The dynamics of the cross of Jesus are closer to those of comedy than tragedy. Both tragedy and comedy turn on the deep contradiction and discrepancies between the world as it is and the world as we humans wish that it would be — in other words, on present aspects of the world that are incongruous or ludicrous, and that defy the best pretensions of humanity. But whereas tragedy only reminds us of the iron bars of the prison of reality from which not one of us can ever escape, comedy shows a way to break out. In comedy, the pratfall and the setback are not the end, and in the Christian faith even death, the ultimate setback, is not the end. Because of the cross and the resurrection there is always a way out. Which means of course that when the contradictions are subverted and reality is turned right way up, the outcome can be gratitude, joy and hope, rather than pity and fear. Needless to say, the dynamic of the resurrection and a God who cannot be buried for long is the dynamic of a child’s jack-in-the-box writ large in golden cosmic letters.
Almost all the world’s greatest philosophers and poets have faced up to the paradox and incongruities that confront us when we consider ourselves and our humanity. From Psalm 8 to Shakespeare’s great soliloquy in Hamlet, many of the world’s most beautiful and profound reflections have focused on the paradox of man and woman. As part of humanity, we humans are so small and so great, so strong and so weak. We rise so high and we sink so low. We are body and we are spirit. We are mortal and we are immortal. We have a grandeur and we have a pathos. Sometimes our little lives seem like a momentary fleck on the heaving ocean, yet we are all always the center of our own universe while we live, and together as humanity we are the most powerful and influential creatures in the whole animal kingdom. We can see things as they are; we also know the way things ought to be, and sometimes the difference makes us laugh and sometimes it makes us cry. What other beings in the universe are like us in these ways? What explains this paradox and these incongruities, and even more, how can we hope to reconcile them in a way that makes life meaningful?
The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false. It is sobering, too, to find huge and frightening errors constantly repeated; lessons painfully learnt forgotten in the space of a generation; and the accumulated wisdom of the past heedlessly ignored in every society, and at all times.
Biblical Christianity is more than just another private religious view. It’s more than just a personal relationship with God or a source of moral teaching. Christianity is a picture of reality. It explains why the world is the way it is. When the pieces of this puzzle are properly assembled, we see the big picture clearly. Christianity is a true story of how the world began, why the world is the way it is, what role humans play in the drama, and how all the plotlines of the story are resolved in the end. In The Story of Reality, bestselling author and host of Stand to Reason, Gregory Koukl, explains the five words that form the narrative backbone of the Christian story. He identifies the most important things that happen in the story in the order they take place: 1) God, 2) Man, 3) Jesus, 4) Cross, 5) Resurrection. If you are already a Christian, do you know and understand the biblical story? And for those still seeking answers to the questions of life, this is an invitation to hear a story that explains the world in a way nothing else will. This story can change your life forever.
We live in an age of skepticism. Our society places such faith in empirical reason, historical progress, and heartfelt emotion that it’s easy to wonder: Why should anyone believe in Christianity? What role can faith and religion play in our modern lives? In this thoughtful and inspiring new book, pastor and New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller invites skeptics to consider that Christianity is more relevant now than ever. As human beings, we cannot live without meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, justice, and hope. Christianity provides us with unsurpassed resources to meet these needs. Written for both the ardent believer and the skeptic, Making Sense of God shines a light on the profound value and importance of Christianity in our lives.
The transformation of the Roman world from polytheistic to Christian is one of the most sweeping ideological changes of premodern history. At the center was sex. Kyle Harper examines how Christianity changed the ethics of sexual behavior from shame to sin, and shows how the roots of modern sexuality are grounded in an ancient religious revolution. “Harper brings a classicist’s expertise to this rich, provocative account of early Christian attempts to transform Roman sexual culture and the understandings of the body, property, sexuality, and the cosmos that formed its basis. This important contribution contextualizes Christian Scripture in a more exhaustive and extensive way than most theological and biblical studies treatments do. The author shows how Christian preaching and teaching responded to social customs and understandings. He indicates the ways in which Christians both borrowed and transformed notions of fate, fortune, and self-control found in classical novels and other Christian literature. Harper also traces the arc of development of Christian sexual ethics into the first few centuries of the church, showing that not only Paul but other Christian writers and theologians as well were deeply shaped by cultural debates over the sexual role of slaves and the value of virginity. Students of classics, Christian ethics, and the New Testament will find this outstanding book indispensable.” ~ A. W. Klink in Choice
Author Matthew Rueger openly embraces this hot topic, writing compassionately with a father’s heart and adamantly with a fierce determination to outline the truth from a reasoned, conservative Christian perspective. This book came to life following a series of presentations that Rueger gave on the subjects of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. The audience? A skeptical, secular-minded bunch of college students in their ethics class at Iowa State University. Christians need to expect the unpleasant from their opponents, arm themselves with answers to common objections, and speak in clarity and love. Rueger shares a game plan for families and churches facing the future, moving from important accounts of history to the tangles of the twenty-first century.
Many of the people we regard as moral exemplars have profound faith in people’s decency: When segregationists bombed a black church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four little girls, Martin Luther King, Jr. insisted that “somehow we must believe that the most misguided among them can learn to respect the dignity and worth of all human personality”. Returning to his work in psycho-therapy after spending two and a half years in Nazi concentration camps, Viktor Frankl adopted as a guiding principle the view that “if we treat people as if they were what they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming”. During his campaign to secure civil rights for Indians living in South Africa, and later to secure independence for India, Gandhi urged his followers to treat as “an article of faith” the view that there is “no one so fallen” that he cannot be “converted by love”. That these and other moral exemplars have such faith is no accident. As I will argue, having a certain form of faith in people’s decency, which I call faith in humanity, is a centrally important moral virtue.
Who was Adam? Was he the result of still ongoing natural processes or a unique creation? Observations seem to validate at least some aspects of evolutionary theory, but long before Darwin a man named David discerned that there’s more to humanity than nature alone can account for. In the original publication of Who Was Adam? (2005), biochemist Fazale Rana and astronomer Hugh Ross discussed cutting-edge research in junk DNA, the human fossil record, human and chimp genetic similarities, and more. They proposed a new scientific testable model for human origins. This robust 10-year update provides rigorous testing of the evolution and creation scenarios. New discoveries in genetics and paleoanthropology, especially, provide helpful evidence. How has RTB’s biblically aligned model for human origins fared? Can human evolution be declared a fact? Or does a creation model make more scientific sense?
Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps, for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be. We weep at what thwarts or exceeds our desires in serious matters; we laugh at what only disappoints our expectations in trifles. We shed tears from sympathy with that which is unreasonable and unnecessary, the absurdity of which provokes our spleen or mirth, rather than any serious reflections on it.
Multinational studies find “women have higher levels of well-being than men, with a few exceptions in low income countries” and “We conclude that differences in well-being across genders are affected by the same empirical and methodological factors that drive the paradoxes underlying income and well-being debates.” That is, women feel better about their different life choices than men do. The implication is that women’s innate desires to a job that satisfies them drive their choices moreso than men, who appear to make choices less for happiness in the job and more for the wages … Further, as to the attraction to STEM fields of men vs women, the evidence is strong that men prefer “things” and women prefer “people” and social value. Put more scientifically, “The tendency of men to predominate in fields imposing high quantitative demands, high physical risk, and low social demands, and the tendency of women to be drawn to less quantitatively demanding fields, safer jobs, and jobs with a higher social content are, at least in part, artifacts of an evolutionary history that has left the human species with a sexually dimorphic mind. These differences are proximately mediated by sex hormones.
Not only creativeness and enjoyment are meaningful. If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete. ¶ The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity — even under the most difficult circumstances — to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his suffering or not.
No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing —
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief.”‘
We … need to learn how to grieve, and remind people we can’t infringe upon others’ rights when we attempt to alleviate our own suffering. ¶ One round of IVF can cost $8-10,000. One surrogate + egg donor pregnancy can cost up to $300,000. We have the resources, the will and the intelligence to actually cure or prevent many forms of infertility. But we have to reject treating people like products. … On a forum I was reading several years ago there was a single mom by choice who had given birth to a son with severe learning disabilities. She asked, “Does anyone know if I can get a refund?” ¶ Even though these processes create new life, please understand that they are not pro life. ¶ Even though you hear again and again that these processes work to “make people happy”, please understand that they do not in fact make people happy. They only delay or transfer pain.
Before making decisions about our sexual behaviors, we need to ask ourselves some questions about what we want to be doing to our brain and our body — what kind of neural tracks and networks do we want to be reinforcing through these behaviors? Do we want to be fusing sex and love? Sex and security? Sex and attachment or commitment? Sex and fidelity? Sex and trust? Sex and unselfishness? Or do we want to be fusing in our brain and in our experiences sex and violence? Sex and dominance? Sex and submission? Sex and control? We shape our brain by our choices. And we develop increasingly automatic and ingrained habits by our repeated choices. But the initial choice of which path we embark upon is up to us.
Rather scandalously, heliocentrism was seen as “exalting” the position of humankind in the universe and pulling the earth up out of the cosmic sump that Copernicus’s predecessors thought it occupied — and conversely, placing the divinely associated sun into that central yet tainted location. To preempt this charge, Copernicus and his followers did what they could, rhetorically, to renovate the cosmic basement … Copernicus tried to enhance the status of the center by envisaging it as an advantageously located throne (solium) that formed a poetically fitting place from which the kingly sun (sol) could illuminate and govern his subjects. In Copernicus’s cosmology, the center was transformed into a place of honor, while at the same time earth was promoted to the status of a “star” that “moves among the planets as one of them.”
Sometimes we feel in the midst of these many tasks in our vast world as though we were laborers in a giant factory where something is being made that we can never see. We are being required to stamp out this piece of sheet metal, to make this handle, to tighten this bolt — and to do all this over and over again without knowing what the whole process is all about. … But for the most part we fundamentally believe that something is going on, something is being accomplished. … We dimly see and hope that this is something glorious in which we are engaged. Something which, if we knew what it was, we could take pride in acknowledging as a work we had been allowed to serve.
The piece is an attempt to explain Freudian humor theory, especially the idea that humor stems from disguised hostility. “Most humor is a refined form of aggression and hatred,” Spiegelman writes. “Our savage ancestors laughed with uninhibited relish at cripples, paralytics, amputees, midgets, monsters, the deaf, the poor and the crazy.” I’ve taken this idea as a jumping-off point in my own work. Whenever I’m considering why something’s funny or not, I always tell myself: find the victim. Humor is targeted. It may be aimed at an individual, at an institution, or the entire superstructure of rational thinking. But something is always being skewered. ¶ The leadoff joke of “Cracking Jokes” is one case in point — finding the victim helps us articulate why the joke is funny. We’re laughing at the patient. Despite the doctor’s well-meaning (and self-assured) intervention, the patient can’t escape his delusions. It’s a vision of humanity as impervious to logic, impervious to rational thinking, impervious to progress. That’s a pretty bleak notion. And yet the depiction of humanity as this series of malfunctioning bumper cars, forever careening about and crashing into each other and failing to make any kind of progress—well, it’s delightful. It skewers the very idea of progress as the natural order, of learning as the natural order. What better target for one’s disguised hostility than the whole institution of education and progress? These normalizing societal forces constrain us, keep our ids forever hamstrung. And so — through humor — we fight back.
Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger), quoting W. Heisenberg, Der Teil und das Ganze: Gespräche im Umkreis der Atomphysik, trans. Arnold J. Pomerans (R. Piper: 1969), p. 117. Continuing, in, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions (Ignatius Press: 2004), pp. 139-40.
Wolfgang Pauli took up the thread of the discussion and agreed… “The complete division between knowledge and faith is surely just a temporary stopgap measure. In Western society and culture we could for instance, in the not-too-distant future, come to the point at which the parables and images that religion has used up to now are no longer convincing, even for simple folk; and then, I fear, traditional morality will also very rapidly break down, and things will happen that are more frightful than anything we can imagine.” At that time in 1927, those taking part in the conversation could have at most a vague suspicion that soon afterward the unholy twelve years would begin, in the course of which things did indeed happen that were “more frightful” than could previously have been thought possible. There were of course a good number of Christians, some of whose names we know and some who have remained nameless, who opposed the demonic forces with the power of their Christian conscience. But on the whole the power of temptation was stronger; those who just went along with things left a clear path for evil.
When we think about our place in the universe, we seem infinitesimally small. The height of a human being is about one ten millionth of the diameter of the earth. The diameter of the earth, in turn, is one ten thousandth of the distance from the earth to the sun. This distance is only about one millionth of the distance between our sun and the nearest star. And the distance between the sun and the nearest star is about one twenty-five thousandth of the size of the known universe. The mass of a human being is measured in tens of kilograms, while the mass of the earth is measured in tens of kilograms to the twenty-fourth power (multiplying ten by ten twenty-four times), and the mass of the sun is tens of kilograms to the thirtieth power. ¶ In other words, any human being, in fact all human beings, are unimaginably small parts of an unimaginably large whole. That we are small, however, does not mean that we are necessarily unimportant. What we lack quantitatively in bulk we make up for qualitatively in special powers that these massive objects lack. These are our powers to know and love. …
In recent years, more and more Christians have come to appreciate the Bible’s teaching that the ultimate blessed hope for the believer is not an otherworldly heaven; instead, it is full-bodied participation in a new heaven and a new earth brought into fullness through the coming of God’s kingdom. Drawing on the full sweep of the biblical narrative, J. Richard Middleton unpacks key Old Testament and New Testament texts to make a case for the new earth as the appropriate Christian hope. He suggests its ethical and ecclesial implications, exploring the difference a holistic eschatology can make for living in a broken world.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.  If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. …
How do we explain human consciousness? Where do we get our sense of beauty? Why do we recoil at suffering? Why do we have moral codes that none of us can meet? Why do we yearn for justice, yet seem incapable of establishing it? Any philosophy or worldview must make sense of the world as we actually experience it. We need to explain how we can discern qualities such as beauty and evil and account for our practices of morality and law. The complexity of the contemporary world is sometimes seen as an embarrassment for Christianity. But law professor David Skeel makes a fresh case for the plausibility and explanatory power of Christianity. The Christian faith offers plausible explanations for the central puzzles of our existence, such as our capacity for idea-making, our experience of beauty and suffering, and our inability to create a just social order. When compared with materialism or other sets of beliefs, Christianity provides a more comprehensive framework for understanding human life as we actually live it. We need not deny the complexities of life as we experience it. But the paradoxes of our existence can lead us to the possibility that the existence of God could make sense of it all.
Before deciding how we ought to treat the unborn — a moral question — we must first be clear about what the unborn is. This is a scientific question, and it is answered with clarity by the science of human embryology. ¶ The facts of reproduction are straightforward. Upon completion of the fertilization process, sperm and egg have ceased to exist (this is why “fertilized egg” is an inaccurate term); what exists is a single cell with 46 chromosomes (23 from each parent) that is called a zygote. The coming into existence of the zygote is the point of conception—the beginning of the life of a new human organism. The terms zygote, embryo and fetus all refer to developmental stages in the life of a human being.
At the heart of the problem is confusion over the nature of the transgendered. “Sex change” is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is a civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.