This week's list of links is a bit longer than usual, since I missed last week. Someday this dissertation will be done.
1. The convocation address at Oklahoma Baptist University was a good one. I say that not only because it was given by David Whitlock, who happens to be my boss, but because I think he has something to say to the culture in the speech. This link takes you to his speech as it was published on Canon and Culture. Below you can watch the video, which is of the whole convocation, but is set to begin at the beginning of Whitlock's speech.
Whether we can possibly fully understand it, as believers and followers of Jesus, we believe and hold to the assurance and conviction that all things are being worked together ultimately for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose. We have this faith—held as foolishness by the world—that in spite of what may happen around us, it will all culminate precisely as a good and loving God intends, with all things made right, all accounts settled, all evil appropriately dealt, and all things made new and perfect.
Easy comes the belief that things are worse today than at any time in history. Tempting is the feeling that having been born in a different time or era or place, our lives and our work might have been simpler or better. Such thoughts are patently false however, and the Word of God is clear.
In Acts 17:24-28, as he spoke with the leading philosophers in the Areopagus in Athens, Paul said, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being.’”
God determined the allotted periods and boundaries of our dwelling place. Incredible it is to consider that God made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, determined the allotted periods—that is the point of time in history—and the boundaries—that is the territory and geographical nations—of our dwelling places. God made each of us uniquely for this era, this point in history. God chose the location where we were born, chose where we were raised, and purposed where we are now. By His hand and by His will, we were made for Him, for this place, for this hour. And in Him we live and move and have our being.
2. Bob Smienata writes about a cat-worshiping cult in Tennessee. They evolved from a charismatic congregation into some weird religious beliefs. The story is interesting of its own right. At the same time, it reveals something of the evolution of mistaken belief into a false religion.
The Rev. Sheryl Ruthven and a few dozen followers left Washington state three years ago, hoping to find a place where they could live in peace and quietly wait out the apocalypse.
Along the way, they hoped to rescue as many cats as possible.
Those cats, according to Ruthven’s writings and interviews with former followers, are divine creatures that will carry the 144,000 souls mentioned in the book of Revelation.
But the group’s unorthodox beliefs and controversial history followed it all the way across the country. In public, Ruthven’s followers, who run a nonprofit cat shelter known as Eva’s Eden, describe themselves as a peaceful group devoted to Mother Nature and living in harmony. They foster dozens of kittens in their homes and host cat adoption events in their air-conditioned mobile cat playground.
3. John Mark Reynolds writes about why black lives matter from a Christian perspective. He's not PC--if anything he is abrasively rationalistic in his approach to issues. He's a long way from liberal. His blog captures the important message the black live matter. Period.
We had three hundred years of slavery and one hundred years of legally enforced segregation. Our local police chief had to eat near the garbage cans as a child, because of the color of his skin. Friends have had jobs denied to them because of race and I have heard racist jokes from Christians in positions of power. These leaders have said that: “They” are troublemakers and we had better not let “them” get too powerful. I have heard this racism with my own ears from Christians and it stinks to heaven. This is not from the past, but from present experience. I once had a manager who grew angry at a pro-life commercial on television because “black people would keep having babies.”
Black lives matter.
No cause is so noble that some twisted soul cannot use it for profit or power. I am told that grifters and wicked men have attached themselves to the phrase, but just as violent extremists do not represent the pro-life movement, so the fringe does not represent millions of African-Americans.
4. Conservative evangelicals take a lot of flack for recognizing the God-given differences between men and women, which include an appreciation of different roles in the church. As a natural outworking of these differences, evangelicals tend to have fewer women engaged in platform work. To be honest, my complementarian tribe hasn't quite figured out how to best use the talents of women without defying Scriptural norms for the pastorate. In any case, Laura Thigpen wrote an excellent piece at the ERLC's blog encouraging women to be more active in speaking and writing for justice.
So, for any woman who finds herself remaining silent out of fear of being insubordinate or sounding uneducated, know that your silence does not bear witness to the gospel in light of these difficult issues. In these conversations on race, abortion, womanhood, and culture our Christian brothers and our culture need to hear the voice of evangelical women, and we need to offer it.
Counter to culture, I believe the very things that make us great homemakers, caregivers, and mothers are the very things that make us great leaders, influencers, and thinkers; these very things make us great women, great, gospel-believing women. This is why we cannot be silent.
5. Andrew Walker from the ERLC writes at the Federalist, calling for the liberals on the left to call off the extremist progressivist bigots who are bent on destroying Christians for being faithful.
But what of compromise and pluralism? An ideal compromise or true pluralism would entail the public recognition that individuals can disagree about the telos (ultimate end) of human sexuality without impugning the motives of the other side. This would mean that individuals and institutions that desire to live out the truth of their convictions about sexuality would not target the other side; nor would citizens face government censure.
This is akin to the disagreement over abortion or organizations that supported same-sex marriage before Obergefell. Concerning abortion, since 1973, citizens and institutions have not generally been targeted for believing that abortion is a moral evil despite the federal government legislating otherwise. Laws like the Hyde Amendment recognized that Americans have deep moral division around abortion and targeting any one side would be wrong.
Concerning marriage, prior to Obergefellgovernment never targeted or harassed advocates for same-sex marriage for wishing to overturn that government’s definition of marriage. All that religious conservatives are asking for is the return to a pre-Obergefell environment where believing that men and women are uniquely made for one another is not a thought crime.
6. Along the same theme of religious liberty and respecting the conscience of others, one pundit in Europe foresees further anti-muslim measures in the form of more burkini-bans. It seems that many people recognize the illiberalness of progressivism.
After a few generations, the things we regard as liberties become second nature and we no longer appreciate them as distinctive. Nor do we notice, until an infraction occurs, that our liberties are often tightly codified and policed. I cannot, generally, go nude on a public beach (thank Heavens). I cannot, generally, sit on a nudist beach in a three piece suit. If I do legally get away with these challenges to local culture, I do so at the risk of isolating myself from those around me. I am refusing integration. Again – to repeat for the sake of not being confused with a French secularist – I actually welcome defiance of liberal secularism. As a Catholic, I regard modesty as a virtue. But France is no longer a culturally or legally Catholic society and I should not expect to receive a sympathetic hearing. This is a nation that once guillotined nuns for refusing to accept the authority of the state. A war on religious swimwear was inevitable somewhere down the line.
7. A six-part series in the LA Times covers the attempt of a couple of high powered lawyers to destroy a PTA mom, an avid school volunteer. They planted drugs in her car because they thought she had been mean to their son. An interesting read for the drama of a real-crime story. It is also revealing of the human heart.
They were outside Plaza Vista School in Irvine, where she had watched her daughter go from kindergarten to fifth grade, where any minute now the girl would be getting out of class to look for her. Parents had entrusted their own kids to Peters for years; she was the school’s PTA president and the heart of its after-school program.
Now she watched as her ruin seemed to unfold before her. Watched as the cop emerged from her car holding a Ziploc bag of marijuana, 17 grams worth, plus a ceramic pot pipe, plus two smaller EZY Dose Pill Pouch baggies, one with 11 Percocet pills, another with 29 Vicodin. It was enough to send her to jail, and more than enough to destroy her name.
Her legs buckled and she was on her knees, shaking violently and sobbing and insisting the drugs were not hers.
The cop, a 22-year veteran, had found drugs on many people, in many settings. When caught, they always lied.
8. The infamous atheist pastor in Canada has been recommended for termination. It is likely she will appeal, and the denominational recommendation wasn't unanimous. This is an interesting day in which we live.
A well-known United Church of Canada clergywoman who describes herself as an atheist is “not suitable to continue as an ordained minister,” says the Toronto arm of the country’s largest Protestant denomination.
Rev. Gretta Vosper, author of several books about her journey to atheism, “does not believe in God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit” and no longer identifies herself as Christian, said the majority report by a Toronto church conference committee.
“She does not recognize the primacy of scripture, she will not conduct the sacraments, and she is no longer in essential agreement with the statement of doctrine of The United Church of Canada.”
The report concludes that if Vosper, 58, applied today to be ordained in the United Church she would not be accepted.