A Very Important Question

Phyllis Tickle Is 80 Today!

photo by Courtney Perry

Today we celebrate the 80th birthday of Phyllis Tickle, a friend and mentor to so many all around the church world. I’ve already said a lot of my appreciations in events over the past couple years and a book that I edited, Phyllis Tickle: Evangelist of the Future.

There are various ways for you to wish Phyllis a happy birthday. You can do it in the comment section here, you can post something on her Facebook Page, or, best of all, you can publish something on your own blog using the directions below.

I’ll be sure that Phyllis sees all of the good wishes that you send her way.

Deconstruct Yourself

John Caputo, one of the “Three JC’s” of the Homebrewed Christianity Podcast, confers with HBC host Tripp Fuller.

John Caputo is the foremost American interpreter of Jacques Derrida. He’s also a friend of mine, and I admire his work greatly. Since his retirement from teaching he’s moved from philosophy to theology, an area largely unexplored by Derrida himself. The Opinionator blog has a sharp interview with Caputo:

G.G.: O.K., I guess you might say that all thinking involves making distinctions, but deconstructive thinking always turns on itself, using further distinctions to show how any given distinction is misleading. But using this sort of language leads to paradoxical claims as, for example, when you say, as you just did, that beliefs contain a faith that they can’t contain. Paradox is fine as long as we have some way of understanding that it’s not an outright contradiction. So why isn’t it a contradiction to say that there’s a faith that beliefs both contain and can’t contain?

J.C.: The traditions contain (in the sense of “possess”) these events, but they cannot contain (in the sense of “confine” or “limit”) them, hold them captive by building a wall of doctrine, administrative rule, orthodoxy, propositional rectitude around them.

via Deconstructing God – NYTimes.com.

How Mark Driscoll Gamed the Publishing Game

Years ago, Rick Warren finagled his way onto the bestseller lists. Before Purpose-Driven Life came out, Warren had hundreds of churches lined up to buy thousands of copies, all of which he bought through Pastors.com and resold to said churches. It was so effective that Warren’s marketing rep and Zondervan left his job there and wrote a book about the process. Warren vehemently disavowed that he’d done anything unethical. Instead, the 35 million copies he’d sold was not marketing but “God’s supernatural and sovereign plan.”

Rick Warren

Nevertheless, as a result of PDL, bestseller lists changed their rules — some removed any book that showed large, bulk sales, while other lists put an asterisk by those titles. Also, they pulled books like PDL off of non-fiction and put them in their own category of “Self-Help and Advice,” since those are often the books with bulk sales.

Authors know that “non-royalty sales” don’t count toward bestseller lists. Those include, for instance, books that authors or their organizations buy at the author discount, usually 40 or 50% off the cover price.

Bestseller lists are important, even today. I once had a book contract that had a $10,000 incentive if my book made the NY Times or Publsihers Weekly list. (It didn’t.) Those lists are meant to gauge how many real, individual readers are buying books.

Now comes word that Mark Driscoll and his church hired a firm that used a thousand different credit cards and thousands of individual names — the names were supplied by the church — to drive Driscoll’s marriage book onto the bestseller lists. As a reward, the firm was paid $210,000 by Mars Hill Church:

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Evangelical Pastor Turns Pro-Gay

Ken Wilson, pastor of Vineyard Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has just published a book entitled, A Letter to My Congregation, in which he explains his change of mind and heart on the issue of homosexuality. He may be the first active pastor of a large evangelical congregation to make such a switch. David Crumm at Read the Spirit has an interview with him:

DAVID: Since David P. Gushee is also putting his name on the line with this book, the two of you were invited to speak at the California LGBT film festival, called Level Ground, last week. The festival was covered in the Los Angeles Times and other news media. Do you feel the eyes of the world are upon you?

Pastor Ken Wilson

KEN: No, I don’t feel that way and I don’t want to focus on the psychological pressure. My first responsibility is to lead my church through this transition successfully. Yes, I know there is a lot at stake here. There are many evangelical pastors out there whose hearts are inclined to go in this direction, but they can’t even begin to talk about this. I think once we can demonstrate that, yes, it can be done—then I think there are going to be many evangelical congregations that will follow. Before long, there is going to be a strong and growing expression of evangelicalism in America that is making space for gay people.

DAVID: How do they start? I can imagine a lot of readers of this interview—and readers of your book—wanting to know: How did Ken do it? How can I start this process?

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Scot McKnight, Please Respond to This

Reza Aslan shows his true ignorance of biblical scholarship in under three minutes:

Original Sully post (with a juicy Bart Ehrman quote) here.

This Is Normal Now

The above landed on our doorstep yesterday morning. At breakfast, I held it up and asked the kids what they thought. They thought nothing. There was no change on their face, there was no “yuck factor,” there was no reaction of any kind. There was, instead, a sense from a 9-year-old and a 13-year-old that this gay kiss was normative.

Some will argue that even though this is now culturally normative, that doesn’t make it biblically normative. To those I say, we were also eating bacon at breakfast.

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Why Is Moorohler Nervous? Because Evangelicals Are Embracing Gay Marriage

The evangelical intelligentsia is very, very nervous. That’s because opposition to same sex marriage is crumbling among the generations that will be running evangelicalism in coming years. Yesterday, we saw Moorholer attacking a couple younger evangelicals who had the gall to question Arizona’s anti-gay, pro-discrimination legislation. But as the new survey out this week from PRRI shows conclusively, evangelical opinions about gay marriage are shifting very quickly among those under 40.

Here are some other findings of the survey:

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Can You Be Pro-Gay and Stay Evangelical? Yes…and No

My friend Jonathan Merritt and Kirsten Powers co-penned a piece on the Daily Beast titled, “Conservative Christians Selectively Apply Biblical Teachings in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate.” Their essay, written in opposition to the Arizona legislation allowing companies to refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds, is fair and even-handed. In fact, if anything, it’s too safe.

They simply make the point that if a wedding photographer or cake-baker refuses to supply a same-sex wedding because it is “unbiblical,” they should similarly refuse service to other “unbiblical” marriages. Like, for instance, people like me who are divorced. Or people like you who engage in unnatural sex acts. :-)

Merritt and Powers don’t even get into the extended argument that Lydia surely sold her purple garments to non-Christians in Thyatira. Even if she’d put a fish on her business card, there weren’t enough Christians in her town to make a living if she’d exclusively catered to fellow believers.

Evangelicals have lashed out at Merritt and Powers, including Russell Moore and Albert Mohler (hereafter, Moorohler). It matters not that Merritt and Powers’s argument is so supremely superior to Moorohler’s — anyone with a modicum of intellect can see that. Merritt and Powers present an airtight argument. It’s a stupid law, as most anyone can see, and it surely isn’t defensible by any biblical argument.

But what I’m more interested in is the politics of the backlash.

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Evangelicals and their (Bad) Movies

Russell Crowe as Noah.

I had thought we were past this. Honestly. Movies that are blatantly written and produced for evangelical audiences suck. Think Left Behind or Fireproof or The Christmas Candle.

Mainstream movies that are successfully marketed to evangelicals also tend to suck. Think Evan Almighty. The Passion of the Christ is an obvious exception, and it unfortunately convinced Hollywood marketers that evangelicals can make a movie a blockbuster. But, in general, evangelicals cannot make a movie a hit.

Now it’s happening again.

On the one hand, we’ve got Son of God, a new movie from Mark Burnet and Roma Downey. I’m guessing it’s going to suck. Nevertheless, pastors like Rick Warren are doing what they can to ensure its success:
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