A special Christmas review of noteworthy books, movies and music. Categories include theology and spirituality, history and current events, fiction, poetry, children's literature, movies on DVD, classical music and popular music.
Early modern versions of the argument from design relied upon a simple analogy: the universe looks like an artifact, which implies a maker. But as David Hume pointed out, one would need experience observing universes being made to judge that the analogy holds true.
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.
The author's breadth of vision has enormous implications for how we understand the nature of Christian truth and the relationship between indispensable core doctrines and later theological interpretations.
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 experience.
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.
Two inseparable, inexhaustible themes have fascinated me more and more: love and the Holy Spirit.