The 49th Christian Carnival is up at Patriot Paradox. We've got three special things about this Christian Carnival edition:
1. This is the Christmas edition.
2. It's the first time for the Carnival to return to the founder in 17 weeks (since early August).
3. 49 is 7 squared.
My Exaggerations & Dysphemisms, Left & Right and Sam's Pagan roots of Christmas both find their place among the posts that are actually related to Christmas. There are a number of others, a few of which are highlighted below. I've chosen eight posts to highlight this time, and I've spent more time on three of them than I normally do simply because I have a lot to say about them. For that reason, those three are last in the list, so the quicker ones can go by more quickly first.
Rebecca Writes discusses the meaning and significance of the incarnation.
Pseudo-Polymath argues that Christians should do what Paul says in Romans 13 and simply comply with requests to say "Happy Holidays" and not sing Christmas carols in schools. I don't agree with every statement in the post, but I agree with that conclusion. Also, for a good example of some people with no reading comprehension skills, see the comments.
As if to provide good balance, One Hand Clapping chimes in with The Christmas wars, in order to show how ridiculous the church-state separatists are taking this. I think just about everything he says is consistent with Pseudo-Polymath's post, as I've tried to argue in my own posts on the subject throughout the last couple weeks. (There are too many to bother linking, at least while I'm using dialup for a few days.)
The Rooftop Blog continues along the same lines but draws a few conclusions I wouldn't accept. I don't see how a historical origin can be removed. That thing will always have come from where it came from. Therefore, you can't remove the fact that elements of Christmas came from a celebration of Christ's birth. What I don't accept is that this means those elements that are Christian are inseparable or that words that once had religious meaning always will. The fact that Christmas is already a merely secular holiday for most Americans, including most Christians, is all that's necessary to show this. Still, this post is worth reading for all the additional stuff along the lines of what the One Hand Clapping post details.
A Physicist's Perspective has a fairly clear, succinct, and well-focused summary of some of the most important issues when it comes to making good biblical decisions. The one main thing I would add is in a comment I left.
Since most discussions of Intelligent Design are grossly imbalanced and show severe misunderstanding of the opposition, Viewpoint's Intelligent Design and the Public School was a pleasant surprise. It's absolutely excellent, and my few disagreements are almost all minor and focused on aspects of the last few points. The author realizes that ID arguments are philosophical and not religious or scientific, but it is genuine philosophy of science that does have a place in the science classroom along with all the philosophy of science that already gets taught there. The one major disagreement I have is that Intelligent Design is not limited to the biological arguments about design in human origins. The argument for a designer to the universe based on cosmological constants is also considered within the Intelligent Design framework, and I think this is a big deal because I think that sort of argument is a little more respectable philosophically (which is not to be confused with whether it's more philosophically responsible, which I'm not in a position to evaluate; I do know that philosophers will at least give some time to the arguments involving the anthropic principle, while this other stuff gets virtually no treatment by philosophers except in evangelical publications).
Karagraphy considers whether aethetic judgments are based on some objective criteria. She raises all the right questions, though I think one thing could have been clearer. Is there really an issue with nature/nurture once you realize that good and bad can come from each? Nature vs. nurture doesn't affect ethical questions in the end, and I don't see why it needs to affect aesthetics either. I think Joy would agree, but I was hoping for a little more probing into this area, since it's one of my pet issues. It's hard to accept no objective criteria for something's being beautiful if there�s something objectively beautiful about God. I think one of the more insightful things she's focused in on is that there can be different ways something can be good or bad, but for each way something can be objectively good or bad in that way, while another scale would give a different value for a different way of being good or bad but still be objectively so. That's a mouthful, but read it through a few times. That�s one of the reasons people get confused and think there must not be objective aesthetic value, and I think similar issues lead some people to ethical relativism illegitimately.
Finally, the Bloke in the Outer has an excellent post that covers a lot of ground. He starts out talking about a sermon he heard on the two greatest commandments, loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself. Then he moves to how he had felt unaccepted by his own church even to the point of getting a sense that people judge him for not having overcome the same struggles he had last time they talked to him months ago. What was especially pointed about his post is how he heard the sermon in this context. Many people would have said "right on, brother" and then expected this to mean the people not loving them would begin to do so. Not the Bloke. He takes the command for what it is -- a command to him to love those who aren't displaying love. Why? Well, that's what being a follower of Jesus is all about. Who was rejected more than anyone else yet still loved more than anyone else? A few quotes stand out: "the only reason why we were there is because we still believed that God wants to connect us to Himself and that He wants us to be part of a faith community." "We withdrew ourselves. We felt since we had been misunderstood we shrunk from their fellowship. Instead of seeking them out and loving them, we decided that it was too difficult, too painful, too inconvenient, for us to be vulnerable with our fellow Christians. Yet, our Lord has commanded us to love them. It is not our responsibility to change their minds about us. It is not our responsibility to make them understand our perspective, or understand our struggles. Our responsibility is to love them. We say we were hurt, or we were in pain. Rather than retreat and try to heal by ourselves, we need to practice what it means to heal spiritually, and that is to heal the Body of Christ. To heal as we share with the community. The only way we can experience full healing, is for us to open up to the community of faith and to share the Spirit of Christ as the balm to heal the wounds, the hurts and the pains that is harming the body." This is a hard truth to accept, but it's God's way. A true imitator of God will seek to do the same in situations when most would either leave the church or withdraw emotionally as the Bloke's family had. It's nice to see a turnaround here.