Christianity Leads to Science

Christian History Institute’s “It Happened Today,” focuses on the founding of the Royal Society on this day, November 28, in 1660.

The Royal Society was the first scientific society known to history and several of its most notable members were devout Christians. The real driver behind the society was John Wilkins, who later became a bishop. Among the founding members were Christopher Wren, a man of solid religious convictions, John Willis, a staunch Church of England man, and Robert Boyle, well known for his faith and faith-based charities. Boyle had begun to study science to relieve the tension he saw between the natural philosophy of his day and his faith. He reasoned, “If the omniscient author of nature knew that the study of his works tends to make men disbelieve his Being or Attributes, he would not have given them so many invitations to study and contemplate Nature.”

Rodney Stark’s book, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success, gives some of the reasons that are innate to Christianity which led to human advancement. All religions are not alike! The Western world is debtor to the Christian worldview as little as it is recognized by the academy today.

Also see Stark’s The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion

Thabiti Anyabwile Takes on The Ferguson Grand Jury/Randy White Takes on Kum-Ba-Ya Evangelicals

Here is a sample of the continuing response to Ferguson. I have immense respect for Thabiti Anyabwile. I read his stuff and respect his courage. He is one of the few blacks who speak for High Calvinism, which doesn’t exactly make him first runner in a popularity contests with the black community. He has to speak to social issues as a minority in the theological community he has identified with. He regularly has to call out others for lazy rhetoric that threatens the Gospel’s inclusivenenss. His posting is “WHY I BELIEVE THE GRAND JURY GOT IT WRONG AND INJUSTICE TRIUMPHED.” He writes that he speaks as a “recovering social psychologist whose research interest included procedural justice. That’s the study of procedures (usually legal) and how the perceived fairness of those procedures affect satisfaction with the outcomes.” He has serious questions about the legal process of the Grand Jury investigation and how it slanted toward Officer Wilson. An interesting take. He is a man I take seriously.

Here is another take on Ferguson. Believe me, this kind of posting will get a lot of play behind the scenes. It starts out, “Ferguson, MO has erupted in barbaric violence that should cause all law-abiding citizens to demand the restoration of the rule-of-law, but the Evangelical world is preaching kum-ba-ya sermons about race-relations.” He calls out three in particular – Matthew Hall, a research fellow for the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Russell Moore and Eric Mason. These are all Southern Baptists and for Randy White makes them a target since they are in his denominational family. He writes, “His [Matthew Hall] article is posted on “Cannon and Culture,” a project of the ERLC. The ERLC seems to be full-court press, all using the same talking points. You can read Russell Moore’s “Ferguson and the Path to Peace,” and Eric Mason’s “The Gospel, Race, and our Experiences” for more of the same. Each article basically says, “we don’t understand how blacks feel, so we should be slow in our judgment” and “the Kingdom brings us all together in one big, happy family, so let’s act like Kingdom people in a big, happy family.” Ed Stetzer, also a Southern Baptist, also joined the chorus, singing in harmony with the talking points. – See more of White’s article here.

Randy White’s article will not find its way into the Evangelical press. I came across it at Zite. But make no mistake about it. White speaks for a very large, and virtually silent, white Christian community. Number one, he questions whether or not Evangelicals are conflating social justice (and White asks, in effect, whatever that is) with the Gospel. It is true that the trajectory of Evangelicals is to conflate any number of social goods with the Gospel. It is happening on a regular basis, given credibility by much of NT Wright’s work. In the words of NT Wright, “Heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world.” Wright makes the point, and I affirm it, that Christians are part of the eschaton when heaven fully comes to earth renewing all things. The good that they do now is a participation in that final work of Christ. This gives dignity to our work in ruling over creation per Genesis 1 and 2. However, and there is always a however, it is easy to slip over from what the Gospel is to what the Gospel does. This is one of John Piper’s criticisms of Wright.

Number two, White emphasizes personal responsibility as the ground zero of any crime. As he puts it, “to blame society for a crime committed by an individual is soundly insane.”

Number three, he accuses Evangelicals of buying into the “liberal church-as-kingdom theology.” Liberation theology as historically made the church a subset of the world rather than a contrast to the world. The church is, according to this interpretation, a community that joins with the world in its struggle to liberate the poor and oppressed from the powerful and the wealthy. Jesus, in this view, is a political/economic/social revolutionary. No doubt, Roman Catholicism had to struggle mightily with its own clergy in Latin America who bought into this paradigm of the church. This led to some house cleaning under John Paul II.

White’s version of things is the undercurrent in many a church community. They simply want to treat Ferguson as a crime story, end of story. And so does a vast swath of Americans. Evangelicals would be wise to include parts of this narrative in their response even as they reject the ad hominem attacks and faulty logic. Evangelicals could soon be out of a job, even as the mainline liberal denominations are, if they lose touch with the common sense morality of grassroots America.

Victoria Beeching Announces “I am gay and God loves me just the way I am.”

We Evangelicals are getting quite used to artists in the mainstream of our heritage stepping forward to share the news that they are gay. It’s not a surprise anymore. What is a twist in the story is how many of these affirm their full commitment to Christianity as we together have known it with this one caveat – being gay does not contradict their commitment to Christ or a high view of the Bible. Of course, Matthew Vines is currently the most well-known among those who of those who conflate homosexuality and orthodox Christianity.

Victoria Beeching is celebrity Christian musician who has recently come out as gay. Robert George has posted a response over at First Things, titled “VICTORIA BEECHING AND PLATO’S THIRD FORM OF ATHEISM.” George is a professional philosopher at Princeton, so most everything has to be referenced back to Plato. 🙂  He is most well known among Evangelicals (George himself is a Roman Catholic) for his expertise in Natural Law theory, particularly applied to the issue of same sex marriage. I have read his work Marriage: Man and Woman: A Defense. It is an able proof that nature alone tells us that homosexuality is disordered and does not fulfill the proper ends for which humans are fitted by virtue of being human. Natural Law theory’s project is to demonstrate the truth of moral propositions without reference to a transcendent authority, such as the Bible. Reason alone, rightly framed, can detect, so it is argued, the moral order of the universe. This is heavily reliant upon the work of Aristotle as he is interpreted through the lens of Thomas Aquinas. I buy in. A lot of Protestants do not.

As a movement Protestants are skeptical of truths known apart from special revelation in the Bible. We are “Bible Alone” kind of people. We also have a rather pessimistic view of human depravity and consequent inability that we find taught in the Bible. To say that people can know for sure God’s ways, at least in some measure, apart from the Bible is a road too far for many. I am of that few number of Evangelical Protestants who have a larger place for Natural Law theory. All Natural Law theorists who are Christians have a large place for special revelation since there are many truths which nature alone can teach us, the Trinity, for one instance, and redemption through Christ’s penal sacrifice on the cross, for another

Robert George makes the case that Victoria Beeching’s proclamation is resonant with Plato’s third form of atheism. Take the time to read George’s two or three paragraphs.

15 Reasons the Abortion Industry is Losing Its Support

I find this posting at Ligonier’s website (RC Sproul) sound. I consider George Grant a reasoned voice amongst all the shrill sounds that accompany the debate. It is clear that no one rejoices in the abortion option. Those who are pro-abortion understand the real trauma of it, though they consider it necessary to protect a woman’s options and choices. There are a few who make it the touchstone of modernity, but they are rare. Women go through too much to have an abortion to consider it a casual and unimportant discussion. And society at large is very uncomfortable with abortion as a method of birth control. The reality is that abortion is too traumatic and the social consequences too severe for the debate to subside, legal or not legal. Our culture is moving to a pro-life position simply because we have not lost our humanity, stained though the visage may be.

What is a centrist Democrat anyway?

Or a centrist Republican for that matter. Representative Giffords, who is now fighting for her life and has our prayers, is receiving accolades from both colleagues and political opponents. There is not even a shade of criticism for her political style or method. Good for her. She took her stands and seems to have invited reasonable discussion.

But I am intrigued by one thing. Described as a centrist Democrat she at the same time received a 100 % rating by NARAL, the National Abortion and Reproduction Rights Action League. This is centrism? How can this be described as centrist?

Abortion is the issue that won’t go away. As long as the US has anything like the church attendance it has and continues to embrace religious longings rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, abortion cannot be a centrist position. The unwarranted taking of a baby’s life in the womb is by definition extreme.

I teach ethics in college where students debate the moral issues of the day. While in this case the evidence is anecdotal, the fierce argument over abortion is alive and well. Our national conscience has not made peace with abortion. It cannot. Our moral intuitions, quite apart from what we are able to justify intellectually or legally, do not lead us toward abortion but away from it. The common grace of God among us will not let our nation situate itself comfortably with millions of unborn children dying in the womb.

At this point I am not talking about legal or not legal. I am simply focusing on the moral instinct we all share in common. And based on that moral instinct I could never call a politician who is rated 100% by NARAL a centrist.

In Massachusetts, we don’t just tolerate madness; we export it.

Here is Joe Fitzgerald’s column in the Boston Herald. The cop killed in the Christmas shootout in Woburn was killed by a (stop me if you have heard this before) man on parole.

This is a story often told here in the “compassion” state.  Who can forget Willie Horton, who sunk Dukakis’ chance to be President? This is perhaps the only good thing Horton did in his life. With Dukakis as President prison doors would have needed some WD40 for all the swinging open they would have been doing. Of course, not all those who are released from prison on early parole recommit crimes in MA. They go to other states to display their madness. See Fitzgerald’s column.

Many evangelical progressives attempt to Christianize the state. They mean to make forgiveness and mercy the chief characteristics of the government at the financial costs of the citizenry and often at their own risk.  It’s a sort of “what would Jesus do?” if he was governor.

I continue to be committed to the position that the chief role of the state is order and justice. No one is saying that government is not tempered with an understanding that it is with weak mortals with whom we have to do. But those appointed to rule must be able to look the criminal in the eye and pronounce justice. If one cannot sustain courage and insistence in such a position, then go into the ministry with me.

On my end of things, in the ministry, my #1 job is the Gospel. That is not the Governor’s job. I bring to the table the miracles of forgiveness and new beginnings. I bring to the table a spiritually revived citizenry who are filled with charity and works of beneficence. I see in every man what Christ can do. I see no man outside the sphere of grace. Once we get these two spheres confused neither the Gospel nor government will be at their best.

The Top Ten Most Religious Cities in America

The Top Ten Most Religious Cities in America

According to Men’s Health, that great authority on all things religious, here are the ten most religious cities in America:

1. Colorado Springs, CO
2. Greensboro, NC
3. Oklahoma City, OK
4. Wichita, KS
5. Indianapolis, IN
6. Jacksonville, FL
7. Portland, OR
8. Birmingham, AL
9. Charlotte, NC
10. Little Rock, AR

Interesting to note that the first northeast city on the list is Washington D.C. at #44.

Here are the 10 LEAST religious cities:

91. Miami, FL
92. Newark, NJ
93. Manchester, NH
94. Fargo, ND
95. Jersey City, NJ
96. Portland, ME
97. Hartford, CT
98. Boston, MA
99. Providence, RI
100. Burlington, VT

 

Astronomer argues that his Christian faith and his peers’ belief that he is an evolution skeptic kept him from getting a prestigious job

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/12/17/scientist-alleges-religious-discrimination-ky/?test=latestnews

There are just some positions that scientific institutions are going to feel uncomfortable staffing with Christians and other people of faith. The higher the position the more risk is being taken that the position is going to be used for political and cultural ends. I understand this quandary. I even appreciate it. All of a sudden a high profile institution is finding that one of its stars is being used for religious purposes, if not by the person himself or herself, then by others. This could go some distance to discrediting the organization. I think a case can be made that this puts an organization at risk (in funding, ranking, etc.) and is too big a gamble.

I am not sure this argument passes muster with the Constitution, however. One cannot be discriminated against simply on the basis of their religion. But there are limits to this. If a person has a religious belief that works directly at cross purposes with the institution that hires them or in some manner diminishes the respect given to that institution, then there might be a valid argument in there somewhere.

What this might mean is that many will be able to work in the area of science but only below the radar where PR cannot detect them. I know many scientists who are committed creationists and reject global warming. But they are not in places where the employer’s scientific credibility is at stake.

Does the church need to learn to be more courteous in public discourse?

I recently commented on an article at Christianity Today titled, “The Lost Virtue of Courtesy.” Everybody is for courtesy. Clearly respect and patience are Christian virtues. But I have a suspicion that ever since evangelical progressives like Jim Wallis have gone more evangelical mainstream, the emphasis on civility has become a mantra (that is unless Jim Wallis is talking about Marvin Olansky, at which point he is being merely prophetic, speaking truth to white power). Note the “Covenant for Civility”.  The subtitle could be “Jerry Falwell, D Jame Kennedy, Jim Dobson and kind, go to the back of the bus.”

Actually I am finding that evangelicals are too courteous and too willing to give the benefit of the doubt. But even then, we are major stumbling blocks for the progressives. There are too many of us and we are too rooted in the Bible to be pushed off center. So the strategy is to tame us by appealing to the Bible itself. This kind of argument has a power with evangelicals like it has with no other group, tapping into, as it does, the high reverence they have to The Book.

No one is arguing whether or not Christians should demonstrate the fruit of the spirit. The only argument has to do with their place at the table in the political dialogue and whether or not they are allowed to play hardball in the public arena. Those who want to tame conservative orthodoxy are not just the secularists. There are those who are within the camp, too, who are uncomfortable with taking moral positions and who believe that to do so compromises the priority of love.

I am increasingly of the opinion that while some evangelicals are trying to distance themselves from tying Christianity to the political and cultural structures of the West that we, in fact, should not so easily buy into this movement. We are constantly told that we are members of the Kingdom of God and that this is above any national allegiance or cultural commitment. In fact, we are told that the existence of the latter stands in direct contradiction to the former.

To apply this more specifically, we are told that our call to the Muslim world is simply to love them and witness to the Kingdom of God through Jesus. I also think the sensible Christian would also sense another call – to protect Western culture, which has not only nurtured the faith we hold dear but also been transformed by it into a culture that is the envy of the peoples of the world. It is correct to say that our commitment to Christ is not the same thing as national and cultural allegiance. Who doesn’t know that? But that retort doesn’t address the real and continuing issue. What is a Christian to do when barbarians seek to undermine, overthrow and replace the very culture which has been most transformed by the message of the Man of Nazareth and which has given to Christians and to all who live within its reach the greatest numbers of liberty and the greatest opportunity to live in a society that integrates root world views the bless humankind?

In other words, should Christians, out of commitment to Christ, seek the good of the West and sacrifice to ensure that it stands against the forces of totalitarian Islam, repressive Marxism, and any other world view that crushes the human spirit? I say yes. The collision between supremacist Islam and the West is just getting started. There are three levels at which we handle this.

One, all Christians everywhere live a life of holiness and witness and service.

Two, Christians ready themselves to support nation states which form the primary barrier between civilization and barbarism. Can such a stance be perceived as mere politics and unworthy and shortsighted of the Christian? I think not. While it is Christ who is our Savior, and no President or Prime Minister, to yield no allegiance to a state which has most honored the values of the Judeo-Christian tradition seems nonsensical. A commitment to Christ might lead us to make higher commitments to nation states than we normally would when those states evidence openness to and sympathy with those values intrinsic to the kingdom of heaven. We are not such simpletons that we make a one-for-one correspondence. But neither are we such simpletons that we make the nation state irrelevant to the purposes of God.

Three, sometimes this support involves military readiness to stand against regimes which would enslave and strip men and women of their dignity and cultures of their Judeao-Christian values.  See Rodney Stark’s, God’s Battalions and the example of such men as Boenhoeffer. Here we meet head on the issue of pacifism. While the Christian Church has honored those who are pacifist for Christ’s sake, it has not historically weakened its belief in just war and that the state is to wield the power of the sword to stop evil. Leave the pacifists alone! Their numbers are small and always will be. The vast majority of people intuitively understand that not to be willing to use force to stop evil is a morally impossible position. The church has historically hardly even engaged in the controversy simply because pacifism dies the death of absurdity.

Four, the church must engage vigorously in political discourse and support the cause of liberty and human dignity. It does so even as it recognizes that politics is not salvation and governments are not saviors. The church understands that its essential contribution to human renewal is to exist in a condition of revival and pure love. Therefore, the church realizes that its own efforts at simply being the church is job #1. But it also sees that it cannot finish there.

I am increasingly of the persuasion that the efforts to tame the church politically are never ending and that to maintain courage and perseverance in good citizenry is a great good. While we learned some hard lessons through over-reliance on political solutions, we ought not to lose our resolve to wield political influence. We can learn too much from a bad experience. As they say, the cat who once sat on a hot stove will not sit on a cold one either.

I look forward to a new emergence of political and cultural engagement, particularly as supremacist Islam  surges toward the West.

 

In a society that gives equal chance to all, how can we end up with so few owing so much?

I am wondering. At one point Bill Gates had as much wealth as 40%+ of Americans on the lower end of the scale. Right now in Russia (a democracy?) 7 oligarchs own 50% of Russia’s natural resources. How can this be? Can it be a good thing, something that society wills for itself as a societal good?

One of the things observed about early America was the relatively fair income distribution among the colonists. The discrepancies weren’t nonexistent but they were moderate, virtually putting all Americans in the same boat, affected by the same policies in roughly the same way.

Here one needs to listen to Amy Chua at Booknotes. She is the author of World on Fire. Chua asserts that globalization has created a volatile concoction of free markets and democracy that has incited economic devastation, ethnic hatred and genocidal violence throughout the developing world. Chua illustrates the disastrous consequences arising when an accumulation of wealth by “market dominant minorities” combines with an increase of political power by a disenfranchised majority. Chua refutes the “powerful assumption that markets and democracy go hand in hand” by citing specific examples of the turbulent conditions within countries such as Indonesia, Russia, Sierra Leone, Bolivia and in the Middle East.

I am increasingly of the opinion that the % of the death tax should be confiscatory at rates high enough to keep America from having a de facto economic ruling class. Each generation must then makes its own way and make its own contribution. Whereas parents should be able to pass on enough money to give remaining children sufficient security, it should not be in such sums that they either are relieved of the responsibility to make a contribution to society or that they receive an unearned right to economically control the destiny of others.

If you have read this blog, you know how irritated I get at evangelical progressives’ attempts to turn the state into a Christian charity, a de facto church. But we do find in the Bible principles that are good in and of themselves. One of these is the practice of Jubilee, which, of course, we have no evidence that Israel ever practiced. Every 50 years land returned to its original owners, indentured slaves were set free, etc. In other words, the chess pieces were placed in their original position and the game was begun again. It is clear that the Bible was protecting Israel from economic slavery and tyranny and the evils attendant to  intergenerational wealth.

Of course, Bill Gates is not an example of inherited wealth. In America even the poor think Gates should be able to keep his money. His achievements stand for what we think could one day be true of us all. But what does become a problem would be if Gates’ kids by virtue of inheritance gain unearned power over the welfare of others.