Category Archives: culture

Monday morning students


One arrives without the textbook required for each day of class. 

One arrives without a pen or pencil. 

Other students arrive several minutes late. 

House meme Monday morning students

I’m not this nasty in class. Seriously. Promise.

American Christianity: Older and less educated


Click here to access a larger view of the following graphic from the Religion News Service, based on figures from the Pew 2007 Religious Landscape Survey.
American Christianity is aging and uneducated, according to this Religion News Service graphic and the Pew 2007 Religious Landscape Survey

A few thoughts spurred by the above graphic:

  • To expand your church, look for younger, uneducated people (see the “nothing in particular” circle).
  • Anglicans are smarter but older.
  • Ecstatic experience seems less likely among the educated.
  • Protestant evangelicals want to reach many people who are both better-educated and younger than they are.
  • On balance, Anglicans are better educated than atheists and agnostics.

Anglicanism, Episcopalians, and gay rights


Food for thought, from an 8-year-old book entitled Anglican Communion in Crisis: How Episcopal Dissidents and Their African Allies Are Reshaping Anglicanism:

In their conflicting positions on homosexuality, both sides view their positions on this issue as part of their religious identities and faith commitments. Although conservatives sometimes describe the liberal position as an adoption of secular humanist values from the surrounding culture, proponents of both the conservative and the liberal positions ground their arguments in understandings of God, scripture, and the church….

Liberal Christians generally do not take a literalist view of Scripture and offer less condemning readings of the biblical passages that conservatives take as denouncing homosexuality. One example comes from the book What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality, by Roman Catholic priest David Helminiak. Helminiak writes: “Somehow God must be behind the fact that some people are homosexual. Then why should God’s word in the Bible condemn homosexuality? . . . There must be another answer. The mistake must be in how the Bible is being read.”

Helminiak’s statement hints at a second liberal argument, based on humanistic ideas about the naturalness and goodness of human nature. This argument holds that since some people experience themselves as homosexual, and since presumably God made them that way, then expressing their sexual orientation cannot be inherently wrong. Such views also rest on an incarnational theology that sees Jesus Christ’s taking on human form as validating humanity in a fundamental way. Human nature is seen not as negative and inimical to faith and purity, but as God’s gift, sanctified by Christ’s sharing in it. An element of liberation theology is present here as well, in the conviction voiced by many liberal Episcopalians that the gospel’s central message concerns freedom from oppression. [emphasis added]

– Miranda K. Hassett, in Anglican Communion in Crisis : How Episcopal Dissidents and Their African Allies Are Reshaping Anglicanism, Princeton University Press, 2007

In both of the above-boldfaced cases, notice how sovereignty, that key term for Reformation theology, is implied in the liberal Christian perspective.

‘Judy Berman is wrong about Jonathan Chait: missing the point about the language police’ | TwistedSpeech.com


“That’s the crazy thing about the entire rhetoric of political correctness: it assumes internal motives and values in those it shames. Political correctness offers a simplistic interpretative move: each time you do or say certain things, you are guilty of one or more motives found within a short, mass-produced book of unforgivable sins, tabbed for quick reference and edited for instant outrage.

“Or, to pervert the master interpreter of motives, for the language police, a cigar is never ever just a cigar.”

via Judy Berman is wrong about Jonathan Chait: missing the point about the language police | TwistedSpeech.com.via Judy Berman is wrong about Jonathan Chait: missing the point about the language police | TwistedSpeech.com.

Richard Hooker versus the Puritan position — more about the Anglican view of Scripture, Reason & Tradition


I think Anglicanism looks most distinctive, at least to Americans, when it is contrasted with Puritanism, in part because America was influenced much more by the Puritans than by the Roman Catholics.

The Puritans and the Roman Catholics are relevant because Anglicanism was designed to be neither Puritan nor Roman Catholic.

Here’s a good witness for my case: Jaroslav Pelikan, the late Yale University historian of Christianity, who was acknowledged in many corners of Christendom as a scholar with a good grasp of the faith’s doctrinal and theological developments and changes.

In his book Reformation of Church and Dogma, which is Volume 4 in his five-book set The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Pelikan gives the following interpretation of Richard Hooker (1554-1600) and his book Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.

Hooker acknowledged that there were many doctrines, including the Trinity, that were “in Scripture nowhere to be found by express literal mention, only deduced they are out of Scripture by collection.” Yet that did not detract from “the sufficiency of Scripture unto the end for which it was instituted,” so long as one recognized what that end was — and what it was not. It was the knowledge of salvation, but it was not a detailed “ordinance of Jesus Christ” about the specific arrangements of ecclesiastical polity. These were to be known from the laws of reason and nature; for “when supernatural duties are necessarily exacted, natural are not rejected as needless,” and the law of God included both. Therefore it was a mistake, in the name of “a desire to enlarge the necessary use of the word of God,” to hold that “only one law, the Scripture, must be the rule to direct in all things,” when in fact “God hath left sundry kinds of laws unto men, and by all those laws the actions of men are in some sort directed.” (boldface added)

This should reveal Hooker’s belief in a reasonable exercise of reason, as well as an appreciation for traditional Christian beliefs that were handed down through practice and belief — yet not found spelled-out in Scripture.

When Hooker, within Pelikan’s paraphrase, said Scripture “was not a detailed ‘ordinance of Jesus Christ’,” he took exception to a point of view represented by the Puritans.

As quoted before on this blog, Professor David L. Holmes suggests that in the time of Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), the Prayer Book author who died two years after Hooker was born, the Puritans were uncomfortable with any exercise of reason or acknowledgement of tradition in church beliefs, practices, and offices:

The Puritan party, which desired biblical warrant for all beliefs, practices, and offices of a Christian church, viewed the Prayer Book as a half-way house to true reform and objected that it retained practices that were unscriptural.

In contrast, Anglicanism and the Church of England were distinct largely because of the English liturgy as found in the Book of Common Prayer. The Puritans, according to Holmes, disliked the Book of the Common Prayer!

Furthermore, Hooker’s Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, as described above by Pelikan, opposes the Puritan premise as described by Holmes. Hooker’s book, according to Pelikan, was “an apologia for the unique features of the Anglican settlement.”

We ought to register a significant difference between Anglicanism and the Puritan point of view.

This significant difference was not unique to Hooker. Professor William C. Placher, as I quoted elsewhere, said of Thomas Cranmer, author of the Book of Common Prayer:

His interests lay less in systematic theology than in church history, especially the history of liturgy, and in writing the Book of Common Prayer he produced the foundation of much English religion and one of the glories of English prose.

Keep in mind that evangelical Christianity in the United States has largely shared the Puritan suspicion of reason and tradition. As Philip J. Lee writes,

The Puritan changes often brought the New England theology perilously close to gnostic Christianity. Of particular concern is the Puritans’ concentration on the self and their tendency to regard humanity from an elitist perspective.

That’s from Lee’s book, Against the Protestant Gnostics.

Nicolas Cage To Star As Osama Bin Laden-Hunter In ‘Army Of One’


Colin Foote Burch:

Nicolas Cage is going to portray Gary Faulkner in a movie.

For context, here’s an excerpt from a 2010 TIME magazine report on Gary Faulkner:

“The 52-year old American was arrested in a forest in northwestern Pakistan while trying to cross into Afghanistan’s wooded Nuristan province, a known lair of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. Police thought he was joking about hunting bin-Laden until they searched Faulkner and found a pistol, a 40-inch sword, a dagger, a pair of handcuffs, a small chunk of hashish, and Christian literature (presumably for his own inspiration rather than to convert the al-Qaeda leader).”

You can read the entire TIME article here: http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1998036,00.html .

Originally posted on Deadline:

Nicolas Cage is set to star in Army of One, the bizarre true tale of Gary Faulkner’s mission to single-handedly hunt down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Borat‘s Larry Charles is directing the Condé Nast Entertainment and Endgame Entertainment production inspired by a 2010 GQ article about Faulker, the Colorado man who made headlines, and hit the late show circuit, for his quest to take down al Qaeda’s #1. Bob and Harvey Weinstein acquired North American rights to Army of One for their TWC-Dimension label after relaunching it with the international hit Paddington. Pic is scripted by Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph (Draft Day). Filming will begin in Q1 of this year.

View original

Anglicanism and ‘Biblical Anglicans’ as the ‘one-third Anglicans’


One of my previous posts, “‘Biblical Anglicans’ as the ‘one-third Anglicans’,” was designed to argue against the phrase “Biblical Anglicans.”

I gave some evidence — from scholars — for Anglicanism being a type of Christianity based on Scripture, Reason, and Tradition. I asked, essentially, why just Scripture?

I also said the Puritan desire to base everything in church on Scripture had the problem of Church (and churches) existing before the Bible was completely canonized. Church life, ritual, and worship existed before Christians could refer to a Bible.

Here, I want to look at excerpts of the definition of Anglicanism in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (second edition).

This word properly applies to the system of doctrine and practice upheld by those Christians who are in religious communion with the see of Canterbury.

Pause. Note the word “properly.” But like the word “biblical,” the word “Anglican” can mean nearly anything these days.

But it is esp. used, in a somewhat more restricted sense, of that system in so far as it emphasizes its claim to possess a religious outlook distinguishable from that of other Christian communions both Catholic and Protestant.

I’ll confess: at times, I think the self-identified “Biblical Anglicans” are stealth Congregationalists, Baptists, or Presbyterians. I know that’s not accurate, having not long ago visited an Angl0-Catholic parish that is part of the Bishop Lawrence diocese of ex-Episcopalian Anglicans — or should that be Anglican ex-Episcopalians? Which should be the adjective and which the noun? I’ll stop. Let’s get back to the definition.

Skipping ahead.

The 17th cent., however, was the golden age of Anglicanism…the Church of England at once confirmed her rejection of the claims of Rome and refused to adopt the theological system of the Reformers.

With a sincerely good-natured pat on the backs of some friends, I must confess I had been led to believe Anglicanism was the theological system of the Reformers. Good grief — who does Oxford University Press have writing and editing their dictionaries these days?

Continuing.

The historic episcopate was preserved, even though many, e.g. R. Hooker (the greatest of the Elizabethans), did not regard it as of divine institution.

See there? Hooker has given you an out. You can be a Congregationalist and an Anglican at the same time.

The legitimacy, and to some degree even the necessity, of ecclesiastical development was not denied, but its extent was held to be limited by the appeal to Scripture, as containing all things necessary to eternal salvation.

There you go. This let them off the Roman hook — you didn’t need the Official Church for salvation.

However, looked at from another angle, it also became a kind of concluding point for some people: Scripture contains all things necessary to eternal salvation, so why mess with anything else? That doesn’t only illuminate the Biblical Anglican’s occasional disinterest in liturgy, ritual, and aesthetics. It also illuminates why big evangelistic organizations can raise money more easily than local homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Recall the salvific campaign of Bill Clinton and his appropriation of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow).” Today sucks — but there’s always eternity! Blessings and be on your way!

Truth was therefore sought from the joint testimony of Scripture and ecclesiastical authority, which in its turn was to be based on the traditions of the first four centuries.

In that last excerpt, you can easily see the Scripture, Reason, and Tradition formula. (Take a look at the definition for “reason” in the ecclesiastical context.) Notice, too, that the “first four centuries” was approximately the length of time before a basic biblical canon began to take shape.

‘Boy Who Claimed He Went to Heaven Recants, Publisher Pulls Book’


“The best-selling book that documents a 6-year-old’s journey to heaven and back during the two months he spent in a coma is being pulled from shelves after the boy, who is now 17, recanted his story,” according to Boy Who Claimed He Went to Heaven Recants, Publisher Pulls Book, published by Yahoo News.

“Today, the Christian publisher Tyndale House released a statement confirming it will stop selling the book,” the report also said.

While Tyndale House cannot be blamed for the boy’s lie (although it can be blamed for its credulity), the revelation that the book was false cannot help the publisher’s already damaged credibility.

Tyndale House defended former pastor Mark Driscoll’s plagiarism, as noted here.

As I said back in July:

While Tyndale House believed Driscoll had given adequate credit to those who influenced his work, reputable sources outside the publishing company disagree.

Neil Holdway, treasurer of the American Copy Editors Society and newspaper editor, disagrees.

A university professor disagrees.

In my opinion, the Chicago Manual of Style disagrees.

And the MLA Handbook disagrees.

And the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association disagrees.

The publisher sacrificed more of its credibility back in July when it went into attack mode following a report on Driscoll’s relationship with the publisher. The report was written by Warren Throckmorton in The Daily Beast.

‘Words have real but relative meaning’


“The paradoxical idea that words have real but relative meaning leaves room for misrepresentation by those who wish to capture language for their own use. From ideologues to deconstructionists, they take the piece of the paradox that suits them and deform it by ignoring the rest.” — Jon Ralston Saul, in The Doubter’s Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense

As with literary criticism, so with Biblical interpretation


“Further, if the [literary] work is indeed a stable object, about which careful readers can make objective statements, then why hasn’t there been an emerging consensus in criticism? Instead, the history of criticism seems to be one of diversity and change, as successive critics provide innovatively different readings of the same work. Even in the sciences, the idea of an objective point of view has been increasingly questioned. Facts, as Thomas Kuhn has argued, emerge because of a certain system of belief, or paradigm….in the wake of Einstein’s theory of relativity, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, Gödel’s mathematics, and much else, it seems clear that the perceiver plays an active role in the making of any meaning and that literary works in particular have a subjective status.” — Steven Lynn, in a chapter on reader-response criticism, in his book Texts and Contexts 

Lynn’s quotation stands to reason, regardless of the genre in question.

This is not to drop myself, or to attempt to drop anyone else, into the false dilemma that says either we accept everything as relative or we hold to absolute truth. I’m merely agreeing with the premise that “the perceiver plays an active role in the making of any meaning.”

In ways that are more or less accurate to the situation in which a text was written, readers, especially readers of the Bible, apply their interpretations of Scriptural passages to their lives.

To make more sense of this, let’s flip the issue around and look at it from a different angle.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, a major research university has an original letter written by Saint Paul of New Testament fame. They have the very manuscript over which Paul’s hand once moved. All scholars and clergy, internationally, are permitted to view it (as much as travel funds allow). The scholars have the best possible understanding of the ancient cultural and social milieu in which the letter was written. They understand the language. They understand the themes, which they cross-reference with other letters written by Paul. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, all conditions are set for a perfectly accurate interpretation of the God-inspired letter. The social, cultural, literary, historical, and theological contexts are all understood to the point that a broad consensus — on the letter’s meaning and function within its audience — has been established.

What impact does this perfect interpretative situation have on a man in Marion County, South Carolina, who awakens to read his King James Version of the Bible and applies a passage to his life — while removed more than 2,000 years and a language from its presumed source?

MORE ON THE BIBLE & INTERPRETING IT:

“A Conflicts of Beliefs” — a bad document for Orthodox Anglicans and differences with The Episcopal Church

“Dear Lord, if only I had a simple faith in the Bible…”

Robert Heinlein with the counterpoints

Bible-based cult leader sentenced today

How and why community plays a role in interpreting the Bible

If you take the Bible literally…