Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bob Dylan, still misunderstood by American liberals

So says Matthew Schmitz at First Things:
Two days ago, Bob Dylan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And once again we saw the tendency of American liberals to misunderstand a man who has refused to be enlisted in their causes.

President Obama remarked that “No one ever picks up a guitar, or fights a disease, or starts a movement, thinking: ‘You know what? If I keep this up, in 2012 I could get a medal in the White House from a guy named Barack Obama. That wasn’t in the plan. But that’s exactly what makes this award so special.”

Setting aside the odd narcissism of the president’s comment, we see in it yet another instance of liberalism’s long history of misunderstanding Bob Dylan.

Dylan’s work is not about the story of American liberalism. It is not about the Antiwar movement, Civil Rights, or—contra President Obama—the wonder of a black man leading a nation that has long struggled with race, worthy as all these things are. It is about man simpliciter and, often, about man standing before his God.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Two Evangelical seminarian conversion stories.

The one is of a Southern Baptist seminarian, who was received into the Church on the Feast of Pentecost. He presents his story anonymously here. The other is of Joshua Lim, who graduated this Spring with an MA in historical theology from Westminster Theological Seminary in California. (Warning: suppress the impulse to refer to the latter's conversion as "Limsanity." Thank you.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mormonisn, Calvinism, Catholicism, oh my: Webb reviews Mouw

(HT: John W. Morehead)

On the Books & Culture website, Stephen H. Webb reviews Richard Mouw's latest book, Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals. Steve and Rich are both friends of mine. Here's how the review begins:
Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, has two goals in this book. First, he wants evangelicals to stop demonizing Mormons. Second, he wants Mormons to be more Calvinist in their theology.

With the first goal—which will certainly provoke disagreement from some evangelicals—I am entirely in sympathy. I am convinced that we should take Mormons at their word and acknowledge the sincerity of their conviction that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior.

By now we should know better than to judge fellow followers of Jesus by the quality of their philosophical speculations rather than the fruits of their faith. Before long, we may hope, religious prejudices against Mormons will go the way of the once widespread prejudices against Roman Catholics. Mouw's book, written by an insider who can speak with sympathy to Mormon-despisers, will help to bring that about.

Mouw's second goal is a different story. That he—as a Calvinist—would like to see Mormonism become more Calvinistic is hardly surprising, but the two traditions make a very odd couple. The Mormon imagination is edgy and expansive while Calvinism is restrained and ascetic. Mormonism is a compendium of every 19th-century religious movement, including restorationism, apocalypticism, hermeticism, and even a healthy dose of liberalism. It is almost as catholic as the Roman Catholic Church—and that, for Mouw, is precisely its problem. After all, both Mormons and Catholics believe in the historical development of doctrine, divinization as the form of salvation, the need for centralized religious authority, the beauty of ritual, the connection between faith and love, and the existence of a heavenly Mother.

Calvinism, by contrast, is theologically lean and clean. Calvinism teaches "[t]hat God is sovereign and totally 'other' than the creation; that human beings are depraved sinners who are desperately in need of rescue by God; and that salvation is by grace alone." Mormons fail the Calvinist test because they believe that, as Mouw puts it, God and humans are "of the same species ontologically." Mormonism went wrong not with the Book of Mormon but with a flawed metaphysics.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Commitment. Faith. Vision. Baylor University

New video about Baylor's last ten yeas, ending with an introduction to the university's new strategic plan: Pro Futuris


Thursday, May 10, 2012

The President, Jesus, and the Golden Rule

That's the title of my latest entry over at The Catholic Thing. Here's how it begins:
President Barack Obama just announced his support for same-sex “marriage”in an interview with ABC reporter Robin Roberts. In explaining his reasoning, the president offered this theological reflection:

"[Y]ou know… we [the First Lady and I] are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I’ll be as president."


I admire the president for unashamedly invoking the authority and instruction of Christ in revealing to us his internal deliberations on this matter. In an age in which many in our culture-shaping institutions reflexively, and unreflectively, dismiss the deliverances of theology as sub-rational, the president’s forthrightness is refreshing and welcome.

>>>continue reading

Other relevant posts:


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

USU prof’s spiritual journey from Mormon scholar to Catholic convert

This story, that recently appeared in the Salt Lake City Tribune, is about the spiritual journey of my friend, Richard Sherlock, a Utah State University professor of philosophy. Authored by Peggy Fletcher Stack, here's how it begins:
Richard Sherlock is sitting in a majestic Roman cathedral and suddenly senses the Holy Spirit in a profoundly powerful way.

It is a feeling, he reports, yet more than a feeling. An illumination. A hint of truth.

This isn’t the first time the lifelong Mormon intellectual feels God tugging him toward Catholicism, and it won’t be the last. But it is there, in the moment. Real. Palpable.

The Utah State University philosophy professor, who had tussled with life’s big questions since he was a college student, feels he is coming home to a place he should have been all along.

Two years later, during a 2012 Easter vigil, Sherlock is baptized into the faith with three other adults and four teens at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Parish outside Logan.

It marks the culmination of a spiritual search that has taken the 65-year-old through the study of moral theology and the early church fathers, through marriage and loss, debates and interfaith dialogues, from Utah to Boston to New York and back again.

He is exultant. Overcome by emotion. Surrounded by teary-eyed loved ones and, he believes, touched by God.

"It was," Sherlock says, pausing for a word big enough, "glorious."

His childhood in the heart of Mormonism might not have predicted this trajectory, but it did launch him in that direction.

>>>continue reading