Monthly Archives: May 2009

Observation on faith and change


Much of an individual’s “faith struggle” is internal. Great changes could go completely unspoken.

God is back?


“Religion is proving perfectly compatible with modernity in all its forms, high and low.” This conclusion by John Micklethwait, editor of the Economist, and Adrian Wooldridge, the magazine’s Washington bureau chief, seems calculated to enrage secular rationalists of all stripes.

Whether Marxian or Millian, socialist or liberal, secular rationalists have held one tenet in common: religion belongs to the infancy of the species; the more modern a society becomes, the less room there is for religious belief and practice. Never questioned, this is what lies behind the hot-gospel sermons of evangelical atheists: if you want to be modern, say goodbye to God.

At bottom, the assertion that religion is destined to die out is a confession of faith. No amount of evidence will persuade secular believers that they are on the wrong side of history, but one of the achievements of God Is Back is to show how implausible, if not ridiculous, their view of history actually is.

Read the rest of this review of God Is Back: How the Global Rise of Faith is Changing the World in The New Statesman.

On Memorial Day, an Air Force obituary


An Air Force journal recently published an obituary for my grandfather, who died last summer after a rich life:

Colin F. Burch, Jr. (1919-2008) retired from the Air Force at the grade of Colonel after 21 years of active military service. After graduating from Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, VA in 1940, he was commissioned in the US Army Reserve as a Second Lieutenant, Corps of Engineers and entered active duty. He completed primary flying training at Parks Air College, IL. He graduated from the Air Corps Advanced Flying School, Maxwell Field, AL, and transferred to the Air Corps Reserve in 1941. In 1946 he became a Senior Pilot and in 1956 was awarded the rating of command pilot. He accumulated over 4500 flying hours in conventional and jet aircraft including overseas tours in Japan and Hawaii.

Col. Burch directed the program involving the first use of digital computers in air defense. He planned, organized and directed the first research and development program to provide the nation with a defense against the ballistic missile. He helped prepare the development plan for the “Man-In-Space” program handling the Lunar Reconnaissance portion. The first Joint Air Force/Army Communications Satellite Program was also under his direction, as well as the first Advanced Research and Development Program for Ballistic Missile and Space Systems for the Air Force. His survivors include his wife, Audrey Weibel Burch, 5 children, 8 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

May light perpetual shine upon him.

The Nation: Laura Miller investigates C.S. Lewis’s magic


The below excerpt is from Jordan Davis’s new article in The Nation. The article covers biographical and critical elements of Lewis’s life and work, focusing especially on a recent book:

In The Magician’s Book, Laura Miller has written an account of returning as an adult to the Narnia books, trying to understand what in them stunned her 9-year-old self into a life of wanting nothing more than to read. It is a strange, often dispiriting book, announcing itself as both memoir and literary criticism; in fact, Miller submerges her own story and never quite focuses completely on the work at hand or, for that matter, on what in Lewis’s reading helped lead him to create an imaginary place she once longed to visit. Miller’s declared goal is to illuminate the Narnia books’ “other, unsung dimensions, especially the deep roots of the Chronicles in the universal experiences of childhood and in English literature.” What Miller ends up doing is revisiting for a while the pleasure of identifying wholeheartedly with a character in a story.

Read the rest of Into the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis’s Narnia.


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Pete Gall’s new book, ‘Learning My Name,’ coming soon


Pete Gall is the author of My Beautiful Idol, and he once contributed an outstanding article, The Death of Utility-Based Christianity, to LiturgicalCredo.

His new book, slated for a July 1 release, is entitled Learning My Name. Gall says that it’s “very personal,” even moreso than My Beautiful Idol, which was his first book released by Zondervan. Look for it at Amazon. Here are the links for orders and pre-orders:

Learning My Name: Amazon.com Widgets

My Beautiful Idol: Amazon.com Widgets

Bob Dylan on morality


From Douglas Brinkley’s interview with Bob Dylan is the May 11 edition of Rolling Stone:

‘Because it is Easter weekend, I decide to push him on the importance of Christian Scripture in his life. “Well, sure,” he says, “that and those other first books I read were really biblical stuff. Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Ben-Hur. Those were the books that I remembered reading and finding religion in. Later on, I started reading over and over again Plutarch and his Roman Lives. And the writers Cicero, Tacitus and Marcus Aurelius…. I like the morality thing. People talk about it all the time. Some say you can’t legislate morality. Well, maybe not. But morality has gotten kind of a bad rap. In Roman thought, morality is broken down into basically four things. Wisdom, Justice, Moderation and Courage. All these are the elements that would make up the depth of a person’s morality. And then that would dictate the types of behavior patterns you’d use to respond in any given situation. I don’t look at morality as a religious thing.”‘

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Michelangelo’s ‘Torment of Saint Anthony’ purchased by Texas museum


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Read about it here.

My earth-friendly dishwashing liquid


It’s such a relief that we found an earth-friendly dishwashing liquid. Our last dishwashing liquid was always making obscene gestures at the earth.

Faith and science, married


Check out this page on The BioLogos Foundation’s Web site.

Listed are 13 world-class scientists with faith commitments (plus Tim Keller). This bunch does not see a conflict between Christianity and evolutionary science.

Must-read: Stanley Fish on Terry Eagleton’s book, ‘Reason, Faith, and Revolution’


In his New York Times blog, Think Again, Stanley Fish reviews British critic Terry Eagleton’s new book Reason, Faith, and Revolution. An excerpt of Fish’s review:

…at least religion is trying for something more than local satisfactions, for its “subject is nothing less than the nature and destiny of humanity itself, in relation to what it takes to be its transcendent source of life.” And it is only that great subject, and the aspirations it generates, that can lead, Eagleton insists, to “a radical transformation of what we say and do.”

The other projects, he concedes, provide various comforts and pleasures, but they are finally superficial and tend to the perpetuation of the status quo rather than to meaningful change: “A society of packaged fulfillment, administered desire, managerialized politics and consumerist economics is unlikely to cut to the depth where theological questions can ever be properly raised.”

By theological questions, Eagleton means questions like, “Why is there anything in the first place?”, “Why what we do have is actually intelligible to us?” and “Where do our notions of explanation, regularity and intelligibility come from?”

The fact that science, liberal rationalism and economic calculation can not ask — never mind answer — such questions should not be held against them, for that is not what they do.

And, conversely, the fact that religion and theology cannot provide a technology for explaining how the material world works should not be held against them, either, for that is not what they do. When Christopher Hitchens declares that given the emergence of “the telescope and the microscope” religion “no longer offers an explanation of anything important,” Eagleton replies, “But Christianity was never meant to be an explanation of anything in the first place. It’s rather like saying that thanks to the electric toaster we can forget about Chekhov.”

Eagleton likes this turn of speech, and he has recourse to it often when making the same point: “[B]elieving that religion is a botched attempt to explain the world . . . is like seeing ballet as a botched attempt to run for a bus.” Running for a bus is a focused empirical act and the steps you take are instrumental to its end. The positions one assumes in ballet have no such end; they are after something else, and that something doesn’t yield to the usual forms of measurement. Religion, Eagleton is saying, is like ballet (and Chekhov); it’s after something else.

Read the rest of Fish’s review here

A.N. Wilson’s public return to faith


I have a vague recollection of reading, years ago, that A.N. Wilson said his work on a biography of C.S. Lewis reinforced his disbelief. It was a shocking, compelling way to sell a book: An investigation into an apologist — who is treated as the author of slam-dunk cases for Christ — actually led to a reinforcement of atheism.

When Wilson was younger, he wrote a dismissive biography of Jesus. He also tackled the Apostle Paul.

So imagine how odd it must have been for readers of the Daily Mail in London to see the following, written by Wilson, on the day before Easter Sunday this year:

For much of my life, I, too, have been one of those who did not believe. It was in my young manhood that I began to wonder how much of the Easter story I accepted, and in my 30s I lost any religious belief whatsoever.

Like many people who lost faith, I felt anger with myself for having been ‘conned’ by such a story. I began to rail against Christianity, and wrote a book, entitled Jesus, which endeavoured to establish that he had been no more than a messianic prophet who had well and truly failed, and died.

Why did I, along with so many others, become so dismissive of Christianity?

Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe (I was born in 1950), I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious. The universities, broadcasters and media generally are not merely non-religious, they are positively anti.

To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. . . .

Read his commentary in its entirity here.

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