**spoiler alert** My notes and summary: ***He begins with references to other books that have dealt with the issue of colleges with Christian heritage...more**spoiler alert** My notes and summary: ***He begins with references to other books that have dealt with the issue of colleges with Christian heritage such as James Burtchaell's "The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universiteis from Their Christian Churches" and Hughes and Adrian's "Models for Christian Higher Education: Strategies for Success in the 21st Century".
***He distinguishes three domains that dictate the relationship of a college with its Christian roots: Persons, Ethos, & Vision. Persons regards the makeup of the student body (there are few examples of Christian colleges that maintain a dominant population of their specific denomination as students). This also relates to the denominational requirements of faculty and administrators. For ethos, it is referring to things like required chapel attendance and behavior rules for the students and faculty. Lastly, vision refers to the purpose and mission of the college and how closely it relates to a Biblical/denominational purpose. This has always been the weakest of the three at many institutions, and often contributes to the degradation of the other two domains.
He briefly explains the impact of the Enlightenment on religious thought. Specifically, the epistemological disagreement about how we know the religious and moral truths that guide us. The Enlightenment claimed it was not through revelation, but through reason and science. This created a path that put the pursuit of Truth in the hands of man instead of relying on Holy Scripture.
***He mentions the LCMS and the Concordia system a few times, but it sounds like Burtchaell talks about them more at length in his book. Burtachaell states: “As regards right doctrine (the Missouri obsession), conformity was traded off heavily against energetic articulation or exploration, so although theology was the premier discipline at the colleges, it was not particularly biblical in its development or scholarly in its outcome.” P45
***Benne uses the framework of three factors to assess the trajectory of six different schools: a Reformed college (Calvin), an evangelical college (Wheaton), two Lutheran schools (St. Olaf – ELCA; Valparaiso – closest to LCMS), a Catholic university (Notre Dame), and a Baptist university (Baylor).
***More detail regarding the history of the Missouri Synod. Founded in 1847 by two separate groups of German immigrants – one group from Saxony (Walther) and one from Franconia (Loehe), it has grown from the original 12 congregations to 2.6 million members. One of the reasons it generated so many parochial schools was to maintain German heritage and orthodoxy. He describes it as having “a sharp and clear identity and sense of mission that has made it a strong tradition even after it shed some of its strong German ethnicity.” As the church acculturated, however, there was a reactionary quasi-fundamentalist movement in the late 60’s that led to the big split in the 70’s. The denominational bureaucracy was taken over by the successful quasi-fundamentalist movement. They then purged the schools and churches of outspoken dissenters who formed the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (which eventually joined the ELCA in 1988). Valparaiso, despite being an LCMS school, has weathered these storms because it is an independent Lutheran institution. They continue to have an uneasy alliance with the LCMS.
***The Reformed worldview states that all human faculties have been affected by the fall, including human reason. While non-Christian learning can contain truths about the world, there is a strong tendency for it to be distorted by human fallibility and sin. Thus, it cannot be taught without a Christian critique to young Christians. It is assumed in this "Reformed epistemology" that the biblical worldview, interpreted by Reformed theology, is true. So any conflicts between secular knowledge and the Christian approach must be "redeemed" by Christian scholarship. So, in theory, each field of learning can be transformed into genuine Christian knowledge (such as Christian sociology and Christian economics). This worldview analysis is what goes on in the classroom at Reformed colleges. It requires an examination of the underlying assumptions of many fields of study (e.g., views on free will) in order for the knowledge to be "claimed for Christ".
***For an analysis of of the social sciences as anti-theologies see John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason.
***One of the reasons the Lutheran schools he profiles are reluctant to codify a detailed blueprint of the Christian life is because Lutheran theology is more focused on justification than on sanctification. ***Benne describes the LCMS system as having too much sectarianism to support schools like Valparaiso.
***Some of the more "general Christian" colleges sometimes criticize places like Calvin college for not respecting any kind of secular learning. But these differences are what prevent all Christian colleges from moving towards complete secularization. C.S. Lewis argues that Christianity is like a great central hall in which we meet Christ and witness the spectacular work of God. Around the side of this grand hall are smaller rooms in which meals are served, wounds healed, skills taught, and friends made. Don't stay long in the great hall, he said; find a smaller one where there is nourishment for the mind and soul. Without that smaller hall, the great hall lacks Christian texture and specificity. p184-185.(less)
**spoiler alert** Bonhoeffer on the Christian community: “We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly,...more**spoiler alert** Bonhoeffer on the Christian community: “We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity. That dismisses once and for all every clamorous desire for something more. One who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood. He is looking for some extraordinary social experience which he has not found elsewhere; he is bringing muddled and impure desires into Christian brotherhood. Just at this point Christian brotherhood is threatened most often at the very start by the greatest danger of all, the danger of being poisoned at its root, the danger of confusing Christian brotherhood with some wishful idea of religious fellowship, of confounding the natural desire of the devout heart for community with the spiritual reality of Christian brotherhood. In Christian brotherhood everything depends upon its being clear right from the beginning, first, that Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality. Second, that Christian brotherhood is a spiritual and not a psychic reality.” – Not an Ideal but a Divine Reality – “Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community its4elf becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial. God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself. Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what He does give us daily. And is not what has been given us enough: brothers, who will go on living with us through sin and need under the blessing of His grace? Is the divine gift of Christian fellowship anything less than this, any day, even the most difficult and distressing day? Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together – the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship.” P26-29
*** On moving others: “Thus the spiritual love will speak to Christ about a brother more than to a brother about Christ. It knows that the most direct way to others is always through prayer to Christ and that love of others is wholly dependent upon the truth in Christ.” P36-37
*** On fellowship and loneliness: “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. … Alone you stood before God when he called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God.” … “But the reverse is also true: Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone, even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ.” P77
*** On our daily meditation with God, Bonhoeffer distinguishes 3 parts: 1. meditating repeatedly on a single piece of scripture to discern personal meaning, 2. Prayer, which he mentions praying about the objects that come to mind when your mind wanders (incorporating those thoughts into prayer), and 3. Intercession, praying specifically for those around you, repeatedly day after day, and especially for those for whom you hold ill will or have disagreements with.
*** “Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of fellowship.” P94
*** Bonhoeffer on the desire for charismatic preachers: “Ultimately, this hankering for false authority has at its root a desire to re-establish some sort of immediacy, a dependence upon human beings in the Church. Genuine authority knows that all immediacy is especially baneful in matters of authority. Genuine authority realizes that it can exist only in the service of Him who alone has authority. Genuine authority knows that it is bound in the strictest sense by the saying of Jesus: “One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren” (Matt. 23:8). The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren. Not in the former but in the latter is the lack. The Church will place its confidence only in the simple servant of the Word of Jesus Christ because it knows that then it will be guided, not according to human wisdom and human conceit, but by the Word of the Good Shepherd.“ P109(less)
**spoiler alert** My notes and summary: p.xv – He tells a story of a professor of philosophy (Emile Cailliet) would served in WWI looking for answers...more**spoiler alert** My notes and summary: p.xv – He tells a story of a professor of philosophy (Emile Cailliet) would served in WWI looking for answers after watching so many people die. He started reading literature, etc. and was looking for a book that “understood him”. Whenever he found a book, quote, etc. that spoke to his condition he marked it down and thought when he compiled all of this wisdom he’d have things figured out. After reading his bits of wisdom, he realized that each piece only reminded him of his situation when he was reading it, not giving him real wisdom. Only later on when his wife came home with a copy of the Bible and he started reading the gospels did he feel that he found a book that would understand him.
p.14 – The word “gospel” was used in ancient times to simply means world-changing news. That’s why there also existed “the gospel according to Caesar Augustus” because it was the story of the most important person in the Roman world.
p.15 - The essence of all other religions is advice. Christianity is essentially news (gospel was news of an event that changed things in a meaningful way). Other religions say this is what you have to do in order to connect to God or earn your way to God. The gospel just says, this is what has been done in history.
p.19 – He talks about how in traditional cultures most people get their identity from their families so when Jesus asks Simon and Andrew to leave their families it is truly revolutionary and disruptive. In modern culture, our identity is often associated with our profession so when Jesus asks us to put Him over our career, that is equally drastic.
p.73 – He discusses Kafka’s book “The Trial” about a guy who is arrested and not told what he did. He continually guesses what it might be for. He argues that today’s world, where no one believes in God or sin is similar. Despite not believing in these things people continually ask themselves why they feel guilty and think something is wrong with us. In other words, we don’t believe in sin, judgment, and guilt, but somehow we know we are unclean. Most people spend their lives trying to make themselves worth something through their work or relationships, but it is never enough.
p.124 – Discussing the shift of Christianity over the ages, he points out how in the future it is likely to shift from Europe and the U.S. to other continents. Andrew Walls explains this as the “fragility of Christianity”. The heart of the gospel is the cross, and the cross is all about giving up power, pouring out resources, and serving. When Christianity is in a place of power and wealth for a long time the message often becomes muted and turned into a nice safe message for respectable people who try to be good. Hence, the true message of Christ becomes dormant and moves to other places hungry for the true Word. (e.g., Mark 10:17).
p.130 – In talking about how Jesus talked to the rich man in Mark 10:18 he points out the use of the word “good”. Jesus is trying to explain that believing in Him is not the same as being religious and following rules. The man is living like God is his boss, but not like Jesus is his savior. Jesus asks him to imagine a world without his wealth, power, etc., a world where he only has Jesus, and asks him if he can live like that.
p.140 – Another distinction of Christianity is that Jesus didn’t come into the world to give advice and be an example, He came to give His life. Jesus came to ransom himself, or “to buy the freedom of a slave or a prisoner.” This is a different kind of sacrifice from other versions of sacrifice in ancient times. Jesus didn’t have to die despite God’s love; he had to die because of God’s love. All life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice. Love only counts when it costs you something.
p.148 – Talking about humility and love he discusses serving others. Instead of helping others through gaining power and influence, God calls us to change hearts through serving others. In other words, be so sacrificially loving that the people around you, who don’t believe what you believe, will soon be unable to imagine the place without you. They’ll trust you because they see that you’re not only out for yourself, but out for them too.
p.150 – In talking about the message of positive psychology and its call to help others in order to be happy he points out the contradiction of wanting to be unselfish for selfish reasons. Christianity, instead, argues that understanding that God saves us by His gift, and nothing we can do adds or subtracts from that allows us to help people because we truly want to (instead of needing to for a selfish reason). Whether you think a person is worthy of your service doesn’t matter, it’s a gift just like Christ gave us a gift we didn’t deserve.(less)
**spoiler alert** Keller's book on how the Bible explains justice and how we should approach justice-related issues in our Christian life.
***"In West...more**spoiler alert** Keller's book on how the Bible explains justice and how we should approach justice-related issues in our Christian life.
***"In Western society these sets of concerns have often been split off from one another. In fact, each of America's two main political parties has built its platform on one of these sets of ethical prescriptions to the near exclusion of the other. Conservatism stresses the importance of personal morality, especially the importance of traditional sexual mores and hard work, and feels that liberal charges of racism and social injustice are overblown. On the other hand, liberalism stresses social justice, and considers conservative emphases on moral virtue to be prudish and psychologically harmful. Each side, of course, thinks the other side is smug and self-righteous. It is not only the political parties that fail to reflect this "whole cloth" Biblical agenda. The churches of America are often more controlled by the surrounding political culture than by the spirit of Jesus and the prophets. Conservative churches tend to concentrate on one set of sins, while liberal ones concentrate on another set. Jesus, like the Old Testament prophets, does not see two categories of morality. In Amos 2:37, we read, "they trample the heads of the poor; father and son go in to the same girl." The prophet condemns social injustice and sexual licentiousness in virtually the same breath (cf. Isaiah 5:8ff). Such denunciations cut across all current conventional political agendas. The Biblical perspectives sees sexual immorality and material selfishness as both flowing from self-centeredness rather than God-centeredness." p.54-55.
*** "Many people who are evidently genuine Christians do not demonstrate much concern for the poor. How do we account for that? I would like to believe that a heart for the poor "sleeps" down in a Christian's soul until it is awakened. I think the reason that this sensibility has not been more aroused in the Christian world is due to the failure of my own class - pastors and Christian leaders. We tend to try to develop a social conscience in Christians the same way the world does - through guilt. We tell them that they have so much and don't they see that they need to share with those who have so little. That doesn't work, because we have built-in defense mechanisms against such appeals. Almost no one really feels all that wealthy. Even the well-off don't feel rich compared to the others with whom they live and work. I believe, however, when justice for the poor is connected not to guilt but to grace and to the gospel, this “pushes the button” down deep in believers’ souls, and they begin to wake up. Here is an example of the kind of argument that accomplishes this. It comes from a sermon by a young Scottish minister early in the nineteenth century, preaching on the text “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35): Now, dear Christians, some of you pray night and day to be branches of the true Vine; you pray to be made all over in the image of Christ. If so, you must be like him in giving … “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor”… Objection 1. “My money is my own.” Answer: Christ might have said, “My blood is my own, my life is my own” … then where should be have been? Objection 2. “the poor are undeserving.” Answer: Christ might have said, “they are wicked rebels … shall I lay down my life for these? I will give to the good angels.” But no, he left the ninety-nine, and came after the lost. He gave his blood for the undeserving. Objection 3. “the poor may abuse it.” Answer: Christ might have said the same; yea, with far greater truth. Christ knew that thousands would trample his blood under their feet; that most would despise it; that many would make it an excuse for sinning more; yet he gave his own blood. Oh my dear Christians! If you would be like Christ, give much, give often, given freely, to the vile and poor, the thankless and the undeserving. Christ is glorious and happy and so will you be. It is not your money I want, but your happiness. Remember his own word, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” P.107-108.
On p119 Keller references a Mark Gornik who writes about how important it is for the leaders and people making the change in a community to be from the community. If they are not the primary agents of action it is unlikely for any positive changes to remain in effect.
*** One of the problems Keller cautions against is issue of churches trying to do to much by themselves. He cites Kuyper when he mentions that community development organizations can be used to serve the community so that pastors and leaders in the church can concentrate on building up the church through evangelism. If churches take on too much themselves, it can lead to the compromise of the true purpose of the church - preaching the gospel. (less)
**spoiler alert** MY NOTES ON BOOK: Ruse’s book details the history of the enlightenment, especially concerning the advancement of ideas concerning ev...more**spoiler alert** MY NOTES ON BOOK: Ruse’s book details the history of the enlightenment, especially concerning the advancement of ideas concerning evolution and its relation to Christianity. He makes a distinction between “evolutionism” as a faith and “the theory of evolution” as a science. He also points out the motives for millenialists (who believe Christ’s return is imminent vs. post-millenialists who argue that there will be something like a heaven on Earth (and thus, believe in the progress of man).
***On p29, he describes how the belief in evolutionism long preceded the actual science behind evolution. In other words, there was a progression of already having lost one’s faith and looking for a credible substitute long before a real theory of evolution existed. In other words, the idea behind the theory was a means to an end for atheists and agnostics.
***On p34, Ruse makes clear that evolution started out as bad science and was not even considered by real scientists (it was more like phrenology or mesmerism, no empirical support).
***On p48, it discusses Robert Chambers’ work “Vestiges”, which offered not just a story on biological evolution, but a historical narrative of the entire universe. It was very ideologically motivated as a progressive interpretation of the world. In other words, it was materialistic and its purpose was to use knowledge of the physical world to make the world better over time. In “Vestiges” he argued for spontaneous generation and the power of the fossil record. Although he was associated with a church, he really wanted to conquer the beliefs of the church in the name of materialistic progress.
***Ruse points out some of the contradictions of the bible that were used to warrant a literary and historical analysis instead of treating it as inspired. E.g., two stories of creation – Adam and Eve created together vs. Eve coming from Adam’s rib; Deuteronomy – 2 accounts of Moses fasting on the Mount, in Exodus only one; God told Balaam to go with the visitors and then God was angry precisely because he went. ; Manasseh used enchantments and summoned spirits and wizards, but then he repented and was forgiven; why then does God keep punishing people later because of Manasseh’s sins? ; Gospels: was it four thousand people fed with seven loaves or five thousand with five loaves; did Simon of Cyrene carry the Cross, or did Jesus carry it?; Did Judas hang himself (Matthew) or fall headlong with his bowels gushing out (Acts)?
***On p85 he explains that because of the cultural environment at the time, when Origin of Species came out it became fashionable to accept and believe it. In fact, for many people, belief in evolution became an overnight conversion experience. *** One of the big objections to natural selection as a means to creating new species (during Darwin’s lifetime) was from physicists who argued that the Earth was not old enough to allow such changes to occur via that mechanism. Even though they already believed in millions of years, they did not believe in the billions of years necessary to make evolution happen. That came later with research on radioactive decay and the age of the earth.
*** Darwin did little work to promote his new theory, but Thomas Huxley did. Huxley turned a basic scientific theory into a worldview designed to help answer and deal with some of the hardships and decisions in the modern world. Huxley helped turn the theory of evolution into a driving force to update the education system to match the new industrialized world. Onward and upward was his calling card, and evolution was the means to convince others of his methods. He made evolution into a popular science, which also contributed its growth into a social tool (social Darwinism).
*** On p121 it talks about the struggle between true science and “evolutionism” as an ideology: “Tyndall stressed above all the need to be objective and to keep personal opinions and motives and desires out of science. “It is against the objective rendering of the emotions – this thrusting into the region of fact and positive knowledge of conceptions essentially ideal and poetic – that science … wages war.” And here precisely is where evolutionism, including its social Darwinian element, failed. Indeed, it did not even attempt to compete, because it had other goals: to promote a world picture, an ideology of progress. An ideology, to be sure. But would the term “religion” also be appropriate? Considering the nature of the beast, it truly seems so. The concept of a religion is notoriously hard to define, but one thinks in terms of a world picture, providing origins, a place (probably a special place) for humans, a guide to action, a meaning to life. There are other prominent features of many religions, such as belief in a deity and a formalized and recognized priesthood, but these features are not absolutely essential to the definition. Buddhists (and many Unitarians) would probably flunk the God question, and Quakers (by explicit design) have no clergy. Rather than getting too flustered by counterexamples, let us allow the oxymoron “secular religion” and cast our question in these terms. And the answer does seem positive.” P121-122.
*** “To use a phrase invented by Thomas Henry Huxley’s biologist grandson, Julian Huxley, the evolutionists were truly in the business of providing a “religion without revelation” – and like all fanatics they were intolerant of rivals.”p128.
*** Ruse details the shift in the church over time making it more “science friendly”. In 1861 a major criticism on the history of the Bible was endorsed by many clergy.” As the century drew on, theologically as well as legally, notions like substitutionary atonement and eternal punishment came increasingly under attack. The emphasis shifted from Easter to Christmas, from Christ as a sacrificial lamb to the infant Jesus as the embodiment of peace on earth, good will toward men – from atonement to incarnation. It seemed ethically distasteful that God should have to suffer for our sins, and contrary to his goodness that even the worst of sinners should suffer forever. As ideas like these declined in significance, so did the urge to tie faith tightly to a holy text. “ p139
*** With the founding of the journal “Evolution” in the 1940s there grew a subset of scientists who were determined not to let any kind of ideological evolution into their scientific treatises and studies. Dobzhansky and Mayr were two such scientists, and although they had many progressionist beliefs, they made sure to keep it out of their scientific writings. Instead, they began to play the game of being “culture free” and publish their value-free work in their scientific journals, and then write separate books for the popular public concerning the progressive policies/beliefs they endorsed.
*** Ruse admits half-heartedly some of the existing problems with evolution: “Not that all of the evolutionist’s problems have been solved, or are even close to being solved. The problem of the origin of life has always been a major headache for evolutionists.”p200
*** “The real issue is whether some evolutionists today use the supposed progressiveness of evolutionary theory to promote social and ethical programs. And indeed they do.” P212. “In this sense, evolutionary biology – Darwinian evolutionary biology – continues to function as a kind of secular religion. It offers a story of origins. It provides a privileged place at the top for humans. It exhorts humans to action, on the basis of evolutionary principles. It opposes other solutions to questions of social behavior and morality. And it points to a brighter future if all is done as it should be done, in accordance with evolutionary theory.”p213.
*** According to the ruling in Arkansas concerning intelligent design as a science, in order for something to be considered a science the judge said it had to be: “1. It is guided by natural law; 2. It has to be explanatory by reference to natural law; 3. It is testable against the empirical world; 4. Its conclusions are tentative, that is, are not necessarily the final world, and; 5. It is falsifiable.” P248.
*** On arguments against using methodological naturalism as the only way to know truth: “Plantinga goes so far as to argue that naturalism is self-defeating even as a strategy for approaching knowledge, for it makes impossible any genuine knowledge at all. If naturalism is true, then Darwinism is plausible – in fact, it is the best game in town. But Darwinism is not interested in our getting to the truth about reality; it is concerned only with survival and reproduction. And as a reproductive strategy, believing that this world is all there is might be advantageous. Advantageous, but not necessarily true. Conversely, believing in a Christian God might be advantageous, but it also might not be true – just an epiphenomenon of selfish genes. Naturalism leaves us with no way to know, one way or another, the truth about reality, in this world or in worlds beyond. A belief in the power of natural selection leads logically to acceptance of a perpetual state of deception.”p258
*** A poem by Miller Williams “In the sixteenth century Nicholas Copernicus told us the earth was a ball and, what was worse, was not the center of the universe. “Well and so,” we wanted to know, “where does that leave us in the scheme of things?” Wherever it left us, we were just about learning to live with it, when three centuries later Charles Darwin grabbed our attention with the news that we were cousins to the kangaroos. “And so,” we wanted to know, “where does that leave us in the scheme of things?” p263.
*** Ruse’s book is about the crisis of faith that took place during the Enlightenment and the role evolution had in that crisis. The crisis certainly did not begin with evolution, but rather with questions concerning where religious truth came from. If people from other cultures believed different and had different holy books, how could revealed religions be compared? Also, changes in culture with the populations of places like England becoming urban instead of rural changed relations with the church and organized religion. Reason and progress became the center of many people’s worldviews, and evolutionism fit perfectly with that.
*** “By the beginning of the twentieth century evolutionism and creationism were competing for space in the hearts and minds of regular folk. It was not a science-versus-religion conflict but a religion-versus-religion conflict – always the bitterest kind. Darwinians did not have to become secular theologians, but many did. Evolution did not necessarily entail evolutionism, but many evolutionists made the move. Likewise a Christian did not have to become a creationist (or anti-Darwinian), but many did. Creation did not necessarily entail creationism, but many creationists made the move.”p266-267.
*** “Scientists are among the minority of intellectuals who are almost universally optimistic. … Scientists buck the trend because (social constructivism notwithstanding) science is the one area of human experience that is unambiguously progressive. First Mendelian factors, next the classical theory of the gene, and then the double helix. Who would deny that, epistemologically, we have made progress? Unless you believe in scientific progress, you are going to flop as a scientist. You have got to push on and make advances, even when things seem darkest. Science stoppers are for theologians and philosophers, not for scientists.”p286-287.(less)
**spoiler alert** Pelagianism is named after a British monk from the 4th century appalled by what he saw in Rome (Christians behaving immorally). He t...more**spoiler alert** Pelagianism is named after a British monk from the 4th century appalled by what he saw in Rome (Christians behaving immorally). He thought the emphasis on divine grace was at the root, so he denied original sin and said we can choose to follow Adam's bad example or Christ's good example. Horton argues that it is at the root of most distortions in the church and is our most natural theology.
*** "According to the well-known "secularization theory" of Max Weber, religion - under the conditions of modernity - goes through various stages. First, religion is privatized, its domain shrunk to the island of private subjectivity. Statements such as "Jesus is alive" and "Jesus is Lord" are no longer regarded as objective, public claims based on historical events but become references to one's personal experience. As for "Jesus is alive," in the words of a famous gospel song, "You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart." And typically, "Jesus is Lord" refers to my personal decision to make Jesus my Lord and Savior. While the apostles testified to historical events of which they were eyewitnesses, "giving your testimony" in evangelical Christianity today typically means talking about one's inner experience and moral transformation. Once privatized, religion becomes relativized. No longer truth, it is your truth. Since religious beliefs are no longer claims about public events, they can only be justified now in terms of what each individual finds meaningful, useful, and transformative. - The creedal, objective, and historical faith of traditional Christianity could not be translated into purely subjective terms. However, precisely because American religion has long cherished its opposition to more traditional forms of Christianity in favor of the sovereign inner experience of the individual, it not only survives but thrives in the atmosphere of this secularizing process." p.50
*** Close to Pelagianism, synergism or coworking of God and humans argues that God and man works together for his salvation.
*** "Original sin is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved." - G.K. Chesterton
*** "The worst thing that can happen to the church is to confuse law and gospel. When we often the law, we never give up on our own attempts to offer our rags of "righteousness" to God. When we turn the gospel into demands, it is no longer the saving Word of redemption in Jesus Christ alone. ... The law unmasks our pretensions, showing us that deserve God's judgment for the pride clinging to our best works and intentions - never mind the obvious sins (Isa. 64:6). The law commands, but it does not give us any power to fulfill its conditions. On its own, more advice (law, commands, exhortations) will only lead us to either self-righteousness or despair. Yet the more Christ is held up before us as sufficient for our justification and sanctification, the more we begin to die to ourselves and live to God. - No longer threatened with hell or comforted with heaven, the new legalism is the upbeat and cheerful hum playing in the background. It's still a form of works-righteousness, with its carrots and sticks. Follow my advice and you'll really "connect" with God's best for your life. If you are not happy, perhaps you have fallen out of God's favor and blessing. Only those who are "completely surrendered" can be confident that they are in God's Plan A. Now here are the steps to living the victorious Christian life. Are you following the steps? Do you have enough faith? Are you praying enough, reading the Bible enough, witnessing enough, serving in the church enough, loving enough? This diet of imperatives becomes just as burdensome and human-centered as the older legalism; it's just Legalism Lite. And when we burn out on one program, there is always another best-seller, movement, or plan around the corner." p.122-123
*** Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant related that the older he grew the more convinced he was of "the starry heavens above and the moral law within." That's why "pure religion" (morality) is universal and useful, while "ecclesiastical faiths" are superstitious and divisive. Treat religion as private therapy to improve our lives and make us better people and it has its important place; treat it as public truth - Good News to the whole world - and it provokes tremendous offense. Moral and spiritual enlightenment is one thing; redemption by a one-sided divine rescue operation is another. ... As long as we are in control (or at least think we are), using "the sacred dimension" for our own ends, even an atheist can express some interest. However, the moment we are put back in the position of being arraigned before God in his courtroom, our spin factory operations at full capacity. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth" (Rom. 1:18).
*** Horton argues that the Old Testament is often interpreted as a bunch of moral stories about OT heroes when it should only be interpreted in relation to Christ. For example, the story of David is about the saving acts of God through David just like the NT profiles the saving acts of God through Christ.
*** On the nature of tolerance in our society as said by Curtis White: "What we require of belief is not that it make sense but that it be sincere. This is so even for our more secular convictions. … Clearly, this is not the spirituality of a centralized orthodoxy. It is a sort of workshop spirituality that you can get with a cereal-box top and five dollars. And yet in our culture, to suggest that such belief is not deserving of respect makes people anxious, an anxiety that expresses itself in the desperate sincerity with which we deliver life’s little lessons. … There is an obvious problem with this form of spirituality: it takes place in isolation. Each of us sits at our computer terminal tapping out our convictions”. P160
*** After showing the lyrics to “In the Garden” where “He walks with me and He talks with me”: “The focus of such piety is on a personal relationship with Jesus that is individualistic, inward, and immediate. One comes alone and experiences a joy that “none other has ever known.” How can any external orthodoxy tell me I’m wrong? My personal relationship with Jesus is mine. I do not share it with the church. Creeds, confessions, pastors, and teachers – perhaps not even the Bible – can shake my confidence in the unique experiences that I have alone with Jesus.” P163
*** “Our temptation as Reformed Christians, however, is to pride ourselves on bearing the marks of a true church regardless of whether people are actually being added to the church. After all, we reason, we have the right confession, we administer the sacraments according to Christ’s institution, and we have a sound church order. But we can easily forget that all of this exists for the purpose of mission, not so we can celebrate our purity. “The promise is for you and your children,” we quite properly emphasize, but what about “all who are far off”? The dichotomy between the marks and mission of the church or teaching the reached and reaching the lost would have been completely foreign to the apostles.” P197(less)
**spoiler alert** Notes and quotes for me: Du Bois on Booker T. Washington and the importance to be critical on points of disagreement: “But the hushi...more**spoiler alert** Notes and quotes for me: Du Bois on Booker T. Washington and the importance to be critical on points of disagreement: “But the hushing of the criticism of honest opponents is a dangerous thing. It leads some of the best of the critics to unfortunate silence and paralysis of effort, and others to burst into speech so passionately and intemperately as to lose listeners. Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched, -criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by those led, - this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society.” P.83
*** His specific criticism of B.T. Washington is that he 1. Strives to make black businessmen and property owners, but Du Bois argues that it is impossible without fair legal and voting rights. 2. Washington argues for thrift and self respect, but wants a silent submission to civic inferiority to the whites. Du Bois argues that no race can be in this position without it sapping the strength of men over time. 3. Washington advocated more vocational training and less training from higher institutions, but Du Bois argues that without higher ed training there would be no one to properly train blacks on all levels.
*** “No. The dangerously clear logic of the Negro’s position will more and more loudly assert itself in that day when increasing wealth and more intricate social organization preclude the South from being, as it so largely is, simply an armed camp for intimidating black folk. Such waste of energy cannot be spared if the South is to catch up with civilization. And as the black third of the land grows in thrift and skill, unless skillfully guided in its larger philosophy, it must more and more brood over the red past and the creeping, crooked present, until it grasps a gospel of revolt and revenge and throws it s new-found energies athwart the current of advance. Even to-day the masses of the Negroes see all too clearly the anomalies of their position and the moral crookedness of yours. You may marshal strong indictments against them, but there counter-cries, lacking through they be in formal logic, have burning truths within them which you may not wholly ignore, O Southern Gentlemen! If you deplore their presence here, they ask, Who brought us? When you cry, Deliver us from the vision of intermarriage, they answer that legal marriage is infinitely better than systematic concubinage and prostitution. And if in just fury you accuse their vagabonds of violating women, they also in fury quite as just may reply: The rape which your gentlemen have done against helpless black women in defiance of your own laws is written on the foreheads of two millions of mulattoes, and written in ineffaceable blood. And finally, when you fasten crime upon this race as its peculiar trait, they answer that slavery was the arch-crime, and lynching and lawlessness its twin abortions; that color and race are not crimes, and yet it is they which in this land receive most unceasing condemnation, North, East, South, and West. “ p.137
*** “Now it happens that both master and man have just enough argument on their respective sides to make it difficult for them to understand each other. The Negro dimly personifies in the white man all his ills and misfortunes; if he is poor, it is because the white man seizes the fruit of his toil; if he is ignorant, it is because the white man gives him neither time nor facilities to learn; and, indeed, if any misfortune happens to him, it is because of some hidden machinations of “white folks.” On the other hand, the masters and the masters’ sons have never been able to see why the Negro, instead of settling down to be day-laborers for bread and clothes, are infected with a silly desire to rise in the world, and why they are sulky, dissatisfied, and careless, where their fathers were happy and dumb and faithful. “Why, you niggers have an easier time than I do,” said a puzzled Albany merchant to his black customer. “Yes,” he replied, “and so does yo’ hogs.” P.180
*** “It thus happens that in nearly every Southern town and city, both whites and blacks see commonly the worst of each other. This is a vast change from the situation in the past, when, through the close contact of master and house-servant in the patriarchal big house, one found the best of both races in close contact and sympathy, while at the same time the squalor and dull round of toil among the field-hands was removed from the sight and hearing of the family. One can easily see how a person who saw slavery thus from his father’s parlors, and sees freedom on the streets of a great city, fails to grasp or comprehend the whole of the new picture. On the other hand, the settled belief of the mass of the Negroes that the Southern white people do not have the black man’s best interests at heart has been intensified in later years by this continual daily contact of the better class of blacks with the worst representatives of the white race.” P.190-191
*** “We must accept some of the race prejudice in the South as a fact, - deplorable in its intensity, unfortunate in the results, and dangerous for the future, but nevertheless a hard fact which only time can efface. We cannot hope, then, in this generation, or for several generations, that the mass of the whites can be brought to assume that close sympathetic and self sacrificing leadership of the blacks which their present situation so eloquently demands. Such leadership, such social teaching and example, must come from the blacks themselves.” P.194-195.
*** “What in the name of reason does this nation expect of a people, poorly trained and hard pressed in severe economic competition, without political rights, and with ludicrously inadequate common-school facilities? What can it expect but crime and listlessness, offset here and there by the dogged struggles of the fortunate and more determined who are themselves buoyed by the hope that in due time the country will comes to its senses?”p.202-203.
*** On his son's death: "We could not lay him in the ground their in Georgia, for the earth there is strangely red; so we bore him away to the northward, with this flowers and his little folded hands. In vain, in vain! - for where, O God! beneath thy broad blue sky shall my dark baby rest in peace, -where Reverence dwells, and Goodness, and a Freedom that is free? All that day and all that night there sat an awful gladness in my heart, - nay, blame me not if I see the world thus darkly through the Veil, -and my soul whispers ever to me saying, "Not dead, not dead, but escaped; not bond, but free." No bitter meanness now shall sicken his baby heart till it die a living death, no taunt shall madden his happy boyhood. Fool that I was to think or wish that this little soul should grow choked and deformed within the Veil! I might have known that yonder deep unworldly look that ever and anon floated past his eyes was peering far beyond this narrow Now. In the poise of his little curl-crowned head did there not sit all that wild pride of being which his father had hardly crushed in his own heart? For what, forsooth, shall a Negro want with pride amid the studied humiliations of fifty million fellows? Well sped, my boy, before the world had dubbed your ambition insolence, had held your ideals unattainable, and taught you to cringe and bow. Better far this nameless void that stops my life than a sea of sorrow for you." p231
*** On Du Bois’ chapter with the example of black man going off to college: “John,” she said, “does it make every one –unhappy when they study and learn lots of things?” He paused and smiled. “I am afraid it does,” he said. “And, John, are you glad you studied?” “Yes,” came the answer, slowly but positively.” P.257.(less)
Hielema writes about growing as a Christian, or “deepening colors” and some of the ways people can do this. The au...more**spoiler alert** MY NOTES ON BOOK:
Hielema writes about growing as a Christian, or “deepening colors” and some of the ways people can do this. The author begins by talking about how Jesus confused the scholars of his day, and how in seeking Him each of us should be confused regularly as well. This is part of our growth and struggle as Christians.
***The author focuses on how Jesus talks about His kingdom a great deal, but we tend to focus on His role as a savior because it is easier for us to understand and handle. But it is important to realize that God is sovereign over everything in his creation.
***Another way to describe the story of God is through this progression: Creation – promise of redemption – Jesus – work of the Spirit – new creation.
***The author also describes God’s relationship with us through a series of concentric circles, with the outside starting with God calling the entire universe, God calling His people (community), God calling me, a new creation in Christ, and lastly, the specific things God calls me to do in life. Each of these levels of God is emphasized at different points in the bible, but they all work together to guide our lives.
***The essence of what the author means by “deepening colors” comes from this anecdote: “I once heard a pastor say, “I visited a church member last night who has been a believer for forty years. But he’s been a one-year –old Christian forty consecutive times.” P53
***Believers give their most common responses for experiences that help them grow in their faith: 1. Life difficulties, 2. Role models, 3. Special events, 4. Good teaching, 5. Regular activities that strengthen faith life. The author spends a great deal of time elaborating on how to develop habits, and what role they play in the deepening of our faith.
***The author goes through several wisdom-building habits: 1. Listening, observing, noticing 2. Civil discourse (broadening your comfort zone by spending time with those you are near to even if you don’t agree with them 3. Critical thinking skills, deeper level understanding of the world 4. Reflection habits 5. Postponing perceived relevance (don’t’ ignore something just because it’s not relevant “right now”)
***One of the implications of our calling is that there is often more than one obedient option for us. We don’t need to worry about making a mistake in our decisions for how to work for God because He will use us no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in. ok (less)
**spoiler alert** MY SUMMARY AND NOTES: Wolters begins with explaining what a worldview is and why it is important. For Christians, he explains, world...more**spoiler alert** MY SUMMARY AND NOTES: Wolters begins with explaining what a worldview is and why it is important. For Christians, he explains, worldview is defined by Scripture and the instructions it gives. Importantly, he argues that our worldview encompasses all aspects of our life, not just our theological principles or worship practices. This means that in the Reformational worldview regards redemption through Christ as the restoration of the original creation. So the whole point of salvation is to salvage a sin-disrupted creation. He organizes the book based on the categories of Creation, Sin, and Redemption (restoration)
*** God governs His universe through two kinds of laws, laws of nature and norms. Although the natural laws are obvious (and available for study), the laws associated with norms are less clear because a norm like “Be just” could be carried out in many different ways. Nevertheless, the author argues that part of seeking “re-creation” is to try to discover the “norms” that God set out in his original creation. The author argues that the “knowability” of creation is often accepted in the natural sciences, but met with skepticism when it is applied to the social sciences and humanities. While many Christians argue that this kind of “spiritual discernment” of original creation is not possible, the Reformed perspective is that God’s revelatory power allows this. The author argues evidence for this comes from Paul’s words in Colossians that ask us to pray to God for Him to fill us with the knowledge of His will”. This pertains not only to personal decisions, etc. in life, but also everything from journalism and artistic aesthetics. –So which is the right way? Wolters sometimes seems to argue that this is wholly discernible by Christians (i.e., there is one “right way” of carrying out God’s will for His creation in these disciplines. This approach seems fraught with the danger of divisiveness given the inevitable disagreements among Christians on what constitutes a "re-created" perspective in a particular discipline.
***Wolters points out that the creation of the world was only the beginning, and it must be further developed by Christians according to God’s word and will. Sin does not annihilate the normative development of civilization, but rather, sin is like a parasite that tries to undo and deform that development. In fact, the author argues that when Christ comes and the earth is “remade”, it will still include the transfigured and transformed cultural arts of this world, just as our bodies, although glorified and remade will still be our bodies. Thus, creation, apart from sin, is wholly good.
***The fall touched all of creation, not just human nature. In fields such as the arts, you can see this perversion of creation through things like kitsch and bad taste in general in painting, poetry, music, etc. This means that we can define what is “normal” vs. what is “abnormal” according to God’s intentions with His creation.
***He articulates the distinction between “structure” and “direction” of creation. Structure refers to the order of creation, or what makes a thing the entity that it is (i.e., essence). Direction, on the other hand, designates the degree of distortion or restoration of everything from people to objects to movements. In other words, this means classifying God’s creation and established norms as either being obedient to him or disobedient. If they still conform to God’s design, they are being obedient, but if they move against His design it is thought of as disobedience. Importantly, structure is never entirely obliterated by direction.
***Defining common grace: Through God’s goodness to believers and unbelievers alike, God’s faithfulness to creation still bears fruit in humankind’s personal, society, and cultural lives. This differs from “special grace” where sin is not only curbed, but atoned and forgiven. It can also be thought of as “conserving grace”.
***Wolters carefully defines “world” as it is used in Scripture. Specifically, when it says “we are not of this world” it is referring to the sin-infested aspects of creation, not the original creation God made or certain disciplines that are often thought of as secular such as politics, sports, business, etc. Thus, we should never abandon these fields to the secular world.
***The restoration chapter makes the basic point that through Christ’s resurrection, He has atoned for his entire creation, therefore it can remove all of sin’s effects in every domain. Thus, the new redeemed humanity is called to bring renewal to all of His creation. Wolters argues that Jesus ministry on earth demonstrated this kind of restoration through His miracles.
***He contrasts this view of God’s kingdom in this world with other views. Pietism restricts the kingdom of God to the life of the inner soul. Some traditions restrict the kingdom of God to the institutional church. For these people, only the clergy are engaged in full-time “kingdom work”. Dispensationalists only think of the kingdom of God in the future, as in, the kingdom is coming soon with the end of the world (millennialism). Classic liberal Protestantism associates any progressive policy or movement as part of God’s kingdom (social gospel). Liberation theology is similar, only it is more specific to kinds of political movements that are supposed to be consistent with God’s kingdom.
***He distinguishes the terms “sanctified” from “consecrated”; sanctify means to make free from sin, or internal renewal, while consecrate means to set apart or dedicate for the worship or service to God, or external renewal. All of creation is to be sanctified through Christ through progressive renewal of his structures of creation (i.e., we are not to overthrow or get rid of a structure, simply work towards correcting its direction).
***Each area of society has its own “sphere sovereignty” or “differentiated responsibility”. That means that each should be restored to creation in a distinct way (e.g., you should not run a church like a business or a business like a church). This also means that no sphere has the right to control or dominate any other sphere (e.g., like in a totalitarian state where the government dominates all other spheres).
***In his final chapters he goes through several examples of human concepts (e.g., aggression, spiritual gifts, sex, etc.) and shows how to analyze them using the structure and direction concepts. With each, he argues, you can identify the basic structure (form) and separate that from the good or bad direction with which it has been used. (less)
**spoiler alert** MY NOTES ON BOOK: Woodward points out that whoever gets to define science sets the terms that will decide the outcome of the dispute...more**spoiler alert** MY NOTES ON BOOK: Woodward points out that whoever gets to define science sets the terms that will decide the outcome of the dispute between whether intelligent design or evolution is the real science. Science has typically been defined as the search for the "natural causes" of all phenomena while ID theory would replace that with "real causes". By deciding that definition beforehand the issue has been decided before the first piece of evidence has been put on the table. This is especially relevant because it turns science away from seeking truth, and instead limits areas of inquiry because of the motivation to not allow a God to exist. If the intelligent designer were an alien race, then a scientist would have no trouble accepting the same evidence for the likelihood of design.
*** In response to the "God of the gaps" claim that ID just fills in lack of scientific knowledge with God, it's actually the growth of science that contributes to the support of intelligent design. Using Dembski's information filter, it becomes easier to test whether the formation of particular structures, etc. came from natural processes or whether a designer must be necessary. Much in the same way an archeologist might use a filter to determine whether something they find is due to natural processes or intelligent design. With each additional discovery in the complexity of various cell structures it becomes more certain that design was involved.
*** The general purpose of this book is to respond to the enormous number of attacks that have taken place against ID theorists since the movement began in the mid 90s. He addresses several specific theorists throughout the book. He begins with Michael Behe because he wrote "Darwin's Black Box" about irreducible complexity. He then goes to Jonathan Wells, who wrote "Icons of Evolution". He also addresses the response to the Cambrian explosion, the mystery of where life began, and then moves into the development of Dembski's explanatory filter of specified complexity to determine whether something was intelligently designed or formed via random processes. At each of the steps he points out the unfair attacks perpetrated by evolutionists and calls for a more even-handed debate instead of name calling and distortion. (less)
He saw the irresistible allure of high school sports, but he also saw an inevitable danger in adults’ living vic...more**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
He saw the irresistible allure of high school sports, but he also saw an inevitable danger in adults’ living vicariously through their young. And he knew of no candle that burned out more quickly than that of the high school athlete. “Athletics lasts for such a short period of time. It ends for people. But while it lasts, it creates this make-believe world where normal rules don’t apply. We build this false atmosphere. When it’s over and the harsh reality sets in, that’s the real joke we play on people . . . Everybody wants to experience that superlative moment, and being an athlete can give you that. It’s Camelot for them. But there’s even life after it.” (p. xiv).(less)