Weekly Meanderings

Are we ready for some school year?!

Yep, this is some stuff Christians like.

Matthew Milliner: “Consequently a modern feminist such as Elizabeth Johnson does not argue for Christ’s androgyny.  “Let us be very clear: the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was a male human being is not in question.  His sex was a constitutive element of his historical person along with other particularities such as his Jewish racial identity…”  And yet, by investigating Scripture, Johnson discovers that Christ’s totality indisputably includes the feminine.  When, for example, Christ says, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5), the women referred to just beforehand (Acts 9:2) are explicitly included in Christ’s self-identification.  “The heart of the problem is not that Jesus was male,” concludes Johnson, “but that more males have not been like Jesus” (311).  There is much to criticize in certain strands of feminist theology – but can one really take issue with that?”

Tim Spivey on why church planting is all the rage today.

Jim Martin interview Trevor Hudson … very nice.

I have read and read stuff about John Stott, and what I keep reading about was his commitment to social justice. Well, yes, that’s very true and he caught some heat from the right-wingers for it. But let me speak as one who listened to him, who read him, and who followed him closely. What we knew Stott for was biblical exposition. Yes, he was committed to justice, and at Lausanne he had a famous point to make about the importance of justice, but if you ask folks who paid attention to Stott in the 60s, 70s and 80s, we knew him for his faithful biblical expositions and for his balanced approach to all things evangelical: he gave former fundamentalists a way to be evangelical without being fundamentalist. That, my friends, is why pockets of contemporary evangelicals have stopped appealing to Stott: he was third way. John Stott stood for charitable evangelicalism.

On religion and education: “The old wisdom: The more educated you are, the less likely you will be religious. But a new study says education doesn’t drive people away from God — it gives them a more liberal attitude about who’s going to heaven… For each additional year of education beyond seventh grade, Americans are: •15% more likely to have attended religious services in the past week. •14% more likely to say they believe in a “higher power” than in a personal God. “More than 90% believe in some sort of divinity,” Schwadel says. •13% more likely to switch to a mainline Protestant denomination that is “less strict, less likely to impose rules of behavior on your daily life” than their childhood religion. •13% less likely to say the Bible is the “actual word of God.” The educated, like most folks in general, tend to say the Bible is the “inspired word” of God, Schwadel says.”

Meanderings in the News

1. Andrea Kuszewski: “Not so many years ago, I was told by a professor of mine that you didn’t have much control over your intelligence. It was genetic—determined at birth. He explained that efforts made to raise the intelligence of children (through programs like Head Start, for example) had limited success while they were in practice, and furthermore, once the “training” stopped, they went right back to their previously low cognitive levels. Indeed, the data did show that [pdf], and he (along with many other intelligence researchers) concluded that intelligence could not be improved—at least not to create a lasting change. Well, I disagreed. … Now, while working memory is not synonymous with intelligence, working memory correlates with intelligence to a large degree. In order to generate successfully intelligent output, a good working memory is pretty important. So to make the most of your intelligence, improving your working memory will help this significantly—like using the very best and latest parts to help a machine to perform at its peak.

The take-home points from this research? This study is relevant because they discovered: 1. Fluid intelligence is trainable. 2. The training and subsequent gains are dose-dependent—meaning, the more you train, the more you gain. 3. Anyone can increase their cognitive ability, no matter what your starting point is. 4. The effect can be gained by training on tasks that don’t resemble the test questions.

These five primary principles are: 1. Seek Novelty 2. Challenge Yourself 3. Think Creatively 4. Do Things The Hard Way 5. Network.”

2. H. Allen Orr pushes David Brooks: “Science has a lot of uses. It can uncover laws of nature, cure disease, inspire awe, make bombs, and help bridges to stand up. Indeed science is so good at what it does that there’s a perpetual temptation to drag it into problems where it may add little or even distract from the real issues. David Brooks appears to be the latest in a long line of writers who, enamored of science, are bound and determined to import the stuff into their thinking….One certainly can’t fault Brooks’s attempt to master the science that he reports.The Social Animal canvases an enormous technical literature—indeed several literatures—and Brooks has plowed through a good amount of it. Despite this, Brooks never seems fully comfortable with all this science. He often appears ill at ease in a world of technical journals, disagreements among experts, and statistical measures of uncertainty. A working scientist knows, for example, that some findings are more secure than others, often because the former derive from studies that involved many subjects and the latter from studies that involved few. Brooks doesn’t seem to grasp this difference. To Brooks, science is science. It’s all equally sound and can be taken at face value. His lack of expertise also presumably accounts for his occasional reliance on popular scientific journalism. Thus we’re treated to conclusions from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and Jonah Lehrer’s Proust Was a Neuroscientist, among others. Since these writers are also nonscientists, Brooks’s analysis sometimes leaves us two steps removed from the actual scientist and his facts, facts that are often accompanied in the scientific literature by caveats or exceptions.”

3. Flat-out weird.

4. Kosher Pork brouhaha in NYC: “Congress is a catastrophe, the nation is on the brink of a self-induced default, the jobless recovery turns out to be all joblessness and no recovery, your retirement funds are circling the drain, our enemies in Afghanistan are on the attack, the Libyan rebel leaders we just recognized as their country’s only legitimate government appear to be assassinating each other, and right here in New York City, where it’s hotter than July and twice as humid, they’ve closed the beaches because they’re awash in raw sewage. So this is a week when we needed a miracle, and what we got was kosher pork.”

5. Seth Godin: “Now that everyone, every brand, every organization and just about every person is in a race to build trust or an online following or a reputation, the question of working for free in exchange for exposure confronts us all. Should you art direct a new ad for the local zoo, merely to build your cred? Should you give that speech for free, because people who pay speakers will be in the audience? Should you contribute code to the new kernel because people will see what you’ve done? Appear on a talk show, do a signing, call in to a radio show? Perhaps. Unsatisfying, but true. Exposure, the right kind of exposure, is good practice, an honest contribution and yes, a chance to build credibility. Make it a habit, though, and instead of exposure, you’ve set yourself up a new standard– that you work for free.”

6. So what does this say about you or us or them?

7. A good story of forgiveness: “Tehran, Iran (CNN) — A man convicted of blinding a woman in an acid attack was spared an eye-for-an-eye punishment Sunday, minutes before the sentence was to be carried out, Iranian state media reported. The Fars News Agency reported that the victim had a sudden change of heart and decided to stop the punishment. A physician was to drop acid — under legal supervision — into the eyes of Majid Movahedi on Sunday, according to Fars News Agency, to punish him for throwing acid in the face of Ameneh Bahrami seven years ago. The act disfigured her face and blinded her. Bahrami had previously insisted on the vengeful punishment after her attacker’s conviction in 2008. “However in the last minute, Ameneh changed her mind and asked the proceeding to be halted,” the Islamic republic’s Fars state news agency reported. This week marks the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan in the Islamic world, and pardons and commuted sentences commonly occur as a show of compassion leading into the holiday.”

8. Mr Rogers will make a come back, kind of .

9. Charles Simic: “Here it is already August and I have received only one postcard this summer. It was sent to me by a European friend who was traveling in Mongolia (as far as I could deduce from the postage stamp) and who simply sent me his greetings and signed his name. The picture in color on the other side was of a desert broken up by some parched hills without any hint of vegetation or sign of life, the name of the place in characters I could not read. Even receiving such an enigmatic card pleased me immensely. This piece of snail mail, I thought, left at the reception desk of a hotel, dropped in a mailbox, or taken to the local post office, made its unknown and most likely arduous journey by truck, train, camel, donkey—or whatever it was— and finally by plane to where I live.”

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Murray Wright

    I recall many years ago a colleague saying regarding fatherhood, “The problem is not that God is like a father but that our fathers are to be like God.”

  • gingoro

    “John Stott stood for charitable evangelicalism.” Many modern evangelical leaders do not follow this pattern! Thus the centrality of inerrancy and people like myself abandoning evangelicalism as a self description. Dave W

  • Susan N.

    Sword Drills! That brings back memories — did my fair share of those in school and church. Don’t have a fancy phone now with a Bible app, though.

    Death and Authors: #7 made me laugh out loud :-)

    Study: Education liberalizes religion — I take this as good news! Especially if one defines “liberal” in the purest sense of the word. I like these: “broad-minded”, “generous”, and, “Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.” (from the Free Online Dictionary). John Stott, as he is memorialized here on JC, seems to present a solid example of magnanimity.

    Forgiveness in Iran: Holy moly. That woman has amazing strength of spirit — talk about magnanimity!

  • rjs

    The last paragraph of the Kosher Pork article is the best part.

    Huh, what does it mean to say that for every year of education beyond 7th grade are 15% more likely to have attended a religious service in the last week? I rather expect that this is wrong (even impossible). On the other hand, the last paragraph of the USA Today story probably hits closer to the truth – the educated elite look a lot like the rest of America (although leaning to the more liberal expressions of faith).

    The bit on intelligence hits on key points – training matters. Yes there is some innate, inborn ability. But intentional training and practice develops the latent abilities … in athletics, in intelligence, and in virtue. Nothing much “just is.” It should be self-evident.

  • Fred

    @4 RJS

    Why do you say it is wrong (“impossible”)? Do you have 7th graders at home?

  • Diane Reynolds

    Huh, what does it mean to say that for every year of education beyond 7th grade are 15% more likely to have attended a religious service in the last week? I rather expect that this is wrong (even impossible).

    This may mean that the numbers don’t add up. If you add 15% a year for say, 9 years (high school and college) then you are already at more than 100%.

  • rjs

    Fred,

    Because it is a very ambiguous statement. For each additional year of education? Suppose that 20% of those with only a 7th grade education attend services. A 15% increase per year of education beyond this would mean that among those with a graduate education at least half would attend services (if the 15% is not “compounded”) or everyone would (if the 15% is compounded – which is the usual meaning). But even aside from the mathematical problems – do you really think that 15% more of those with two years of college than one year of college attend services and that this is a linear relationship?

  • rjs

    Diane,

    Exactly – the numbers don’t make sense (and the math making sense is my business).

  • Fred

    It may mean that. But what is he comparing his group to? Last year, or some other group?

    Also, everything I have read tells me that mainline denominations are shrinking and have been since the sixties. That would mean that we are actually becoming dumber….right?

    Where’s Joe when we need him?

  • http://www.youtube.come/psalms4guitar Psalms4guitar

    I really liked this quote from Trevor Hudson:
    “The promise of Jesus is that, as we learn to walk with him in our daily lives, we will live more lightly and freely.”

  • Ryan

    Scot,

    I am surprised to not see you include a link/story on the Bill Hybels Howard Schultz story. Thought it was very commendable how Hybels handled the situation and how 717 people signing a petition can stop someone from speaking to over a 100,000 folks.

  • Joe Canner

    Fred #9: Thanks for thinking of me :) Without the original report (impossible to find even on the journal’s website), it’s hard to tell what the author means, but I think it is plausible if the baseline rate is low enough. The 15% is probably not “percentage points” but rather “percentage of”. So, using RJS’s example:

    7th grade: 20%
    8th grade: 23% (115% of 20)
    9th grade: 26.6%
    etc.

    This assumes an exponential relationship; if it is linear you just add 3% each year. If the baseline rate is higher than 40% or 50% then it would indeed be hard to fit all of the numbers below 100%.

    Maybe this would be a good time to revive my graduate school library online research account…

  • Jason Lee

    Some of the discussion here on the education article illustrates how dangerous (and meaningless) it is to rely on journalists for accurate scientific reporting (which the “H. Allen Orr pushes David Brooks” link illustrates very well). Journalists often hurriedly skim scientists’ research looking for a sensational nugget (often misunderstood) they can use to gain attention. The journalists often do is to point us to something (potentially) interesting we can go and digest the original of. …possibly for no other reason than to see for ourselves how sloppy their reporting was.

    If you read the author’s actual research, which I’m sure he’d send you a draft of if asked (I read the paper on the journal’s website, for which you may need university subscription). The actual research article says: “The odds of attending religious services in the last 7 days increases by 15% for each year of education beyond 7 years of education.” The sample excludes respondents younger than 25 years of age. Results should be interpreted in light of the fact that this particular analysis used binary logistic regression: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logistic_regression

  • rjs

    Thanks Jason,

    I tried to take a look at the article before replying to Fred, but my University seems to have dropped the subscription effective 2008 – I couldn’t get this issue.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    “Are we ready for some school year?!”

    Well, I sent our first bird out of the nest today to his college dorm 2 hours away. 2 more still at home, but right now everyone is raiding his room at home and claiming title to the belongings left behind :)

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    ….I got the xbox 360 with Forza Motorsports 2, and 3, Project Gotham Racing 3, and 4. I guess he knows what the old man likes :)

  • MatthewS

    he gave former fundamentalists a way to be evangelical without being fundamentalist

    I really like this line.

    It’s one thing to blow someone else’s system to smithereens, even when it deserves it. But it’s another to point toward a constructive, healing future, where someone might jettison the old system but not feel a need to jettison evangelical Christianity. I think it’s harder to do than it looks like.


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