Weekly Meanderings

We are getting the bugs out of our new landing/home page here at Jesus Creed — what do you think?

I wondered how long this would take. When I saw the original statements of TGC and that complementarianism was put at the level of the confession I was both unsurprised (the folks organizing it were strong complementarians) and surprised: How can complementarianism rise so high on the list? So while Carl Trueman and I disagree on plenty, we agree that this one is simply misplaced. Carl Trueman: “Given that the issue of complementarianism is raising its head over at The Gospel Coalition, it provides an opportunity to reflect on an issue that has always perplexed me: why is the complementarian/egalitarian debate such a significant bone of contention in parachurch cobelligerent organisations whose stated purpose is to set aside issues which divide at a church level but which do not seem to impact directly upon the gospel?   Why, for instance, is this issue of more importance than, say, differences over baptism or understandings of the Lord’s Supper?  Historically and confessionally, those have been the issues that divide, so it is strange to see the adjective ‘confessional’ applied to movements which actually sideline the very doctrinal differences which made Protestant confessions necessary in the first place.”

Speaking of divisions, they get expressed at the Table. Kenneth Tanner: “As an ecumenist I listened to (and largely bought) the notion that taking Communion with other Christians in the absence of institutional unity was tantamount to premarital sex, to an intimacy that should not be attempted because we were not — as disagreeing Christians — properly wed to each other yet. But the more time I spend as a day-to-day trenches brand of pastor living out the faith in the real world, I find this argument holds less and less water. A reality I have come to grips with after decades of personal ecumenical involvement is the same reality that leaders at the highest levels of churches have been wrestling with for centuries: The age-old pursuit of doctrinal unity under an authoritative “true church” will likely never occur before the Second Coming. Another reality — a more personal one — has hit me with full force. This division at our Eucharists inflicts pain upon those of tender conscience and deep love for Christ and his bride. They are broken upon the rocks of our divisions and it is a scandal.”

Derek calls folks on priorities.

Good story at Mind Hacks: “In a story that could be the plot for a film, one of the world’s pioneering anthropologists has been found to have been a member of both the Nazi SS and the French resistance during the Second World War. Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff retains legendary status in anthropology and particularly in Colombia, where he first lived with many of the country’s remote indigenous people during the 1950s and 60s founded the first department of anthropology. He died in 1994 but his legend has only grown since his passing.”

Good sketch of the history by Andrew McGowan — are pastors “priests”?: “The term is used by Anglicans, as well as Roman Catholics and eastern Orthodox Churches, to refer to ordained ministers, and in particular those in the order of presbyters. In wider usage, a “priest” is a religious functionary and in particular someone who offers sacrifices. So “priest” is the word used to translate the Hebrew cohen, the Greek hiereus, and Latin sacerdos, all of which refer to those who offer sacrifices in the temples of their respective divinities. However the English world “priest” is derived from the quite different Greek word presbyteros, meaning “elder” or presbyter.”

Interview with Elie Wiesel about his new novel.

J. Aaron Simmons: “My hope in calling for a Postmodern Kataphaticism is that Caputo’s “theo-poetics” and something like Jamie Smith’s Pentecostally oriented Reformed version of Radical Orthodoxy would both be recognized as options worth weighing and considering within postmodern philosophy of religion (whether within a continental or analytic mode).  The debate about what reasons one might offer for choosing one over the other is a debate well worth having and, I believe, would productively help to overcome the overblown opposition between continental and analytic philosophy of religion.  Even if postmodernism, in general, invites hesitation in the face of dogmatism, one cannot sit on fences forever.  Postmodern Kataphaticism reminds us of this and helps us to understand that even the most radical apophatic discourse is dependent upon positive claims.  Such claims may or may not be true—hence the need for continued conversation and good arguments—but that they might be true is what is important.  Postmodern apophaticism does not avoid making truth-claims, but it becomes problematically dogmatic and unhelpfully orthodox when it forgets this while criticizing everyone else for doing so.”

Meanderings in the News

Trevor Butterworth calls out Nicholas Kristof: “The point is that we need good regulation. We need quantified risk – not hypothetical risk. We need agencies that pursue the best possible scientific research without fear of unemployment or favor to industry or politics. Which is why Kristof’s ongoing, studied refusal to talk to the FDA on BPA is unconscionably bad opinion journalism. It is doing to the agency for Democrats what right-wing criticism is doing to the Environmental Protection Agency for Republicans: stripping both of scientific legitimacy. The public needs to know what the FDA is doing, because it is doing a lot and doing it well. And for evidence of that,don’t just take it from me, take it from NPR.”

Ruth Etchells: “Ruth Etchells, who has died aged 81, was one of the most influential women in the Church of England, “the best female bishop we never had” and from 1987 until 1996 a leading member of the Crown Appointments Commission, nominating Anglican bishops and archbishops. In 1979, her appointment as principal of St John’s College, Durham, which contains within it Cranmer Hall, an Anglican ordination training college, caused controversy, in both the university and the Church of England. Ruth as a lay woman, and an English specialist, challenged the preconceptions of the ecclesiastical, exclusively male, Anglican theological training hierarchy. The college required modernisation both in terms of academic rigour and physical development. Ruth transformed St John’s into a place of genuine creative exchange between university college and theological college, between church and world, and between theology and other disciplines.”

Ways to eat less.

Speaking of eating, maybe calories isn’t quite the deal: “The science of calorie restriction just got a lot more complicated. Rhesus monkeys fed experimental low-calorie diets didn’t live any longer than their high-calorie brethren, a result that conflicts with a 2009 report of long-lived, extra-low-calorie monkeys. That had been the first demonstration of extended lifespans in primates, not just lab rodents, and raised hopes of the diet being a dinner-plate fountain of youth. The new findings seem to challenge that notion, though they’re far from conclusive. More fundamentally, the findings pop the lid on a roiling scientific back-and-forth over calorie restriction’s effects and mechanisms, a matter of vigorous contention that’s belied by popular notions of the diet as a simple, straightforward longevity hack.”

Teens and Dads: “(CNN) – Adolescent kids retreat to their rooms when you try to ask them how they are and hide out with their friends so often that they spend less and less time with family, right? Maybe not so much, according to a new study. In the nearly 200 families tracked, kids generally spent increasing amounts of one-on-one time with parents in their early adolescent years. Time with the folks started to drop when they were about 15. The time teens spend specifically with their dads may have critical benefits, the study from Pennsylvania State University found. The more time spent alone with their fathers, the higher their self-esteem; the more time with their dads in a group setting, the better their social skills.”

Michael Laris reports: “While technicians watched his brain during an MRI, Smith answered a series of questions, including: “Did you kill Michael McQueen?” It may sound like science fiction. But some of the nation’s leading neuroscientists, who are using the same technology to study Alzheimer’s disease and memory, say it also can show — at least in the low-stakes environment of a laboratory — when someone is being deceptive.”

Location, location, location: “You just bought peanut butter. You chose the jar because, well, you’ve always eaten the crunchy variety.  In reality, however, something else may have influenced your choice—the product you picked was centrally located on the store shelves.”

It’s hard to believe “hell” can prevent a diploma, but it can: “If there’s one belief that unites Americans, it’s that First Amendment freedom of speech is a good thing.  Everybody should have it: cigarette companies, SuperPACs, hate groups, Todd Akin, Cher, and Nichole Ritchie. Teenagers, not so much. They might say something wrong. Better to shut them up. The last time the issue of impudent teen speech came up in this column, my comments page was swamped with suggestions that the problem wasn’t free speech, it was rudeness. Teens, you see, can’t be allowed to be rude. The saucy-teen issue has surfaced again, this time in the person of a high-school valedictorian in a small Oklahoma town who used the phrase “what the hell” in a graduation speech and has been punished with the withholding of her diploma.”

Meanderings in Sports

On Lance Armstrong, Sally Jenkins: “First of all, Lance Armstrong is a good man. There’s nothing that I can learn about him short of murder that would alter my opinion on that. Second, I don’t know if he’s telling the truth when he insists he didn’t use performance-enhancing drugs in the Tour de France — never have known. I do know that he beat cancer fair and square, that he’s not the mastermind criminal the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency makes him out to be, and that the process of stripping him of his titles reeks. A federal judge wrote last week, “USADA’s conduct raises serious questions about whether its real interest in charging Armstrong is to combat doping, or if it is acting according to less noble motives.” You don’t say. Then when is a judge, or better yet Congress, going to do something about it?”

Greg Norman, on his plane’s landing in Geneva: “Greg Norman came crashing into Switzerland for the Omega European Masters on Tuesday when the wheels on his private jet malfunctioned upon landing in Geneva, according to Golf Digest’s Tim Rosaforte. “We were going 60, 70, 80 knots, the wheel went 90 degrees, the nose started kangarooing and stuff in the cabin was going everywhere,” Norman told Rosaforte later that day. “All the cabinets in the galley came out. The shaking was pretty violent. Nobody knew what was going on.” That’s about the the Aussiest description we’ve ever heard of a near-death experience.”

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.

  • Jim Rolf

    I agree with Trueman– I don’t understand the importance given to complementarianism by complementarians.

  • http://rhymeswithplague.blogspot.com Bob Brague

    Re Aaron Simmons: Say what?

  • http://desperatetheologian.wordpress.com/ Russell Almon

    On the Trueman/TGC/complementarian issue – Stephen Holmes had some good reflections (if you haven’t already seen them)…

    http://shoredfragments.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/why-complementarianism-matters-reflections-occasioned-by-carl-trueman/

  • scotmcknight

    Russell, Stephen’s point is worth considering, but I’d put it differently: How can complementarianism be a defining issue alongside major Christian doctrines? Yes I can see this being part of their ethos and beliefs, but when it rises to the level it has in TGC’s statements it becomes a matter of faith and not just boundary marker.

  • Bill

    Sure, but don’t most roads at TGC lead back to John Piper?

  • Pat Pope

    On Location, I actually choose the end stall in restrooms, hoping no one occupies the one next to me and I always look for end parking spaces to try to keep distance between myself and other cars. So, I think there is something to location. We may not necessarily always go for central location, but I think it shows that we do have reasons for why we choose the things that we do, even if it’s not always readily apparent to us at the moment. In other words, we may not do many things randomly.

  • Pat Pope

    Complementarianism (sp?) may have become an issue as people felt the gospel was somehow being compromised by those who would allow women leaders in the Church. Anytime you feel strongly about an issue and feel that it’s existence is at stake, the issue will then get elevated.

  • Andy Halpin

    Hi Scot,
    Re. the new landing/home page – I’m sorry, I don’t like it! It seems too cluttered, with too many items crammed into too little space. Makes me less likely to want to read them – which is a shame, as the content, as usual, is great!
    Re. the link to Derek’s blog – I know I should say nothing, because I know the reaction I’ll get from many of your readers, but I want to say a couple of things. I (nearly) always enjoy reading Derek’s blog and the wisdom he brings to the matter of following Yeshua/Jesus. But even as I began to read this post, I had a sinking feeling that I knew where it was going. And sure enough, there it was – “religious people in America” need to show “solidarity with Israel”.
    I’m very conscious of the ‘Part 1′ in the title of Derek’s post, and of the fact that he hasn’t defined what he means by “solidarity with Israel”. Nevertheless, there are at least two things that need to be said:

    Firstly, however we understand the ‘Israel of God’ in this Messianic age (and I’m aware that there are sincerely-held differences of opinion on this), what is self-evidently true is that this does not and cannot refer to the modern political entity called ‘Israel’.

    Secondly, what currently passes for “solidarity with Israel” among many religious people in America is morally repugnant to most people (including most Christians) outside of America. Just recently we had yet another example of an American politician currying favour with the Israeli establishment and recklessly encouraging them in their dangerous sabre-rattling. This of course was done for home consumption, but with utter and callous disregard for the potential consequences, in terms of yet more innocent lives lost or ruined in the Middle East (including, probably, in Israel). America’s dysfunctional relationship with Israel is a moral scandal and because it is largely associated with evangelical Christians in America, it has had the effect of bringing the Gospel into disrepute in many places – as evangelicals (such as myself) in many countries will testify.

    I hope (and I am hopeful) that this is not what Derek has in mind, and I look forward to reading more as he explains what he thinks solidarity with Israel really means.

  • CGC

    Hi Andy,
    1. I think you have a good point about the secular state of Israel, if you have not, you should write your concerns to Derek and see how he replies?

    2. If Israel refers to people of God’s covenant or simply the Jewish people in general, no matter how people view the State of Israel as a nation (?), the strong majority of the world’s Jews live there today.

    I suspect people do need to differintiate between the State of Israel and it’s inhabitants, but I don’t think people can draw such a strong line between them that the nation-state of Israel does not really count in some way.

    Whether you believe it or not, there are many Jewish Christians who still see a connection between the land in that area and God’s eternal promises.

  • Andy Halpin

    Hi CGC (??? – that doesn’t sound right, does it?),
    As I said, I know there are differing opinions on this, and I don’t want to ignore these, but I don’t think it is possible to equate Israel (in the Messianic age) with “simply the Jewish people in general”. It seems pretty obvious that Paul, at least, did not believe this (e.g. Romans 4:11, Romans 9:6, Galatians 3:7, Galatians 6:16, etc., etc).
    In any event, even if you believe this, it needs to be remembered that (a) many Jews are not citizens of Israel, and (b) many citizens, or rather, second-class citizens of Israel are not Jews.
    It was, in fact, a Jewish speaker who first (in my experience) pointed out that there was simply no Biblical precedent or mandate for a secular (‘Godless’ was the word he used) Jewish state calling itself ‘Israel’.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    homepage – sorry to tell you, but my ad blocking software makes all the pages here look fine. I do like the smaller homepage items.

  • Diane

    I find this new set-up OK, although I’m frankly not big on change. (If it’s not broke …) Anything but that system on Beliefnet ..:) We try to stick with you Scot!

  • Dana Ames

    Complementarianism has become a defining issue because I think, for those who advocate it, it’s all about The Authority Of The Bible. ISTM that C’ism is strong among those who believe that a reading of scripture on its face value in either English or Greek (and scripture alone, without the input of 1st century cultural studies, for example) supports the C’ian interpretation, because that’s “the plain meaning.” If someone does not come to that conclusion, then one does not “believe the bible” and is accused of “twisting scripture” and colluding with “the culture” and/or “feminism.” It is an issue of interpretation, but a lot of fear is woven into it because of inerrancy/biblicism/rationalism/need for absolute certainty about every bloomin’ thing – after all, if we don’t have the bible, then what have we got? (Yes, I’m being a little flip.) C’ism has become a first-order issue because of 1) fear of damage to the authority of the bible and 2) our generalized fear of the threat of the Other, of which enmity between the sexes is the oldest and deepest manifestation. (Of course, this latter is something nobody wants to talk about.)

    As for the landing page, I miss the old format for 2 related reasons:
    1. I liked seeing a bigger chunk of the original posts, and where quotes started – for example, it was not possible to see where the quote started in the iPad piece; I thought it was Scot who left his on the plane. Also, if there were updates, you could actually see what was being updated. I think at least all the posts from the current day ought to be full size. I’d like a clear delineation between each day’s postings, and that would help.
    2. The graphic positioning of the smaller leads to the earlier posts is confusing. I expect those that are “higher” to be later. Not only are they not, but all on the right are earlier than those on the left. Makes it difficult to keep track of exactly when things were posted.

    Other than that, it’s ok – generally nice graphically. It still feels like it takes a lot of time for all the stuff to load so my cursor/mouse will work, even once the whole page is there and I just want to go back and forth between posts, comments, etc. I don’t have this problem with other Patheos blog pages (Witherington, Olson, a couple of others I read).

    Hope you & Kris have an enjoyable Labor Day holiday.

    Dana

  • Andy Halpin

    Re. the home page – Dana (#13) has said exactly what I was trying to say, but far more elegantly.

  • scotmcknight

    Patheos folks have read your comments about the new format.

    Andy great to hear from you!

  • Timothy Dalrymple

    Thanks to Scot for soliciting feedback and thanks to folks above for offering their feedback. It was a tough decision in a lot of ways, and one that required a lot of deliberation about competing interests and a lot of research into the analytics on blogs and how do people find content they like, and so forth.

    The posts are in reverse chronological order, like before, but they go down from the top — first the three posts on the top, then top-down on the left column, then top-down on the right column. I know that’s a little confusing. Unfortunately, in our current setup, there’s no way to change that, but I think you’ll find that you get used to it. I’ve been testing this format on my blog for quite some time and I don’t give it a second thought now.

    The advantages, for readers, are these: (1) You get to see more of Scot’s content in a single glance. With bloggers who post as frequently as Scot does, that’s very helpful. It’s especially helpful for people who don’t visit every day. Before, they would have had to scroll *way* down to see, say, the sixth-most-recent post. Now, our analytics show that people are finding the slightly older posts, clicking on them, and therefore finding more of the content they want. (2) We added a Top Posts feature, so new readers to Jesus Creed will see some of the best examples of Scot’s work. (It only starts counting the “top posts” from the time it’s installed. So it won’t look back to older posts that got more traffic.) (3) We also added the Related Posts feature, so if you read a post on the ordaining of women, then you’ll see links to other pieces Scot has written on similar topics.

    On the whole, we think it makes Scot’s blog more like a microsite or a small magazine. We think the appearance is more professional, and we know from the data already that it does tend to invite readers to reader more posts per visit.

    We also made some less visible changes — reducing duplicate posts (if you have a full post on the landing page, and a full post in the archives, it’s counted as a duplicate, and leads the search engine crawlers to give you less credibility), reducing the number of links on the landing page (if you have over 200 total links or so, the search spiders will think you’re a link-spamming site), and so on — and these will help Scot get more traffic from search engines.

    It’s true that it does take a *little* more effort from readers, since they have to click through to read a post in full. Given the extraordinary amount of time and effort that Scot puts into his blog, though, and frankly given our own efforts to support and maintain and promote, we don’t think it’s asking too much of readers to take the extra couple seconds to record a pageview. When Scot gets more pageviews, he gets to take his wife on a nicer vacation ;-)

    Obviously we do have business interests here, but I don’t think there’s anything nefarious about that. We believe in what we’re doing, we believe in supporting and promoting blogs like Scot’s, and sometimes that requires a little bit of a trade-off between reader experience and making sure you are a sustainable business proposition. If we don’t reach the point where we’re self-sustaining, then ultimately we can’t keep creating this forum for people like Scot.

    Our growth, both in traffic and revenue, in the last couples months has been tremendous. Everything is moving in the right direction. But we still need to take into account the interests of making Patheos a profitable site, so that it will be here for a long time, continue to reward bloggers like Scot, and continue to host a great conversation.

    I’d invite people to share any further comments with me at EvangelicalPortal at patheos dot com. Thanks again!


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