Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Posts Tagged ‘Culture

Brit Hume Responds on O’Reilly to People’s Reactions to his Tiger Woods Comments

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This was worth watching.  Hume is correct on hitting a nerve in our culture.  The divisive reaction speaks both to the explosiveness of the culture war in America, as well as, the reality of opposition to the Gospel of Christ.

Update:  Justin Taylor has a few brief insights into Hume’s own conversion to Christianity that are worth reading.

Also, here is an interview with Christianity Today.

Your thoughts?

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Written by Michael Graham

January 6, 2010 at 11:53 am

3 Month Introspective

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Introspective

So, I’ve been blogging consistently for three months.  This is the week of Christmas and I’ll be all over the place.  I thought I would briefly summarize the 3 months of blog series on here:

Blaise Pascal:  We took a look at Blaise Pascal’s thinking, its use of aphorism and its relationship to both tri-perspectivalism and presuppositionalism.  We also looked at his use of aphorism and his warnings against deism and atheism.

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Past, Present, and Future, Parts 1-7:  We defined the term evangelical.  We looked at its historical roots in the First Great Awakening, Second Great Awakening, and its ties to celebrity culture, democritization of knowledge, and modernism.  Then we looked at the roots of liberalism, the Protestant split and suburbanization, and defined and outlined evangelical populism and their game plan for reaching America.  Finally we assessed the current status of American evangelicalism and then made some predictions of future trends.

Introduction to Apologetics, Parts 1-7:  We looked in broad strokes at the various schools of apologetics.  We then took a more in-depth look at:  Classical Apologetics, Evidentialist Apologetics, Presuppositional Apologetics, and the specific apologetics of Blaise Pascal and Alvin Plantinga.  Finally, we employed the three phases football as an analogy for the different apologetic schools and I likened Tim Tebow to the presuppositionalists.

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Moving Forward, Parts 1-10:  We looked at some analysis of some shifts evangelicalism will need to make moving forward:  Doctrine, Worldview, Urbanization, Globality/Mobility, “Post-Modernism,” American Culture(s), Contextualization, Balance, and Final Analysis.

Top ~10 Books by Topic:

Top 10 Systematic Theology Texts

Top 10 Devotional Classics

Top 10 Books on the Church

Top 10 Books on Science and Christianity

Top 10 Books on Christian Biography

Top 10 Books on Culture

Top 10 Books on Eschatology

Top 5 Books on Worldview

Top 15 Books on Status of American Evangelicalism

Top 10 Books on Church History

Top 40 Books to Read While in College

Top 10 Books on Missions, Discipleship, and Evangelism

The 25 Most Destructive Books Ever Written…

Top 10 Apologetic Works

Top 10 Books on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

Top 10 Books by John Piper

Top 5 Children’s Books

Best Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms of the Christian Church

A Comprehensive List of Top 10 Book Lists of 2009

Up Next:  We will be looking at some thoughts on the economy and investment and then delve into the mind of Friedrich Nietzsche…

Written by Michael Graham

December 19, 2009 at 11:29 am

Climategate: Over-realized Anthropology and The Biggest Story Getting NO Mainstream Press

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Global Warming: Over-Realized Anthropology

The Story

This post is a brief departure from the Top XX lists.  No major tv news network has yet to pick up this story over two weeks after it broke.  The gist of the story is the Climate Research Unit had their email servers hacked.  1000 emails and 3000 documents were taken from the servers.  These emails and documents allegedly reveal highly incriminating evidence implicating many of the world’s top ‘climate researchers.’  Notable figures at Penn State University, University of East Anglia, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research have been implicated.  Here is one quote (via Wikipedia):

The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the ‘trick’ is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term “trick” to refer to a “a good way to deal with a problem”, rather than something that is “secret”, and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the ‘decline’, it is well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the “divergence problem“–see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommended not using the post-1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.

Copenhagen hosts a world summit on climate change from December 7th-21st.  Climategate will/ought to cast a long shadow over the Copenhagen summit.

My Analysis

This is a major story and the lack of coverage is deplorable.  I think how the information has come to light is reprehensible, nonetheless is has come to light.  I think the main reason why Global Warming has had traction as an idea, is that it puts MAN at the center of the world.  WE have caused this problem, now let US show our greatness and sovereignty by fixing it.  I have yet to see good scientific data on Global Warming.  I think Global Warming has been successfully marketed by a handful of people (Al Gore… et al) and it struck a chord with our heavily man-centered society/world.  The problem is that if Global Warming was founded on rhetoric, conjecture, and marketing, then it was a deck of cards waiting to fall.  For me, Global Warming is at its essence and over-realized anthropology.  Politicians decided that they could use climate change to their advantage.  Big corporations found a new marketing tool:  being ‘green.’  It is pretty rare that a major corporation be gift wrapped a completely new thing that they can market themselves with, especially with a lemming public clamoring and groveling to eat it up.  I am tired of shoddy science, whether Neo-Darwinian drivel or Global Warming.  Someone please email me when you there is some good data.

Further Reading

Many of you probably already know about “Climategate“, but in case you have not, here is a survey of internet stories:

Washington Times Editorial:  “Hiding evidence of global cooling”

Climategate: the final nail in the coffin of ‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’?

Climate change: this is the worst scientific scandal of our generation

Climategate: University of East Anglia U-turn in climate change row

BBC NEWS:  Inquiry into stolen climate e-mails

Secrecy in science is a corrosive force

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: Despite research dispute, ‘climate change is happening’

Saudia Arabia calls for ‘climategate’ investigation

FOXNEWS:  Obama Ignores ‘Climate-Gate’ in Revising Copenhagen Plans

Copenhagen climate summit: 1,200 limos, 140 private planes and caviar wedges

FOXNEWS:  Bah Humbug! Christmas Trees Axed From Copenhagen Conference

Update:

Justin Taylor has a nice article that concisely explains the UN role and Copenhagen conference in the whole climategate debacle.  It is a worthwhile read.

The Economist Subscription for $64 (51 Issues)

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The Economist: The Finest Political and Economic Analysis, Period.

Many of you know my affinity for the The Economist.  For those of you who have not heart of The Economist, it is a weekly magazine of some of the finest political, sociological, and economic analysis.  In my view, they have the brightest minds and best writers working on their staff.  Few things have helped me understand globalization, micro/macro-economics, foreign policy better than this magazine.  They also cover never-covered-highly-important stories.  This magazine never goes on sale so getting 51 issues for $64 is a steal.  Here is the link.

Written by Michael Graham

December 6, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Top 15 Books on Status of American Evangelicalism

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No Place for Truth by David Wells

These books represent the best analysis on the present status and recent history of evangelicalism.  This list is meant to be informative and not to be alarmist or disconcerting.  I think the classic Dicken’s line, ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times‘ will apply the Christ’s church til He return.  It is implicit also in this list that works commending a Christian worldview, like Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth, are must reads.  I have also omitted more esoteric debates including books on open theism, federal vision, new perspectives on paul… etc.  The purpose of this list is zoomed out than those specific issues.

1.  No Place for Truth by David Wells  [e, p, s]

How modernity crept in and screwed up evangelicalism.  Absolute classic.

2.  The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll  [y, l, e, p, s]

The scandal of the evangelical mind is that it is so scarce and scant.  You may also want to read Os Guinness’ Fit Bodies Fat Minds, addressing evangelicalism’s intellectual laziness and preoccupation with the temporary.

3.  The Democritization of American Christianity by Nathan Hatch  [e, p, s]

Fascinating analysis of the democritization of Christianity in America.  His historical analysis is keen and well-researched.

4.  Christianity and Liberalism by J. Greshem Machen  [e, p, s]

This classic work delineates the liberalism of the early 20th century as being a completely other faith than the historic orthodox Christian faith.  86 years later it is still relevant.

5.  God in the Wasteland by David Wells  [e, p, s]

Wells continues where he left off in No Place for Truth, by challenging evidenced consumerism in evangelicalism.

6.  The Courage to Be Protestant by David Wells  [e, p, s]

The title is a play on Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be.  Tillich’s work was a classic in early 20th century Protestant liberalism.  Wells draws connections between the emergent movement as really being a form of rehashed 20th century era liberalism.  Wells is also scathing on the level and abuse of marketing in modern evangelicalism.  As far as Wells goes, his Above All Earthly Pow’rs s also a worthwhile read:  in terms of analysis Pow’rs is to post-modernity what No Place for Truth was to modernity.

7.  The New Shape of World Christianity:  How American Experience Reflects Global Faith by Mark Noll  [e, p, s]

I am surprised by the lack of press for this book.  Noll examines the history of Christianity in America and draws parallels in key growth areas (Southern hemisphere and the East).  Noll is actually rather positive amid the torrent of bad press on what American Christians are exporting.  This is an important work because we are good to be reminded that American evangelicalism is not the height of church history.  Further, the church is Christ’s and she will prevail.  I think Noll has his fingers on the pulse of what is going on and what is next, we would be wise to listen to what he has to say.

8.  Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism by George Marsden  [e, p, s]

This is a must read if you seek to understand our history.  Also an important work is Revival and Revivalism by Iain Murray.

9.  Reclaiming the Center:  Confronting Evangelical Accomodation to Postmodern Times by Various Authors  [y, l, e, p, s]

Various heavyweights chime in on the necessity of remaining faithful to the preaching of the Word and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you like this work, I suggest also Os Guinness’, Prophetic Untimeliness:  Challenging the Idol of Relevance.

10.  Christless Christianity by Michael Horton  [y, l, e, p, s]

This books has caused a bit of a stir.  You can read John Frame’s book review here.  I have yet to read the book, but I thought it a worthwhile mention to engage in present dialogue over the status of the Gospel in evangelicalism.  From what I gather, Horton has guys like Joel Osteen in view when he speaks of a Christianity without Christ.

11.  Young, Restless, and Reformed by Colin Hansen  [y, l, e, p, s]

This book is an important first look at the growing demographic of young Reformed folk.  This is an area that needs further analysis and hopefully a good work will come soon.

12.  Respectable Sins:  Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges  [y, l, e, p, s]

Bridges is 100% right when he highlights several sins that evangelicals strangely tolerate:  gossip, anger, pride, jealousy, anxiety, and selfishness to name a few.

13.  Why Johnny Can’t Preach:  The Media Have Shaped the Messengers by T. David Gordon  [e, p, s]

Gordon applies Marshall McLuhan’s keen insights to shed light on the dearth of serious bible teaching in evangelicalism.

14.  Confessions of a Reformission Rev by Mark Driscoll  [y, l, e, p, s]

I think Mark Driscoll is a very important voice in evangelicalism, moreso than many of my fellow Reformed brethren.  This book is a humorous yet insightful look into the story of the planting of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  There are many lessons weaved into the narrative that are wise and memorable.

15.  Why We’re Not Emergent:  From Two Guys That Should Be and Why We Love the Church:  In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck  [y, l, e, p, s]

The first book is a solid book on the emergent church.  I also wanted to end this list with on a positive note with Why We Love the Church.  Many times we can get so bogged down in self-criticism that we forget to praise God for all the truly good things he is doing in and through the church in America.

What we need is always adherence to the same three things:  orthodoxy, orthopathos, and orthopraxis.

(c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

Top 10 Books on Culture

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The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntington

These are books that are helpful for the Christian in better understanding their world past and present.  Some of the books are not written from an explicitly Christian perspective, but are nonetheless quite valuable.

1.  The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntingtonn  [y, l, e, p, s]

Huntington’s thesis is that the world is broken down into 9 different civilizations that each have a different main worldview/religion and that wars are most likely to occur where several civilizations come in close contact with each other – due to the friction created by mutually exclusive ideas.  Huntington’s work has proved to be a solid predictor over the last 20 years.

2.  Culture Wars by James Hunter  [y, l, e, p, s]

Hunter provides acute analysis on the American cultural landscape, describing battlelines drawn over American culture of the orthodox vs. progressive.  A must read for getting a better look at hot-button issues in contemporary America.

3.  Social and Cultural Dynamics by Pitrim Sorokin  [e, p, s]

Sorokin has a mountain of historical and cultural analysis on the history of western civilization.  He describes this history as oscillating between ideational culture and sensate culture.  Ideational culture is where the Western civilization was driven by the world of ideas (typically Christian ones).  Sensate Culture is where Western civilization has abandoned ideas and been preoccupied with pleasuring ourselves (#10 on this list does a great job in explaining the latter in our present context).

4.  Intellectuals by Paul Johnson  [e, p, s]

Johnson takes a look side-by-side at the thoughts and lives of several key intellectuals over the past two centuries (specifically:  Rousseau, Shelley, Marx, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Bertrand Russell, Brecht, Sartre, Edmund Wilson, Victor Gollancz, Lillian Hellman, Cyril Connolly, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, Kenneth Tynan, and Noam Chomsky).  He lets the reader come to their own conclusions… but the conclusions are obvious:  these intellectuals lived lives either horribly inconsistent with their ideas OR their horrible lives drove their suspect ideas.  Paul Johnson also happens to be a very well respected historian whose other works are standard texts at Universities everywhere.

5.  Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber  [y, l, e, p, s]

Weber’s thesis for the first half of the book is pretty shocking – the Puritans started capitalism and that no one but the Puritans could have started capitalism.  Never before had capitalism been created because no one had a Calvinistic view of the world before where work was sacred and one did not spend one’s wealth because their focus was on the world-to-come.  Capitalism required an immense amount of initial capital to begin the new paradigm and the Puritans were the first people to be able to inadvertently create the system.  Weber spends the second half of the book explaining how capitalism destroyed the Puritans four generations later as the wealth accumulated became an iron cage.

6.  Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn  [y, l, e, p, s]

Kuhn levels the idea that the history of science follows the Darwinian model of slow-and-steady progress.  He coins the term “paradigm shift” to explain how the history of science is a history of completely new-and-superior paradigms leveling older paradigms (ie.  Quantum Mechanics and Newtonian Mechanics).  The thesis of the book has implications though for other fields as well.

7.  Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey  [y, l, e, p, s]

Excellent book on worldview that I have commended here numerous times.  Get it and read it.

8.  Christ and Culture by H. Richard Niebuhr  [e, p, s]

See write-up on this one here.

9.  Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark  [y, l, e, p, s]

Fascinating look on how Christianity spread from a marginalized Judean sect to the state religion of the Roman empire in under three centuries.  Stark is a well-respected historian and this book is a standard text at most Universities.  I think the implications of how Christianity was so successful in the pluralistic Mediterranean area has important lessons to teach Christendom today.

10.  Sensate Culture by Harold O.J. Brown  [y, l, e, p, s]

Brown picks up where Sorokin (#3) left off.  He takes a good hard look at Sorokin’s categories in light of modern American culture.

(c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Moving Forward, Part 7: No Cultural Center

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Is there really a cultural center to America?

Evangelicalism’s Strategy

Last time we examined how hasty evangelicals sought to lump an entire country into one philosophical category:  post-modernism.   Evangelicals like to do this – we like shortcuts, we like other people to think for us.  Evangelicals want someone to:

A.  tell them what is at the center of culture

B.  give them a brief definition of that thing

C.  give them some brief answers for why this thing is wrong

D.  make assembly line material on the wrong cultural belief

The Strategies Fundamental Flaw

The problem with this strategy is that it assumes that there is a center to American culture.  I wholeheartedly believe that there is no cultural center to the United States.  There may have been at some point in time, even so, that time is long gone.  In my view, there are at best several sub-cultures some of which overlap with other sub-cultures and some that do not.

Consider the following thought exercise:  Post in the comments section any adjectives that can describe all of American culture.  (I forbid the use of “consumer,” “sensate,” or “democratic.”)

We are not a melting pot, this would presume homogeneity.   We are at best a stew, and even this analogy seriously breaks down.

So What?

What are the consequences of America having no cultural center to the mission of the church?  Moving forward, evangelicalism needs to do what some missiologists have been saying for a little while:  Evangelicals need to acquire the skills of the cross-cultural missionary.  We need to be able to communicate the Gospel in ways that people understand and do it in a manner that does not compromise it’s message.

Every believer is sent by Jesus, with the message of the cross, from a community, to every culture, for the King and His Kingdom.

Moving forward, evangelicals need to avoid oversimplifying both individual people and the many (sub)culture(s) of America.  The evangelical strategy of trying to change America through politics alone is/was a dismal failure, as if politics was the center of an American mono-culture.  I have tried to show the fallacy of America also being a “post-modern” culture in the previous post.  I am trying to help us think beyond insulting misunderstanding in the evangelical mission to North America.

If we are to become more active in understanding the (sub)culture(s)-at-large we need to properly contextualize the Gospel.  Up next we will look at the twin dangers of over-contextualization and under-contextualization.

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