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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Atheists of a Different Kind

According to philosopher John Gray, there are more than we imagine. His book, Seven Types of Atheism, is reviewed by Terry Eagleton in The Guardian. Just as interesting to me is Gray’s pessimism, which contrasts with the optimism of other well-known atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris who believe human beings are getting better and better. But, says Eagleton,
If there is anything he [Gray] detests, it is schemes of visionary transformation. He is a card-carrying misanthrope for whom human life has no unique importance, and for whom history has been little more than the sound of hacking and gouging. One might note that Christianity is as pessimistic as Gray but a lot more hopeful as well.

Sin as Addiction

Christians have been pondering the human condition for some time, of course. I find it interesting when a scientific finding coincides with Christian pessimism about human nature. This article, whose subtitle reads, “A philosopher explains why addiction isn’t a moral failure,” resonates almost perfectly with this passage of the apostle Paul: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Rom. 7:15). The language describing addiction sounds eerily similar. But the author’s point is not that we have absolutely no control over addiction but that:
The messy truth about addiction is that it lies somewhere in between choice and compulsion. Addictive cravings work in much the same way as the cravings that everyone experiences—for Netflix or chips, say. They do not simply take over one’s muscles like an internal puppeteer. Instead, they pull one’s choices toward the craved object, like a psychological kind of gravity.
This gets at the mystery of sin as something we can’t help and something we choose. So in that regard, addiction, like any sin (defined as any behavior that leads to our moral or spiritual destruction), is indeed a moral failure—but not necessarily something in which we are fully complicit (Rom. 7:15!). The point I take away is that I should approach the addict with compassion and mercy, not because his behavior is amoral but because I am no different than the opioid addict, only addicted to different self-destructive behaviors (most of them more socially respectable).

How to Win the War on Terror

The little country of Somaliland seems to have a lock on this, even though it’s right next door to one of the most terror-ridden countries, Somalia. Apparently, it has to do with their strict clan system.

On Second Thought, He Didn’t Go to Heaven

“After growing up and retracting his controversial account of ‘coming back from heaven,’ 20-year-old Alex Malarkey is now suing the Christian publisher who made his story famous, then infamous.” So begins one of our news stories from last week. The young man says he lied to get attention and now deeply regrets it.
We are right to be skeptical of all such stories, but in my research on the topic, I did find some that seem credible. Such experiences remain a deep mystery, and we are wise not to dismiss them all, nor to believe them all.

The Hardest Pitch to Hit

Speaking of the impossible, at least for most of us: try hitting a major league fastball. I once tried to hit 70 mph pitches from a softball machine. Couldn’t get my bat around in time. I don’t know if I could even see a 105 mph major league fastball. Anyway, as baseball season emerges again, enjoy this piece on the physics of throwing and hitting its premier pitch.
Grace and peace,

Mark GalliMark Galli
Mark Galli
Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today

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