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From Around the Internet

T. E. Hanna (whose blog I have mentioned before) has written a nice piece on Scripture, Nicea, Constantine and the continuing misunderstandings perpetuated by Dan Brown’s book The DaVinci Code: The Myth Of Nicaea: Maybe Scripture Isn’t What You Think.

He says:

The canon of Scripture, then, was not an arbitrary selection made by an emperor and a group of old men. It was not dictated at a secret council for the purpose of unifying the empire. There was no mass book burning in an attempt to make the canonized New Testament the only available standard for faith.I’m sorry, Dan Brown, but there was no conspiracy. The Bible that we read today had been handed down to us, its relevance and inspiration attested to by over a millenia of Christian use, complete with a detailed list dating back to the fourth century.

It’s definitely worth reading the whole thing.

I really appreciate Allan R. Bevere’s recent post on being human: Being Human Is Not the Problem. This is a sentiment that I agree with completely! God created us human, and said of creation: “very good!” God came to us in human form in Jesus Christ. Our humanity is not something of which to be ashamed. Our sin and our inhumanity is something of which to be ashamed.

Allan says:

We are human precisely because we are made in God's image, and when sin distorts that image we become less than human. It is, therefore, no surprise that Jesus Christ, the God/Man becomes the remedy for our less than human condition. In all of its mystery, Jesus is fully the presence of God with us, which makes him fully human; and it is the fullness of his humanity that allows the very presence of God to dwell in him. In Jesus God has come to restore our humanity and the image of the divine in us.

He has also posted a follow-up here:
Being Human Is Not the Problem: Some Further Thoughts.

For anyone interested in learning more about Open Theism, Derek Ouellette has an excellent reading program to suggest — one that he followed himself: How to research Open Theism.

Since then Open Theism has received, either famously or infamously, much more attention (thank you internet!). In my experience people widely form opinions about Open Theism based on journals, web articles, sound bites from their favourite leaders or on blogs like this one. None of which is conducive for deep, honest and reflective consideration.And often when I do chat with someone who has read a book on Open Theism, it is a book written by a foe rather than a friend. Most of those works poorly reflect what Open Theism actually teaches and opinions are formed on misinformation.

Really, I ought to do such a reading program myself. I have a certain natural fondness for the Open View, because of my commitment to the concepts of free agency and moral responsibility (which I think are connected to one another). Still, I wonder… are all our views of the nature of God necessarily infected by the naive concept of time that generally guides our life? Since we know (scientifically) that time is not what we think it is, how can we ever suppose we can gain a proper perspective on the relation of God to time — we barely understand our own relation to time. I also worry that the Open View drives a wedge between the God of Scripture (who does seem to conform to the Open View) and a philosophical view of God which sees God as the all-determining reality, ultimately shaping all things. For those who are interested in exploring these ideas, I highly recommend philosophical theologian F. LeRon Shults’ book Reforming the Doctrine of God. (You may come away from it feeling you are beyond your depth — but, truth be told, so are we all.)

I very much appreciate the passage William Birch found from the writings of Thomas Aquinas which he posted here: Thomas Aquinas on the Heresy of Determinism. He found it in Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings, ed. and trans. Ralph McInerny (New York: Penguin Books, 1998). Here is a (fairly long) snippet:

It should be noted that some held that man's will is necessarily moved to choose something, although they did not say that the will was forced. For not every necessary event is violent, but only that whose principle is from without; hence there are some natural motions which are necessary but not violent: the violent is opposed to both the natural and the voluntary, each of which has its principle within, whereas the principle of the violent is from without.But this is a heretical opinion, for it takes away the very notion of merit and demerit from human acts. For what someone does necessarily and cannot avoid doing, seems to be neither meritorious nor the opposite. Therefore this should be numbered among the opinions alien to philosophy, since not only is it contrary to faith but it subverts all the principles of moral philosophy as well. If there is nothing free in us, but we are moved to will necessarily, deliberation, exhortation, precept and punishment, praise and blame, in which moral philosophy consists, are swept away. Such opinions, which destroy the principles of some part of philosophy, are called alien positions: for example, "Nothing moves," which destroys the principles of natural science. Some men were led to adopt such positions partly from stupidity and partly because of sophistic arguments which they were unable to solve, as is said in Metaphysics.

Good call, Thomas!

Morgan Guyton is back to blogging again, and, as always, I find his writings thought provoking. He has recently posted a piece entitled Defining sin for adolescents. He gives some ideas about how to communicate the idea of sin to young people, without giving them distorted concepts.
It’s very interesting reading. Again, just to whet your appetite, I give you a brief quote:

Most Christians in the evangelical world that I come from define sin in entirely vertical terms as “disobedience to God’s will.” This is the way we learn about it in the popular Four Spiritual Laws that define the problem of sin in terms that do not involve the existence of other people. Sin is doing what God told you not to and the reason not to do it is because it makes Him mad. The reason I find this approach inadequate especially for teenagers is because they’re in the process of discovering that adult authority figures really can make rules and engage in disciplinary measures that are unfair and arbitrary. We make God look like a mean middle school gym teacher who loves nothing more than blowing his whistle.

Brian LePort has posted some reflections by Michael Bird on the interpretation of Romans 13:1-7: Michael Bird on Romans 13:1-7. These are taken from: Jesus is Lord, Caesar is Not: Evaluating Empire in New Testament Studies edited by Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica. The post is brief, so I will not quote it.

I generally read the blog posts of Thom Rainer, the Baptist church researcher, and I often find myself agreeing with many of the things he says. Just recently he posted:
Four Simple Reasons Most Churches Aren’t Breakout Churches. He says:

Almost a decade ago, I led a major study on churches that had reversed negative trends and become positive breakout churches. I established the criterion that the breakout had to take place without changing pastors. I knew from previous research that most breakout churches had new pastors. I wanted to see if it was likely for a church to turnaround without getting a new pastor.My beginning database was 52,333 churches in the United States. Without boring you with all the details of my data screening and research (You can read about it in Appendix B of my book, Breakout Churches.), I was only able to identify 13 true breakout churches. For the interested statistical nerds like me, that’s only two 100ths of one percent (.0002).

Then he gives us some ideas on why this is such a rare phenomenon. It’s worth thinking about.

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