More new neighbors

In addition to the happy news of Jason Pitzl-Waters bringing The Wild Hunt to Patheos, there’s been a flurry of other folks to be welcomed to the neighborhood here.

Dilshad Ali is the new editor of Patheos’ Muslim “portal” (seeing a journalist getting hired is a welcome change of pace). And Patton Dodd, whose name you may recognize from Killing the Buddha, has joined the Patheos team as well. Max Lindeman arrives with his Diary of a Wimpy Catholic and New Testament scholar James F. McGrath arrives with Exploring Our Matrix — a couple of blogs that are new to me and I’m just beginning to explore.

Baylor theologian Roger E. Olson is someone I’ve linked to in the past and I’m happy to see his self-titled blog here at Patheos. His most recent two posts are characteristically sharp: “Biblical injunctions regarding aliens in our midst” (which is exactly what it sounds like) and “Why I do not care to engage neo-fundamentalists in dialogue” (it seems he’s learned not to trust them — heresy hunters tend to find heresy wherever they look).

And I’m particularly pleased to see that Tony Jones’ Theoblogy is now under the roof of Patheos’ sprawling house of many mansions. For a good introduction if you’re not familiar with Jones’ blog, check out “I Don’t Believe in Demons.” What I especially like about his writing and his way of looking at the world might be summed up from the end of that post:

I’m going to be getting together with Greg Boyd later this winter.  He’s the smartest person I know who believes in demons and spiritual warfare and the like.

That’s a vital and invaluable practice. Find the smartest person you can who disagrees with you and engage with the best presentation of their ideas that you can.

Anyway, that’s a whole bunch of new neighbors to welcome to the block and, sadly, it’s way too hot and humid here in the Brandywine Valley to bake. So instead of offering a neighborly pie, how about a nice fresh fruit tart?

(Recipe here — there is a little bit of baking)

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  • Anonymous

    Loving all these new additions to my reading list. Thanks Fred. And I hope you’re feeling better! /hugs

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    It’s way too cold here, but in the spirit of international as well as interfaith friendship I would like to suggest a pavlova.


  • Scott Baxter

    Nice to see Patheos improving their coverage somewhat. I haven’t looked around the site in a while – I notice most of the misinformation about non-religious viewpoints is still present, but at least now it isn’t presented as prominently; I guess that counts as progress.

  • Richard

    ” I notice most of the misinformation about non-religious viewpoints is still present…”

    The thing is, there is ample misinformation about religious viewpoints, including some pretty mainstream Christian traditions.  The whole project is a mass of well-meaning bumbling by people who are out of their depth, falling just short of being clueful enough to realize it.

    The best way to regard patheos is as a host of random blogs.  That Fred’s blog is hosted here means nothing to my reading habits.  If Fred recommends a blog I will take that recommendation seriously because I respect his opinion.  But whether or not the recommended blog happens to be hosted at patheos is irrelevant.

  • DZ

    Care to point out some specific examples? The library was written by university professors and scholars. Finding two scholars who will agree on everything is near impossible, so of course there will be differences of interpretation. But you just made a whole bunch of unsubstantiated claims there without bothering to put any muscle behind them.

  • Richard Hershberger

    “Care to point out some specific examples?”

    Happy to oblige.  Let’s start with the list of dates various churches were formed.  So we see, for example, that the Lutheran church (my own, and the one I am most familiar with) was formed in 1517.  I’m actually OK with that.  It isn’t really correct:  1517 was the year that Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door.  This was a foundational event in the history of the Lutheran church, but no one (least of all Luther) in 1517 thought of himself as belonging to a new church.  But that is relative nitpicking.  It is reasonable to speak of the Lutheran church as having formed sometime in the early 16th century.  We Lutherans use this language routinely.  It is a reasonable model because the Lutheran church clearly is not of greater antiquity.  You can’t point to a church in 1500 and plausibly claim that it is Lutheran in any meaningful sense.

    The problem is that this model is misapplied widely.  Look at the two churches that are credited with being founded in 33:  Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox.  Now consider “Oriental Orthodox”, aka Monophysite church, which we are told was formed in 451.  The events of 451 were quite different from those of 1517.  451 saw a schism, with the church splitting into two pieces.  This schism was the only thing new.  The congregations which were Monophysite in 452 had been Monophysite in 450.  From their perspective they were the church founded in 33, and the Imperial church the novelty.  In a different context I would interpret the assertion that the Roman and Eastern churches were founded in 33 and the Monophysite church in 451 as an open assertion about which were the real, original Christian church.  In this context I interpret it as well intentioned bumbling.

    This might be the time to point out that the site completely omits the fourth major Christian tradition to come out of that era:  the Dyophysite, aka Nestorian tradition.  Its omission in what is clearly intended to be a comprehensive site ought to be deeply embarrassing.

    Now lets go in the other direction, to the entry on the United Church of Christ.  The UCC, we are told, formed in 1957.  So far so good.  But this formation was yet a different phenomenon than the others we have looked at.  It was the administrative merger of predecessor church bodies in the Reformed tradition.  Similar processes have occurred in other churches.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, for example, is the result of a long history of mergers of predecessor church bodies in the Lutheran tradition.  So why are all Lutheran church bodies lumped together (as for all Methodists and all Baptists, etc.) while this one Reformed church body is set apart?  A cynic might suggest that it is either due to the lack of the word “reformed” in the name, or the site had a UCC guy on its roster.  This also highlights the peculiar absence of the Reformed tradition in general and many of its modern national incarnations in particular.

    This point of this is that the list of Christian churches has severe category hierarchy problems.  It shows every sign of not having been thought through.  The result is an incoherent mess.  Including the “formed” dates moves it into the territory of actively misleading.  It fails the fundamental test that an innocent onlooker should not come away from it knowing less than he did going in.

    But I expect you wanted something more specific:  statements of fact which are incorrect.  I can do that to.  Just glancing at the entry on Lutheranism, I see startling assertions such as “Lutheranism has a relationship of clergy to laity similar to most
    Protestant churches. For practical reasons many leadership functions
    are given to the clergy (performing sacraments, preaching, organizing
    the community), but, unlike priests, these clergy are ministers who
    enjoy no special religious privilege.”  Lutheran doctrine on ordained clergy and the priesthood of all believers is complicated.  I would hesitate to attempt to summarize it, but were I to take on the task, this is certainly not what I would end up with.  Christian churches run a wide range with regard to clergy, with the Catholics and Orthodox at one end at churches such as the Amish at the other.  Lutherans are far closer to the Catholics on this spectrum.  From the Augsburg Confession:  ” no one should publicly
    teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be
    regularly called.”  Charactizing this as the sacraments being reserved to ordained clergy as being for “practical reasons” is simply bizarre.As is, come to think of it, the notion that any useful generalization can be made about “most Protestant churches”.

    I could go on endlessly,but I will leave you with this, in the entry on Protestantism:  “Protestantism is one of the three major branches of Christianity, along with Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox.”  This is, of course, ridiculous, and belied by the rest of the site.

  • patheos library contributor

    (1) The Patheos library contains both “quick facts” and deeper, more detailed sections. We’ve had a number of complaints about the dates we’ve listed for the formation of a church or a religious tradition. When was Paganism “founded”? Atheism? Catholicism? Sometimes there are relatively clear and straightforward, historically objective answers, sometimes there aren’t. (Take Mormonism, for example: the LDS Church was officially founded in 1830, but a few Mormons have written to say that date isn’t really accurate, since Mormons view their church as a restoration of ancient truths.)
    We’re addressing this problem by expanding the “quick facts” to allow for more nuanced summary explanations. There are similar controversies over the origin dates of sacred texts: when were the Vedas written? With some of these historical questions, one’s personal view of the particular faith has a bearing on the founding or origin dates one prefers. Some Orthodox Christians maintain, for example, that they trace their beliefs to the time of Jesus’ death. There’s no one single date that is accurate and uncontroversial for the formation of many religious traditions, so we’ll be changing the format to allow for a fuller explanation.
    2) On the “omission” of the Nestorian tradition: The formation of eastern Christianity (incl. Nestorianism) is dealt with in some depth in both the “Roman Catholicism” and the “Eastern Orthodoxy” library sections under “schisms and sects.” Is there a major library section devoted to Nestorianism? No, there isn’t. Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy each have a section. (The former has been written, the latter not yet.) The library does not include sections for every religious tradition known to humankind.
    3) On the “peculiar absence of the Reformed tradition”: the library section called “Presbyterian and Reformed” is 20,000 words long and discusses the Reformed tradition in rather substantial detail.
    4) On your puzzlement as to why UCC has its own entry: actually, it doesn’t. The entry is for UCC/Congregationalism, and the reason is that Congregationalism forms an important historical thread in the overall development of American Protestantism.
    5) On your claim that the “list of Christian churches” has “severe category hierarchy problems”: Actually, we make no attempt to offer a complete list of Christian churches. Nor was the library structured with a focus on Christian churches. There are other useful resources if you’re looking for such a list. (For example, I’d recommend the “Handbook of Denominations in the United States,” 12th edition, by Craig D. Atwood.)
    6) On your critiques of the “Lutheranism” section: the two primary authors of that section are well-regarded academic experts who teach, research, and write on this subject. One of them published an excellent overview of Protestantism a few years ago (“Exploring Protestant Traditions”). Highly recommended.
    7) “Protestantism is one of the three major branches of Christianity, along with Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.”  You claim: “This is, of course, ridiculous.” Not sure how to respond to that. (Look up “three major branches of Christianity” on Google.)

  • DZ

    Care to point out some specific examples? The library was written by university professors and scholars. Finding two scholars who will agree on everything is near impossible, so of course there will be differences of interpretation. But you just made a whole bunch of unsubstantiated claims there without bothering to put any muscle behind them.

  • Bificommander

    Okay, sorry if this sounds whiny, but while I welcome these new additions to the patheos community, I have to ask: Is there going to be any recruitment of new members in that ‘secular humanism’-tab on the main page? I can’t help but notice that entry is still very, very sparse. The links in the sidebar don’t actually link to anything, there’s a one-paragraph description of the main Secular Humanism, one paragraph each on the ‘subtraditions’ atheism and agnosticism, one paragraph on the secularm humanism subtradition that’s a copy of the general one, a “Comming soon” text on the Portal, and in Summary AGAIN a copy of that same summary. And that’s not going into the accuracy of the descriptions (I doubt it was written by actual humanists, agnosts, or atheists. I don’t know many atheist’s who’d quote Karl Marx as their main inspiration.)

    I don’t know Patheos’ offical mission statement, so I don’t know if they consider ‘a-religious blogs’ belong here. But at least they could contact a few atheist blogger to rewrite those entries so they are at least as substantial as the wikipedia entry.

  • Jason Pitzl-Waters

    I’m just a humble Patheos blogger, so I’m not in on all the behind-the-scenes stuff, but I do know they are actively working on it. So stay tuned. They are bringing people into the fold as fast as they can.

  • Bificommander

    Glad to hear it. It is indeed possible that the more extensive resources still have some errors, and I do not expect the portal to be turned into a huge sprawling resource matching 100% with my every view. I can forgive an error or two as well. But the current entry… it’s not as bad as conservapedia which has a long entry consisting entirely of accusastions. But it is equivalent to having huge entries on Paganism, Judaism and the Islam but having only 3 paragraphs on Christianity, and then mentioning only Harold Camping and Ferdinand II of Aragon (the monarch who founded the Spanish Inquisition) as notable Christian authorities.

  • Anonymous

    The atheism description is just plain weird. If I got a list of Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche and was asked what they all had in common I’d probably have gone with German as a first language over atheism.

  • Bificommander

    Oh, hey, idea. If they don’t know anyone who could rewrite it, they could pay Fred to do it. He has time, needs money, and I trust our host enough that he’d be able to write a much better entry than the one currently there.

  • Caravelle

    Well, he does have time and does need the money and would probably write a better entry than the one that’s there.

    But on general principles, on a pluralistic site I think it’s wrong to have the article about a group be written by an outsider. It’s not like the internet or even the Patheos-related section of it lacks for atheists.

  • Hummingwolf

    It’s a sign of how much time I spend at local farmers’ markets that my first thoughts on seeing that tart were:  “Strawberries:  season ended weeks ago.  Blueberries:  in season and still going strong.  Kiwi fruit:  not grown locally, alas.”

    What to substitute for kiwis & strawberries?  Black raspberry season is coming to a close; blackberry season and peach season are just beginning.  Apricots, plums, and cherries are all in season.  Peaches & blackberries sound like a good combination to me.  Anyone else have an opinion?

  • Goewin Blackthorn

    Thanks for adding to my reading list.  And I’m happy to see i’m not the only Wild Hunt fan in the Brandywine Valley. :)

  • Goewin Blackthorn

    Thanks for adding to my reading list.  And I’m happy to see i’m not the only Wild Hunt fan in the Brandywine Valley. :)

  • LL

    A tart is a fancy pie, and that’s all right by me. 

  • Anonymous

    McGrath’s stuff at Exploring Our Matrix is first-rate.

    (Disclaimer:  I’m an atheist, so YMMV.)