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Adam had a unique advantage — when he said a good thing, he knew nobody had said it before.
Mark Twain

Not So Tolerant

Andrew Stuttaford

    A sappy ecumenicism is now America's civic religion. We are taught that such supposedly inclusive tolerance is the hallmark of a tolerant society, when, in fact, it is precisely the opposite. True religious tolerance is the acceptance of the rights of others to follow a different creed. In our ersatz, contemporary version, however, it is denied that there are any different creeds. Instead, we are encouraged to think that all religions are basically the same, just different routes to the same transcendental truth.

    — National Review
    February 24, 2001

So You Say You're A Christian

George Barna

    Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the true spiritual character of our nation. More than four out of five adults call themselves "Christian," but these figures raise questions about what the term means for many people. Seven out of ten adults say they are "religious," but that covers a lot of territory. Clearly, being religious is not synonymous with being a committed Christian. Those who suggest that Americans are becoming more conservative, more traditional, and more religious should recognize that these data describe a nation that is not becoming more biblically informed, more spiritually mature, or more authentically Christian.

    — Barna Research Group News Release
    September 1, 1999

Cafeteria Christianity

Richard Cimino and Don Lattin

Choosing My Religion

    At the dawn of the third millennium, religion and spirituality have become just another product in the broader marketplace of goos and services.

    — American Demographics
    April 1999

Growing Spiritually

Oswald Chambers

    The golden rule for understanding spiritually is not intellect, but obedience. Spiritual darkness comes because of something I do not intend to obey. Watch the things you shrug your shoulders over, and you will know why you do not go on spiritually.

    — Pulpit Helps
    July 1999

Paul And Torah Observance

John Pawlikowski

Professor at the Catholic Theological Union of Social Ethics in Chicago, Illinois

    ... Observance of Torah was not necessarily a bad thing in Paul's eyes so long as a person recognizes the primary source of salvation. In fact, some scholars are now persuaded that Paul likely favored the continuation of Torah practice among Jewish Christians. And should a Gentile Christian freely decide to undertake Torah observance, there is nothing in Pauline teaching, as now interpreted, to suggest that such a person would be endangering their faith or salvation. Hence, the traditional contrast between Judaism as a religion of law and Christianity as a religion of freedom/grace is profoundly simplistic.

    From the book Removing Anti-Judaism from the Pulpit, edited by Howard Clark Key and Irwin J. Borowsky

Religion In America

    More than 65 million adult Americans attend a Christian church service in a typical week. There are fewer than 8 million Jews in the U.S. Mormons have plateaued at about 5 million people. Muslims account for less than 2 million, while agnostics and atheists number almost 25 million adults.

    — The Barna Report
    Volume 1, Number 2

What Democracy Needs

Peter Berkowitz
Professor of government at Harvard reviewing Joshua Mitchell's book "The Fragility of Freedom: Tocqueville on Religion, Democracy, and the American Future.

    It was the utility to democracy of family life and religious belief that Tocqueville stressed. Families and religion shaped mores, the fundamental and sometimes half-articulate habits of the heart and mind, which were more important to democracy than good laws, because it was such habits or qualities of character which inclined and enabled citizens to respect, uphold, and administer law. In families, women shaped mores, and Americans learned to appreciate simple pleasures, love order, respect enduring ties, and understand their happiness in relation both to ancestors and descendents. Christianity in America palliated envy by teaching individuals men formed, and not ask too much of the world. By elevating the individual's gaze from here and now, religion also fostered the virtues of restraint and forbearance, and promoted what Mitchell calls "habits of long term thinking."

    But that was then and this is now. In light of the democratization of the family, the movement of women out of the home and into the marketplace, and the rise of the religious right, it is easy to mock Tocqueville's portrait of enlightened self-interest rooted in domestic bliss and simple religiosity. As Mitchell's instructive book demonstrates, however, it is more useful to understand the logic of Tocqueville's argument, the links he illuminates between democracy, virtue, and the non-political institutions. What has changed since Tocqueville wrote is not democracy's need for the virtues that were once fostered by associational life, family, and religious belief. What has changed is our capacity to satisfy that need.

    — The New Republic
    June 24, 1996

Once More With Understanding

    There's a story about Ba'al Shem Tov, founder of the Hasidic tradition of Judaism: "After the death of Ba'al Shem Tov, his work was taken up by his disciples. Each young rabbi would travel to the villages, telling stories of their master, reminding the people of his teachings and carrying out various duties, such as the slaying of the animals to provide kosher meat.

    Whenever one rabbi came to a certain village, he would repeat the stories, say the prayers, follow the rituals, and kill the animals. Each time he noticed a man standing at the back of the crowd who would simply shake his head. At first he dismissed him as a Gentile who rejected the ways of Israel. Then he learned that the man was in fact, a leader of the synagogue and perhaps the most devout Jew in town.

    When he could stand it no longer, the rabbi spoke to the man, demanding, "Why do you shake your head? Have I not said the prayers? Have I not sharpened the knife on the whetstone to the highest keenness to reduce as much as possible the pain of the animals? What then is lacking?" The old man replied, "When the Ba'al Shem Tov would sharpen the knife, he moistened the stone with his tears."

    — Faith-full Stories: The Narrative Road to Religion
    Edited by John C. Hoffman

Without A Task, A Vision Will Perish

O. S. Hawkins
Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas

    A vision without a task is just a gamble. We've all been to those conferences. We get a vision of what God wants us to do. Then we go back, but we really don't have a task through which to channel the vision. Then it becomes a drag. Two or three weeks later, we drift back into the same old routine. Conversely, a task without a vision is drudgery. If we are without a vision, without a spirit of conquest, our work becomes drudgery. When you couple vision with task – not just to motivate, but to equip people to do the work of the ministry – that is what the church is about.

    — Growing Churches
    Fall 1996
WWJB - What Would Jesus Buy?

Gary Hagen

    Rather than renewing our minds through study of and meditation on God's Word and reading classic works of Christian discipleship, we find our pleasure in cultivating Christian consumerism. We conform our habits to the world and buy faddish "Jesus junk" at the local Christian souvenir shop. Last year [1988] alone, modern disciples snapped up more than 15 million WWJD bracelets. Barnes & Noble is offering a 1999 WWJD calendar, while Hallmark sells huggable WWJD stuffed toys. Is it any wonder that with such depth of discipleship, the conservative evangelical Christians of today virtually parallel the nation at large when it comes to sin statistics (divorce, unwed teen pregnancy, etc.)?

    — Credenda Agenda
    Vol. 11, No. 2, 1999

Humility 101

Professor Donald Whitney

    When it comes to Scripture, we express humility by our eagerness to learn and willingness to obey it. Once we are convinced of what the Bible teaches about a matter, humility toward God's truth means we confess what we say without wavering. To speak with a "But what do I know?" spirit and imply doubt where God is clear, or to compromise what he has revealed for the sake of appearing humble, is a wrongly placed humility.

    — Tabletalk
    July 1999

Who Is Jesus?

Luke Timothy Johnson

Author of the Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels

    I begin with the belief that Jesus is a living person. So the response to that question [who do you say that Jesus is?] is that Jesus is risen Lord, Jesus is Lord. And as a living person, I think the images that we have for Jesus are multiple, as multiple as the experience of Jesus continues in the world. The sacramental experience of Jesus. The experience of Jesus in prayer. The reading of Jesus out of the pages of the Gospels. So, thinking about Jesus as a living person, I find it impossible to attach a single image. Jesus is as richly diverse and multifaceted as my wife Joy is - actually more than my wife Joy is. No offence to Joy but an honor to Jesus. When I first met my wife, I felt fairly confident about being able to say who she was. After 20 years of marriage I find that it's less and less possible to reduce her to a simple image or to a single story. She constantly reveals herself in new ways.

    And when I read the pages of the Gospels, I find the same multi-faceted rendering of Jesus. Each of the Gospels renders Jesus in different ways - Jesus as Prophet, Jesus as Revealer. If I were to say that there's some central governing image of Jesus in the Gospels, that for me the most telling, the most normative, I find it in the narrative rendering of Jesus as the suffering obedient Son of God who in radical obedience to God gave his life in loving service to others. That image of Jesus I find pervades the Gospels and the other early Christian writings and gives some kind of normative shape to the continuing shape to the continuing experience of Jesus in the Church.

    — May 1, 1996 Episcopal Teleconferencing Network broadcast entitled The Conversation Continues.

Top 10 Biblical Ways To Acquire A Wife

    10. Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she's yours (Deuteronomy 21.11-13).
    9. Find a prostitute and marry her (Hosea 1.1-3).
    8. Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife (Judges 21.19-25).
    7. Cut 200 foreskins off your future father-in-law's enemies, and get his daughter for a wife (1 Samuel 18.27).
    6. Become the emperor of a huge nation, and hold a beauty contest (Esther 2.3-4).
    5. When you see someone you like, go home and tell your parents, "I have seen a . . . women. Now get her for me" (Judges 14.1-3).
    4. Kill any husband, and take his wife [prepare to lose four sons, though] (2 Samuel 11).
    3. Wait for your brother to die. Take his widow. [It's not just a good idea - it's the law] (Deuteronomy 25.5-10).
    2. Don't be so picky. Make up for quality with quantity. (1 Kings 11.1-3).
    1. "A wife? Are you kidding me?" (1 Corinthians 7.32-35).

    — Sunstone
    September 1996

Hymns For Us?

Austin C. Lovelace
Church musician and composer

    When our hymns and worship are oversentimentalized, based on euphoric feelings and ephemeral metaphors, we lose touch with truth. Instead of centering on God, we center on ourselves. And if the hymns do not help us to worship God in spirit and in truth, they are probably hymns which Jesus would not have liked.

    — Christianity and the Arts
    Volume 2, Number 3

New Life For the Old Testament

Robert J. Daly
Jesuit priest and professor at the Catholic Theological Union of Social Ethics in Chicago, Illinois

    It is now becoming increasingly apparent to biblical scholars that the lack of a deep immersion into the spirit and content of the Hebrew Scriptures leaves the contemporary Christian with a truncated version of Jesus' message. In effect, what remains is an emasculated version of biblical spirituality.

    [T]he doctrine that God's covenant in Jesus Christ — is no longer, at least not in the Roman Catholic and similar traditions, an acceptable Christian position.

    From the book Removing Anti-Judaism from the Pulpit, edited by Howard Clark Key and Irwin J. Borowsky

No More Wickedness

Jim Russell
Author of Awakening the Giant

    How many Christians have you heard recently confess to being wicked? How many even believe they are wicked? Most Christians do not perceive themselves as wicked. Is this a problem? When asked if they are sinners, their answers change dramatically. Christians know they are sinners and readily confess it. Such willing acknowledgement raises new questions. If I am not a wicked sinner, does that mean I am basically a nice sinner? Does it mean I'm a cultured sinner, an educated sinner, a refined sinner, a good sinner, an average sinner, a B+ sinner? Has God changed his stand on sin? Is the condition of sin no longer wicked in the eyes of a holy God? Deep down in the inner recesses of our heart, we know better. All sin is wicked in His eyes.

    From the book Awakening the Giant, by Jim Russell

How Many Archaeologists Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?

    – It would take one, but no one has been able to find or get into that room since 1933. – ?Are you kidding?! Why would we let them do that?! The broken bulb is a national treasure, pointing to our rich, rich history and culture. No, we would rather build a shrine there, and charge admission to see the ‘ancient luminosity device’…hmmm, maybe we could even sell little figurines…

    – Actually they are afraid to do it…they think that if they remove the top layer bulb, that they will disturb the (presumed) earlier bulbs that are screwed in beneath the one that is currently showing…

    – Only one, but it will take years and years of initial site study…we have to first correlate all the surrounding furniture and domestic devices, and then decide whether the anthropological theory about the bulb being a cultic object (based on its central location in the room, its being up out of reach–symbolizing transcendence, and its obviously sun-like shape) is a correct socio-economic understanding…

    – All of them. One to change the bulb, and the rest of them to weep about what Thiering, Allegro, Baigent and Leigh will write about it…

    – No amount of them can do it, but for an underground antiquities dealer it only takes 5 minutes…

    – 501. One to take the old bulb out, and 500 to proclaim that it confirms the biblical record…

    – 501. One to take the old bulb out, and 500 to proclaim that it dis-confirms the biblical record…

    – Well, actually, it only takes a couple to remove the old bulb, but then they get so involved in studying the old bulb (especially in trying to correlate its appearance with all other burned-out bulbs within a 1000 km radius), that they never get around to putting the new bulb in…

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