Worth Reading - 2/26

As a Christian citizen of the United States, it is clear to me that I am living in an increasingly post-Christian society. The majority of Americans no longer consider traditional Christian doctrine (e.g. original sin) or traditional Christian ethics (e.g. sexual morality) plausible in the modern world. Christians who do not abandon these beliefs are increasingly considered morally inferior or even hateful.

Given the fact that the United States is a democratic republic, the beliefs of citizens affect the lives of other citizens socially, culturally, and politically. This reality makes it increasingly important for us as Christians to figure out the best way to comport ourselves in the public square. I consider three thinkers especially helpful for this task: Richard John Neuhaus, Lesslie Newbigin, and Abraham Kuyper. In this post, I wish to articulate what it is about Newbigin’s life and writings that is helpful for us in our 21st century American context.

2. Do students have the resources to consider the nature of vocation? How can higher education help fill the void?

After ten years of teaching in higher education and interacting with students from a wide range of backgrounds, I’ve come to realize that most young people lack the resources for thinking clearly about their vocations.

Unfortunately, this is also true at Christian universities and colleges.

The purpose of Christian institutions of higher learning is multi-faceted. At the very least, they ought to teach students how to think critically and how to love God with their minds.

They should also equip students to apply their faith with authenticity, to all spheres of their lives.

Given that the successful completion of a college degree ideally results in students acquiring a job in their area of emphasis, it follows that Christian universities and colleges should also be passionately instilling in students a biblical vision for their future careers.

3. Do learning style's really exist? Anna North questions the application (and misapplication) of the teaching tool:

Students do have preferences when it comes to receiving information visually or verbally, said Mark A. McDaniel, a psychology professor at Washington University and a co-author of the book “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.” But to prove that designing lessons to fit students’ preferred learning styles actually helps them learn better, you’d have to randomly assign students to receive, for instance, either a visually or a verbally based approach. If teaching to students’ learning styles works, said Dr. McDaniel, “what you should see is visual learners do better on the visual than the verbal instruction, and verbal learners do better on the verbal than the visual instruction.”

Not many studies have actually done such a random assignment, and of those that Dr. McDaniel and his co-authors examined in a 2009 paper, “none of them showed that kind of interaction.” And, said Harold Pashler, a psychology professor at the University of California, San Diego, and one of Dr. McDaniel’s co-authors on the study, no compelling evidence for teaching to students’ learning styles has emerged in the years since: “There’s one or two somewhat oddball studies,” he said, “but there’s a number of new negative findings that are more substantial.”

4. Roger Olson presents the case against the liberal drift among so-called moderate baptists. I disagree with his assessment of the SBC conservative resurgence being over "secondary issues" (like inerrancy!!!), but it is an insightful article and reveals the unorthodox drift that the conservative Southern Baptists anticipated:

This post is intended primarily for Southerners among Baptists who consider themselves “Moderate.” For those of you outside that movement, I’ll explain briefly.

Throughout the 1980s and until today many churches and individuals affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.) felt excluded by the SBC’s leadership because of their embrace of egalitarian beliefs and their denial of “biblical inerrancy.” They considered the new SBC leadership too conservative. The presidents and professors of the SBC-related seminaries were ousted and replaced by people they considered “fundamentalists.” Almost two thousand formerly SBC-related churches throughout the South separated from the SBC and together founded a network of “moderate” Baptist churches called the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) (1990). (The CBF, however, does not include all moderate Baptists. There are other groups of Southern moderate Baptists.)

5. A thoughtful assessment of natural rights, the imago Dei, and the moral economy of sex from First Things. This is worth a read:

Properly understood, then, the American founding principles of natural rights, and contemporary notions of “autonomy” as the basis of rights, are not allies but adversaries. Natural rights entail obligations, of a due respect for others, and a due respect for ourselves. This respect is otherwise known as responsibility, ultimately to the Creator who endowed us with our rights. Like the centurion in the Gospel of Matthew, we are persons under authority (Matthew 8:9). Rights and obligations are brother principles, both owing their existence to the God who made us creatures of equal dignity, possessing the logos that makes our self-government possible.

Contemporary notions of autonomy, by contrast, reject all authority, all obligations outside the individual will. The joint authors of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey stated this view succinctly, in their notoriously false claim regarding the individual liberty protected by the Constitution: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” The authors seemed not to realize that this notion of liberty is wholly unmoored, not only from the Contitution, but also from any intelligible teaching of natural rights. Indeed, as a statement of purest narcissism and solipsism, it fails even to assert an intelligible basis for a positive right in the laws we human beings make. The right announced in Casey presents itself as a bulwark against the tyranny of the majority or of any unjust authority, but it cannot give an account of itself as such. If every individual may live according to his own “concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe,” then the concept shared by the greatest number, or by the most powerful of wills, will be the basis of any law we are capable of making. A mass of untrammeled wills can only be governed by raw force. And so the notion of an unfettered autonomy of the individual is self-devouring, resulting only in tyranny.