God is not a god.

John Dickson from CPX recently posted a diagram illustrating, as he put it, why it’s dumb to say that religions are ‘atheists’ about each other, and that Atheists “just deny one god more” (as has been said repeatedly by Hitchens, Dawkins, Krauss, FitzSimons, et al., and many online warriors since).

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I was involved in the ensuing conversation, and it seems the point needs more elaboration for some.

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The Australian Census, improved

Today saw the release of the 2016 census results by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Much of the coverage was focused on the increased proportion of respondents ticking “no religion” as their preferred option, with commentators either lamenting or cackling with glee, as their personal proclivities dictated. However, more thoughtful observers noted the actual options of the census question on religion lacked the nuance that the real religious landscape displays.

The inimitable James Garth stepped up to the challenge of “improving” the question to reflect a broader range of options. ABS, please take note.

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James Garth improves the ABS census question on religious affiliation.

Peter Enns: Modern Insights on the Old Testament

What is the Old Testament?

There are the easy, trivia quiz answers: it’s the first part of the Christian Bible, it’s a collection of 39 books, it forms the Jewish scriptures, etc. But any real understanding of the Old Testament has to be linked to the question of where it came from.

Unlike many other sacred writings, the OT was not written by an enlightened holy man as a single piece of prophetic output. It has history. It has scars and scuff marks. It’s complicated.

Peter Enns has written a post with some great insights into where the OT comes from and how we need to think about this collection of books.

The central points are:

  • It’s not a single work but an incredibly diverse collection
  • The various books were “composed” centuries before they were written down
  • Most importantly, it is impossible to make sense of the text without understanding the history and culture and context of the people who wrote it.

Read the full thing here:
5 Modern Insights about the Old Testament that Aren’t Going Anywhere

An update on the diversity of Christendom

One of the effects of the current political landscape in the USA has been to highlight the diverse attitudes and stances that exist within the various churches in the country.

Depending on your news sources, you may not fully appreciate that there is a vast range of positions within Christendom on issues of politics, social justice, ethics, and the relationship between a believer’s duties as a citizen of the state and as a follower of Jesus. Even with agreement on certain beliefs, there may still be a diversity of opinion on how exactly those beliefs should play out in the world and in our daily lives.

Here’s a perspective that hasn’t had much play in the media, courtesy of Trinity’s Portico. Enjoy!

An Open Letter to Rev. Franklin Graham from a “Small Church” Pastor

Olympic reporting tells us who we are as a society

It’s the Olympics! That quadrennial celebration of outstanding athleticism, government corruption, hastily-erected construction projects that will never be used again, and staggering public debt for the host city. Hooray!

All those issues aside, I’m noticing another fascinating aspect of the Olympics. It’s a great snapshot of where media culture is around the world.

This is particularly useful in an age of social media, which by its very nature encourages us to overwhelmingly live within our own little echo chambers of like-minded people. It’s easy to miss the fact that other people have different baseline assumptions and biases when you don’t intersect with those people at all in the news that you consume and the social interactions that you engage in.

For instance, take this headline:

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How not to argue about the resurrection

Since it’s Easter, I’ve been having a few discussions around the resurrection of Jesus (see Luke 24 for one account). One of the discussions involved my interlocutor arguing that the resurrection would require complete suspension of the laws of physics, and thus must be discounted. His idea was that the best explanation was “mass delusions and a series of hallucinations”.

I think it’s important to distinguish in what capacity we make different statements. As individual human beings we tend to be multifaceted; within specific disciplines, we must narrow our range of possibilities. Science, for instance, explores natural phenomena within the known universe. History explores multiple strands of evidence (some scientific, some not) to investigate and understand events in the human past. Psychology tries to unravel the curious workings of the human mind. Each of these is limited in scope, but powerful within its field.
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