Worth Reading - 8/4

1. African-American pastor, Dwight McKissic, explains why he is remaining in the Southern Baptist Convention, despite recent difficulties at the convention over his proposal to condemn the alt-right.

When the SBC is convinced to address the needs of African American communities — such as building up the black family, assisting ex-convicts with employment, removing payday loan offices from our neighborhoods, addressing disparities and inequities in the criminal justice system and addressing police brutality — it will have a huge positive impact on black SBC churches. When the SBC more intentionally includes minorities in leadership and decision-making throughout the life of our convention — especially in the president-appointed committees — we will see a real change and leave a better SBC for our grandchildren.

A common perception among African American pastors and churches is that in order to be welcomed, we have to park our brains, culture, history, politics, worship practices, critical thinking skills and autonomy at the door. The SBC needs to make it clearer that this is not the case so we can recruit more churches to cooperate with the SBC.

The SBC has its shortcomings, but churches that focus their attention on the mission of our Lord Jesus will not find a better body to cooperate with than the SBC. Not everything in the SBC is what it should be, but I am called to work within to help it become what it can be.

That’s why I remain.

2. Danny Akin briefly responded to McKissic's article to call Southern Baptists to listen to men like McKissic, who are making valid arguments about what it feels like to be a minority in the SBC.

I and many others long to see a day when our churches on earth look like the Church heaven, but that won’t happen without all of us coming together as one Body of believers. We aren’t just pursuing diversity to no end. We want to see people come to Christ from every nation, tribe and tongue. Once again let me say, we have to do it together.

It’s time for Southern Baptists to make crystal clear—no one in our ranks is “in someone else’s house!” We should not stop and we will not stop working until everyone feels that this is their home. We are brothers and sisters, we are family, and we need each other.

Yes, these conversations are uncomfortable. But sometimes we must push through the uncomfortable to get to the beautiful. If that’s where we are headed, then sign me up. I want to be on that gospel ship!

Thank you to my brothers for staying. And thank you for speaking. I hear you.

3. A long-form essay that discusses the problem of prosecutors failing to disclose evidence in cases, which leads to wrongful convictions in some cases. This is another plank in the platform for significant criminal justice reform.

In the United States, defendants gained the right to see certain evidence in the government’s possession relatively recently, in the 1960s. Before that, our rules reflected their origin in early modern Britain, where people suspected of crimes were required to speak on their own behalf, without a lawyer. In 16th-­century trials, people suspected of crimes had no right in advance to learn of the evidence against them, or even the charges, because the element of surprise was deemed crucial to ascertaining the truth. The idea of ‘‘trial by ambush,’’ as it is called, persisted throughout the 18th century, even after the accused gained the presumption of innocence, the right to hire a lawyer and the right to remain silent. In 1792, the Lord Chief Justice in Britain rejected a defendant’s request to see the evidence against him in advance of trial, saying that such disclosure would ‘‘subvert the whole system of criminal law.’’

Over the next century, however, the British courts changed course, joining countries like Germany and France to require broad disclosure of the prosecution’s case before trial, including a full list of witnesses, a summary of how they would testify and other investigative material, like police and lab reports. The nascent justice system in the United States, by contrast, imported Britain’s earlier rules. Judges in this country emphasized that defendants might harm or intimidate witnesses if they knew they were planning to testify.

In March 1963, Justice William J. Brennan Jr., an Eisenhower appointee who became one of the era’s leading liberal jurists, criticized the American practice of keeping the prosecution’s case secret before trial in a major speech at Washington University’s law school. Brennan argued that it was ‘‘particularly ironic’’ that at the Nuremberg trials, conducted in the late 1940s to bring Nazi war criminals to justice, Soviet prosecutors protested the American rules of evidence as unfair to defendants. Isn’t denying access to the facts of the prosecution’s case ‘‘blind to the superlatively important public interest in the acquittal of the innocent?’’ Brennan asked.

4. An Atlantic article that argues that the advent and popularization of smartphones may be damaging the digital native generations.

To those of us who fondly recall a more analog adolescence, this may seem foreign and troubling. The aim of generational study, however, is not to succumb to nostalgia for the way things used to be; it’s to understand how they are now. Some generational changes are positive, some are negative, and many are both. More comfortable in their bedrooms than in a car or at a party, today’s teens are physically safer than teens have ever been. They’re markedly less likely to get into a car accident and, having less of a taste for alcohol than their predecessors, are less susceptible to drinking’s attendant ills.

Psychologically, however, they are more vulnerable than Millennials were: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.

Even when a seismic event—a war, a technological leap, a free concert in the mud—plays an outsize role in shaping a group of young people, no single factor ever defines a generation. Parenting styles continue to change, as do school curricula and culture, and these things matter. But the twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy.

5. A common assertion among theological revisionists (sometimes also called "liberals") is that 19th century Fundamentalist Christians invented the idea that the Bible is inerrant. Historian, John Woodbridge, argues that is simply not true.

By the early 1990s, a powerful historiography had emerged that portrayed the doctrine of biblical inerrancy as “fundamentalist” and not as an “evangelical” doctrine. With this historiography in mind, the critic may have felt fully justified in labeling Dr. Henry a fundamentalist. For the critic, Henry would have been simply mistaken in identifying himself as an evangelical.

Obviously, my reconstruction of what motivated the critic’s labeling is speculative. What isn’t speculative, however, is the fact that the way historians recount the historical trajectories of various doctrines often affects our views of these same doctrines. If, for example, historians portray a doctrine as theologically innovative, a departure from what the Christian churches have consistently taught, we may suspect that the doctrine has departed from the “faith once delivered.” Evangelicals have a vested interest in studying the history of doctrine.

Identifying and adhering to central church doctrines and confessions is a very important thing for us even if we uphold Scripture as our ultimate, final authority. The enterprise can provide us with a better understanding of our own evangelical theological self-identity. Do our beliefs about scriptural authority, for example, reside within identifiable central teachings of the historic Christian church? If they don’t, we may have become doctrinal innovators regarding our views of Scripture despite our intentions to uphold orthodox Christian teaching.