Beliefs, Practices, History
David Dark (Westminster John Knox Press: Mar. 1, 2005), 200 pages.
Readers of Dark's book Everyday Apocalypse know that this high school English teacher is a passionate, articulate, absurdly well-read interpreter of popular culture. But even the forewarned may be astonished by this latest effort. Dark's skill at probing the spiritual resonances of American culture — in forms high and low, from Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville to Bob Dylan and David Lynch — is matched by his uncanny ability to select telling moments from America's common story. Whether it's Elvis taking a shotgun to his television sets, Dylan confessing a sense of common humanity with Lee Harvey Oswald or George Washington treating British prisoners of war with unprecedented civility, Dark excavates a series of witnesses who speak prophetically to what he sees as our media-saturated overconfidence in our own righteousness. Moreover, he offers a convincing and unsettling account of the gospel itself — the "Jewish Christian" story of forgiveness and human dignity that, Dark argues, has animated America's ideals even as it has continually critiqued America's practices. Dark's Southern heritage is evident in his literary allusions (the subtitle echoes Flannery O'Connor) and in his affection for egalitarian conversation. Nearly every page has something to make readers pause, laugh, think or pray; perhaps most amazing is Dark's skill at burying layers of meaning for the reader to discover. It's hard to imagine a better tonic for our age than this unblinkingly honest exercise in faithful patriotism. ~ Publishers Weekly
Alvin J. Schmidt (Zondervan : December 1, 2004), 448 pages.
Western civilization is becoming increasingly pluralistic, secularized, and biblically illiterate. Many people today have little sense of how their lives have benefited from Christianity's influence, often viewing the church with hostility or resentment. How Christianity Changed the World is a topically arranged Christian history for Christians and non-Christians. Grounded in solid research and written in a popular style, this book is both a helpful apologetic tool in talking with unbelievers and a source of evidence for why Christianity deserves credit for many of the humane, social, scientific, and cultural advances in the Western world in the last two thousand years. Photographs, timelines, and charts enhance each chapter. This edition features questions for reflection and discussion for each chapter. ~ From the Back Cover
David W. Kling (Oxford University Press: June 2004), 408 pages.
No one can doubt that the Bible has exerted a tremendous influence on Western civilisation since the dawn of Christianity. But few of us have considered the precise nature of that influence in particular historical contexts. In this book, David Kling traces the fascinating story of how specific biblical texts have at different times emerged to be the inspiration of movements and collective responses that have changed the course of history. Each of the seminal texts Kling considers has been understood very differently (and perhaps more correctly) at different times in history. Each of the historical episodes he examines — from the rise of the Papacy to the emergence of pentecostalism — is evident of the dynamic interplay between scripture and the social and cultural context in which it is interpreted. Kling's innovative study of this process sheds important new light on the ways in which sacred texts continue to shape our history as well as our lives. ~ Product Description
The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998), p. 273.
Anyone who is not a continual student of Jesus, and who nevertheless reads the great promises of the Bible as if they were for him or her, is like someone trying to cash a check on another person's account. At best, it succeeds only sporadically.
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (First edition, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), p. 6.
[T]heology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?
Beyond Born Again, p. 75.
The very admission of the need to harmonize is an admission that the burden of proof is on the narratives, not on those who doubt them. What harmonizing shows is that despite appearances, the texts still might be true.
A recent article in Strange Magazine, recounts at length Mark Opsasnick’s investigation into the alleged demon possession that inspired the film, The Exorcist. In spite of the many years passed and the glut of misinformation that has developed, Opsasnick successfully uncovers each of the previously unknown, crucial facts of the case. His tale is suspenseful and tremendously fascinating, and his relentless and careful striving for the facts is a masterpiece of investigative journalism. In the end, with his discoveries in view, Opsasnick disregards the likelihood of an ‘authentic’ demon possession. But for all his apparent even-handedness, it becomes clear that Opsasnick’s hope from the beginning is to debunk "The Exorcist’s" implicit supernaturalism. After many pages of impressively scrupulous and tedious examination of the facts, he rejects the possibility of an authentic demon possession without even pausing to define ‘demon possession’ or how one might determine the authenticity of such an occurrence. In, "Angelology and Biblical Skepticism." Peter Williams has addressed just such skepticism and dismissiveness toward the reality of spirits. Also consider Steve Waterhouse's list of possible ways to distinguish possesions. Even if the events that inspired, "The Exorcist," do invite naturalistic explanation, it would have served Opsasnick well to have been more careful in his final judgement.
John Stott (InterVarsity Press: Jan 2004), 128 pages.
In a time when many Christian authors recommend the claims of Christian faith by descriptions of faith encounters and invitations to "dance with the mystery," Stott, author of many foundational apologetic works, offers a clear and compelling account of the theological basis for his own belief. He begins by explaining the sense of God's own pursuit of him, providing illustrations from the lives of famous Christians with similar experiences. He continues with a logical examination of the claims and character of Jesus as seen in Scripture. The last section discusses the nature and needs of human beings, explaining how those needs are fully met through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The book concludes with a simple invitation for the reader to respond to the claims of Christ personally, offering a sample prayer. For some readers, the book will seem overly structured, since Stott frequently reviews the logical points of each section. For those accustomed to arguments conducted by way of emotive stories, his reliance on logic may feel a bit dry. But readers of a more analytical temperament will find a compelling discussion of the claims of Christ in a remarkably readable, brief form. It's the sort of book that Christians who need a more reasoned, thoughtful approach to their faith will read and then pass along to skeptical friends. ~ Publishers Weekly
"Truth Commissions and Judicial Trials" in The Provocations of Amnesty (New Africa Books: 2003) p. 82.
The isolating device of prison guarantees that reconciliation between prisoners and the rest of 'us' remains far out of our minds. The case with amnestied perpetrators is different. Their very presence raises the daily question: can the sinning and the sinned-against achieve a new positive relationship. For the sake of new social harmony, the motto 'forget and move on' has its utilitarian attraction. Bt the motto is deceptive. Forgetting is a tricky business, both psychically and politically. Psychically, Kierkegaard was right to suggest that real forgetting requires real remembering: 'When we say that we consign something to oblivion, we suggest simultaneously that it is to be forgotten and yet also remembered.'
F.F. Bruce (Eerdmans: May 1, 2003)
This book is a fantastic guide for any person, Christian or otherwise, who would like to understand the level of historical accuracy that can be found in the New Testament documents. In that Christianity is a religion whose truth claims are allegedly rooted in historical fact, it is key that the works through which we read of those "facts" be considered reliable. Bruce does a great job of doing just that. No historical account, regardless of reliability, can prove miraculous events. However, Bruce argues, if a work can be proven to be historically and culturally accurate with respect to most of its content, that document then becomes-on the whole-more compelling. Any historian would then need to take more seriously the author's questionable claims such as the miracles, and Christ as God and savior of humanity. For if an author can be shown to be reliable in all other aspects of his work, why should he lie with respect to the documentation of miracles? This line of reasoning, and many other arguments, make Bruce's short book a compelling read for anybody interested in this topic. ~ guy-72 at Amazon.com
C.S. Lewis on Praise and Worship said...
Reflections on the Psalms (Harvest Books: 1964), p.179.
I have never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise — lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game — praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least. Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.
Hank Hanegraaff (Thomas Nelson: Feb 8, 2002), 282 pages.
In this definitive work, popular Christian apologist Hank Hanegraaff offers a detailed defense of the Resurrection, the singularly most important event in history and the foundation upon which Christianity is built. Using the acronym F.E.A.T., the author examines the four distinctive, factual evidences of Christ's resurrection-Fatal torment, Empty tomb, Appearances, and Transformation-making the case for each in a memorable way that believers can readily use in their own defense of the faith. Hanegraaff addresses a number of questions: 1) Will we really have tangible, physical bodies in the resurrection? 2) If heaven is perfect, won't it be perfectly boring? 3) Are reincarnation and resurrection mutually exclusive?
John Horner on the Church said...
No, to find real blasphemy, we have to look to ourselves and our forebears — those of us who have taken upon ourselves the name of Christ, and then, in the name of Christ, perform acts that make him weep. When our Christian forbears used the name of Christ to justify slavery, used the name of Christ to justify the history of anti-semitism and the long line of pogroms. When we used the name of Christ as the reason for apartheid and Jim Crow. When we use the name of Christ to kill the Irish Catholic or the Irish Protestant. Or the Serb or the Croatian or the Bosnian. When we use the name of Jesus as the banner under which we picket the funeral of President Clinton's mother, or someone who has died of AIDS. When we get upset because the homeless are littering the sidewalk that leads to our church. When we expend more political effort toward getting a cut in our taxes than we do in making sure that the children of our country have decent food and shelter, and do it in the name of Christianity. When we do these things — that's when we should raise the cry of "Blasphemy."
B. Netanyahu (New York Review of Books: September 2001), 1424 pages.
The Spanish Inquisition was responsible for one of the fiercest repressions in human history. It fused the triple evil of a police state, a totalitarian ideology, and racial persecution. Its terrible reverberations have been felt in our own century, and are likely to be felt in the next. Yet for all its notoriety, its origins have never been fully explored or clearly understood before now. What caused this monstrous attack upon Spain's so-called "conversos" — the Christian descendants of the Jews who had been forced to convert during the anti-Semitic riots that swept across Spain at the end of the fourteenth century? Were the thousands of conversos who died at the hands of the Inquisition in fact secretly still Jews, only pretending to be good Christians, as the inquisition charged and as most scholars continue to believe? In this magnum opus, B. Netanyahu shows us that this claim is groundless. After a lifetime of research in long-unexamined Spanish sources, he reveals that at the time of the Inquisition, almost all conversos were in fact full-fledged Christians, and that the few Judaizers among them had dwindled into insignificance. The vast machinery of the Inquisition could not have been founded to kill a dying movement. What, then, was its purpose? The Origins of the Inquisition answers this question definitively. By examining Spanish anti-Semitism from its origins, Professor Netanyahu demonstrates that the brutal anti-converso movement that led to the Inquisition was the same one responsible for the massacre of Jews in Spain in 1391 and the ensuing mass conversion of Spanish Jews (at sword-point) to Christianity. The rapid rise of the conversos to high royal offices (higher, even, than those attained by their Jewish forefathers) made them the target of the same forces that had persecuted the Jews. It was to remove the conversos from their influential positions, and to prevent their intermarriage with the Spanish people, that they were accused of being secret Judaizers and members of a "corrupt" race that would "pollute" the Spanish blood. This was the first time that extreme anti-Semitism was wedded to a theory of race — a union that would dramatically affect the course of modern history. Steering the reader through the labyrinthine politics of Church and State in fifteenth-century Spain, Professor Netanyahu develops his startling thesis within the context of a careful consideration of Spanish culture and society. The conversos, like their Jewish ancestors, were intimately linked with the Spanish monarchy, and, unlike the Jews, also with the Papacy, but by the end of the fifteenth century, both Church and State left their erstwhile allies to the mercy of the Inquisition. As Professor Netanyahu brilliantly shows, the Spanish sovereigns let the coversos be attacked in order to distract the outraged city masses and their leaders from turning against the royal establishment itself. "The Origins of the Inquisition" is a seminal work that will alter our understanding of the Spanish Inquisition and its place in the history of anti-Semitism, of Spain, and of Europe. Its is required reading for anyone who wishes to understand one of history's darkest movements, the terrible shadow of which persists to this very day. ~ Midwest Book Review
"My name is George, and I'm an alcoholic", Salon.com (July 26, 2001).
It's that experience of utter hopelessness, or moments of clarity, or hitting bottom, at which some sufferers typically call out to a higher power for help and others seek the aid of psychiatrists, healers and scientists. The common paradox in all these experiences is that personal powerlessness is twinned with personal responsibility: You suddenly realize that while no one can cure you, neither can you cure yourself on your own. You need God, or friends, or an institution, or a belief system, or something — anything — not yourself. And thus begins, in myriad forms, the archetypal untangling of epistemological knots that results, ultimately, in an unaddicted ego that knows it is both profoundly free and profoundly interdependent. And that's the basis of a healthy society. For that reason, many recovered addicts view with suspicion systems of government aid that seem to prolong dependency and/or to shield sufferers from the fundamental hopelessness of their situation. Thus we would expect Bush, not just as a political conservative, but as somebody who's experienced deep hopelessness, aloneness in the universe and the need for God, to view welfare and other government attempts to eliminate suffering as simply, and wrongly, shielding people from their true problems, the recognition of which alone could catalyze deep change.
John A. T. Robinson (Wipf & Stock Publishers: Jul, 2001), 384 pages.
Bishop Robinson, a theological modernist whose "Honest to God" made him controversial within the Anglican communion, began this book as what he labels "a theological joke": "I thought I would see how far one could get with the hypothesis that the whole of the New Testament was written before 70", the year in which the Roman army sacked and burned the Temple of Jerusalem. As it turned out, he got much further than he had ever expected, a journey made more impressive by his lack of any predisposition toward a "conservative" point of view. His conclusion is that there is no compelling evidence - indeed, little evidence of any kind - that anything in the New Testament canon reflects knowledge of the Temple's destruction. Furthermore, other considerations point consistently toward early dates and away from the common assumption (a prejudice with a seriously circular foundation) that a majority of primitive Christian authors wrote in the very late First or early-to-middle Second Century under assumed names. ~ E.T. Veal at Amazon.com
Christianity on Trial (Encounter Books: July 2001)
It is easy for those who do not live under a totalitarian regime to expect heroism from those who do, but it is an expectation that will often be disappointed... it should be less surprising that the mass of Christians were silent than that some believed strongly enough to pay for their faith with their lives.
"The Public Square", First Things, (May 2001)
Priests and academics born into Catholicism tend to know all the inside stories, the flaws and foibles and legendary figures of the Church, and can regale one another with the rich lore of its characters and scandals. It is one big extended family. In that company, status is often contingent upon demonstrating that one has transcended the "Catholic ghetto." That explains, at least in large part, why dissent from official teaching carries the panache of being sophisticated. The disposition is: "Yes, I am a Catholic (or a priest, or a theologian), but I think for myself." The remarkably improbable assumption is that what one thinks up by oneself is more interesting than what the Church teaches.
First Things 107 (November 2000): 69-88.
Admittedly, it is not so attractive when the apparent modesty disguises a self-denigration that is almost tantamount to self-hatred, as is sometimes evident in current forms of "multiculturalism." Among Christians committed to ecumenism there is a type that is aptly described as an ecumaniac. An ecumaniac is defined as someone who loves every church but his own. So it is that multiculturalists are forever discovering superiorities in other cultures, oblivious to the fact that, in the larger human story, Western culture is singular in its eagerness to praise and learn from other cultures. One is never more distinctively Western than when criticizing what is distinctively Western. The same holds for being American. In our multiculturalism we display our superiority by demonstrating our ability to see through what others — mistakenly, we say — admire in our culture. So maybe this new and self-denigrating way of telling the American story is not so modest after all.
Liv Ullmann on Art said...
Forbes ASAP, October 2, 2000.
What are the most authentic moments in movie history? For me, it was to see Miracle in Milan by Vittorio De Sica, when a whole, very poor village was saved, and there was redemption and food and everything they needed. I saw it when I was a child, and somehow it almost changed my life. I wanted to be part of the world, part of doing something in the world — it made me want to be a good person. It really told me it's important to live, it's important what you do. [Authenticity in filmmaking] must be possible. Because otherwise you are just bullshit. It's entertainment with no value. And we don't need any more of that. You need to have somewhere where you have a conversation with yourself.