Blogger’s rolling out new features, so I figured I should let you know that you can now read this blog in any of the five new dynamic templates. Of the five, I only like the sidebar view and, to be honest, I find Blogger’s enthusiasm about this new feature to be a little hilarious. I’m not planning to start viewing blogs this way (especially since I mostly read them on Google Reader, rather than their actual pages), but let me know if you try it and have any problems.
Looking at the sidebar layout makes me wonder if this site is due for a redesign. Does anyone have any things they’d like to see added/eliminated or any tweaks you’d suggest?
In keeping with the last two Friday’s quick takes (one on common myths about Catholicism, one offering some clarifications) I want to highlight some more resources/handy cheat guides for Christians talking to atheists and atheists talking to Christians.
The most persistent question atheists (me included) have been raising on this blog is How does any specific Christian denomination figure out the proper way to read the Bible? I’m still looking for guest posts on this topic, but, in the meantime, it’s probably worth taking a look over Mark Shea’s overview of Sacred Tradition at the National Catholic Register.
Catholics interpret the bible in light of Sacred Tradition, and, since I find both the analysis and the history it’s based on very confusing, I’ll probably go whole hog and read Shea’s By What Authority? one of these days. For now, the article is loads better than my old resource, Wikipedia.
The next link isn’t really the answer to anyone’s question unless you’re much cooler than me and were already wondering, “What would it be like to read the thoughts of a Soviet-born, Israeli-reared, cultural Jew turned Orthodox convert?” The answer is: it’s wonderful. The blog started last week, and every post so far has been beautifully written and raised complex questions about Jewish identity and membership. Here’s an excerpt:
I know my parents feel dishonored by my conversion, and I know they are not the only Jewish parents who do. It’s not the kind of dishonor that more traditional parents may feel when their child refuses to follow in their intellectual footsteps: they did not raise me religious, and have probably even less regard for observant Judaism than for Christianity. It took me years to understand – or, rather, to stop denying – that the root of their sadness and anger is that they see my becoming a Christian as choosing another family over theirs. They see my godparents as substitute parents that I have chosen over them, my Christian friends as a substitute extended family; and while they accuse me of having chosen to love strangers more than family, they also blame themselves for, allegedly, being such bad parents (which they weren’t at all!) that their child had to go looking for an alternative family.
I always like Richard Beck’s explanations of his theology, and his most recent installment on the development of his Universalist beliefs is delightfully clear. I’d be interested to hear what the Christian readers of this blog make of his struggles with Talbott’s three propositions as laid out below:
- God’s redemptive love extends to all human sinners equally in the sense that he sincerely wills or desires the redemption of each one of them.
- Because no one can finally defeat God’s redemptive love or resist it forever, God will triumph in the end and successfully accomplish the redemption of everyone whose redemption he sincerely wills or desires.
- Some human sinners will never be redeemed but will instead be separated from God forever.
After I complained about the hypocrisy of Christians who believe their friends are going to hell but don’t bother to evangelize to them, Tristyn took me to task in a truly exceptional post that turned into an apologetic for her brand of crypto-fideism. Here’s a quick quote:
A lot of the questions I get asked about Christianity seem to boil down to a bizarre kind of absolutism– most of the conversations end with a “what happens if?” “What happens if the fast is broken?” “What happens if someone throws an icon away?” “What happens if you don’t cross yourself?” Perhaps I’m misreading my friends, but they always seem to be looking for a line that, once crossed, will definitively send one to Hell, and if a particular behavior doesn’t, they can’t seem to understand why it’s relevant. I chalk this up, too, to the inability to understand Christianity not as a system but as a relationship. What happens if I don’t bum my friend a cigarette? What happens if I forget his birthday? What happens if I steal from him? A friendship can survive many transgressions. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t avoid them.
It’s times like this I feel compelled to nyah-nyah that I get to have these discussions with her in person. But don’t look so glum, her whole blogis excellent (especially if you like Tom Waits)
On the atheist side, NFQ is starting a new series this week working through moral problems from a secular perpective, so watch that space.
Tonight, I’m heading out to hear an ex-gay speaker (Christopher Yuan from Exodus) at an event sponsored by the Yale Christian Fellowship and Yale Students for Christ. That is, assuming it’s not an April Fool’s Day prank. I assumed it must be, but now I’ve heard that the YCF and YSC boards are both schisming over the sponsorship. If there’s anything of interest, I’ll write something up over the weekend.
Also in the category of surprisingly not an April Fool’s prank, (though I guess you could show it to people today, let them assume it was a trick, and then reveal that these actually exist) coffee bean-shaped stainless steel casings for phase-change materials. They’re meant to quickly cool your coffee to an appropriate temperature and then keep it there for a long time by slowly releasing the heat stored by cooling it down from scalding.
[Seven Quick Takes is a blog carnival run by Jen of Conversion Diary]