Thinking Out Loud

April 19, 2018

Thursday Link List

Welcome to the what is only the 9th one of these in the history of Thinking Out Loud. I saw so many things on Wednesday night that I wished could have seen a day earlier.

  • At Relevant magazine, this headline: “Wheaton Is Going to Offer a Scholarship Named for Larycia Hawkins, the Professor Who Said Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God.” Wait, what? The professor they dismissed? Who supposedly said that “said Christians and Muslims worship the same God”? There’s more: “Wheaton officials said they made an ‘error in judgment’ in the way the original incident was treated and a task force said it “could not decisively say whether or not Hawkins’ theological views aligned with the school’s doctrinal statement of faith,” according to Christian Post.'” The Wheaton Record reports that “the scholarship of up to $1,000 will allow one or more student(s) to pursue a summer internship or project related to ‘the themes of the Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) Certificate.'” That article notes that “Hawkins currently researches the intersection of race, politics and religion as a Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.”
  • What is a church? Another interesting headline, at Right Wing Watch: “Here’s How Focus On The Family Convinced The IRS To Call It A Church.” Background: “Focus on the Family, the influential Religious Right organization founded by James Dobson, is now classified as a church by the IRS, meaning that it does not have to file publicly available tax documents like most nonprofits do. In response to our request, the IRS sent us copies of its correspondence with Focus about the change in its status.” A mockery of U.S. tax laws? This is the amazing part:

    In the letter, the attorneys claimed that Focus’ 600 employees are both its “ministers” and the members of its “congregation” and that the organization’s “chapelteria”—a cafeteria that also hosts regular staff worship services—is its “place of worship.” The organization’s board of directors are its “elders.” It’s president, Jim Daly, is its “head deacon and elder.” Listeners to the organization’s radio programs are “an extension of its congregation.”

  • I realize the timing on this, given other events currently in making religious news headlines, but was compelled to share this tribute John Mark Comer posted to his mentor, John Ortberg which shows the value of younger pastors being tutored (or if you prefer, apprenticing) in the faith with veteran pastors.

    For the last year or so, Dave Lomas and I have been spending time with John Ortberg, a pastor and writer near where I grew up in the Bay Area. I can’t remember the last time I was this moved by a person’s life. Starstruck isn’t the word; it’s not celebrityism. He’s just genuinely one of the most intelligent, wise, humble, present, down to earth, grounded, peaceful and joyful people I’ve ever met. Mentored by Dallas Willard for twenty years, he regularly repeats “the most important thing that God gets out of your life (and you get out of your life) is the person you become.” To see the “fruit,” in Jesus’ language, of decades devoted to formation into the image of Jesus is beyond inspiring. As we left our morning together, the first thing I said to Dave was, “That’s what I want to be like when I grow up.” I ache for that level of transformation. I believe we all do, even if that desire is buried under the rubble of our distracted souls. Grateful to have an older and FAR wiser pastor to speak into my life and give me a bar of Christlikeness to aim for. Also: if you haven’t read John’s book “Soul Keeping,” go order it now.

  • You know him as The Church Curmudgeon but church musician David Regier is a serious composer/arranger. This was the second time in 24 hours that the term “metrical Psalms” came up in our house, so I did some investigating on YouTube after reading this:

    I spent a great deal of my life as a worship leader/songwriter mining the Psalms for: A. words of spiritual encouragement B. words of praise to God Because there are lots of verses that stand out in that regard, and lots of songs use them to turn our hearts to praise. As I have begun versifying and writing music from whole Psalms, the breadth and depth of their content has significantly changed what I considered possible in congregational worship. I’ve noticed that many of the things that we’re all setting our hair on fire about on Twitter these days are addressed in the Psalms. If we all were in the practice of singing Psalms as part of our corporate worship, we’d have some more common language with which to settle some of our differences. That’s why I’ve been versifying them. We’ve been singing one in church every week, and some people are starting to see how much is there. Not everybody. Some people probably think I’m being weird and have a hang up. They’re probably right. But I will say that we’re singing about aspects of the Christian life we’ve never sung about before. And that’s a good thing.

  • Finally, author and radio host Brant Hansen is selling his Tardis. It’s actually a sound proof booth, the image of which reminded me of the recording booth built in the business incubator featured in the new ABC comedy Alex, Inc.

Clarification: A story linked yesterday implied that employees at Disney Orlando would never be able to afford admission for their families. A reader told us that “Disney cast members do get a certain number of complimentary passes each year.”

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April 18, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Baptist Food Pyramid: This Babylon Bee article, published exactly one year ago today, is accessed by clicking the image.


Finding True Religion: I took this picture a few weeks ago at Toronto’s Eaton Centre. Apparently True Religion is a brand of denim jeans. Click the image to visit their site.


I’m writing the introduction at 5:30 PM yesterday with the list not quite finished. This week really came together and in some respects I feel that this is one of the best Wednesday Link Lists (or whatever we call it now) that I’ve ever completed. I hope you’ll take the time — and it does take time — to read several of these which might interest you and share the link with your friends using this shortlink: https://wp.me/pfdhA-9Vh

► Your Article of the Week: “I’ll never forget hearing the phrase, ‘Make Sunday morning the best hour of their week!’ encouraging ministers to focus all of their attention on making that Sunday morning hour so popping, so exciting, so over-the-top memorable and fun, that kids couldn’t wait to come back. However, the trade-off for that is that we had to create programs that appealed primarily to the senses and not necessarily to the soul and spirit.”

► Your Quotation of the Week: “At this point in the pontificate of Francis, I believe it can be reasonably maintained that this marks the twilight of that imposing historical reality which can be defined as ‘Roman Catholicism.’ This does not mean, properly understood, that the Catholic Church is coming to an end, but that what is fading is the way in which it has historically structured and represented itself in recent centuries.” The writer then argues that Francis is using the playbook written by Martin Luther.

► Provocative Headline of the Week: “New Documents Reveal How the FBI Deployed a Televangelist to Discredit Martin Luther King.” The article details how “the bureau colluded with Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux, then a widely successful black radio preacher and televangelist, in their campaign against King.”

► As the Global Ambassador for The World Evangelical Alliance, Brian Stiller prepares to travel to a symposium on the subject, a look at what it means to be (called) Evangelical. “While the recent sharp reaction to the use of the label has come about in the U.S., in part because of divisions following the 2016 presidential election, a decision on what name best suits us globally is not a choice we can leave for Americans to decide. The U.S. does not set the agenda for the world, and we should not assume that what matters to them will define what matters globally. As influential as they are, and recognizing that American concerns do affect the world, the real place of evangelical growth is in the global south (Asia, Africa and Latin America).” (Be sure to also check out Brian’s new book from IVP, From Jerusalem to Timbuktu.)

► Congratulations to Terry Mattingly: “This week marks my 30th anniversary writing this national  ‘On Religion’ column. The first piece ran on April 11, 1988 and focused – wait for it – on arguments about evangelicals and White House politics. Turn, turn, turn. Three decades is a long time, so allow me to pause and make something clear. I still believe that if journalists want to cover real news in the real lives of real people in the real world then they need to get real serious about religion.”

► Monday was not a good day for U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, on trial in Turkey. “The day’s hearing ended with the court ordering Brunson back the prison where he was first held after he was detained in 2016, said the American Center for Law and Justice, a Washington D.C. advocacy agency that is supporting the pastor’s defense. It is a facility where nearly two dozen inmates are held to a cell, the center said. ‘Instead of being returned to the prison where he had been held most recently, the judge ordered Pastor Andrew to be taken back to an overcrowded and extremely grim prison where he was held initially,’ said the center’s chief counsel, Jay Sekulow. ‘As you can imagine, the news is devastating to Pastor Andrew and his family.'”  (Background: The BBC reports “Andrew Brunson is accused of helping a group led by Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Muslim preacher who Turkish authorities allege was behind a failed 2016 coup.”)

► Allow me to go off on a tangent with this one. The article on lesser-known Bible translations, stressing the value of translation by committee, does recognize that we tend to celebrate the work of individual translators, mentioning Jerome, Tyndale, Luther, Jan Hus, and Robert Morrison. Really? So why is that we have some who now despise this very type of solo effort, condemning the work of Eugene Peterson (The Message) or Brian Simmons (The Passion Translation)? Makes no sense. If you have a CT subscription, or they haven’t pay-walled this by Wednesday, checkout Ten Bible Translations You’ve Never Heard Of (even though most readers certainly have heard of several of them.)

► Your word of the Week: Intercommunion.  “the German Church has been thrown deeper into controversy after seven bishops appealed to the Vatican against new guidelines that would allow Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Holy Communion…The more fundamental problem with intercommunion is that, even if the form is similar, different religious communities often have very different understandings of what Communion means…Either the sacrament is the Body and Blood of Christ, or it is not. If it is viewed simply as a symbolic remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice, that is another thing entirely. This is why, under established Catholic teaching, intercommunion is possible with the Orthodox Churches – though limited in practice – but not with most Protestant denominations, simply because they don’t agree with the Catholic view of what Communion actually is.

► End of the world predictions: Ed Stetzer–
I emailed…January 15, 2018 after his last prediction failed. I wrote him:
Hi…
It looks like all those predictions did not come together. I wonder if you regret them now and the embarrassment they’ve caused so many Christians?
Ed
…He explained that “revelation is progressive.”
But, it’s not…You are either a fraud or a fool, and it’s time for you to stop making Christians look foolish.

► Poverty in Kissimmee, Florida: “It seems obscene that such poverty exists in the shadow of the Happiest Place on Earth, perhaps even persisting under its watch. That the person serving my churro or checking my seatbelt on Magic Mountain could be living out of a derelict motel should be a devastating realization. A single day pass to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom costs $115, which means some of the park’s workers likely cannot afford the luxury of taking their family to visit Mickey and friends…. While we may cringe at the idea of seeing such raw stories played out on screen— 6-year-olds swearing at adults, spying on the topless elderly woman tanning at the pool, finagling adults into giving them ice cream money—assuming this all to be some horrific parable about the doctrine of total depravity, simply because the images are uncomfortable does not mean that they can be ignored.

► Bible Contradictions: Six discrepancies that don’t actually exist. “Sample #3: James and Paul teach two different salvations. …The book of James would seem to teach a contradictory salvation of faith plus works (Ja. 2:14-17). However, the book of James never denies faith is necessary for salvation. Its focus on works is to show that live faith, like a live tree, blossoms and bears fruit…This is not denying justification by faith but simply showing that justification and sanctification are connected, albeit in a strict order.”

► Muting the choir so that you can hear the soloists: A parable on the danger of spiritual over-activity.

► Writing runs in the family: “I now find it much easier to find satisfaction in the small things in life. The beauty of a house in my neighborhood, an interesting piece of poetry, playing with my roommate’s dogs. All these things add up and make life much more enjoyable.” My son’s story about learning to appreciate anxiety-inhibiting drugs.

► Live near or within driving distance of Toronto, Canada? Here’s a last-minute notice for Thriving in a Babylon, a conference on living in a secular world happening this weekend.

► New Podcast: Just listening to Episode 1 of this 30-minute journey into eschatology. “If you’re ready to leave behind Left Behind: we get it. If you’ve been traumatized by doom-and-gloom preaching: let us bring you a good old-fashioned dose of hope. Together, we’ll explore the New Testament passages about the so-called ‘End,’ in intelligent and humanizing ways.” Host Kurt Willems has IMHO one of the best teachings (on his other podcast, The Paulcast) on understanding “caught up to meet him in the air” from 1 Thessalonians. So I can safely say that I think you’ll find the podcast, Rapture Drill most interesting.

► The Chicken and the Big Apple: Chick-fil-A arrives in New York City. “…the company has announced plans to open as many as a dozen more storefronts in the city. And yet the brand’s arrival here feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism. Its headquarters, in Atlanta, are adorned with Bible verses and a statue of Jesus washing a disciple’s feet. Its stores close on Sundays. Its C.E.O., Dan Cathy, has been accused of bigotry for using the company’s charitable wing to fund anti-gay causes, including groups that oppose same-sex marriage…” The company “…is set to become the third-largest fast-food chain in the nation, behind only McDonald’s and Starbucks.”

► Words about Worship: 20 Quotations about worship for worship leaders. (The headline adds, “by worship leaders” but not sure how that applies to any of the people quoted.)

► Sexual misconduct allegations happen to atheist groups as well. The head of American Atheists, David Silverman is out.

► You thought we were kidding when six months ago we promised you, and yes, this book actually did get released. (We offer the CBD page as proof!) “An intriguing look at the enigmatic prophecies surrounding the Trump presidency. Examining how the chaos enveloping the world could signal the beginning of the end-time awakening, the authors explore the president’s interest in rebuilding the third temple in Jerusalem, the global economic “reset” announced by the International Monetary Fund, the establishment’s hidden agenda, and more.” 

► I thought this was going to be something you’d expect to see on “The List” or “Access Hollywood” or “Entertainment Tonight.” But then Brittany Valadez surprised me with these 19 surprising facts about Paul, Apostle of Christ.

► There are still many bloggers who command a large daily readership, but how many have a Spanish language edition? Consider Tim Challies, bloguero, autor, y comentarista de libros. (Coming soon — I hope — the Internet Monk blog in Latin.)

► The weight of the matter: A Kentucky Baptist pastor realized he needed to do something when he was weighing in at nearly 500 pounds (223 kg). “I had lost my prophetic voice,” [Jeremy] Atwood said. “How are you going to speak to someone about their sin when you weigh 491 pounds?”

► I wasn’t going to go back to him again so soon, but Justin Bieber apparently led a worship set at one of the two weekends of the Coachella Festival. (He is bringing his faith into view more frequently…it’s an interesting trajectory.)

► In other celeb news from Relevant Magazine, Catholic nuns appealing to Pope Francis stop Katy Perry from closing the deal on the purchase of a convent in California. Sister Callahan of the Sisters of the Most Immaculate Heart stated, “in selling to Katy Perry, we feel we are being forced to violate our canonical vows to the Catholic Church.” 

► The YouTube channel Mahima Ko Aawaz features worship songs in Hindi or Nepali. This one is titled Hallujhea vandai Hosana. Or for something more professionally produced, check out Mero Chattan. ♫

► Televangelist Ernest Angley is back in the news. “The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals…decided to overturn a 2017 ruling that required Cathedral Buffet and Angley himself to pay more than $388,000 in back wages owed to workers as well as damages.  The latest appeals court ruling, which was unanimously decided by a three judge panel on Monday, said the workers did not expect to be paid for their work at buffet, meaning Angley did not violate fair labor laws. Angley claims that the buffet never made a profit.”

► Truth is stranger… “A woman has sued the pastor of a megachurch in Georgia for pushing her head while praying for her, causing her to fall down to the ground and hit her head. She says she got a traumatic brain injury due to the incident. Since her fall last year, [Yvonne] Byrd has had headaches and dizziness, and has visited hospitals several times, he said, adding that the church’s insurance company has refused to cover the medical bills which is why Byrd filed a lawsuit against the church and the pastor.”

► Finally, Christian comedian Jon Crist and his wife are on vacation and trying to find a church.

Coming This Weekend to an Imaginary Location Near You: ♫ The Christian Coachella Festival ♫ (via. Jon Crist)

April 17, 2018

Needing a Large Print Bible Involves More Than Type Size

 

In terms of value for price, this NIV Compact Giant Print often wins people over who thought they were shopping for large print. It’s one of my favorite text-only NIV Bibles on the market. Click the picture to learn more.

She hated to admit it, but it was time to move up to a larger print Bible. She thought that meant simply getting a bigger font size, but the first few Bibles she looked at weren’t working for her. The problem is, to have better readability there are five factors or characteristics of the Bible that need to line up. A larger font size can easily be defeated by not having the others in place. 

With an aging population, people are living well into their sight-affected years. Larger print is necessary for many people. Can’t read this blog post? Hit Ctrl-+ on your computer (or the Mac equivalent) or enlarge the page on your phone. With print books, there’s no Ctrl-+ or pinching your fingers. It’s important to get the readability needed.

There’s no industry standard for large print anyway. Buying a Bible online becomes very difficult at this stage because descriptions might say, “Font size 9.5” but as you’ll see below that means almost nothing when other factors are introduced.

If  you know someone who is going to be needing a Bible upgrade soon, make sure they read this.

Bible magnifying - large printFive Readability Factors for Bibles

Font Size – For my money, “large” should be at least 10.0 point and “giant” should be at least 12.0 point; but the key phrase here is “at least.” Ideally, I’d like to see “large” at about 11.5 and “giant” at about 14.0.”  Also, generally speaking large print books are much more generous in font size — as well as the other four factors listed below — than large print Bibles. Some readers who have purchased large print books before question the application of the term when it’s applied to Bibles. If you’re in a store and they have a font size guide posted, that gives you the language to express what you’re looking for, but don’t go by online guides, as they are sized at the whim of your monitor settings.

Typeface – This consideration is the basis of Zondervan and Thomas Nelson’s move — started last year and continuing throughout 2018 — to “Comfort Print”* on all their Bible editions. Some typefaces are simply fatter than others. Personally, I like a sans serif font (think Arial/Helvetica) such as Zondervan was using on its Textbook Bibles. But others like the look of a serif font (think Times New Roman) instead. But Comfort Print is a great innovation and I find when it’s available that people who think they need large print don’t, and other who think they might need giant print (with other publishers) can work with Comfort Print’s large print. You can think of this in terms of the difference between regular and bold face.

Leading – This one is actually quite important, and we’ll leave the definition to Wikipedia: “In typography, leading (/ˈlɛdɪŋ/ LED-ing) refers to the distance between the baselines of successive lines of type. The term originated in the days of hand-typesetting, when thin strips of lead were inserted into the forms to increase the vertical distance between lines of type.” One Bible publisher which I won’t name is notorious for using a large font but then crowding their lines of type together. The issue here is white space. If you look at the Wisdom Books of the Bible (which are typeset as poetry with more white space and wider margins) and compare to the History Books or Gospels (which are typeset as prose, both right-justified and left-justified) you see the advantage created by white space.

Inking – Some Bibles are not generously inked. There are sometimes also inconsistencies between different printings of the same Bible edition, and even inconsistencies between page sections of a single Bible. Text should be dark enough to offer high contrast to the white paper. Furthermore, some older adults have eye problems which make reading red-letter editions difficult. If that’s the case — and you don’t always know ahead of time — use a page from the Gospels as a sample.

Bleed Through – On the other hand, you don’t want to see type from the previous or following page. Bible paper is usually thin paper, which means the potential for bleed-through is huge. On the other hand, holding Bibles up to the light isn’t a fair test. Rather, the place where you check out the Bible should be well-lit and then pages should be examined in the same context you would read them at home. It is possible that an individual simply needs a better quality reading lamp.


*There’s a trade-oriented article about the announcement re. Comfort Print in this September, 2017 article.

 

April 16, 2018

Missing Church

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:19 am

There have not been a lot of weekends in my life where I’ve missed church, in one form or another, altogether. It’s even more weird to think that yesterday this was also true for most of the people I know.

Unlike our friends in nearby Buffalo, we don’t get hit with a lot of church closings. We get Sundays when the weather seems to definitely impact attendance. It will have been a great week and then a weather system rolls in on Saturday night. Is God just testing the resolve of our pastors and church leaders?

Attendance sags on those occasions, volunteers don’t show up, and you can bet your bottom dollar (pun intended) that offerings are down. But we’re hearty and our cities, towns and villages all have snowploughs (the preferred spelling here) because, after all, this is Canada.

But consistently on Saturday night, church after church looked at the satellite imagery, looked at the forecast, and looked out the window and announced closings. Well all except for The Salvation Army. They’re an army after all, and it takes more than a few inches of freezing rain to shut down an army.

But some were reluctant. Like these guys, who I won’t name:

Apparently, not “forsaking the assembly” is sacrosanct; an eleventh commandment so to speak. So it was going to take an act of God for this church not to meet.

But in the end, they caved to the planetary conditions in their region and shut down like the rest of us.

Well, not all of us.

You see to this point, I’ve not told you the full story. To the best of our knowledge, based on websites and church Facebook pages, it was the Evangelical churches which cancelled services. In the Mainline churches, it was business as usual.

My son, who is currently helping out a Roman Catholic Church choir director in another city, weighed in with the news that his church, “only cancels if it’s snowing in the Vatican.” (For the record, Sunday in Rome was, as today will also be, 21°C or 70°F and partly cloudy.)

Now it’s true that many Anglican (Episcopal), Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic, etc. churches operate on something closer to a parish system — meaning if you live in that parish you go to that local church — rather than having regional churches as do Evangelicals. It is also true that Evangelicals will drive greater distances because of the charisma of a particular speaker or the doctrinal distinctives of a particular tribe. (I have one contact in this area who drives, in good weather, about 90 minutes deep into Toronto for that particular reason.)

It’s also a fact of life in most of the Mainline churches that the pastor/rector/priest has a manse located next door to the church. Commute Time = 0.00 Minutes. So there’s no reason for him/her not to be there on time to open the building.

Despite all this, I still find it surprising that without exception all the Evangelical churches in my little corner of the world opted to shut down.

…The saving grace this morning was churches streaming live, or delayed sermon podcasts. I can’t emphasize enough how blessed we are to live in this age of technology where so many resources are available to us.

Television, the resource of an earlier generation, is less of a factor as local stations claim more time to sell advertising for programs highlighting the weekend in sports, or Sunday morning political round-tables. You might catch some programs, but without access to a dedicated Christian cable or satellite channel, you won’t see much.

Nonetheless, I still missed the interactions, the corporate worship, the corporate prayer and sitting in person under live teaching taking place in the same room. 

The forecast for next Sunday promises weather that is much more balmy.

 

 

 

April 15, 2018

People in Your Church: Beautiful He and Beautiful She

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:48 am

by Ruth Wilkinson

It’s pouring rain. Buckets. Pissing down, as our English friends would say.

And it’s moving day.

S. and her family, including young K., are on their way. Everything is in boxes, the key has been arranged for. All there is to do now is actually go.

I had to work today, but swung by to say good bye and see if I could lift a few boxes and feel like I’d helped. When I got there, the truck was full and the trailer almost. S.’s man, the cranky Dutchman, was wrestling one end of a big wooden thing into place while the other end of it was being wrestled by Beautiful He.

Beautiful He and Beautiful She are a couple I’ve known for years and they get lovelier the longer you know them. He’s a builder and she’s an artist, both on canvas and in the kitchen.

They were both there today to help S. move with their big black truck and their trailer.

I first met Beautiful He and Beautiful She at a church I used to go to.

As with any ‘church’, there are people who do different jobs and, as with any ‘church’ there are jobs people want to do and jobs people don’t. Most of the ones people do want involve the use of microphones and rehearsal.

Most of the ones I’ve done involve the use of microphones and rehearsal.

One Sunday morning, we’d just finished our final practicing and I was heading down the hall to go check on my son in the nursery.

The soundcheck was done, the arrangements finalized. My head was full of songs, and key changes, and harmonies. I needed to check my hair and make sure my skirt was turned around straight and my mascara hadn’t run and then I was headed back to the platform for the ‘pre-service song’ (of which there would be one, followed by a spoken welcome, 2 songs, a pastoral prayer, 3 songs and then, after the sermon, one more.)

As I headed down the hall, I saw Beautiful She coming the other way. Also wearing a skirt, also with her hair done, also wearing heels. Carrying a bucket, and a mop, and a plunger. She smiled as she passed and said good morning, Ruth, the practice sounded good. And away she went, turned down the hall to the bathroom and disappeared through the door.

I thought, “That’s who I want to be.”

I want to be someone who can get all dressed up but be willing to wield a plunger. To put on a pair of high heels, and go stand in a puddle. Who doesn’t take themselves so seriously ‘as an artiste‘ that they’re no use to anybody. Someone who can be beautiful while cleaning up a mess because cleaning up messes is a beautiful thing to do.

Someone who’ll be truly available to what ever God puts in their path, to serve and to give and to love.

Someone who’ll put down her paintbrush and leave her easel, long enough to get soaked to the skin by cold September rain, helping a virtual stranger move.

That’s who I want to be.

April 14, 2018

When Religion Capitulates to the Broader Culture

We often encounter discussions under the general category, “Women in Ministry” and even the most staunch complementarians have to agree that in Christianity as a whole, changes are certainly afoot. While I lean more egalitarian, I do believe there are God-ordained differences between the sexes which could manifest themself in differing church leadership roles depending on the dynamics of the local church.

So it was with great interest this week that I came upon two different articles revealing that similar changes are happening in other faiths.

The first one was in our Wednesday collection of news stories. Mayim Bialik, an actress who played the lead in Blossom and also acts on The Big Bang Theory, is Jewish. She asks the question, “Ever heard of an Orthodox woman who holds a clergy position?” She then proceeds to profile “B’nai David-Judea, the only Orthodox synagogue in Southern California which employs a female clergyperson.” She speaks of “Using our evolving sense of obligation to modernity to find ways to let in more voices.”

Read that last sentence again. You don’t need to be Jewish to see the parallels between that perspective and what’s taking place in Mainline Protestantism and Evangelicalism. You can watch Mayim’s video at this link.

The second one was at Religion News Service, Jana Riess reporting on the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) Annual General Conference.  Among the takeaways she noted, “Sister Bonnie Oscarson, the outgoing Young Women president, gave a heartfelt plea for the Young Women to have important responsibilities in church and to feel that their contributions are valued;” and “Women spoke in three of four sessions…In the April 2017 conference, which featured thirty total speakers over four general sessions, only one woman—Primary president Joy Jones—spoke. One LDS viewer suggested on Twitter on Saturday that it would be great to hear from one woman during each general session, bringing the ratio of male to female speakers to something more like six or seven to one. For this modest entreaty she received significant hateful pushback from some on Twitter as well as support from others.”

The rest of Jana’s article is at this link.

…So returning to Protestants and Evangelicals, inasmuch as we see a broader trend taking place, we have to ask ourselves if we move with those trends simply because we are caving into societal pressure.

For Evangelicals, the bottom line is always, “What does the Bible teach?” But with, for example, the Apostle Paul’s statements on women, some will easily prefer to choose the interpretive analysis as the reason for opting out of traditional teaching. ‘Yes;’ we will say, ‘This is what the church has commonly understood this passage to mean, but we now understand the Greek word [insert Greek word here!] actually meant something in that time closer to [insert different meaning here!].’

This same reasoning is used with the very same apostle when it comes to homosexuality. Without taking sides on this, presently it’s clear that many contextual studies and word studies are brought forward which suggest that Paul was speaking to something other than that which is usually assumed and, Voila! We suddenly find ourselves in a different paradigm.

But that doesn’t mean everyone buys in. These issues can be quite divisive.

In the Roman Catholic Church, change is more stringently created and applied. The Pope merely needs to publish an encyclical redefining the role of women (or other such issue) and the new guidelines would be in effect overnight, but basically there would also be an appeal to a newer, higher understanding of the original Greek or Hebrew texts. He cannot just change the rules out of nothing — out of thin air — there would need to have been significant study.

So again, it’s interpretive.

But how does the book on which we base everything so important and so vital to our faith lend itself to so much interpretation? When absolutes are crumbling? Is this what Jesus means by “knowing in part and understanding in part;” or what Paul himself means by “seeing through a glass darkly;” the still-used KJV rendering of a metaphor in 1 Corinthians which has a variety of expressions.

Are we capitulating to the culture? Or is the culture a catalyst for an awakening of sorts?

The related question: While the deity of Christ and his death and resurrection are absolutes, are there other things which are negotiable?

 

April 13, 2018

Boy Who Didn’t Come Back From Heaven Now Suing Tyndale House Publishers

Tuesday in The Washington Post:

On Nov. 14, 2004, as 6-year-old Alex Malarkey drove home with his father Kevin in rural Ohio, a left turn nearly took his life. As Kevin turned the car it collided with another vehicle, and the boy’s skull became completely detached from his spinal cord.

But Alex did not die — and that’s the central fact behind a long-running controversy that has now led to a lawsuit.

Two months after the crash, Alex emerged from a coma as a quadriplegic. The injured boy also began telling family and friends about traveling to heaven and meeting Jesus and Satan.

In July 2010, Kevin and Alex Malarkey penned an account of the boy’s religious experience, “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven.” The book was published by Tyndale House, a publisher of Christian books. It went on to reportedly move more than 1 million copies and spent months on the New York Times bestseller’s list. The book was part of a bumper crop of similarly geared narratives — tales of near-death experiences and brushes with the Almighty published by religious imprints.

Then it all fell apart. In January 2015, Alex, now paralyzed from the neck down, admitted he had fabricated the story.

“I did not die,” he wrote in a blog post. “I did not go to Heaven. I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention.”

The admission created a firestorm within the worlds of evangelical faith and Christian publishing. The controversy was revived this week when Alex — now 20 years old and living off Social Security — filed a lawsuit against Tyndale House in Illinois’s DuPage County, where the publisher is located. The complaint alleges Kevin Malarkey was the main actor behind the fabrication…

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Christianity Today picks up the story Wednesday:

…Tyndale took the book out of print in 2015, after Malarkey admitted he made up the story of dying and going to heaven after the accident.

“Now that he is an adult, Alex desires to have his name completely disassociated from the book and seeks a permanent injunction against Tyndale House requiring it to do everything within reason to disassociate his name from the book,” according to the complaint, which was covered in The Washington Post.

Malarkey has sued on the grounds of defamation, financial exploitation, and publicity placing a person in a false light, saying that Tyndale went forward with initially publishing and promoting the book knowing his opposition. He states that he did not write any part of the book or consent to the use of his name as a coauthor and story subject.

The suit states that he has “never been permitted to read the contract, nor to review any accountings provided under the contract, he refuses to acknowledge that the contract ‘is in effect and binding,’ now that he has reached the age of majority.” …

…Tyndale said in a statement issued this week that it no longer promotes the book or makes it available for sale, and that it has complied with the terms of the book contract.

“This is a terribly unfortunate situation, which deeply saddens all of us at Tyndale,” said Todd Starowitz, the publisher’s spokesman. “Despite the claims in Alex Malarkey’s lawsuit, Tyndale House paid all royalties that were due under the terms of our contract on his book, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. Tyndale took the book out of print in 2015 when Alex said that he had fabricated the entire story. Any books still available from online vendors are from third-party sellers.” …

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Clarification: Since the product recall, many mistook the story being recanted as belonging to the book Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo (Thomas Nelson) since both are about kids. Bookstore sales staff continually need to emphatically set the record straight.

Product which was available as of January 16th, 2015 before the recall. Image captured at Ingram/Spring Arbor.

 

The book was one of many similar titles on the New York Times bestseller list in August, 2011

 

April 12, 2018

A Bibliophile’s Ambivalence

Filed under: bible, books, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:20 am

Apparently the book thing runs in the family…

About Old Books

by Aaron Wilkinson

I both love and hate owning old books. I love it because old things are awesome. I love the mystery of reading an old book and picking up occasional clues as to who owned it before and where it came from. I love the look, the feel, and the smell of old books. It turns reading into a very sensory experience.

I hate it because old books grow fragile. As I read them and use them, I often can’t shake the thought that I am contributing to their wear. I feel guilty about touching it.

At one point I got my hands on a cheap Latin Bible that was over a hundred years old. It was beautiful and also very portable. I could fit it in my pocket. One time I was casually reading it in my university dorm room. I opened it gently but the fragility of the binding was greater than my exceptional care and the hard cover tore from the spine. I’ve done a lot of morally questionable things in my life but breaking that Bible was definitely the worst.

So my antiquarian bibliophilia presents a conflict of interests. I want to own old books because I love them but I also think that far more deserving people should own them because I know they can care for them better.

I was thinking about this dilemma while waiting for the bus a few days ago and something occurred to me. My use of the centenarian Vulgate led to its partial destruction but it also lead to me better understanding the Latin language. The book ages but the words on the page and the language itself find new life. I may have contributed to the wear of the book but I’m contributing to the continuation of the language and text at the same time.

The physical vessel for the words, the book, is worn down but the words find a new physical vessel, myself. I’m not going to go around destroying books on purpose now, but ancient things find new life when we study them and carry them forward.

One of my favourite pieces of music is The Seikilos Epitaph, which according to Wikipedia is “the oldest complete surviving musical composition.” I’ve committed it to memory and its tune is one of the things I’ll whistle to myself while impatiently waiting for the bus.

If I were to go back to first century Ephesus where the epitaph was found, I would have something in common with them right off the bat. It’s nice to know I have friends 2000 years ago.

Physical things are still well worth preserving. In fact, they should absolutely be preserved and by people more capable than myself. 100 year old books are not actually all that rare but there are things that are hundreds or thousands of years old that should probably be out of my reach. But we can all play our part in preserving the beauty of ancient things by studying them and sharing them.

As for damaging the old Vulgate, I will turn myself into the police immediately.

April 10, 2018

In the Middle of the Miracle

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:40 am

My stomach is growling.

He’s been teaching and doing miracles all day and nobody in particular wants to leave. But it’s obvious that people are hungry. Someone near the front is discussing this with him and there’s a question if anyone has any food. For a crowd this big?

Yeah, right. I’ve got my caravan of camels loaded up with food just over the hillside. Not.

The woman next to me has been slipping snacks to her kids all afternoon but she’s not volunteering anything. In the distance a little boy is handing Jesus a cloth bag and he’s removing the contents. He’s quietly saying a short prayer.

We’re asked to sit down in groups of 50 households. Since it would later be reported that 5,000 men — plus women and children — were fed, that would be about 100 groups. His disciples start circulating through the crowd. Where did those baskets come from?

When they get to our group I can see the bread and the fish pieces quite clearly. But as I reach for a piece of bread, my eyes go blurry for second and it looks like the piece that’s in my hand was just replaced. Someone would write later that everyone had their full, so hungry as I am, I reach in and grab a second piece. Again, it appears to be replaced. There are now two pieces in my hand, and I grab a piece of fish, and quickly pass the basket to my right.

I think the same guy who served us comes around to the group next to us minutes later and the basket is still filled to the top. The kid who had the cloth bag is standing next to Jesus and they’re both sharing a private moment and laughing with delight.

Is this what it’s like to be in the middle of a miracle?

April 9, 2018

Book Review: The Jesus I Never Knew

It is, without doubt, my favorite book by my favorite author.

When it was published, in 1995, I was sitting behind the counter of a Christian bookstore when a man came in and asked if we could order him five copies. A few days later someone else asked if they could order six. A few weeks later the first man came back for ten more.

I knew I had to read this book. I was familiar with Philip Yancey because of his connection to Campus Life magazine and The NIV Student Bible. He was the guy with the hair. Trained in journalism, he is an example of a Christian author rising to prominence not having formally studied theology or having pastored a church.

Yancey had written many books before The Jesus I Never Knew was published. Three were with leprosy doctor Paul Brand, as well as Where is God When it Hurts and Disappoint With God.

But in a way, The Jesus I Never Knew would kick off a run of prime titles for Yancey which include: What’s So Amazing About Grace, Reaching for the Invisible God, The Bible Jesus Read, Rumors of Another World, Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference, What Good is God and Vanishing Grace.

When he writes, he stands in for all of us, with all our questions, misgivings, disappointments, doubts, and hopes when it comes to Biblical texts. He’s not afraid to wrestle with the scriptures and if, as with Jacob, that takes all night, then so be it. He’s never written a formal autobiography — unless you count Soul Survivor — but you come to know him as you read his writing.

This was my third time reading The Jesus I Never Knew.

My first reaction, on completion of the last page, is to want to turn to chapter one and begin all over. Jesus simply leaps off the page. Yancey has looked at the life of Christ and assembled a myriad of data and then rearranged that information to give us a picture of Jesus as he would have presented himself to the disciples and gospel writers.

An alternative title might be, The Jesus You Thought You Knew, or perhaps The Jesus You May Have Missed. If the gospel accounts might be considered an outline drawing of Christ’s life, with this book Philip Yancey fills in the colors, the shading, the textures of the big picture. Over the years, readers have found the section on Christ’s temptation and the Sermon on the Mount to be especially helpful. There’s also the drama of the encounters Jesus has with everyone from the Pharisees to the lepers. He offers much in the way of context then along with personal application for us now.

So…today’s review is not a new book, but if it’s new to you, I hope you’ll track down a copy.

Zondervan, paperback, 9780310219231

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