Daily Archives: December 18, 2013

(OUP Blog) Michael Ruse–Non-belief as a moral obligation

For all of my cockiness about non-belief when I was young, I had a sneaking suspicion that as I grew older and the prospect of Crossing the Rainbow Bridge grew ever closer, I would start moving back to belief. Better take out an insurance ticket just in case God exists, although if He exists and turns out to be a Jehovah’s Witness then all bets are off. At least I will have the compensation of seeing the Pope trying to dig himself out of an even deeper hole than mine. The funny thing, however, is that as I grow older (I am now in my seventies), if anything my feeling that non-belief is right for me grows ever stronger. I am sure that at least in part it is psychological. Having had one headmaster in this life, I don’t want another one in the next. But I think my feeling is also bound up with what my work on the books on atheism have taught me, together with the insights of Clifford about the morality of belief. I truly don’t know if there is anything more, but that is okay. What would not be okay, morally, would be pretending that there was something more even though I didn’t really think there was adequate evidence, or conversely pretending that there is nothing more, perhaps rather pathetically trying to win the approval of today’s very public atheists.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Books, Other Faiths, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CC) Kate Bowler–The American megachurch and the Christmas prosperity gospel

Christmastime in America’s megachurches is a middle-class utopia. Jesus’ coming rewards the faithful with more than enough, a whole-life prosperity that can be seen as much in the Xbox One under the tree as in the worship at the altar of children’s Christmas pageants. So much the better if your church can assemble a living Christmas tree or a nativity scene that doubles as a petting zoo.

But perhaps this has more to do with what Tewaldi, an Ethiopian refugee member of our evangelical Mennonite church, observed after his first year in Canada: “At this church, I can’t tell the difference between Good Friday and Easter.”

Coming out of the ceremonial richness of his Coptic background, Tewaldi couldn’t feel among us the liturgical lows of the Christian calendar. And so he couldn’t feel the highs either. The flattening effect of North American Protestantism came at a theological price. Without that temporal economy of up and down”” sanctified periods of celebration and discipline, light and darkness, feasting and fasting””it was hard to tell spiritual time at all.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Darlington+Stockton Times) Victims of abuse want C of E to support targeted independent inquiry

THE Church of England has been accused of falling short of what is needed by campaigners wanting a public inquiry into the extent of child abuse.

The Stop Church Child Abuse alliance, which represents church abuse survivor groups, said it had been informed by Bishop of Durham elect Paul Butler in a meeting last week that the Church of England would not support an independent inquiry into child sex abuse in the Catholic Church and Church of England.

The Church confirmed last night it would instead support a “wide ranging” public inquiry into institutional child abuse in the church and other key national institutions ”“ but not one specific to the churches.

Campaigners say this is a u-turn on the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s statement at the General Synod in July…

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, --Justin Welby, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Children, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(Pew Research) Celebrating Christmas and the Holidays, Then and Now

Nine-in-ten Americans say they celebrate Christmas, and three-quarters say they believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. But only about half see Christmas mostly as a religious holiday, while one-third view it as more of a cultural holiday. Virtually all Christians (96%) celebrate Christmas, and two-thirds see it as a religious holiday. In addition, fully eight-in-ten non-Christians in America also celebrate Christmas, but most view it as a cultural holiday rather than a religious occasion.

…while about seven-in-ten Americans say they typically attended Christmas Eve or Christmas Day religious services when they were children, 54% say they plan to attend Christmas services this year.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Children, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

Archbishop Cranmer Blog on Global South response to Pilling Report–A "missiological gulf"

The distinctive mission of the Church of England, while based upon the principle of inculturation, cannot endorse uncritical acceptance of the totality of English culture. And yet it operates a territorial ”˜church in community’ type of ecclesiology which works with the state to define its worship, and through dioceses, parishes and chaplaincies to effect its pastoral care and compassionate service. Establishment commits the Church of England to full involvement in civil society and to making a contribution to the public discussion of issues that have moral or spiritual implications.

By concerning itself with the pastoral dimensions of wholeness and healing, the mission of the Church of England accords with people’s quest for meaning and an assurance of identity which cannot be found without community, without fellowship. Its fundamental weaknesses, in common with many churches in Europe, is its tendency to demand that people do not merely acknowledge the Lordship of Christ but also abandon their former way of life in favour of that of a peculiar middle-class sub-culture. Notwithstanding some of the excellent work going on in some of the most impoverished parishes in the country, the public perception of the Church of England remains one of middle-class privilege and an élitism which has little relevance to a modern, pluralist, multi-ethnic society.

And it is also one which has very little relevance to most gays and lesbians, and therein lies the missiological challenge.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Christology, Church of England (CoE), Global South Churches & Primates, Missions, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Soteriology, Theology

Book Idea–"Worship across the Racial Divide: Religious Music and the Multiracial Congregation"

Michael O. Emerson’s review begins this way:

So you want to have a multiracial, multicultural church. Music, you decide, is an important vehicle to get there.

But what type of music? This is the core question of Gerardo Marti’s fascinating new book, Worship Across the Racial Divide: Religious Music and the Multiracial Congregation (Oxford University Press), and one that occupies the minds of many a Christian leader attempting to do multiethnic ministry.

Marti’s answer is shocking….It doesn’t matter what type(s) of music.

This one looks very interesting–check it out.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Books, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Music, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(Bloomberg) Illustrating a broad shift, at 61 She Lives in Basement While 87-Year-Old Dad Travels

While plenty of baby boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, have become affluent and many elderly around the U.S. face financial hardship, the wealth disparity of this father and daughter is emblematic of a broad shift occurring around the country. A rising tide of graying baby boomers is less secure financially and has a lower standard of living than their aged parents.

The median net worth for U.S. households headed by boomers aged 55 to 64 was almost 8 percent lower, at $143,964, than those 75 and older in 2011, according to Census Bureau data. Boomers lost more than other groups in the stock market and housing bust of 2008, and many also lost their jobs in the aftermath at a critical point in their productive years.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Children, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Medicare, Middle Age, Pensions, Personal Finance, Psychology, Social Security, Stock Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

South Carolina Rector Greg Snyder writes on his experience at Gafcon II

“So are we Anglican or Episcopalian?” people ask. The answer is ‘both’ as it’s always been. The word ‘anglican’ just means English or England, which is where the Church was birthed over 400 years ago, and where the titular head, the Archbishop of Canterbury, resides. And ‘episcopal’ refers to being governed by bishops. The Anglican Communion is similar to an umbrella with the many spokes representing all the “Episcopal” churches worldwide (Churchof England, TEC, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, Anglican Church of Australia, etc.). But the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is in a unique position. We are no longer a part of TEC nor of any province in the
Anglican Communion.

However, we are closely linked to and approved of by many of the influential churches of Africa and Asia. Bishop Lawrence has said we will join a group such as ACNA only by vote of the Diocesan Convention, thus there will be no decision before 2015.

Read it all (page 12).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * South Carolina, Africa, GAFCON II 2013, Global South Churches & Primates, Kenya, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

Mental Health Break–Paul McCartney Desperately Wanted That Free T-shirt

A lot of fun–watch it all (15 seconds).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, Movies & Television, Music, Sports

Peter Moore–How the East African Revival Saved the Anglican Communion

I stood there with my wife, Sandra, in 2004 and whispered to myself: here is where God began to save the Anglican Communion.

We were visiting Kabare in the central western part of Uganda. We were there to take a look at an Anglican theological seminary, and visit the grave of Bishop Festo Kivengere a remarkable African leader whom I had slightly known. There, near the seminary in a grove of trees lies a natural amphitheater. On its curved hillside hundreds gathered in 1935 to hear an African layman preach powerfully about his conversion to Jesus Christ, his repentance from sin, his breakthrough to victory over recurrent wrong behavior, and his overflowing love for other believers regardless of denomination.

This event, continuously recalled in recurrent festivals right up to this day, sparked a revival that has left an indelible imprint on the worldwide Anglican Communion and continues to bear fruit today.

The preacher that day, Simeoni Nsibambi, had only recently met in Kambala with a missionary from England with a most improbable name: Dr. Joe Church. The two men met for several days, reading the Bible and praying together. They lamented the sad state of Christianity in Nsibambi’s home country of Rwanda, and elsewhere throughout East Africa.

Read it all from 2013.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Church History, GAFCON II 2013, Global South Churches & Primates, Missions, Theology

(CT) Timothy Hall–Why do We make Jesus seem gray when he was anything but?

“Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean,” wrote Algernon Charles Swinburne. “The world has grown grey with thy breath.” Where, I wonder, did the Victorian poet get this picture of a Christ who draws the color out of life? Then it occurs to me: from Christians. He drew the image from observing people like me.

Those who follow Jesus have done a good deal to propagate an image of Christ as the cosmic killjoy, the divine naysayer, who never met a delight he could not dull or a dream he could not puncture. Puritanism, the 20th-century writer H. L. Mencken famously quipped, is “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” Puritans or not, Christians have done their part to vindicate his statement.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Christology, History, Religion & Culture, Theology

(ABC Aus.) Deirdre McCloskey–Virtues lost: How it happened and why we can't live without them

show seven principal virtues.

The case in favour of four of them – the “pagan” or “aristocratic” or “political” virtues of courage, justice, temperance and prudence – was made by Plato, Aristotle and Cicero. In the early thirteenth century, St. Albert the Great summarized Cicero’s claim that every virtuous act has all four: “For the knowledge required argues for prudence; the strength to act resolutely argues for courage; moderation argues for temperance; and correctness argues for justice.” In sophisticated ruminations on the virtues until the eighteenth century, these four persisted – as, for example, in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments….

The other three virtues for a flourishing life, adding up to the principal seven, are faith, hope and love. These three so-called “theological” virtues are not until the nineteenth century regarded as political. Before the Romantics and their nationalism and socialism, they were thought of as achieving the salvation of an individual soul, as achieving the City of God, not a city of humans.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Theology

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, we beseech thee, to prepare the way of thine only begotten Son; so that when he cometh we may be found watching, and serve thee with a pure and ready will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

After this I looked, and lo, in heaven an open door! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up hither, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and lo, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne! And he who sat there appeared like jasper and carnelian, and round the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald. Round the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clad in white garments, with golden crowns upon their heads. From the throne issue flashes of lightning, and voices and peals of thunder, and before the throne burn seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God; and before the throne there is as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And round the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all round and within, and day and night they never cease to sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

–Revelation 4:1-8

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Belgian R. Catholic bishops criticise vote to allow children to choose euthanasia

Belgium’s Catholic bishops have criticised a parliamentary vote paving the way for sick children and dementia patients to choose euthanasia.

“The voices of religious leaders have plainly not been listened to,” said Jesuit Father Tommy Scholtes, bishops’ conference spokesman.

“While everyone wants a gentle death, public opinion appears unaware that euthanasia is a technical act that ends life abruptly. This is why we reject it and believe palliative care offers a better solution,” he told the Catholic News Service.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Belgium, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Reuters) U.S. Religion news journalists choose Top Ten religion news stories of 2014

The Religion Newswriters Association (RNA) in the United States has chosen the Top Ten religion stories of 2014. The online ballot of RNA members was conducted over the past weekend and announced on Monday.

Please guess what the ten are before you read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Media, Religion & Culture

Melanie Phillips–Is the West Losing the Plot?

Anyone seeking evidence of how the western mind is snapping shut and how insult is steadily replacing evidence and reason need only watch this instructive altercation on BBC TV’s Newsnight last night. Ostensibly a discussion about the efficacy or otherwise of drug courts, it fast descended into a row between actor and self-confessed former drug addict Matthew Perry and journalist Peter Hitchens over the nature of drug addiction itself.

Hitchens argued that addiction was not, as is almost universally assumed, a disease over which the sufferer has no control but a form of willed self-indulgence which drug users could end if they really wanted to do so enough. A controversial proposition, indeed, and surely one of which few have previously been made aware.

But Hitchens did not encounter scepticism and a reasoned counter-argument. Instead, an incredulous Perry scoffed at him as ”˜Santa’ and frothed that his argument was crazy, ”˜as ludicrous as saying Peter Pan was real’. All of this, however, merely served to highlight the fact that when asked for evidence to support his claim that addiction was an illness Perry could not do so, resorting instead to the lame response that ”˜doctors say it is’, that he himself was proof of his own argument and that addiction was an ”˜allergy of the body’ (eh?)

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Philosophy, Psychology, Theology

Vague Insight into the Obvious Department–Americans Prefer In-Person Preaching to Video

Recently, LifeWay Research conducted a study on video venue/multisite churches. I have always been interested in this technology and the phenomenon of live-streamed sermons in churches in place of a present, physical preaching pastor. I have written about multisite churches before here, here, here, and other places as well.

In addtion to this research, I have reached out to Bob Hyatt and Geoff Surrat, two pastors who have helpful, however differing, views on multisite churches and their use of video preaching. Be sure to read both of their articles and learn from what each one of them thinks about video venues.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology