Weekly Meanderings

Weekly Meanderings January 22, 2011

Alan Jacobs has a good suggestion — or more than one. JR Briggs has a good story.

The Intruder.

LaVonne’s ten wishes for the health care plan.

Justin Topp brings this discussion into one paragraph: “The public portion of the discussion started in June when Mohler, at the Ligonier Ministries 2010 National Conference (transcript here) spoke on the apparent old age of the earth and labeled evolution as the great destroyer of meaning. It seems that his decision to go public against BioLogos and its fellows is because they had begun to question Biblical inerrancy. This led Karl Giberson to respond on the BioLogos site(other fellows did as well), and then months later, on the Huffington Post. Mohler thenresponded, BioLogos did in turn, and the war was off. Most recently, BioLogos posted a year in summary and look ahead of sorts written by Darrel Falk, which in turn elicited a response from Mohler. Mohler’s last response has set off a relative firestorm first,secondthird, and there are likely many others…” Like this one by Rachel.

Comment: I see no reason for BioLogos to fan that flame with Al Mohler. The whole debate is getting us nowhere. Mohler, and while I can appreciate his desire to hold firm to theological beliefs, does not represent the SBC nor does he represent evangelicalism in these matters. Nor does he need to fan this flame.

News alert: Justin Topp adds to the discussion.

Real good story by Mike Mercer.

On building a toaster from scratch, and if you aren’t interested you actually are.

Christine interviews Phil Yancey, and I’ll be doing something about Phil’s new book (What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters) on this blog soon.

If Dawkins came to Sunday School, quick read John Stackhouse. Speaking of apologetics … Can’t say I’m crazy about this site, but it’s worth keeping your eye on it: The Ehrman Project (responses to Bart Ehrman).

Michael Thompson encounters a common pastoral experience. And Mike Glenn comments on the constant experience — moving: with the on-the-move-God.

Bob Hyatt responds to David Fitch.

If you haven’t seen this by Andy Johnson, it’s a must … print it out and refer to it when you have questions about justification.

Meanderings in the News

1. This on your bucket list?

2. George Will: “James Q. Wilson, America’s preeminent social scientist, has noted that until relatively recently, “politics was about only a few things; today, it is about nearly everything.” Until the 1930s, or perhaps the 1960s, there was a “legitimacy barrier” to federal government activism: When new policies were proposed, the first debate was about whether the federal government could properly act at all on the subject. Today, there is no barrier to the promiscuous multiplication of programs, because no program is really new. Rather, it is an extension, modification or enlargement of something government is already doing.”

3. The great State of Illinois is making some decisions that are increasing the desire of its business owners to move north to cheese-head land, home of the Packers and Brewers and all, but this is no light issue in our neck of the woods: “As Wisconsin’s governor aggressively seeks Illinois businesses following a hefty corporate income tax increase here, leaders in some Lake County towns near the border are voicing concern.”

4. David Brooks: “At first, Harold found the talk a little chilling: it seemed that the revolution the scientist was describing was bound to lead to cold, mechanistic conclusions. If everything could be reduced to genes, neural wiring, and brain chemistry, what happened to the major concepts of life—good and evil, sin and virtue, love and commitment? And what about the way Harold made sense of his life as he lived it, the everyday vocabulary of morals, moods, character, aspirations, temptations, values, ideals? The scientist described human beings as creatures driven by deep mechanisms, almost like puppets on strings, not as ensouled human beings capable of running their own lives.” But this:

“Harold concluded that it might be time for a revolution in his own consciousness—time to take the proto-conversations that had been shoved to the periphery of life and put them back in the center. Maybe it was time to use this science to cultivate an entirely different viewpoint.”

5. Maya MacGuineas: “The facts are ugly. The federal debt, which has averaged less than 40% of the total economy, now represents more than 60%. It’s likely to hit 100% in a little over a decade.  You want more? Here’s more. Pretty much every impartial analyst has declared the situation unsustainable. And many European countries have already been hit by nervous credit markets worried about their debt levels. Bottom line: If Congress and the president fail to make changes to current policies, the United States will experience some form of a fiscal crisis. Not a pretty picture. And yet policymakers continue to drag their feet.”

6. Scott W. Atlas: “Constitutional questions aside, a whole host of concerns about specific impacts of the PPACA underlie the opposition to it, including the fact that the law fails to control costs as calculated by the government itself. The major objections to Obamacare rest on four of its fundamental features, all of which represent a marked shift of authority and control of health-care decisions to the government: 1) mandating insurance coverage while eliminating insurance options such as high-deductible plans with health savings accounts (HSAs), which people increasingly prefer; 2) shifting millions more into already unsustainable public health-insurance programs; 3) directly or indirectly limiting access to technology by reducing payments for specialty medical care and limiting patient-driven options on available care; and 4) significantly increasing taxes to pay for the plan. While stopping short of the overt single-payer system openly desired by our president and many Democratic congressional leaders, the PPACA inarguably moves dramatically toward many of those same endpoints.”

7. Good-bye Jimmy John’s? “South Florida may have a chance to take a bite out of business from Illinois.The founder of the 1,000-store Jimmy John’s sandwich chain is threatening to move his company’s headquarters from Illinois to Florida.”

Comment: a decade or two of recklessness in Springfield.

8. The Stieg Larsson mystery about the mysteries.

9. Clifford May on gun control, and he’s only for minor restrictions (not enough in my view), but he created a firestorm and here’s his final excellent paragraph: “The moral of this story is demoralizing. Despite what Obama called “the challenges of our nation,” too many people remain locked in ideological boxes. Why should so many NRO readers be outraged by an occasional item that does not reinforce their pre-existing opinions? Why should NPR, in part financed by taxpayers from across the political spectrum, allow only left-of-center voices access to what we used to call the public airways? If President Obama is serious about establishing “a more civil and honest public discourse” — and one speech does not demonstrate that beyond a reasonable doubt — he has his work cut out for him.”

10. The Slow Photography Movement: ” But while taking photos has become a way to mark almost any moment, there is often an unnoticed tradeoff. Photography is so easy that the camera threatens to replace the eyeball. Our cameras are so advanced that looking at what you are photographing has become strictly optional. To my surprise, no monument I saw in Israel could compete with the back of the camera. What gets lost is the idea that photography might force you to spend time looking at what is in front of you, noticing what you might otherwise ignore. All this has spawned a rebellion that I consider myself part of: Call it the slow-photography movement.”

Meanderings in Sports

Here’s a very fine post by a sports writer, Craig Calcaterra, who talks about creating civility on a sports blog, and he’s got it right. You have to work at it to keep the sharks away.

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  • rjs


    Calcaterra is right about keeping the sharks away. He’s also right on another aspect …

    How do you do it? By commenting yourself. By responding to reader criticisms in the thread. By acknowledging when you’re wrong and making edits to the original post showing that your product and logic is as transparent as can be and that you’re listening. When someone comes into a comment thread with sharp elbows, you make a point to engage them. Positively if possible, but by arguing back if necessary. And of course, you do so by making it crystal clear that your comment threads have standards. … That’s about it.

  • Aaron

    In regards to Faith and Science I have read multiple posts by RJS about the Old earth view but is there any way could you point me to a post that clearly lays out the arguments for and against this view?

  • Scot McKnight

    Aaron, in our sidebar under “About” you see a page about science and faith:


    That page collects all the posts RJS has done and is an excellent resource for the topic.

  • Aaron

    Thats Great thanks so much!

  • John A.


    Please oh please let us know why you are “not crazy” about the Bart Ehrman Project website! Give us something to chew on here…..

  • John A.


    My apology for the previous misspelling of your name….!

  • Susan N.

    Many interesting reads in this week’s meanderings… From the several on our economy and politics, I like LeVonne Neff’s ten wishes. Why is it that we see healthcare for all as an impossibility, when other countries have done it, successfully? I agree with LaVonne — send our politicians on a field trip to these countries to learn.

    On guns and violence and internet civility surrounding the debate. In the past week, I was involved in an ugly “interaction” on this topic. I responded to a viral FB status on “if guns kill people, then pencils misspell words…” with what I believed was a civilly-worded, logical disagreement. The extended family member who (re)posted this status deleted my comment. I was offended. Figured I’d have to hide future status updates in order to avoid even being drawn into such debates in the future. Major relational breakdown ensued… Feels like gigantic failure to me. How to talk to such people at all? I’m so tired.

    In a similar vein, ‘If Dawkins Came to Sunday School’ got me thinking more than any other link this week. May I suggest that if Dawkins, or anyone who is hostile or skeptical of Christianity or the Church, came to Sunday School, then the proper “healing” response would be to welcome them, listen to them, SHOW them what love looks like. By demonstrating respect and a willingness to meet them where they are spiritually, wouldn’t this be a better witness of Christ’s love than defending our faith and debating? Let them listen without demanding their agreement. I understand that if a person comes in with guns blazing (pun intended) and is disruptive to the group, then boundaries and standards need to be communicated. Recently, I had an “aha” moment with an elderly lady at the nursing home. She has been a vocal opponent of our Bible study fellowship group, often sitting outside the doors to our meeting room scowling and demanding that the room be vacated to permit her to come in. She has complained bitterly about the frequency of religious services in the facility — “Don’t we get enough of that?” Our attempts to smile and befriend her have been rebuffed with glares and negative murmuring. Finally, one day we arrived and she was sitting inside the room watching the big screen TV in the corner. The volume wasn’t too loud. I prayed about what to do, and felt a wave of compassion come over me for her. What caused her to be so hostile to God and Christians? Let her stay and just be in the room with us during Bible study, without putting any demands on her. We did, and she sat the whole time with her back to us, giving the impression of ignoring us and watching TV. But she hasn’t made any negative comments, and now smiles at us when we pass in the halls. Maybe one day she will feel O:K with joining our circle. Defensive arguments and judgments so seldom help with a person who is hostile or skeptical to begin with. “Grace.” God give me Your grace to see this person through Your eyes, and to love them like Jesus… At a high level, we need scholars, theologians and scientists to work out complex matters of faith and science. At a down-to-earth level, we need more “grace-full” encounters.

    So hard. A sense of frequent failure can be discouraging and wearying. Yet we press on, because of Christ…

  • albion

    Susan: Amen. Well done.

  • Jason Lee

    I’m also scratching my head along with Susan N. here:
    “Why is it that we see healthcare for all as an impossibility, when other countries have done it, successfully?”

  • rjs

    By the way – Calcaterra’s post has two spaces after the periods and NBC didn’t automatically remove them. If only WordPress was so enlightened.

  • Scot,

    Fill out a bit your lack of “craziness” about the Ehrman site.


  • EricG

    I have a concern with the anti-Ehrman project: Most folks who listen to him aren’t going to be persuaded by 2 minute videos like this, which don’t really have any depth.

    Take the Plantinga video on theodicy — is that really going to persuade a doubter? I think it could be improved if they had the 2 minute video, but then linked to a more in depth discussion of the issue, or an article by Plantinga.

  • smcknight

    EricG expresses some of it. But anti-sites tend to become simplistic and too rhetorically caustic.

  • EricG

    Although I just noticed that they do have a “More Resources” page with some of the sort of links I mentioned. Although their link to the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy isn’t helpul, they’ve got some other good resources there.

  • Thanks Eric and Scot. I appreciate the concerns you mention.

  • Scot,

    I don’t think BioLogos can ignore Mohler, because he represents to them who their exact audience is (rightly or wrongly). Also, that’s exactly what RTB is doing in that they’re not engaging BioLogos’ issues with RTB models. I can’t help but be skeptical that these types of discussions aren’t really getting us anywhere and that the collateral damage is greater than the benefits gained. But, at the same time, I’m grateful for BioLogos. Maybe their function is to provide a forum for Christian scientists? I know they want to do more but that’s not a bad start.

  • Christine

    Thanks for the link about Stief Larsson!

    Glad you’ll be doing something on Yancey. Been a fan of his for decades.

  • MatthewS

    The 12-minute video about the toaster is very intriguing and worth watching.

  • Dana Ames

    I looked at “The Ehrman Project”. I think it’s well intentioned, and the person overseeing seems to be respectful. Some of the resources are good, but can be seen as simply lining up “our” group of “talking heads” over against E. and his sources. E’s work is a reaction to the kind of thinking that characterizes much of what’s up at the “Project” site, so I’m not sure how much good the site will do in terms of convincing people who are on the fence. I think most people who check the site are already convinced one way or the other.

    What is problematic for me is particularly one professor’s argument that E. determines what is right/wrong according to some standard, and if it’s not the bible, then what is it, and the standard really has to be the bible. The thing that evangelicals who revere the bible are coming to understand is that the bible has to be interpreted. You can’t just point to it, read it and say “There! See??!!” Beyond that, I think the argument about whose *external standard* is best misses a lot.

    When I heard the talks E. and Wright gave in San Francisco a couple of years ago, E. said something like, “Tom, when I hear you talk about God, it sounds like a different God than the one I’m familiar with.” To which Wright smiled and replied something like, “I’d like to talk to you about that some time, Bart.” I think E’s problems boil down to hermeneutic. And I think what led to E’s search for a different hermeneutic was a huge betrayal of trust; it’s understandable to me why he went the way he has gone. In spite of him saying he’s happy in his agnosticism, I think underneath everything he really wants to be able to believe/trust in Jesus/God. I wish he could have that talk with Tom. It might not change anything; but it also might show E. some things, including that his objections may not be held in place as much by his intellect as by his wounding, and that the picture of God he was given in the first place may not have been quite on the mark.


  • tscott

    Two mentions in these meanderings of business leaving Illinois. The federal “stimulus” of early 2009 was used primarily to support state governments. It was a means to buy some time. And Illinois got alot(no need to wonder why). Go to Forbes and search “United States of Debt” published 1/20/2011 and you will see why Illinois has the worst debt troubles(California, worst in most minds, is 47th).