Evangelizing Christians by J. Budziszewski

If baptism isn’t just a symbol of initiation, but an initiation, then Zack was already a Christian. God’s seal had been impressed indelibly on his soul. The inky divine thumbprint declared, “Mine.” He was adopted into God’s family, inducted into the knighthood of worship. Not that anyone would have known. If he was a knight, he was an errant one, a wanderer in search of adventures, mostly the kind that can be had in women’s beds. Though he “thought of himself as a Christian,” he lived like any hedonist, taking his beliefs about living, dying, God, good, and evil from the nonbelieving world in which he lived. One day when he visited a new church, the desert of his heart was strangely moistened. Looking back on the experience, he said that he had never “heard” the Gospel of grace until that day. Familiar story? Yet there is something wrong with it. Every Sunday in his own church, Zack had sat through lections from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Epistles, and the Four Evangelists. His eardrums were intact. His auditory nerves functioned. He even claims that he paid attention. So he “heard” in the mechanical sense; the problem was that he did not “hear” in the spiritual sense. He had not grown the right kind of ears, and that story too is familiar. What keeps people them from hearing? The obstacles come in three main varieties, but they can be overcome.

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The Future of American Sexuality and Family by Mark Regnerus

Five Key Trends

The tenth anniversary of Public Discourse makes for a good opportunity to take stock of what has happened in the past decade in the domains of sexuality and family. One would think that ten years is not a very long time to measure change in such timeless matters as family and sexuality. But these are not ordinary times. The gap between 2008 and 2018 has been far more dynamic than most decades. As a sociologist, my specialty is behavior, so that will be my main focus. Here are five noteworthy narratives from the past decade. Each story constitutes a profound change, or reflects changes occurring within our most intimate relationships.

When Self-Help Means Less Help by Raymond C. Barfield

Learning to Live as If You’ll Die One Day

When I was kid, I thought that part of growing up would mean that I would get to make decisions on my own, without having a bunch of grownups telling me what I should do. I was wrong. The older we get, the more advice we get from doctors, self-help books, personal trainers, advertisers, and well-meaning vegetarian friends. I have probably retained too much of my childhood views of growing up, and I tend to resist advice. For example, at the risk of beginning this review with too much information, I feel compelled to confess that I am a fifty-three-year-old oncologist who has not had a colonoscopy. Some people—my doctor, for example—are not satisfied with busyness as a reason for me not to get the exam, but I can generate other rational reasons for my failure. I was told to get the exam when I turned fifty, and then to have it every ten years. The lifetime risk of colon cancer in men is roughly 4.5 percent. The median age at diagnosis is roughly sixty-five. This means the odds are in my favour. The exam probably would have been negative at fifty. Since I would not have had the exam again anyway for another ten years, maybe I can wait until I am sixty for my first colonoscopy. And by then, they might have an app for that. When I started reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer, I realized that I was not alone in my small, private rebellion against some of my doctor’s opinions about how to be a happier, healthier, more productive version of myself.

Virtue Signaling by John Harris

Toxic to Spiritual Growth and Ruinous to Political Health

When I was barely seventeen, I left everyone I knew in the world for the first time in my life and packed it off to summer school at William and Mary, 1,500 miles away.  I hadn’t been in my strange new surroundings a week when something happened that lifted me high in my young eyes (very young, since I had graduated from high school a year early).  In working my way through the cafeteria’s dinner line, I had forked four slices of ham onto my plate, thinking I had only three—and paying for only three at the register.  In the middle of my lonely meal, I discovered my error and promptly returned to the checkout woman to correct it.  She was so visibly amazed and delighted at my punctilious honesty that I basked in the glow of her smile for days.  What a fine young man I was, after all!


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New Study Shows Awe Bad for ‘Science’ by Douglas Axe

Psychology professors from Claremont McKenna, Yale and Berkeley have just published a study that should be “disconcerting to those interested in promoting an accurate understanding of evolution.” Specifically, they’ve identified an insidious factor that has crept into science films and videos, undermining the ability of viewers to be good Darwinists.

Awe is the culprit, they say. All those jaw-dropping nature documentaries have been messing with our minds.

Most wildlife shows are packaged with the usual Darwinian narrative, spoken in an authoritative tone that isn’t supposed to be questioned. But it seems that wildlife itself, in stunning visual display, is conveying a different message — more powerfully, in fact.

Everyone is awed by life, and experiences that accentuate this awe seem to affect us, whether or not we believe in God. The new study suggests that these experiences affirm a sense of faith in theists and a sense of purpose-like natural order in atheists and agnostics, both of which cause problems for instructors wanting to churn out good Darwinists.

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A Sacred Schizophrenia by John Piper

I want to make plain to all the graduates today that, if you are a Christian, you will spend the rest of your life on this earth with a spiritual condition that may be called sacred schizophrenia.

The second definition of schizophrenia in my dictionary, after the medical one, is “a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements.” That’s what I mean by schizophrenia. In calling it sacred I mean that it is a condition brought about by the Holy Spirit. It is not a perfect condition, but it is a holy condition. A sacred schizophrenia. https://world.wng.org/2017/05/a_sacred_schizophrenia

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How Do Christians Fit Into the Two-Party System? They Don't by Tim Keller

What should the role of Christians in politics be? More people than ever are asking that question. The historical Christian positions on social issues don’t match up with contemporary political alignments.

Christians cannot pretend they can transcend politics and simply “preach the Gospel.” Those who avoid all political discussions and engagement are essentially casting a vote for the social status quo. American churches in the early 19th century that did not speak out against slavery because that was what we would now call “getting political” were actually supporting slavery by doing so. To not be political is to be political.

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Anthony Kennedy and the Privatization of Meaning by David Brooks

America’s founders certainly believed in individual liberty, but they believed that liberty happens within a shared community. They began the Constitution with the phrase, “We the People.” We are all one thing — a people, a nation, a collective.

That people shares a moral order — rules that are true for all people in all times and that govern us in our freedom. Among them, for example, is the idea that all people are created equal.

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CrossFit Is My Church by Tara Isabella Burton

How fitness classes provide the meaning that religion once did.

Institutions like CrossFit and SoulCycle are offering their students more than just a chance to lose weight or tone up. They function, ter Kuile argues, like religions.

“People come because they want to lose weight or gain muscle strength, but they stay for the community,” he said. “It’s really the relationships that keep them coming back.”

Of course, these spaces are themselves defined not just by their spiritual role but by their economic one. At up to $40 a class, places like SoulCycle and CrossFit often cater to a particular demographic: urban millennials with high-paying jobs and disposable incomes, the same group that tends to identify as religiously unaffiliated.

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The Necessary Fear by Todd R. Flanders

What is said today about ‘fear’ of the Lord in Biblical language is true,” Father Ernest Fortin told his graduate students at Boston College. “It does bear the meanings ‘awe’ and ‘reverence.’  We shouldn’t forget, though, that the word also means fear.” This was the mid-nineties, when John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor had recently re-presented the Church’s teaching on moral law. There are “intrinsically evil acts” that “radically contradict the good of the person made in his image,” wrote the pope. “They are [evil] always and per se.”

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The Dilemma of Faith in a Secular Age by Micaela Walker

Despite the number of Christian fellowships that daily set up their tables on Sproul and the churches that dot the outskirts of campus, our university is a secular one. Charles Taylor’s tome, A Secular Age asserts that our entire age is secular, not because we have rejected religion outright (the active, growing fellowships and churches would demonstrate otherwise), but rather our age is secular because belief in the divine is only one option out of many options that we can choose from.

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Apatheism is More Damaging to Christianity that Atheism and Antitheism

The greatest threat to Christianity is found not in the arguments of the atheist but in the assumptions of the apathetic. The “new apathy” is a more dangerous threat than the new atheism.

The “new atheism” fad of Richard Dawkins, Samuel Harris, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and dozens of other ornery antitheists created a lot of noise over the God Question, reaching its peak in the late 2000s. The loud, kaleidoscopic festival of fallacies served up by these commentators attracted a lot of media attention. Westerners had never had such a public and prominent debate on God’s existence, and millions were seduced by superficially intriguing yet ultimately facile questions like “who created God?” and “is a prime mover not equally as plausible as a giant plate of pasta floating in space?”  

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Love Sees with New Eyes by Peter Kreeft

There is a dimension of truth which most of us have tragically lost and need to recover, a dimension that cannot be put into words and sentences, though words and sentences can be used to suggest it.

All premodern societies had this other dimension, even the ones who were very far from having the propositional truth, the Christian content of revelation. This other dimension is a vision, a perspective, a habit of seeing rather than a specific thing seen. If we do not have this habit—this vision—then our theology will not sink much deeper than on a conscious, rational level.

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God and Men and Jordan Peterson by Ross Douthat

The men fled; the women stayed.

That’s the story of Easter weekend in the New Testament. Most of Jesus’ male disciples vanished when the trouble started, leaving his mother and Mary Magdalene and other women to watch by the cross, prepare his body for his burial, and then (with the men still basically in hiding) find the empty tomb.

Male absence and female energy has also been the story, albeit less starkly and dramatically, of Christian practice in many times and places since. Today, most Christian churches and denominations in America — conservative as well as liberal, male-led and female-led both — have some sort of gender gap, sometimes modest but often stark. Despite their varying theologies, evangelicalism, mainline Protestantism, Mormonism and Catholicism all have about a 55-45 female-male split in religious identification; for black churches, it’s 60-40.

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The Pilgrim's Myth by Holt West

Stories in general, and mythologies in particular, allow us to explore the
complexities of life, death, and the human experience in a nuanced way. This is, no
doubt, why Christ spoke to the masses in parables. Myths, however, run deeper than
simple narrative; they are formative for us as individuals and as communities as we
examine the world around us. Even the myths from which we are far removed culturally
and temporally captivate us in ways that mere facts cannot. Myths bridge the gap
between impersonal, abstract concepts and the more personal experience of daily life. As
we each look for our own niche in the world, a place we can call home, it is clear that
mythology is essential.

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Madeline L'Engle, C.S. Lewis, and Christianity: Moving Beyond Collectivism and Individualism by Jordan Ballor

The Christian quest for the common good is not reducible either to the simple aggregate of individual goods or to the promotion of the needs of the collective at the expense of the one.

The one and the many is perhaps the oldest problem of human experience. In social thought, this problem manifests itself in the tension between collectivism and individualism.

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When Truth and Reason Are No Longer Enough by Alison Gopnik

I'm a scientist at UC Berkeley—a card-carrying true believer in liberal Enlightenment values. Imagine that I meet a bright young woman in a small town in Wisconsin or Alabama, and that I want to persuade her to become a scientist like me. “Listen, science is really great!,” I say. “We scientists care about truth and reason and human flourishing. We include people from every country and culture. And our values have transformed the world. For thousands of years before the Enlightenment, the speed limit was the pace of a fast horse, and children died all the time. Now ideas move at the speed of light, and a child’s death is an unthinkable tragedy. Democracy has eclipsed tyranny, prosperity has outpaced poverty, medicine has routed illness, individual liberation has uprooted social convention. Come join us!”

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The Sin of Tolerance by Billy Graham

One of the pet words of this age is "tolerance." It is a good word, but we have tried to stretch it over too great an area of life. We have applied it too often where it does not belong. The word "tolerant" means "liberal," "broad-minded," "willing to put up with beliefs opposed to one's convictions," and "the allowance of something not wholly approved."

Tolerance, in one sense, implies the compromise of one's convictions, a yielding of ground upon important issues. Hence, over-tolerance in moral issues has made us soft, flabby and devoid of conviction.

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Let’s Ban Porn by Ross Douthat

In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine there is a long profile of a new kind of pedagogy unique to our particular stage of civilization. It’s called “porn literacy,” and it involves explaining to young people whose sexual coming-of-age is being mediated by watching online gangbangs that actually hard-core pornography is not an appropriate guide to how the sexes should relate.

For anyone who grew up with the ideals of post-sexual revolution liberalism, there is a striking pathos to these educators’ efforts. The sex education programs in my mostly liberal schools featured a touching faith from the adults in charge that they were engaged in a great work of enlightenment, that with the right curricula they could roll back the forces of repression and make sexuality a place of egalitarian pleasure and safety for us all.

Compared to those idealists, the people teaching “porn literacy” have accepted a sweeping pedagogical defeat. They take for granted that the most important sex education may take place on Pornhub, that the purpose of their work is essentially remedial, and that there is no escape from the world that porn has made.

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