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Showing posts from April, 2007

Marcus Borg -- "Jesus": A Review

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Marcus J. Borg. Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006. 343 pp.


(Named to the Top Ten List for 2006 by
the Academy of Parish Clergy)



Who is Jesus and what is his relevance for the Twenty-first Century? This is the question Marcus Borg seeks to answer. This is not merely an examination of the life of Jesus of Nazareth; more importantly this is a manifesto for a new way of being Christian. At one level, it is the final culmination of Borg’s studies of the life Jesus. Intended initially as a revision of Jesus a New Vision, Borg realized early on that this book would have a larger purpose.
Borg is well known as a Jesus scholar who has been intimately involved with the Jesus Seminar. He is a close friend of John Dominic Crossan, with whom he penned the book The Last Week(HarperSanFrancisco, 2006), and so if you read this expecting a progressive, indeed liberal treatment of Jesus’ life, you will not be disappoi…

Emergent and Emerging

The term "emergent" has become an important descriptor of a growing movement, largely within Evangelicalism. It is rooted in a post-modern reading of reality, it seeks to be open to new ideas and directions, recognizes the place of doubt, and recognizes the importance of tradition. There is another term out there. It's similar but isn't as well known. It's "emerging" Christianity. It is a term used by and connected to Marcus Borg. In his newest book Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary, (HarperSanFrancisco, 2006) -- which is an Academy of Parish Clergy 10 Best Book -- Borg describes what emerging Christianity is. Now, I'll be reviewing the book on this blog and for APC, but I want to lay out this definition. This movement is found in mainline Protestant churches and according to Borg: It is a "neotraditional" form of Christianity. Both the prefix and the noun are important. Neo" recognizes th…

The End of Limbo -- Sightings

For most Protestants doctrinal ideas like Limbo are pretty meaningless. I guess there are those who believe that if you're not baptized you're not going to heaven, but I don't think even many infant baptism supporters believe this. Grace we assume takes care of this. I expect that many Catholics have seen this in similar ways, but still the idea was there. Pope Benedict has swatted it away now, and so Catholics no longer need to worry. Funny that some Conservative Catholics are concerned about where this will go --- Well Martin Marty in his usual way takes care of the issues! And once again I bring you his learned thoughts.
Sightings 4/30/07

The End of Limbo-- Martin E. Marty On October 29, 1965, four high hierarchs proposed to their Second Vatican Council colleagues that they might put on the agenda a discussion of the possibility that they should rethink the Catholic Church's position on birth control. That evening, Albert C. Outler, our profoundly informed fly…

Cheating in the Pulpit

I'm a bit behind in some of my blogging comments, but I wanted to comment on Tom Long's piece in Christian Century on plagiarism in the pulpit. Entitled "Stolen Goods: Tempted to Plagiarize" Long takes on the problem of plagiarism. Now pastors are busy people, and some aren't the best preachers, and with so many options to choose from --- hey my sermons are on the web (hopefully everything belongs to me or is properly noted) -- it's easy to pilfer a sermon or two or maybe a few more. Some of the well known preachers put their stuff out there and say, come and get it. As Long points out: Rick Warren, of the Saddleback Church, who markets his sermons online, told the British journal Christianity, "If my bullet fits your gun, shoot it," and Craig Brian Larson, writing about pulpit plagiarism at PreachingToday.com, cites a preacher who says, "When Chuck Swindoll starts preaching better sermons, so will I." When it comes to preachers desperate …

Academy of Parish Clergy Book of the Year and Top Ten Books of 2006

Book of the Year and Top Ten Books of 2006
Chosen by the Academy of Parish Clergy Presented April 25, 2007 at APC’s Annual Conference, Princeton, NJ
The Book of the Year of 2006:
Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith, by Diana Butler Bass (HarperCollins Publishers, 2006).

The remaining Top Ten Books (in alphabetical order by author’s name):

Conspiracy and Imprisonment 1940-1945(Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 16), by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Fortress Press, 2006)

Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary, by Marcus J. Borg, (HarperSanFrancisco, 2006).

Gentle Shepherding: Pastoral Ethics and Leadership, by Joseph E. Bush Jr. (Chalice Press, 2006)

The Sense of Call: A Sabbath Way of Life for Those Who Serve God, The Church, and the World, by Marva J. Dawn (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006)

What’s Theology Got To Do With It? Conviction, Vitality, and the Church, by Anthony B.
Robinson, (Alban, 2006).

Ci…

5 Blogs That Make Me Think

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Dr. Richard Beck at Experimental Theology award me a Thinking Blogs Award. I am deeply honored and flattered by this nomination, as I do believe that Richard's blog is not just intriguing and down right challenging, but it often is cutting edge stuff that we pastors must take note of. He also reminds me of deficiencies regarding my psychological training.
So, the idea here is to choose five bloggers who make you think. So here are my five, among the many I monitor, that I find most intriguing. If I had time and energy I'd add others of you, but here are five.



Diana Butler Bass -- Diana blogs for the Belief.net God's Politics blog of Jim Wallis. Diana's writings are challenging and hopeful. As in her books, so in her blogs.

Mystical Seeker -- Now Mystical Seeker and I don't see eye to eye on a number of things, but I appreciate his quest for truth, knowledge, and spiritual experience of God. But his honesty and quest lead me to nominate him and his blog -- A Blog of …

The Worst Theological Invention

Ben Meyers at Faith and Theology has set up a new poll with seven theological ideas, which he calls the Worst Theological Invention. He asked we the theological blogosphere to offer our nominations -- which I did -- and from our nominations he came up with these seven to vote on.
Biblical inerrancy Double predestination The rapture Papal infallibility Arianism Christendom (not to be confused with Chrisendom, which is also
one of the worst theological inventions...)
Just war theory So, go and vote!!! I voted for the rapture, though there were several there I could have gone for,well I could voted for them all. At this moment inerrancy has a small lead over the rapture.

Church Evaluations -- The Theologometer

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You go to church and you find yourself frustrated by the experience, and you're not sure what to make of things. Well Richard Beck at Experimental Theology suggests the creation of the Theologometer, which like biofeedback, would be able to chart our experiences of worship -- on a theological scale. You'll find this intriguing -- so check it out.

An Unexpected Stop

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Do you know this place? My trip home from Princeton and the Academy of Parish Clergy event was interrupted just a bit. I had a 5:30 P.M. flight out of Newark-Liberty International Airport, but the air traffic was such that my flight was delayed about a half hour. Well, with only a 26 minute window in Salt Lake, you guessed it, I spent last night in Salt Lake, minus my bags. But, if opportunity presents itself, you have to take advantage, and so I did. The airline put me up at a nice downtown hotel, just a couple of blocks from Temple Square. I'd not been there since 1974, so things looked a bit different. But I enjoyed taking pictures of all the hallowed sights of the Latter Day Saints. I had nice conversations with the mostly young women from around the world who are serving as missionaries there. They were very gracious, but they were hopeful I'd read the Book of Mormon and allow the Spirit lead me to its truth. I thanked them for their concern. They were very ni…

Back from Princeton

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Horror of Horrors, I've been out of communication for too many days. But I'm back, at least for a moment, in sunny Santa Barbara. I did have a very enjoyable time in Princeton, NJ, where I participated in my first annual meeting/conference of the Academy of Parish Clergy. Our leader was Dr. Jack Stewart, emeritus professor of ministry and evangelism at Princeton. Jack did a great job having us consider the ways in which the gospel is embedded in the world around us, from theater to short stories, poetry to music. He invited Dr. Clifton Black, NT prof at Princeton, to share with us the "Gospel According to Johnny Cash," which was quite insightful.

We shared worship with the Princeton Seminary community on Choir Day, and oh was the music good. Singing in the company of gifted singers is always a blessing, and indeed I had a spiritual experience, as our voices filled Miller Chapel!

A highlight which I will focus more on later was the presentation of this year's Book o…

Academy of Parish Clergy and Wit, an HBO theater presentation

I'm still here at Princeton for Academy of Parish Clergy. Saw the Princeton Battlefield -- Revolutionary War. We began our sessions today with Dr. Jack Stewart, emeritus professor of ministry and evangelism at Princeton, which focuses on the presence of the Gospel in unexpected places. I shall blog more on this later, but I wanted to comment on the evening presentation which was simply the playing of the DVD of the HBO version of the Broadway play "Wit," starring Emma Thompson. I wasn't all that excited about seeing a play on film I'd never heard of, but as I began to watch this play about a John Donne scholar stricken with incurable ovarian cancer, a woman who has made her way in the world to the top of her field, and yet in the course of this move upward has isolated herself from essentially everyone. It is a movie about life and death, about isolation and a sense of abandonment. And yet there are signs of presence -- call it divine if you wish or not --…

Tripping Across the Nation

I know I promised to slow down -- but hey I found a computer. It is 11 P.M. in Princeton, NJ. I spent most of the day flying across country and losing 3 hours, which I hope to reclaim on Thursday. But I used my time wisely today and got a good start on Marcus Borg's Jesus, which I shall report on shortly! I'm now here at the Academy of Parish Clergy meeting -- my first such session. It's also my first time in the Middle States! I look forward to a profitable week -- but less blogging time.

Against Reductionism -- Sightings

Martin Marty takes on the question of science, the mind, violence, moral responsibility in today's Sightings. Consider carefully his thoughts.

Sightings 4/23/07

Against Reductionism-- Martin E. Marty
From the opinion columns and during television comments in the week that has gone by since the Virginia Tech trauma, one apparently minor theme leaped out for further expression of opinion and comment. Admit it: Many topics have been overworked, often by the under-informed. Let me launch into discussion of a topic on which I am at best only partly informed. Call it "scientific reductionism" and "free will." It takes off from David Brooks's apt op-ed in the New York Times on "Where Serotonin Stops and Sin Begins" (April 10). He properly foresaw that there would be legitimate talk about brain cells and adolescent schizophrenia, the inability to process serotonin and consequent depression and hyperaggression. Brooks does not disdain the story of how,…

A Blogging Slowdown

For the next few days my blog posts will likely be minimal. I'll be traveling from Santa Barbara to Princeton to attend the annual meeting of the Academy of Parish Clergy. Among the highlights will be meeting Diana Butler Bass, whose book I've mentioned a few times. So, with a busy schedule its likely I won't have much time to post. So, enjoy the archived posts and when I return I'll get back to work! So, have a great week!

The Politics of Genocide

When is a genocide not a genocide? It's when a genocide has gotten caught up in international politics. For nearly a century there has been a concerted effort to deny what seems obvious -- A million or more Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire. To this day it's illegal to speak of this in Turkey and the American government goes into contortions not to use the word.

A good friend of mine, a retired Methodist pastor, is Armenian. He has spoken strongly to and with any who would have influence, but he only gets stonewalled. Israel, which understands what genocide means, is silent because Turkey is one of it's few allies in the Middle East. We're silent because we have important military bases there. It would seem that confession would be good for the Turkish soul, but so far nothing has happened there and we have stood by and said nothing.

There is House resolution that calls for the President to use the word on April 24th when he will speak to that event on…

Protecting, Preserving God's Creation

Faith in the Public Square
Lompoc Record
April 22, 2007


Whether it's global warming, air pollution, lack of safe drinking water, or the extinction of species, from the looks of things we humans have created a mess. It was for this reason that Earth Day was born in 1970. Inspired by a devastating 1969 oil spill off our own Santa Barbara County coast, a movement was born that called the nation's attention to the fact that we had clogged our rivers and streams and fouled our air with any number of pollutants, making the earth less livable for all of God's creatures. Much progress has been made since then, but work remains to be done.
In recent years the issue of climate change has grabbed our attention. Although some in national leadership pooh-pooh global warming as some kind of environmentalist scam, and some preachers have called this ecological movement a Satanic distraction, the scientific evidence continues to mount that we humans contribute significantly to a burgeoning cr…

Religions of Peace?

How often do you hear Christian preachers declare that Islam is a religion of violence and that they should get their act together and denounce violence. Well it's time we got our act together and repented of our own attraction to the way of violence. This piece I found on Daily Kos should shatter any pretensions we have! It's a call on our part as Christians to repent -- as Jesus said, take the log out of your own eye before taking the splinter from your neighbors!

When Did I learn about Evolution?

I was talking about evolution with my father-in-law. Like many Americans he’d rather choose Genesis over what the scientists teach. He said, well we didn’t learn about that stuff when I was in school. That got me to thinking: Did we talk about evolution when I was in school? Now, I took biology in ninth grade, way back in 1972-1973. My biology teacher was beloved by the students. He got leeches and other wonderful delicacies out of the local canal for us to look at and I think dissect. But my teacher was also an Evangelical and the sponsor of our student-organized Bible club. I don’t remember talking about evolution, one way or another back then. So, maybe I didn’t learn anything about it. And perhaps, I shouldn’t be all that surprised, considering all the controversy that surrounds evolution. Most schools would probably rather steer clear of the controversy by not teaching evolution.

Now, after my high school days, I didn’t take any more biology classes after high school, but I did at…

Faith and Health -- Are they related?

A while back a study came out that seemed to discount the value of prayer in healing -- it was a rather strange and in my mind silly study. It tried to see if the prayer of strangers helped people who didn't know they were being prayed for.

But despite that misstep, it has long been recognized that faith has something to do with recovery. It could be the prayers or maybe it's the sense that you're not alone. Maybe it's the community that surrounds you. As a pastor I know that people express appreciation not just for my prayers, but my presence there.

In an LA Times article today Times writer Angie Green shares another study, this one suggests that 85% of doctors believe that religion and spirituality have a positive effect on health. Now before we get all excited, we need to remember that this isn't tradition specific -- it doesn't matter which religious tradition, as long as it offers positive support, it can be of great help. It can also be detrimental…

Can't We get practical about guns?

You've heard the old canard that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." In other words, if a person wants to kill someone they'll find a way. With that kind of logic, though, why are we so concerned about airport security? Or national security for that matter?

E.J. Dionne yesterday raised the question of pragmatic gun control talk. Unfortunately the gun lobby always reacts with a big fat "NO!!" to such talk of regulation of gun ownership and use. But why? Sometimes we hear that they'll take away our right to hunt. Who said that? PETA? But what hunter needs an AK-47 or an Uzi to get that deer or duck? And why do you need a 15 bullet clip?

Consider this:

Our country is a laughingstock on the rest of the planet because of our devotion to unlimited gun rights. On Thursday, an Australian newspaper carried this headline: "America, the gun club."

John Howard, the solidly right-wing Australian prime minister closely allied with …

Small Churches -- their difficulties and their possibilities

I'm a small church pastor. Easter Sunday we had according to the "official" count 55 there. I'm sure a pastor's count would reveal a few more, but needless to say, we're not big. Now we've added a few new members lately -- 5 so far this year. But I did read in the letters to the editor in the local paper that the 4Square Church had 1300 for Easter breakfast. Ah, if I only had a couple of their people! But then again we're a different kind of church. Anyway, that's not my point --

I ran across a most interesting piece by David Fitch at Reclaiming the Mission.Com. He writes about the difficulties of growing a small missional church -- noting that it's more difficult to take a church from 0 to 150 than it is from 600 to 5,000. He suggests that it's also more difficult to preach to 100 people you know than 8000, of whom you don't know 99%. People go to big churches because that's where the action is -- programs galore, etc. …

Three Pillars of Creationism

Glenn Branch, writing in Not in Our Classrooms, outlines three pillars of creationism, first espoused by William Jennings Bryan in 1925 and continually in use since. Evolution is in conflict with the actual facts of science -- in other words, it's bad science (this despite the fact that essentially all reputable scientists affirm it). Evolution is atheistic, anti-Christian, and immoral (again this despite the fact that numerous Christians from B.B. Warfield to Benedict XVI are fine with it -- Benedict recently dismissed a "God of the Gaps" view of science). It's only fair to consider the tax payers when developing a science curriculum -- thus, if the tax payers, the majority of whom apparently think that creationism ought to be taught, want an alternative theory then so be it -- (Yes Americans are all about fairness, but is it fair to charge the tax payers to teach bad science?) The first pillar is suggestive that evolution is a theory on the verge of collapse, which …

Not in Our Classrooms -- A Review

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Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch. Editors. Foreword by Rev. Barry W. Lynn. Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong in Our Classrooms.Boston: Beacon Press, 2006. xi + 170 pp.

From the time of Copernicus to the present, religion and science have been locked in a seemingly unending war of attrition for the hearts and minds of the Western World. At least in the United States the battle rages on and from the poll numbers it would seem that with regard to evolution, “religion” is ahead on points. The 2005 Dover, PA trial that struck down an attempt to balance evolution with “Intelligent Design,” but as important as this decision was, it was merely another skirmish in an ongoing culture war.Not in Our Classrooms is a response by the scientific community and its allies in the religious community to a well organized and well funded Creationist movement. With a preface by Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, this is a handbook that can be used by…

Snow in April in Santa Barbara?

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You have to see it to believe it! You may have to click on the picture to get a close up. But after a winter of cold winds, freezing temperatures and little rain, we finally got a storm that was fitting for January or February! And so we have snow in the mountains behind Santa Barbara. None, of course, down here in the city -- it's not nearly cold enough.

Preacher's Wife -- Guilty

I've posted a couple of times on clergy related issues. One was a discussion of a Time Magazine article on pastor's wives. Yesterday I posted the results of a survey that said that clergy express the most job satisfaction of any profession/vocation. Today, I read first in the LA Times the verdict in the Mary Winkler trial. Mary was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the murder of her husband, Matthew Winkler, who at the time of his death was pastor of 4th Street Church of Christ in Semler, TN. Winkler claims that the shotgun she was holding during a fight with her husband had gone off accidentally --- which is probably why she got the lesser sentence. She tells of a life of abuse, physical, emotional, and even sexual. It's a sorry tale, and of course much of it went on behind closed doors with no witnesses. Thee are three children, but all are under 10. How could a minister's wife do such things? And then of course, if, as I suspect she is, telling the …

Bad Things, Good People -- Why?

My friend Steve Kindle went me this audio link from Beliefnet. It's a short reading from Rabbi Harold Kushner's Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. As we consider the events of Monday and the daily reports of violence from Iraq, perhaps these words will be helpful!

Christian Peace Bloggers

Well, I joined up -- I put my blog into the Christian Peace Bloggers ring. This ring is run by Michael Westmoreland-White over at Levellers. I shall try to keep up the task of peace over here!

If your part of the ring and you're stopping by, leave a note here and say hi!

Christianity for the Rest of Us -- a Review

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In the mail today came my copy of Congregations (Alban Institute), which includes my review of Diana Butler Bass's Christianity for the Rest of Us. Diana's book, which if you read the review shows, is I think a truly remarkable contribution to our conversation about the future of the church in America.

As I announced earlier, the Academy of Parish Clergy has named this their Book of the Year. Although I'm journal editor, and thus a staff member of the Academy, I was not on the committee and did not influence it's selection. Though I'm glad it won! Though it did beat out Mark Toulouse's God in Public -- which I reviewed for Encounter and believe to be an extremely important book in it's own right. If you can get through to the review take a read and then if you've not purchased the book -- well buy one here at Pastor Bob's Bookstore!!!

Preachers like their Jobs!!!

Job satisfaction -- that's what we all want in life. Despite everything I read about clergy burn out (and we featured an article on that in Sharing the Practice) word comes out that in a recent survey 87% of clergy say they're satisfied with their job. Folks, that's tops among all professions/vocations -- topping fire fighters by a whopping 7%. In the article on Ethics Daily Marcia Nelson reports:

Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey at the university research center, said he was surprised clergy led the list. Many "helping" occupations, such as doctors and nurses, also experience stress, which can affect their overall happiness, he said.

"Apparently the rewards of spiritual guidance and leadership outweigh the burdens of being a religious leader," he said.

One caveat on this -- a recent Time Mag story I've reported on here suggests that as happy as the preachers are, their wives (for us male clergy) aren't exactly thrilled or prepar…

A Note on VA Tech from the Disciples' Korean Churches

The fact that the perpetrator of Monday's acts of violence was a Korean-American has hit the Korean Community hard. Here is a word and call to prayer from Geuhnee Yu, Executive Pastor of the National Association of Pacific Islanders and Asian Disciples (NAPAD).

Dear fellow Disciples:

We at North American Pacific/Asian Disciples (NAPAD) are deeply shocked and profoundly saddened by the massacre at Virginia Tech on April 16. On behalf of the community of NAPAD and the Korean Disciples Convocation (KDC), I sincerely offer my condolences to the families and friends of the victims, as well as all who have been adversely affected. It is indeed my most heartfelt prayer that our gracious God sends comfort and healing. I also steadfastly and tearfully pray for the souls of the victims.

It is horrifying that a Korean-American student is at the center of these heinous acts. It is my sincere hope, however, that we make great efforts to not allow racial overtones to further darken this tr…

A Voice from Within -- Evangelicals and the Left

When people think of evangelicals more often than not they think of Jim Dobson, Pat Robertson, or maybe James Kennedy -- doyens of the Religious Right. They seem surprised to learn that Jimmy Carter, Tony Campolo, and Jim Wallis are evangelicals. Well John Stackhouse, theology prof at Regent College in Canada (not to be confused with Robertson's Regent University), offers an interesting take on all of this in the Thursday edition of Sightings.

Sightings 4/19/07
Evangelicals on the Left? How Shocking! How Awful!-- John G. Stackhouse
Martin Marty wrote on Monday about evangelicals from his vantage point outside evangelicalism -- but within the fellowship of those he likes to call the "original evangelicals," namely, Lutherans. From within (latter-day) evangelicalism, then, I offer this week's second observation of this burgeoning movement. I have been wondering why people both within and without evangelicalism are so surprised -- and sometimes even upset -- about th…

Pluralism Sunday Press Release

Below is the press release for Pluralism Sunday. I'm still not sure how I'll handle it and my congregation is likely different in make up and intent than others participating. I'm not a big John Spong fan, for instance, and he's quoted below. Still, I do believe in the importance of religious pluralism. So, if you're interested, check it out. PRESS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PLURALISM SUNDAY: May 27, 2007
in progressive churches nationwide
For more information: contact Rev. Jim Burklo, coordinator, Pluralism Sunday:
jtburklo@yahoo.com , 415-332-3790, or Rev. Fred Plumer, President, The Center for Progressive Christianity, center@tcpc.org, 253-303-0022
For a full description of the event, see: www.tcpc.blogs.com/pluralism_sunday

________________________The Center for Progressive Christianity, (TCPC.org) a national network of 370 affiliated congregations of many denominations, will be celebrating the diversity of the world's religions on PLURALISM SUNDAY, May 27…

What is Good Science?

I was struck by something said by Lutheran theologian Ted Peters and Catholic biologist Martinez Hewlett concerning the definition of the best science. They write that faith demands the best science and that to this point the best model is evolutionary biology. Why? Well this is what they say: The criterion that establishes the superiority of one model or theory over its competitors is fertility. By fertility we mean this: a theory or model of natural reality is fertile when it gives rise to a progressive research program, when it guides scientists in performing experiments that lead to new knowledge. The Darwinian model has proven itself fertile for a century and a half now. (Peters and Hewlett, "Theology, Religion, and Intelligent Design," Not in our Classrooms, ed. Eugenie Scott and Glenn Branch, Beacon Press, 2006, 76-77).
In other words, this theory/model is suggestive of fruitful scientific exploration. Intelligent Design on the other hand doesn't accomplish…

Looking forward from Blacksburg

The tragedy at Virginia Tech hovers over us, in part because this event shattered our belief that colleges and universities are safe havens. As father of a high school junior who will soon head off to college, I have to take into consideration what that will look like for him. Totally protecting a college campus isn't possible, but that doesn't mean no steps should be taken, that we shouldn't learn from what happened. In part, we're not ready to have that conversation. To politicize VA Tech as a gun control versus gun rights debate at a time when the people on that campus, and indeed people across the country must grieve, is at best insensitive -- and that insensitive debate is already underway. Though I'm on the side of gun control and would hate to see a college campus full of gun toting students, that debate needs to wait for a moment. But, when the conversation begins in the coming weeks, we must look at real solutions. Ron Brownstein raises this very issu…

Is the Resurrection Central to Christian Faith?

In conversations with several readers I've been wrestling with the question: Is the resurrection of Jesus central, indeed, essential to the Christian faith? In answer I have to say yes. One could raise the question of whether Jesus' teachings are sufficient to under gird a faith. At one level they are. And yet the cross seems problematic in such a scenario. Concerning the centrality of resurrection, I could turn to someone like Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, who forthrightly defends a bodily resurrection. But I think for my purpose here, Marcus Borg is a more effective conversation partner. He writes in his response to Wright in The Meaning of Jesus:

Easter is utterly central to Christianity. "God raised Jesus from the dead" is the foundational affirmation of the New Testament. About this Tom and I agree. We also agree that the best explanation for the rise of Christianity -- indeed, the only adequate explanation -- is the resurrection of Jesus. We also agree about its…