Showing posts from July, 2008

Doug Chaplin on Scripture and Homosexuality II

Doug Chaplin has continued his exploration of the Scriptures and Homosexuality. His latest post discusses 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11, both of which seem to include "sodomites" in a list of sins. Here are highlights from Doug's excellent analysis:

Here are 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11 from the NRSV.

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (1 Timothy 1:8-11)

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, …

Tobias Haller on Universalism and Relativism

Tobais Haller has another great post oday about universalism and relativism:

Two of the most common accusations directed these days at The Episcopal Church is that it tends towards a relativistic ethic and a universalist view of salvation. I'm concerned to clarify these terms a bit, for they seem rather vague. I tend, myself, towards absolute moral standards tempered by an ethic based on certain biblical principles elaborated by Jesus and Paul. And I hope for universal salvation, but hope is not belief.

That being said, some further clarity is warranted. As to what moral relativism might look like, would this qualify: "I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean." (Romans 14:14 )? I would call that "subjective" — and I suppose one might see subjectivism as a subset of relativism.

But I also think that the actors, situation, intent, and so forth have to figure in any moral or ethica…

More on Obama's Faith Outreach

David Brody of the Christain Broadcast Network has an interesting post today about Obama's faith outreach. He notes that Obama discussed it with members of Congress yesterday:

The Brody File has learned that the Obama campaign met with over 30 House members and senior staff this morning to strategize on Obama's faith outreach strategy this fall.

A meeting participant tells The Brody File it was a "high level strategy session" that focused on how to stress Barack Obama's family values and how to respond to faith based attacks from his religious conservative critics on the right. The off-the-record briefing was led by Obama's religious outreach team and when the meeting was over, House members and senior staff in the room agreed to host values forums in their district and talk publicly about Obama's family values in their surrogate work. The meeting focused quite a bit on Catholic outreach. According to one member in the room, the mood was very positive and …

Bishop Alan Wilson on the Bible

One of the "blogging Bishops" at Lambeth, Bishop Alan Wilson of Buckingham, has a great post today about what Anglicans think about the authority of the Bible:

I have not met anyone here of whom it would be true to say simply that they do not believe in the Authority of Scripture. How we believe in what kind of authority are other questions. Here are some indications of the ways a group of us form five continents, in Indaba, saw our distinctively Anglican use of the Bible. How are we, as Anglicans, “formed by Scrpture?”

The Word of God is a person, not a text. In Islam, for example, the Qu’ran is a privileged untransalteable text. For Christians Scrupture has authority as it is interprteed and applied, not as a simple absolute. We are very resistant to idolatry; idolatry of the book, idolatry of reason, idolatry of tradition. All three are resources for the Spirit, not totems or weapons against other children of God. We need to interpret the Scriptures through the icon of Chr…

Martin Marty on Catholic Change

Martin Marty has a "Sightings" column on the ordination of women. The post focuses less on the merits of the ordination of women than on the argument that Cathoic doctrine is unchangeable:

Whether Catholics should change and begin ordination of women is their business, not mine, at least not here and today, though outcomes of Catholic debates do have huge "public religion" consequences. I can only testify to the manifest blessings so many churches, like my own (ELCA), have received during the past half-century from the ministry of women-ordained. My business instead picks up on Egan's closing paragraph, where he argues against Sr. Butler's reversion to and repetition of the claim that Rome does not change. He orthodoxly celebrates the constancy of teachings from Rome. But: "New questions arise, and new horizons open, cultures themselves are transformed, and the fund of human knowledge changes." His article has no room to provide chapter and verse …

Theo Hobson on Lambeth

I found these comments by Theo Hobson on the Lambeth Conference quite interesting:

Of course it makes perfect sense to avoid resolutions and just talk. This is what should have happened 10 years ago. Instead, the Lambeth Conference passed the divisive resolution condemning homosexuality. It had been on the fence on sexuality, and it fell off. Can it get back on, and resume its drift to a liberal position? Can it move away from its official discriminatory policy, and affirm the right of each province to make its own rules on sexuality? Is this what most bishops want? It's hard to say.

I arrived at the conference with a rough typology of Anglican opinion in mind. The basic division of evangelical and liberal can be sub-divided: there are evangelicals who accept Williams' leadership, and those who don't. Those who don't, of course, have mostly stayed away. And there are liberals who fully support Williams' approach, and those who worry that it's a sell-out. So both …

Ruth Marcus on Candy Bombers

This is a name-droppers dream: my law school friend Ruth Marcus (now an opinion writer at the Washington Post) has a column tdoay about Candy Bombers, a book written by my friend Andrei Cherny. (Really, they are both my friends--you can check out my Facebook page for proof. Grin).

In any event, Ruth's op-ed and Andrei's book are both worth reading. Here are some highlights from Ruth's column:

The city is in dire straits -- its economy shattered, its citizens desperately hungry. Random violence is rising, electricity is sporadic. Three years after the invasion, hope for a brief occupation has faded. The mission is to build democracy from the ruins of dictatorship, but sober analysts question whether a flaw in the national character makes freedom unattainable.

This is not Baghdad 2008 but Berlin 1948, which makes the reunified German capital a particularly fitting venue for Barack Obama's speech tomorrow. The lush Tiergarten where Obama will speak was then a wasteland …

Are Solutions to Climate Change Feasible?

The debate on climate change has seemed to have shifted from whether there is a problem (the overwhelming consensus--except in the Republican caucuses in Congress)--is that there is a problem), to how best to address the problem. do we lower carbon emissions? Or invest instead in dealing with the change?

A study out of Minnesota suggest that reducing climate change is feasible:

The research team, which will release the new study July 22, modeled emissions for Minnesota and found that it is possible to reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050 and possibly exceed those numbers if a combination of strategies are implemented, including reducing fuel consumption, increasing fuel efficiencies and fuel carbon content and by using new methods for designing communities. However, the researchers point out that the methods could be applied nationally. In fact, history shows that when one state or city implements environmental policy changes, the nation often follows.

The emiss…

Ignoring the Atheist Vote?

Francis Wilkinson has an interesting post at the New York Times noting that while neither McCain nor Obama are making any efforts to gain the atheist vote, this was not true of past campaigns:

White evangelical and born-again Christians account for nearly one fourth of the electorate — a prize understandably worth fighting over. However, what we won’t see, yet again, this year is either candidate acknowledge — let alone pander to — the 16 percent of Americans categorized by the Pew Forum on Religion and Society as atheist, agnostic or free-range “nothing in particular.” It seems American politicians scarcely think twice about sidling up to the religious fringe — Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama each has had the odd preacher in the attic. But, fearing the wrath of the righteous, they’d rather be struck by lightning than show a glimmer of respect for nonbelievers.

Their forebears on the campaign trail were not all so skittish. At the end of the 19th century, Robert Ingersoll was the most notoriou…

Voices of Witness: Africa

This is a reprint of what I published on The Lead today. This video offers a first look at "Voices of Witness: Africa", a new film by Integrity USA that offers stories of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians in Africa. It will premiere at the Lambeth Conference on July 23rd at 8 p.m. in Keynes Lecture Theatre 1.

Ruth Gledhill was given a preview of the film and her brief interview of film editor Katie Sherrod is at the start of the clip above. Here are her observations after seeing the film:

The result is an incredibly powerful and moving film which is to be sent to every one of the 880 bishops in the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion.

. . .

The stories include a transgendered male-to-female Nigerian, a partnered lesbian activist in Uganda, a transgendered male-to-female Ugandan, a Kenyan who was abused along with his twin brother by an uncle, a gay Ugandan farmer, gay partners in Kenya who dream of having their union blessed and a gay Nigerian who was …

More from Doug Chaplin on Scripture and Homosexuality

Doug Chaplin is beginning a very thoughtful exploration of what the Bible has to say about homosexuality. He begins with the really tough stuff in Leviticus. The result so far is a very thoughtful explanation of issues that need addressing. As yet, Doug reaches no conclusions. Here are some highlights:

The two texts I want to address in this post are among them. (And yes, dear reader, I know there are other texts, but one post at a time, please!)

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (Leviticus 18:22)
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)

. . .

At one level, it seems to me that we can have some agreement about these texts themselves. They say pretty much the same thing, although the second elaborates and adds the punishment. . . .

Moving beyond that to further interpretation is far from straightforward, however. At the most basic leve…

Another Post on Children and Happiness

I previously posted about research that purported to show that childless couples are happier than couples with children. In that post, I concluded that "Parenting is hard stuff. It can be very unpleasant at times. It can be boring at times. But, parenting (and loving) a child does give life meaning--and yes, deep happiness as well." Rod Dreher makes a similar point in a post that is worth reading:

By the time I got married, I was really sick of being single, and I didn't regret one bit giving up the autonomy of bachelorhood. Impending fatherhood, though, made me nervous. My sister, who married and started her family long before I did, told me not long before our first child was born,

"You and Julie are going to lose a lot. You won't be able to go do all the things you like to do now. You're either not going to have the time, or the money, or the energy. That part of your life is over now, and there's no sugarcoating it. But what you don't know is th…

New Field Poll on California Same Sex Marriage Ban and a Story of Conversion

A new Field poll released today shows a bare majority opposing the ban:

In a finding that could foreshadow a difficult political battle for a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage, a new Field Poll says more California voters oppose Proposition 8 than favor it.

The new poll, released today, is the first independent statewide measure of public opinion on the proposed constitutional ban since gay men and lesbians began marrying legally in California on June 16. It was also the first time Field Research has polled voters on the official ballot description of Proposition 8. A narrow majority of 51 percent of 672 likely voters said they would vote against a ban, while 42 percent said they would vote for it.

. . .

"Very few initiatives in the history of the Field Poll have started out behind and come from behind to be approved," said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll. "The fact that (Proposition 8) is behind does not bode well for its chances."

. . .

But supp…

A Post on Lambeth

There is a great deal of press interest in Lambeth, which seems to be demanding some type of action--whether it is a resolution that solves all that ails the Anglican Communion, a fire storm over gay Bishops, or at least some some typical anglican fudge. In other words, the press (and truth be told, many of the faithful) are watching the Lambeth Conference as if it were some political assembly--which it was seemingly in 1998.

But that is not what Lambeth is designed to be this year. As my own Bishop explains, the days are being spent in Bible Study, meditation, and small group discussions. For example, here is how he describes the first day:

We have just finished our first long day. It began with worship together in the "Big Top" at 7:15 AM. After breakfast, we had our first small group Bible study.

There are about six in my group,from England, Australia, the West Indies, and my colleague from Hawaii. Then all the bishops got on buses and for the short trip to Canterbury Cathed…

Christianity Today Readers Favor Obama

Christianity Today is the leading publication for evangelicals in America. Despite my anglo-Catholic leanings, I am a big fan and avid reader. As perhaps an indication of the appeal of Obama to many evangelicals, the Christianity Today political blog is reporting that its readers are suppporting Obama over McCain in their online poll. Now this poll is hardly scientific,and a scientific poll of Christianity Today's readers would likley reach a different result. Still, do you think Kerry ever did as well on this poll?

Here is what the blog has to say:

Christianity Today online readers showed more support for Sen. Barack Obama than Sen. John McCain in our poll this week for the first time since January.

Obama passed McCain (41%) by garnering 51 percent of the vote during our poll that closed yesterday. In June, McCain led Obama 50 to 33 percent. The two were tied in March at 26 percent.

Here's a rundown of results from Jan. 4 (1,613 votes), March 3 (1964 votes), April 1 (2,668 …

Europe's Ancestors: Cro-Magnon 28,000 Years Old Had DNA Like Modern Humans

A very interesting report on some DNa analysis done on a 28,000 Cro-Magnon man skelton:

Some 40,000 years ago, Cro-Magnons -- the first people who had a skeleton that looked anatomically modern -- entered Europe, coming from Africa. A group of geneticists, coordinated by Guido Barbujani and David Caramelli of the Universities of Ferrara and Florence, shows that a Cro-Magnoid individual who lived in Southern Italy 28,000 years ago was a modern European, genetically as well as anatomically.

The Cro-Magnoid people long coexisted in Europe with other humans, the Neandertals, whose anatomy and DNA were clearly different from ours. However, obtaining a reliable sequence of Cro-Magnoid DNA was technically challenging.

"The risk in the study of ancient individuals is to attribute to the fossil specimen the DNA left there by archaeologists or biologists who manipulated it," Barbujani says. "To avoid that, we followed all phases of the retrieval of the fossil bones and typed the DNA…

Obama and Abortion

I wrote earlier about two voices on the pro-life left urging Obama to adopt an "abortion reduction" plank in the platform. In other words, while Obama would remain "pro-choice" on the issue of the legality of abortion, he would propose concrete efforts to reduce abortion.

Steven Waldman reports that many pro-choice voices are not happy:

An important split is emerging within the Democratic Party over abortion. Barack Obama’s reaction to it will tell us a great deal about how he intends to unify people of different views and manage key voting blocs.
A group of progressive evangelicals, including the Rev. Jim Wallis, has urged Sen. Obama to embrace an “abortion reduction agenda” that focuses on improving economic support for women so they won’t feel financially pressured into having abortions. The Rev. Tony Campolo, a member of the Democratic Party platform committee, announced that he’s going to mobilize an effort get an abortion reduction plank into the party platform.

Let's Get Rid of Darwinism

No, I am not changing my views on evolution. The title of this post is a wonderful column by Olivia Judson about why we need to stop using the term "Darwinism":

Darwin did more in one lifetime than most of us could hope to accomplish in two. But his giantism has had an odd and problematic consequence. It’s a tendency for everyone to refer back to him. “Why Darwin was wrong about X”; “Was Darwin wrong about Y?”; “What Darwin didn’t know about Z” — these are common headlines in newspapers and magazines, in both the biological and the general literature. Then there are the words: Darwinism (sometimes used with the prefix “neo”), Darwinist (ditto), Darwinian.

Why is this a problem? Because it’s all grossly misleading. It suggests that Darwin was the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega, of evolutionary biology, and that the subject hasn’t changed much in the 149 years since the publication of the “Origin.”

He wasn’t, and it has. Although several of his ideas — natural and s…

Doug Chaplin on Scripture and Homosexuality

Doug Chaplin is a parish priest in the Church of England who seems squarely in the middle on most issues. He had a post last week defending the ordination of women. I love his blog because he is both unpredictable--and thoughtful. Today he has a thoughtful post on the issues of sexuality that divide the Anglican Communion. He comes to different conclusions than me, but his comments are still worth reading. Here are some highlights:

I have (with considerable trepidation) decided to offer some periodic posts on some of the ways Anglicans (okay – and others) are reading, are not reading, could be reading and should be reading their Bibles about same-sex relationships. . . .

I think we’re standing at a point where, in the light of all our knowledge, it seems reasonable to ask whether this is one of those occasions for the church to engage in the kind of drastic re-reading of texts we thought we knew. This is the relevance of, for example, the admission of Gentiles, or the banning of slavery…

Bishop Kirk Smith's Sermon at St. Albans

My Bishop, Kirk smith, is blogging from Lambeth, and his blog offers the text of the sermon he gave at St. Albans Cathedral in the U.K. last night. Here are some highlights:

The medieval scholars used to say, Ecclesia semper reformanda, the church is always being reformed. In Jesus’ day the Temple worship had become big business, with a complex and expensive bureaucracy of sacrifice, it needed a through housecleaning and reminder that its purpose was to be the house of God, not a currency exchange or a shopping mall. I would suggest that in the case of the Anglican Communion we have become equally derailed by at least a decade of power politics and bickering about structures which have little relevance to the needs of our parishioners, and have for at least a decade distracted the wider church from its Gospel mission. We too are need of a reformation, of a cleansing and purification. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the issues we have dealt with are not important. As pract…

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Anglican Tradition and Women Priests

Ruth Gledhill had an interesting post on her blog this weekend about new evidence that the Church ordained women up until the 12th Century--putting in doubt the notion that women priests are contrary to tradition:

This morning, on Today, US theologian Professor Gary Macy was explaining his theory that the Church ordained women up until the 12th century and that women had episcopal authority until much later. Earlier this week he sent me his entire paper on the subject. I've also put a couple of extracts below.

Macy writes:

'Women in the Middle Ages played a far larger role in the life of the Church than they would in later centuries. In the early Middle Ages, they performed both sacramental and administrative functions that would be reserved to men after the thirteenth century. They celebrated the Mass, distributed communion, read the Gospel, heard confessions and preached. Some abbesses also exercised episcopal power, and indeed, a few were considered bishops. The powerful A…

On the Inspiration of Scripture

Another gem from Father Tobias Haller:

Scripture is the inspired Word of God, but it is always written in a human tongue. People do not speak God’s language, or have God’s knowledge, so God, when speaking to people through inspiration, must employ the human language of the culture and time of the one inspired, in order to impart any knowledge at all. God always “talks down” to us, and our finite human capacity always limits how well we understand the infinite God, and express that understanding. One cannot put the ocean in a bottle; and new wineskins must be used for new wine. As Jesus himself would later say, “I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:12-13)

The inspired recipients of God’s word in Genesis believed the sky to consist of a dome, in which the sun, moon, and stars were set, and which had windows to admit the rain stored in the pool of waters above. God, of course, kne…

Lambeth Coverage

The Lambeth Conference is about to start. Bishops are flocking to England from all over the world as we speak. You won't see much discussion of Lambeth on this blog--as Anglican as I may be.


Because there are far better resources on Lambeth. Firsy, my colleagues and I at The Lead will be offering detailed Lambeth coverage, and our editor-in-chief, Jim Naughton is already in London. Jim plans to offer "live blogging" from Lambeth once the Conference starts.

Second, my Lead colleague, Helen Mosher, has prepare a tremendous resource that she explains on her own blog:

Last night at the Episcopal Cafe, we posted links to all the blogs we’re aware of written by Anglican bishops. In a fit of “how am I going to keep up with this,” I created a pipeline of the posts and gave it a single feed, which you can subscribe to here: it’s useful to some of you as well, especially with the Lambeth conference being next week.

Its a great resource…

The Persistence of Diet

Here is an interesting item for your weekend. Turns out that a group of scientists decided to study the persistence of food chosen by several cultures. It turns out that a particular culture's food choices seem to persist for hundreds of years. (Bad news for the English?):

The research, 'The non-equilibrium nature of culinary evolution', shows that three national cuisines - British, French and Brazilian -- are affected by the founder effect which keeps idiosyncratic and nutritionally ambivalent, expensive and sometimes hard to transport ingredients in our diets.

Using the medieval cookery book, Pleyn Delit, and three authoritative cook books from Britain, France and Brazil, the New Penguin Cookery Book, Larousse Gastronomique and Dona Benta respectively, the researchers from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, compiled statistics which could be compared to see how time and distance effect the three different national cuisines.

. . .

Ranking the importance of certain food type…

Genetics and Human Migration

Scientific American has a terrific article about the use of genetics to trace human migration patters across the globe:

Almost all our DNA—99.9 percent of the three billion “letters,” or nucleotides, that make up the human genome—is the same from person to person. But interwoven in that last 0.1 percent are telltale differences. A comparison among, say, East Africans and Native Americans can yield vital clues to human ancestry and to the inexorable progression of colonizations from continent to continent. Until recent years, DNA passed down only from fathers to sons or from mothers to their children has served as the equivalent of fossilized footprints for geneticists. The newest research lets scientists adjust their focus, widening the field of view beyond a few isolated stretches of DNA to inspect hundreds of thousands of nucleotides scattered throughout the whole genome.

. . .

The fast, relatively predictable rate of “neutral” mitochondrial mutations—ones that are neither beneficial…

Friday is For Politics III

Obama continues to hold a lead in the national polls, and continues to do well in state polls as well. There has only been a slight tightening in the race in the last month.

The Hotline Eletoral College Mapo this week confirms an early Obama lead, with Obama at 282 and MCain at 245. The Political insider has a summary of all of the major electoral college predicters--all of which show an Obama lead:

Chuck Todd says that while the presidential race remains close, Sen. Barack Obama has opened up a 210 to 189 lead over Sen. John McCain, with 139 electoral votes in the toss-up column.Base Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NY, RI, VT, WA (168 electoral votes)Lean Obama: NJ, MN, OR, WI (42 votes)Base McCain: AL, AZ, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE, OK, SC, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY (136 votes)Lean McCain: AK, GA, IN, MT, NC, ND, SD (53 votes)Toss-up: CO, FL, IA, MI, MO, NV, NM, NH, OH, PA, VA (139 votes)Larry Sabato notes that an exercise like this "has to assume that the election will be b…

Evidence of Macro-evolution

Critics of evolution often argue (falsely) that there is no evidence of marco-evolution (i.e., evolution of one species into another). They also like to point to flatfish (like sole, plaice, turbot, flounder and halibut) and argue that there is no fossil evidence that explains how flatfish ended up with both eyes on one side of their face.

In the latest edition of Nature, however, a University of Chicago graduate student describes evidence of the evolution of flatfish that he found in museum archives:

Scientists have until now largely assumed the asymmetrical, one-sided eye arrangement was a trait that must have arisen suddenly in flatfish because they could not see a benefit for the fish if it took millions of years for an eye to migrate from one side to the other. Even Charles Darwin had trouble answering critics who used flatfish and their strange eyes as an argument against his evolutionary theory after he published it in 1859.

Fossils of two long-extinct flatfish species found in Eu…

Children and Happiness

I am the father of a very active and stubborn three year old boy. I am usually exhausted at the end of the day. He makes me smile, but also drives me up the wall sometimes. In other words, I am the typical father of a typical three year old boy.

I was therefore fascinated to read recent research that childless couples are actually "happier" than couples with children:

The cliché refers to newborn children as "bundles of joy," but recent research indicates that bundles of anxiety, or even bundles of depression, might be more accurate.

Sociologists are discovering that children may not make parents happier and that childless adults, contrary to popular stereotypes, may often be more contented than people with kids.

Parents "definitely experienced more depression," says Robin Simon, a sociologist at Florida State University who has studied data on parenting.

I think this misses the point and was pleased to see this response to this research by Jonah Lehrer, an e…