Spiritual: September 2006 Archives

In the wake of my internal criticisms of the religious right (which in turn were spurred on by Joe Carter's), Jollyblogger offers some of his own thoughts. I pretty much agree with all of his major points.

Benedict XVI and Islam

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I haven't commented on the recent brouhaha involving the pope and Islam, largely because I've been too busy to put my thoughts together. In the meantime, lots of posts I've read make some worthwhile points, and there isn't really a whole lot I have to say after all of it, but I thought I'd put them all together in the same place.

My first thought was that nothing could even be taken as offensive once you had everything in context, but Jonathan Wilson at the Elfin Ethicist thinks it's a little more complicated than that, mostly because his representation of Islam is inaccurate. Mark Goodacre also thinks it's a little unfair to Islam to say that Islam doesn't embrace reason. My problem with this complaint is that the pope never asserts anything about Islam, as far as I can see. He does quote some people who say that Muslims place God above reason and thus are not limited by it. Nowhere do the people he quotes say that Muslims see reason as bad. The reason issue is his topic, however, not Islam.

Mark puts the quote in context fairly well, and despite my disagreement of his characterization of what the pope was doing, I do very much like his concluding comment: "those who are overreacting to the speech might well wish to demonstrate the importance of reason in their thinking by engaging it rather than caricaturing it." Indeed. It has struck me as especially ironic that those who took issue with his portrayal of Islam as violent (which I don't think he really did, but that's what's being assumed) decided to confirm that very judgment by being violent in response. Does that make any sense?

Explaining is Not Excusing

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Jollyblogger and Tim Challies are discussing an argument from David Powlison against social explanations for homosexuality. In particular, they pick on a Christian counselor who explains why someone is a lesbian by pointing to events in her past.

I think there are several reasons to disagree with the basic thrust of this argument, but one pretty ironic one is that many Christians are spending so much effort to deny biological explanations for homosexuality that they're left explaining it in terms of social factors exactly like the case Powlison is rejecting here. Powlison now wants to remove social explanations as well. Why? It seems that Powlison thinks (and David Wayne and Tim Challies agree with him) that giving an account of why something is true is inconsistent with saying that anything could be sinful about the thing you're explaining.

I can't disagree more. This argument seems to me to rely on two fallacies, a category mistake and a false dichtomy, and I think it leads to some very disturbing consequences if we consistently refused to explain sin in this way. I hereby call them to reconsider for the following reasons.

Was Steve Irwin a Christian?

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Was Steve Irwin a Christian
steve irwin christian
I've been getting searches like this up to several times an hour (but usually less) since Steve Irwin died, but nothing I said was relevant to this. Maybe those searches will get diverted to this post. I know nothing for sure about Steve Irwin's views on religion. He did, of course, accept current scientific understanding on the process of human origins, which will automatically disqualify him in the eyes of some people who think views on the means and time frame of creation count as the gospel (or, even worse, think evangelism consists of sending creationist tracts to celebrities). But of course plenty of people accept common descent who are genuine Christians.

He did believe in God, or at least he sometimes talked that way, saying, "But I have a gift. God put me on this planet with a mission. My mission is to educate people about conservation." But lots of people believe in God without being Christians, and lots of people speak of God's purpose metaphorically, mostly to suggest that they feel a purpose for their life. Someone in this thread remembers him saying he believed his mom was in heaven and looked forward to joining her, which suggests some sort of Christianlike view of heaven. I can't find any substantiation for him saying this, however. It says it's in the Larry King interview, but I didn't see anything even close to that there.

One piece of evidence against his being a Christian is that they had Buddhist nuns (his term; I don't know the proper term) bless their child in a sort of public baptismal ceremony. I doubt they would have done that in addition to a private Christian service, but it's possible. More likely is that this was all they did in that area, and it's probably not something serious Christians who accept and follow biblical teaching would have done, since this looks strikingly like the kind of pagan temple worship that the early Christians would have considered idolatry.

Update: Snopes.com finally tackles this issue (or at least the issue of the hoax discussed in the comments).

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