Reconciling conflicted branches of Christianity, as between the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox churches, is something that every Christian should pray and strive for. Furthermore, many Christians like myself, including many Eastern Orthodox ones, will agree with the Russian Patriarch that same-sex marriage is contrary to God’s purposes, as set forward in the Bible. Division with the Christian church and the secularizing trend of the West is continuing to marginalize historically Christian views of morality, and Ukraine has been no exception. Christians will differ as to how we as believers should respond to the changing moral compass in the world of Western democracies, and how to respond politically. But does any of this serve as a justification for the violence we have been witnessing in the Ukraine for these many months?
Obviously, there are many other reasons why the Ukraine and Russia are at war with one another, that have nothing directly to do with the overtly theological justifications that I am addressing here. There are concerns about NATO expansion, corruption on both sides, etc. that complicate matters. I do not pretend to be a political analyst. But I am most concerned with how the Bible is used, or more properly speaking, misused as a pretense for justifying this war.
When the “culture war” is transformed into a war with tanks and missiles, I can not think of a more dreadful misuse of the Bible than this. Instead of drawing nonbelievers to the Gospel, this type of thinking only repels people from Christianity. Thankfully, there are many, many Christians who are not convinced by President Putin’s application of Jesus’ teachings, and instead insist that the justification for war against Ukraine is a denial of the very Gospel itself.
Over the past week, I have been thinking about the death of the United Kingdom’s sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II. There might be some lessons for Christians in this time of mourning.
First, a quick and curiously fun anecdote: The right-most carriage attendant, in a tricorne hat, in the above photograph was a dear friend of my parents. His son works in my building, where I work at the College of William and Mary today. This man had the opportunity to accompany the carriage that carried Queen Elizabeth II through Colonial Williamsburg some 65 years ago. Elizabeth is seated, smiling and facing the camera. Her husband, Prince Philip, is seated to her right.
At age 31, in 1957, just five years after she was declared as Queen of the British Empire (1952), Elizabeth II made this visit to Williamsburg, Virginia, to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the founding of the English colony at Jamestown. My parents’ friend years later told me that it was quite a spectacle to be with the Queen, and ride down Duke of Gloucestor Street, through the center of town.
During those years, Elizabeth II had begun to oversee the dissolution of the British Empire, as one-by-one, former colonies declared their independence from the English island. This led to the modern creation of the United Kingdom, with its associated British Commonwealth of Nations. Some today still protest that the British monarchy has not done enough to apologize for the injustices inflicted during those centuries of British colonial rule. After all, the monarchy is not very democratic. The whole idea of having a “king” or a “queen” seems really quirky to some, even unfair…. even unjust!
Perhaps this will pigeon-hole me, and typecast me as a hopeless traditionalist, but I have been profoundly moved by the Queen’s death. Elizabeth’s first prime minister, Winston Churchill, was born during the Victorian era in 1874. Elizabeth’s last prime minister, the current Liz Truss, was born in 1975, just over a hundred years later. The span of time that Elizabeth II has served has been breath-taking. The events during her lifetime, from her service as a driver and mechanic for the Auxiliary Territorial Service, during the crisis of World War II, to the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic have been world changing.
Her life encompassed 30% of the entire history of the United States.
She even parachuted into the London 2012 Olympics with James Bond…. well, sort of...
But as an American, Queen Elizabeth was not my sovereign. So, I am left trying to figure out why I have been so emotionally struck by her death. Why have I been so choked up about her? I have a few thoughts, so I await your comments in the comment section of the blog.
What strikes me the most about Queen Elizabeth II was that she served out of a profound, even sacred sense of duty, even in the most spiritual way. She assumed her role in the most sacramental manner, in the best sense of the word. She was a type of guardian of traditional values over a long period of time, during a period of great cultural upheaval. For 70 years as chief monarch, she was able to rise above partisan politics, surviving many prime ministers and political shifts. But there she stood, resolute in her duty, and in every Christmas message, she was quite explicit in making her Christian faith known.
I found her testimony comforting. Was this sense of comfort completely rational? Probably not. Does the idea of a monarch in a democratic society makes sense today? Not really. But intuitively, I believed that the Queen was right. I believed that she carried with her a strange sense of moral authority…. kind of weird, if I think about it. But the sacramentality of it all is indeed real.
We Americans have something to learn from our former overlords in the U.K. In many ways, the institution of the monarchy today in the U.K. is merely a figurehead type of reality. Most of the real work that gets done in the U.K. is in Parliament. Nevertheless, the role that Elizabeth II served reminds us that we need something, or someone, to help lift us out of our never-ending political scandals, squabbling, and social media frenzies.
We Americans on the other hand have responded differently. We scrapped the monarchy, but what have we gained from it? Instead of Kings and Queens, we have Presidents. But each and every President has appeared to be captured by some form of partisan politics.
I am not saying that we should go back to a monarchy. I like my baseball and American apple pie, thank you very much. But sadly, we have tried to substitute the notion of duty, that Elizabeth II so ably embodied, with a kind of celebrity culture that continues to disappoint. Elizabeth II, on the other hand, managed to rise above it all.
OK. She was not perfect. No one is. No one, but Jesus, that is. But for most of her time as the United Kingdom’s Queen, she was held above reproach.
Sadly even more still, Christianity particularly in America suffers from the same type of celebrity culture, that knocks us down when Christian leaders fail us. Unfortunately, the celebrity culture system in our churches has created a crisis where many have left Christianity, not because they no longer really believe in the Christian faith to be true, but rather, because they no longer trust that our churches are being led by godly, loving people.
The democratic ethos that drove the Great Awakenings in America’s Christian history has not been without its faults. The celebrity culture system, especially in Protestant evangelical circles of Christianity, has and continues to put enormous pressures on pastors of churches and ministry leaders. They are expected to be superhuman, when they are not. So, when we read about yet another megachurch pastor or evangelist falling from grace, or find out about yet more reports of spiritual or other abuse perpetrated by burned out Christian leaders, it demoralizes us.
For years now, I have been puzzled as to why the New Testament teaches that local Christian churches should have elders. Upon reflection of the Queen’s death, I think I have a better idea as to why the New Testament insists that churches need elders.
See what you think.
Elders exist out of a sense of duty, to make sure that the teachings of the Christian faith are being passed down from one generation to the next, rising above the challenges posed to us by celebrity culture. Elders, or to use the New Testament Greek term, presbyters, are there to act as guardians of sacred tradition. It is a sacramental duty that they perform. It has been that way since the days of the early church.
Sadly, we have forgotten or obscured this aspect of Christian teaching and practice in our day. Too many elder church boards have adopted the mentality that they are first and foremost like a board of directors for a corporation, where the head pastor is like the CEO. The local church looks more like a business than a spiritual family.
Now, every institution does need a board of directors. Every organization needs something like a CEO. Administrative decisions still need to be made. It is still a noble and crucial calling to serve in that capacity. But when this administrative aspect of being an elder crowds out the New Testament requirement that an elder be above reproach, to be that spiritual guardian of the faith that was once handed down to the saints, to make sure that the traditions of historically, orthodox faith are properly being passed down to a new generation, then we risk missing out on why the New Testament teaches that local churches need to have elders to begin with.
It is not about power. It is not about exerting control. It is about being a spiritual example. Perhaps the New Testament understands something about how human psychology and sociology really works, at a deeply mysteriously spiritual level.
Evangelical Christians are divided as to whether or not women should serve as elders in a local church. To think that only qualified men should serve as elders seems really quirky to some, even unfair…. even unjust! But perhaps our biggest problem is that we view the notion of being an elder as a matter of competence, when really it is about something else entirely.
Being a Queen of a Commonwealth is not the same as being an elder of a local church, as the New Testament teaches. Far from it. But there is some overlap of ideas here.
What the U.K. has been able to figure out is something Christians churches need to figure out. We need spiritual “Queens” that offer stability in a rapidly changing world. Perhaps this is partly why the New Testament teaches that a local church needs elders.
Just something to think about. Let the comments section below be filled the voices of those decrying me as a hopeless traditionalist!
Queen Elizabeth II, the longest reigning British monarch, for 70 years, died today at the age of 96. She was a devout Christian believer.
U.K. pastor Andrew Wilson describes her as an “oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour. What a life. Now the Queen meets her King. Well done, good and faithful servant.”
This summer was amazingly hectic for me with my job at the College of William and Mary. One phrase summarizes my summer: Supply chain delays. But now that students are back on campus, things are starting to settle down.
What follows is my attempt to recap some things that have made me think a lot, so far this year…. Bart Ehrman, “women in ministry,” where do you get your news, David McCullough, Roe vs. Wade, Jordan Peterson, Alex Jones and Sandy Hook, what is the best argument for the Resurrection, the “Late-Date” theory for the Exodus, Henry Emerson Fosdick 100 years later, “progressive Christianity,” divine hiddenness, and analytic philosophy.
A bit disjointed for sure, but all very important. I have a bunch of thoughts, but instead of individual blog posts about each topic, I will try to keep things fairly short, and include the summaries below. Read on!! ….
Blogging Recap… Featuring Bart Ehrman
I have written several blogs this year that I put quite a bit of thought into, after reading several books on my bike ride commutes to work. The longest series is on the “historical criticism” of the Bible, some of its history dating back to the 17th century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, how “historical criticism” has both positively and negatively impacted the church, and offering a sample of Bible passages, with a model of doing “historical criticism” in a nuanced way, that appreciates the value of allowing historical method to inform our interpretation of the Bible, without slipping into unnecessary skepticism of the Bible’s divine inspiration.
My fundamental claim, in a nutshell, is that the most common methodology employed by historical critics like Bart Ehrman, as well as “Progressive Christians” who adopt the same methodology, is that they believe that you can only do proper historical research on the Bible by treating it like any other piece of human literature, which in their minds, implies that you must bracket off claims regarding the inspired nature of the Scriptural text as being the very Word of God, at least temporarily. If you fail to bracket that off, you ironically risk distorting the interpretation of the text. Historical critics like Bart Ehrman says the Bible is inherently contradictory, and so he dismisses attempts to try to harmonize Scriptural texts, even in the most nuanced way, as actually obscuring what the Bible is trying to tell us.
I am increasingly concerned that the negative impact of “historical criticism” that in the 20th century wrecked havoc in mainline Protestantism is now creeping into certain areas of less denominationally oriented evangelicalism, in a way that most evangelicals are completely unaware of. I will just leave it at that.
The most substantial book review was for Bart Ehrman’s Heaven and Hell. I had not read through a Bart Ehrman book before, with such detail. I can see why Ehrman has so many followers. I am just surprised that there have not been any Bart Ehrman fans who have jumped down on me and made critical comments on the blog yet. I strongly disagree with Bart on many points, but I have to concede that he articulates probably the most cogent critical view that I have read attacking the reliability of the New Testament, which partly explains why he is such a popular author. Plus, I would describe him as an honest non-believer, who does not try to pretend that he is a Christian. His interest in Christianity is primarily historical, trying to make sense of Jesus of Nazareth, the single most influential person in the world who has ever lived. If you want to understand why so many educated people reject the Bible as being authoritative, you better read Bart Ehrman. The chances are high that some highly educated “former” Christian you know, or someone who is going through a faith “deconstruction,” has read some Bart Ehrman.
An Update on the Complementarian/Egalitarian Divide in Evangelicalism
Nevertheless, I still hold high regard for evangelical Christians who are egalitarian in their convictions. My main concern is not in the specific conclusions that are drawn, but rather, I am concerned about the hermeneutical methods that some use to draw their conclusions. A faulty hermeneutic in one area of reading the Bible can lead to other distortions of Scripture in other areas.
So, Where Do You Get Your News?
We do not live in the 1970s anymore. Gone are the days of three major television news outlets, CBS, ABC, and NBC nightly news programs, and the hegemony of newspaper publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post. For most of the 1990s, I narrowed down the options even more: The only time I bothered with listening to the news was on my evening commutes with NPR’s All Things Considered playing on the radio. Today, we get our news from various sources, which all give us conflicting and contradictory views of the world, which pretty much makes civil discourse in society today near to impossible.
I try to steer clear of exclusively of heavily biased news sources. Occasionally, I will read longer pieces by liberal outlets like the New York Times, but I try to balance it out with stories from the much more conservative Wall Street Journal. My wife likes listening to The World and Everything In it, the daily news podcast put out by WORLD News Group, which styles itself like a conservative evangelical alternative to NPR’s All Things Considered. WORLD has gotten better over the years, but recent staff upheavals at WORLD make me a little leery as to its future.
I pretty much stick with Ground.News, a secular outfit that ranks the bias of various news organizations when reporting stories, which I find quite helpful. But I have decided to try the PourOver email newsletter and podcast, as it offers to give a Christian perspective on the news while trying its best to steer clear of heavy bias, without flooding your brain, as it only comes out three times a week. So far the PourOver is a very refreshing approach to the news.
The Late David McCullough
While the bulk of what is posted on the Veracity blog is an Christian apologetics, my other love is for church history ( and history more broadly). Not too long ago the popular American historian David McCullough died. For me he models what a good historian does. He was the author of various best sellers, including 1776 and John Adams.
At the risk of being a little controversial, blogger Samuel D. James has some insightful thoughts regarding what Christians can learn from McCullough. James points out that some recent Christian books criticizing evangelicalism historically have fallen into a bad habit. In the most memorable quote by James, one particular author “wanted me to see the subjects of her history the way she sees them, not as how they saw themselves. How they interpreted their lives and beliefs was of little consequence. How the generations after them interpreted them was everything. This is the kind of history that gets people angry and eager to deconstruct whatever they sense is tainted by moral failure…. What renews my soul about reading David McCullough’s work is that it doesn’t do this.” Now that is provocative, but I am inclined to think that James is right, based on some other writings I have read along the same lines.
The Overturning of Roe vs. Wade
Like a lot of people, I was really surprised when the U.S Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, earlier this year. On the other hand, I am not convinced that the court’s verdict will have a lasting impact on public opinion about abortion, though I could easily be wrong. By putting the issue back in front of the states, the legislative debates will surely continue and get really complicated on a state by state basis. Perhaps the only solution will be something like an amendment to the federal constitution to ultimately settle the matter, and I do not see that as happening anytime soon. The main reason for thinking this is that even if extensive anti-abortion laws get passed, it might be almost impossible to enforce them. Without public support, passing unpopular laws will probably achieve little.
Marvin Olasky, an outspoken pro-life journalist, agrees citing what we know from history: “From the 1840s through the 1940s, public opinion concerning abortion was more negative than it is now, but even during that era, enforcement of abortion bans was rare. Millions of abortions occurred during that century, but only a tiny percentage of doctors did prison time. It was hard to get police to arrest, juries to convict, or judges to support jury decisions and turn down appeals.” As the subtitle of his article in Christianity Today declares, “Looking ahead, Christians should focus less on enforcement than on changing cultural attitudes.”
In the meantime, I am grateful for friends who work in or otherwise support crisis pregnancy centers that offer assistance to those in need. In my area of Williamsburg, Virginia, the closest center is CareNet Peninsula. They do great work there. It is through such efforts that perhaps there will be a day when abortion becomes an unthinkable option for people faced with such difficult decisions.
The “right to life” cause, in the political sphere, is primarily an effort led by Christians, as Bible readers seek to make their moral convictions known within the public arena. There are notable exceptions to this, as the late and famed New Atheist Christopher Hitchens opposed abortion. But by and large, I doubt if we will see a remarkable surge in support of the “right to life” until we have a massive wave of Christian spiritual revival in the West. That can only come about by prayer and evangelization, which means in part engaging in the type of apologetics being promoted here on the Veracity blog. Interestingly, history shows us that as more and more people came to Christ in the Roman Empire, in the first 500 years of the church, that this shifted public opinion away from promoting abortion. As more people embraced the Gospel, the less support there was for abortion. Perhaps this can be a lesson for us in the 21st century.
I just recently ran across a short, Tik-Tok type video, put out by one of my favorite YouTube apologists, Michael Jones, at Inspiring Philosophy, who addresses the objection that the Bible actually sanctions induced abortions, based on Numbers 5:27. I have been hearing the Numbers 5:27 pro-abortion argument a lot lately, and really did not know how to respond to it, until I saw Jones’ video. Jones argues that the NIV translation is unlikely, and explains what might be a much better translation. Worth checking out:
The Return of Jordan Peterson
While the world was swirling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the outspoken Canadian psychologist, Jordan Peterson, had a close brush with death of another kind. As a result of a successful nation hoping medical tour, Peterson finally made it out of this crisis and is back on the public stage. Many have described Jordan Peterson’s teachings as a “gateway drug” to Christianity, and I believe this is correct.
The following video by Peterson is perhaps the best short video supporting a psychological apologetic for complementarianism, urging Christians to stop downgrading men with constant talk about “toxic masculinity” and instead challenging young men to step forward and take responsibility, as a matter of Christian virtue. As Peterson argues, by supporting young men this will have a positive impact on young women as well. Plus, I believe that taking seriously Peterson’s argument will go a long ways towards trimming back the number of mass shootings, which are almost universally committed by young, disaffected and lonely males, longing for a sense of visionary purpose in life…. and that ranges from the Uvalde, Texas elementary school shooter, who had no father figure in his life, to the May 2022 racist shooter in Buffalo, N.Y. where as a child, he felt he did not have “that much importance” to his family, and that “my parents know little about me,” despite outward appearances that he had a nice, balanced family life.
Nevertheless, we should not define doctrine based on what Jordan Peterson says, but rather we should look to the Bible as our final authority. Jennie Pollock, a blogger in the U.K., has a nice short essay summarizing what she says, “Why I love my complementarian church.”
As a bonus, I found a really provocative approach to the issue of having “women as elders” by Dr. Gerry Breshears. In the following video interview by Preston Sprinkle, Breshears argues as a “soft” complementarian that only qualified men are to serve as local church elders, but interestingly, this has NOTHING to do with hierarchy. In fact, Breshears contends that neither Paul nor Timothy would have qualified to become church elders, even though Paul was an apostle and Timothy was the undisputed leader of the church in Ephesus. Agree or not, Dr. Breshears’ presentation will turn your head upside down on this (as it did mine!):
Alex Jones, Sandy Hook, and Conspiracy-Theory Driven “Christianity”
There is just some absolutely crazy stuff going on at the fringes of the evangelical Christian world. The story of Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist who was recently sued by parents of a child killed by the Sandy Hook mass shooter, says that he is a “Christian.“
Author Elizabeth Williamson has written a whole book about this, An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth, something I want to put on my reading list. Here is part of the promotional flyer on the cover for the book: “On December 14, 2012, a gunman killed twenty first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Ten years later, Sandy Hook has become a foundational story of how false conspiracy narratives and malicious misinformation have gained traction in society….One of the nation’s most devastating mass shootings, Sandy Hook was used to create destructive and painful myths. Driven by ideology or profit, or for no sound reason at all, some people insisted it never occurred, or was staged by the federal government as a pretext for seizing Americans’ firearms. They tormented the victims’ relatives online, accosted them on the street and at memorial events, accusing them of faking their loved ones’ murders. Some family members have been stalked and forced into hiding. A gun was fired into the home of one parent.”
As Williamson argues, the professing “Christian” Alex Jones was propagating this conspiracy theory, repeatedly using his InfoWars platform to spread these lies, influencing his followers to threaten some of those Sandy Hook parents. Over time, Jones eventually started to back off on such claims, but it took a number of years before he finally emphatically admitting that the killings were real, during this summer’s trial. Why it took Jones so long to admit his errors is baffling. Was it all just for show? Why he continues to propagate further lies and just plain odd behavior is even more troubling.
The testimony of this mother of one of the kids murdered at Sandy Hook, confronting the lies that Alex Jones continues to spread is heart-wrenching:
You read that right: the largest religious group in the American South are unchurched people claiming to be evangelical Christians.
Effectively, we have a steadily growing number of people who are leaving churches, while still claiming to be Christian, who are no longer being discipled by churches but who are instead being discipled by right-wing media outlets, that claim to promote Christian values. Historian Daniel K. Williams summarizes it like this: “Data suggests that, when their attendance drops, these nominal Christians become hyper-individualistic, devoted to law and order, cynical about systems, and distrustful of others.”
I can believe Williams because I know of a several professing Christians who have pretty much given up on going to church. They are not Sandy Hook conspiracy promoters, but they follow the same pattern that Williams summarizes.
As a reaction against this, I also know of several professed “Progressive Christians” who have a negative view of conservative evangelical faith, particularly that which often carries the label of “Christian nationalism.” But it might help such friends of mine to consider that perhaps what they are reacting against is not actual Christianity being practiced in our churches, but rather, they are reacting against a kind of fake Christianity practiced by professing “Christians” who would rather stay home and watch conservative media outlets on television instead of going to a vibrant Christian fellowship on Sunday mornings, and otherwise actively becoming part of some community, where they might get discipled in the faith.
Just something to think about.
Dispute over the Minimal versus Maximal Facts Argument for the Resurrection
Christian apologist and YouTuber Mike Winger is a bit simplistic here, but he has a decent short summary of each approach:
The minimal facts argument, articulated best by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, suggests that we limit the evidence used in our argument to those facts that the widest spectrum of biblical scholars and historians, ranging from conservative to liberal, will most reasonably accept. For example, many scholars and historians today believe that the Apostle Paul only wrote 7 of the 13 letters in the New Testament attributed in him. Also, many scholars suggest that a good deal of the material we have in the Gospels is historically unreliable, much of it being the product of the early church placing ideas and words on the lips of Jesus. For people who are to some degree aware of what such scholars and historians say, the minimal facts approach will probably meet the least amount of resistance. Nevertheless, the goal is to try to persuade people that Christians can be thoughtful and still believe in the Resurrection at the same time, so that inquirers might consider taking further steps in having a deeper understanding of what the implications of the Resurrection are, so that they might embrace the whole of the Christian message.
Alternatively, the maximal facts approach suggests that we use the entire arsenal of evidence from the New Testament to make our case for the Resurrection. My thought is that we should use whatever approach makes sense, based on the assumptions made by the audience with whom we are engaging. If someone follows the broad scholarly opinion, I would lead with the minimal facts argument. If someone is willing to accept the whole of the New Testament as historically reliable, or is at least fairly open to it, then I would use the maximal facts approach instead.
In other words, Christians should invest the necessary time to be able communicate both arguments, both the minimal facts and the maximal facts approach in their evangelistic conversation. Since in my experience, most Christians I know are not familiar with the minimal facts approach at all, and that they tend to fumble their way through some variation of the maximal facts approach, it would be the most wisest thing to learn both approaches, with their pluses and minuses.
The key is this: Know your audience. Adjust your argument accordingly so that you keep the discussion on track, in hopes that your friend will take a closer step to knowing Jesus. Pretty straightforward, to me, at least.
I have come to conclude that the so-called “late date” theory of when the Exodus occurred is probably the best explanation of both the Scriptural archaeological data, as YouTuber apologist Michael Jones, and his Egyptologist consultant, Dr. David A. Falk, suggest. Here are some of the latest and best YouTube videos that dig into the details. I am still open to changing my mind on all of this, but to date, this position seems to be the best argument to make to support the historicity of the Exodus:
Lest anyone think I am being unfair here, you might want to listen to the following interview that Sean McDowell did with archaeologist Dr. Titus Kennedy, who favors an early date (15th c. BCE) versus Jones/Falk’s late date (13th c. BCE) proposal. Jones was previously an early date advocate, like Kennedy, but was convinced on the late date (as I am) by Dr. Falk. If you are still persuaded by the early date proposal, let me just say that the late date proposal, in my view, is easier to defend with non-believers, regarding the historicity of the Exodus. At some point, I hope to do a whole blog series regarding the historicity issue of the Exodus, but that’ll be some time far off into the future!!
I could be wrong about the “Late-Date” (13th century). The “Early-Date” (15th century) could be correct. Whatever I am, I am not impressed by chariot wheels stories passed around by Ron Wyatt. No Christian archaeologist is either.
As a bonus, here is another cool video from Inspiring Philosophy about the stopping of the sun moving in Joshua 10:
Shall the Fundamentalists Win? – Harry Emerson Fosdick 100 Years Later
On May 21, 1922, Henry Emerson Fosdick, a Baptist serving in a New York City Presbyterian Church, preached a most (in)famous sermon entitled, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” Fosdick’s sermon was a tipping point in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy in the early 20th century, that led to the split between liberal mainline Protestants and conservative evangelical fundamentalists in America, during the 1920s. One hundred years later, church historian Darryl Hart discusses the impact of this sermon on the church today.
The Debate over Defining “Progressive Christianity”
The problem with “progressive Christianity” really is about definition of terms, but it also points to the difficulty in being able to know where to draw the line between essentials and non-essentials of Christian faith. In the 20th century, the line between liberal mainline Protestantism and conservative evangelicalism was pretty clear. Here in the 21st century, this is not the case any more, as the term “evangelical” gets played around with a lot. In my view, it is better to err on the side against progressive Christianity.
In defense of Alisa Childers, I must say that in the various videos that I have seen, Childers is actually quite honest and revealing that “progressive Christianity” is indeed a very loose and difficult concept to define, as various “progressive Christians” will often contradict one another. For some reason, Randal Rauser does not see this. Perhaps this is because Alisa’s book comes across as less nuanced, and I will admit that I have not read her book, so Randal might be right. Still, I think she has a good approach to this, even when I do not completely agree with every particular position she takes on certain issues. I would say that her journey away from egalitarianism to complementarianism is a perspective that does not get discussed that much.
To her credit, Alisa Childers has a quite revealing interview with Bobby Conway, the One-Minute Apologist, who actually went through his own deconstruction process a few years after he started his One-Minute Apologist YouTube channel. As he describes in the video, the destructive behavior that resulted from his deconstruction process cost him his job as a church pastor, but thankfully he has been in recovery since then.
The Problem of Divine Hiddenness
If there was one area where I think that both atheists and even progressive Christians raise a good question, that I personally struggle with, it has to do with the problem of divine hiddenness. To put it briefly: “Why doesn’t God seem to reveal himself to people who are open and seeking him?” This is something I have to do some more thinking about, so I am not making any claims here. Many Christians tell me that the reason why God sometimes seems silent in a person’s life is because that person has some sort of sin impeding their ability or receptibility to actually hear from or see God at work. I am not so sure about that at this point, but I am willing to learn more. Justin Brierley at “Premier Unbelievable?” invited atheist Alex O’Connor (aka Cosmic Skeptic) and Christian apologist Lukas Ruegger to discuss the issue on the Unbelievable? YouTube channel and podcast. This (and the following) video I probably need to listen to a few times before I finally have some remedial grasp:
Philosopher Liz Jackson was also interviewed a couple of years ago on this very topic:
…. and then there is this…..
And Finally….. A Christian Approach to Philosophy
I want to introduce you all to a fairly new friend of mine. Dr. Philip Swenson teaches philosophy at the College of William and Mary. I met Philip through the ministry of the Cambridge House, a Christian study center serving the campus community at William and Mary, here in Williamsburg. Dr. Swenson, as you will see below, has interests in the area of free will and responsibility, where he talks about stuff like Monism and compatibilism, and other fancy ideas that I can barely pronounce. Frankly, philosophy at this level is not really my area, but I still enjoy learning things from Philip. You may agree or disagree with him, but the main thing is that Philip loves Jesus!
Recently, Philip told me that he has a few interviews up on a Christian apologetics YouTube channel. So, if you think that Christians are dumb anti-intellectuals, the following videos will cure you of that misguided notion (HA-HA!!). Philip has an interesting background, having grown up in a charismatic church but currently attends a Missouri Synod Lutheran church. What a combination. He was recently interviewed a couple of times on the Analytic Christian YouTube channel (the last video is response by another Christian philosopher, Justin Mooney at Denison University, in defense of Molinism). I will probably have to listen to these a few times myself to get everything, but for those who appreciate analytic philosophy from a Christian perspective, here ya go!!
…. For the Rest of 2022….
I have started reading a couple of other books which I hope to complete when my wife and I go on vacation later in the Fall. For example, I am near the end of reading a book on “Divine Violence” in the Bible, which has been very helpful to think through during this age of the ongoing war in the Ukraine.
Also, I FINALLY got around to reading C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, which I have been putting off for about 40 years, and that is no joke. Why did I wait so long? Mere Christianity is really an excellent book, one of the best apologetic books I have ever read. Look for a book review coming out fairly soon. Stay tuned!!
…. Oh, and Just For Fun….
Found the following video, from a bluegrass band, Southern Raised, performing (oddly enough) the song “Thunderstruck” as an instrumental. Their YouTube channel describes them as a Christian band, but I must say that their version of this well-known song by the Australian heavy-metal rockers, AC-DC, is much better than the original. Lot’s of fun… just wait ’till mid-way towards the end!