Category: Uncategorized

I am not alone in feeling leery about revealing too much about myself. When researching information about 15th century scholar Lorenzo Valla, I ran into the blog by Roger Pearse, at Tertullian.org. He speaks from experience:

About Roger Pearse

This page was written in 1999, when this website was new. It contained my photograph, my email address, and various personal, educational and professional details and so forth.

Little by little, it has grown shorter. The internet is not so small a place as it was in those days. A troll was merely a nuisance, not a brutal thug determined to use the compulsive element in social media to drive a vulnerable teenager to suicide, and to jeer at them afterwards on their memorial Facebook page. A spammer was merely an advertiser, not an internet criminal determined to steal your every shekel, and your identity with it. Privacy was taken for granted. None of this is true today.

My email address was the first to go. That change was forced upon me by the torrent of spam. I created a form — which the spammers soon learned to attack — but this stemmed much of the trouble.

Next to go was my photograph, once I found that the nastier people online sought out personal information in order to use it to inflict pain on their victims. Professional details went next, for the same reason.

Today I have decided to remove the rest. It is a wrench, it is true. But I see no alternative. If I were to join the internet today, I suspect that I would not use my own name at all, but a pen-name. Anything else puts you at risk from the criminal element online.

I myself feel uncomfortable writing online under any name but my own. Occasionally some forum software prevents me from using my own name; but it is a weird feeling. But I think it would be absurd for me to attempt to use a pseudonym at this time of day.

All the same, I cannot sensibly allow personal details to remain on the web when I can prevent this. Nor should you.

Mr. Pearse’s advice is taken to heart. I am sure that over time, the clues I will have offered here and there might allow for someone to guess who I am in “real life”, but I don’t plan to make it easy.

I came across an interesting essay regarding the powerful impact that a single generation has had on Christian life in the U.S. The author of “The Six Commandments of the Boomers” is Reverend Todd Wilken, a blogger, speaker, and pastor within the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

Wilken, himself a member of the “Baby Boom” generation (those with birth dates between 1946 and 1964), begins his piece with a sweeping critique of his cohorts as being generally narcissistic and self absorbed. They are now 28 percent of the U.S. population, and all of our societal institutions and power centers are firmly in their control.

Their influence on the churches of our land has been no less sweeping than it has been on other aspects of life.

Boomers seek to recreate the institution in their own Boomer image. The Boomers have brought this imperative of the individual to bear upon the Church. The Church is here to provide whatever the Boomers want or think they need… The Church has undertaken more innovations in the last generation than in all the previous generations combined, mostly at the insistence of the Boomers.

One area has been music:

And in the Church of the Boomers music is THE issue. Music was the Boomers’ voice. In large part, their music was what defined them as “hip.” Suckled at the breast of what began as tinpan alley and quickly became the music industry, the Boomers can’t wean themselves. Their kind of music is hip and that imperative of hip extends even to the Church. Again, Veith observes:

“Certainly Baby Boomers often do demand their kind of music in church. This is another of their traits —to be demanding and self-absorbed and intolerant of other styles. The World War II generation never demanded worship styles with Big Band music.”

I have been fond of saying that we seem to be stuck in a dichotomy: Boomer theology and traditional music (your average mainline denominational church), versus boomer music and traditional theology (a typical evangelical church). I now realize that I underappreciated even the sinister influence that the “Boomer worldview” has had on theology that is otherwise outwardly orthodox:

In the Church of the Boomers this rebellion against authority manifests itself as a skeptical approach to the Church’s doctrinal standards, pastoral authority, and polity.

However, the bigger problem is that in the Church there is an unquestioned authority: the authority of the Bible. The Church of the Boomers rejects this authority in one of two ways; they either deny the authority of the Bible outright, as in liberal Churches, or they relativize the authority of the Bible, as in much of Protestant Evangelicalism. The first kind of rebellion against Scripture’s authority is obvious. The second is much more subtle, and therefore more dangerous.

The relativizing of the Scripture allows the Boomers to affirm Scripture’s authority in theory while denying it in practice. They can say that they are Bible believing, that the Bible is inerrant and infallible, and even authoritative. The problem isn’t in what the Boomers say about the Bible, the problem is in how they use the Bible.

When studying the Bible there is a big difference between asking, “what does it mean?” and asking, “what does it mean to me?” The former seeks objective truth, the latter seeks subjective, relative truth. The former affirms Scripture’s authority, the latter denies it. Bible study in the Church of the Boomers is mostly the latter. If the meaning of the Bible is determined by each individual’s private interpretation, then the issue of the Bible’s objective authority is rendered moot.

Read it all at the link above.

May the day of Christ’s birth fill you with all joy!

(Imaage credit: Nativity, Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre, 1714-1789).

image

Central Italy was struck by a 6.6 magnitude earthquake on Oct 30. This is one of several devastating quakes experienced in this region recently, including the August earthquake that killed some 300 people and reduced much of the town of Amatrice to rubble. Apparently 15,000 people have been made homeless in the current disaster. 

The world of art is mourning the loss of some treasures. The still standing tower of the town of Amatrice, and the facade of the Sant’ Agostini church, were finished off. In Norcia, the fourteenth century basilica of San Benedetto, pictured above, was destroyed.  Fortunately in the latest quake, no lives were lost, but the destruction of historic art and architecture has been lamented.

As the Guardian opines:
From Pompeii to Florence to Norcia, the people of Italy have lived with disaster for millennia. Out of that instability they created beauty. Any loss of that great human fabric is a loss for us all.

We agree. Our prayers go out for the people of these towns.

  1. Our prayers for comfort go to all the families and friends of the 50+ people killed in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.  According to news reports, the gunman, Omar Mateen, pledged allegiance to ISIS in a 9-1-1 phone call.  This event now marks the largest death toll from a shooting spree in U.S. history.  You can read more coverage of this terrible tragedy in several news outlets, including, for example, CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/12/us/orlando-nightclub-shooting/
  2. In a separate and unrelated incident, Christina Grimmie, a former “The Voice” contestant, was signing autographs for fans after a performance in Orlando when a man walked up to her and fatally shot her. An article at The Gospel Herald reports that she was a committed Christian:
    Grimmie achieved much interest in her version of the song “In Christ Alone,” and she had indicated the Bible is her favorite book. She had described herself as a “full-on Christian who loves Jesus.” Her lyrics reflected her morals and beliefs, and how she lived her life. In her public profiles, she stated Jesus was her “Lord and Savior,” and that she sung for Him.  
    We applaud her witness and pray for those who will miss her.

A small but significant semantic victory on the religious freedom front has been won by a senator from Oklahoma. In recent years, a quiet effort has been made to substitute the phrase (and concept) “freedom of worship” in place of the more traditional “freedom of religion.” One place where this change has emerged in the past few years is on the civic test materials of the US Citizen and Immigration Services.

As reported last year in the Christian Post, Senator Lankford of Oklahoma, a former youth pastor, has taken issue with this:

“Not only is ‘freedom of worship’ inconsistent with the text of the Amendment proposed 226 years ago today, saying that ‘freedom of worship’ is more inclusive that ‘freedom of religion’ flies in the face of the pillar upon which our entire nation was founded,” Lankford contended. “Our forefathers came to America to have freedom of religion, not simply freedom of worship. So valued, they made the free exercise of religion our first freedom.”

Lankford’s letter also asserts that “freedom of religion” is the ability for a person to live out their beliefs in every aspect of life.

“The freedom of religion is much more than just the freedom of worship. Worship confines you to a location,” the senator explained. “Freedom of religion is the right to exercise your religious beliefs — it is the ability for Americans to live out their faith or to choose to have no faith.”

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/senator-rebukes-dhs-for-suggesting-freedom-of-religion-is-only-freedom-to-worship-140131/#D152z82RJywY8jz8.99

His efforts appear to have worked. The Agency and its parent, the Department of Homeland Security, have recently agreed to change the wording of their materials.

This may prove a minor and symbolic change only, but we applaud it, as we do all efforts of Christians with convictions to stand against the tide. Our appreciation goes to Mr. Lankford.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his party have proposed new legislation to expand Canada’s blasphemy laws, er… hate speech laws… to cover transgender issues. Anyone who dares to speak wrongly on transgender issues could face penalties of up to two years in jail. You can read favorable mainstream media coverage, for example, at
NBC.

Canada is no stranger to using hate speech law to curb religious expression. The Christian Post has bundled with this story a mention of the following chilling example:

An identical ban on anti-gay “hate propaganda” has been in place for several years and has caused problems for Christians who oppose gay marriage. In 2013, the Canadian Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a Christian street preacher for distributing fliers denouncing homosexual behavior.

The court justified the preacher’s conviction on the grounds that he used “vilifying and derogatory representations to create a tone of hatred” against homosexuals. The court held that the pastor’s religious freedom did not excuse him from violating “hate propaganda laws”.

The case in question from 2013 was Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission v Whatcott, which ruled against a street preacher named Whatcott, an activist who had been convicted and fined in Saskatchewan Province, for hate speech. He had handed out fliers denouncing homosexual acts and the promotion of the same among public school students.

Justice Rothstein described hate speech as describing:
“…the targeted group as a menace that could threaten the safety and well-being of others, makes reference to respected sources (in this case the Bible) to lend credibility to negative generalizations, and uses vilifying and derogatory representations to create a tone of hatred.”

(Source: Atlantic Canada Legal Examiner)

Now, to be fair, the opinion did take pains elsewhere to clarify that religious texts aren’t to be regarded as hate speech. Furthermore I am not going to claim moral or spiritual solidarity with Mr. Whatcott, as I haven’t read his brochures. He appears to have had numerous prior run-ins with authorities, who have found his statements to be “polemical and impolite”–I will even presume that to be understatement.

Still, to those who hold to orthodox Christianity, the message is clear. The notion of freedom of religious expression will no longer afford anyone in Canada protection against hate speech censorship.

On the heels of the attack by terrorists upon the airport in Brussels, it seems a good opportunity to revisit the question, “what is ISIS?” I recall a very good article by Graeme Wood in the Atlantic which lays out a lot of information on ISIS. One of the points that struck me was this one:


The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

This echoes the assessment of former Muslim Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, who is a speaker with Ravi Zacharias Ministry, and wrote a recent essay for USA Today:


This is not at all to say that most Muslims are violent. The vast majority of Muslims do not live their lives based on chapter 9 of the Quran or on the books of jihad in the hadith. My point is not to question the faith of such Muslims nor to imply that radical Muslims are the true Muslims. Rather, I simply want to make clear that while ISIL may lure youth through a variety of methods, it radicalizes them primarily by urging them to follow the literal teachings of the Quran and the hadith, interpreted consistently and in light of the violent trajectory of early Islam. As long as the Islamic world focuses on its foundational texts, we will continue to see violent jihadi movements.

In order to effectively confront radicalization, then, our tools must be similarly ideological, even theological. This is why I suggest that sharing alternative worldviews with Muslims is one of the best methods to address radicalization. Indeed, this is what happened to me. As I faced the reality of the violent traditions of Islam, I had a Christian friend who suggested that Islam did not have to be my only choice and that there were excellent reasons to accept the gospel.

Our heartfelt prayers for the families of those who have died in the aftermath of the recent winter storm. As far as I can tell, the death toll from Winter Storm Jonas is at 48, according to a Weather Channel report.

(Weather Channel)