Daily Archives: December 2, 2013

(RNS) Francis Spufford’s Christian apology aimed at ”˜godless Europeans

British novelist and essayist Francis Spufford’s spirited defense of the Christian religion is in some ways like eavesdropping on a missionary conversation with the pagans of antiquity.

“Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense” ”” is the latest attempt at an ancient literary form, the Christian apology, and it makes its appearance in the United States more than a year after it was published in England.

Spufford’s defense of Christianity is aimed primarily at what he calls “godless Europeans,” the post-Enlightenment elites who tend to regard religion with bemusement as a silly fairy tale, if not with open hostility as a dangerous superstition.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Apologetics, Books, Europe, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NY Times) Through a Novel, a Window into Oscar Hijuelos' Beliefs

The evening after receiving [his editor’s negative] verdict [on a submission he made], Mr. Hijuelos and his girlfriend at the time, Lori Carlson, sat together in their living room in Upper Manhattan, depression suffusing the air. Finally, Mr. Hijuelos told Ms. Carlson, “O.K., I’m really going to the heart of Christmas then.”

Mr. Hijuelos headed into his home office the next morning and started to work. Some of his writing days ended with his elbows bloody from hours of toiling at the desk. Ultimately, however, he produced what is surely one of the most fully achieved novels about religion, “Mr. Ives’ Christmas.”

It is, in distillate, the Book of Job transposed to Morningside Heights in the late 20th century. The title character, Edward Ives, is a commercial artist possessed of what he calls “a small, if imperfect, spiritual gift.” That gift finds expression in part through Mr. Ives’s son, Robert, who aspires to enter the priesthood.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Books, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Religion & Culture, Theology

Tom Speelman–Oscar Hijuelos RIP

At the end of…[the party], though, after most of the guests had gone home, my sister had gone to sleep after marathoning all then-7 of the Harry Potter films the night before and my folks were busy chatting with my aunt and uncle, I headed to the stack of my new books and, almost at random, chose one of the titles from my American Literature survey course: Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos.

I read the book in most of 2 days, instantly captivated by the story of a man, himself an orphan, trying to put his life back together after the murder of his aspiring priest son, and thinking back over the story of his own life as a honorary member of New York’s Cuban community of the 40s and ’50s, despite not really being Cuban himself; a simple story, Hijuelos captured it in poetic, delicate writing that painting broad, vibrant brushstrokes in your head.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Books, Caribbean, Cuba, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Poetry & Literature, Religion & Culture

(CT) Michael Ward–How C S Lewis Lit the Way to Better Apologetics

And here is where Lewis had a breakthrough. He understood that the story recounted in the Gospels””rather than the outworking of that story in the Epistles””was the essence of Christianity. Christianity was a “true myth” (myth here meaning a story about ultimate things, not a falsehood), whereas pagan myths were “men’s myths.” In paganism, God expressed himself in a general way through the images that humans created in order to make sense of the world. But the story of Christ is “God’s myth.” God’s myth is the story of God revealing himself through a real, historical life of a particular man, in a particular time, in a particular place””Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, crucified under Pontius Pilate outside Jerusalem, circa A.D. 33.

Pagan stories were meaningful but not true. The Christ story is both meaningful and true. Christianity is the true myth, the “myth become fact,” as Lewis would come to call it.

A couple of weeks after his conversation with Tolkien and Dyson, Lewis became certain that Christianity was true. But it’s important to note: Before he could accept the truth of Christianity, he had to clear an imaginative hurdle. His “organ of meaning” had to be satisfied. Rational assent to Christianity cannot occur unless there is meaningful content to which the higher faculty of reason may assent. Reason can’t operatewithout imagination.

And in this, Lewis, who called himself a “dinosaur” in his inaugural lecture at Cambridge, is in many ways closer to our postmodern contemporaries than he was to his own.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Apologetics, Church History, Theology

Andrew Evans: How to boil the frog of biblical ethics

Or… what will happen in the Church of England after the Pilling report.

Yesterday’s “Pilling” report on the ways in which the Church of England should respond to same sex relationships and marriage took 200 pages to say really very little (apart from the Bishop of Birkenhead’s admirable crafted dissenting opinion – which you can read here).

There were no recommendations for radical changes to the church’s liturgy or practice. The headline was the suggestion that the blessing of gay civil partnerships (which has, in fact, been going on quietly for years in liberal churches) should become officially OK.

Nevertheless the report admirably demonstrates the tactics of theological liberals in the CofE: to very slowly change what the church believes and does, one tiny step at a time, never allowing those who hold to a biblical view to present any one change as a huge, cataclysmic departure from Scripture.

This is to ensure that there is never an opportunity for evangelicals to rally together with their congregations….

Read it all

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE)

Bishop Pates Welcomes Iran Nuclear Deal, Urges All Parties to Work to Build Confidence, Peace

The interim accord with Iran that would limit its nuclear program in exchange for some sanctions relief “is greatly preferable to military action, which could have unpredictable and negative repercussions for the region,” said the chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a November 27 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Read it all by following the link to the full letter.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Middle East, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology, Theology

(Reuters) Central African Republic leader denies genocide, Christian-Muslim war threats

EU humanitarian chief Kristalina Georgieva said the country faced the twin risk of a state collapse and potential genocide because of the increasing tit-for-tat killings between the Christian majority and Seleka-backing Muslims.

Speaking at his residence in Camp de Roux, a colonial military camp on a hill that overlooks the Oubangui River, Djotodia attributed the violence to settling of scores between those loyal to the previous government and some Seleka elements.

“We hear people talk of inter-religious war, sometimes they talk of genocide. What group wants to exterminate the other? Who is planning to exterminate the other?” Djotodia asked.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Central African Republic, Foreign Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Violence

(CNN belief Blog) The C.S. Lewis you never knew

It’s tempting to remember Lewis only as the self-assured defender of Christianity who never met an argument he couldn’t demolish. His death 50 years ago, on November 22, 1963, was overshadowed by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He has since become a patron saint of American evangelicals.

But the actual man whom friends called “Jack” had a “horrible” personal life, thought he had failed as a defender of Christianity and spent so much time in pubs that his publishers initially struggled selling him to a religious audience, scholars say.

“American publishers worried about offending their more puritanical readers because it seemed impossible to get a dust jacket picture of Jack without a pint or a cigarette,” says Michael Tomko, a literature professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History

The Diocese of London holds its first Young Theologians' Study Summit

Designed to inspire a passion for academic theology and encourage students towards studying theology at university, the event was attended by 150 A-level students from Church of England secondary schools and was opened by the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres.

The Bishop of London kicked off the event by speaking of his personal journey into theology and towards God as a result of his own family’s experience.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Seminary / Theological Education, Teens / Youth, Theology

(60 Minutes) Amazon unveils futuristic plan: Delivery by drone

Jeff Bezos: These are effectively drones but there’s no reason that they can’t be used as delivery vehicles. Take a look up here so I can show you how it works.

Charlie Rose: All right. We’re talking about delivery here?

Jeff Bezos: We’re talking about delivery. There’s an item going into the vehicle. I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not.

Charlie Rose: Wow!

Jeff Bezos: This is early. This is still”¦years away. It drops the package.

Charlie Rose: And there’s the package.

Jeff Bezos: You come and get your package. And we can do half hour delivery.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Science & Technology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Channing Moore Williams

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank thee for thy Servant Channing, whom thou didst call to preach the Gospel to the peoples of Asia. Raise up, we beseech thee, in this and every land heralds and evangelists of thy kingdom, that thy Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Saviour Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Lord Jesus Christ, who at thy first coming didst warn us to prepare for the day when thou shalt come to be our judge: Mercifully grant that being awake from the sleep of sin, we may always be watching and intent upon the work thou hast given us to do; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.

–W. E. Scudamore

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

–Psalm 1:1-3

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Dana Milbank–Save America: Restore the draft

…one change, over time, could reverse the problems that have built up over the past few decades: We should mandate military service for all Americans, men and women alike, when they turn 18. The idea is radical, unlikely and impractical ”” but it just might work.

There is no better explanation for what has gone wrong in Washington in recent years than the tabulation done every two years of how many members of Congress served in the military.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, History, Politics in General, Young Adults

(Washington Post) How the crossword lit up the world of puzzles

On a snowy evening in the early 1900s, a newspaper editor at the New York World was hunched over his desk trying to think of something special for the Christmas issue.

Remembering the small word squares he’d solved as a young Brit in Liverpool, he drew a diamond-shaped grid with numbered squares and numbered clues. It contained 32 words, and his simple instruction read: “Fill in the small squares with words which agree with the following definitions.”

The puzzle appeared Dec. 21, 1913, and what 42-year-old Arthur Wynne had created was the first crossword puzzle.

It was an instant success.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, History, Media

Allan Bevere–The Eclipsing of the Death of C.S. Lewis

Perhaps the significance of Kennedy is ultimately found in his tragic and untimely death and that is why November 22 has been singled out in his memory, eclipsing Lewis’ death. But it seems to me that Lewis’ significance is found in his life and work. JFK’s importance is found in what could have been had he lived (and perhaps a little too romanticized in the process), as well as the continued controversy generated by conspiracy theorists as to how many assassins were involved that day. But I think Lewis’ importance is found in not what might have been, but in what he contributed prior to his death, challenging us to rethink our view of the world and the significance of a “mere Christianity” in which an orthodox understanding of Jesus was essential, while poking at that mere Jesus with some new and different questions.

November 22 seems to have been dedicated to JFK by default because of his untimely death. Lewis continues to be read and discussed and pondered in an ever-continuing stream of new books, in coffee shops and pubs and taverns and at conferences. The significance of Lewis’ contribution cannot be limited to one day a year….

Lewis’ death may get no attention, but his life and work cannot be eclipsed.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Books, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry

(The Economist) The Iranian nuclear deal: Unlocking the Middle East

For over three decades Iran and America have been blood enemies. Their hatred, like the hatred between the Palestinians and the Israelis, has framed the Middle East’s alliances and fuelled terror and war. The interim deal over Iran’s nuclear programme has not undone that””far from it. But through the keyhole it offers a tantalising glimpse of a different, better Middle East. It is a vision worth striving for.

Iran and six world powers, led by America, struck the six-month interim nuclear agreement in the early hours of November 24th…. Iran will cap its programme at more or less its capacity today, while the rest of the world will relax sanctions a little. But the deal matters mostly for what it heralds. If Iran shows restraint and the world rewards it, the negotiators might generate sufficient goodwill to reach a more durable and comprehensive agreement. And that would open up the possibility of America and Iran co-operating more, or at least feuding less, in the world’s most troubled region.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Middle East, Politics in General, Theology

(SMH) Police say it is ''the No.1 social media problem involving teenagers'

Do you know what it is? Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Teens / Youth

PBS ' Religion and Ethics Newsweekly–Gettysburg Address 150th Anniversary

On November 14, R&E invited students and tutors from New York Avenue Presbyterian Church’s after-school tutoring program, Community Club, to recite the Gettysburg Address in honor of its 150th anniversary. The club meets at the church every week and provides dinner, academic tutoring, and mentorship to DC students ranging in age from 5 to 18. New York Avenue Presbyterian is also the church where President Lincoln rented a pew and sometimes attended services. The Gettysburg Address, described by historians as “the sacred scripture of the Civil War’s innermost spiritual meaning,” was delivered at Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863.

Watch and listen to it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Death / Burial / Funerals, Defense, National Security, Military, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture