On a Sunday when John the Baptist's call
for repentance roars in our ears, we need reminders of the precedence of
gift, the prevenience of grace. For John's sermonic cry to "prepare the
way of the Lord" can seem all task and no gift. It calls out the Pelagian in all
of us, the voluntarist who wants to build the kingdom. Careless hearing leads
us to imagine that if we "make his paths straight," he will come.
In a new study
on the influence of the NeoReformed or "New Calvinist" movement on the church,
the Barna Group concludes that "there is no discernable evidence from this
research that there is a Reformed shift among U.S. congregation leaders over
the last decade." A number of
evangelical Christian leaders maintain that the study seems to contradict their on-the-ground
From Physicist to Priest
By John Polkinghorne
Questions of Truth
Fifty-one Responses to Questions about God, Science, and Belief
John Polkinghorne remembers the day when some of his colleagues thought he had lost his mind. He was already famous as a physicist for his work in helping explain the existence of quarks and gluons, the smallest known particles. He had been selected to be a member of England's Royal Society, one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on a scientist.
Working with this week's apocalyptic Gospel text evokes
memories of childhood experiences and teachings in a Mennonite congregation
with a fundamentalist understanding of Bible and life. Within that setting,
however, my family was solidly Anabaptist in outlook and rooted in social
justice concerns. My public school was, for a community in the middle of rural
Illinois, a virtual hotbed of ecumenicity, with all the major and many of the
minor denominations represented. All this made for some interesting tensions,
especially in a family with an ethos of discernment rather than rules.
In 2006 Charles Roberts walked into an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania, shot and killed five schoolgirls, injured another five and then took his own life. The Amish community immediately declared that it forgave Roberts for his heinous acts, and some of them reached out with compassion to Roberts’s mother. Roberts’s brother Zachary is now working on a documentary called Hope, focusing on his mother’s journey since the shootings. “How does the mother of a mass murderer move forward?” he asks. Forgiveness and faith have been the key ingredients in her life (Huffington Post, November 17).