Friday, February 29, 2008

Good intentions are not enough

Several prominent Evangelicals have taken strong public stands on global warming, arguing that Christians have an obligation to support policies that will reduce it. Richard Cizik, head lobbyist for the NAE, is perhaps the most vocal.

Christians should take stands on matters of public policy, but when the correct position cannot be determined without reference to complex, and perhaps unknowable, technical information, caution is in order.

The man-made disaster may not be what is produced by greenhouse gases but, rather, what we do to reduce them.

First Things posts an account by Thomas Sieger Derr of a debate he had with Cizik on the subject and, in the course of the article, he summarizes many of the problems with the arguments of the global warming true believers.
.... I then ran through my litany of objections to the reigning paradigm that human activity is causing dangerous global warming: the earth’s long history of natural climate swings; the probability that solar cycles are the principle driver of warming and cooling periods; the fact that climate swings do not correspond to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere; the fact that glaciers grow and recede all the time and their melting will not cause serious sea level rise; that rising temperatures will not cause more severe storms; the fact that warming will save more lives than a cooling planet and be otherwise beneficial. ....

.... any serious effort to reduce emissions by any significant amount, let alone the 60-80% called for by the European Union and some of our presidential candidates, would destroy economies all over the world and condemn the poor to perpetual poverty – which is why China and India will have nothing to do with emissions caps. .... Economic growth
, which requires energy, and is not possible if greenhouse emissions are severely curtailed, is what will permit us to adapt to the climate changes which nature has always produced naturally and which we cannot stop.

.... Conservation and environmental cleanliness are worthy goals which I fully support; and they can be, and are, addressed by mostly sensible public policies. But cutting “greenhouse gas” emissions drastically would be an epic disaster. ....

Frankly, if I wanted to worry about climate change, I would worry about global cooling again, since the sun is behaving very weakly just now, and sun-watching scientists have even dared to suggest that a reprise of the Little Ice Age is in the offing. Maybe earth is already cooling. We’ve had ten years without a temperature rise, and this past winter, in both hemispheres, has marked a substantial downturn. And the sea ice is back, both in the Arctic and Antarctic. It’s too soon to tell if this is the beginning of a long trend, and we’d better hope it isn’t. But we have no more control over that than we do over warming.

.... My final word, then as now, is this: Global warming is slight, is natural, cannot be stopped, and is on the whole beneficial. Trying seriously to stop it would waste billions of dollars that ought to be spent addressing real human needs.
It was a debate, and I have left out Derr's description of Cizik's part in it. That can be found here.

First Things » Blog Archive » Debating Mr. Cizik

Thursday, February 28, 2008

William F. Buckley Jr. 1925-2008

William F. Buckley Jr. died yesterday. This was included in a collection of quotations from him at the National Review site.

. . . here is the end of his 1970 Playboy interview, coming after a long, intense grilling about Vietnam, civil rights, Communism, etc.:

PLAYBOY: Don’t most dogmas, theological as well as ideological, crumble sooner or later?
BUCKLEY: Most, but not all.
PLAYBOY: How can you be so sure?
BUCKLEY: I know that my Redeemer liveth.

Thanks to Stand to Reason for the reference.

NRO Staff on William F. Buckley Jr. on National Review Online

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Do pastors rebuke any more?"


Jared Wilson:
Okay, okay, it's not very pastoral. :-)

We should restore sinners gently (Gal. 6:1). But I do think that sometimes, in our desires to bear burdens, extend grace, restore gently, counsel toward disciplines, we can inadvertently coddle some who best need stern rebuke.

Do pastors rebuke any more?
Thanks to Jared Wilson at The Gospel-Driven Church, not only for the video and comment, but also for Mark Driscoll's account, which set the context.

The Gospel-Driven Church: Just Stop It

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Narnia - Prince Caspian

NarniaWeb provides production images from Prince Caspian. To reach the gallery of pictures, click here or on the picture.

NarniaWeb - Image Gallery

Unaffiliated and uncommitted

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has released the results of an extensive survey about religion in America. Things are changing:
More than one-quarter of American adults (28%) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion - or no religion at all. If change in affiliation from one type of Protestantism to another is included, roughly 44% of adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether.

The survey finds that the number of people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith today (16.1%) is more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any particular religion as children. Among
Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion.
Among its specific findings:
  • Men are significantly more likely than women to claim no religious affiliation. Nearly one-in-five men say they have no formal religious affiliation, compared with roughly 13% of women.
  • The Midwest most closely resembles the religious makeup of the overall population. The South, by a wide margin, has the heaviest concentration of members of evangelical Protestant churches. The Northeast has the greatest concentration of Catholics, and the West has the largest proportion of unaffiliated people, including the largest proportion of atheists and agnostics.
  • People not affiliated with any particular religion stand out for their relative youth compared with other religious traditions. Among the unaffiliated, 31% are under age 30 and 71% are under age 50. Comparable numbers for the overall adult population are 20% and 59%, respectively.
  • By contrast, members of mainline Protestant churches and Jews are older, on average, than members of other groups. Roughly half of Jews and members of mainline churches are age 50 and older, compared with approximately four-in-ten American adults overall.
  • Members of Baptist churches account for one-third of all Protestants and close to one-fifth of the total U.S. adult population. Baptists also account for nearly two-thirds of members of historically black Protestant churches.
Albert Mohler summarized some of the other findings:
  • Most Americans (78.4%) identify themselves as Christians of some sort. This Christian majority seems to be a settled fact for some time to come, with trends such as Hispanic immigration bolstering these numbers.
  • America's Protestant majority - a mainstay of American life from the colonial era to the present - is in decline and Protestant Christians will soon become a minority. The survey revealed that only 51.3% of Americans now identify as Protestants.
  • Evangelicals are now the largest single group of American Christians (26.3%).
  • Roman Catholics (23.9%) are the second-largest Christian grouping, though almost a third of those born into Catholic homes no longer consider themselves as Catholic. In all, almost 10% of all Americans are "former Catholics."
  • Mainline Protestant churches and denominations continue to lose membership and now represent only 18.1% of the population.
  • Those identifying as "unaffiliated" represent a fast-growing segment of the population (16.1%), including atheists (1.6%), agnostics (2.4%) and "nothing in particular" (12.1%).
  • At least 27% of families are interfaith to some extent. The percentage rises to 37% if spouses of different Protestant denominations are included.
  • Among younger Americans (ages 18-29) almost a quarter claim no religious affiliation.
Thanks to Albert Mohler for the reference.

Update: Veith posted these charts illustrating some of the findings. Click on the chart for the full-sized version.Pew Research Center: The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey Reveals a Fluid and Diverse Pattern of Faith

Monday, February 25, 2008

Not at all hip

Timothy Keller, author of The Reason for God, was interviewed at some length by Anthony Sacramone at First Things. The book has received quite a bit of attention and some have compared it to C.S. Lewis's apologetics. Keller isn't entirely comfortable with the comparison:
First of all, I’m inspired by Lewis, and my book is inspired by his book, but I’m a preacher first of all, not a writer, and I don’t even deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as a writer like C.S. Lewis. And yet everybody’s doing that, and I take it as a compliment, but it’s pretty unjustified. However, he’s the benchmark, so everybody’s going to be compared.

Lewis definitely lived at a time in which people were more certain across the board that empirical, straight-line rationality was the way you decided what truth was, and there’s just not as much of a certainty now. Also, when Lewis was writing, people were able to follow sustained arguments that had a number of points that built on one another. I guess I should say we actually have a kind of rationality-attention-deficit disorder now. You can make a reasonable argument, you can use logic, but it really has to be relatively transparent. You have to get to your point pretty quickly.

In New York City, these are pretty smart people, very educated people, but even by the mid-nineties I had found that the average young person found Mere Christianity—it just didn’t keep their attention, because they really couldn’t follow the arguments. They took too long. This long chain of syllogistic reasoning wasn’t something that they were trained in doing. I don’t think they’re irrational, they are as rational, but they want something of a mixture of logic and personal appeal.

I know for a fact that Lewis was just heavy sledding for even smart Ivy League American graduates by the mid-nineties. One of the reasons I started doing this was I thought I needed something that gave them shorter, simpler, more accessible arguments. [the interview]
If Keller is right, and I assume he knows of which he speaks, then it is very sad.

Before the interview, Sacramone described Keller's ministry:
On any given Sunday in Manhattan, before and after theater matinees, visits to museums, and walks in Central Park, some five thousand mostly twenty- and thirty-somethings gather at one of three Redeemer Presbyterian worship sites to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. More specifically, they gather to hear it from Pastor Timothy Keller, Redeemer’s senior minister and the founder and life force of this nationally renowned ministry. Keller’s intellectually upscale apologetic has helped change how non–New Yorkers view our so-called secular city and usher in a paradigm shift in how evangelism is done in postmodern America.

Keller is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell and Westminster Theological seminaries and ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America. Yet his appeal—and approach to church growth—extends far beyond the walls that typically separate confessional and evangelical Protestant denominations.
Later, Sacramone asks:
...I’ve heard you refer to Redeemer as a seeker church. Do you see Redeemer as part of the emerging church phenomenon, and what does that mean?

No, no, no, no. The words “seeker church” now I think mean Willow Creek to most people, which is a service that is strictly—Willow Creek branded that term, so I probably can’t use it anymore.

Seriously?

Yeah, well the seeker church is a church in which you have sort of low participation, there’s a talk, there’s good music—but it’s not really a worship service. You’re not trying to get people engaged. You are targeting nonbelieving, skeptical people as the audience. That’s considered a seeker church. And I would have always said that Redeemer is the kind of church in which we’re trying to speak—it’s a worship service, but we’re trying to speak in the vernacular. We’re trying to speak in a way that doesn’t confuse or turn off nonbelievers. We want nonbelievers to be there. I think that a lot of ministers would never say, “We expect nonbelievers to be constantly there, lots of them there, incubating in the services.” And we do. We do expect that. In that sense we’d be a seeker church. But now I’m afraid I don’t think it’s a good word to use, because when people hear “seeker church” they’re thinking something else.

I found that if you define megachurch as anything over two thousand people, then yes, then we are. But here’s four ways in which we’re not a megachurch, or we don’t do things people associate with megachurches. One is, we do no advertising or publicity of any sort, except I’m trying to get the book out there so people read it and have their lives changed by it, but Redeemer’s never advertised or publicized. And the reason is, if a person walks in off the street just because they’ve heard about Redeemer through advertising, and they have questions or they want to get involved, there’s almost no way to do it unless you have all kinds of complicated programs, places where they can go. But if they come with a friend who already goes there, their questions are answered naturally, the next steps happen organically, the connections they want to make happen naturally . . . We do not want a crowd of spectators. We want a community.

Secondly, we do almost no technology. We don’t have laser-light shows, we don’t have Jumbotrons, we don’t have overheard projectors, we don’t have screens. We don’t have anything like that. Thirdly, we have a lot of classical music, chamber music—we are not hip at all. We don’t go out of our way to be hip.

There’s praise music in the evening services.

Yeah, but it’s jazz. It’s toned down. It’s much more New York. It’s certainly not your typical evangelical contemporary music. We actually pound into people that we’re not here to meet your needs but to serve the city. So we pound that into them, that we’re not a consumer place, that we’re not here to meet your needs but to serve the city.

So no publicity, not at all hip, almost no use of technology, definitely consider it a worship service, do not do much in the way of pat answers and how-tos in the sermons but really have people wrestle with the issues—but we do it in such a way that the interests and aspirations and hopes and doubts of non-Christians are constantly addressed. When a person who doesn’t believe comes they’re often surprised at how interesting, intelligible, nonoffensive the thing is. So it’s relatively subtle at this point. .... [more]
FIRST THINGS: On the Square » Blog Archive » An Interview with Timothy Keller

March 2008 Sabbath Recorder

The March, 2008, Sabbath Recorder is available online here as a pdf.

This is the Resurrection issue and contains articles on the topic by Rev. Dale Thorngate, Dustin Mackintosh, and Conference President, Rev. Andrew Samuels, as well as the results of an art contest which solicited submissions from the young [the winner is on the cover of the issue pictured here].

Denominational Historian emeritus, Don Sanford, has an article about the importance of the railroad as transportation for those in ministry and those traveling to General Conference from the mid-19th to the early 20th centuries. He refers to the gospel hymn, "Life's Railway to Heaven." I found this version of the hymn performed by Johnny Cash, family and friends:



The Sabbath Recorder is the magazine of the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference and has been regularly published in some form since 1844.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mormons and Evangelicals

Also in the current First Things, Richard John Neuhaus recommends a book about Christianity and Mormons:
.... With all the talk about Mormonism, people who are not going to become experts on the subject of Mormonism want a reliable guide to what they believe that we also believe and what beliefs are in conflict. For such people, Claiming Christ: A Mormon-Evangelical Debate by Robert L. Millet and Gerald R. McDermott is just the thing (Brazos Press). I have mentioned Millet before. He's a Mormon who has done pioneering work in establishing closer bonds with various Christian communities. McDermott is a theologian at Roanoke College. He is an Episcopalian with broadly evangelical sympathies and is committed to the Great Tradition of conciliar Christianity. The book might have been titled a Mormon-Christian debate, but that of course would have preempted the question at issue, namely, whether Mormonism is Christian. Of most particular importance is that the authors are close friends. The exchanges are mutually respectful. There are no cheap shots on either side. Sub­jects covered include historical evidences, God or Gods, Son of God, Trinity, creation, atonement, scrip­tural canon, and church and sacraments. McDermott interestingly contrasts the Mormon "American Christ" with the biblical "Palestinian Christ" and draws fascinating parallels between the way Christians view Mormons and the ways in which Jews of biblical times viewed the Samaritans. Come to the crunch point, and no matter how sympathetically one may try to interpret the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, McDermott concludes that we cannot worship with Mormons in the confidence that we are worshiping the same God. Claiming Christ is a rare and instructive exercise in which learning, candor, and friendship join in search of truth.

Our only paradigm

Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio, addressing a meeting on "Paradigmatic Changes in Hispanic Ministry":
"The Scriptures don't talk much about paradigm change. Instead, the Bible talks about kairos - the time of decision. .... The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only real paradigm that matters. The time is fulfilled. The kingdom is at hand. The decision each of us has to make every day is this: Will we repent and believe? Will we continue our daily conversion to Christ? Will we try every day to more and more conform our lives to Christ and to his teaching?" ....

...He describes a Bible study for Latinos that the archdiocese is developing. The introduction asks, "Who is Jesus in my life?" and "Who is Jesus for us as a community of disciples?" The text is accompanied by pictures of Jesus as Anglo, black, Chinese, and a Native American medicine man.

The archbishop says, "I came to the conclusion that it's hard to picture Jesus. Nobody knows what he looked like. Then I thought: Not one of these pictures even attempted to portray the Jesus we find described in the Gospels. The real Jesus. The Jesus who was a Jew. A son of David and a son of man. The Jesus who at the same time was also the son of God and the man of heaven. The Jesus who took flesh and blood in the womb of Mary and who rose from the tomb by the power of the Holy Spirit. That's the real Jesus. The Jesus who dwelt among us at a concrete time in history and at a concrete place. A Jesus who is with us today in Word and sacrament. All these other Jesuses are just abstractions. In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus asks his disci­ples: `Who do you say I am?' (Mt 16:15). Notice. That's a very different question than, `Who is Jesus in my life and for my community?' To ask who Jesus is has the danger of turning the question inside out. Suddenly we're not talking about Jesus anymore. We're talking about ourselves. About our expectations, our grievances, our needs. When you ask the question that way, you end up with a Jesus who looks a lot like you. Or like the people in your community." ....

"Our people are hungry for the word of God. ... Our people do not want or need a Jesus who looks like them. We need the true Jesus who calls each one of us to become like him.... The fashions of pastoral ministry come and go. But Jesus Christ remains the same—yesterday and today and forever. Let us make the Gospel our only paradigm. Let us make `repent and believe in the Gospel' our only mission statement and our daily task."
In the March 2008 issue of First Things [p. 60]

Seventh Day Baptist History IV

“A Nation cannot long endure…”
1790 - 1865

From the beginning of the Republic until the end of the American Civil War, the great political and moral question was, in Lincoln’s words, whether the nation could “endure permanently half slave and half free.” Throughout the first half of the 19th century, the nation moved from political crisis to crisis as it attempted to accommodate increasingly incompatible positions about slavery. It was one of those questions not amenable to normal political compromise because of its fundamental moral implications.

The American Constitution provided for the end of the American slave trade and the British Empire abolished slavery in 1833. Most of the northern states had ended slavery by that time as well and a powerful political movement, motivated primarily by Christian moral conviction, was advocating the complete abolition of slavery in the United States.

Joseph Goodrich
Abolitionism. As the abolition of slavery became an important movement Seventh Day Baptists were not equivocal on the issue. As early as 1836, the General Conference resolved that:
“…we consider the practice of holding human beings as mere goods and chattel, entirely subject to the will of their masters…. is a practice forbidden by the law of God, at variance with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which no human legislation can render morally right - which no worldly considerations can justify - and which ought to be immediately abandoned.

Resolved, That the condition of more than two millions of native Americans, unrighteously held in bondage, demands the sympathies and prayers of citizens, who are commanded to "remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them."
Hosea Rood
Subsequent Conferences adopted resolutions that were explicitly abolitionist, for instance in 1849:
“…the sin of slavery is a high-handed outrage against the Majesty of Heaven and the Rights of Man, and that we have no fellowship with those who hold their fellow-men as slaves, or with those who aid or abet them.”
During those years the pages of the Sabbath Recorder were filled with accounts describing the iniquities of slavery and slave catchers. After passage of the Fugitive Slave Act which allowed the pursuit of slaves into free states in the North, Seventh Day Baptists were among the active supporters of the Underground Railway, assisting fugitives escaping to freedom in Canada.

Unlike many other denominations, Seventh Day Baptists had few churches in slave states, and so there was little division on the question. A member of the Lost Creek Church, in Virginia [soon to be West Virginia], owned slaves he had inherited and that elicited general condemnation from other Seventh Day Baptists.

W.C. Whitford
Civil War. When war finally came, Seventh Day Baptists served the Union cause. The student bodies of Milton and Alfred provided large numbers of volunteers, as did many of the churches, east and west. Alfred students were accompanied by the college president who served as chaplain. The president of Milton College, W.C. Whitford, traveled to northern Virginia to visit his students in the Army of the Potomac.

Historians debate whether those who fought for the United States were primarily motivated by a desire to preserve the Union or to abolish slavery. It would seem that for Seventh Day Baptists the causes were one and the same.

Source: Don Sanford, A People Speak Out Against Slavery, n.d.


The pictures are all Seventh Day Baptists: from the top, Joseph Goodrich, whose Milton House was a stop on the Underground Railway, Hosea W. Rood, taken at the end of the war, and W.C. Whitford, college president, who traveled to visit his students in the army.

The next in the series: "Seventh Day Baptist History V - An Era of Growth and Ferment

This series begins with: "Seventh Day Baptist History I - Seventh Day Baptist Origins"

Links to all of the posts about Seventh Day Baptist History can be found here.

This series of short summaries of Seventh Day Baptist history is part of a project undertaken for the Seventh Day Baptist Historical Society, which maintains its archives and a museum in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Belief and behavior

One of the central facts that Christians acknowledge is that we are sinners, both in commission and omission. Moreover, each of us knows non-religious individuals who live highly ethical lives - people of absolute integrity and people who display sacrificial altruism.

One of the frequent indictments of Christianity is that, in Christopher Hitchens's words, "religion poisons everything." He contends that it is perfectly possible to have ethics without religion and that, moreover, religious belief makes people worse. Logan Paul Gage at Touchstone responds to that and to this from Dawkins:
“There’s not the slightest evidence that religious people in a given society are any more moral than non-religious people.”
Gage reviews what the social sciences have to say about the social impact of religious belief.
Civic engagement—reading the newspaper and voting, for example—and participation in voluntary associations also increase with frequent church attendance. For every one voluntary association—like a civic club or PTO—among the non-religious, there are 2.4 such associations among those who attend religious services more than once per week.

Thus, Smith concludes: “Religious involvement is associated with, and probably promotes, civic engagement. . . . Those participating in a faith community are more likely to vote, belong to voluntary associations, and carry out altruistic acts than the nonreligious.”

The latter claim may seem presumptuous, but according to the 2002–2004 GSS, for every 100 altruistic acts—like giving blood or letting someone ahead of you in the checkout line—performed by nonreligious people, the religious perform 144.

.... Weekly church attendees volunteer more often in their communities, both through the church and through secular organizations.

The correlation is most striking among men. The volunteer rate for weekly-attending men is nearly ten percent higher than for weekly-attending women, whereas on the whole women volunteer much more than men. And while income has very little connection with volunteering, among those with higher incomes (i.e., a family income of $100,000 or more), weekly attendance noticeably correlates with volunteerism. ....

... For nearly 40 years, psychologists and sociologists have studied the connection between religion and various negative outcomes in adolescents. According to one meta-study (a study of the studies), 97 percent of studies found a negative relationship between religion and sexual activity; 94 percent claimed a negative link between alcohol use and religion; and 87 percent alleged a negative correlation between suicide and religion. ....

Using a sophisticated methodology, Pennsylvania State’s Jeffery Ulmer, Purdue’s Scott Desmond, and Baylor’s Christopher Bader tried to answer why religion tends to inhibit delinquency. Following psychological research showing that self-control is like a muscle, which will grow or atrophy with use or disuse, they concluded that religious observance inhibits deviant behavior in two ways: It increases individuals’ self-control, and it provides moral norms. Religious youth display higher self-control against cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana than their nonreligious peers.

In addition, religion significantly correlates with fewer violent crimes, school suspensions, and a host of other negative behaviors. [more]
I remember reading something like this once [I no longer remember where]: "If you were walking alone at night through a dangerous neighborhood and up ahead, walking toward you, was a boisterous group of young men, would your concerns be allayed if you knew they had just left a Bible study?" It seemed to me that the question answered itself.

Touchstone Archives: Staying Power

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Children's books

The Telegraph reports another list, this one of children's books:
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Winnie the Pooh and the Famous Five all finished above the only Harry Potter book to make the top 50.

The results are a surprise because the last four Harry Potter stories were the fastest-selling books in history. The poll was conducted among 4,000 parents - suggesting most believe in the superiority of the books they enjoyed as children over modern stories. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis, was first published in 1950. The novel, the most famous in the Narnia collection, has been made into several TV series, theatrical performances and films with the recent Disney adaptation in 2005 making almost £400 million worldwide.
The first 25 books in the list of 50:
    1. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
    2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
    3. Famous Five series, Enid Blyton
    4. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
    5. The BFG, Roald Dahl
    6. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, J K Rowling
    7. The Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
    8. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
    9. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
    10. The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson
    11. The Tales of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter
    12. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
    13. Matilda, Roald Dahl
    14. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
    15. The Cat in the Hat, Dr Suess
    16. The Twits, Roald Dahl
    17. Mr Men, Roger Hargreaves
    18. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
    19. The Malory Towers Series, Enid Blyton
    20. Peter Pan, J M Barrie
    21. The Railway Children, E. Nesbit
    22. Hans Christian Fairy Tales, H C Andersen
    23. The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
    24. The Witches, Roald Dahl
    25. Stig of the Dump, Clive King [more]

Crime fiction

After a debate that left senior members of the Telegraph's literary staff with pulled hair, black eyes and, in one case, an infected bite, we this week present our list of the 50 great crime writers of all time.
I've read most of the authors and most of the books on the list. The list is so good on the writers I do know that I find the thought of reading the others extremely tempting. The list:
GK Chesterton 1874-1936
The most fluent journalist of his generation, Gilbert Keith Chesterton was also a master of the detective story. Father Brown - his sceptical and worldly-wise priest - featured in dozens of exquisite entertainments. Settle into a comfy chair and enjoy.

Read: The Complete Father Brown (1986)

Arthur Conan Doyle 1859-1930
Conan Doyle's pipe-smoking detective is so well known that Sherlock has become a synonym for sleuth. He never said the catchphrase; the illustrator gave him the hat; continuity errors abound… but he's brilliant.

Read: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902)

Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849
Poe was a man of formidable talents - not least of which, sadly, was drinking himself to death. Before that, though, he gave us fiction's first detective, in Auguste Dupin, and hairiest murderer, in an orangutan.

Read: The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841)

Ed McBain 1926-2005
As well as writing the script for Hitchcock's The Birds, McBain (real name: Evan Hunter) more or less invented the police procedural. The detectives of Isola's 87th Precinct wise-cracked for half a century, and their spare style was the prime influence on Hill Street Blues.

Read: King's Ransom (2003)
And forty-six more.

Update: And some missing who should have been on the list.

50 crime writers to read before you die - Telegraph

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Preserving and protecting life

In a good post titled "Why Pro-Life Presidents Matter," Joe Carter demonstrates that a President's position on abortion matters even beyond the nomination of judges and justices:
The fact is that the president has a limited but substantial and broad-based role in protecting life and defending the most vulnerable in society. Here are five examples of why it matters that the president is pro-life. [the examples]
the evangelical outpost: Why Pro-Life Presidents Matter

The origin and reliability of the Bible

John Piper recently led a seminar on "Why We Believe the Bible" and now his ministry's Desiring God blog provides a "Believing-the-Bible Booklist." Below are only two of the three sections in the list. I've only read a few of the books, but if the others match up they will be well worth reading.
The Canon of the New Testament The Reliability of the New Testament [more]
Believing-the-Bible Book List :: Desiring God Blog

Reducing the "tragedy" of abortion

Former President Clinton's recent verbal attack on a group of anti-abortion demonstrators included a claim that the policies he pursued, and those his wife would pursue save many more lives than would the policies the demonstrators favor.

"Safe but rare" is the phrase used by some politicians who insist that they are "pro-choice" but against abortion. This proposal would test their sincerity. Trevin Wax:
I encourage the Democrats who are pro-choice and find abortion “tragic” to back up their rhetoric with substantial legislation. 90% of women who see their unborn child on an ultrasound choose to keep the baby and refuse to go through with the abortion.

If Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (and even John McCain) are truly serious about reducing the “tragedy” of abortion, why don’t they propose legislation requiring a woman to have an ultrasound before an abortion? After all, a woman should be informed about any medical procedure, especially one that may have emotional repercussions. An argument against the ultrasound law is ultimately an argument against science, against better medical advice, against the idea that a woman should be able to make a well-informed choice.

Let’s redirect some of the money that goes to paying abortions into paying for ultrasounds. We could substantially reduce abortions in no time, and without touching Roe vs. Wade. Then, President Clinton can indeed boast about resolutions that are more than “hot air.”
Clinton Lashes Out at Pro-Lifers « Kingdom People

War and religion

Gene Edward Veith provides a quotation from a lecture delivered by David Aikman at Patrick Henry College. Aikman reinforces one of the points made about "the irrational atheist" in the last post.
.... If the entire list of victims of every religious war ever fought, from the Crusades, through the wars of religion in Europe after the Protestant Reformation, to the brutal attacks upon each other of Muslims and Hindus in the sub-continent of India is added up, that number is completely dwarfed by those murdered by Communist regimes in the twentieth century.

According to some estimates, the number of people murdered under Communism, whether in wars started by Communist regimes, or as a result of internal repression against domestic adversaries, or in policies deliberately intended to produce starvation (Stalin’s holocaust in the Ukraine through starvation in 1933 murdered between seven and eleven million men, women, and children) approaches a total of 100 million.

Then there is Hitler, who by general agreement deliberately murdered about twelve million people but started a war that took the lives of some 50 million. Hitler wasn’t technically an atheist – we’ll come to this in a moment –but there is no question that he acted as if there were no Divine personality or moral code above him to which he was going to be held accountable. In short, he certainly acted like someone in total rebellion against God. ....
Veith also provides a link to Dr. Aikman's lecture, "Weaknesses of the New Atheism," which will download as a pdf.

The butcher’s bill of atheism — Cranach: The Blog of Veith

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The irrational atheist

Just when atheists thought it was safe to enter the public square, a book like this comes along. The Irrational Atheistby Vox Day is not a work of Christian apologetics. It is, instead, a merciless deconstruction of atheist thought—or what passes for thought. That’s the gimmick, if you will, of the book: Day does not accept a single assertion made by any one of the “Unholy Trinity”—Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens—without first pinning it to a sheet of wax as in a seventh-grade science class, dissecting it until there’s nothing left but a case for anti-vivisection legislation. ....

Day starts off with the charming declarative sentence “I don’t care if you go to hell”—this despite being a Southern Baptist, a group not known for complacency in such matters. But the author wants to make clear that he’s not trying to convert anyone to Christianity, only to ensure that those readers who are susceptible to straw-man arguments, tautologies, clich√©s, and urban legends understand that the New Atheists—who are on a conversion mission—are not only guilty of all of the aforementioned but also are seemingly incapable of mustering anything stronger by way of Reason in their own cause.

To take just one of many examples, a common trope among atheists is that religion is the No. 1 cause of wars in history. “If religion were an important element of warmaking, one would expect to find a great deal of text commenting upon it,” Day writes. But you don’t. After reading the great war theorists, from Sun Tzu to Von Clausewitz, Day found pages and pages about perseverance, spies, geometry, inspirational music—but virtually nothing about religion.

As for the nature of the wars themselves, talk about specific: Day found 123 wars that could validly be claimed to have religion at their heart—a grand total of 6.98 percent of all wars fought. “It’s also interesting to note that more than half of these religious wars, sixty-six in all, were waged by Islamic nations,” Day offers as an aside.
In the last paragraph of his review, Sacramone writes "...The Irrational Atheist is a blast and will no doubt occasion many a late-night debate. And don’t forget to thank your village atheist when you get the chance. Like heretics before them, atheists are inspiring a steady flow of truly inspired Christian polemic...."

First Things » Blog Archive » The Irrational Atheist

Guidance

Mark Dever on "The Bondage of 'Guidance'":
The way many Christians practice seeking God's will before they make a decision amounts to spiritual and emotional bondage. Christ has died to give us liberty and freedom (Rom. 6; Gal. 5; I Peter 2). We can only know the truth about God's will by what His Spirit reveals to us. He has revealed God's mind authoritatively in His Word. We should give ourselves to study what He has revealed. Personal reading, meditation, sermons, friends and books are all available to us to help us to better understand God's revealed will.

I do believe that God's Spirit will sometimes lead us subjectively. [....]

Most decisions I've made in my Christian life, I've made with no such sense of subjective leading. Maybe some would say that this is a mark of my spiritual immaturity. I understand this to be the way a redeemed child of God normally lives in this fallen world before the fullness of the Kingdom comes, Christ returns, and immediate, constant, unbroken fellowship with God is re-established.

A subjective sense of leading - when we've asked for it (as in James 1:5 we ask for wisdom) and when God freely gives it - is wonderful. The desire for such a subjective sense of leading, however, is too often, in contemporary evangelical piety, binding our brothers and sisters in Christ, paralyzing them from enjoying the good choices that God may provide, and causing them to wait wrongly before acting.

Denominational growth and decline

Julia Duin reports on the newly reported statistics about denominational growth and decline:
It's always intriguing to see which churches have grown and which denominations have faded in the past year. According to the 2008 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches (a Bible of sorts for us religion writers), the fastest-growing religious body in 2007 was the Jehovah's Witnesses at 2.25 percent.

Following them were the Mormons at 1.56 percent and the Roman Catholics at .87 percent. Compare this to last year's states that had the Catholics out front at 1.94 percent, followed by the Assemblies of God at 1.86 and the Mormons at 1.63.

The denomination with the biggest decrease is the Episcopalians at 4.15 percent.

There are all sorts of arguments why some of these figures on the list below are bogus. For instance, several of the historic black churches with the "no increase or decrease listed" after their name do not release statistics at all. So the membership figure after their name is a guess at best. Plus churches' standards for membership are different. Baptist groups tend to count only those who have made an adult profession of faith. More liturgical churches include any child that has been baptized.....

Here are the top 25:
  1. The Roman Catholic Church, 67,515,016 members, an increase of .87 percent.
  2. Southern Baptist Convention, 16,306,246 members, an increase of .22 percent.
  3. The United Methodist Church, 7,995,456 members, a decrease of .99 percent.
  4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5,779,316 members, an increase of 1.56 percent.
  5. The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members, no increase or decrease reported.
  6. National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., 5,000,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
  7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,774,203 members, a decrease of 1.58 percent.
  8. National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., 3,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
  9. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 3,025,740 members, a decrease of 2.36 percent.
  10. Assemblies of God, 2,836,174 members, an increase of .19 percent.
  11. African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
  12. National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, 2,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
  13. Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., 2,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
  14. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), 2,417,997 members, a decrease of .94 percent.
  15. Episcopal Church, 2,154,572 members, a decrease of 4.15 percent.
  16. Churches of Christ, 1,639,495 members, no increase or decrease reported.
  17. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 1,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
  18. Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc., 1,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
  19. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, 1,443,405 members, an increase of .21 percent.
  20. American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., 1,371,278 members, a decrease of 1.82 percent.
  21. United Church of Christ, 1,218,541 members, a decrease of 0.47 percent.
  22. Baptist Bible Fellowship International, 1,200,000, no increase or decrease reported.
  23. Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, 1,071,616 members, no increase or decrease reported.
  24. The Orthodox Church in America, 1,064,000, no increase or decrease reported.
  25. Jehovah's Witnesses, 1,069,530 members, an increase of 2.25 percent.
Washington Times, America's Newspaper

Intelligent Design

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost provides a whole bunch of interesting links to information relevant to the issue of evolution and intelligent design. He begins:
Should intelligent design (the theory that certain features of the universe and living things are best explained by an intelligent cause and are not the result of an undirected, chance-based process) be classified as science or pseudoscience? Advocates almost always assume that it should be regarded as a legitimate scientific research program while its critics often scoff at the idea of this "stealth creationism" being given serious consideration.

I myself am an interested agnostic on this particular aspect of creation. (While I know the "who" (God) and the "what" (God did it), I am unclear on the "how" (what processes were involved)). I believe the problem for the advocates of ID is that there is currently not enough empirical evidence to fully support their claims. And I also believe that the problem for the critics of ID is that they tend to rule out the possibility based more on prejudice than sound philosophical objections.

While I'm not qualified to determine whether Intelligent Design is an accurate scientific theory, I do think it is at least as philosophically plausible as other approaches (e.g., naturalism). As the atheistic philosopher Daniel Dennett says, "There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination." Because I am interested in ID and evolution, I often note articles and arguments that I find noteworthy. Here are 32 such items which, if we set aside our philosophical baggage, are worth examining.
the evangelical outpost: 33 Things on Evolution and Intelligent Design

Monday, February 18, 2008

Luther vs. Zwingli

Trevin Wax has been writing about the disagreement between Luther and Zwingli over the nature of the Lord's Supper. It has been very interesting and, for me, an education. He has placed convenient links to all seven posts on the subject here.

Luther vs. Zwingli Series « Kingdom People

Sunday, February 17, 2008

"I need answers ..."

Trevin Wax posts this clip from ER. A theologically liberal hospital chaplain is trying to comfort a dying man - and failing:
"I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real Hell"

Thanks to Between Two Worlds for the reference.

Liberalism’s Impotency in Dealing with Guilt « Kingdom People

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The importance of fathers

We have reached a point in time when things that used to be thought obvious need to be proven. No one used to doubt that the most ideal family arrangement involved children with both a mother and a father. Fathers tended to be idealized rather than ridiculed in film and on TV. Now a very large number of children are growing up without a father in the home. That is not a good thing, as this article from ScienceDaily makes plain:
Active father figures have a key role to play in reducing behaviour problems in boys and psychological problems in young women, according to a review published in the February issue of Acta Paediatrica.

Swedish researchers also found that regular positive contact reduces criminal behaviour among children in low-income families and enhances cognitive skills like intelligence, reasoning and language development.

Children who lived with both a mother and father figure also had less behavioural problems than those who just lived with their mother.

The researchers are urging healthcare professionals to increase fathers' involvement in their children's healthcare and calling on policy makers to ensure that fathers have the chance to play an active role in their upbringing.

The review looked at 24 papers published between 1987 and 2007, covering 22,300 individual sets of data from 16 studies. 18 of the 24 papers also covered the social economic status of the families studied.

The smallest study focused on 17 infants and the largest covered 8,441 individuals ranging from premature babies to 33 year-olds. They included major ongoing research from the USA and UK, together with smaller studies from Sweden and Israel.

"Our detailed 20-year review shows that overall, children reap positive benefits if they have active and regular engagement with a father figure" says Dr Anna Sarkadi from the Department of Women's and Children's Health at Uppsala University, Sweden.

"For example, we found various studies that showed that children who had positively involved father figures were less likely to smoke and get into trouble with the police, achieved better levels of education and developed good friendships with children of both sexes.

"Long-term benefits included women who had better relationships with partners and a greater sense of mental and physical well-being at the age of 33 if they had a good relationship with their father at 16."

Unfit for Heaven

Alex Chediak had the opportunity to ask a few questions of Tim Keller, author of The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. He raised the issue of the seeming cruelty of what will happen to unbelievers in Hell.
CHEDIAK: Chapter 2 is on the "How could a good God allow suffering?" question. You repeated a phrase .... "Everything sad is going to come untrue." It is a beautiful statement. Not only that, you say in your new book that it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost. How do you respond to those who say, "Yes, but according to Christianity, that is only true for Christians. Those in hell will not find it to be so."?

KELLER: Of course it’s only for those who are part of the new heavens and new earth through Christ. But that question, ‘what about the people in hell?’ assumes that the lost will be down there, wishing they can get out and have all the blessings of heaven, but not being allowed by a God who says, ‘No! Too late! Ha! You had your chance!’ That’s a misunderstanding of the power of sin’s self-deception. People in hell will be thinking that God’s salvation and eternity is a big crock.
They lived impervious to God's presence, so they won't miss it in Eternity. Keller's statement reminds me of attitudes described by C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce and The Last Battle.

Query: Shouldn't "Heaven" and "Hell" be capitalized? Ralph de Toledano maintained that they are the names of actual places and thus proper nouns.

Alex Chediak Blog: Brief Q&A with Tim Keller

Friday, February 15, 2008

Faith, law and democracy

The Economist provides a good, balanced description of some of the issues raised by religious practice, and especially that of Islam, in a secular state. Fortunately for the United States there is a First Amendment, and even though there is controversy about aspects of its interpretation there are also wide areas of agreement. The article can be found here.

Faith, law and democracy | Defining the limits of exceptionalism | Economist.com

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Worship is response

Jared Wilson on "Call and Response: Life as Worship." Really good stuff:
I am losing patience with the phrase, in relation to church music times, "God showed up."

I understand what is meant, but the wording is so fuzzy as to be theologically useless. God is omnipresent, and unless one thinks their worship gatherings are Ichabod by default, God was there to begin with.

In a previous post on the contemporary worship culture of the church, I wrote:
The danger we face when we worship is coming into the experience assuming we are summoning God. Assuming worship is our initiative. Assuming we are somehow the ones in control, that we are bringing the best of ourselves and our holy desire to worship. When the reality is, worship does not begin with the worshiper. It begins with God. It is a response to God’s calling upon us.
Our community is learning to treat the time we spend in corporate singing as a response to God's person and works. The division between God and us cannot be bridged by us, although we often act (and sing) like it can.

But "worship music" is not the only place where we should keep this order in mind. It's all worship - prayer, study, work, meals and conversation, love and romance, sleep. What if we treated it all as our response to who God is and what he's done?

That is a worship that focuses on the object of worship and revels in the joy of grace. [more]
The Gospel-Driven Church: Call and Response: Life As Worship

Lying

My entire professional life was spent around adolescents. I enjoyed teaching. I enjoyed the kids most of the time and I liked watching them become adults. I decided quite early on that on occasion every teenager lies. The reason they do is that lying is the only way to maintain their autonomy - they are convinced that they are adult enough to make decisions for themselves - while retaining the respect of the adults they like. [They feel much less guilty about lying to the adults they don't like.]

An article from New York Magazine, "Learning to Lie" by Po Bronson, reinforces my opinion:
By withholding details about their lives, adolescents carve out a social domain and identity that are theirs alone, independent from their parents or other adult authority figures. To seek out a parent for help is, from a teen’s perspective, a tacit admission that he’s not mature enough to handle it alone. Having to tell parents about it can be psychologically emasculating, whether the confession is forced out of him or he volunteers it on his own. It’s essential for some things to be “none of your business.”

The big surprise in the research is when this need for autonomy is strongest. It’s not mild at 12, moderate at 15, and most powerful at 18. Darling’s scholarship shows that the objection to parental authority peaks around ages 14 to 15. In fact, this resistance is slightly stronger at age 11 than at 18. In popular culture, we think of high school as the risk years, but the psychological forces driving deception surge earlier than that.
The article also describes some the hazards of parenting. Permissiveness doesn't work, and neither does the making of many rules. Love and a few rules and consistency work much better.
In her study of teenage students, Darling also mailed survey questionnaires to the parents of the teenagers interviewed, and it was interesting how the two sets of data reflected on each other. First, she was struck by parents’ vivid fear of pushing their teens into outright hostile rebellion. “Many parents today believe the best way to get teens to disclose is to be more permissive and not set rules,” Darling says. Parents imagine a trade-off between being informed and being strict. Better to hear the truth and be able to help than be kept in the dark.

Darling found that permissive parents don’t actually learn more about their children’s lives. “Kids who go wild and get in trouble mostly have parents who don’t set rules or standards. Their parents are loving and accepting no matter what the kids do. But the kids take the lack of rules as a sign their parents don’t care—that their parent doesn’t really want this job of being the parent.”

Pushing a teen into rebellion by having too many rules was a sort of statistical myth. “That actually doesn’t happen,” remarks Darling. She found that most rules-heavy parents don’t actually enforce them. “It’s too much work,” says Darling. “It’s a lot harder to enforce three rules than to set twenty rules.”

A few parents managed to live up to the stereotype of the oppressive parent, with lots of psychological intrusion, but those teens weren’t rebelling. They were obedient. And depressed.

“Ironically, the type of parents who are actually most consistent in enforcing rules are the same parents who are most warm and have the most conversations with their kids,” Darling observes. They’ve set a few rules over certain key spheres of influence, and they’ve explained why the rules are there. They expect the child to obey them. Over life’s other spheres, they supported the child’s autonomy, allowing them freedom to make their own decisions.

The kids of these parents lied the least. Rather than hiding twelve areas from their parents, they might be hiding as few as five.

In the thesaurus, the antonym of honesty is lying, and the opposite of arguing is agreeing. But in the minds of teenagers, that’s not how it works. Really, to an adolescent, arguing is the opposite of lying. [more]

Thanks to Arts & Letters for the reference.

Learning to Lie

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Leaving out all the offensive parts

At 9Marks Greg Gilbert reviews Rob Bell's NOOMA videos. The review is long and detailed. If you are concerned about the issues, find the complete review here. A very short excerpt:
The gospel as Bell communicates it in NOOMA runs something like this: All of us are broken, sinful, selfish, and prideful people. We carry around the baggage of our hurts, our resentments, and our jealousies. As a result we are just a shell of the kind of people God intends us to be. But our God is a loving God who accepts us and loves us just as we are. He can comfort us, heal us, and make us whole, real, authentic, living, laughing people. Not only that, but Jesus came to show us how to live revolutionary lives of love, compassion, and acceptance. By learning from his teachings and following him, we can live the full and complete lives that God intended.

And that’s about it. That’s not just the introduction that leads to an explanation of the cross, atonement, the resurrection and salvation, either. So far, at least, that’s what NOOMA holds out as "The Gospel." Full stop.

In the videos I watched, there’s almost no exposition of the cross. I only remember it being mentioned twice, once to say that Caesar killed Jesus and once when Bell says, "The cross is like God saying, ‘I don’t hold your past against you.’" Well, kind of. But that hardly exhausts the meaning of the cross, does it? At the very least, he ought to have continued that sentence by saying something like, "I don’t hold your past against you, because I held it against my Son." But then I suppose that sort of uncomfortable thought would have destroyed the smoothness of the presentation.

Even the resurrection—which usually plays an enormous role in Emergent theology—doesn’t get much emphasis here. NOOMA is all about "Jesus’ teachings," but only a select few of those. You won’t hear Bell talking about the teachings of Jesus that focus on ransom, blood, new covenants, and rebirth—much less judgment, sheep and goats, and "Depart from me." For Bell, Jesus’ teachings are apparently limited to his ethics, and Bell’s gospel is evidently limited to a call for people to embrace those ethics and "live like Jesus."

I have a theory about why Emergent church types seem to be able to communicate so well with "our generation," why they’re able to relate so well to people who have always been hostile to the gospel. You can chalk it up to some kind of "authentic" style if you want, but I’d contend that a big part of their ability to communicate the gospel without offense to people who have always been offended by it is that they leave out all the offensive parts! [more]
The Scoop'a on NOOMA -- Part 1 - 9Marks

Seventh Day Baptist History III

A Denomination Takes Form
1790 - 1860

The first half of the 19th Century was a time of rapid change in the United States. The frontier moved westward as settlers crossed the mountains into the Ohio valley and on into the Northwest Territories. The construction of canals and railroads made access easier and communication less difficult. It was also a time of religious ferment. The Second Great Awakening meant revival – increased interest in Christian commitment and in Biblical doctrine.

Rev. Henry Clarke
Moving West. Seventh Day Baptists were a part of all of this. Members of Seventh Day Baptist churches moved with the settlements, first into western New York and western Virginia [now West Virginia] and then to the northwest, into what would soon be Ohio and Wisconsin, establishing new churches where they settled. The first Seventh Day Baptist missionaries helped maintain a connection among these scattered groups – and, taking advantage of opportunities, preached the gospel and introduced the Sabbath to those open to conviction.

A Denomination. As the number of Seventh Day Baptists and Seventh Day Baptist churches grew, and new needs and opportunities were recognized, an organizational structure began to appear.
  • In 1802 eight of the churches decided to form the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference. The churches surrendered none of their autonomy to the new organization, but saw it as a way to maintain a connection with each other and to promote the doctrinal distinctives of the emerging denomination. In 1833, the first “Expose of Sentiments” was published, described as “as an exhibition of the views generally held by the denomination,” but having no binding effect on churches or members.
  • In 1818 the first of several missionary societies was created primarily to send missionaries to the frontier. In 1844, though, it was decided to also send missionaries “to other parts of the world” and the still existing Seventh Day Baptist Missionary Society came into being.
    Milton Academy, Milton, WI
  • Seventh Day Baptists promoted religious education in the churches by establishing Sabbath Schools. They also created institutions to promote learning in their communities. Before public schools were generally available churches and groups of churches organized academies for the education of both their own children and those of others in their communities. Institutions of higher education grew out of some of those academies including Alfred University in New York [1857] and Milton College in Wisconsin [1867]. The colleges associated with Seventh Day Baptists later included Salem College in West Virginia [1888].
    George B. Utter
  • The earliest Seventh Day Baptists printed and circulated tracts and books. Now they also began to publish periodicals. There were several short-lived newspapers and then, in 1844, the American Sabbath Tract Society began publishing The Sabbath Recorder – a weekly newspaper during most of the 19th century – which continues as a monthly magazine today.
By the time of the American Civil War, Seventh Day Baptist churches were scattered from their origins in the East to the new states of the Midwest.

Source: Don Sanford, A Choosing People: The History of Seventh Day Baptists, 1992

The silhouette is of Rev. Henry Clarke, one of those instrumental in the creation of General Conference in 1802. The next is Milton Academy, Milton Wisconsin, later expanded to become Milton College, chartered in 1867. George B. Utter, the final picture, edited the Sabbath Recorder from its founding, for twenty-five years.

The next in the series: "Seventh Day Baptist History IV - "A Nation cannot long endure..."

This series begins with: "Seventh Day Baptist History I - Seventh Day Baptist Origins"

Links to all of the posts about Seventh Day Baptist History can be found here.

This series of short summaries of Seventh Day Baptist history is part of a project undertaken for the Seventh Day Baptist Historical Society, which maintains its archives and a museum in Janesville, Wisconsin.

The faith within doubt

Challies gives a very positive review of Tim Keller's new book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. On the basis of his review, I've ordered it.

.... Keller suggests that both believers and skeptics look at doubt in a whole new way. Within the book he does not make the classical distinction between believers and unbelievers, but rather between believers and skeptics. His thesis depends on this distinction between unbeliever and skeptic because, he says, we all believe something. Even skeptics have a kind of faith hidden within their reasoning. Understanding what we believe about belief is crucial. His thesis is this: “If you come to recognize the beliefs on which your doubts about Christianity are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from Christians for theirs—you will discover that your doubts are not so solid as they first appeared.” He seeks to prove that thesis in the book’s first part.

In the first seven chapters Keller looks at seven of the most common objections and doubts about Christianity and discerns the alternate beliefs underlying each of them. This section is titled “The Leap of Doubt” and answers these seven common critiques:
  1. There can’t be just one true religion
  2. A good God could not allow suffering
  3. Christianity is a straitjacket
  4. The church is responsible for so much injustice
  5. A loving God would not send people to hell
  6. Science has disproved Christianity
  7. You can’t take the Bible literally [more]
Update 2/13: Here is a link to a recent Newsweek article profiling Keller and his ministry.

Book Review - "The Reason for God" by Tim Keller :: books, reviews :: A Reformed, Christian Blog