More careful irenic writing on the Wheaton College/Larycia Hawkins matter:
- Tracy McKenzie, “Academic Freedom in a Christian Context” Faith & History (Jan. 18, 2016) [link], and (of course)
- Alan Jacobs, “Once more on the Academic Freedom Merry-Go-Round” Snakes & Ladders (Jan. 19, 2016) [link].
Jacobs is more or less critiquing a response which McKenzie got to the original piece. Each writer is calmly thinking through the issues, which seems very appropriate, under the circumstances, and unusual, compared with the rest of the blogosphere.
Katharine Hayhoe is a Christ-follower and a believer in climate change. Apparently these are not contradictory positions.
I don’t think there are any churches that have “Thou shalt not believe in climate change” written in their actual statement of faith. However, I think it’s become an unspoken article of faith in many churches because of what we have been told. I’ve even had people tell me that I must not be a Christian because I think climate change is real. But you know, there’s nothing in the Bible that says that. The sad truth is that our thought leaders—many of them in the conservative media and politics—are the ones telling us this isn’t real, and we are believing them.
Ann Neumann, “God’s Creation Is Running a Fever,” Guernica (12/15/2015) [link].
Christian teachers and students alike can never forget that their views are not widely shared in the culture as a whole. We read a great many books written by people who don’t believe what we believe; we are always aware of being different. This is a tremendous boon to true learning, because it discourages people from deploying rote pieties as a substitute for genuine thought. No Christian student or professor can ever forget the possibility of alternative beliefs or unbeliefs. Most students who graduate from Christian colleges have a sharp, clear awareness of alternative ways of being in the world; yet students at secular universities can go from their first undergraduate year all the way to a PhD without ever having a serious encounter with religious thought and experience — with any view of the world other than that of their own social class.
Alan Jacobs,”Christian Education and ‘Intellectual Compromise’” The American Conservative (online post 12/18/2015) (link).
At this time of the year, it is well for Christian students and professors (and shouldn’t we all be both?) to recall that we are called to be “different.” “Different” does not (of course) mean angry, or rude, or insecure. It does not mean ignorant or lacking in humility. It means loving the world in truth, and that invariably means going out into the places where the world lives.
Much has already been written about the Wheaton professor who — perhaps trying to make a mainly human rather than mainly theological point — prompted a furor when she asserted that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. The question is complex, and has been discussed profitably many times in the past.
Here is an excerpt from a thoughtful (and irenic) article by Timothy George, published in the aftermath of 9/11:
Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? The answer is surely Yes and No. Yes, in the sense that the Father of Jesus is the only God there is. He is the Creator and Sovereign Lord of Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius, of every person who has ever lived. He is the one before whom all shall one day bow (Phil. 2:5-11). Christians and Muslims can together affirm many important truths about this great God—his oneness, eternity, power, majesty. As the Qur’an puts it, he is “the Living, the Everlasting, the All-High, the All-Glorious” (2:256).
But the answer is also No, for Muslim theology rejects the divinity of Christ and the personhood of the Holy Spirit—both essential components of the Christian understanding of God. No devout Muslim can call the God of Muhammad “Father,” for this, to their mind, would compromise divine transcendence. But no faithful Christian can refuse to confess, with joy and confidence, “I believe in God the Father. … Almighty!” Apart from the Incarnation and the Trinity, it is possible to know that God is, but not who God is.
Timothy George, “Is the God of Muhammad the Father of Jesus? Christianity Today (February 4, 2002) (link).
“And Grace calls out, ‘You are not just a disillusioned old man who may die soon, a middle-aged woman stuck in a job and desperately wanting to get out, a young person feeling the fire in the belly begin to grow cold. You may be insecure, inadequate, mistaken or potbellied. Death, panic, depression, and disillusionment may be near you. But you are not just that. You are accepted.’ Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted.”
Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
Politicians and public figures are fundamentally like all other human beings and have the same basic responses to tragedy. This is true no matter their position on controversial issues of policy (say, gun control). So it is no surprise that they respond immediately, like the rest of us do, with familiar words and phrases that express their human solidarity with those who suffer. Even the most accomplished speechwriters will take hours or days to come up with words adequate to great suffering. No human being, even the most articulate, can offer adequate words in the first moments after terrible news. To demonstrate that level of rhetorical fluency would in fact be to demonstrate an inhuman lack of empathy. Inarticulacy is the proper, empathic immediate response to tragedy.
Excellent musing on the responses (and counter-responses) to the San Bernardino shooting.
Andy Crouch, “On ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ After the San Bernardino Shooting: Prayer—and lament—is the proper first response to tragedy.” Christianity Today (December 3, 2015) (link).
“It is not our task to tell people what they want to hear; we must tell them what in some sad future time they would wish they had heard.”
Lancelot Andrewes. Andrewes (1555-1626), linguist and bishop, was one of the chief translators of the King James Bible.
[T]his morning I ask you to ask yourself: do I know and respect people who have different views than I do on the hot button topics of today? Do I have friends who are pro-choice and pro-life? Do I have friends who are for gay marriage and friends who are against gay marriage? Or don’t I think people on the other side of these issues are worthy of my respect? Do I think they must simply be avoided — and perhaps for the good of all even silenced altogether?
Without irony, I confess I do not always agree with Eric Metaxas, but this is a very nice speech on the importance of viewpoint tolerance and understanding in a democratic society. Somehow, I think this is about recognizing the image of God in others.
Dark matter’s existence perplexes people who find it implausible that the vast majority of matter in the universe would be undetectable by our senses and their technological extensions. Some even wonder if it’s a sort of mistake. To me it would be even more astonishing if the matter we can see with our eyes were all the matter there is. You might have thought such hubristic beliefs were upended by the Copernican Revolution. After all, the history of physics is the history of revealing how much is deceptive, or is hidden from view.
Most people mistake their own perspective, shaped by their subjective and limited perception, for the absolute reality of the external world. Questioning this assumption is what advanced our research on dark matter. It is also the only thing that has ever advanced human empathy.
Lisa Randall, “Seeing dark matter as the key to the universe — and human empathy,” Boston Globe (October 26, 2015) (https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/10/25/seeing-dark-matter-key-universe-and-human-empathy/NXNMBXAa7WEWejN63fFCNL/story.html).
Lisa Randall is a physicist at Harvard University. This article was brought to my attention by polymath professor Alan Jacobs of Baylor, at more than 95 theses. who queries “I wonder if Randall (professor of physics at Harvard) thinks that this insight should have any influence on how atheists treat theists?”
“Against the world, for the world’s sake.”
Colson’s public-square work offers modern evangelicals a workable model. Initially, Colson considered himself contra mundum, “against the world,” as a believer. He wished to stand against evil. He never lost this vital perspective, but his friend, First Things editor Richard John Neuhaus, suggested Colson tweak the self-descriptor. The Christian, he said, is contra mundum pro mundo, “against the world for the world,” an elegant and accurate summation of evangelical engagement with a fallen order. The believer, and particularly the public-square witness, opposes evil, but does so not to defeat opponents or gobble up cultural territory. We are against the world out of love, seeking always to win lost friends to Christ and usher them into flourishing.
Owen Strachen, “Chuck Colsen was not a Culture Warrior” (Oct. 2015) (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/october-web-only/chuck-colson-was-not-culture-warrior.html?paging=off)