First contact and ‘the great disillusionment’

My God ... it's full of stars.

We humans from earth have been looking up at the stars and thinking about the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial life for a very long time. The best of this speculation — whether in stories or in more scholarly non-fiction — builds on this long tradition. Thus when Carl Sagan had Ellie Arroway and her father say, “If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space,” he was borrowing from the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1541-1601) who argued, in Burton’s paraphrase, “that he will never believe those great and huge bodies were made to no other use than this that we perceive, to illuminate the earth, a point insensible in respect of the whole.” [Read more...]

Niebuhr and Aristotle and Jay Smooth

ReinholdJay

You can learn a lot about ethics and human nature from reading the collected works of Reinhold Niebuhr, plus the Nicomachean Ethics, and, say, Stanley Hauerwas and Alasdair MacIntyre. Or you can just watch this five-minute video from Jay Smooth, which sums it all up and stitches it together quite nicely. [Read more...]

The devil has been in twice as many movies as Jesus (and how that has changed our theology)

Priceless

Vincent Price is theologically significant. Price wore a devilish goatee that made him look like Satan. How do we know that’s what Satan looks like? We learned it from Vincent Price — and from a thousand other pop-culture and folk-culture figures preceding him. [Read more...]

Smart people saying smart things (12.3)

I’m speechless today, so let me turn the microphone over to Jay Smooth, Pamela Merritt, Ed Kilgore, Richard Beck and Jamelle Bouie. There’s a theme here, I think, and even the one that seems like it’s not a part of that theme actually really is. [Read more...]

Abraham wasn’t like us, but we’re also not like Abraham

Peter O'Toole as Obi Wan Yahwobi in the 1966 epic "The Bible."

The idea that God speaks directly and unambiguously to humans is a given in the story of Abraham. The idea that God speaks directly and unambiguously to humans now is simply false. When that story is invoked today in support of the claim that we have precisely the same kind of direct and unambiguous access to divine command as Abraham had, then something dangerously wrong is going on. [Read more...]

Just take everything down to Highway 61: Obedience is always about epistemology

Triumph

No, no, no, the “pastors and apologists” say — that violates the spirit of the story. It’s about obedience, not epistemology. For the sake of the story, you must accept that you receive this command from God as an unambiguous revelation: You know with certainty it is a command from God. But that just restates the problem, it doesn’t solve it. Obedience is always about epistemology. [Read more...]

‘You will have no more mercy than I do’

painting-charon

It’s an ambiguous statement that can be read in two opposite ways: “You will have no more mercy on sinners than I do, for I was crucified because of them.” Which way do you think it should be read? Your answer will depend on what you think Jesus is like. Your answer will depend on what you believe about the character of Jesus. [Read more...]

H.P. Lovecraft, ‘The Cabin in the Woods,’ and penal substitutionary atonement

Cabin2

“You know, one of the great things about Lovecraft is that this hot mess of his psyche is just, like, right there. It’s like almost like an autopsy of a really, really messed up personality as well as a story. And I actually feel like it probably teaches us a lot about those attitudes for the next time that we encounter them.” [Read more...]


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