Christian Carnival LVII

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The 58th Christian Carnival isn't up yet, but the good news is that I've finally finished working through last week's 57th Christian Carnival. You can read about the mixup over hosting last week here. For ease of locating posts, see the Wittenberg Gate version here. All the posts are now linked to from there (though some are in my comment, which you'll need to scroll down for). My submission was Abortion and Coercion. I've already responded to Belief Seeking Understanding on retroactive prayer, so I'll say no more about that now. I've also already commented on Jollyblogger's What Is the "Gospel?" Here's the rest of my roundup:

Rebecca Writes says: If You Belong to My Jesus, Then You Belong With Me with regard to in-house theological debates. It's good advice for anyone who engages in serious disagreements with other believers.

Wittenberg Gate explains how easy it is to confuse elitism for righteousness and right teaching. My congregation formed in such an unusual way as to set up a number of things they've done that set that apart from other congregations, in most cases with direct biblical support and at least in an attempt to apply biblical principles in most of the rest. They've had to make a conscious effort not to see those things as what sets them apart. It's the emphasis on the basics of the faith that they consider to be the heart of our congregation, and the other views and practices are taught and practiced but not made central. It's hard not to compare with other congregations that don't do things in the way we may very rightly see to be the right way. The thing to avoid is seeing that as defining or, most importantly, as dividing.

Pruitt Communications uses the analogy of how each side of a battle will try to manage the land to explain how some seek to manage the intellectual landscape, often to the detriment of Christians. His comments on dead space are worth thinking about, but the thing that stood out most to me was his application of this to ways outsiders to Christianity end up dividing Christians: Another way American society has attempted to make Christians withdraw is to deride types of Christians which the Christian has a more difficult time relating to. For instance, getting youth to distance themselves from the stodgy Christianity of their elders and vice versa. Getting high church Christians who enjoy Mozart to think less of those hand-clapping Pentecostal, and vice versa. Getting those who love theological depth to distance themselves from those who love simplicity of the faith. The technique is quite successful at getting a person to focus on not being like the abhorrent subsection of our Christian culture and showing how we so-called good Christians are more like the mainstream culture.

Dignan's 75 Year Plan reflects on his background in the religious right and his current opposition to many of the religious right's goals despite some strong conservative political leanings. Now that sounds familiar. I don't actually agree on all the details, but my experiences and current views easily fit the same description.

I have really mixed feelings about what Truth Be Told talks about in this post about police overreactions to black criminals. On the one hand, these really do seem to be overreactions, possibly even criminal ones. At the same time, the kind of outrage being expressed generally treats the criminals as mere victims and not as criminals who are also victims and who deserve and require some force to subdue them.

Spurred on by talk of medical technology's extension of the Pope's life beyond what some consider to be natural, Every Thought Captive makes an interesting observation: the promise of life extending technologies is that we will lead longer lives healthier-we will be younger longer. But the reality at this point is that we lead longer lives without our health-we are older longer.

A Penitent Blogger shares some important observations about Jesus' statements on vainly repetitious prayers. I don't agree with the implication that prayer has no effect. I don't think it's right to say it changes God, but I also think it's oversimplifying to say that it merely changes us. When we pray, and God answers, that means the prayer had an effect. Aside from that, I think I pretty much agree with the whole post, and these observations are just as important for Protestants to ponder. Everyone is repetitive in prayer. The problem Jesus was getting at was thinking that being loud, using many words, and saying it over and over again would influence God. Repetition can actually be a good thing. I get the sense from Paul's descriptions of his prayers that he kept praying for the same things, probably with similar terminology each time. I would add that another problem occurs with repetition, and that's when people mouth the words but don't mean it. That's not so much what Jesus was getting at in this criticism, but it's a different problem that can arise with rote repetition, but rote repetition isn't just preset prayers. It's preset formulae, and non-liturgical Protestants just don't pay attention to how much of their own statements in prayer are exactly that.

Wallo World considers whether God desires and wants things that don't happen. It's a thoughtful post that considers what the Bible says and doesn't just assume a philosophical system to impose on the text.

2 Comments

Actually, the Carnival is up now here. I've sent a message to the Carnival mailing list, but as I now use Gmail it is waiting for authentication so it should come thru shortly. Anyway, I admire your dedication for going through the entire Carnival; that's something I always mean to do but end up sidetracked.

"I don't agree with the implication that prayer has no effect. I don't think it's right to say it changes God, but I also think it's oversimplifying to say that it merely changes us."

I don't think we're in disagreement, because what I actually said was "Rather, it is God who changes us through our prayer and who makes us his instruments of change through our prayer." I left implicit that God makes us instruments of change beyond ouselves through our prayer. This happens when prayers are obviously "answered" (in your words "When we pray, and God answers, that means the prayer had an effect") but also when they are not answered in a way we immediately recognize.

Thank you for your important insights!

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