Monthly Archives: January 2012

A Busy Academic Year

2012 is gearing up to be a very busy year for me academically. The plan is to have all of my courses done by Christmas and then all I’ll have left is my thesis. While this is very exciting, it is also a little overwhelming.

Here’s what this year looks like for me:

Next week: Theology of Forgiveness and Reconciliation

February: Finish my Greek II course (by distance learning)

March: Reformation Era

May: The Patristic Fathers

June: Theology of Christ and Reconciliation

Fall Semester: Spiritual Formation; Theology of God & Creation; Research Methods; Pauline Epistles

Any tips on how to stay sane?

A Continuation on the New Tech Post

Earlier this week I wrote about how we ditched our landline for cellphones. It’s interesting to see how our use of technology has changed over the last several years. For example, the landline phone has given way to cellphones and video chat with our families in Alaska and Ontario. For local friends, I tend to either email or text (or just talk in person, since this is a small town).

Nearly two years ago, given the privacy issues, I committed Facebook suicide. It was a good thing to do, and I don’t regret it. Add to it, at the time, I was primarily using Facebook to place time-wasting games. But as I am in the process of re-evaluating how I use technology to communicate, I find it’s time to reactivate the Facebook account. I had hoped that Google+ would replace Facebook, but at the moment, it looks like Facebook is the social behemoth.

So, I’m back on Facebook. You can find me on Facebook or on Twitter, or through email. And of course, you can always find me blogging here and at Political Jesus. (Speaking of, I’ve got a series to post at PJ in a couple of weeks on Angel and the theology of forgiveness. Should be good!).

Some Thoughts on Pinnock’s ‘A Wideness in God’s Mercy’

At the heart of Pinnock’s theology is a belief in the ‘unbounded generosity’ of God, and he sums up his understanding of this generosity with 2 Peter 3:9. (pg. 18) Pinnock emphasizes the universality of the gospel with John 3:16 being central to the gospel message: God loved the whole world. Christ died to reconcile the world to God.

Pinnock places a strong emphasis on the doctrine of general revelation, that is, that God has revealed Himself enough in the world that even those who have not seen the special revelation of Jesus are able to make a choice to worship and follow God. Thus, God will take into account how people have responded to the knowledge of God they have received in their context. This is a strength in Pinnock’s book, for he rightly argues that we are ‘saved by faith’ and that there are numerous examples of people being accepted by God apart from the OT law (e.g., Moses, Job, Melchizedek etc.).

Second, Pinnock emphasizes the theme of corporate election in Scripture. He sees a continual pattern of ‘a choosing of some on behalf of the many’ (pg. 25), where because of the obedience of one person (Abraham, Noah, Jesus), God’s mercy is extended to many. Thus, election is not about God choosing who will be saved and who will be damned for all eternity, but rather, election is about being called to be witnesses and to proclaim that “God is healing the nations through the mediation of his son, rather than in some other way.” (pg. 49) The nation of Israel was to be this for the ancient world, and Christians are to be this for the world today.

Another reason to be hopeful for the unevangelized is that, through the Holy Spirit, God continues to work to redeem all of creation. He is “everywhere active in pursuing the plan of redemption disclosed in the gospel.” (pg. 103) And while God may be working to redeem social structures, including religion, it does not mean that all religions are therefore equally valid paths of salvation. (pg. 109) Indeed, Pinnock acknowledges that some religious structures are more opposed to God’s good purposes than others, and that religions are not immune from the work of Satan. Even if a religion is not effective for salvation, it does not mean that God is unable to call people from within that religion to Himself. (pg. 110)

Pinnock is correct that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God and Father of Jesus is not a ‘miser’ who delights in sending people to hell. (pg. 154) But this does not mean that everyone will be in heaven. Indeed, Pinnock affirms the need to retain humanity’s right to say ‘no’ to God.

The attractiveness of Pinnock’s hopeful theology is unfortunately complicated by Pinnock’s use of Scripture. As was discussed numerous times in class, Scripture proof-texts that Pinnock uses to support his argument do not always actually do that. One example would be his interpretation of Rev 7:9. Pinnock suggests that, because people from every tribe and tongue will be surrounding the throne of the lamb, this is evidence of a “substantial number of unevangelized.” (pg. 153) Another interpretation could be that the saving work of Christ is not limited to an ‘elect’ people like Israel alone. Instead, the good news is for all the nations, and there will be people from different walks of life who will respond to and choose Jesus as Lord.

Twenty years after the publication of A Wideness in God’s Mercy, the conversation continues. Whether it is books aimed at the general public, like Rob Bell’s Love Wins and Rachel Held Evans’ Evolving in Monkey Town, or academic discussions like this year’s conference topic at the Evangelical Theological Society, the question of salvation among the nations is still being explored. And I as attempt to navigate the theological waters of this topic, I find myself wanting to make sure that both God’s and humanity’s freedom are central. Are we free to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation? I find myself leaning towards C.S. Lewis’ portrayal of hell: that all those in hell have chosen to be there. (the Great Divorce) Is God free to do what He wants? A universalist approach to salvation restricts God’s freedom just as much as a theology of double predestination does.

Ultimately, as a Christian, my job is to preach the good news: Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. I trust in a good and faithful God, and I know that one day every knee will bow at the name of Jesus. My hope is that those who have not heard the gospel, when confronted by Jesus in glory, will choose to bow and worship and that Jesus will stand beside them as mediator before the judgment throne that we all must face. But this hope does not mean that I am released from the calling to be a light to the world, and to proclaim the good news; nor does this hope reflect what will actually happen.

While the fate of the unevangelized can be an important topic, I find that that isn’t my biggest concern. My heart breaks for those who have heard the good news and have turned away, or those who do not even see the need for the good news in their lives. These are the people that I interact with daily. These are family and friends whom I love dearly. They’re good people. In many ways they are nicer, more compassionate, more loving and more self-sacrificing than most Christians I know (myself included). These are the people that I thank God for every day. Without them my life would be less. These are the people that I lay before the altar of prayer and cry out to God to send his Holy Spirit to soften their hearts. I cry out for God’s mercy and for his grace to cover their lives. And yet, at the same time, I respect their choice to say ‘no’ to God’s good gift.

Living in Caronport

This morning it is -30 C. With the windchill it is -38 C. For my American friends, -40 is where Celsius and Fahrenheit meet.

In other words: IT’S COLD.

It’s the “too cold to go anywhere” cold;

It’s the “if you haven’t plugged your car in, you may not get it started” cold;

It’s the “if you live in one of the trailers, you may have frozen pipes.” (and yes, there have already been several people this morning who woke up to that wonderful gift).

The deep freeze is going to last a couple of days. But, in perspective, it’s already the middle of January. We’ve had a very mild winter. At the beginning of January we were dealing with double digit positive temperatures.

And so, this cold snap isn’t nearly as depressing as it could be. Even if it lasted for a couple of weeks, remember that winter is already half over and March is just around the corner.

So try to make the best of it.

Stay inside with a wonderful cup of cocoa.

Put on a movie, and curl up on the couch under a warm blanket.

Unless, of course, you have class today. In which case, make sure you’re bundled like this (starting @1min 11s):

Off Topic: New Tech in the C-W House

The cheese-wearing household has ditched our landline telephone. It’s been a long time coming. We had a landline and a cell, and we started looking at prices and we could have two cells cheaper than the landline/cell combination. Add to this, my old school 2GB ipod was on its last legs, and Chuck had been wanting an ipod of his own. So we took the plunge and got two cellphones. We were able to get 2 iphones at a really cheap deal and we love them.

Of course we’re at the “Look! New Toy!” stage. I’ve downloaded some of my music collection. Chuck’s taken pictures. My general ringtone is the theme song from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (surprise, surprise). The ringtone for when Chuck calls me is the theme from Star Trek: TOS (surprise, surprise).

We’ve even been playing with some different apps.

So here’s my question: What apps do you find to be the most used on your cell phone? Which apps turned out to be overrated?

Reminder About the Biblioblogging Carnival

Just a reminder that the next Biblioblog Carnival will be hosted here at Cheese-Wearing Theology on February 1st. I’m collecting posts from around the blogosphere, so if you’ve seen something of note, let me know by sending me the link in the comments, tweeting it to me @CWTheology or by emailing me.

{{{{{cdntheologianscholar}}}} AT {{{mac}}} DOT com.

Being a Smart Consumer of the Academic Literature: Gender Differences and the Comp/Egal Debate

The CBMW blog has a post up highlighting research that supposedly agrees with the timeless truth that men and women are different. Jeff Robinson writes:

That this research and story confirms the obvious aside, this represents something of a landmark admission by a secular science journal. Since the advent of feminism in the 1960s, secular academics and researchers have been hard at the task of seeking to prove that gender differences are negligible, circumstantial and not a part of design.
This research once again confirms God’s good and design: He has created men and women in His image to play equally valuable, but complementary roles. To accomplish this, it has pleased God to equip us with different gifts, different strengths and different weaknesses-all perfectly congruent with those of the opposite gender. It will be interesting to see how much play this article gets in the media and how (or if) the secular academy responds.

So what does this mean? Is Mr. Robinson being a smart consumer of the research literature, or is this an example of selecting and spinning for the purpose of upholding an agenda?

To examine this, I turn to Dr. Charles Hackney for assistance. As a psychology professor, Chuck has the huge task of teaching his students how to be smart readers and how to properly use their “B.S.ometers”. Here are some tips on how to critically evaluate the research being presented:

Find the actual study:

Don’t just go to the media write up. The actual study can be found here.

Evaluate the Journal:

PLoS-ONE is an open-access journal that charges authors money to publish their papers, does not assess the quality of the study beyond the technical aspects, and accepts 70% of papers submitted (by contrast, the journals published by the APA have an average 71% rejection rate, and the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, which published Chuck’s meta-analysis, has an 80% rejection rate). So it’s not a great journal.

Evaluate the research methodology and conclusions of the study:

The authors of the study deliberately (and explicitly) chose methodological and analytic approaches that they believed would maximize observed gender differences, then claimed that this made their approach “better.” This is a dubious move, that has been criticized by a number of other researchers.

Part of the authors’ argument is that previous research has relied on broad-brush personality theories like the Five Factor Model, and their use of 16 factors provides a more detailed analysis. Fine, except for the fact that FFM personality tests further break down the five factors into smaller subfactors. The most well-known FFM measure, for example, does provide five scores representing overall personality traits, but also provides a more detailed break down involving 30 more specific facets. One study, published in 2001, involved administering an earlier version of this measure to over 23,000 participants in 26 cultures. The researchers did find gender differences in 28 of the 30 facets, but these differences were small to moderate in size. The size of the differences also varied from one culture to another. This points to another limitation in the study, and the conclusions that might be drawn from it. The study published in PLoS-ONE only drew their participants from the US, which limits our ability to generalize the results to all humans. (The 2001 study, by the way, was cited in the PLoS-ONE article, but the authors only talked about it in terms of the five broad traits, and then claimed that their more specific 16-factor approach was better.)

Evaluate the Blog Post:

First, there is a difference between “gender differences” and “inherent gender differences.” Gender differences (and that includes personality differences) are often substantial, but are the product of both biological and social factors. So finding larger differences than previous studies found does not lock us into the interpretation that these differences are all about God’s design. Also, the CBMW author rails against secular academics who are trying to prove that gender differences are “negligible, circumstantial and not a part of design,” but ignores the fact that the study (which I’m guessing he didn’t read) is about a conflict between academics who expect gender differences to be small and other academics (mostly evolutionary psychologists) who expect them to be large.

In addition, the CBMW author finishes off with a snarky expectation that the story will be ignored by the mainstream media and the academy. First problem: his source for the story IS the mainstream media (The Telegraph). Also, a quick google search shows that the story is being run by all sorts of mainstream news-media sources.

Pointing to a poorly written study in a poor-quality journal and using it to “prove” an organization’s position actually serves to undercut the credibility of said organization.