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Friday, February 8, 2019

Two Cheers for Weather Forecasters

Whatever Happened to Evangelical Christianity?

That’s what Roger Olson ponders in a recent blog. Olson, professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University, has produced some of the clearest and fair-minded books on the history of theology, so when he ponders something, it’s well worth pondering as well. In this piece, his focus is on the culture of evangelical Christianity of the recent past—training programs for lay evangelism, focus on overseas missions, emphasis on Bible knowledge, etc.) and notes its near complete disappearance.
I believe the evaporation of these cultural markers is a sign of deeper issues, which I will examine in a forthcoming book whose working title is Born Again—Again. So this link is designed to get you thinking about this topic and (yes, shamelessly) to encourage you to look forward to my book. Assuming the publisher thinks the manuscript—nearly finished—is in decent shape, it could be released in the fall.
You Are What You Read
Speaking of cultural practices and religious devotion, Michael Brendan Dougherty notes how social media is used like a daily devotional feed for many, with unhappy consequences. He starts by talking about how liturgy and religious custom work on us, for example:
This is how humans think and reason: liturgically. We read things repetitively, say things repetitively, and experience things repetitively—and by doing so we train our heart, our gut, and our mind to react a certain way as our lives unfold.
To do anything repeatedly, regularly—like checking Twitter or a newsfeed many times a day, not to mention first thing in the morning—is training us what to think about and even how to think. It ends up shaping our character whether we like it or not.
This presents a nearly insolvable problem for those of us in the media whose jobs require us to check such things constantly throughout the day. We Christians are not unaware of the problem, believe me. One of my colleagues has started to ignore Twitter on the weekends to keep her mind in a good place. May her tribe increase.
Death on Demand at Both Ends
Last week there was national fervor over comments and laws in two different states that suggested that leading politicians and many citizens are not particularly troubled by infanticide. Details of the controversy, as well as patient and wise comment is given by Matthew Lee Anderson here.
At the other end of our life span, The Guardian published an in-depth article on “Death on Demand: Has Euthanasia Gone too Far?” The author looks at what has happened in the Netherlands since euthanasia was legalized in that country in 2002. What starts in the Netherlands doesn’t stay there, and so we are wise to see how this social experiment is working—or better, not working—and brace ourselves for the debate to make its way to North America.
Two Cheers for Weather Forecasters
Having endured the infamous polar vortex last week, I was intrigued by the headline “Modern Weather Forecasts Are Stunningly Accurate.” How accurate? Certainly much better than in the past:
How much better? “A modern five-day forecast is as accurate as a one-day forecast was in 1980,” says a new paper, published last week in the journal Science. “Useful forecasts now reach nine to 10 days into the future.”
And “Modern 72-hour predictions of hurricane tracks are more accurate than 24 hour forecasts were 40 years ago.”
So that at least helps me justify my many-times-a-day devotional reading of my weather app—at least it’s an accurate reading of the world for the coming week.
Grace and peace,

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

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