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Extracurricular Activities – August 31, 2013
Why is Judges a great book for 21st-century Christians to study? ￼
TK: All Scripture is inspired and profitable, but Judges may be especially profitable for us to read. We see believers living in the midst of pagan communities all around them. The failure of the Israelites to take possession of all the land given to them meant they ended up living in a pluralistic culture. And that's where many Christians find themselves today—we, too, are living in a pluralistic, pagan culture. And we're doing so, in part, because of our own past failures to live and teach as we should have.
Freedom of religion is not just freedom to go to church on Sundays or pray at home. It also means being free to act on your beliefs in the public square, to speak about them and seek to persuade others...Freedom of religion means being free to provide services that are consistent with the beliefs of the sponsoring religion. Neither the government nor anyone else has the right to say to religious agencies "we like your work with vulnerable women; we just need you to offer them abortion as well" or "we really like your schools, but we can't allow you to teach that marriage between a man and a woman is better or truer than other expressions of love and sexuality."...Religious freedom means being able to employ at least a critical mass of employees who support the ethos of the sponsoring religion...
One of the things variously amusing and annoying is the re-appearance of ideas and claims in my own area of expertise as if something new, something suppressed (e.g., by us scholars supposedly) and reeeeally racy and sensationally important that are in fact simply re-hashings (or re-packagings) of previous claims that were quite adequately and convincingly discredited years (or even decades) ago. I call these “zombie claims”: No matter how often you kill ‘em off with the facts, they come back again, typically after sufficient years have passed that the news media will have forgotten the previous appearance(s) (and the memory of today’s news media is impressively short)…I’m not going to review the book. There are already a number out there to consult available on the internet (although I couldn’t find a single one by a scholar with established expertise in the topic of the book). My points here are these: (1) For anyone who knows the literature in the field, there isn’t anything really new or shocking about the book; and (2) Aslan’s zombie claim has been put to death in appropriate scholarly fashion several times already (i.e., in evidence and method shown to be fatally flawed).
Too many preachers are at their best when they are telling a personal anecdote or ripping into some sacred cow or riffing on in a humorous fashion. There is a time for all of that, but we ought to beware if those times are when we are at our best. We can be orthodox preachers of good, gospel truths and still tickle people’s ears. If we’re not careful, we’ll train the large conference audience and our local congregation that the time to really pay attention is when we start drifting not when we start digging.
Over the past few weeks, however, I've been reconsidering the implications of King's "I Have a Dream." After a contemptuous presidential election year, a controversy leading to the withdrawal of evangelical pastor Louie Giglio from the program of President Obama's second inauguration, and increasingly heated national debates about issues such as healthcare, immigration reform, and the Second Amendment, it's possible to come away feeling that our nation is incapable of overcoming its deep social and ideological fissures…Yet, when I listen to America's most famous sermon and allow myself to strip away the familiarity of King's lyrical voice as he describes his dream "that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed," I'm struck by how at the heart of the dream is a vision rooted not just in "the American Dream," as King explained, but in the biblical "substance of things hoped for" and "evidence of things not seen."
Extra-Curricular Activities is a weekly roundup of stories on biblical interpretation, theology, and issues where faith and culture meet. We found each story interesting, thought-provoking, challenging, or useful in some way – but we don't necessarily agree with or endorse every point in every story.
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