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Monthly Archives: October 2009


The Ten Lost Tribes

The Ten “Lost Tribes of Israel” were mentioned briefly in class yesterday. Claude Mariottini has today linked to an interesting article about the place these tribes eventually inherited in Jewish folklore, and also provides a number of links to his own thoughts on the subject. (And no, I still don’t think they’re the British!)


ICF: Victim of Romophobia


An InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter can look very different in the fall than it did the previous spring. But the chapter at George Washington University (GWU) in the nation’s capital is dealing with change of a more uncomfortable kind than absent graduates and incoming freshmen.

Shortly before students left for summer vacation, the D.C. chapter split when all ten student leaders resigned to form a new campus ministry called University Christian Fellowship. More than half of the chapter’s roughly 100 students joined them. At issue was student leaders’ worry that the national ministry confuses the gospel by cooperating with Roman Catholics, and has a mission statement that Catholics could sign without violating church teaching on the doctrine of justification—how sinners are declared righteous before God.

As an “un-anathematized” Protestant (at least provisionally; I agree with the Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in principle, but haven’t really dug into the details), it saddens me to see fellow believers so eager not to find points of commonality with their brothers and sisters in Christ. For example, consider the following consecutive paragraphs in the article:

“If you buy into [N. T.] Wright’s approach to covenantal theology, then you’ve already taken three steps toward the Catholic Church. Keep following the trail and you’ll be Catholic,” said [Taylor] Marshall, who blogs at PaulIsCatholic.com. “Salvation is sacramental, transformational, communal, and eschatological. Sound good? You’ve just assented to the Catholic Council of Trent.”

Wright himself finds strange the notion that he’s leading people to Rome. “I am sorry to think that there are people out there whose Protestantism has been so barren that they never found out about sacraments, transformation, community, or eschatology. Clearly this person needed a change. But to jump to Rome for that reason is very odd,” he said. The best Reformed, charismatic, Anglican, and even some emerging churches have these emphases, he said.

How do Protestants not know that their historic theology goes far deeper and wider than the immediate concerns of the Reformation of the sixteenth century? Never mind; stupid question.


That’s Going to Leave a Mark!

Tim Challies’s review of Karen Armstrongs The Case for God:

It is a rare occasion that I find it difficult to point out any redeeming features in a book-when I struggle to find a single positive to write in a review. Unfortunately Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God is one of those books-one that is so monstrously bad, so hopelessly awful, so wretchedly miserable, that it took concerted effort just to finish it. Heck, even the cover stinks-a pile of religiously-significant books hovering at a strange angle over a plain background. I tell you what: I will concede the font. The book is set in Granjon, a very nice, classical font that is very consistent with the earliest Garamond type faces. It is classy and classical but without being antique. But that is as good as the book gets.

How Not to Ingratiate Your Fans

Harry Potter Themed Dinner Banned for “Infringing Copyright”

I hope Warner Brothers has operatives out in full force this Saturday, as there are certain to be hundreds of little Harry Potters and Hermione Grangers wandering the streets of most major American cities and towns trick-or-treating! And unlike the lady who hosts non-profit themed dinners in her home, those underage copyright-infringers stand to make at least a modest profit in the form of the candy and other treats they bring home.

I also can’t help but notice that J. K. Rowling, the author who actually, you know, created all these beloved characters and their exotic foods (which appeared in her books before Warner Brothers made the movies) is conspicuously absent from this story.

Brain Research Lends Support to Paul, Rabbis, Freud, and…Spock?

Ken Schenck gives a blurb about How God Changes Your Brain, a new book about brain research that a group on his campus is discussing.

I’m just dropping in on the group today; I haven’t read the whole book. But one thing that stuck out to me in the chapter I read is the fact that the authors claim that the limbic system in the center of the brain is more primitive and older from an evolutionary standpoint. It is where primal emotions like anger, aggression, and fear are seated. By contrast, the frontal lobes and the anterior cingulate just below it are considered younger from an evolutionary standpoint and are the places where empathy, reason, logic, and compassion reside.

The chapter likens these two parts of the brain–the inner primal and the front outer rational–to two wolves that fight inside of us. Which one wins depends on which one you feed. This description is of course ripe with theological parallel–flesh versus Spirit, the yetzer hara or evil inclination of rabbinic Judaism, the id versus the superego of Freud.

But one of the most interesting things in the chapter (7) was the sense that the emotions of anger and fear actually inhibit good thinking. Such negative emotions can apparently even damage the anterior cingulate. So Spock and the Stoics were half right. The negative emotions of anger and fear do apparently impair our ability to reason well. But they were wrong to try to do away with all emotion. Apparently compassion and empathy can coincide with good thinking.

CHR 101 Progress Reports

Apparently, I inadvertently send out some “blank” 8-week progress reports (due to a glitch either in the automated system or my own mental capacities). If you are a student in my CHR 101 class at Mercer and you believe you were erroneously flagged as a student experiencing academic difficulty, you are probably right! Please let me know if I need to talk with your advisor to help clear things up.

I apologize for the confusion, but am gratified to have just learned from a colleague that I am not the only instructor who has had this problem.

Clarence Jordan, Pray with Us

More people need to know the story of Clarence Jordan, a genuine Baptist saint:

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary had hosted many people before Clarence and would host many after him but Clarence Jordan was something different. In 1938, Clarence had just received his Ph.D. in New Testament and felt equipped to do whatever it was that God was calling him to. The challenge, of course, is that what had seemed so clear for so many years was suddenly cloudier. This further calling had descended upon Clarence as he studied the scripture and would not let him go. He was challenged by what he read and translated and would not allow himself to rationalize away its scandal and strength. Clarence was challenged and rebuked by the stories he enveloped himself in and found his increasing discomfort with the status quo a powerful witness to the possibility of redemption.