Wednesday, July 11, 2012

All Around the Web: Links For Your Wednesday - July 11, 2012

Calvin 500 - The Calvin Quiz | I got 7 out of 10 right.

John Calvin is one of the best known Protestant reformers. We thought it would be fun to put together a little quiz and let you test your Calvin knowledge. The quiz is only 10 questions long, and since you’re such a Calvin scholar, it should take you no time at all.

Sean McDowell - A Review of "Free Will" by Sam Harris | The rejection of free will in favor of a secular, biological determinism/fatalism is becoming popular. In this review, McDowell shows why that is illogical.

Last year I took a group of high school students to UC Berkeley to interact with skeptics. After spending an evening with S.A.N.E (Students for a Non-religious Ethos), I found myself in a conversation with an undergraduate student about the existence of free will. She told me that she recently embraced determinism and rejected free will.
In response to my query about why she changed her mind, she appealed to genetics, background forces, and environmental factors. In other words, she believed there is no free will because external forces determine beliefs. What she didn’t realize was that the justification she offered for her belief in determinism undermined her deterministic beliefs. She believed that she had evaluated the evidence and embraced the position—determinism—that is most logical. And yet if determinism were true she would have been incapable of evaluating evidence and freely following the logic because all her choices were already set. Logically speaking, her position was self-refuting. In other words, she sawed off the branch she was sitting on. 

Sam Harris makes the exact same mistake in his recent book Free Will (Free Press, 2012). He denies the existence of free will, but like this girl, his arguments undermine this very position. Before offering my critique, let me briefly clarify his views.

Huffington Post - 4 Cringe-worthy Claims of Popular Penal Substitution Theology | I was going to respond to each of these in a longer post, but its not worth it. These accusations are empty, based on emotion and not Scripture, and there are plenty of resources that respond to such frivolous accusations against penal substitution. Also, those who stand against substitutionary atonement usually do not offer a better explanation why Christ had to die.

1. God is allergic to sin.
2. God sees Jesus instead of us when He looks at us.
3. Since God is infinite, He is infinitely offended by the slightest of our sins.
4. God poured out His wrath on Jesus on the cross.

Mental Floss - How All 50 States Got Their Names | Here's Kentucky:

There is no consensus on where Kentucky’s name comes from. Among the possibilities, though, are various Indians words, all from the Iroquoian language group, meaning “meadow,” “prairie,” “at the prairie,” “at the field,” “land of tomorrow,” “river bottom,” and “the river of blood.”

Justin Taylor - An Interview with Craig Blomberg on Jesus and the Reliability of the Gospels |

Can you tell us a bit about your own personal experience in coming to embrace the historical reliability of the gospels? Was there a period of time in your life when you seriously doubted the historical integrity of the gospel accounts?

I was raised in a fairly liberal branch of the old Lutheran Church in America, before the merger that created today’s ELCA. I vividly remember being very puzzled in confirmation class when I was taught/shown how the Synoptic accounts of the Last Supper contradicted each other as an illustration of how our doctrine of Scripture should focus on the main points and basic thoughts of the text but allow for contradictions in the details. Even in junior high, it seemed to me that there were plausible ways of combining the texts into a harmonious whole and seeing each as a partial excerpt of a larger narrative, but our pastor didn’t countenance that option.

In college, at an LCA school, all five of our religion department professors were ordained Lutheran ministers but not one of them believed that Jesus said or did more than a significant minority of the things attributed to him in the canonical gospels. Our Campus Crusade for Christ director on campus, however, pointed us to a lot of good literature that presented credible scholarly alternatives to the skeptical views on numerous subjects that the religion department promoted. Our college library also included quite a large volume of more conservative religious scholarship from a slightly older era because, until the 1960s it had housed a seminary as well as an undergraduate college, and the real move toward liberalism didn’t hit the Lutherans until the 1960s, just one decade before I was in college. So I realized that things weren’t nearly as cut and dried as I was being taught in class.
I also discovered that a disproportionate number of the more evangelical works of the 1970s, at least among those written in America, came from profs at Trinity in Deerfield, which is one of the main reasons I went there for seminary. That was a wonderful time as I encountered so many more credible responses to skeptical approaches that I had been interacting with in junior high, senior high, and college. And credible evangelical scholarship has only blossomed in pretty amazing quantities ever since.

One can easily find blogs and websites claiming that Jesus never existed. Even if we didn’t have the New Testament, what would we know about Jesus from non-Christian sources?

The best source here for a book-length answer is Robert van Voorst’s Jesus outside the New Testament (Eerdmans, 2000). Here is my composite summary:
Jesus was a first-third of the first-century Jew, who lived in Israel, was born out of wedlock, whose ministry intersected with that of John the Baptist, who became a popular teacher and wonder-worker, who gathered particularly close disciples to himself, five of whom are named (though some of the names are a bit garbled), who consistently taught perspectives on the Law that ran afoul of the religious authorities’ interpretations, who was believed to be the Messiah, who was eventually crucified under Pontius Pilate, Roman procurator in Judea (which enables us to narrow the date for that event to somewhere between A.D. 26 and 36), and who was allegedly seen by many of his followers as bodily resurrected from the dead. Instead of dying out, the movement of his followers continued to grow with each passing decade and within a short period of time people were singing hymns to him as if he were a god.

Josh Harris - Mommy Porn is No Better Than Daddy Porn |

I appreciate Christian blogger Melissa Jenna's strong challenge to fellow sisters-in-Christ about the the acceptance of so called "Mommy Porn"--specifically, the best-selling erotic novel "50 Shades of Grey" and the male-stripper themed movie "Magic Mike." Melissa shares her surprise at how "completely accepting" Christian culture is to both of these works. "I've read a few dozen different updates from Christian women regarding 50 Shades and Magic Mike, and the verdict? They love them. I mean they really looooove them. They can't stop talking about them."

She makes the point that women/moms lusting is no better or acceptable to God than men/dads lusting. "To gain another perspective," she writes, "imagine your husband (or father/brother/church leader) going around bragging about how much he loved reading last month's Playboy magazine, or rallying all of his guy friends to go see "Magic Meghan" for the third time. If our husbands were drooling over a movie about female strippers, we would be livid. It wouldn't be tolerated. Church leaders would be publicly denouncing men's sudden acceptance of pornography and erotic films. (Why aren't church leaders publicly denouncing 50 Shades or Magic Mike, by the way?)"

The Blaze - New Obama Ad Attacks Romney on Abortion Stance; Romney Camp: ‘False’ | Ads like these will not help President Obama. Defending Planned Parenthood, I believe, is a sign of desperation. This won't work in many of the swing states and the President will not win any state he lost in 2008. He is trying to save ground, not gain it.

Breitbart - Unemployment Rate Dropped In Every State That Elected A Republican Gov. In 2010 | Republicanism remains for sure but there is no doubt that the Republican party has a number of rising stars, particularly among governors, who are quit different. The results speak for themselves. Compare that to the Democratic party. Can you honestly name one rising Democratic governor that isn't more of the same? Can you name one Democratic governor that is a rising star?

Kansas - 6.9% to 6.1% = a decline of 0.8 [percentage points (11.6 percent)]>

Maine - 8.0% to 7.4% = a decline of 0.6 [percentage points  (7.5 percent)]
Michigan - 10.9% to 8.5% = a decline of [2.4 percentage points (22 percent)]
New Mexico - 7.7% to 6.7% = a decline of [1.0 percentage points (13 percent)] 
Oklahoma - 6.2% to 4.8% = a decline of [1.4 percentage points - (22.6 percent)
Pennsylvania - 8.0% to 7.4% = a decline of [.6 percentage points  (7.5 percent)]
Tennessee - 9.5% to 7.9% = a decline of [1.6 percentage points (16.8 percent)]
Wisconsin - 7.7% to 6.8% = a decline of [0.9 percentage points (11.9 percent)]
Wyoming - 6.3% to 5.2% = a decline of [1.1 percentage points (17.5 percent)]
Alabama - 9.3% to 7.4% = a decline of [1.9 percentage points  (20.4 percent)]
Georgia - 10.1% to 8.9% = a decline of [1.2 percentage points (11.9 percent)]
South Carolina - 10.6% to 9.1% = a decline of [1.5 percentage points (14.2 percent)]
South Dakota - 5.0% to 4.3% = a decline of [0.7 percentage points (14 percent)]
Florida - 10.9% to 8.6% = a decline of [2.3 percentage points (21 percent)] 
Nevada - 13.8% to 11.6% = a decline of [2.2 percentage points (15.9 percent)]
Iowa - 6.1% to 5.1% = a decline of [1.0 percentage points (16.4 percent)]
Ohio - 9.0% to 7.3% = a decline of [1.7 percentage points (18.9 percent)]

Here is a 13+ minute featurette on the new upcoming Batman: The Dark Knight Rises movie. I can't wait.

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