Once when I was playing darts with some locals in a tavern, I scored a bull’s-eye, and another player shouted, “Tobias, you’re pure evil!” Immediately tapping my inner Augustine, I responded, “Does evil really exist or is it the absence of good?”
Boy, "In Christ Alone" just will not stay out of the churchy news. A few weeks ago it was standing in for all hymnody ever in the face of the chorus-singing horde; now it's standing in for confessional evangelicals' valiant defense against the liberal horde. Coming soon: "In Christ Alone" as a symbol of resistance to common-cup communion, or missional-everything fervor, or preaching from your iPad.
Sociologists are reputed to be masters of suspicion, and many keep their distance from religious belief and practice. Robert Bellah’s field was the sociology of religion, and the longtime University of California, Berkeley professor—who died last week—certainly knew the value of “distance” in this and all human sciences. But as he studied people of faith and their practice—whether in “Tokugawa Religion” in Japan (his doctoral dissertation subject) or in America—he discerned integrity and value in the faith(s) of many.
Richard Gallagher, a board-certified psychiatrist and professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College, was skeptical when a priest/exorcist asked his opinion of a woman diagnosed with demonic possession. In time Gallagher’s scientific habits of observation led him to believe that in rare cases, the only explanation for bizarre behavior is that it’s the work of evil spirits. Over the past 25 years he has consulted with hundreds of ministers, helping them to distinguish between mental illness and demonic possession. Gallagher, a practicing Catholic, is working on a book about demonic possession in the United States (Washington Post, July 1).