Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

The Jesus-wife source is dated to eight-century Egypt: could it be authentic?

J. Warner Wallace tweeted this post from Al Mohler, which talks about the scholarly review of a recent discovery.

Excerpt:

Last week, the Harvard Theological Review released a much-delayed series of articles on the fragment. After a series of investigations undertaken by diverse scholars, the general judgment claimed by Professor King is that the fragment probably is not a forgery — or at least that it dates back to ancient times. The analysis suggested that the fragment dated from about four centuries later than Professor King had first suggested. This would place the fragment, if authentic, in the context of eighth-century Egypt — hundreds of years after the New Testament was written and completed.

The language used by the national media in reporting the story this time reveals the lack of confidence now placed in the fragment. The Boston Globe reported that the tests “have turned up no evidence of modern forgery,” but the reporter had to acknowledge that at least one of the scholars writing in the Harvard Theological Review insisted that the fragment is not only a forgery, but an amateurish effort. The New York Times ran a story that featured a headline announcing that the fragment “is more likely ancient than fake.” Note the uncertainty evident even in the headline.

In her major article released last week, Professor King defended the fragment’s authenticity, but acknowledged that — all previous sensationalism aside — “It is not entirely clear, however, how many women are referred to [in the fragment], who they are, precisely what is being said about them, or what larger issues are under consideration.”

This is a very different message than was sent back in 2012. Professor King now acknowledges that all the references to females in the fragment might be “deployed metaphorically as figures of the Church, or heavenly Wisdom, or symbolically/typologically as brides of Christ or even mothers.” In other words, the fragment might not even conflict with Christian orthodoxy.

The most declarative article in the Harvard Theological Review, however, dismisses the entire fragment as a modern forgery. Professor Leo Depuydt of Brown University argues that the fragment’s authenticity is “out of the question.” He points to several factors, including the fact that a set of typographical errors in the fragment matches a set of errors in an online edition of the “Gospel of Thomas,” an ancient Gnostic text. Depuydt put the chances of coincidence with respect to these errors as one in a trillion. Depuydt states that he “has not the slightest doubt that the document is a forgery, and not a very good one at that.”

Taken as a whole, the issue of the Harvard Theological Review released last week includes some scholars who stalwartly defend the fragment as authentic, some who argue that there is no convincing proof that it is a forgery, and at least one who argues that the case for authenticity is laughable.

Previously when I blogged about this I noted that like sensational fiction writer Dan Brown, Karen King is a feminist, and anxious to insert women into more prominent roles in Christian history.

Mohler picked up on it too:

The larger background includes the fact that Professor King has devoted much of her scholarly career to making a case that the early church falsely constructed an orthodox understanding of Jesus that minimized the role of women. Back in 2003 she released The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle, in which she argued that at least some ancient texts pointed to Mary Magdalene as an apostle. In 2012 she told the writer for Smithsonian: “You’re talking to someone who’s trying to integrate a whole set of ‘heretical’ literature into the standard history.”

Professor King, along with others such as Professor Elaine Pagels of Princeton University, reject traditional Christianity and have turned time and again to ancient Gnostic documents, such as were found in 1945 in Nag Hammadi in Egypt, to argue that early Christianity marginalized some theological voices and standardized doctrinal orthodoxy in order to maintain doctrinal purity.

I think this is why media outlets, who are sympathetic with this goal, would trumpet an eighth century discovery over the 1st century gospels. Let me be clear. Nothing from the eight century can be considered authentic if it contradicts multiple, independent first century sources. The only thing driving the media frenzy on this discovery is feminism, pure and simple.

I just want to say that I don’t always agree with Al Mohler, especially on marriage and men’s rights issues, where I think his exegesis of the Bible is overly influenced by liberal feminism. So to have him agreeing with me on King’s “scholarship” is a good thing.

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Mary Eberstadt: why Christians should promote policies that strengthen marriage

Here’s an interesting post about a new book by Mary Eberstadt. The post is written by historian Benjamin Wiker.

Excerpt:

As the West has become increasingly secularized, the loss of faith has coincided with the destruction of the natural family. The sexual revolution, higher and higher rates of divorce, cohabitation, same-sex marriage—all have combined to make life-long man-woman marital unions an increasing rarity.

Clearly, the rejection of God has led to a rejection, or radical redefinition, of the family.

But in her How the West Really Lost God, Mary Eberstadt bids her readers to look at things from the other end as well. The “decline of the natural family” in the West is not only the effect of the loss of faith, but the cause as well: “the ongoing deterioration of the natural family has both accompanied and accelerated the deterioration in the West of Christian belief.”

Briefly put, “family decline…helps to power religious decline.”

One affects the other because the two go together, argues Eberstadt, like the spiral ladder of the double helix. The fortunes of family and faith correlate, and causation goes both ways. Across the board, regardless of social status or income, the religious tend to have more children than the secular-minded. And the more children a couple has, the more likely they are to go to church.

But that means, of course, that those who are most secular are least likely to have children, and those who are unmarried and/or have no children are least likely to be religious.

That correlation explains the precipitous decline in the birth rate for the most secularized countries of Europe, but allows us to see it in a new light. It is not just that secularization has led to plummeting birth rates in Europe. Europe’s demographic collapse is actually speeding up its secularization.

This is not a correlation that exists only in recent history. The French Revolution gave the West the first self-consciously secular government at the end of the 1700s, and one of its first revolutionary acts was to liberalize its marriage laws. But what people may not realize, was that France was the first country in Europe to experience a decline in fertility rates within marriage, and an increase in cohabitation and illegitimacy, decades before the French Revolution. In the early 1700s, over a half century before the Revolution, illegitimacy was only at 1%, but by the storming of the Bastille, which ushered in the Revolution, France’s illegitimacy rate had climbed to 20% overall, with a 30% rate in the boiling pot of Paris. The French Revolution’s successful attack on Christianity, and the consequent secularization of France, was, in part, the result of the prior erosion of the family.

We see the same pattern in the UK, argues Eberstadt. “In Britain…the decline in births started a century later [than in France] at the very height of Victorian England,…Bit by bit…the same family trends already established in France—fewer births, more divorces, more out-of-wedlock births—also began reshaping the world of Britain. By our own time, over half of all children in Britain are born to unmarried people, and the fertility rate stands at 1.91 children per woman.” Not surprisingly, Britain’s churches are, like those of France, largely empty.

In the Scandinavian countries, like Sweden, where marriage rates are lowest, and divorce, cohabitation, and single-family households, and out-of-wedlock births are the highest, we find the greatest degree of secularization.

The obvious lesson we must draw, says Eberstadt, is “Vibrant families and vibrant religion go hand in hand.”

America is no exception. On the positive side, the baby boom after World War II brought with it a kind of “boom” in religious practice in the US.

But the negative side of the correlation between family and faith is now more evident. Eberstadt quotes the findings of sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, “The recent history of American religion illuminates what amounts to a sociological law: The fortunes of American religion rise with the fortunes of the intact, married family.”

Now here’s the part that I think is interesting. When you walk into a church, you will find very little, if any, education about the kinds of policies that cause marriages to actually not happen or actually break up.  The trouble is that most pastors are so focused on reading the Bible, and only the Bible, that they have no idea what sorts of policies and incentives cause people to not marry or to not stay married. In order to know that, they would have to be reading outside the Bible, in the scientific literature, and then communicating that knowledge to their flocks to get them to make better decisions and to vote more intelligently.

I think that we need to read more widely in order to know how to reach our goals (promoting marriage, in this case) in a practical way. What can we say to people to show them how to get to marriage? What decisions should they be making now, in order to be ready for marriage later? What policies should we be supporting to nudge people towards marriage? What policies should we be against that make it easier for people to dispense with marriage?

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A closer look at the Islamization of schools in the UK

Here is a story from the UK Telegraph that should concern us all. (H/T Dennis Prager)

The news story:

The Birmingham school at the centre of an alleged campaign of “Islamisation” by Muslim radicals is to be placed in “special measures” by the Government’s education watchdog in a move that could see its head teacher and governors removed.

Park View, previously rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, will be downgraded to “inadequate”, the lowest possible score, in the category of leadership and management, senior education sources said.

This enables Ofsted to place the school in special measures, allowing the watchdog, if it wishes, to remove the school’s entire leadership.

The move, described as “seismic” by senior educational sources, follows a highly unusual two Ofsted inspections in the past three weeks at the school, the alleged victim of a campaign by Islamists called a “Trojan Horse” to remove secular head teachers and install Islamic practices in Birmingham state schools.

So why does the government have to step in?

Here’s why:

The disclosure comes as parents and school governors and staff describe in detail how the campaign has destabilised and undermined successful schools.

In extensive interviews with The Sunday Telegraph, more than a dozen sources disclosed how children at one supposedly non-religious primary school, Oldknow, were led in anti-Christian chanting by one of their teachers at assembly.

The school also conducts weekly Friday prayers, has organised at least three school trips to Mecca subsidised from public funds, and requires all pupils to learn Arabic — almost unheard of at a primary school.

It also runs its own madrassah, or religious school. Oldknow’s highly successful non-Muslim head teacher has been driven from her post for resisting this “Islamising agenda”, this newspaper has learnt.

The head of another successful primary school, Springfield, received death threats, had his car tyres slashed and is under “non-stop attack” by radical governors, according to parents, other governors and staff at the school.

And more:

Last year Mr da Costa recruited a new deputy head, Jahangir Akbar, from a Muslim faith school in Leicester. Soon afterwards, Jahangir’s younger brother, Khalil, was recruited as assistant head. No other candidates were interviewed for either position and the assistant headship was not even advertised, staff said. Jahangir Akbar is another colleague of Tahir Alam’s and has worked with him in the Association of Muslim Schools, of which Mr Alam is vice-chairman.

“Oldknow’s pupils are mostly but not entirely Muslim and it was always an equal-opportunity school,” said one former member of staff. “But then all of a sudden there were Jummah [Friday] prayers, and going to Saudi Arabia on government money, and the Arabic, and blatant belittling of Christianity.”

Hardline teachers were recruited who would “sow the seed of religion in every lesson,” said one source. “Some of the teachers told pupils that music was sinful in Islam and the children started to refuse to do music, even though it is compulsory in the National Curriculum. It is incredibly difficult when your own colleagues undermine your efforts to give the children a balanced education.”

Matters came to a head, three separate sources said, last December when all the normal Christmas activity, including a tree, cards and the pantomime, was cancelled because it was considered un-Islamic, and the school’s Arabic teacher, Asif Khan, delivered an assembly “ridiculing” Christian beliefs. “It was like a rally,” said one person present. “He was leading them in chants of, ‘Do we believe in Christmas? No! Do we give out Christmas cards? No! The seven days of Christmas, they [Christians] can’t even count!’

The UK was under Labour Party rule for a long time, and under the Labour Party, huge numbers of unskilled immigrants from Muslim countries were let into the country in the name of multiculturalism. The Labour Party is gone from office now, but the damage is still being felt today. Under Labour rule, the country seems to have taken a turn towards moral relativism and radical feminism, so that people seem to be terrified of making moral judgments or standing up to a centralized, powerful government. Even many Christians in the UK seem to struggle with holding to conservative morality and theology, and they even vote for the Labour Party and worse, the Liberal Democrats. There just seems to be a suspicion of individual liberty and personal responsibility that has weakened the country so that it is a shadow of its former self.

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Why is the left trying to force moral and religious people to fund their immorality?

This article by Kevin Williamson on National Review was pretty popular, and it explains my great fear about marrying and starting a family in a society run by secular leftists.

Excerpt:

I make a pretty poor puritan, though perhaps someday I’ll make a better one. I object to abortion as violence, including abortion actuated via relatively bloodless chemical means, and believe that it should be prohibited as a matter of humane principle. The use of actual contraceptives, such as condoms, and the question of what combinations of consenting adults do what with whom — by which I mean maintaining joint bank accounts and sharing dental plans, of course — may be of acute interest to the bishops but are not properly matters of prohibition by the federal government, the purpose of which is to protect property, thus enabling Americans to organize their lives as they will, rather than to move citizens about like chessmen on the theory that it does so for their benefit. There is not much that I would have be illegal — but any civilized society requires a great deal of breathing room between forbidden and compulsory.

The Left would not have it that way: Homosexual behavior is not to be tolerated, or homosexual unions recognized under law — rather, homosexuality is to constitute a special class of blessedness, and the failure to celebrate it is to be a sin, which in the liberal mind must be identical to a crime. It is not enough for religious conservatives, such as the ones who own Hobby Lobby, to tolerate the legal sale and use of things such as the so-called morning-after pill — rather, they are expected to provide them at their own expense. Abortions are not to be legal, but legal and funded by the general community, with those funds extracted at gunpoint if necessary.

This is not merely, or even mainly, a question of economics. A monthly dose of emergency contraception (which seems like a lot) paid entirely out-of-pocket would run less than the typical cell-phone bill. One does not suspect that Americans would find it very difficult to locate gay-friendly firms in the wedding-planning business. The typical first-trimester abortion costs less than an entry-level iPad — hardly an insurmountable economic barrier for a procedure that is, if we take the pro-choice side at their word, absolutely fundamental to a woman’s health and happiness.

The economics are incidental. The point is not to ensure that we all pay, but that we are all involved.

The Left may be morally illiterate, but it is not blind. The effects of the pathologically delusional tendency that once styled itself “the sexual revolution” are everywhere to be seen. In the 1960s and 1970s, our cultural discourse was dominated by the benefits side of that revolution’s ledger; since then, we’ve had sufficient time to have a good long look at the cost side, too, and the tradeoffs are more severe than our bell-bottomed Aquarian prophets had predicted. It reads like an Old Testament genealogy: Sexual chaos begat family chaos, family chaos begat social chaos, social chaos begat economic chaos, economic chaos begat political chaos. And so the generations unfold. The relevant political reality is that those costs and benefits are not distributed equally: The benefits of license accrue mainly to the well-off and educated, who have the resources to make the most of their enjoyment of them; the costs accrue mainly to the poor, who cannot afford to live, economically or morally, beyond their means. Kate Moss can afford to be a single mother in her $20 million London townhouse. Not everybody can. Our so-called liberals find themselves in the queasy position of having created a moral culture that has destroyed millions of lives and many communities among the very disadvantaged people they claim to care most about, but they are incapable of criticizing a culture of license that none of them can imagine living without, even if they themselves are square as houses in their sexual habits.

The result of that is, if not guilt, at least a nagging awareness that this all turns out to be a great deal more morally complex than our liberationist-latitudinarian forebears had imagined. The way to assuage the collective liberal conscience is to institutionalize and normalize liberal social preferences: There is nobody to be blamed for social anarchy if that’s just the way things are. And if everybody is involved — as taxpayers or as employers providing health insurance — then everybody is implicated. They are a little like those addicts who are uncomfortable in the social presence of abstainers, taking that abstention as a rebuke, whether it is intended as one or not. In the United Kingdom, the government-run hospitals are burning the corpses of aborted children for heat, and we are all expected to get cozy by the fire.

The Hobby Lobby case is in part about private property and whether we are to have it. If we hold capital only at the sufferance of the politico-sexual whims of those who hold power, then we do not really hold capital at all — we only rent property from our rulers, serfs in the world’s most sophisticated fiefdom. The property right is the fundamental right upon which all other political rights have their foundation. But there is a separate question — the right of conscience, which is, at minimum, the right not to be implicated, to at least stand apart from that which is no longer forbidden but is not yet, as of Tuesday morning, compulsory.

Right now, a large amount of my income is being taken from me by a secular leftist government that is busy spending it on things that are absolutely against my conscience, my morality and my religion. They are content to do this for the reason Williamson stated – to implicate me in their failed social vision, even as they see it destroying the lives of millions of poor Americans. Why must I be forced to pay for this? Why must I be forced to celebrate and affirm secular leftist moral views?

Every time we have an election in this country, a large portion of the voting public chooses to vote for “compassion”, by which they mean taking the money I earned to pay for my plan, and handing that money to a secular, socialist government to hand out as they implement their plan. Does anyone care about individual freedom and conscience any more? I don’t want to be involved in evil. I don’t want government to force me to be involved in evil. I do not get up every morning to work so that women can have free abortions. I do not want to be forced by courts to celebrate gay marriage. I do not want to subsidize government-run schools to indoctrinate my children against everything that I hold dear.

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Court rules university violated conservative professor’s freedom of speech

From Campus Reform.

Excerpt:

A jury has concluded that the University of North Carolina-Wilmington retaliated against one of its professors for his outspoken conservative views.

The battle for his First Amendment rights is finally over for Mike Adams, a criminology professor who asserted the university denied him a promotion to full professor in 2006 because of his conversion to Christianity and subsequent vocal conservatism.

Today, a jury in a U.S. District Court in Greenville, N.C., agreed.

“We are just grateful that the jury saw what we’ve long known what was the case, that Dr. Adams was an incredible scholar,” Alliance Defending Freedom(ADF) attorney Travis Barham, who represents Adams, told Campus Reform.

“This is an incredibly important victory for the First Amendment,” Barham said. “To be able to speak freely without retaliation is a principle that should be a reality on campus and the jurors reassured that.”

The university hired Adams in 1993; at the time, he was a self-described atheist. After his conversion to Christianity in 2000, Adams adjusted his political and social views and spoke publicly on conservatism, including through his column at Townhall.com. From then on, Adams was subjected to “intrusive investigations” and “baseless accusations” according to an ADF press release.

“They retaliated against me for exercising my First Amendment rights in my column and other outlets,” Adams told Campus Reform after the trial. “I’m unbelievably thrilled [at the verdict].”

The case was originally filed in April 2007 and the trial was granted by a federal court last year.

Well done, Alliance Defending Freedom! And congratulations, Mike Adams, for the win! There’s probably no conservative professor in the United States who is more hated than Mike Adams.

However, there is definitely a warning for conservatives here. If you are thinking that the university campus is fair to Christians and conservatives, you really need to re-think that. On the modern secular leftist campus, you can expect to have your views ridiculed and attacked, not just by the professors, but by the students, too. After a little indoctrination, the students are just as likely to ridicule and attack you as the professors are. It’s not a place for free speech and rational discussion, especially outside the sciences. Young Christians and conservatives headed to the university – BEWARE.

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