in communion the local and universal Church discern right ethical teaching

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Kendall Harmon–A Word About the End of the World

Since my area of specialization in research is eschatology, I have gotten a lot of questions about a certain individual (and his entourage of followers) getting a lot of press this past little while for stating the time of the end of the world (he thinks it is soon). I refuse to post stories on this because I am not going to give him/his group any more publicity.

As for what I think, my answer is simple–I refer you to Mark 13 in which Jesus says:

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come (verses 24-33, RSV).

This is a difficult passage, because it comes in answer to a double question, but I think it is rightly understood at the end to be referring to Jesus’ second coming and the “end of the world.” Do you notice what he says? Not even Jesus knows.

So if Jesus says he doesn’t know, and if history is littered with examples of people who have confidently predicted the day with certainty and later were shown to be wrong, why should we presume to say we know? That it is coming and that it is coming “soon” we can be sure, the New Testament is quite clear on that. But as for when exactly, we don’t know. I do not know. Part of being a dependent creature is to admit there are things we simply do not know–that isn’t a bad thing, it is actually a key part of Christian witness–KSH.

Posted in * By Kendall, * Culture-Watch, Eschatology, Religion & Culture, Sermons & Teachings, Theology

Nigerian Anglican Bishop John Danbinta–Christians live in perpetual fear of death in the North

Bishop Danbinta spoke on Thursday in a sermon at the opening of the first session of the 10th Synod of Remo Anglican Diocese….[He] disclosed that it was becoming increasingly difficult for Christians to openly carry the Bible in some areas in the North.

Although he did not mention such places, the Kaduna-born bishop said he had had nasty experiences of hostility against adherents of the Christian faith in Kano and Zamfara states, where he is currently a bishop.

“Those of you who are Christians in the South here do not know what it really means to be Christians. In the North, we live daily preparing to be killed for the sake of Jesus Christ. And we suffer a lot for Christ sake….”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria, Islam, Ministry of the Ordained, Muslim-Christian relations, Nigeria, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture, Violence

Yasmine El Rashidi–Egypt: Why Are the Churches Burning?

In the end, there does not seem to be any single explanation for the church attack and the other recent incidents of violence. What is clear is that a confluence of forces””an army seeking the opportunity to consolidate power, remnants of a regime stirring havoc, a cabinet with little authority of its own, radical Islamists aspiring to an Islamic State, and deep-rooted currents of social intolerance that Egypt has long failed to confront””have created a situation in which the Copts, among other groups, have become particularly vulnerable. As the economy plummets, financial woes may lead to more instability””prices have already risen, and on the streets people are complaining they have no work. Reports indicate that many are already resorting to theft to feed their families.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Coptic Church, Egypt, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

(BBC) Paralysed man can stand and move his legs again

A US man who was paralysed from the chest down after being hit by a car is now able to stand with electrical stimulation of his spinal cord.

Rob Summers, from Oregon, said standing on his own was “the most amazing feeling”.

He can voluntarily move his toes, hips, knees and ankles and also walk on a treadmill while being supported, according to research in the Lancet.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(Church Times) Archbishop Rowan Williams prompts new PEV to quit Freemasons

The Principal of Pusey House, Oxford, the Revd Jonathan Baker, is to resign as a Freemason after being encouraged by the Archbishop of Canterbury to reconsider his membership before his consecration as the next Bishop of Ebbsfleet.

It was announced earlier this month…that Mr Baker would be one of the two new Provincial Episcopal Visitors, to replace Mgr Andrew Burnham, a leader of the RC Ordinariate, who seceded in January.

Mr Baker, who recently served as an Assistant Grand Chaplain to the Freemasons, posted a statement on the Ebbsfleet website last Friday, the day when he was contacted by a Sunday newspaper. He said that he had joined as a lay undergraduate in Oxford, and had found it to be “an organisation admirably committed to community life and involvement with a record of charitable giving second to none, especially among, for example, unfashionable areas of medical research”.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Sarah Coakley–Taming Desire: Celibacy, Sexuality and the Church

…anyone surveying the cultural and political scene with a dispassionate eye would surely have to come to other conclusions: the general erosion of the instance of life-long marriage in North America and Europe, the rise in divorce rates, and the concomitant upsurge in the number of single-parent families, are all well-known to us in secular discussions, but are by no means absent from church-attending, or indeed Protestant clerical, families.

Only a short time ago, for instance, the clergy of the Diocese of Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts received a mailing calmly announcing that one of their suffragan bishops was undergoing a divorce.

One could not but be struck by the air of enforced “normalcy” and psychological adjudication that hung over this letter – no regrets, no confessions, no distress even, and certainly no reference to either bible or Christian tradition: just an insistence that the couple had been “faithful in caring for … each other” in the past, but were now “clear” about the fact that their marriage was “ending.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, TEC Bishops, Theology

(BBC) Business booms for Danish sperm

In Denmark, sperm donation does not have to come with a name and telephone number – unlike in Britain and in a fast-increasing number of other European countries.

That has made Denmark something of a Mecca for foreign women who want to conceive by artificial insemination, because it has no shortage of officially screened and tested semen.

Danish clinics which provide insemination (often for a fraction of the price of similar treatment in the UK) have three main types of customer: lesbian couples, heterosexual couples and single women. It is the final category which is growing – by far – the fastest.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Children, Denmark, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Science & Technology, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Alcuin

Almighty God, who in a rude and barbarous age didst raise up thy deacon Alcuin to rekindle the light of learning: Illumine our minds, we pray thee, that amid the uncertainties and confusions of our own time we may show forth thine eternal truth, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Lord God, who hast revealed in holy Scripture what conquests faith has made both in doing, and in suffering: Grant us no smaller faith than that which overcometh the whole world, that Jesus thy Son is God, very God from the beginning, the First and the Last, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, world without end.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

Somehow oh so appropriate for the easter season–KSH.

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Weekly Standard) The ongoing persecution of Christians in China

Communist China has earned praise in the past few years for a perceived thaw in its strict opposition to religious observance””particularly Christianity. A visitor to China will see Christian churches out in the open; a printing facility in Nanjing is the largest Bible publisher in the world. There is the appearance, at least, of a faith that is free and tolerated.

This helps explain some of the shock over a series of brutal crackdowns that have come as startling departures. Over Easter, Chinese authorities escalated their campaign against a Protestant “house church,” Shouwang, detaining dozens of believers and placing hundreds more under house arrest for the “crime” of worshipping in a public square. And late last month, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its annual report, which flagged several incidents of horrific abuses of Christians in China”‹”””‹including “disappearances,” beatings, the destruction of churches, and forced “re-education through labor.”

But these two trends are not in fact contradictory. The “thaw” in China’s treatment of Christians was nothing more than a savvy and sophisticated new twist on its longstanding assault on religious freedom….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, China, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Zenit) Anglican-Catholic Dialogue Presses On

One might wonder if it’s foolish optimism that has gathered 10 Anglicans and seven Catholics of the Anglican-Catholic dialogue commission in northern Italy today, to begin the third session of the decades-long dialogue between the two groups.

The obstacles separating Anglicans and Catholics are steeper than they’ve been in years, with Anglicans forging ahead on the ordination of women and homosexuals, despite the dismay of some within the Communion. Catholics, meanwhile, have been accused of “fishing in Anglican ponds,” since Benedict XVI established a new ecclesial structure for Anglicans to enter Catholic communion en masse.

But, nestled within the ecumenical monastic community of Bose, Italy, the 17 ecumenically minded men and women are, according to the Catholic co-chair of the the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), devoted to an ultimate aim that “must remain the same.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Swiss voters overwhelmingly reject proposed assisted suicide ban

Swiss voters rejected a proposal to ban assisted suicide and suicide tourism in the Canton (political district) of Zurich.

In a referendum on Sunday, about 85% of voters in Zurich rejected a proposal to end legalized assisted suicide while about 78% rejected a proposal to stop the practice of suicide tourism by foreigners in their Canton.

Two conservative political parties, the Evangelical People’s Party and the Federal Democratic Union, supported the referendum, promoting palliative care as the best option to care for seriously ill people at the end of their lives. The groups argued that the presence of assisted suicide clinics run by the Exit and Dignitas organizations, and their promotion of suicide tourism, damages Zurich’s image.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Aging / the Elderly, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Switzerland, Theology