categoryChristianity

Christianity

The Gospel According to America

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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

Erik J. Wielenberg on Ethics on Christianity and on Naturalism

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My purpose here is not to argue for the truth of naturalism, but rather to examine some of the consequences for ethics of naturalism being true — and not just being true but being known to be true.

What sort of character one ought to strive to inculcate in oneself and others depends in part on what one knows about the nature of the universe. Being an ethically good person is, in part, a matter of being properly oriented toward the universe. A trait that would be a virtue in one kind of universe might well be a vice in another, and vice versa. In this chapter I try to describe some virtues in a universe in which naturalism is known to be true.

The Christian universe is a hierarchical one with a distinct pecking dominion over “the fish of the sea
cattle. God at the top, down theorught the various orders of angels, human beings, and animals. Each being has a particular station and role to play. God has dominion over all other beings; humans have dominion over “the fish of the sea … the birds of the air … the cattle … and all the wild animals of the earth.” After the Fall, at any rate, husbands are to rule over their wives. The Christian Bible is, in part, an account of the role assigned to human beings by God, together with the perils of deviating from this assigned role. In this scheme, it is extremely important both that human beings recognize their assigned stations and roles in the universe and that they not attempt to rise above them.

The Fall of Man resulted from just such an attempt.

That account of the fall is a mere myth. There is no God whom we ought to obey; there is no place in a hierarchy to which we have divinely assigned. In a naturalistic universe, Christian humility and obedience have no place. What, if anything, takes their place?

The Da Vinci Code: A Novel.

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The most important word in this entire book is the noun in the subtitle; this is a "novel"-a work of fiction. That is important to remember, especially after the statements on page 1, which move the work slightly into the arena of historical fiction, but only slightly. It is true that there are such organizations as the Priory of Sion and Opus Dei. It is true that the author has worked hard to describe accurately the contemporary European locations, including city layouts, buildings, and artwork, in which the plot is set. The statement that "all descriptions of… documents… in this novel are accurate" is, however, highly inaccurate!

The Bible in History

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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 Case for Easter

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Strobel, a former journalist for the Chicago Tribune, affirms that Christ really did die on the cross, and not just faint from exhaustion; that he experienced a bodily, and not just a spiritual, resurrection; and that he was seen alive after his death. In journalistic style, he interviews several experts like Gary Habermas, corrects inaccuracies (the nails would have been driven through Jesus’ wrists, we learn, and not his palms) and tells stories. But at its heart, this is an editorial rather than a journalistic account, as Strobel most definitely has an opinion and wants readers to share his own pilgrimage from doubt to rock-solid faith. ~ Publishers Weekly

Why I Am a Christian

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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

That’s Just Your Interpretation

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In our relativistic society, Christians more than ever are bombarded by tough questions about their faith. Author Paul Copan has observed that many of these questions emerge as "anti-truth claims" that are part of today’s skeptical mind-set. Christians defending their faith often hear slogans and questions such as: It’s all relative; Everything is one with the Divine, all else is illusion; The Gospels contradict each other; Why would a good God create hell? This book provides incisive answers to slogans related to truth and reality; theism, pantheism/Eastern religion, and naturalism; and doctrinal issues such as the incarnation and truth of Scripture. Each of the twenty-two chapters provides succinct answers and summary points for countering the arguments. Copan’s book is accessible for all Christians who want to defend the plausibility of Christianity in the marketplace of ideas. It also includes helpful summary sections, additional resources, and additional documentation in the endnotes for review and discussion.

The Origins of the Inquisition in 15th Century Spain

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The Spanish Inquisition remains a fearful symbol of state terror. Its principal target was the conversos, descendants of Spanish Jews who had been forced to convert to Christianity some three generations earlier. Since thousands of them confessed to charges of practicing Judaism in secret, historians have long understood the Inquisition as an attempt to suppress the Jews of Spain. In this magisterial reexamination of the origins of the Inquisition, Netanyahu argues for a different view: that the conversos were in fact almost all genuine Christians who were persecuted for political ends. The Inquisition’s attacks not only on the conversos’ religious beliefs but also on their “impure blood” gave birth to an anti-Semitism based on race that would have terrible consequences for centuries to come. This book has become essential reading and an indispensable reference book for both the interested layman and the scholar of history and religion. ~ Product Description

Cary Tennis on Alcoholism and Redemption

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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.

Richard John Neuhaus on Catholicism

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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.

Liv Ullmann on Art

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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.

Alvin Plantinga on Classical Christian Theology

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Classical Christian belief includes, in the first place, the belief that there is such a person as God. God is That person, that is, a being with intellect and will. A person has (or can have) knowledge and belief, but also affections, loves, and hates; a person, furthermore, also has or can have intentions, and can act so as to fulfill them. God has all of these qualities and has some (knowledge, power, and love, for example) to the maximal degree. God is thus all-knowing and all-powerful; he is also perfectly good and wholly loving. Still further, he has created the universe and constantly upholds and providentially guides it. This is the theistic component of Christian belief. But there is also the uniquely Christian component: that we human beings are somehow mired in rebellion and sin, that we consequently require deliverance and salvation, and that God has arranged for that deliverance through the sacrificial suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who was both a man and also the second member of the Trinity, the uniquely divine son of God.

The Enemy Within

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Have you ever wanted to read the Puritans but felt too intimidated to give it a try? You are not alone. And now, you can get the same doctrine without the cumbersome sixteenth century grammar and syntax. Kris Lundgaard’s book distills John Owen’s powerful books on Indwelling Sin and The Mortification of Sin into easy to understand, bite-zize chapters that edify and instruct without tripping your mental circuit breakers! If you, like me, often find yourselves living in Romans 7:14-25 and want to know how to kill sin, get this book. It will furnish you with sharp weapons. ~ Brian G. Hedges at Amazon.com

Dallas Willard on Following Jesus

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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.

True for You, But Not for Me

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The world is intolerant of Christian beliefs. You’ve probably heard many of the anti-Christian comebacks and conversation-enders that refute the relevance and validity of Christianity, including: “Who are you to impose your morality on others?” “What right do you have to convert others to your views?” “It doesn’t matter what you believe — as long as you’re sincere.” “You can’t trust the Gospels — they’re unreliable.” These comments don’t have to be conversation stoppers. Paul Copan offers you clear, concise, and thoughtful answers to these critical remarks in this revised and expanded edition of “True for You, But Not for Me.” He shows you how with “patience, practice, prayer, and God’s grace,” you can gently respond in ways that move into more meaningful conversations with those who object to your faith.

Toward the Inquisition

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One of the world’s foremost scholars in the fields of Spanish and Jewish medieval history, B. Netanyahu revolutionized accepted belief concerning the causes of the Spanish Inquisition in his magisterial volume of 1995, The Origins of the Inquisition. Locating that origin not in the supposed persistence of Judaism among the New Christians but in a concession the kings were forced to make to powerfully anti-Jewish popular sentiment, he radically altered the whole landscape of Hispano-Jewish studies. Toward the Inquisition is another major contribution to this historiographic revolution. Made up of seven of Netanyahu’s essays, published over the last two decades and collected here for the first time, it further illuminates Jewish and Marrano history from the mid-fourteenth century to the end of the fifteenth century. The essays throw light on such long-obscured phenomena as the rise of the Nazi-like theory of race which harassed the conversos for three full centuries, or the abandonment of Judaism by most conversos decades before the Inquisition was established. ~ Product Description

Edward O. Wilson on the Bible and Evolution

Go [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?

Dallas Willard on the Reliability of the Bible

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On the human side, I assume that [the Bible] was produced and preserved by competent human beings who were at least as intelligent and devout as we are today. I assume that they were quite capable of accurately interpreting their own experience and of objectively presenting what they heard and experienced in the language of their historical community, which we today can understand with due diligence.

On the divine side, I assume that God has been willing and competent to arrange for the Bible, including its record of Jesus, to emerge and be preserved in ways that will secure his purposes for it among human beings worldwide. Those who actually believe in God will be untroubled by this. I assume that he did not and would not leave his message to humankind in a form that can only be understood by a handful of late-twentieth-century professional scholars, who cannot even agree among themselves on the theories that they assume to determine what the message is.

The Bible is, after all, God’s gift to the world through the Church, not to the scholars. It comes through the life of his people and nourishes that life. Its purpose is practical, not academic. An intelligent, careful, intensive but straightforward reading — that is, one not governed by obscure and faddish theories or by a mindless orthodoxy — is what it requires to direct us into life in God’s kingdom. any other approach is to the Bible, I believe, conflicts with the picture of the God that, all agree, emerges from Jesus and his tradition. To what extent this belief of mine is or is not harmfully circular, I leave the philosophically minded reader to ponder.

Love Your God With All Your Mind

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Prepare Your Mind For Action. The mind plays an important role in Christianity. Unfortunately, many of us leave our minds behind when it comes to our faith. In Love Your God with All Your Mind, J. P. Moreland presents a compelling case for the role of the mind in spiritual transformation. He challenges us to develop a Christian mind and to use our intellect to further God’s kingdom through evangelism, apologetics, worship, and vocation. "This exploration into the mind of evangelical Christianity is one of the most courageous books of our time. In language that is thoroughly erudite but compassionate, theological but practical, and scriptural but entirely relevant to today, the author presents the deeper significance of Paul’s plea to the Christians at Phillipi: ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. ‘". ~ From the Publisher

Glenn M. Miller on the Holy Spirit

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To illustrate this, consider the contrast between demon-possession and the “control” of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. Inspiration, in the biblical authors’ cases, is not symmetrical with demon-possession at all. Demon-possession as recorded in the gospels suppressed the personality of the ‘host’; the Christian experience of the Spirit of God liberates our person to manifest its true character. We are designed to produce “self-control” (Gal 5.23!). The true dance with God brings our inner robustness and personality out to joyous expression. We become more ‘us’ than we could be otherwise.

Jesus Under Fire

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Are the traditional answers to these questions still to be trusted? Did the early church and tradition "Christianize" Jesus? Was Christianity built on clever conceptions of the church, or on the character and actions of an actual person? These and similar questions have come under scrutiny by a forum of biblical scholars called the Jesus Seminar. Their conclusions have been widely publicized in magazines such as Time and Newsweek. Jesus Under Fire challenges the methodology and findings of the Jesus Seminar, which generally clash with the biblical records. It examines the authenticity of the words, actions, miracles, and resurrection of Jesus, and presents compelling evidence for the traditional biblical teachings. Combining accessibility with scholarly depth, Jesus Under Fire helps readers judge for themselves whether the Jesus of the Bible is the Jesus of history, and whether the Gospel’s claim is valid that he is the only way to God. ~ From the Publisher

The Moral Vision of the New Testamant

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This is an amazing book — solid scholarship and well thought-out interpretation delivered with a sense of urgency and sincerity. If you are at all interested in Ethics or the state of New Testament scholarship, this book is an absolute necessity. Hays sees distinct (though overlapping) tasks in the process of “doing ethics” and is able to explain and apply them clearly. His emphasis on seeing ethical questions through the “focal lenses” of Cross, Community and New Creation is a wonderful guidepost for anyone concerned with faithful, Spirit-driven scholarship. He stresses that an “integrative act of the imagination” is required to be able to apply the Scripture to our world and suggests methods for achieving it. Hays analyzes five theologian/ethicists in light of his approach (including Barth, Hauerwas, and Schussler-Fiorenza) and, in doing so, further clarifies how his approach can be used by others. The final section of the book applies Hays’ approach to contemporary issues. Partly because of his obvious authority in Greek and New Testament scholarship, and partly because of his honest, passionate approach, his conclusions are bold and very persuasive.

David James Duncan on Christianity

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Personally I’m not sure just who or what Christ is. I still pray to him in a pinch, but I talk to myself in a pinch too — and I’m getting less and less sure there’s a difference. I used to wish somebody would just tell me what to think about Him. Then along came Elder Babcock, telling and telling, acting like Christ was running for President of the World, and he was His campaign manager, and whoever didn’t get out and vote for the lord at the polls we call churches by casting the votes we call tithes and offerings into the ballot boxes we call offering plates was a wretched turd of a sinner voting for Satan by default. Mama tried to clear up all the confusion by saying that Christ is exactly what the Bible says He is. But what does the Bible say He is? On one page He’s a Word, on the next a bridegroom, then He’s a boy, then a scapegoat, then a thief in the night; read on and he’s the messiah, then oops, he’s a rabbi, and then a fraction — a third of a Trinity — then a fisherman, then a broken loaf of bread. I guess even God, when He’s human, has trouble deciding just what He is.

David James Duncan on Christianity and Darwin

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Much as she dislikes baseball, Grandawma likes the Bible even less. This is because her hero, Charles Darwin, discovered evolution before God even mentioned it, proved scientifically that men are just apes at heart, and got the Christians all worked up because none of this was in the Bible. That’s what Everett and Peter say anyway. Late one night when we were sitting around yapping, Peter said to Everett that if the Christian had any horse sense they’d just sit down and write themselves a new Bible, sticking some evolution in there this time. He said the biblical creation story was a dud anyhow, especially if you were a girl, since God made everything in the Universe, claimed He saw it was good, and then when the First Lady went out naked for a walk to enjoy all this so-called goodness, a completely evil Devil in snake’s clothing came down out of a tree, lied his head off to her, got her thrown out of Paradise and cursed into having it hurt like hell to have babies, and she was still such a nice person that she didn’t go back with a stick and kill that damned snake. Whose fault was all this? Peter wanted to know. Who claimed it was “good” in spite of the snake, then tried to cover Their tracks with a lot of cockamamie hoodoo about Forbidden Fruit and Trees of Knowledge and Eve’s wicked curiosity? And what harm could a little Darwinian evolution possibly do to a mess of a story like that?

David James Duncan on the Bible

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Everett told Peter it’d be a snowy day in hell before the Christians wrote themselves a new Bible. Too many bugs in the plan, he said. In the first place, who do you ask to do the writing? An Adventist? A Catholic? A Baptist? If you picked just one, he said, the others would kill you. And if you picked one of each they’d kill each other. In the second place, he said, most Christians would refuse to rewrite the Bible anyway, because they’d want God to do it for them, because most of them think it was God who sat down and wrote the one they’ve got.