It's 97 percent probable Jesus rose from the dead, says Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne
"For someone dead for 36 hours to come to life again is, according to the laws of nature, extremely improbable," Oxford University philosopher Richard Swinburne said last month at a Yale conference on ethics and belief. "But if there is a God of the traditional kind, natural laws only operate because he makes them operate." Then, reports The New York Times, Swinburne
proceeded to weigh evidence for and against the Resurrection, assigning values to factors like the probability that there is a God, the nature of Jesus' behavior during his lifetime and the quality of witness testimony after his death. Then, while his audience followed along on printed lecture notes, he plugged his numbers into a dense thicket of letters and symbols—using a probability formula known as Bayes's theorem—and did the math. "Given e and k, h is true if and only if c is true," he said. "The probability of h given e and k is .97"
In plain English, this means that, by Mr. Swinburne's calculations, the probability of the Resurrection comes out to be a whopping 97 percent.
The New York Times isn't biting. The rest of the article isn't on Swinburne's postulation, but on the rise of respectable Christian philosophers, including Swinburne, Notre Dame's Alvin Plantinga, and Yale's Nicholas Wolterstorff. (Swinburne is Greek Orthodox, Plantinga and Wolterstorff are Calvinist evangelicals.) "Deploying a range of sophisticated logical arguments developed over the last 25 years, Christian philosophers have revived faith as a subject of rigorous academic debate, steadily chipping away at the assumption—all but axiomatic in philosophy since the Enlightenment—that belief in God is logically indefensible," reports Emily Eakin.
Beyond the megachurch
Duke University theologian Stanley Hauerwas is always talking about "the church as polis," that is, Christians truly uniting into a people separate from the dominant culture. It turns out some churches are really becoming polis-es, reports The New York Times. In many megachurches, "it is possible to eat, shop, go to school, bank, work out, scale a rock-climbing wall and pray … all without leaving the grounds."
But this isn't just another story about big churches and their amenities. "These churches are becoming civic in a way unimaginable since the 13th century and its cathedral towns. No longer simply places to worship, they have become part resort, part mall, part extended family and part town square." The article lightly examines some of the ramifications of that (Randal Ballmer worries that it's just an isolation tactic), but there are some very interesting ideas to explore here, especially in light of some of Hauerwas's ideas. Hmmm. Weblog's brain is churning. Perhaps more on this later.
Amy Grant's back—with spam!
Amy Grant "hopes to reconnect with some of her estranged fans with her latest album," reports The New York Times. Reporter Steve Rabey tries to summarize why those fans are estranged, but grossly misrepresents the issue. "From the beginning, Ms. Grant's career has reflected the tensions separating outward-looking evangelicals, who seek to reach and save the lost, from their more cautious brethren, who seek to preserve believers' holiness and moral purity. … Her energetic performance on the 1985 Grammy Awards telecast offended some evangelicals, who considered her leopard-print jacket and bare feet improper."
Here's the problem with Rabey's article in a nutshell. He writes: "A writer in the evangelical magazine Christianity Today criticized Ms. Grant's 1997 release, 'Behind the Eyes,' for its 'complete absence of explicitly Christian lyrical content." Uh, no. Calvin College professor William D. Romanowski didn't criticize Grant in that article. "Amy Grant's solution of letting the music find its own audience will work individually for her," he wrote. "And, I would argue, in the end her common-sense answer will win at the industry level as well. For while confessional music will and should always be a vital part of community worship, its role as parent to today's CCM music should not limit the music made by Christians to the old setting and purpose."
As someone who has written for Christianity Today before, Rabey should know better. What was he trying to do, impress editors at the Times by misrepresenting his fellow evangelicals? They won't be impressed by his getting the facts wrong. (If Rabey wanted criticism of Grant, why not just quote from our post-divorce article?)
Meanwhile, reports Wired News, "fans and anti-spam activists are … full of righteous fury" over Grant's (or rather, her label's) bulk e-mail advertising campaign. Visitors to Grant's Website are told they can win a chance to meet the singer by forwarding a press release. Whoever forwards it to the most people wins. "I get upwards of 50 spams (unsolicited e-mail, usually selling something) a day and don't need well-meaning friends sending me more as well as getting me on to a mailing list I don't want to be on," one fan wrote on the newsgroup rec.music.artists.amy-grant.
Church of the Nativity:
- In Church of Nativity, the refuse of a siege | All in all, some priests said, it could have been worse. (The New York Times)
- Inside the siege of Bethlehem | Snipers, militants, vandals and priests: everyone had a story from the siege of Bethlehem. Here are the tales of four (Newsweek)
- The saga of the siege | The inside story of the Church of the Nativity standoff, and how the deal was struck to get the Palestinians out (Time)
- Hymns, not gunfire, fill Bethlehem | With the refuse left behind by trapped Palestinians swept away, hundreds of worshipers and clergymen gathered for Greek Orthodox services in the basilica and for Roman Catholic rites at the neighboring Church of St. Catherine. (The New York Times)
- At church, more dirt than damage | With the 5-week siege over at the litter-strewn Church of the Nativity, the faithful return to take stock (Chicago Tribune)
- Christianity turns the other cheek | Where is the outrage when a church is desecrated? (Raymond J. de Souza, The National Post, Canada)
- Israeli army 'descrated' Church, say Palestinian leaders | Say military entered "under the pretext of looking for three rifles" (AFP)
- After the standoff, a cleanup | Bethlehem picks up pieces as Israeli peace activists stage mass rally (The Washington Post)
- Church of the Nativity services resume (Associated Press)
- A church from the 4th century and a stalemate from the 21st | A first-person account of life inside the Church of the Nativity (Carolyn Cole, Los Angeles Times)
Other Holy Land troubles:
- Zionist Christianity is American heresy | So, reportedly, says Pope Shenouda III (Arabic News)
- Earlier: Reviving an Ancient Faith | Two strong-willed reformers bring Coptic Orthodoxy back to life. (Christianity Today, Nov. 30, 2001)
- In the name of God | Religious texts have long been a license to kill your foes in the Holy Land (Newsweek)
- Christians, stand up for peace in Holy Land | The virtual silence of prominent Christians in the wake of the terrible suffering and loss of life in this conflict during the past year cannot be erased. (Sherrilyn A. Ifill, The Baltimore Sun)
Crime & justice:
- Trials test the faith of Rwandans | Five clergymen are to be tried on genocide charges that have shaken the trust of many Christians in the region. (The New York Times)
- When inmates get religion | Going to jail has a multitude of effects on people, and sudden religious conversions are not uncommon. (The News Daily, Jonesboro, Georgia)
- Witness identifies Dara Singh | Radical Hindu is chief suspect in murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his sons (PTI)
- Also: Witness identifies prime suspect in missionary's murder (ABC News, Australia)
- In one last trial, Alabama faces old wound | It is expected to be the final attempt by the State of Alabama to bring to justice a living suspect in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing and, in the process, cleanse itself of a stain on its history. (The New York Times)
Clergy abuse scandal:
- Roman Catholic Church shifts legal strategy | Aggressive litigation replaces quiet settlements (The Washington Post)
- Scandal erodes traditional deference to church | Prosecutors, judges, and politicians who once looked the other way when it came to the church's dirty laundry are now holding the cardinal and other church leaders to a higher standard. (The Boston Globe)
- Treating the priest, under church's wing | Effectiveness of diocese-paid programs challenged (The Washington Post)
- Debating more than the church's next potluck | As revelations of sexual abuse continue to roil the Roman Catholic Church, more parish councils around the country are being thrust into the unfamiliar role of transforming themselves from rubber stamps into potential leaders of reform. (The New York Times)
- Youth group unaffected by scandal, but aware of it | Teens say the scandal has little to do with their faith, or with their lives (The New York Times)
- Mexican parishioners accept priests who spurn celibacy | Some clerics marry, risking wrath of church hierarchy (The Washington Post)
- Married priests optimistic over discussions of celibacy | Federation of Christian Ministries says scandal affirms its position (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Am I my brother's keeper? | David Clohessy spent more than 10 years angrily unearthing the church's dark secrets of sexual abuse. Then he was forced to confront one painfully close to home. (The New York Times Magazine)
- Supreme Court refuses to get involved in clergy case | Justices refused without comment to review an acrimonious case over how priests can be sued for alleged misconduct (Associated Press)
- Zero tolerance omits forgiveness | Can a church built on a belief in Christ deny the possibility of redemption and refuse to forgive? (Susan J. Stabile, The Miami Herald)
- Church bashing delights the left | Politically liberal and religiously secular people are having too good a time beating up on the Roman Catholic Church. (Cal Thomas, The Baltimore Sun)
- Four facing Jehovah ouster | Jehovah's Witnesses leaders are moving to excommunicate four people who have spoken to a television show about child molestation within the church (New York Post)
Missions & ministry:
- Billy Graham's 'invasion' | His mission—'Save New York' (Newsweek, May 20, 1957)
- Facing death, embracing life | Evangelist Bill Bright makes the most of year he didn't expect to have (The Orlando Sentinel)
- Bringing God downtown | Don't count on the $750 million Rio Nuevo project to heal downtown Phoenix's bruised spirit. Four young evangelical Christian men say that's their job. (The Arizona Star, also check here)
- Evangelist follows faith to the streets | Matt Sallee willing to take rejection from strangers head on for the sake of steering a few souls toward salvation (Susan Ager, Detroit Free Press)
- Encouraging others to make the time to commit to church | How do church people relate to those who don't go to church? (Dale Turner, The Seattle Times)
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