Links and Notes from April 27 2012

The James KA Smith review of Peter Enns “Evolution of Adam” review keeps reverberating through my head. You get this feeling like new windows are opening up but you’re not quite sure just what blow in.

TC had an interesting piece on an exotic dancer getting custody of her child. Within it was an interesting link about a community in India whose girls and women have practiced prostitution rather than marriage, and are now abandoning that lifestyle.

From David Sessions review of Bad Religion

What I’m not convinced of is that the direction of the country would have been any different even with a Christianity that had worked to maintain a broad appeal while preserving the judgmental aspects of Christian orthodoxy. It didn’t stop the greed that led to the Great Depression, it didn’t stop the paranoid hubris of the Vietnam War, and it didn’t stop the arrival of the Sexual Revolution. It is simply in the nature of religion—particularly America’s hyper-flexible modernist-individualist Protestantism—to adapt to the demands and values of the surrounding culture, and to either collude so much that it becomes a baptizing force of cultural trend or an isolated resistance. Even if Christianity has always been the loose doctrine that organized American society, I don’t think it has ever had the sort of purity or power Douthat seems to ascribe to it in that little window of post-war history. It has always been hand-in-hand with America’s delusions of grandeur, and with its worst impulses as well as its best.

But this is where I disagree with Douthat the most, though perhaps in a predictable and rather uninteresting way. Underlying his argument is a kind of American exceptionalism, the idea that the United States’ success has had at least something to do with its religiosity, and that its religiosity has had played a central role in keeping it on track as a society—that it needs some kind of orthodox, metaphysically energized Christianity, which implies judgment, to keep society’s excesses in check. But this is obviously not true: almost every advanced Western nation besides the U.S. is predominantly secular, and all of them have lower abortion rates, lower teen pregnancy rates, and lower divorce rates than we do. But, as Douthat has said explicitly, the ways they accomplish these things—sex education, contraception, legalized abortion, policies supporting unmarried cohabiting parents—are not things he believes a Christian can accept.  So he’s choosing a view of America—that religion is socially necessary—and excluding policy options that don’t accept that premise. And here’s the kicker: he makes this choice even if those policies he can’t accept are more likely to be more effective in ameliorating the real-world problems he is concerned about, and even if the policies his religion prefers have to exclude people in ways that just aren’t acceptable to modern liberal society.

Nice article in the CRC Banner on Reformed Confessions and some historical context for the Belgic Confession.

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
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