April 8, 2020

Saturday Ramblings, July 11, 2015

Hello,imonks, and welcome to the weekend. Ready to Ramble?

53 Convertible

53 Convertible

This Tuesday is the All-star game for Major League Baseball, also known as the sport time forgot. Regrettably, there is some tension in the imonastary. You see, dear imonks, while Chaplain Mike and I share many great traits (Van Gogh adoration, ear-wax collections) we disagree with about the value of baseball. CM feels it is an ̶p̶o̶n̶d̶e̶r̶o̶u̶s̶,̶ ̶m̶i̶n̶d̶-̶n̶u̶m̶b̶i̶n̶g̶,̶ elegant, old-fashioned game, harkening back to the days of ̶J̶i̶m̶ ̶C̶r̶o̶w̶ ̶l̶a̶w̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶p̶r̶o̶h̶i̶b̶i̶t̶i̶o̶n Sunday walks and church picnics, while my thoughts about it are best summed up by this “fan”:

"Is it over, yet?"

“Is it over, yet?”

But at least CM’s Chicago Cubs fandom does allow some good, clean fun:

I may have to make this a weekly feature...

I may have to make this a weekly feature…

Did you know that 22 percent of Brazilians are evangelical, up from 6 percent in 1980? And now they have their own “sin-free Facebook”.

Fluffy clouds waft across a blue sky as you log in and while you chat with friends, Gospel music rings out: welcome to Facegloria, the social network for Brazilian Evangelicals.

There’s no “liking” on Facegloria. Here, you click “Amen.” Swearing is banned – there is a list of about 600 forbidden words – as is any violent or erotic content, or photo or video depictions of homosexual activity.

“We want to be morally and technically better than Facebook. We want all Brazilian Evangelicals to shift to Facegloria,” said Mr Barros, one of the founders.

Odd Sign of the Week: 

"I just don't man, do we look like old logs in the water, or do old logs look like us?.

“I just don’t know, man, do we look like old logs in the water, or do old logs look like us?

South Carolina on Thursday marched boldly into the 20th century and removed the Confederate flag from its statehouse grounds. Some in the watching crowd chanted, “USA! USA!”, then “Na na na na, hey hey, goodbye!” The flag was being retired “with dignity,” as Gov. Nikki Haley noted in signing the bill authorizing its removal. It was being taken to what Haley called its “rightful place” in the Confederate Relic room in the State Museum, down the road from the Capitol.

A Georgia appeals court heard arguments on Thursday about whether the Ku Klux Klan can join the “adopt a highway” program. A KKK chapter, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued Georgia in 2012 after the state refused to let it join. Logos of participating groups appear on signs along the highways. Georgia officials had told Klan that erecting a sign with its name could lead to social unrest and distract drivers, and that the right to control the content of road signs is “government speech” which is not covered by the First Amendment. I’m almost a First Amendment absolutist, but I think the state has a point here. Your thoughts?

What happens if you take famous works of art and re-make them with snakes? You get the following (because, why not?):birth-of-snake-venus_small__880Dali-smaller__880mona-smaller__880serpents-supper-smaller__880Sunday-Afternoon-on-the-Island-of-La-Serpent-smaller__880Thou-shall-take-up-serpents-__880

Peter Leithart is a master. He recently posted a piece for First Things on The Abraham Myth, which was a very clever satire of much liberal biblical scholarship, which seeks to find meaning in events that they do not believe actually happened.

The biblical writers deployed the full arsenal of ancient literary conventions, and their texts are full of sly authorial signals that they are not supposed to be taken literally. We can summarize briefly:

*The story of Abraham’s exodus (Gen. 12:10–20) is obviously modeled on Israel’s Egyptian sojourn and exodus (which most likely never happened either). By shaping this narrative to mimic later myths, the author indicates that the episode is not to be taken seriously as history. Genesis 12, like the exodus narrative, teaches that God delivers. It does not matter whether or not God has ever actually delivered anyone. The moral stands: God is our deliverer.

*When Yahweh cuts covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:17–21), he appears as a “smoking oven and a flaming torch” (v. 17) passing through split pieces of animals. The writer knows that God is infinitely more unlike a torch than he is like one. He deliberately strains the metaphor to the point of absurdity. The very assertion that God appeared as an oven is proof enough that he did not.

*Fundamentalists believe Isaac’s birth is miraculous. Liberals mock the narrative as evidence of the pre-scientific naivete of archaic peoples. Both are mistaken. The ancient author knows that ninety-year-old women cannot bear children. Under the guise of the well-established miracle-birth type-scene, the author exhibits a timeless truth: Even if God has never actually cut or kept covenant with any actual person, he is the God of covenant faithfulness.

Hidebound evangelicals worry that giving up the historical Abraham undermines Christian doctrine. Convictions about covenant, promise, and justification by faith are rooted in Paul’s use of Genesis. As we have seen, such fears are unfounded. Justification is by faith even if there was never an Abraham to have faith; God keeps his covenant promises whether or not he ever gave and kept promises to Abraham.

Only when it is stripped of the mythology of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus will the Bible be firmly established as our inerrant rule of faith. We must die to our modern demand to know “what happened” and recognize that Scripture is infallible only when it is thoroughly de-historicized. Then we will arrive finally at the fullness of Christian faith, the Church of Christ Without Jesus.

Ever wonder what it would look like if you could sail to the Great Barrier Reef and strap a Gopro camera to the back of a sea turtle as it cruised the reef? Wonder no more:

Pope Francis ruffled a few feathers this week.  He apologized for the church’s role in past colonialism, especially in South America (he was speaking in Bolivia). The threat now, however, is a new kind of colonialism, whereby rich capitalists exploit the poor. “The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ‘austerity’ which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor…Our common home is being pillaged, laid waste and harmed with impunity. Cowardice in defending it is a grave sin. We see with growing disappointment how one international summit after another takes place without any significant result.” He also channeled his inner Martin Luther and called greed, “the dung of the devil.”

"Everybody poops"

“Everybody poops”

On Wednesday evening in La Paz, Bolivian president Evo Morales presented Francis with a crucifix . . . a crucifix merged with a hammer and sickle. Wait, what? You mean, the hammer and sickle that is the symbol of the ideology responsible for the murder of 110 million people in the 20th century? The symbol of the ideology that systematically burned churches and murdered priests and nuns? That hammer and sickle? Yep, one and the same. Francis seemed non-plussed.

"What the crap, Evo, do you even think?"

“What the crap, Evo, do you even think?”

This is one of the coolest stories I’ve seen in a long time:

Darn, I seem to have some dust in my eye…

Remember Tom DeLay, the former Majority Leader for the House of Representatives? He claimed this week to know about an internal memo from the Department of Justice aimed at legalizing “12 new perversions,” including bestiality and pedophilia. I’m not sure what the other ten are; the imagination staggers. The interviewer, understandably shocked by the news that the DOJ was now going to seek to legalize pedophilia, asked DeLay to clarify that that was what he had just claimed and DeLay assured him that it was. Did I mention Tom DeLay used to be the House Majority leader, one of the top leaders of our congress? Really? How is that even possible?

Finally, we end with some music. And in honor of Pope Francis and his condmenation of greed, I give you today…the CASH COW.


  1. Ok, iMonk’ers – what are the other 10?
    – dogs and cats living together?
    – reality TV as a national pastime?

    (Oh, I agree with you re baseball Daniel. It gets in the way of real entertainment)

    • Marcus Johnson says

      Good news for DeLay. I hear one of the 12 perversions includes campaign finance law violations. Maybe he’s getting his old job back?

    • 3. Cheeessseeeee
      4. Using tumblr

  2. I know its juvenile, but…FIRST!!!

  3. I have to point out that the term ‘Evangelicas’ in Brazilian Portuguese includes all Protestants (though not Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons). The largest single Protestant denomination is Assemblies of God (and Pentecostals make up 60% of Evangelicas).


    • A lot of Brazilian evangelicals and Pentecostals have, sadly, gotten sucked in by “prosperity gospel” and “name it and claim it” and similar. Not surprising in a country where the vast majority of people live in poverty, but very sad.

      I wish that better, less creepy kinds of churches would be in the vanguard there. Maybe someday, but i cannot see how the prosperity etc. churches are doinganybody any good aat.all.

      • Clay Crouch says

        Of course the “prosperity gospel churches” are benefiting some people.

        • Clay – apart from the obvious beneficiaries, that is.

          • Clay Crouch says

            Numo, my tongue was planted firmly in my cheek. :0)

          • Old prophet says

            I wonder why the Prosperity Gospel can be such a draw to the poor in a country such as Brazil? Eventually all things must be proven true or false, eh? Or maybe wealth or possessions are relative terms? Here in SoCal, a Mercedes over a Corolla would probably indicate God’s blessing whereas in the slums of Rio, any kind of meat vs beans? IDK, I’m not a PG guy, but there is God’s truth in most theological systems and to launch Tomahawk missles at beliefs we don’t like always puts us in a position of being overly didactic and critical.

          • Probably for the same reasons that Jeb Bush can tell poor people who work 60 hours a week to “work harder and more hours” or to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. In America, at least, but Brazil is probably no different.

            Problem is, most people’s bootstraps keep breaking because they can only afford Wal-Mart brand laces.

            Made in China.

            From an outsourced job their parents use to hold in America.

            Because the government made it easier for corporations to save money and grow by shipping jobs overseas.

            Because the corporation’s lobbyists petitioned the government to make it cheaper to ship jobs overseas.

            Because there is nothing new under the sun, this is just the pattern it has always been. Corporations and employees, plantation owners and slaves, lords and serfs…unto a thousand generations.

            No wonder a gospel of wealth appeals. It’s literally THE saving thing they need in their life, more than some eternal destiny, and here’s a Savior presented to them that will give it to them if they just believe it’s already real, and don’t listen to the doubt of their own eyes showing their lack. You just need a seed of faith. Seeds cost money.

          • OP – it’s true in Africa as well, ditto for Latin America as a whole. Being told that God’s blessing are shown to us in the form f $$$ and possessions is an insidious thing, not least because it demonizes those who have nothing.

          • Fwiw, rice and red beans are a staple in Brazil, and in many other countries near it.

          • Probably for the same reasons that Jeb Bush can tell poor people who work 60 hours a week to “work harder and more hours” or to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. In America, at least, but Brazil is probably no different.

            NOT what he said. And a distortion of his point.

          • On the hammer and sickle thing, while I find it offensive, it might be worth remembering the countless millions murdered by people carrying a cross– in Bolivia as well as other places. The Pope to his credit acknowledged this.

      • Robert F says

        I could be happy about the current worldwide spread of Christianity if so much of it wasn’t connected with “prosperity gospel” and anti-homosexual animus.

        • American exported Christianity gives away all the flaws and none of the strengths…because those, along with the rest of the fruit of the spirit, are liberal values, shown by those compromised liberal mainliners.

          • OldProphet says

            Yes. All American exported Christianity that is Do sheepherders in the mountains of Mongolia have a clue about. Robes, goblets, DVDs, prayer cloths, videos, etc? The gospel is personal, not corporate. Deeds, not words. By,the way, “Nice hammer and sickle, Comrade Pope”. Being all things to all people doesn’t mean accepting next to the swastika, the most vile symbol known to man.

          • I think you missed my point, OP, or at least generalized it beyond what you knew I was saying.

            And yeah, the hammer and sickle crucifix is a bit much…but at the same time, can’t Christ redeem it? Seems like a powerful symbol and message wrapped in that icon, and hopefully it sparks good discussions.

          • Americans are making many of the same kinds of mistakes in today’s “missions” – equal to what was inflicted on many other cultures by both European and American missionaries in the 19th c. (Note that i did not say “all.”)

            OP, our name it and claim it and bigger is better and American exceptionalism and my culture is better than your culture (etc. etc.) “gospel” has, imo, nothing to do with the actual gospel of Jesus Christ. None of us are truly willing to follow Paul’s “when in x…” dictum,I’m thinking. The handful who actually live that way are unsung, unchronicled, unpublished and the opposite of attention-getting.

  4. A weekend starting out with Steve Taylor is going to be a good weekend.

  5. I laughed out loud at the wagon train pic! Good one, Daniel.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      I was stunned – I did not realize the Cubs has won the series that recently!

    • Clay Crouch says

      Enns’ article is worth reading in that it dovetails with both the “PISSDOFF” and “Haustafeln” IM posts from earlier this week. I thought that his comments at the end of the article regarding the acid bath of historical criticism particularly insightful.

      • Yes, Enns’ article worth the reading.

        “Seriously? How can such an otherwise intelligent man and prolific mind persist in full-court press reactionary mode?”

        • Clay Crouch says

          Perhaps because evangelicals have only dipped their toes in the “acid bath” of historical criticism, and finding it antithetical to their views, refuse to dive in? Anti-intellectualism parading around as intellectualism makes for a very sad clown.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            A sad one indeed. Well said.

          • To be fair, it’s not just evangelicals that do this. It’s a mindset that any group can have. Ex: Look at how many wonderful parents there are in the world who refuse to believe things about their children because it goes against or changes the mental image they have for who their kids are.

            In web design and online marketing, we sometimes focus on the idea of “don’t make me think”. Calls to action in appropriate places worded specific ways can lead to a 30% conversation rate on clicking the link, buying the product, signing up for the email, etc. It works, and there’s a science and an art involved in it. (which is why I involuntarily twitch when I see people do things “because they like it” and never get results and won’t change…because they like it as it is)

            Many people simply do not want to think. The world is the way it is, and they don’t want to be forced to confront or challenge their views and thoughts about it. It can be very traumatic, as I and many others can attest to. In some cases, it can literally break people who need to hide and self-medicate.

            There’s comfort in the familiar and the way it has always been. But not all of us live there anymore.

          • Robert F says

            I’m pretty suspicious of intellectuals and intellectualism, and I’m even more suspicious of those who mimic intellectualism while decrying it.

        • Enns must not get sarcasm. Although he mounts a good defense of biblical criticism, he totally misses Leithart’s point…sarcasm for the sake of a laugh.

          Sure, Leithart may have an issue with historical criticism of bible texts, but for pete’s sake, can’t one just enjoy lampooning a subject without going into high dudgeon mode?

          I’d be willing to bet that Enns doesn’t like Saturday Night Live of even Monty Python type humor. He takes himself way too seriously.

          • Jazziscoolithink says

            How flawlessly you peer into the inner lives of people you know next to nothing about!

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            Oscar, see my post lower down: Wilson, Leithart and that crowd are literalists/Biblicists to the extreme.

            And saying Enns doesn’t ger sarcasm/irony etc – is about the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. Have you EVER spent any time on his blog? He is an absolute master at those

          • Clay Crouch says

            So, Oscar, just who or what was Leithart laughing at? Those troubling historical/textual facts that upset his apple cart or his fellow evangelicals who pretend those facts don’t really have a place at the discussion table? As to Enns’ not having a sense of humor, it’s obvious you have never read his blog or his books. By the way, I think Enns still considers himself an evangelical.

          • …I didn’t read it as sarcasm, but as the bullying mocking laughter you can often hear from pulpit. A joke told in poor taste meant to point fun as well as educate, but with a mean bitter edge to it.

            “Tolerate me!” proclaimed the pastor in a high male effeminate voice, preaching in a church located in the heart of a very liberal gay-affirming area of town. Minutes before he’d preach about how the country was better off when gays were hidden, and how all God’s children should do their best to drive them back into the closet by loving telling them the truth of their sin and damnation and judgement in God’s eyes, and electing political officials to prevent them from sodomizing young adopted children by making their very existence illegal in the public arena.

            “What. Can’t you take a joke? Oh how ironic it is that the ones who scream tolerance are the most intolerant! What a joke.”

            And that, Oscar, is where Leithart is. And many others. And where you and I will never see eye to eye on this.

          • Oecar – have you read Enns’ blog, or any of his books? He is a remarkably amiable person with an excellent sense of humor, and a good scholar. I think Leithart’s afraid of that combinatiin (not j/k).

          • Enns is still evangelical, and so are most of the guest authors on his blog. It would be nice if others would at least acknowledge them and their positions – no need to agree, but *please* have a dialogue rather than writing nasty hit pieces! (I don’t like it when anyone, of any persuasion, does what Leithart did there.)

          • Pete Enns is one of the most humorous people I know. And we share a common affinity for The Simpsons. so there’s that.

    • I know Peter Enns has his points and is a good guy — but I just can shake the feeling that he’s offended that the carnival caricature artist exaggerated his front teeth and ears TOO much.

    • Oh that was an excellent read, thanks for sharing!!

      I guess I’ve most definitely gone through the acid bath in recent years. Little by little everything has dissolved and burned off, and like the mainlines, I’m in a reconstructive period. I’m grateful for communities like Internet Monk that provide a multiple of voices from groups and areas, and rediscovering the strengths of my own heroes like Bono with his particular Irish Catho/Protestant view of Jesus and following him, have proven invaluable in helping me reconstruct many things even if I’m still deconverting/dissolving out of Christianity as I’ve known it and reconstructing myself into a different form of Christianity.

      Long words, but that was a good read, and life and faith is a journey. I miss the warm memories where they are, but the acid bath has cleansed and I don’t miss what has dissolved.

  6. Christiane says

    It’s 5:26 a.m. and I am drinking coffee and reading Imonk. And then it happens. I come across the story of the poor dog cooked alive by his groomer (neglect of course . . . something went ‘horribly wrong’ with the ‘warmer’, the pup over-heated and had a heart attack) . . . poor thing, so very sad if you are a dog-lover . . . heart-breaking all around, yes,

    PROBLEM: yikes . . . today at 11:00 am, our dog has a scheduled grooming appointment. . . . I wonder, do all of these grooming places have ‘warmers’? Gosh, I hope not. I see my dog’s groomer using a hair dryer sometimes . . . still, I wonder . . .

    woof ???

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      You need more coffee…

    • That Other Jean says

      Christine, is your dog OK? Did you ask the groomer how dogs are dried after a bath and let her/him know about your concerns (especially if you have an older dog)?

      • Christiane says

        YES! Thanks for asking! JEAN (that other Jean), I took him over for the appointment and asked the groomer about ‘warmers’ and she said they don’t do that. Much relieved. I have now a beautifully-groomed, live dog. I do feel sad for the person whose dog died . . . our own pup is like family to us.

  7. “Georgia officials had told Klan that erecting a sign with its name could lead to social unrest and distract drivers”

    Uhhhh, more realistically, it would lead to trash being thrown at the sign from passing vehicles.

    • 🙂

    • There was a stretch of US 65 near Harrison, AR a few years back that had a ‘maintained by KKK’ sign. If I remember correctly it was a pretty dirty stretch of road because people saved their trash to throw it out there.

  8. Michael Spencer bowed at the altar of Major League Baseball.

    I thought about taking a page from Daniel’s book and close my weekly Happy Monday post with a music video next time. Like many good ideas I didn’t write anything down. All I can remember about the video I had planned to show is that it would have been epic.

  9. First Things has gone WAY south since Father Neuhaus departed this life. Like so much else, it has been almost entirely co-opted by the most rabid wing of the culture wars. I let my subscription drop soon after Neuhaus’ death, and nothing I have seen since has led me to regret that decision.

    • Ditto Eeyore.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      Wow, so this baseball is entertainment vs. ponderously boring debate is really serious for some people?

      I vote Ponderous, but if the stadium serves craft beer….

      • I vote Ponderous, but if the stadium serves craft beer….

        Come to San Diego and visit Qualcom Stadium. You’ll get to enjoy craft beer AND really bad, boring baseball!

    • Jazziscoolithink says

      I recently read a compelling case for universal salvation written by David Bentley Hart at, of all places, First Things. I was surprised, to say the least.

    • I find this kind of thinking interesting. When conservatives express their views it’s “culture war”. When liberals express their views, it’s not “culture war”? It seems to me these days liberals are fighting a “culture war” within the church, trying to incorporate a permissive, worldly philosophy into Christianity (Permissive to all but conservative “culture war” thought, of course).

      • Josh in FW says

        I’ve also observed this interesting phenomenon.

        • Rick Ro. says

          Me, too. It’s the hypocritical nature of liberalism. “Because what I believe in is right, I can say it, and you have to like it.”

          • And don’t forget “…and you shouldn’t be able to voice YOUR stupid and evil opinion… “

      • Jazziscoolithink says

        How is liberal philosophy “worldly”? What do you mean by worldly? It can be argued that much of conservative philosophy is as worldly and permissive as any liberal philosophy.

        • Its a relatively new philosophy in church history that seems to suggest that God blesses same sex marriage. And if one disagrees, then it’s “culture war”. IM is the home of ancient/future thinking about Christianity, which I think is good. If that’s the case, how can one argue against Kevin DeYoung’s words:

          “Christians misread their Bibles all the time. The church must always be reformed according to the word of God. Sometimes biblical truth rests with a small minority. Sometimes the truth is buried in relative obscurity for generations. But when we must believe that the Bible has been misunderstood by virtually every Christian in every part of the world for the last two thousand years, it ought to give us pause. From the Jewish world in the Old and New Testaments to the early church to the Middle Ages to the Reformation and into the 20th century, the church has understood the Bible to teach that engaging in homosexuality activity was among the worst sins a person could commit.

          The church has been of one mind on this issue for nearly two millennia. Are you prepared to jeopardize the catholicity of the church and convince yourself that everyone misunderstood the Bible until the 1960s? On such a critical matter, it’s important we think through the implications of our position, especially if it means consigning to the bin of bigotry almost every Christian who has ever lived.”

          I think he has a point here and I believe its dangerous to dismiss this as “culture war” thinking.

          • Clay Crouch says

            “The church has been of one mind on this issue for nearly two millennia.”

            She has also clearly not been of one mind on a whole mess of other issues. So I’m not sure I see your point. Unless of course, homosexuality is the ONE BIG THING®.

          • Marcus Johnson says

            Last time the church was “of one mind” was the first Pentecost. After that, we’ve basically disagreed about everything else. So, arguing with DeYoung’s words is easy, because he has obviously never seen a history book.

          • Clay, I agree its not the ONE BIG THING. But its not NO THING either.

            Marcus, if you can point me to a historical argument refuting DeYoung’s point I’d love to investigate it.

          • I consider myself a progressive on many issues, theological, political and social (including the issue of same-sex marriage), but I’m also very aware that those on the same side of many of these issues as me can frequently be as “illiberal” (for lack of a better word) as any of their opposites. I’m seeing a good amount of that “illiberalism” being expressed in the wake of the SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage. I think real respect for pluralism and liberal values show themselves to be absent when spoken support for tolerance is ditched at the first opportunity once one’s own position has prevailed, and one finds oneself on the “winning” side. As far as I’m concerned, “Illiberal liberals” are no liberals at all.

          • Otoh: Concerning DeYoung’s comments: Too bad the church wasn’t “of one mind” regarding the immorality of the revival of slavery and the slave trade at the beginning of the European colonial period, and too bad it wasn’t “of one mind” with regard to the illegitimacy of stealing the Americas from their native populations, and slaughtering those indigenous populations in the process. Perhaps the Church has been “of one mind” about the wrong things.

          • Marcus Johnson says

            A single historical argument that demonstrates that the “catholicity of the Church” does not rely on a singular interpretation of Scripture, or that the Church hasn’t evolved dramatically, often in response to historical epochs, scientific and technological advances, and cultural trends? Paul and Peter? Paul and the Gnostics? The Protestant Reformation? The abolition movement? The impact of the Enlightenment in the 18th century on the Church? The evolution of dispensationalist millenialism and prophecy belief?

            Seriously, I can’t give you just “a historical argument.” I can give you history. You’ll just have to pick up a history book that discusses literally any point in church history in which someone came up with a new idea that ran counter to the reigning perspective, and keep reading. DeYoung argues that longevity alone validates traditionally held beliefs or interpretations. The “we’ve had it so long; we shouldn’t get rid of it” is the same argument hoarders use when you try to clean out their trailer. It’s never worked in the Church, and it’s usually the last argument heard before everyone adopts the new idea.

          • I just want to say as someone who mostly lurks, I hereby name RobertF as my spokesperson on practically everything. The converse may not hold, when I do happen to post something.

            But yeah, though. I am liberal, I don’t trust some of my fellow liberals to be tolerant of people we think are wrong.

          • Marcus, Robert F., you are both extremely intelligent and I respect your points of view on all things. I’m trying really hard to see this particular subject the way you see it. I hate being divided on this issue because we are all one in Christ. For the sake of not leaving our church because of this particular issue, I’m trying to find a place in my conscience that will allow for support of SSM by my kids youth pastor. I haven’t got there yet.

          • Marcus Johnson says

            First, “being one in Christ” doesn’t mean we have to agree on every issue. In fact, the church often grows stronger when people disagree. Granted, grace has to be the key component, alongside a way of thinking that values exploring one’s faith more than defending it to someone else. To that end, I think both progressives and conservatives have gotten it wrong many, many times.

            Second, I would argue that it is important to determine whether or not your faith should be centered around social issues or around the Gospel. If you’re exhausting a lot of energy on social issues and a particular political ideology, progressive or conservative, you’re in the culture wars, and you’re probably losing. The Gospel is really the only thing that transcends every culture, time, and earthly construct; it doesn’t exist to affirm our politics or as a foundation for public policy. That’s why I don’t have a problem worshipping with folks who vote Republican and loathe the Obama administration. In the end, that’s not what really matters.

            I don’t know your kids’ youth pastor or the manner in which said pastor presents his or her support of marriage equality. As long as your pastor speaks with grace about this position, and doesn’t demand that you or your kids conform, I don’t see how this person’s politics are a problem. If your church is anything like mine, for every nine people who affirm traditional marriage, there is at least one person who supports marriage equality. You can try to silence them, prevent them from leadership, or boot them out of the church, or you can leave. Or, you can accept the challenge of being in a church community with a growing diversity of beliefs and cultural perspectives. I can guarantee that you will be much happier if you pick that last option.

          • Class, please find me a quote from an early Church Father defending modern 21st century American homosexual marriage.

            Bonus points: Find me two.

          • Robert F says


            Marcus said it better than I could. Disagreement, pluralism, about many social and political issues, and many theological issues, within the Church is a good thing. Hate is not so good, no matter the “correctness” of one’s views.

            Whatever you choose, it’s a risk: your choice could be the wrong one, just as mine could. If your theology depends on getting things right, on making the right choice every time, or just most of the time, in really important matters, it may be that your theology needs revision in the direction of allowing room for more grace. I know that mine often does.

        • Marcus Johnson says

          Stuart B: I’ll get right on that, as soon as I find a quote from an early Church father that mentions, or recognizes the existence of, 21st century America. But right after that, I promise, I’ll do your thing. 🙂

      • Very true.

        There are more than a few Progressive Evangelical bloggers who spent years and gave countless thought-pieces to big media companies decrying the “Culture War” and wishing conservative Christians would stop pretending God is on their side. Most of them now have their blogs and Twitter feeds filled with comments lamenting conservative churches for not giving in on gay marriage — all with the assumption that God in on their side.

        I had a small hope that the new progressive evangelical movement would be different than their Moral Majority parents in some ways, and not just the other side of the same coin.

        • Yes… It’s its very similar to liberal politics. In the 1960’s it was “Question Authority!!” Now if we question authority, its “Racist!!” “Sexist!!” “Homophobe!!”

          How ironic

          • Apples to oranges. I know you commited some fallacy here, but I don’t know which one, lol. Oh well.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            “Question Authority!” until YOU are The Authority, then Crush All Dissent.

            “The only goal of Power is POWER. And POWER consists of inflicting maximum suffering among the powerless.”
            — Comrade O’Brian, Inner Party, Airstrip One, Oceania, 1984

            “There are those who say what we are doing is illegal. Before that can happen, make sure WE are the ones who define what is legal and what is not.”
            — L Ron Hubbard

        • Fair point. We become the monsters we hate, sometimes. I could say as an excuse that years of being treated that way makes us want to respond in kind, but that’s not Jesus-shaped. We all strive to do better.

      • Marcus Johnson says

        Okay, let’s concede that folks on both sides of the political spectrum are fighting “the culture war.” However, it’s becoming pretty clear that conservatives a) have been losing badly–very badly–over the past few years; b) often affirm ideas created within a context that traditionally privileged certain identities (White, Euro-American, male, heterosexual, etc.) over others, and the “others” are finally speaking up about their exclusion; c) fight the culture war using weapons (i.e., a concrete-literalist, supracultural interpretation of Scripture, usually valuing the strategy of proof texting) that have, over time, shown their vulnerability; and d) are not only fighting on the wrong side of the war, but are fighting a war which doesn’t need to be fought and was won a long time ago.

        Yes, the “progressive” side of the isle needs to learn some grace, and soon, as there are moments when it becomes clear that rage, fear, and insecurity permeate both sides. But the statement “conservatives need to stop fighting the culture war” gets used against conservatives more than liberals because the more conservatives fight, the more they seem to lose.

        • Jazziscoolithink says


        • Rick Ro. says

          Nicely said. Both sides (liberals and conservatives) are greatly lacking in grace. The problem right now, in my opinion, is that the liberals THINK they’re the ones with grace, when really they’re drifting towards the gracelessness that they accuse the “right” of having (or lacking).

          • Agreed

          • Marcus Johnson says

            No argument from me on that one, Rick Ro. Being right and being good are two different things, and progressives need to respect that they don’t deserve to win every battle just because they are “right.” I call it the “victor syndrome.”

          • Truth.

        • Sorry, but the only thing I’ll concede (although I’ve personally been doing it for 20 years now) it that conservatives and liberals play dirty in culture war issues — and it’s one reason I’ve largely stayed out of the thick of it for a long time now.

          But when it comes to “privilege” — white liberals in North America and Western Europe are the ones pushing gay marriage in Christian circles. It IS a white, western idea bathed in our unique brand of individualism. The Christian church in South America, Africa, the Middle East, and SE Asia overwhelmingly finds it foreign. The Anglicans and Lutherans worldwide run by non-Western, non-whites (in addition to the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches) are finding themselves shunned and mocked by their white Western colleagues.

          Meanwhile, those in favor of progressive theologies have their own vulnerabilities — keep in mind years of progressive thought on gay relationships centered around reading into David and Johnathon, while Bishop Robinson attempted to make Jesus and John into homosexual soulmates (his words, not mine). We also remember the Emergent Conversation, which is mostly just a punchline these days, and most progressive churches have toned down their pro-choice speak due to it being difficult to defend.

          And the simple claim that conservatives are on the wrong side and should therefore stop? This is why I stopped getting into these silly arguments. I like the Pope: he’s too conservative for the liberals (hint: he HATES abortion and despite pull quotes doesn’t seem to be budging on gay marriage), and too liberal for conservatives. My assumption is after the rhetoric dies down on both sides, a lot Christians are going to be closer to his mindset than John Spong or James Dobson.

          • Marcus Johnson says

            First, it should be pointed out that “The Christian church in South America, Africa, the Middle East, and SE Asia” has been profoundly and irreversibly influenced by centuries of colonialism, in which whatever pre-colonial identities existed before were forced to either assimilate to the greater hegemony or suffer massacre (in many cases, the indigenous were slaughtered regardless of whether they conformed or not). So, those churches are bad examples of institutions unaffected and uninfluenced by White, Euro-American Christian institutions.

            Yes, years of progressive thought have led to wild, unsupportable theories about same-sex relationships in the Bible, but you’re going to find a lot of folks who support marriage equality and think those theories are ridiculous (and, if you haven’t yet, I’m Marcus; nice to meet you).

            I don’t think being on the wrong side is the main issue with conservatives, but I do think they are clearly on the losing side. Mainstream evangelical Christian identity dominated this country since at least the early 19th century and now, like the Jews in Bablyonian captivity without a temple, it feels like you’re surrounded by a hegemony that sneers at you, “Sing us a song of Zion.”

            For a moment, let’s just set aside why or how this Christian identity is on the ropes, or on how evil and apostate the other side is. Can your faith operate in a world in which you no longer have the dominant voice? If not, was it really a faith worth having in the first place?

          • Marcus Johnson says

            Grr, I messed up the HTML coding for the last two paragraphs. I meant to only italicize “wrong.”

          • + Gene Robinson (who is + no more) got so many death threats prior to his consecration that he wore a bullet-proof vest to the ceremony. And he kept on getting death threats.

            Agree or disagree with him and his ideas, fine. Threaten his life – or that of any other person – to satisfy an agenda and because of hate and fear – no. Just NO.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          “Learn Some Grace” when WE’RE THE WINNING SIDE?

    • It was, imo, that way before Neuhaus died, though occasiinally they publish surprisingly goid pieces, even now.

    • +1

  10. Perhaps Peter Leithart is a fan of Flannery O’Connor. Her novel Wise Blood features both the Church Without Christ (founder: Hazel Motes) and the Holy Church Of Christ Without Christ (founder: Onnie Jay Holy), oh, and a guy named Enoch who wears a gorilla suit, and lots of other stuff.

    What I’m saying is Leithart is not only being satirical, he is also definitely derivative.

    Everyone who didn’t see the connection should read Wise Blood.

    • I might, but O’Connor is way too depressing…

      • That’s what my mother thought, in fact she was downright disturbed from reading one of the stories—but then again, the story was “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and my mother is a lot like the little old lady who got shot by the escaped killer.

        It’s really a fun story otherwise, and the killer’s comment after he blew her away kinda remind us of that.

        • That is an *incredibly* difficult story, i think. I like her letters much more than i like her fiction.

          • I think “A Good Man…” is one of the best stories ever crafted. To me, Flannery’s most difficult story to read is “A View of the Woods” in which the relationship of a grandfather and his young grand-daughter (essentially the same person, born 70 years apart) becomes a clash of the Titans. It took me a few years to read that one a second time; it’s disturbing without any redeeming humor as in “A Good Man.” Probably one of Flannery’s best, though.

          • Ted, that may well be true, but it just plain horrifies me, and the “humor” is far too dark for my taste.

            Like I said, I prefer her correspondence to her fiction.

    • Hazel Motes’ Church Without Christ: “Where the blind don’t see, the lame don’t walk, and what’s dead stays that way.”

    • been there done that:

      There’s no doubt that Peter Leithart is a fan of Flannery O’Connor. Here’s the link to an article he wrote entitled “Why Evangelicals Can’t Write,” in which he cites Miss Flannery, a Catholic, as someone who can.


      There’s another article by the same name by a Donald T. Williams. Don’t know if they were part of the same project or conspiracy, though. Both mention Flannery O’Connor.

      • I am currently 2/3 of the way through The Life You Save May Be Your Own, by Paul Elie. It is a very well written 500+ page literary biography of four contemporary American Catholic writers whose paths occasionally crossed: Dorothy Day, Walker Percy, Thomas Merton and Flannery O’Connor.

        The portrait that emerges of O’Connor is fascinating: she is brilliant, self-confident, often nasty, and very much a product of her time and place. Elie notes that she was well aware her stories would be read long after her premature death (from Lupus), and understanding the turn that history was taking towards civil rights in the 1950s-early 60s, in her stories she mostly portrayed African American characters in a positive light.

        But in her correspondence and in the memories of those who knew her, Elie writes, “in her life… she followed the crude and dehumanizing manners of the white South, and even delighted in them, as if the South’s dramatic resistance to racial equality was a down-home regional comedy.”

        The book is well worth the read; it is giving me much to think about in these days.

        • Thanks. I’ll look for that.

        • But in her correspondence and in the memories of those who knew her, Elie writes, “in her life… she followed the crude and dehumanizing manners of the white South, and even delighted in them, as if the South’s dramatic resistance to racial equality was a down-home regional comedy.”

          And that, in a nutshell, is my problem with all of her fiction, because I think she does the same thing to all of her characters. They become grotesque caricatures of human beings, imo.

          Sorry. I have tried and tried to like her work, and have never been able to see what others see in it. And yes, she can stoop low in those letters, but there is much that is good, too.

  11. Chris Perry says

    Delay was the House Majority Leader, not the Speaker of the House (Dennis Hastert was at the time he served as majority leader). So, he never in the line of Presidential Succession (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_line_of_succession).

    This doesn’t make his comment any more scary, however.

    • Yeah, even our House of Representatives wasn’t stupid enough to elevate Delay to the Speakership.

    • Rick Ro. says

      And it’s not like Dennis Hastert isn’t without his own issues! Good grief…is there a “good politician” anywhere to be found???

    • Daniel Jepsen says

      Good catch, thanks.

  12. Klasie Kraalogies says

    With reference to Leithart: Remember he is one of the Doug Wilson crowd. The folks who are so biblical and literal that they refuse to condemn slavery, including (important in the light of the flag debates) Southern Slavery. Wilson famously wrote a book to defend it. Last time I checked Leithart was onevof the main lights in Wilson’s self-created denomination (CREC), and a leading professor at both his college (New St Andrews) and his seminary (Greyfriars Hall).

    Others here refer to Peter Enns’ response- it is very good. Leithart obviously has brains, but the more you read of his theology (go read his blog), the more you will feel that somehow there is some armwaving going on behind the clever phrasing and big words.

    • That’s it. Criticize the person instead of his words. THAT is fair.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        Hmmm …. and you did anything different higher up the thread? Anyway, I meant this as context. Leithart, Wilson and co are literalists because their theology demands it to a fault, even if it includes defending the undefensible. This leads to arm waving with a veneer of intellectualism. It cannot be any other way – and I say this precisely because I went through this myself and recognize the symptoms. It is a variant of postmodernism, which is funny, because Wilson loves attacking postmodernism.

      • Clay Crouch says

        You can do better than that.

      • Clay Crouch says

        Oscar, have you read Doug Wilson and Leithart? Or are you just reacting to the comments because the are criticizing a conservative. If you have read them, then please come to the discussion with more than just complaints about criticism. Have you read Enns? You might actually like to have a beer with him even if you don’t agree with him.

    • Dana Ames says


      thank you for pointing this out. Leithart is smart, no question about it. One can be smart and still hold some questionable beliefs.


      • Dana, here’s what George Orwell said about that, and used Salvador Dali as an example:

        “One ought to be able to hold in one’s head simultaneously the two facts that Dali is a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being. The one does not invalidate or, in a sense, affect the other.”

      • Or reprehensible beliefs, for that matter.

  13. “Tom DeLay used to be the Speaker of the House, the third in line to the president? Really? How is that even possible?”

    Oh…I don’t know. How is it possible that Donald Trump now outright LEADS the rest of the Republican candidates in the latest polls? Then again, how is it that Hilary Clinton is the leading candidate for the Dems? The crazy train is high-balling into a curve and there is no way off.

    • “Leads” also means 15%, which also means “85% doesn’t want him anywhere near the White House unless he’s mopping the bathrooms with his hairpiece.”

      It’s 15 months out, around this time 8 years ago we were talking about the inevitability of Hillary Clinton and how she might pick up that guy from Illinois as her running mate.

      • Marcus Johnson says


        We are poor learners of history. The masses are fickle and the polls are useless at this point, which we should have learned from 2011, 2007, 2003…

  14. ” ‘We want to be morally and technically better than Facebook. We want all Brazilian Evangelicals to shift to Facegloria,’ said Mr Barros, one of the founders.”

    (C’mon, HUG, we’re all waiting how ya!)

    It’s good to see colonies of the Evangelical ghetto spread around the world (sarcasm).

    • Ok, I’ll say it instead: Just like Facebook but Christian™.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Guys, I’m on vacation, out of town, and mostly away from the Net for

        I’m currently posting this from the AnthroCon Internet Room on the second floor of the Westin next to the Pittsburgh Convention Center. And a six-foot rubber lemon with a cat’s head just bounced through on the way to the escalators.

      • LOL and I was about to say “It looks like HUG is on vacation!”

        Seriously, though, how does “Facegloria” have a better ring to it than “Gloriabook?” It must be a linguistic thing.

  15. …for not how. Chrome’s spell check is getting as insane as iPhone.

  16. Leithart’s sarcasm (if that what it is) is painfully hard to follow. I’m not sure sarcasm is the best tool when dealing with a subject where both sides are equally wrong. Both literalism and historical criticism seem to have a similar approach to scripture. They both impose an interpretive layer on top of the text.

    I was reading this week how Buddhists are not obsessed with discovering either a historical or literal Gautama.

    • Because HE is a myth? They have Gautama, we have Jesus, Jews have Moses, Americans have Washington and Russians have the incredibly manly Putin.

      EVERYTHING is myth!

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        Did you actually read what Enns wrote? And do you know why he wrote it – ie what are the facts, incongruities etc that led him to that position?

        • Yes, I DID! And yes, I DO. Humor is still humor unless, that is, it offends YOUR personal views. You can lampoon evangelicalism and conservative thought all day and it gets a pass, but woe to those who do the same to the other side of the conversation, even IF the attempt is fraught with inconsistencies.

          Why not just laugh when it is funny and leave it alone when it is not? Does EVERYTHING have to come down to culture wars on reverse?

          • Except most people who know Leithart’s work see nothing of “humor” in that piece…

          • There is a position Leithart is defending with his humor and Enns is criticizing that position, not the quality of the humor.

      • That Other Jean says

        You’re largely right, of course, Oscar. Putin exists; Washington existed. We have sound historical evidence for them both. The Buddha, Jesus, and Moses are less well attested historically; but if they did exist, they almost certainly would not recognize themselves in most of the stories that have grown up about them. In that sense, everything IS myth.

        • That Other Jean says

          And my computer is having another nervous breakdown. This posted under one of Oscar’s comments, but not the right one.

        • Robert F says

          Yes, the Buddha certainly existed. But the Buddhist texts we have were not written until several hundred years after his death, and there is enormous legendary accretion in them. The documents in the New Testament formed very differently, and much more quickly.

          • Yes. And Jesus is a very well-attested to historical figure. No serious historian denies that. Multiple hostile sources are credited with acknowledging him (including Josephus and Jewish traditions). Of course, we have more evidence for Washington, being that he is much more recent, but in some ways probably more mythology about Washington than Jesus.

          • Miguel – no, he is not a “well attested to historical figure” in the way that you state. It’s not like Plutarch or other ancient historians and biographers wrote about him. If anything, the references we do have are pretty marginal and extremely brief. The 1st 100 years of the history of the church aren’t very well-documented, either, though the existence of xtianity is not (from the standpoint of contemporary sources) in dispute.

            I think we have to be very careful when trying to look at history – it isn’t something that allows us to use belief to claim that certain things must be true. Establishing the historicity of other biblical figures is just about impossible. That isn’t to say that people did or didn’t exist per se, only that we do not have any historical or archaeological evidence for them.

          • Numo, aside from the vast manuscript traditions of eyewitness accounts contained in the New Testament (which are not automatically wrong just because they are “biased”), we have their accounts of the existence of this man from outside sources, many of which were opposed to his cause. Of course he isn’t written about in the same way that major rulers were, his influence at the time wasn’t nearly that large. The fact that someone with his level of influence was included as much as he was is rather remarkable. Everyone knows that Josephus wrote about him as a real figure, and the Jewish traditions record him as an “itinerate teacher whom many believed could perform miracles.” Yes, the references are generally brief. But other historical figures are not dismissed on that account. I’m not saying that every detail of the Gospel narratives is a solid historical fact, from a secular standpoint, but that the existence of a man in the first century, known as Jesus of Nazareth, is not in dispute by anyone serious.

            I’m not that interested in the historicity of other biblical figures, nor in using belief to claim certain things must be true. There are 2-3 other hostile sources (the chief ingredient in corroboration) that record the existence of this guy, and no contemporary sources claiming he was a hoax. There is no documented reason to believe that the consensus of these sources, along with the Gospel narratives, are all wrong.

          • Miguel, i used to be a historian, so there is real methodology behind what i am saying. The scriptures do not equal historical documentation; they are religious texts and just not in the purview of the *historicity* of Jesus. The Josephus passages number exactly 2, and there is a lot of doubt about the authenticity of one of them. Roman military historian Tacitus mentions “Christus.” These passages (authentic or not) are asides in the texts. It is not at all the same thing as the sources that attest to thehistoricity of, say, Julius Caesar, or Marc Antony, or people like Plato and Aristotle.

            Historicity is not biased, itis just that historians have to confine themselves to primary/secondary sources and archaeological findings. Religious texts matter in thehistory of religion, not in attempting to establish the historicity of an individual. I don’t doubt for one second that Jesus lived and is real, but i am basing that lack of doubt on how i brlieve and interpret *religious* texts. It is a matter of faith, not historicity. That was the point i was attempting to make when i mentioned other biblical figures – cf. Moses. The only thing that attests to Moses’ existence are religiius tects. I believe he was a real person, but the historivity of Moses has never been edtablished. Does that help?

          • Apologies for the typos – blasted phone!

          • Numo, there is a world of qualitative differences between the documents of the New Testament and, say, the Buddhist sutras. They stand out among all religious texts as vastly different. The quantity and consistency of manuscripts, there chronological proximity to the events described, the number of eyewitness accounts, and their interaction with other verifiable historical events have no parallel. Sure, that doesn’t mean that they historically prove Jesus walked on water or called Peter a rock. However, the fact that they were most certainly widely read, believed, and circulated, within the first century, is hardly negligible. It demonstrates conclusively that there were a significant number of people living in the first century who were convinced that there was such a person as Jesus of Nazareth. The hostile corroboration, brief as it is, seals the deal. What is strangely missing, if all these people were following an imaginary figure, is a contestation of his existence from the very many opponents of the cause.

            It isn’t reasonable to expect Christ to have as much secular biographical data as the prominent rulers of the time. Especially since his influence was limited in his lifetime, expanding much grater long after his death.

            Like I said, I really don’t care about the historicity of Moses. I’m good to take the rest of the book on faith because of the word of the very real Jesus who died and rose.

            These four historical facts are not in dispute by those who study them: 1. Jesus of nazareth was a real figure in the first century. 2. He was an itinerate teacher, some believed he performed miracles. 3. He was crucified by the Romans (they kept records like Nazis). 4. The tomb was found empty. All have non-Christian corroboration. N.T. Wright wrote a book about it, you should check it out.

          • Miguel, i think you are missing my point. Religious texts are by definition biased, and cannot be used to determine historicity apart from other evidence, be it textual (*secular*), archaeological, or both.

            We simply canmot prove the historicity of either Jesus or incidents recorded in the Gospels in the same way that we can vetify facts about, say, Caesar’s campaign in what is now the UK. For one thing, there is NO local documentay evidence.

            The ancient world isn’t replete with documentation that can prove the historicity of much of anyone’s existence. It’s even hard to do that for people born in and living in the US until very recently.

            I believe Jesus lived, but i cannot prove that with decent historic documentation, or matetial objects. Much as i might wish to, i can’t. It’s the nature of the discipline itself, not a flaw that is somehow anti-religion. We don’t know nearly as much about Judaism in the Palestine of that time as we would lkke, either, which might have a lot to do with (assumed, possible) destruction of documents in and immediately after 70 A.D.

            History has a lotmof similarities to detective work, in many respects – and there is, as with reading religious texts, interpretation involved. I don’t know if you recall the headlines mlast year that went nuts with “Viking women were real wartiors!” claims. What that was actually about: a number of graves in an area of Ireland that was had Viking graves settlements were found, during a specific (and very limited) excavation to contain swords. It was assumed that all the bodies that were interred with swords were male. Recent forensic investigation has shown several of the skeletons to be female. We don’t know why these women had swords included with grave goods. It might be a mark of social status, or have something to do with who they married or what family they came from. It could even have to do with religion. The thing is, it’s one thing to see that yes, some women were interred with swords, but it’s a huge leap to infer that somenor all of those women were warriors. It is posdible that some or all of them might have known how to use those swords, but… we have NO evidence to substantiate that. No written records at all – only the skeletons, the grave goods, and conjecture.

            So… if people are going to take something like that and run with it, i think you can see how they might do the same with religious texts. I did not mention Buddha; i was trying to explain historical methodology. No more, and no less.

          • Sorry, Numo, but I hear what you’re saying. You are completely missing my point. I do not think the Gospels prove the historicity of Jesus. You’re arguing against what I am clearly not saying. I’m also not arguing for the demonstrable historicity of the NT events.

            It’s really simple. The documents of the NT date to the first century. This is commonly agreed upon by most historians. They were copied and circulated at that time. Even more so in later centuries. But it isn’t reasonable to believe they simply sat on the originals for 75 years.

            This doesn’t prove Jesus existed. It does prove that some people in the first century believed Jesus existed. They could have been wrong, but unless you want to argue that the gospel narratives were originally contrived as fiction for entertainment, their presence shows that many people, who lived when Jesus supposedly did, took his existence as a serious reality.

            You can quibble all you want with the details of individual stories, events, or miracles (historically, I understand you are there religiously). And yes, very much historical delving into that time period relies heavily on inference. But there is still much that can be known about that time.

            You should really check out N.T. Wright’s book on the topic, he’s really done his homework. His conclusions are very historically defensible.

          • Yes, the existence of early copies of various parts of ghe NT are evidence for exactly what you say – that many people believed in Jesus. I think the key is that this is about belief, not Jesus being “well attested to historically.” That’s what i disagreed with in your post upthread.

          • As far as we know, though, the writing of the Gospels did not begin until the end of the 1st century. I think it is important to be clear about that, including the “as far as we know” part.

          • As for the “other cultures” bit, i was trying to reply to what you wrote below, and i wish you had taken some time on that. Mainly because i was trying to clarify something i wrote a while back (about much Latin American xtianity being syncretistic), because i know that my lack of clarification on that offended you – understandably so.

            Aside from that, i do (personally) think it is important for people to know at least a bit about world religions, etc. I think we are in danger of much misunderstanding and prejudice otherwise. Equally, there arenow alot of adherents of New World versions of African religions in the US today, and there is a ton of misinformation and misunderstanding about what they believe. So it really is, imo, important for us to get at leadt a basic grasp of some of these topics, in the interest of good citizenship. (Equally true re. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. – and, for that matter, Judaism.) It is a shame that the history of religion is so much avoided in US education. It’s not at all the same thing as directly teaching religion, but people are afraid to touch it, and that fear can lead to some bad things.

    • Clay Crouch says

      If you read Enns’ post you would see that he does make the point that historical criticism is not the be all to end all. But he does think that evangelicals shouldn’t be afraid to allow it a place at the discussion table. Again, please first read, then argue with his points.

      • I read the article but just commented that I thought he took Leithart’s piece too seriously. Enns’ points are all valid and I have no criticism of them on the merits.

        I guess RAMBLINGS have morphed into something more serious than intended.

    • That’s because Buddhism does not depend on the existence of the historical Buddha for the meaningfulness of its philosophy. Buddhism, and the truths it proclaims, are not thought to be personal (it would odd if they were, since one of the planks of Buddhism is the non-existence of the self), but universal spiritual truths that have been discovered and rediscovered in numberless universes throughout measureless time. The historical Buddha that we speak of was just one occasion of those re-discoveries.

      Christianity, otoh, stands and falls with the historical reality of Jesus Christ. Prove that he didn’t exist, and Christianity falls apart, because it is rooted in a person, not a set of universally available and accessible truths. Therefore, it has far more invested in the historicity and accuracy of its sacred texts than Buddhism does; Christians may argue what level of historicity and accuracy those texts need to have to show us Christ, but if they give up the texts, they give up Christianity. I would use liberal Quakerism as an example of how the removal of the scriptures from the center of Christian theology leads to the eventual loss of any specifically Christian identifying markers; the historicity of Jesus is not central to the practice of liberal Quakerism, because Jesus is not necessary to its practice.

    • I followed his sarcasm rather easily, but I agree with your points that both approaches are wrong and tend to assume too many presuppositions, rather than just letting the text speak for itself.

      Most religions are not concerned with facts because facts would generally overturn them. This is why most pantheistic religious have nearly gone extinct: We can see the top of Mount Olympus with Google Earth now, and Zeus isn’t living there. How Mormonism is doing so well these days is a bit beyond me, though. Buddhism manages to thrive because it’s largely based on non-falsifiable claims, such as reincarnation.

      • I think you mean polytheistic… and in many places, they are thriving, still. Just not in the majority populations of the US.

        The Indian subcontinent, and many parts of Africa and Latin America (Native religious beliefs + African religions + various combinations of yhe 2) and the Caribbean (dityo African religions) are examples. A lot of the people who still believe in these polytheistic religions are baptized xtians (in the Westetn hemisphere, that is). There are a LOT of people in Cuba who have highly syncretistic brliefs, and in Brazil, and in other countries as well. The popular music of tjose countries is full of references to African deities, ancestral dpirits, and religious rites. In other words, when Afro-Cuban singer Celia Cruz sang the praises of Santa Barbara, that meant something that is not about an xtian saint. Enslaved people saw similarities between yhe saints of Catholicism and the deities and ancestral spirits of their own beliefs, and used one as a cloak for the other. These Aftican religions are practiced openly now, but were hidden for centuries – even as they spread among the slave”owners.” A lot of white Cubans and Brazilians are staunch devotees today.

      • Budhism adapts well… and so you’ve got, for example, Buddhism living with Shinto in Japan, with native animism in Korea, with animisim in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan. Buddhism in yhese places does not equal what the Budfha taught – it has adapted and changed to work *with* local beliefs and cistoms.

        That said, Robett F knows far more about this topic than yhe rest of us, so I’ll defer to him. Am sure he can provide lots of context/background. It’s complex, though, and can’t really be boiled down into blog comments. I know little about it, and undrrstand less, but am fascintaed by what people believe and why they believe it. Kinda wish i had taken some comparative religion courses, back in the day.

  17. I had assumed that Brazil, to whatever extent it was religious, was almost entirely Catholic – until I met my Brazilian girlfriend through house church. Her family and friends around Atlanta are all pretty devout evangelicals (her father was a Presbyterian minister in Brazil.) I was rather shocked to hear that evangelicalism seems to be growing among young people from Brazil.

    The Brazilian Christian Facebook seems pretty silly but over the past few months I’ve noticed that my Brazilian friends use Facebook A LOT. Like, American college students in 2007 levels.

    • Latin America was almost entirely Catholic until after about 1960. Evangelical missionaries and church planters came on strong, from fundamentalists to charismatics. In Brazil, the charismatics have caught on big, and apparently the prosperity gospel too.

    • A lot of Brwziliwns are adherents of African religions, actually.

  18. IndianaMike says

    Since South Carolina didn’t start flying the Confederate battle flag until after the midpoint of the twentieth century, weren’t they really finally marching out of it?

  19. I was texting on my IPhone (while driving my leased VW Beetle, shh!), and heard about the Pope’s anti-capitalist rant. I couldn’t agree more, so I told Siri to Retweet the news from John Oliver (HBONow is SO Worth it, BTW), but my bluetooth wasn’t syncing with my phone OR the IPad in my Breanthaven! Maybe my Kindle Fire will work after I stop in at Caribou, provided their Wi-Fi lets me on this time.

    Anyway, yeah, down with corporations.

    (add satire warnings where needed)

  20. As far as I’m concerned, the ceremony, including honor guard, surrounding the retiring of that Confederate flag gave it way too much respect, and tended to subvert the reasons it was being retired in the first place. It should have quietly been taken down, without any pomp and ritual; that would have been far more fitting in view of what it represents, and the reasons for its removal. Oh, well.

    • Clay Crouch says

      I couldn’t agree more. Speaking as a white southerner whose pedigree is as impeccable as it is long, I can no longer accept the premise that our heritage and the symbols of that heritage is innocent and misunderstood. Our heritage is part and parcel to the enslavement of millions of people for purely economic reasons. While my family, to the best of my knowledge, did not own slaves, it surely benefitted from and fought to preserve the system that required slavery for its existence. To deny that is to deny the historical facts. As followers of Christ, we are called to work for healing and reconciliation. I don’t believe that can be done by refusing to face our history or refusing to engage black Americans in honest and painful dialogue about the inherent racism plaguing our country.

    • That Other Jean says

      You’re right, but the Governor still has to live in South Carolina, where a pretty large number of the citizens honor that flag for “historical” reasons, without acknowledging that such honor also honors what the flag stood for: a commitment to chattel slavery, and the treason required to defend it.

      • In other words, she was afraid to remove the flag in a way fitting for what it represents.

        It was a similar fear that made the North seek to forget entirely the crimes the South committed in the prosecution of their unjust war, and to ignore the subsequent evils of Jim Crow and oppression of blacks. It also enables the current idea that whites and blacks have an equal moral responsibility to work toward racial reconciliation. No, America owes African Americans, and Native Americans, a moral debt that it hasn’t even started to try and pay. Smoothing over the existence and extent of that debt by gestures such as the placatingly honorable retirement of that flag does not help in discharging that debt.

        • You know who also owes African Americans a moral debt? African AFRICANS, who funneled Africans INTO the slave trade. Where’s the talk about that? All this talk about BAD AMERICANS needing to continue to feel guilt and shame for what happened two hundred years ago…let’s remember it wasn’t just Americans that were culpable. Can we get some African nations to admit their role in the slave trade that ended 150 years ago?

          • Robert F says

            We are American, not Africans. We benefit from the crimes of our own national ancestors. And the past isn’t past, to paraphrase William Faulkner, a White Southerner during Jim Crow who knew whereof he spoke.

        • flatrocker says

          Robert F,
          This is why any progress towards justice and peace is so frustrating. A great victory has been won with the removal of this divisive symbol. It was removed from a place it should have never been in the first place. Hallelujah and rejoice.

          But nooooo….it’s still not good enough. It’s never good enough. How bout we just simply savor the moment and place some hope for our future a little more? Occasionally the sun does actually shine and its rays feel good.

          • Robert F says

            We are allowed to feel differently about this, aren’t we, flatrocker. Maybe I need a more positive outlook, maybe I’m being too critical about the flag removal ceremony, maybe I’m tying too much to a moment I should just let others, and myself, feel good about.

            This was a great symbolic victory, yes, but if it does not lead to other substantive change, it will have been an empty victory. It’s a move, one move, in the right direction; it must be followed by others, or it will have been for naught.

          • There’s a phrase.

            Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

            What has happened wasn’t perfect. But it was a good thing.

    • I live in Columbia and I disagree. I thought the ceremony did not have excessive pomp. It did have solemnity, which may have been in part out of deference to those who honor the flag as a “symbol of heritage”, but also reflected the historical importance of the occasion and the presence of the families of the nine slain members of Mother Emmanuel AME in Charleston.

      I went out to dinner last night in Columbia with a multi-racial group of friends. Together, we lifted our glasses and toasted a long-overdue, but good day in South Carolina.

      • That Other Jean says

        Congratulations to you all on the removal, however belatedly, of a more-than-problematic symbol to the museum where it belongs. It was a good day in South Carolina, and in the rest of the country, too.

  21. Dan from Georgia says

    Probably been stated above, but the Chicago Cubs parade meme was the best meme I have ever seen!


    The snakes paintings are great! The last one, American Gothic, is that one now American Snake Handlers?

  22. Yes, under the symbol of the hammer and sickle evils on a par with those done under the Swastika took place. What’s amazing is how so many members of the European and American intellectual classes took the bait of Soviet propaganda, hook, line and sinker, and became apologists for Stalin and boosters for Communist tyranny. Remembering that historical lesson, and the superstitious credulity of European and American intellectual with regard to the Communist project, tempers my own subscription to “progressive” values.

    • Robert F says

      It also tempers my confidence in intellectuals, including scholars such as Leithart and the people he is skewering.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        “You don’t need any intellect to be an Intellectual.”
        — G.K.Chesterton, one of the Father Brown Mysteries

  23. The “Snakes in Frames” are creepy.

  24. Dana Ames says

    Okay, Daniel, if I were drinking my usual hot morning beverage (tea) while reading, I most certainly would have had to clean the screen when I got to the visual for “the dung of the devil”… That image is likely to stay with me a long time…


  25. That Evo Morales. Such a kidder.

    Can’t we sanctify the hammer and sickle/crucifix that he gave Francisco? How about, Christ overcomes communism—and note the position of the sickle: like the rainbow after the flood, it’s like the archer’s bow in the resting position, signifying peace.

  26. Robert F says

    “Baseball been good to me.”

  27. Is it too late to note the irony of conservatives supporting the removal of the Confederate flag while simultaneously berating liberal Christians for supporting same sex marriage? Yes the writers of the Bible do condemn homosexuality in the sternest way possible. But they also support slavery and assume it as part of God’s plan.

    So my conservative friends, if you’ve achieved the insight that slavery is a great moral evil and its symbols should not receive the imprimatur of the state you’re going against the clear historical teaching and tradition of the Church. The same thing that you’re accusing “liberals” of doing with same sex marriage.

    The liberals are trying to save your church for you. The church has always adapted to changing times. If it hadn’t it would have been extinct long ago.

  28. “But they also support slavery and assume it as part of God’s plan.” Do they, though? If being included in the Bible and being taken for granted means that the Bible assumes something is part of God’s plan, then wouldn’t the Roman Empire also qualify? I understand what you’re getting at, Stephen, but I do think a lot of the Bible just reports life that the authors took for granted and isn’t necessarily ex cathedra. Slavery is a particularly tricky issue to interpret.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I understand what you’re getting at, Stephen, but I do think a lot of the Bible just reports life that the authors took for granted and isn’t necessarily ex cathedra.

      But when it makes the jump from “reports life” to SCRIPTURE(TM)?

      Somebody told me once there’s a similar faction in Islam, whose theological rationals is because slavery (and regulations for it) are written in the Koran and Hadith, therefore Slavery is God’s Will. IT IS WRITTEN!

  29. I’m totally with Oscar on this. Enns brought a gun to a knife fight here. His article seriously sounds like he got his chonies in a wad over some well deserved caricature. Enns just goes off the defensive deep end here. No sense of humor at all.

    Here’s the deal: Leithart is criticizing the kind of rhetoric that often gets employed in progressive arguments, and the assumptions they argue from. Then Enns goes off defending their conclusions. Which weren’t really on trial. Sure, Leithart disagrees with them, but that’s not what his satire is about. He doesn’t offer any counter evidence. He doesn’t care to. He’s asking us to consider some of the absurdities of the leftist argument here.

    Say what you want about Leithart, but he is no dummy. He has his doctorate from Cambridge, and his ordination is with the PCA. He is not a minister of the CREC, and this “he once had a beer with Douglas Wilson, therefore he’s dangerous!” schtick is just liberal intolerance. Michael Spencer was a huge fan of Wilson. (https://internetmonk.com/archive/recommendation-is-christianity-good-for-the-world-and-a-primer-on-worship-and-reformation-both-by-douglas-wilson). So am I. Deal with it. I have benefited tremendously from his writings, including ways specific to my vocation. Just because we think he has some great things to say, it doesn’t follow we endorse every view he has. Some of his views are not only wrong, but extremely politically incorrect. It doesn’t therefore follow that he’s a pariah POS that is wrong about everything. For pete’s sake, he spearheaded the creation of a hymnal which includes the entire Dorian Service by Tallis. That is nothing short of remarkable. Go and listen to that before you caricature him as some bucktooth redneck displaced southern hillbilly wishing he could get his slaves back. I still smile every time I remember the phrase “feminist bedwetter.” The reaction he got from that simply further proved his point.

    • Migue, FYI I asked Pete to write the article. We’ll have a post on it this week.

      • Looking forward to it. I just feel like there’s too much talking past each other between tribes on this kind of issue. Pete 1 is saying “science should not be the magisterium” while Pete 2 is saying “but the science is true and those are scare tactics.” Neither seems to address the concern of the other.

    • I’ve also liked many things Leithart has written, but it’s important to know that Leithart also has a history with regard to this discussion. He reviewed Enns’s books on First Things, and tried to immunize himself from Pete’s criticism by saying that Enns simply characterized anyone who disagreed with him as “immature, fearful abusers of Scripture who want to press the Bible into their own modern molds.” He then said he couldn’t, on that basis, have a discussion. I think that’s disingenuous. He and Pete have known each other for many years, Pete was one of his teachers at Westminster, and he also published some of Leithart’s articles in Westminster Journal. They know each other well, and Pete’s answer is not humorless as much as it is fatigue at having to answer yet another volley from someone who apparently doesn’t want to have a discussion, just cast aspersions.

      • Wow. That’s a lot of history there between the two. I had no idea. Boy, that really does frame that discussion in a different light. Yeah, I’d be pretty humorless at that point too. I’m honestly only vaguely familiar with the work of either, and tend to tune these sorts of debates out due to the lack of sincere exchange, typically.

        There is, though, also a tribal aspect to some of this interpersonal conflict, isn’t there? I believe Enns had a rather soured relationship with Westminster/PCA due to some of his more progressive views. That doesn’t justify Leithart’s dismissal of the discussion, but I wager this backstory gets really complex.