From justifying God to justifying existence

More (see my last post on the subject) from Living by Faith by Oswald Bayer. . .

Not only are we always judging, condemning/justifying ourselves and each other, we also judge, condemn/justify God.  Bayer has some interesting reflections on “theodicy,” the question of how or why God allows evil,  drawing on sources that I wasn’t familiar with.  But what most struck me was Bayer’s observation that when the idea of God fades away in some people’s minds, the problem of theodicy remains.  He describes a “secular theodicy.”  No longer, “why does God allow evil and suffering,” but “why does existence allow evil and suffering.”  In many ways, that latter question is harder to answer.  I am seeing that this is why so many people today believe that life is meaningless, absurd, pointless, and (in a tragic number of cases) not worth living.

I’m thinking that, as I read on, Bayer will show that justification by Christ on the Cross justifies God (in this sense) and justifies existence itself.

[Read more...]

Justifying ourselves

I am reading a book that is blowing me away:  Living by Faith by Oswald Bayer, the contemporary German theologian who is sort of the Lutheran answer to radical orthodoxy.  Instead of reading it all, then writing a formal review, I am so excited by this book that I thought I would write posts about what I am finding so interesting as I am reading through it.

Bayer begins by showing that the concept of “justification” is not an arcane theological concept.  Rather, it’s something we are preoccupied with all the time.  We are always engaged in trying to justify ourselves.  We are always maintaining that we are right, particularly when other people say that we are wrong.  At work, in our casual conversations, in our relationships with others, we are always defending ourselves, making excuses, scoring points, and seeking approval.  I mean, you see it in the comments on this and other blogs. [Read more...]

How pastors and other leaders deal with inner chaos

There are lots of books about leadership, particularly leadership in churches.  The book that won the Award of Merit (2nd place) in the category of Christianity & Culture in the Christianity Today Book Awards, goes much deeper than most.   Mark Sayers, in Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm, shows how leaders–that is to say, pastors–are often caught up in battling their own inner chaos.

In his discussion, he also shows why so many leaders (pastors) adopt an anti-establishment, neo-bohemian mindset in insisting on changing the institution they are trying to lead.   But the book is not a critique, as such, but a very personal treatment of its author’s own experience as a pastor, one that will be of great help to other pastors and leaders, burnt-out or otherwise, trying to do their best for the people following them.

After the jump, see the mini-review I wrote about the book as one of the Christianity Today judges. [Read more...]

Why artificial intelligence won’t conquer humanity

Some smart people, from Bill Gates to Stephen Hawkings, have been raising the alarm that computers might get so intelligent that they could conquer the human race.  But artificial intelligence specialist David W. Buchanan explains why this isn’t something we need to worry about, saying the alarmists are committing the “consciousness fallacy,” confusing intelligence with consciousness. [Read more...]

The Eight Human Truths of Impulse

Candy sales have been soaring ever since marketers started putting their wares by checkout counters.  Such “impulse buying” increases the longer customers have to wait in line to get to the cash register.  Now, though, self-service checkout, online retailing, and other technological developments mean that consumers are spending less time in checkout lines, which manifests itself in less impulse buying and a problem for the snack industry.

Hershey’s, though, is planning new ways to sell its candy.  And it is using certain truths of human nature that they call the “Eight Human Truths of Impulse.” [Read more...]

Why do the winners riot?

Ohio State beat Oregon to win the collegiate football championship, the first one under the new playoff system.

Question:  Why in America do fans of the winners of big games riot, setting fires, breaking things, threatening cops?  In other countries, sports violence is a problem, but my impression is that it’s usually losers and fans who feel cheated who start tearing up things.

To switch to the NFL, I don’t think Detroit fans rioted when the penalty flags against Dallas were picked up, and no one rioted in Dallas when an apparent catch was ruled incomplete in the game won by Green Bay [hooray!].  And there were no riots in Oregon.  But the victorious Ohio State fans felt so happy that they set 89 fires. [Read more...]


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