Archive for December, 2008

Books have an enormous power to shape the way we think and in turn the way we live. Obviously, as a Christian, the books of the Bible are for me both foundational and transformative. Other books, though not inspired or authoritative, have helped me to think about the Bible, its teachings, and its truth claims. I present here a list of books by fifteen different authors. I make no claims here about these being the greatest or most important books of their kind, although in some cases I think this assessment might apply. They happen to have been especially formative for me, either in kindling interest in a certain subject or in reorienting my way of thinking about a subject. I have listed them in roughly the order in which I read them, though my recollection in this regard may not always be correct. Read the rest of this entry »

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23
Dec

The Twelve Days of Theology

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in theology

On the first day of Theology my professor gave to me atonement on an old tree.

On the second day of Theology my professor gave to me two Testaments and atonement on an old tree.

On the third day of Theology my professor gave to me three divine persons, two Testaments, and atonement on an old tree. Read the rest of this entry »

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Yesterday—December 18, 2008—the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a new study confirming what they had reported last year: most Americans, including about half of American evangelical Christians, believe that many religions can lead people to eternal life. Read the rest of this entry »

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19
Dec

Newsweek: Where Liberal Episcopalians Get Their Theology?

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in ethics

On December 16, 2008, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA, gave a speech to the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on the subject “Religion in the Public Square.” Jefferts Schori, elected as the first woman to her position in 2006, is probably going to be remembered in history as the person who presided over the disintegration of the Episcopal Church. The process of this disintegration began in earnest before her watch when the denomination appointed an openly homosexual bishop and that is now accelerating to breakneck speed.

Although Jefferts Schori’s speech made no overt reference to homosexuality, it was clearly the elephant in the room. Read the rest of this entry »

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When Mormons attempt to show from the New Testament that the church cannot function without a continuing office of living apostles on the earth, they invariably cite Matthias as precedent. Matthias is the man whom Christ chose to replace Judas Iscariot after he had abandoned his apostolic office, betrayed Christ to the authorities, and then committed suicide (Acts 1:15-26).

The main difficulty with this argument is that nothing in the passage indicates that Matthias’s appointment was precedent for anything. Indeed, everything about the passage argues against it serving as precedent. The passage presents an unusual and in some ways unique event. Read the rest of this entry »

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11
Dec

Gay Marriage and the Haircut Argument

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in Biblical studies, ethics, Old Testament

In my previous entry critiquing Lisa Miller’s Newsweek article defending gay marriage, I briefly addressed what I called the “Leviticus? You can’t be serious” argument. This is the argument that prohibitions against homosexual activity in the Bible may be safely ignored as morally irrelevant because some of those prohibitions appear in Leviticus, which also contains other material we think morally irrelevant. I pointed out that the two texts in Leviticus that specifically condemn same-sex acts are sandwiched in specific passages focused on what even Newsweek editors would (hopefully) consider highly immoral, socially deviant behaviors. Leviticus 18 and 20 condemn not only homosexual conduct (18:22; 20:13) but also incest, adultery, child sacrifice, and bestiality. Leviticus 19, the intervening chapter, instructs Israelites to love their neighbors (including foreigners), honor their parents and the elderly, show charity to the poor, use honest weights and measures, and to avoid defrauding, deceiving, oppressing, slandering, or even bearing grudges against one another.

There is a specific element in Leviticus 19, however, that Lisa Miller cited as evidence that the book’s condemnations of same-sex unions have no moral force: its rules concerning what she calls “haircuts”: Read the rest of this entry »

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In a forthcoming Newsweek cover article already online, Lisa Miller, religion editor for Newsweek, offers “the religious case for gay marriage.” Not content to argue that the Bible doesn’t condemn same-sex marriage, Miller tries to turn the tables and present a case for gay marriage from biblical principles: “Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side.”

It is probably too much to hope that Miller’s article will end, at least for a while, the incessant chirping of those who advocate same-sex marriage that the Bible ought to be left out of the discussion. If it is legitimate for advocates to cite the Bible to support their position, surely it is legitimate for opponents to do the same thing.

A thorough, point-by-point rebuttal to Miller’s article is beyond the scope of this post. I will content myself with documenting some of the common fallacies in biblical interpretation and theological argumentation that crop up constantly in the debate over same-sex unions and that the article exemplifies. Read the rest of this entry »

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5
Dec

Fallacies of Same-Sex Marriage Polemics

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in ethics, philosophy

In an essay on BeliefNet entitled “How I Went from There to Here: Same Sex Marriage Blogalogue,” Tony Jones explains why as a Christian (of an “emergent” point of view) he has come to defend publicly the rights of gay people to get married. There are several legitimate approaches from which one might critique Jones’s piece (biblical, theological, political, etc.), but I will focus in this post on the logical fallacies of his arguments. I am putting the focus on logic here because it turns out that these fallacies are extremely common in polemics defending same-sex relations in general and same-sex marriage in particular. I am also starting with a logical critique because, frankly, I am tired of defenders of same-sex marriage claiming that their opponents have no response other than to quote the same Bible verses over and over.

Early in his essay, Jones manages to commit three logical fallacies in one sentence (one of which is repeated twice in the following sentence). Read the rest of this entry »

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3
Dec

An Ugly Attack on My Neighbor

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in Mormonism

NOTE: This is a special blog entry from Joel B. Groat, the Coordinator for International Ministries for the Institute for Religious Research.

In an op-ed yesterday (12-2-08) entitled, “An ugly attack on Mormons,” Jonah Goldberg drew attention to the LDS-church-slamming TV ad that ran on Election Day. The ad, which also ran on YouTube, showed two Mormon missionaries taking wedding rings and a marriage license from a lesbian couple after announcing “We’re here to take away your rights.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Anti-Trinitarians often accuse those who believe in the Trinity of believing the Creeds over or against or instead of simply believing the Bible. This objection assumes that the Creeds do not faithfully teach what the Bible teaches. Although Catholic and Orthodox Christians typically view the Creeds as having dogmatic authority, evangelical Protestants typically do not. We believe the Creeds inasmuch as, and insofar as, we find them in agreement with the Bible.

In what follows, I will quote in full the Nicene Creed and the Definition of Chalcedon, along with biblical citations enclosed in brackets, and with no interpretive or explanatory comments. No doubt anti-Trinitarians will object to the way some of these biblical passages are understood within the Trinitarian theological framework. Nevertheless, this exercise ought to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that the intent of the Creeds is simply to state in a formal, systematic, confessional way what its authors understood the Bible to teach about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and especially about the person of Jesus Christ as both fully God and fully human. Read the rest of this entry »

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