How Tim Keller Found Manhattan. Although a church in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) denomination gave us our best church experience, it also gave us our worst. What I have since learned about other PCA churches leads me to believe that, although they are a sound, orthodox (small "o") denomination, with many wonderful people, there appears to be something congenital that predisposes PCA churches to the sins of arrogance, pride, and distancing themselves from the real world. I'm not particularly picking on the PCA here—my own current denomination-of-choice, the Episcopal Church, has its own sins aplenty, and persists in displaying them prominently in public. But our PCA experience was bad enough that I had been fairly determined never to set foot in a PCA church again.
Until now. I haven't done so, but should I get the opportunity, I think I will be pleased to visit Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. The first chink in my armor was the Christianity Today article (linked above) on the church, the pastor, and their vision.
The Kellers stick to a few rules. They never talk about politics. Tim always preaches with a non-Christian audience in mind, not merely avoiding offense, but exploring the text to find its good news for unbelievers as well as believers. The church emphasizes excellence in music and art, to the point of paying their musicians well (though not union scale). And it calls people to love and bless the city.
The point about the musicians seems minor, but is illustrative of the way the church reaches out to the people who call New York City home. A glowing article may be taken with a grain of salt, but we were privileged to spend an evening with a lovely young couple who are part of the city's artistic community, and they confirmed the church's positive presence in the city, from its rigorous intellectual honesty, to its respect for New York's harried businessmen and struggling artists, to its emphasis on mercy and justice for the poor.
Why We Need Earthquakes. Another Christianity Today article with a new take on the old "If God is all-good and all-powerful, why is there evil?" question. Moral evil—the bad things people do to each other—may be explained by human free will, but what about earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes? It violates no person's free will to prevent an earthquake. As it turns out, however, it may violate the fundamental structure of our earth that is necessary for life as we know it.
While natural disasters occasionally wreak havoc, our planet needs plate tectonics to produce the biodiversity that enables complex life to flourish on earth. Without plate tectonics, earth's land would be submerged to a depth of several thousand feet. Fish might survive in such an environment, but not humans.
What the New Atheists Don't See. Theodore Dalrymple, while not shy about proclaiming his own unbelief, takes on Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others in the currently popular anti-religion movement.
Lying not far beneath the surface of all the neo-atheist books is the kind of historiography that many of us adopted in our hormone-disturbed adolescence, furious at the discovery that our parents sometimes told lies and violated their own precepts and rules. It can be summed up in Christopher Hitchens’s drumbeat in God Is Not Great: “Religion spoils everything.”
What? The Saint Matthew Passion? The Cathedral of Chartres? The emblematic religious person in these books seems to be a Glasgow Airport bomber—a type unrepresentative of Muslims, let alone communicants of the poor old Church of England. It is surely not news...that religious conflict has often been murderous and that religious people have committed hideous atrocities. But so have secularists and atheists, and though they have had less time to prove their mettle in this area, they have proved it amply. If religious belief is not synonymous with good behavior, neither is absence of belief, to put it mildly.
A Scientist Who Believes in God! John Stackhouse on Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project whom President Obama named to be head of the National Institutes of Health.
What makes this news is the breathtaking idea that someone could be both a scientist and a believer in God.
Like Isaac Newton. Or Johannes Kepler. Or Galileo Galilei. Or most of the other leaders of the Scientific Revolution. And a large number of scientists today.
This isn't news. What is news instead is the continuing ignorance of people who think that science and belief in God are incompatible.
What are the grounds—and by “grounds” here I’m going to mean “publicly accessible and decidable grounds”—for Christian belief (and therefore for the work of theologians)?