Archive | September, 2013

Daily Download: Sept. 19, 2013 (Faith/science books, Miley’s Wrecking Ball, apologetics tension, New Zealand sky)

Some Brutally Frank Relationship Advice from a 98-Year-Old Woman — For starters, this interview is taken from “Dana Adam Shapiro’s You Can Be Right (Or You Can Be Married), a by-turns funny, wise, harrowing, and heartbreaking collection of interviews with divorcees,” so don’t expect her to be telling stories of her perfect, loving marriage of 60 years. And the representative quote from the article is:

“First of all, you have to be sexually compatible. That’s very important. If anyone tells you different, they’re nuts.”

That’s a glimpse of where this is going, but it’s a very entertaining read knowing that it’s coming from a 98-year-old woman. And if you avoid reading the advice of people who aren’t coming from a Judeo-Christian worldview, I’d skip this read. As one friend noted, you won’t be reading this advice in Christianity today.

Faith Outside the Bubble — Speaking of Christianity Today, a friend pointed me to this review of the book The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith by Matthew Lee Anderson. The subtitle of the review is “Christians who question their beliefs deserve better than defensive slogans and cliches,” which is a great quote in general. Reviewer Alister McGrath notes:

Anderson cuts to the quick, avoiding scholarly detachment and academic jargon. A series of well-chosen examples allows him to probe why we are reluctant to engage questions, while at the same time illuminating how such questions can enrich faith. We need to do more to help Christians—especially those attending college—to internalize their faith, gain a proper confidence in its roots, and learn to express this in gracious responses to the questions they will inevitably encounter.

I’ve always been a fan of Christian apologetics, helping defending the faith to challenge, and I even was once working on an institutional Certificate of Christian Apologetics offered from Biola University. Over the years, though, I’ve found apologetics, while having value, can also chop questions off at the knees and can actually stunt the growth of those who simply trust the apologist instead of working through the challenges and questions for themselves. Apologetics, as important as it is from an intellectual point of view, can lead many to pat answers instead of honest questions and relationships with those who really want to own the answers. There must be a balance. McGrath, who is known as an apologist, notes in his review that the straight apologetics approach:

neglects the crucial relational aspects of faith. More problematically, it also encourages people simply to learn the answers, without having internalized the deep logic of Christianity. Anderson worries—with good reason—that a faith that knows the answers, but doesn’t understand the questions, is both superficial and vulnerable.

Although the book is directed to pastors, I may have to check it out. McGrath wraps up his review:

Anderson is right to point out that the current emphasis on “dialogue”—particularly within emerging church circles—can stand in tension with a commitment to truth. But it doesn’t need to. I wish the book had included more on the role of dialogue as a form of apologetics or a means of spiritual development. And I would have liked more on the role of friendship as a way of helping us to cope with doubt, of deepening our appreciation of aspects of our faith, and as a context for exploring disagreements without provoking division.

But on the whole, this wide-ranging and well-written book does a fine job of opening up the place of questioning in the Christian life. Anderson has insightfully explored how questioning can be a legitimate form of intellectual inquiry, and a means of growing in faith. Further questions remain, not least about how to convert these ideas into pastoral practices. But it’s a great handshake to begin a conversation.

Origins, Faith, the Bible and Science — I’ve been engulfed in a very engaging conversation with friends about the origins of the universe and how to mesh Genesis and science. How important is it, as a follower of Jesus, to believe that the earth was formed in six 24-hour periods? Some would have you believe it’s vital. Others are fine with an Old Earth view that includes God and his handiwork. I’m intrigued at how much energy is spent in the Christian world on these question. Some have really made a believer’s views of Genesis 1 & 2 a litmus test of faith, and I’m not so sure it’s as vital as it’s made out to be. I once was a very solid Young Earth believer in the idea of six 24-hour days, but I’ve backed off that in recent years. I can heartily make all the arguments for the shorter period, but I’m no longer as certain as I once was when I look at the scientific discussions on the matter, and I’m admittedly disenchanted with the sometimes adamant evangelical tone that can demand a certain belief. Is this type of hyperfocus on certain pet issues really what Jesus came and died for? I’m really struggling with that question because in some circles, they really hammer on this topic.

My friends and I have shared lots of articles and book titles with each other, and I’m trying to find time to fit them all in, but I figured I’d share a few links of you’re on this journey yourself. The conversation started based on the article “A Defense of Six-Day Creation” as juxtaposed against Peter Enns’ book Evolution of Adam, The: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins. I’ve read much on the topic over the last 20 years or so, but my reading list is suddenly multiplying. Thanks to Amazon.com and its ability to recommend books that might be worth your reading when you’re looking at a subject, as well as some personal recommendations from the group based on books we’ve read or are reading, we’ve come up with the following aspirational reading list on the subject:

I can’t specifically recommend any of these books, but I haven’t read any of them yet, but they come out of personal conversations and Amazon results, so take them as you will. I’ve created an Amazon list to track books on the subject that I find. If you want to jump in and read as well, go for it. It’s sometimes a very technical topic that is routinely oversimplified on both sides, and we all want to understand it a little better. If you’re in the same boat, I hope this list jumpstarts your study.

Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball — Last week I made the case to a friend that Miley Cyrus knows exactly what she’s doing. This isn’t Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan or Justin Bieber acting out their wonder years because they didn’t get to be children. Miley Cyrus, whose career has been quietly tapering away as the former Hannah Montana, is taking a calculated risk that she’s about to make a ton of money and climb the mountain of fame. I would argue that this moment in her career is as calculated as anything Justin Timberlake has executed in his rise to fame. She’s taking the reigns of her career and shapeshifting into the Madonna of this decade. She is in the midst of a tightly choreographed career change, surrounded my agents, managers, and handlers who are helping her pull it off. No one was really noticing until her VMA appearance with Robin Thicke but that was the kickoff of the main event. Between that VMA grandstanding and her very naked and suggestive Wrecking Ball music video, Miley is making the move, and it’s no mistake. As this insider article notes:

Miley Cyrus is incredibly smart, she’s manipulating the clueless … to increase her fame, to drive her record to number one, and she’s executed beautifully.

To me, it’s obvious that this isn’t personal to her. It’s business, and she’s aggressively making her way in the entertainment business. Agree or not, she will get rich and famous off this for a while. No, that’s not the point of life, but that is one of the resounding and persistent themes of show biz, and she’s in show biz. I’m glad Mr. Lefsetz agrees with me.

Amazing New Zealand night sky time-lapse video — My mom sent me this link to an article about a photographer who has focused on time-lapse sky photography in New Zealand. Apparently, you can really see the sky in New Zealand. The photographer notes that sitting out under the stars and creating these images over long periods of time has become a spiritual experience for him. After watching the video, I can understand why.

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Daily Download: Sept. 12, 2013 (The Pope and atheists / “Boy World” / Mass hysteria from Facebook)

Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven – For a Pope, Pope Francis is really putting himself out there. In an open letter to founder of a newspaper, the Pope wrote:

“You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.

“Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”

The response is being referred to as “him seeking to have a more meaningful dialogue with the world.” Even the party who asked the question noted that the Pope’s comments were “further evidence of his ability and desire to overcome barriers in dialogue with all.”  I don’t foresee other critics being so kind.

‘Boys Have Deep Emotional Lives’ — Rosalind Wiseman, writter of Queen Bees and Wannabes and Mean Girls has now tackled the world of boys with her latest book, Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World.  I have 3 boys, all of whom I’m trying to help develop into men of character and wisdom, physical and mental strength, who are closely connected with God, the people around them, and their world.  Here’s an interview with Wiseman about today’s world of boys (which seems much like the world of boys I knew back in my younger days).  It sounds like the book might be worth the read.

What Witchcraft Is Facebook? — Could Facebook cause events of mass hysteria much like the one attributed to Salem, Massachusetts during the witch trials? Could you “catch” a disease and really believe you have it simply because others are posting about it on Facebook? Sociologist Robert Bartholomew thinks it may already be happening and that we may soon see epidemics of physical symptoms (primarily in girls) where the contagion is actually a mass hysteria propogated by social media.

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