Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Albert Einstein, A/theist

The faith of Albert Einstein is a conundrum indeed, and in the course of reading, two contradictory views have come to my attention, both of which offer opinions as to his faith. Often in the course of an argument, assertions will be made about a certain historical figure's faith or lack thereof to build a case for faith. Einstein's faith is one that has been grappled with through several writers' works and there is no dearth of opinion on what stripe Einstein was. Was he a theist or an atheist? Susan Wise Bauer, in The Well-Trained Mind, and Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, hold conflicting opinions about Einstein's faith, yet both use his faith, or lack thereof, to support their views.

To be fair, Mrs. Bauer does not claim Einstein was a Christian, but a theist, that he believed in one God, with more of a penchant toward deism than a personal, relational God. Einstein believed, Mrs. Bauer implies, essentially in a cosmic clockmaker, who wound the clock, and then left it to run down on its own with no outside intervention. She says in a chapter ironically about religious fallacies,
Don't ignore the faith of many of the West's greatest scientists. The theism of scientists and mathematicians, from Pascal to Einstein, deeply affected their professional and intellectual pursuits (p.416).
Mr. Dawkins however, asserts that the claims for Einstein's "faith" are based on faulty extrapolations from primary sources and that proponents of faith "cherry-pick" quotations to support the hypothesis that Einstein was a man of faith (whatever that "faith" was). Mr. Dawkins says this on Einstein's faith:
There is every reason to think that famous Einsteinisms like 'God is subtle but he is not malicious' or 'He does not play dice' or 'Did God have a choice in creating the Universe?' are pantheistic, not deistic, and certainly not theistic (p.18).
Pantheism, Dawkins aptly demonstrates, is merely (in his words) sexed-up atheism. He goes on to argue that Einstein, like Stephen Hawking, used the word 'God' in a purely poetic or metaphorical sense and that all scientists are sometimes guilty of slipping into the language of religious metaphor, though he wishes that scientists would refrain from using the word 'God' at all. Because of Einstein's use of religious language only as descriptive, Dawkins' conclusion is that Einstein was an atheist.

Nevertheless, one thing is certain, and that is that Albert Einstein was of course a brilliant man, contributing much to the scientific field. Whether or not his religion or lack of it had anything to do with his intellectual pursuits is not clearly known. Einstein was like any other man, a recipient of God's common grace, the grace bestowed upon all to be and to do all that God has appointed him or her to be, even apart from saving grace. Dawkins would vehemently disagree with that statement and would contend that Einstein was a product of his own design and machinations, but alas, I am not an atheist.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Homeschooling Quote from Susan Wise Bauer

Tangential to several discussions hosted on this blog and elsewhere in the blogosphere, I came across this quote reading today. I thought some might benefit from it.
In the effort to offend none, the public schools have managed to offend practically everyone--either by leaving religion and ethics out of curricula altogether or by teaching them in a way that satisfies neither believers nor skeptics. In sympathy, we'll say that the public schools are in an impossible situation. They are legally bound to avoid the appearance of promoting one religion over another. And in a mixed classroom, how can you take one religion seriously without antagonizing those who don't share it? The inevitable result is summed up by a character in P. D. James's mystery Original Sin:

"There were a dozen different religions among the children at Ancroft Comprehensive. We seemed always to be celebrating some kind of feast or ceremony. Usually it required making a noise and dressing up. The official line was that all religions were equally important. I must say that the result was to leave me with the conviction that they were equally unimportant."

When you're teaching your own child, you have two tasks with regard to religion: to teach your own convictions with honesty and diligence and to study the ways in which other faiths have changed the human landscape.
Mrs. Bauer's comments are balanced and fair. She does not treat each and every faith as valid pathways to the same God. Neither does she promote neglecting (or avoiding altogether) teaching about other faiths. What she does affirm is that our children should know how to respond to those of differing faiths and convictions and how to address them with grace and humility. That cannot be done if we know little to nothing about other faiths and convictions.

Also, she does not ignore the simple fact that people of faith have influenced history at every turn and to avoid the study of religion and ethics is catastrophic. Until a student is able to soberly and comprehensively address the influence various faiths have had on the history of humanity, his study will be woefully incomplete.

Source: The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer, p.414.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Valentine's Day at LifeWay: Love Like Jesus

Back during the Christmas season, I wrote a post about the apparent silliness of LifeWay's "pray while you shop" campaign. Leave it up to LifeWay to outdo themselves, and outdo themselves they have. For all you over-enamored, starry-eyed, twitterpated lovebirds, you can go to LifeWay and learn to love like Jesus! The link takes you to LifeWay Store's main page with a second link that will take you to peruse the online catalog of their new "Love Like Jesus" line of novelty gifts (just in time for Valentine's Day). You can get the Love Like Jesus embroidered pillow. Or the Love Like Jesus divided heart tray (no irony here). Or the Love Like Jesus tote bag. Maybe your darling heart would like the Love Like Jesus plush bear with a photo holder.

LifeWay is promoting the new line of gifts with Jesus' words from John 13:34, "Love one another;" of course, that is LifeWay-ese for "come go shopping." To take one of the most profound, life-altering statements Christ ever made and turn it into a selling point is deplorable. I shudder to think that this is what Jesus really meant when he said those words, especially the context in which He said them.

After He had just denigrated Himself to that of a foot-washer, acknowledged who His betrayer was and loved Him anyway, and knowing that He was only a few heartbeats from the ignominy of the cross, He gave each one of His disciples a little memento of His coming: a heart-shaped coffee-mug with a matching coaster. Jesus' timeless message to His disciples, us included: Go shopping.

Oh, and sorry to let the cat out of the bag, but I thought I would give you the dirt on LifeWay's upcoming selections. For the doctor in your family, there will be the Heal Like Jesus set of medical equipment, replete with a Heal Like Jesus examining kit. For the teacher, the Teach Like Jesus chalk and board set. For a modest price, you can get a Sermon on the Mount or Sea of Galilee backdrop. For the prayer warrior in your family, you will certainly want the Pray Like Jesus prayer shawl, mat, and knee-pads. And for the lawyer, the Litigate Like Jesus matching coat, tie, vest, slacks, and cummerbund.

I think I need a good dose of Pepto-Bismol for the soul.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Insight from an Atheist

Religion as free enterprise?

Dr. Richard Dawkins, noted atheist claims so. Currently I am in the midst of his book, The God Delusion, and am immensely enjoying it. Though Dawkins has assuredly declared a war on faith of any stripe, there is significant insight contained in this tome, even though you must sift through his jaded sarcasm and biting British wit.

...the religiosity of America stems paradoxically from the secularism of its constitution. Precisely because America is legally secular, religion has become free enterprise. Rival churches compete for congregations--not least for fat tithes that they bring--and the competition is waged with all the hard-sell techniques of the marketplace. What works for soap flakes works for God, and the result is something approaching religious mania among today's less educated classes. In England, by contrast, religion under the aegis of the established church has become little more than a social pastime, scarcely recognizable as religious at all.
This quote also broaches another topic that came up in the comment thread of my last post, and that is of historical revisionism. Revisionism takes place essentially when a historical fact does not necessarily line up with your supposed worldview and then the meaning of those facts are changed to suit your purported belief

In the aforementioned quotation, Dr. Dawkins patently asserts that the founding fathers of America were secularists, yet Drs. Dobson and Falwell, and many others representing the religious right, would assert that America was founded on Christian principles. Who then is correct? That would be my question of the hour.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Yet Another Reason... consider homeschooling your children.

Homeschooling is a priority in our home is because our children are precious gifts from God. They are my responsibility; not anyone else's, especially not the government. Yet the government would like to think that children are just pieces of property to be farmed out to the highest bidder. Bob Allen, writer for, quotes a Stanford professor's criticism of the homeschooling endeavor in this January 16th article:
Stanford Professor Robert Reich said he is skeptical of studies showing homeschooling to be superior, because most are based on research done by homeschool advocacy groups. He also argued the state has an interest in knowing its children grow up to be well-rounded citizens [emphasis mine].
Say what, Dr. Reich? Where did I ever get the funny idea that my children belong to me? And besides, if well-rounded citizens is the best the state can do, I think I'll just keep them, thank you very much. And if you think pro-government educators like Dr. Reich do not feel threatened by homeschooling, think again:
"If parents can control every aspect of the kids' education, shield them from exposure to things that the parents deem sinful or objectionable, screen in only things which accord with their convictions, and not allow them exposure to the world of democracy, well the children grow up then basically in the own image of their parents, servile to their own parents' beliefs," he said.
It is very naive of Dr. Reich to make a statement like this, because I, a stalwart homeschooler, agree with him. Really, this is not a criticism of homeschooling, but simply a straw man Dr. Reich has constructed. Are not the government schools' agendas mirror images of what he criticizes homeschoolers of doing? Do they not intend to shelter "their" kids from what they deem objectionable, a firm faith in God? Do they not intend to have "their" kids grow up in "their" own image, servile to the efforts of the state?

Could I get a little clarity in here?

My wife and I have been criticized by well-meaning public school teachers on numerous occasions. My response has always been a trite maxim, "The proof is in the pudding." If homeschooling was turning out weak-minded, blathering brats unable to articulate a coherent, complete sentence, I could understand his hypersensitivity. Nevertheless, homeschooled children typically outperform their public schooled neighbors in every area.

And are not state standardized tests tailored so as to get the best possible results, yet government schooled children still do undeniably worse on standardized tests than homeschooled children? If there is a testing bias, it is certainly on behalf of government schooled children. This is the marked difference between homeschooled and government schooled children and why homeschooled kids out perform their government schooled friends: homeschooled kids learn; government school kids are educated.

Dr. Reich, I love my children, enough to give them my very best. That I intend to do, until I no longer have breath. And no, neither you nor the state can have them.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Scriptures I Won't be Preaching From Sunday

"I take my text," Charles Spurgeon said, "and make a beeline to the cross." Somehow I think with the following Scripture passages, that beeline might not be quite so straight. What do you think?
  • Genesis 38:1-10
  • Exodus 4:24-26
  • Leviticus 18:19
  • Deuteronomy 21:18-21
  • Judges 11:30-35
  • Song of Solomon 4:5
  • Mark 14:51-52
Are there any you might add?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

This is Unconscionable

A Connecticut toymaker has manufactured and is now distributing an action figure of Saddam Hussein, deposed dictator of Iraq, dangling from the end of a rope. I refuse to place a picture of the toy on my blog that is so very wittily being publicized as the "Dope on a Rope." The toy smacks of misplaced values and an abuse of capitalism.

This is not the first such undertaking for this toymaker, who claims the toys are essentially novelties targeted at adults. They have marketed more than 100 satirical figures, including Tony Blair as an Action Man in combat fatigues, George Bush as a superhero, and Michael Jackson holding a baby over a balcony.

This further confirms my suspicion that in America, everything is for sale. If you can make a buck off of it, then go for it. Morals or simply good taste and common courtesy are not issues for some. Some in America may make a mockery of Saddam, but his ghost will taint history much more so than his actual life. FOX News ran this blurb laden with false humility:
“Of course, it’s not gonna be received well by everyone," the company's president, Emil Vicale, said on Monday in a phone interview with FOX News.
I have said before, Saddam was a bad man; he probably deserved to die. Nevertheless, he should not be the butt of sick jokes. Even though he does represent all America stands opposed to, at least allow the man some dignity in his death. The situation in Iraq is much too grim to turn their deposed leader into a laughingstock. Not now; not ever. It is regrettable in America that no one even blinks when a man's death is used to make a dollar. This is capitalism at its finest.

You can click here if you want to see a picture of this sordid little curiosity.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Pertinent Question

Are we missing the point? Raborn out at Ray's X-Change asks and answers a tough question that I myself have been arguing for a couple of months now here on my blog. His post reads off the hip yet hits the mark dead-on. Here is a brief snippet to whet your appetite:
While much of the thrust of the contemporary church is on understanding, mentally assenting to and defending the right doctrinal positions, the thrust of Jesus' ministry (both then and now) seems to be more focused on helping and healing hurting people.


At times, we have interpreted the phrase "and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" to mean "don't cuss, don't drink, don't chew and don't run with those who do". But, could it be that not allowing ourselves to be polluted by the world rather means refusing to play the worlds game of "loving those who love you", and instead choosing to give to those who can't give back and choosing to love those who would even be considered our enemies? Have we really bought into the pollution of the world while seemingly refusing to give into it?
Parts of his post read similarly to an article I have been pondering before I bailed on it and decided to go in a different direction, plus the contested post I published a few days ago on the Christian intellectual did not really garner the feedback I had anticipated, which Raborn's post strangely answers that question; the one implicit in my post from January 2. I quote myself from that same post:
We have invested so much time in determining what the Bible says we have accomplished this to the exclusion of how to respond to what it says. There are many out there who know what the Bible says. However, evangelicals are woefully inadequate at extrapolating what God expects out of us from that same text.
Can we get beyond this detriment as the Body of Christ, cease allowing Hollywood superstars to fill the obvious void left by the church, and as Raborn says, begin being Jesus to hurting people? Or are we missing the point?
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:14-17

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Ugh!! He Got Me!

Or, I've been tagged! This is a first for me, so it should be relatively painless. Its not often somebody wants to get to know you better, so brother Steve, thanks for tagging me! The game goes kind of like this...I have to answer "Five(ish) Things I'd Like to Know about You." Hey Steve, do I get any lifelines; phone a blogger, ask the blogosphere, 50/50??? ;)

OK, here goes...

0) What’s your name and website URL? (optional, of course)

Hope the questions aren't this hard all the way through! My name is Tony, and my blog is If you are wondering about the name, I wrote a whole 'nother post addressing that issue, if you're interested!

1) What’s the most fun work you’ve ever done, and why? (two sentences max)

Only two sentences? You will probably think I'm crazy, but I worked at a little restaurant called Our Daily Bread on the SEBTS campus; I was chief cook and bottle washer. What made it so great was the man I worked for; Brian Lasure. We had a synergy that got work done, pleased the clientele, and we had fun doing it. I sit at the Huddle House and sometimes wish I could jump back there and cook!

2) A. Name one thing you did in the past that you no longer do but wish you did? (one sentence max)
B. Name one thing you’ve always wanted to do but keep putting it off? (one sentence max)

A. Sigh...exercise regularly. (Steve, I don't think I like this game anymore!) I used to play racquetball, basketball, and golf frequently; now, well...anybody care to hear my excuses? Anyone? I didn't think so.

B. Learn to play a musical instrument (piano, guitar) and I REALLY want to go back to school.

3) A. What two things would you most like to learn or be better at, and why? (two sentences max)
B. If you could take a class/workshop/apprentice from anyone in the world living or dead, who would it be and what would you hope to learn? (two more sentences, max)

A. I would like to learn to be a great daddy. I have four children, expecting number five (I know, all those loud sounds I just heard are all of my readers falling out of their chairs.) and they are the most precious gifts God has given me, besides my wonderful wife. And, golf! I just love a good game of "pasture pool."

B. Oh boy...I know the real spiritual answer would be to talk with Jesus, but I'll do that in heaven, so, golfing lessons from Payne Stewart, philosophy from Francis Schaeffer, cooking from Alton Brown, and flying lessons from Superman (my favorite superhero).

4) A. What three words might your best friends or family use to describe you?
B. Now list two more words you wish described you…

A. Organized, tender-hearted (my wife suggested this one), and helpful.

B. Handyman (helpful does not imply this) and laid back. I can't fix anything and oh yeah, my wife suggested handyman, too. Sigh.

5) What are your top three passions? (can be current or past, work, hobbies, or causes– three sentences max)

They are my family (ESPECIALLY my young'uns), ministry, and learning.

6) Write–and answer–one more question that YOU would ask someone (with answer in three sentences max)

Wow! This is a toughie.

Are you where God wants you to be in your life right now? My answer: Yes and no! I know beyond the shadow of a doubt I am where God has called me to ministry. However, my life is not where He wants me personally. How can I be a better disciple, minister, husband, daddy, student, friend, etc.?

[Bonus: What is one question you wish people would ask themselves?]

Am I treating this person the way I would like to be treated?

Now, if I understand this little game correctly, I am supposed to tag a few others for this. OK, here is a shout-out to:

My new blog friend at Along the Shore, Geoff Baggett; Cameron Cloud at Nephos; Jill, the HeadMistress at Homeschrewling, and Heather at Barefoot in the Garden. If you are interested, do your own post and leave a comment here so we can get to know one another better!

Thanks Steve! It was nice to do a "not so serious" post.

Blessings to all!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Go to the House of the Rechabites

In Jeremiah 35 is the telling story of God's command to Jeremiah to go and see obedience modeled. The Judeans, whom Jeremiah had been ministering to for many years, were poor examples of what obeying God meant. However, the Rechabites modeled godly behavior better than the Judeans, and they were God's chosen children. I saw a parallel in this CNN news blurb, Muslim congressman seeks out critic on House floor:
On his first day in Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, finally met the Republican who criticized him for his decision to use the Koran at his ceremonial swearing in.

Ellison asked another Democratic member to introduce him to Rep Virgil Goode, R-Virgina, who spoke out against Ellison in a letter to constituents last month. Ellison told CNN that he approached Goode on the House floor and the brief meeting went well.

"I shook his hand and he shook mine. We greeted each other." Ellison asked Goode to grab a cup of coffee with him soon and Goode accepted.

Asked if he was felt singled out as the first Muslim member, Ellison said no and added, "By reaching out to Congressman Goode I'm not trying to be accepted, I'm trying to build bridges. In this world there are too many misunderstandings. I want to put a human face on things."
There has been much said about Congressman Goode's behavior toward Ellison, which his behavior was marked with bigotry, prejudice, and a thin veneer of "patriotism." My prayer is that Congressman Ellison's outstretched hand spoke to Congressman Goode in a way that shows Goode Christianity modeled better by a non Christian. Too often Christianity has to take its cues from outsiders. "Go to the house of the Rechabites, speak to them, and bring them into the house of the Lord..." Jeremiah 35:2

(HT: Street Prophets)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Differing Perspectives on the Death of Saddam

A January 2nd Baptist Press article, Debate over Hussein execution extends beyond Iraq, into capital punishment, while adequately treating the execution of Saddam Hussein, offered several different perspectives that showed a very interesting progression of thought throughout the article, culminating in a dogmatic assertion by a Southern Baptist ethics professor. I find it shameworthy that all the other faith traditions consulted in this journalistic enterprise displayed a modicum of grace and mercy toward the doomed dictator; with the notable exception of Southern Baptists. A few excerpts, beginning with a Catholic statement:
Cardinal Renato Martino, Pope Benedict XVI's lead clergyman on justice-related issues, said Hussein's execution punished a “crime with another crime.”

“The death penalty is not a natural death. And no one can give death, not even the state,” Martino said.

The Vatican's press office also issued a more lengthy statement, condemning the execution as “tragic.”
A second excerpt, from the Anglicans, represented by the Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury:
He told BBC radio that Hussein deserved punishment, but not the death penalty. “I think he deserves punishment and sharp and unequivocal punishment.... But I would say of him what I have to say about anyone who has committed even the most appalling crimes in this country, that I believe the death penalty effectively says there is no room for change and repentance,” Williams said.
And now for the Southern Baptist take on the issue:
But a Southern Baptist ethicist told Baptist Press that the Iraqi people had the right to execute Hussein with a process governed by the rule of law. “Romans 13, where the Apostle Paul wrote that God has instituted human government to restrain evil, allows for capital punishment. And Paul was writing this about a government hostile to Christianity,” said Craig Mitchell, professor of Christian ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

“God has given the state the authority and power to carry out punishment,” Mitchell said. “He has given them the sword. You don't spread butter with the sword. The sword is used to kill. This execution was something that was long overdue. Saddam Hussein did deserve a trial. The rule of law did have to be carried out. And while we shouldn't rejoice that a man is dead, we should rejoice that justice was served for the Iraqi people who suffered under Saddam Hussein's boot for nearly three decades.”
And finally, a quote from Dr. Richard Land:
“Simple justice demanded Saddam Hussein be found guilty by his countrymen and executed in the manner that befits such a war criminal, by hanging rather than a firing squad,” Land said. “The justice that demanded his execution, however, was cheapened by the less-than-dignified manner in which the execution was carried out.”
The Southern Baptist response really troubles me, especially Dr. Mitchell's intellectual arrogance. Every work I have read about Romans 13, commentary and otherwise, carries with it some weight of intellectual honesty, that the sword could also be deemed a deterrent as well as a killing weapon but Dr. Mitchell has dogmatically and unequivocally declared that the sword is an executioner's weapon. I mean, you don't spread butter with that thing.

Dr. Land's blood lust also carries with it a very troubling sentiment; that Hussein rightly died by the hangman's noose instead of the more quick, painless, less violent method of death by firing squad. I am not saying that Hussein did not deserve to die but I am saying that this should give us a few moment's pause before jumping to so many conclusions.
Land noted that “despots around the world who are so dismissive of other human beings lives will now have to now take into account the fact that there is the very real possibility that they will be held accountable for their crimes against humanity and also will be dealt with justly and swiftly.”
Yes, Dr. Land, but not everyone shares your opinion. This from Robert Fisk of the London Independent, via Covenant News:
At first, those who suffered from Saddam's cruelty will welcome his execution. Hundreds wanted to pull the hangman's lever. So will many other Kurds and Shia outside Iraq welcome his end. But they - and millions of other Muslims - will remember how he was informed of his death sentence at the dawn of the Eid al-Adha feast, which recalls the would-be sacrifice by Abraham, of his son, a commemoration which even the ghastly Saddam cynically used to celebrate by releasing prisoners from his jails. "Handed over to the Iraqi authorities," he may have been before his death. But his execution will go down - correctly - as an American affair and time will add its false but lasting gloss to all this - that the West destroyed an Arab leader who no longer obeyed his orders from Washington, that, for all his wrongdoing (and this will be the terrible get-out for Arab historians, this shaving away of his crimes) Saddam died a "martyr" to the will of the new "Crusaders".
Tragically, this reveals much of who we are. I am no ecumenist, but Samuel Kobia of the world council of churches adequately summed up how we ought to feel.
"We pray that those who hold power in Iraq now and in the future will create a new heritage of government for its people," said the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia. "May Iraq’s leaders pursue reconciliation and mutual respect among all its communities."

"While holding a leader responsible for his crimes is significant," Kobia said, "each taking of a person’s life is a part of a larger tragedy and nowhere is this more apparent than in a land of daily killings."

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Where are the Christian Intellectuals?

Having been in the blogosphere for a little while now, I have come across an interesting trend. Engaging in discussion with many evangelicals is roughly akin to getting hit in the head with a brick. Sound argument, reason, and thorough discussion often are jettisoned in place of (insert sarcasm here) a favorite argument of mine, which is absolutely a conversation stopper; "The Bible says what it means and means what it says."

Don't misunderstand; I am a conservative evangelical. I believe the Bible to be inspired by God, completely sufficient, and (gasp) inerrant. Nevertheless, an unintended consequence of the battle for the Bible is a dearth of modern Christian literature. We have invested so much time in determining what the Bible says we have accomplished this to the exclusion of how to respond to what it says. There are many out there who know what the Bible says. However, evangelicals are woefully inadequate at extrapolating what God expects out of us from that same text.

Often, I hear that the Bible is simple. Is it? Conservatives often use this maxim as an intellectual scapegoat. Wed this idea to the equally disturbing notion that the "Bible is all you need" (another fretful argument) and it culminates in a shallow intellectual tradition. Why proclaim that the Bible is simple when it says of itself that it is not?
"However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." 1 Corinthians 2:6-8
No matter your opinion, this faith is an incredibly complex one. Turning it into a simplistic easy reader has invited men such as Bono to step into the obvious vacuum unfulfilled by deep Christian thinkers. Blog friend Streak said this in a month-old post on the same subject:
Simple was the way to avoid tradition, training, intellectual rigor, etc. No need for "book learning" and all you needed was a lay preacher who could read the Bible. Wow, that has really served us well, hasn't it? Given us slavery, segregation, anti-feminist rants, capitalism masked as faith, and even a cottage industry eschatology that has spurred a horrible foreign policy.
Sir Isaac Newton made an important discovery in the 18th century. He noticed that a beam of white sunlight, passing through a glass prism could be split into its constituent colors--red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, and violet. The prism did not impose those colors on the white light; it allowed them to be discerned. What had beforehand been taken to be a simple color--white--was indeed a menagerie of different colors; a complex unity.

The same is true of Christian theology; the message of the cross is a unity; but it is a complex unity. To dissolve it down to some simplistic drivel is an insult to the mighty God who gave it; a failure to pursue God with all one's mind is to be disobedient to the very Scripture some claim to be so simple.
Jesus said to him, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." Matthew 22:37
The church should not fear raising up intellectuals the likes of Francis Shaeffer, Dietrich Boenhoffer, Helmut Thielicke, and C. S. Lewis. Christians have become insular in their faith--so much so that we do not even read outside of our own tight circle anymore; we settle for some thin aesthetic and call it theology. We chuckle at the shallowness of the mavericks of Christian publishing; Lucado, LaHaye, and upstart Osteen. (Don't get me started on Warren.) Yet, these are what are flying off the shelves at the local Christian bookstore.

Do pastors even ask why? Has our preaching and teaching so mirrored these mavericks that we have unconsciously adopted their style because its what sells? Should we always put the cookies on the bottom shelf, so to speak? I am persuaded differently. God's people are hungry. Who will feed them? Pastor, if you are reading, do not be afraid to use big words. Teach them to the people you serve; cease teaching monosyllabic, watered-down Sunday School lessons about Noah and the ark, David and Goliath, and Joshua and that big wall.

Dan Edelen out at Cerulean Sanctum is blogging an interesting series right now which was the inspiration for this post. In Busting Myths about Christianity, Dan says this:
So whither the Christian intellectual? Do any still exist?

Say what we will about history, but it's loaded with Christians (and people who mentally assented to Christianity) who drove the arts, philosophy, literature, and science—and in large numbers.

But what happened to them all? Where did they go? Sure, you see a Plantinga here, and a…uh, hmm. I'm not coming up with any names for contemporary Christian lit authors. Artists? Nope—no one comes to mind. In fact, I suspect that most Christians, even if their lives depended on it, couldn't name one contemporary Christian intellectual or artist.

Are we so bereft today that all we can remember are those great Christian intellectual luminaries of the past? Christianity nurtured Western civilization into being, yet in the 21st century we Christians gave it all away.


That this ignores most of the rest of Scripture, and also makes a fine distorted case for tearing all the wisdom books out of the Bible, eludes far too many people. In the end, Christianity never calls anyone to turn off his mind. To insist it does only results in the kind of brain-dead emotionalism that leads to error. Hoisting godly wisdom by its own petard makes the Church look vacant in the cranium.
And unfortunately, that is how the conservative, evangelical church looks--vacant in the cranium; sinfully inadequate at addressing some of the world's most distressing needs. The Christian world needs some deep Christian thinkers to help her comprehensively address such world needs as poverty, the AIDS pandemic, the environment, and greed. Right now the Christian response is...well, is there one? So, to continue on the present course, proves Dr. Alister McGrath's words in his book about Christian myths, Intellectuals Don't Need God and Other Modern Myths, perfectly true.
Christianity is not a verbal religion; it is experiential. It centers on a transformative encounter of the believer with the risen Christ. From the standpoint of Christian theology, however, that experience comes before the words that generate, evoke, and inform it. Christianity is Christ-centered, not book centered; if it appears to be book-centered it is because it is through the words of Scripture that the believer encounters and feeds upon Jesus Christ. Scripture is a means, not an end; a channel, not what is channeled.
I would by no means consider myself an intellectual, but I am trying desperately to get a foothold in the vastness of this God. Ultimately, the solution does not rest in finding the right words for the most accurate persuasion, but just real, honest-to-goodness, believers in Jesus, convinced that God can and does work in and through them to accomplish His great purposes, and then putting that argument to work. Change will come indeed.