Worth Reading - 2/25

1. What of the SBC and racial-integration? Recognizing the problems with a lack of diversity, the SBC is making a concerted effort to represent the communities in which the churches are located. For one author, this is cause for skepticism. This post was picked up by Sojourners and some other state Baptist papers. The cause is a worthy one, but the doubt in the article belies the reality that the SBC is doing more to address diversity than any other denomination.

One reason most churches are segregated is that racial reconciliation has meant whites expecting African-Americans and Latinos to worship with them, De La Torre said, perhaps throwing in a “Taco Tuesday” as an attraction.

“For me to worship at an Anglo church, I must accept white theology, pray in a white manner, sing white German songs and eat meatloaf at the potluck,” he said.

De La Torre said it’s far more useful for whites to come to African-American and Latino churches, hear the reflections of religious thinkers from those cultures and take those lessons home.

2. Justin Taylor provides a concise introduction to Karl Marx:

Marxism is not the most important, the most imposing, or the most impressive philosophy in history.

But until recently, it has clearly been the most influential. In just two generations, Marxism inundated one-third of the world—a feat accomplished only twice in human history (by early Christianity and by early Islam).

3. From the Acton Institute, a post discussing the impossibility of a completely libertarian and egalitarian society. This builds off a recent interview of Pope Francis:

On religious liberty, the pope said religion must be practiced freely but without offending, imposing or killing, saying that killing in the name of God was “an aberration.” No modern pope would say otherwise, but it is not entirely correct to say that no true believer has ever killed in the name of God (the Old Testament is full of such acts); I wonder if any religion has ever avoided doing so. So long as religions have different understandings of God, man and the world, they will necessarily risk offending or imposing the “truth” of their beliefs on others. The easiest way to avoid these problems would be to make all religions the same, which is also known as syncretism. Those who promote syncretism usually do so in the name of peace or religious indifferentism.

In defending the freedom of expression, Francis said each person has not only the right but the “duty to say what he thinks will help the common good” but once again, without offending. He then explained that it is “normal” for someone to react violently if his mother or faith is insulted, adding that the Enlightenment sought to treat religion as something that need not be taken seriously (“poca cosa”). “Each religion has dignity, each religion that respects human life, the human person, and I cannot make fun of it,” he said to define clear limits to free speech about religion. He didn’t say whether religions that do not respect human life deserve equal respect.

Francis’s limits rankled free-speech advocates, as it should have: What good is free speech if one can’t discuss certain topics such as religion? Who’s to say what is respectful or not? Aren’t such limits used to shut down dissent rather than respect the feelings of others? It seemed as though what the pope defended was not free speech as much as the desire to keep people in their place by not questioning authority, especially his own and other religious leaders.

4. How large is the Christian population in the world? This recent post at First Things presents World Christianity by the numbers:

The annual “Status of Global Christianity” survey published by the International Bulletin of Missionary Research is a cornucopia of numbers: Some are encouraging; others are discouraging; many of them are important for grasping the nature of this particular moment in Christian history.

This year’s survey works from a baseline of 1900 A.D., and makes projections out to 2050. Within that century and a half there’s some good news about the global human condition that ought to be kept in mind when remembering the bad news of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first. For example: In 1900, 27.6 percent of adults in a world population of 1.6 billion were literate. In 2015, 81 percent of the adults in a global population of 7.3 billion are literate, and the projection is that, by 2050, 88 percent of the adults in a world of 9.5 billion people will be literate—a remarkable accomplishment.

Of the 7.3 billion human beings on Planet Earth today, 89 percent are religious believers, while 1.8 percent are professed atheists and another 9 percent are agnostics: which suggests that Chief Poobah of the New Atheists Richard Dawkins and his friends are not exactly winning the day, although their “market share” is up from 1900.

5. An interview between Keith Whitfield and Don Carson about how the next generation of pastors should prepare for ministry: