What does Christ have to offer a post-Christian world?

This is a reflection on the Pew research which shows a diminishment of global Christian population share from 35% in 1910 and 32% in 2010. At first, if one looks at raw numbers, it appears as if Christianity is growing like crazy. This is because there were only 612 million Christians in 1910, but there are now 2.18 billion: An apparent increase of 353% in 100 years! However, in that same time world population has increased 383% from 1.8 billion in 1910 to 6.9 billion in 2010.

This is interesting because Christianity is supposed to be a growth religion- a missionary religion- not a maintenence religion. This stat does not seem problematic until one factors this lack of statistical increase compared to actual population growth. It shows that even though more total people are Christians, the message and vitality of Christianity is slipping as a proportion of culture as a whole.

See the Pew Religion research stats here: http://www.pewforum.org/Christian/Global-Christianity-worlds-christian-population.aspx?src=prc-headline

Even if one juxtaposes the diminution of Christian dominance in Europe and the USA with the rapid growth of Christianity in Asia and Africa, the problem still stands. For on one hand: What culture has not been evangelized more, and in more ways, than the USA? And yet, the "market share" of Christianity here has STILL decreased from well over 90% in 1900 to just under 80% today.


Remembering Hitch

RIP Christopher Hitchens. May Christ have mercy on him. He was a good man. Theologically misguided, but fundamentally driven by a sense of justice that is not accounted for by his own worldview. I will miss the challenge his writings brought to me.



On weight lifting when you are older

This article reflects an older version of my training program. For a version of my training program and philosophy that has worked much better for much longer, see this NEWER POST on weight training and fitness.

A friend of mine who recently lost a bunch of weight asked me about working out. He asked me because I used to give advice on how to work out when I was younger. You see, I used to be a college football player and power lifter. And like many who lifted heavy iron when younger, once "real life" set in (including marriage, kids, grad schools, jobs, and "adult" responsibilities), I have fallen out of shape, and fallen into being about 50-70 lbs over-weight.


Must we become [worldview] Jews to become Christians?

The following is a letter I wrote to Bishop NT Wright about his constant emphasis on the 1st Century Jewish background of the New Testament. I am a big admirer of Wright, and I think he is largely right on in his "New Perspective" on Paul, as well as his strong emphasis on Resurrection as THE Christian Hope. I think his emphasis on the historical and cultural context of the New Testament is also right and necessary. Yet, sadly, it is also inaccessible for most people. If he responds to this email, I will post the reply.


Friend or Frenemy? A Review of Peter Rollins' "Insurrection"

This is an off-the-top-of-my-head review of Peter Rollins newest book "Insurrection", which I read this weekend. The book was incredibly good, in that I deeply enjoyed reading it, and it gave me a great deal to ponder and wrestle with. At the end of the day, I value Rollins' ideas about how to existentially live out our faith in Christ on a daily basis. However, I have serious concerns over Rollins' re-visioning and re-definition of key elements of the Christian tradition. As such, Rollins is a sort of "frenemy" who, on one hand is a very helpful friend in elucidating certain aspects of what it means to follow Jesus in our culture. On the other hand, he is an enemy of certain historic Christian affirmations about God and Christ.

As a "frenemy" of Christ, Rollins maintains a place for God, at the cost of flattening God into just a Name for the structure of human psychological experience. As such, his thought is helpful as a bridge to Christ, in the same way that pantheism, panentheism, psychoanalysis and even Marxism can be bridges to Christ, all of which offer various points of commonality and intersection with Christ while also displaying broad areas of discordance. Here are some of the theological moves that Rollins makes in the book:


Ockham Rap

This has to be one of the Geekiest things I have ever written. I am co-teaching a class called "The God Debate" about religious belief and unbelief. Several of the thinkers we have examined on both sides of the debate have referred to William of Ockham and his [in]famous "razor". For those who do not know, Ockham was a 14th century Franciscan Friar, a professor at the University of Oxford, one of the founders of the scientific method, and also excommunicated by the Pope for reasons that are partially philosophical and mostly political. Anyway, I thought, "Hey, I should write a rap song to explain Ockham." So, I did. What makes this even stranger is that I am more of a mystical Thomist with a serious affection for postmodern deconstruction. So, it is odd that after an hour and a half of doodling, this came out:


The Moral Argument Against Religion

I am currently reading and teaching from the infamous books by Christopher Hitchens "God is not Great". In pondering Hitchens' arguments against God, I find myself continually underwhelmed (although very entertained). I do not find him persuasive, but rather rhetorically brilliant.

I think that the god Hitchens is arguing against is a god which I would argue against: A kind of "dictator in the sky" who cannot wait to damn the maximum number of people possible. The god he lambasts seems to be an evil elementary school principal writ large, and as such is the common concept of god among grade schoolers and teenagers. And since this is the age when a great many people stop going to Sunday School or challenging their ideas of god, it is also the god of a great many Americans.


A Politics of Virtue

I have been struggling for quite some time to figure out where I fit politically, and crystalize it into some coherent form I could communicate with others. After reading quite a bit from the Left, some from the Right, and a healthy smattering of Hauerwas, Radical Orthodoxy, and MacIntyre, I have come across a concept called by some "Politics of Virtue" (cf. Philip Blonde). I think this is a pretty good summary of where I am at.

So, before I give my summary statement, I would like to clarify two things: What I mean by "politics" and "virtue".


Development and Dimension

Today I encountered a valid critique of my concept of development which I made use of in my essay on dealing with "contradictions" in the Bible. The critique is that I lumped all of the Old Testament into a lower developmental level (that of a child) as compared to the New Testament. In turn, both the OT and NT were lumped into a lower level than current culture.

This brings up the conception that I think the OT is "child's play", and even worse, that we are somehow morally superior to ancient cultures. This is patently untrue, since by any objective calculation the 20th century was the most brutal and violent on record.

My first response is to say that this objection is dealt with by understanding what I mean by "development" in my essay on developmental revelation. It clarifies a few things:


Dealing with the "contradictions" in the Bible

On a fairly regular basis, one of my students will come to me with questions about whether the Bible contradicts itself. Sometimes their faith is shaken. Sometimes they are trying to find a reason not to believe in the Bible. Whether they are shaken or skeptical, their underlying concern is this: How could a perfect, truthful God give us an imperfect, flawed Book?

This week, I wrote one of my students the following essay on "Bible contradictions". What may surprise you is that I disagree with many Christian attempts to "defend" the Bible almost as much as I disagree with skeptical attempts to debunk it. It seems that most modern skeptics and many modern Christians are guilty of reading the Bible wrongly: In a way that is completely foreign to the purposes and materials found in Scripture itself.


On Bin Laden's Death

A Reading from 1st Timothy, chapter 2:

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

Today has been a day of celebration around the western world as we hear news that one of the leaders of world terrorism, Osama Bin Laden, has been killed.

But before we celebrate too hastily, I would like to remind you all of the gravity of this situation. Bin Laden's death, the death of his henchmen, and the death of the innocent human shields who were used to stop American bullets, are just the top of an immense heap of dead bodies and destruction.


Thoughts on Gaga's "Judas"

For most folks inclined to hate Gaga, I think she spoon feeds them material in her song Judas. Once people hear the following lyric, I bet many will nod with a self-satisfied grin and say "told ya so!":

"In the most Biblical sense,
I am beyond repentance
Fame hooker, prostitute wench, vomits her mind..."

But is there more to this song than sheer shock? Perhaps. I think a lot will be revealed when we see the video that goes with the song. But, in lieu of the video, I will say this:


Ode to Infotainment

Ode to Infotainment
2011. Nathan L. Bostian

In an age of simple slogans and blustery books / How shall we show an argument's lame?

Some resort to snide sneers and haughty looks / But that only fans the emotional flame.

Some complain of ad hominems and ad hocs / But that sounds like an unending whine.

Some argue with evidence and logic / But that only casts pearls before swine.

Of all the ways one may disagree / With a pundit's pride and brawn:

I suppose the most effective may be / To simply shrug and yawn.


Developmental Revelation and Divine Violence

Copyright 2011 © Nathan L. Bostian | natebostian@gmail.com

1. The Puzzle of Developmental Revelation:I have long puzzled over the problem of so-called "progressive revelation" in Scripture. This is the fact that clearly, certain concepts about God, and God's relation to the world (especially in judgement), seems to change radically over the course of Scripture. In particular, we glimpse an often messy trajectory that goes from the divine sanction of violence in the early Hebrew Scriptures, to divine rejection of violence in Christ.


The Sacrament of Servanthood

Based on Matthew 25.31-46
Copyright 2011 © The Rev. Nate Bostian

I want to start today by doing something that every preaching manual, and every good preacher, will agree is something you should never do: I want to start by talking about a word that many people find confusing, many others think of as boring, and almost everyone will agree has nothing to do with the subject of hunger.

That word is "sacrament".

When I say the word sacrament, what images and ideas come to your mind?
This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.