- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 15, 2010

Evangelical mind

“Shocking news from the world of Protestant theology: Bruce Waltke, arguably the pre-eminent Old Testament scholar in the field, has resigned from the Reformed Theological Seminary Orlando. Why? It’s not clear, but this comes right after he was excoriated by other conservative Protestant figures for statements made in a video posted to the BioLogos website. …

“According to an eyebrow-raising statement on the BioLogos site, Waltke stated in a video commentary that had been posted to the site that the church needed to come to terms with the fact of evolution, explaining that … refusing to deal with science as it is will marginalize Christians.

“Outrage from the Evangelical community, and a directive from his seminary, compelled Waltke to ask that the video be removed, though he still stands by his position. The unsigned commentary from BioLogos says, in part: ‘The fact that Dr. Waltke felt he was unable to leave the video in place, despite the fact that he still agrees with its contents, is an extremely important statement about the culture of fear within evangelicalism in today’s world.’ …

“Even though I would agree that Waltke’s controversial remarks were overstated, it is all but incomprehensible that in 2010, any American scholar, particularly one of his academic distinction, could be so harshly bullied for stating an opinion consonant with current scientific orthodoxy. … Don’t mistake me, I believe that any and every religion, and religious institution, has the right, and indeed the obligation, to set standards and to enforce them. But is this really the hill these Reformed folks want to die on?”

Rod Dreher, writing on “Evolution defense behind theologian’s ouster?” on April 7 at his Beliefnet blog

Christian culture

“‘In the Middle Ages it rained a lot, the beastly barons kept throwing the peasants into dungeons and there was very little for the poor to eat except potatoes.’ This gallimaufry of Robin Hood meets Blackadder meets Marx on feudalism came from art college students in a survey conducted by the Victoria & Albert Museum in preparation to redisplaying its 3,250 square metres of Medieval and Renaissance Galleries. …

“The survey also showed that most people did not think much of medieval art: flat, ugly and “my children can draw better than this” was the most common reaction. The Renaissance elicited a more favourable, if fairly unsophisticated, reaction. It was seen as being sunny and optimistic; Florence figured largely, and most people could give the names of a few artists.

“But the real wastelands of ignorance were revealed when it came to the stories, theology and liturgy of Christianity, and since 80% of these collections are religious in one way or another, the V&A realised that it had a challenge ahead if it wanted the art to be understood and appreciated.

“This situation is unprecedented in western civilisation: even 50 years ago, when these galleries of one of the richest collections in the world were last displayed in the V&A, they could assume that everyone was familiar with the rudiments of Christianity. Now, in a twinkling of an eye, 2,000 years of culture in the profoundest meaning of the word have been largely forgotten.”

Anna Somers Cocks, writing on “How the Victoria and Albert Museum dealt with the dying of Christianity,” in the December issue of the Art Newspaper

Church politics

“Mark Chaves, professor of sociology at Duke University and director of the National Congregations Study, has this interesting chart detailing how broadly defined Christian groups engage politically. … A close examination will show that the so-called Religious Right — which is what we associate with white evangelicals generally, no? — is not all that politically active, at least relative to the other groups studied.

“In fact, ‘Black Protestant’ congregations appear to be the most consistently ‘political.’ But as they would constitute the Religious Left, at least in the thinking of the mainstream media … any breaching of the wall of separation between church and state is ostensibly less worrying. (Let’s be frank: if you say you are against the death penalty because Jesus was a ‘victim’ of the death penalty misapplied, how many on the secular left would care? But if you say you are against abortion because Jesus was once a fetus in the womb of an unmarried woman — duck.)

Anthony Sacramone, writing on “Taking It to the Streets’ on April 13 at the First Things blog On the Square

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