Faith: February 2006 Archives

It's the golden age of the autodidact.

An increasing number of universities are making course materials available online for free. The materials can't be used for course credit, but they are available for one's personal enlightenment and enrichment. Two institutions where I gained some higher learning offer online course material.

First, there's the MIT OpenCourseware program.

For example, the Urban Studies and Planning department offers materials from well over 50 undergraduate and graduate courses, with syllabi, reading lists, lecture notes, and assignments. Their introductory course, 11.001J, looks like an excellent, well, introduction, to the history, terminology, and trends of urban planning.

The Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department offers everything I took in my undergraduate program, including the four foundational courses taken by all Course VI undergrads (Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, Circuits and Electronics, Signals and Systems, Computation Structures); Artificial Intelligence; Automata, Computability, and Complexity. They even have Strobe Lab, including the required lab experiments (student must supply own stroboscope, rifle, ammunition, and target objects).

Back in the early '90s, our church offered extension courses from Covenant Theological Seminary, and I took about a half-dozen until our church dropped out of the program. Covenant, in St. Louis, was founded in 1956 as the seminary of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), a denomination which, through a couple of mergers, became part of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), which denomination the seminary now serves. (There's a newer EPC, founded in the 1980s, which has no connection with the earlier denomination.)

Anyway, Covenant Worldwide offers materials from the 20 courses that would constitute the Master of Arts in Theological Studies program if you were taking the courses on campus. For each course there is lecture audio in MP3 format, plus lecture notes in PDF format, and a list of recommended reading materials.

I can highly recommend Ancient and Medieval Church History and Reformation and Modern Church History, both taught by Prof. David Calhoun. One of my fond memories about his lectures is that he always began with a prayer written in the age he is covering in the lecture.

The Francis Schaeffer course is interesting, too -- not only because it's about the background, life, and work of the renowned evangelical writer, but because the milestones of his life were the milestones that shaped modern evangelicalism, from the fundamentalist/modernist controversy in the '20s, through the break between separation-minded fundamentalists and evangelicals in the '50s, to the beginnings of Christian political activism in the late '70s.

I've never heard his lectures on theology, but Robert Peterson served as pulpit supply at our church during two periods when we were between pastors, and he's a wonderful teacher. His course, Humanity, Christ, and Redemption is online.

Many thanks to TulipGirl for the tip.

Some interesting faith-related items from the blogroll:

Swamphopper wonders about the latest release from some prominent evangelical leaders (including Purpose-peddler Rick Warren) calling for an end to global warming:

These are the questions going through my mind today: What will the evangelical church look like ten or twenty years from now? What happens when the gospel becomes an occasional sermon slipped in among series of social topics, "conservative" or "liberal" ones? What happens when the gospel, the good news of Christ crucified and resurrected, becomes a side note rather than the main theme of worship?

Dan Paden has a review of By His Grace and for His Glory: A Historical, Theological, and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life. Tom Nettles begins with the origins of the Baptist movement in 17th century England and traces the influence of what is commonly called Calvinism through the Baptist history in America. Dan mentions that the book traces the decline of the doctrines of grace in the Southern Baptist Convention from the 1920s. I wonder if it deals with the influence of E. Y. Mullins, identified by Harold Bloom in The American Religion as steering the Southern Baptist Convention in a Gnostic direction, a direction that prevailed until the conservative resurgence of the 1908s and 1990s.

The Internet Monk says that "Romeo Is Better Off Dead":

As best I can tell, romance is our poor imitative version of the love of God that is ours in the Gospel; a kind of minor league salvation story for people who need to be “saved” from being alone and unloved. What the love of God in the Final Word, Jesus the messiah and mediator, is for us infinitely and perfect, romance imitates and celebrates imperfectly, and often, tragically.

His thoughts on romance haven't been formed in a vacuum:

It is hard for me to explain what the accumulated experiences of thirty years of listening to teenagers will do for one’s view of romance. Perhaps it is best expressed in what I might say about my own children. I would pray for them the deepest experiences of sacrificial, passionately humanizing love for another person, but I would never, ever wish upon them the kind of intoxication of mind and emotions that could make life, friends, family and all other experiences worthless in comparison to the attentions of the beloved.

Is rekindling romance the way to heal a wounded marriage? iMonk thinks not and explains why. Read the whole thing.

There's been a lot of discussion about the remarks of a guru of the Emerging Church Movement. Brian McLaren wrote, in an article on pastoral response to homosexuality, "Frankly, many of us don't know what we should think about homosexuality. We've heard all sides but no position has yet won our confidence so that we can say 'it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us.'" David Wayne has links to the initial article and the responses it generated, along with his own thoughts:

I am certainly not laughing at anything Brian McLaren has said and appreciate his pastoral passion. But in telling pastors they need to respond pastorally to the homosexual question he isn't telling them anything they haven't always been doing. Pastors have been responding pastorally as long or longer than french fries have been being made out of potatoes. What he seems to be suggesting is that we go beyond tolerating, loving, accepting and caring for the person, to being more tolerant of the sin itself.

Doug Wilson thinks that McLaren's handwringing over the issue is about "lusting after respect from the world, which they will not give to you unless you are busy making plenty of room for their lusts."

On a related note, Al Mohler responds to a New York Times column by Dan Savage, who says that Christians are foolish to want homosexuals to "convert" and enter into straight marriages, predicting that "if every gay man became ex-gay tomorrow... millions of straight women would wake up one morning to discover that they had married a Jack or an Ennis." Mohler says we should thank Savage for what he wrote, because it's a reminder of "the deceitfulness of sin, and its ability to imprison us. We need to be reminded that this is true for all humanity, heterosexuals and homosexuals alike."

We need to be reminded that sexual desires (call them an orientation, profile, or whatever) are deeply rooted in our own sexual selves, with some parts consciously known to us and other parts unknown. We need to be reminded that the sin of homosexuality seems especially (though not uniquely) prone to hold its victims in bondage.

But, beyond all this, we really need to be reminded that we really do believe that the Gospel can and will completely transform sinners, and that the Holy Spirit does perform His work of sanctification within the life of the believer. And this means that we really do believe that homosexuals can come out of the sin of homosexuality by God's power.

Finally, Bowden McElroy has a thorough roundup on the controversy at the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board. I haven't followed the matter closely, but it seems to be about the validity of baptisms performed in non-Baptist churches, something I remember from my Baptist upbringing as a matter of dispute. (If you're wondering, that's the "xenobaptism" mentioned in the title. It means "foreign baptism" and has nothing whatsoever to do with Xenu or body thetans.)

(If you wish to comment, please join the ongoing discussions at the blog entries linked above.)

I received an urgent prayer request from Israel this morning. Herbby and Anne Geer, representatives of the Southern Baptist Convention in Israel, have been denied visa renewals, an unprecedented act by the Interior Ministry:

This past week, we have been told by the Ministry of Interior, here in Israel, that they will not renew our A3 visa, and they have requested that we leave the country. They have refused to give a reason, namely, they don't have a legal one. Never in the history of the Southern Baptists has a visa been denied. We are here because of a historical right (Baptists were in Israel pre-1948), and also because of the Law of Status Quo (Israel and the US have an agreement which allows the exchange of Religious persons between the two countries).

Such a move by the Ministry of Interior would be precedent setting, one we can't allow to happen. It could impact the whole Christian community within Israel.

On Sunday, the Lawyer for the Southern Baptists and our business manager will approach the offices responsible for the decision to deny our visa.

We ask you to pray on this day: pray that the Lord would reverse the decision.

I received this message from Phil and Heidi Litle, friends from college who are also in Israel on Southern Baptist visas, working with the Christian community in Haifa.

I suspect this change has something to do with the political situation leading up to the March 28 parliamentary elections there. The voting system is an extreme form of proportional representation, and it often results in very small but very intense parties holding the balance of power as a major party tries to build a ruling coalition. Often the ultra-religious parties wind up holding all the cards, trading their support for key cabinet posts, such as the Ministry of Interior, which deals with immigration and religious regulation.

These ultra-religious groups want Christianity out of Israel. They are especially angry about Christian groups who provide help to Jews who have immigrated to Israel from the old Soviet Union. Their opposition has kept many Christian workers out of Israel. Nevertheless, until now, the Israeli government has "grandfathered" the visas that were allocated to Baptists, Catholics, Orthodox, and other Christian groups prior to independence in 1948. The decision not to renew the Geers' visa reveals that the respect for precedent is gone, and that puts the presence of every foreign Christian worker in jeopardy.

Please pray, and contact your congressman and senators and express your concern.

To get a flavor of the Geers' work in Israel, here's a story from the Anniston, Alabama, Star about their involvement in the Maccabiah Games.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Faith category from February 2006.

Faith: January 2006 is the previous archive.

Faith: March 2006 is the next archive.

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