Nicholas Kristof's false dichotomy
Weblog was a bit surprised at the beatingNew York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof took from some religious folks back in March when he complained about the lack of evangelicals in the nation's newsrooms. (CT sister publication Books & Culture had a fine response from historian Mark Noll that deserves wider recognition: it's available here.)

And last May's Kristof column on evangelicals being "the new internationalists" brought quite a bit of praise, though most observers asked "where has he been?"

But Kristof will be fortunate if yesterday's blackout shut down his e-mail server. Today's column is, in a word, bad. And he's going to get slammed for it.

Noting that Americans are three times as likely to believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus (83%) as in evolution (28%), he writes, "The faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over time."

That's right. If you believe in the Virgin Birth, you're anti-intellectual. And, along with a quote from Hans Küng (who continues to practice theology in spite of the Vatican's revocation of his license), here's how he proves it:

The Virgin Mary is an interesting prism through which to examine America's emphasis on faith because most Biblical scholars regard the evidence for the Virgin Birth, and for Mary's assumption into Heaven (which was proclaimed as Catholic dogma only in 1950), as so shaky that it pretty much has to be a leap of faith. … Yet despite the lack of scientific or historical evidence, and despite the doubts of Biblical scholars, America is so pious that not only do 91 percent of Christians say they believe in the Virgin Birth, but so do an astonishing 47 percent of U.S. non-Christians.

That's right, not only did he lump Jesus' virgin birth and Mary's assumption together as equal dogmas (one is in the Bible, the other is not), he ignores the huge number of serious biblical scholars who do accept the Virgin Birth.

But what's really troubling about Kristof's column is what he's really troubled about: "I'm troubled by the way the great intellectual traditions of Catholic and Protestant churches alike are withering, leaving the scholarly and religious worlds increasingly antagonistic."

In other words, if you actually believe the stuff your church teaches, you are evidence that the church's great intellectual tradition is withering.

Weblog won't go into great length here about the false dichotomy here between faith and intellect—refuting such nonsense is basically the whole raison d'etre of our sister publication Books & Culture and behind much of what we do here at Christianity Today, not to mention the myriad institutions of Christian higher education. But suffice it to say that it turns out Cal Thomas was right: Nick Kristof really does need to get out more and meet some actual evangelicals.

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By the way, for a good refutation of Kristof's claims about the Virgin Birth, check out this 1990 Christianity Today article by Richard N. Longenecker.

Defenders of intellectual tradition?
Of course, there are church leaders who deny the Virgin Birth. And the divinity of Christ. And sometimes even the existence of God.

"For all of the fuss over the Episcopalians choosing a gay bishop, what should have been an even bigger scandal has received scant attention," writes Gene Edward Veith in this week's World. "For decades, the Episcopal Church and other Anglican bodies have been electing bishops who are not even Christians. … Heresy is even more harmful to a church than homosexuality. Choosing a bishop who is gay is bad enough, but choosing a bishop who rejects Christianity is surely even worse. And it should not be surprising that a church that has rejected the authority and the truth of the Bible would take the far lesser step of saying that sexual immorality is okay."

Richard Ostling makes a similar point in an Associated Press article. The debate over gay bishops, he says, is divisive because of a larger battle—that over the role of the Bible.

"Until very recently, all Christian branches agreed that same-sex activity was immoral because of their age-old understanding of God's will taught in the Scriptures," Ostling writes.

Most of the world's Christian bodies maintain that belief. But in the last quarter-century, liberal scholars from some so-called "mainline" Protestant denominations in Europe and North America have argued against traditional Bible interpretations, often in books from church publishing houses. They say the Bible's overwhelming overall message is loving acceptance and justice for all people.
This has gradually influenced leadership circles in the Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and United Methodist Church. Yet the new biblical theories have failed to convince legions of rank and file American churchgoers.

Indeed, it has led to folks like Robinson simply dismissing the Bible in favor of doing what they feel. "Just simply to say that it goes against tradition and the teaching of the church and scripture does not necessarily make it wrong," Robinson earlier told The Washington Post. "We worship a living God, and that living God leads us into truth."

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But God is still on the throne, and those who still trust the Bible are still at work. Which leads us to one more story. In Denmark, 158 priests and theologians have denounced a decision to lift the suspension of Thorkild Grosboel, the pastor who told a magazine, "There is no heavenly God, there is no eternal life, there is no resurrection." Allowing someone with those beliefs to continue operating in the state Lutheran Church damages the church's credibility and is unacceptable, they said.

One wonders what Nicholas Kristof would have to say about that.

The "cover up" article you won't see in American papers
Weblog sees many, many articles decrying a lack of good sexual mores in society. Christianity Today has run several of its own, in fact. But Weblog has never seen it done quite like this.

More articles

Ten Commandments battles:

Robinson appointment reaction and aftermath:

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  • Behold the Anglican purse | Could it be that Karl Marx, who despised religion as opium for the people, was not always wrong about matters of faith? (Uwe Siemon-Netto, UPI)

  • Church of Uganda sticks to its guns | The Church of Uganda, like many in Africa, is furious over the inclusion of gays in church activities, let alone as church leaders (The Monitor, Kampala, Uganda)

  • Also: Is the church guilty of breaking the law? | It is bad enough having a member of the congregation confess to being a homosexual, but to have a homosexual bishop in such jurisdictions is like having a practicing thief for Police Chief (Chibita Wa Duallo, New Vision, Kampala, Uganda)

  • Kenyan Anglicans threaten to defect | They said the foreign ideologies advocated by the Episcopal Church in America and England could disintegrate the moral fabric that joins societies together (East African Standard, Nairobi)

  • Local bishop dealing with recent 'crisis' | Andrew Fairfield was one of 19 bishops who officially protested the confirmation of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire (Bismarck Tribune, N.D.)

  • Archbishop takes liberal view on gays | Archbishop of Canterbury is to support gays who remain in faithful relationships in a new twist to the row over homosexuality that threatens to split the Church of England (Evening Standard, London)

  • We shall not accept gay people in the church | I will not pretend to have been anything near a practicing Christian these many years, but whatever little experience gained from that institution in the past is enough to make me see the wrong in a homosexual on the pulpit (Henry Ochieng, The Monitor, Kampala, Uganda)

  • Church unity without justice has no value | Reducing the Bible to its literal meanings means pouring cement on its pages, followed by water, which turns the Bible into stone. The Bible is a living, not a dead, document (Donna Schaper, Newsday)

  • Local clergy to protest gay bishop | Participants, a loose coalition of black church leaders that includes the chairman of the Hartford Board of Education, say their intent in marching next Tuesday in Hartford is to protest the acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage (The Hartford Courant, Conn.)

Gay marriage:

  • Priest stands up to church on same-sex issue | Roman Catholic priest in Newfoundland is speaking out against the Roman Catholic church's opposition to same-sex marriage, saying it is hypocritical when it has stayed silent in the past on sexual abuse of children (Canadian Press)

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Missions and ministries:

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Church life:

  • Building a lasting friendship | Five-year fund-raising effort by Claremont church results in a new cathedral for a West African diocese (Los Angeles Times)

  • Congregations must deal with pastor's pay | Most Protestant pastors are paid based on their experience and skills and the size and resources of their congregations. Catholic priests, on the other hand, receive nearly the same salary regardless of the size of the congregation (The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.)

Judicial appointment controversy:

  • Who else need not apply if religion comes into it? | The religious-bias argument merely requires that you oppose a judicial nominee because of his or her abortion views. If those views coincide with the doctrine of that nominee's faith, you're a bigot (William Saletan, The Washington Post)

  • Unmasking religious code words | The world's largest Catholic fraternal organization Thursday passed a resolution condemning opposition to federal judicial nominees because of ''deeply held beliefs'' stemming from their Catholic faith (Robert Novak, Chicago Sun-Times)

  • Should judges be disqualified if their religious beliefs impact their votes? | Are Senate Democrats anti-Catholic? Probably not. Are Republicans right to accuse Democrats of religious bias against Catholics? Probably, yes. (Jonah Goldberg, The Philadelphia Inquirer)

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  • Bias and judicial nominees | With regard to senators who protest that they are Catholics, yet regard judicial candidates as "dangerous" and "extreme right wing" precisely because of their deeply held Catholic beliefs, one must ask these senators what exactly they think Catholicism is (John Mallon, The Washington Times)

  • Using Catholicism | Republicans are playing the religious card in the same way that they have decried the left for bringing up race and gender (Eleanor Clift, Newsweek)

Politics and law:

Faith-based initiative:

  • Conference held on Bush's faith-based initiative | Social service providers and religious groups attended a conference Tuesday to discuss President Bush's faith-based initiative and how it might work in Alaska (Associated Press)

  • Groups to confer to help victims | Faith-based and secular services will work together in fighting crime (Rubén Rosario, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)

  • A clean slate? | Success speaks for itself: Charles Colson responds to a article challenging Prison Fellowship's InnerChange Freedom Initiative (Breakpoint)

  • Earlier: Faith-based fudging  | How a Bush-promoted Christian prison program fakes success by massaging data (Mark A. R. Kleiman,

Prison ministry:

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  • Scorned ex-convict is forced to camp out | Bruce Scott Erbs is a schizophrenic, arsonist, and sexual predator. He lives in a tent behind the county jail because no shelter will take him (Los Angeles Times)

Other religions and interfaith relations:

  • Muslim files suit against University of Alabama | Says university employees harassed him and gave preferential treatment to Christians, especially after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks (Tuscaloosa News, Ala.)

  • Hindu nation: What role for religion? | During my travels around India searching for an answer to militant Hinduism, everyone I met felt religion should have a place in government (Mark Tully, BBC)

  • 'Taliban' message attacks aid workers | A message attributed to Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban's reclusive leader, said: "Oh Muslims, know the enemies of your religion - the Jews and Christians. America, Britain, the UN and all Western aid groups are the greatest enemies of Islam and humanity" (The Independent, London)

  • Dr. Laura loses her religion | Radio host drops Judaism, 'envies' Christian friends (Forward)



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  • Can the psyche be treated without considering the spirit? | While secular therapists have brought soul language into therapy, clergy who specialize in pastoral counseling find themselves grappling with ways to integrate modern therapeutic techniques into their work without losing sight of the spiritual dimension (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Faith collides with science on campus | Mystery and humility can help students resolve the conflict (The Charlotte Observer)

  • Meetings seek synergy between science and religion | The Kansas City Religion and Science Dialogue Project, which began in 2002, is designed to be a "conversation" on what new scientific discoveries—covering everything from stem-cell research to black matter—mean to age-old beliefs (The Kansas City Star)

Evolution and Intelligent Design:

Business and money:

  • New seminary program brings faith to work | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary will launch an integrated Doctor of Ministry and Master of Arts in Religion/Leadership and Business Ethics program for students seeking training in workplace ministry (Hamilton Whenham Chronicle)

  • Boss almighty | The suits are looking to Christianity to help them find a path through the Central Business District. And they're keen to gather their colleagues along the way (Australian Financial Review)

  • Wealthier not always more generous givers | Howard, Arundel score lower in giving, study says (The Baltimore Sun)

  • Paraguay Mennonites find success a mixed blessing | Booming farm economy is attracting economic migrants (The New York Times)

Life ethics:

  • Where is thy sting? | It feels as if we are drifting toward new genetic technologies without thinking about where we are headed (Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times)


  • Television goes looking for God | On television today, it's possible to be spiritual and cool (Mark McGuire, Times Union, Albany, N.Y.)

  • Priest prays for Ugandan eviction | Controversy continues to stalk the Big Brother Africa reality TV program, with a Ugandan pastor turning to prayer to try and hasten the eviction of his own country's participant (BBC)


  • Local rock band plays music with a message | So, like, there's rock 'n' roll, right? And Christians used to, like, think it was all evil and stuff? But now, there's like totally these bands that are, like, Christian rock. Whoa (Lake City Reporter, Fla.)

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  • Ethiopian revives ancient harp | An Ethiopian music teacher is on a mission to encourage people in the country to play a harp so old it is mentioned in the first book of the Bible (BBC, audio)

  • 'Anti-Christian' CD faces ban | The Federal Government has moved to ban the sale to children of a CD by heavy metal group Deicide amid concerns it incites violence, hatred, and the killing of Christians (The Daily Telegraph, Australia)

  • Thou shall not download | Christian music and online file sharing (KLTV, Tyler, Texas)

Holy Land:

  • Jews, Christians rally for unity and Mideast peace | With the euphoria of a religious revival, Jews and Christians celebrated their solidarity by clapping, dancing arm-to-arm in circles, waving flags and singing along to religious tunes (News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla.)

  • DeLay poisons Mideast peace process | The House Majority Leader, a fundamentalist Christian who is by definition unreasonable, is not interested in any modern maps of the Mideast (Jan Jarboe Russell, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Faith and spirituality:

  • A cold shoulder for God | The Lord, it seemed, had never failed to listen to Rosa Gonzalez. But her Marine son's death in Iraq has left her beset with doubt and anger (Los Angeles Times)

  • Sarasota adviser tells how to profit by doing good | Gary Moore's key messages are to seek moderation in all things except love, to consider the good of the community before selfish ambition and to have faith that God will provide for an abundant future (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fla.)

  • Believe it, or not | One of the most poisonous divides is the one between intellectual and religious America. (Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times)

  • Test of faith | "I don't know how and I don't know why this has happened. We just have to put it in our hearts that God is doing this for a reason. God didn't make him sick, but he's taking this cancer and he's using all of this for his good." (Lou Whitmire, Mansfield News Journal, Oh.)


  • 2 Pakistani Christians' life terms upheld | "There is no evidence that the Quran was burnt," said Shahbaz Bhatti, president of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance. "The police falsely implicated them in the case when they refused to pay the bribe." (Associated Press)

  • Christians surveyed in India | According to Indian Express, Gujarat police has again started a survey of Christian localities (Pakistan Tribune)

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  • Pastor arrested over priest's murder | A Pentecostal pastor with the Grace of God Mission, Oroma-Etiti, Anambra West Local Government Area of Anambra State, Pastor Ugwumba, is now cooling his heels in police custody for allegedly having a hand in the murder of a Catholic priest at the Holy Cross Catholic Church in the area, Rev. Fr Gilbert Ohai (This Day, Lagos, Nigeria)

  • Divinity school student prosecuted in Moscow court | More than four months after police seized him in a Moscow airport with $48,000 in American cash in his bags, Harvard Divinity School student Andrew Okhotin saw his day in court Wednesday, but the four-hour hearing ended without any verdict on the smuggling charge leveled against him (The Harvard Crimson)

  • We're all victims now! | Plea bargain in anti-Christian shooting raises questions about fairness of hate-crime laws (O.C. Weekly)

  • Church hopes Solomons militants will follow Keke's lead | A Solomon Islands religious leader says the surrender of rebel leader, Harold Keke, could see other militants follow suit (Radio Australia)

Other stories of interest:

  • State's 1st Christian convert honored | Henry 'Opukaha'ia died in 1818 in Cornwall, Conn. His conversion to Christianity and his memoirs, published after his death, are credited with inspiring the first Christian missionaries to set out for Hawaii (Hawaii Tribune Herald, Hilo)

  • A mighty wind | Talking about the weather, with a slightly higher authority (Steve Mirsky, Scientific American)

  • Dallas is a battleground for body and soul | After speaking on tour about my recently published book, Eve's Revenge: Women and a Spirituality of the Body, I sometimes get the comment, "And you're from Dallas?" (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Christians return to native Turkey | The government has helped resettle Syrian Orthodox member in their home villages (Los Angeles Times)

  • How to mean well and give grave offence | When Lancashire farmer Peter Bennett bought a remote smallholding in the Scottish Borders, he hoped to provide a place of peaceful, Christian retreat. Instead, he sparked a holy war (The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • On a mission | Activist Randall Terry continues his crusade from St. Augustine (St. Augustine Record, Fla.)

  • Perkins to take helm of Christian group | Tony Perkins will receive salary "in the neighborhood" of $220,000 to be spokesman for Family Research Council (The Shreveport Times, La.)

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