CT Blog

The March for Science Is Willing to Get Political. But Will It Welcome Religion?

How evangelical scientists square their place in the global movement.

Hundreds of thousands of researchers, educators, and doctors will take to the streets tomorrow, holding nerdy signs and sporting pins with slogans like “I Believe in Science.”

For many of them, that’s not all they believe in. Evangelicals’ involvement in the upcoming March for Science reflects their unique place in the sector. Despite all the motivations and concerns they share with their secular counterparts, there’s still some tension over how their faith fits in a field built on empirical facts—especially as the movement employs those facts toward political ends.

The event was initially inspired by fear over anticipated “gag orders” on government scientists following President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The march ballooned from Washington, DC, to more than 500 locations worldwide. Over the past three months, organizers pushed for the scientific community to find common ground to celebrate the role of scientific discovery in society and policy.

“I would hope that the presence of Christians in the march can show that theists and non-theists can look through the microscope together and come to the exact same conclusions,” said Mike Beidler, the president of the Washington, DC, chapter of the American Scientific Affiliation, a network for Christians in science. “The only difference is that the theist then moves beyond the awe of discovery to an attitude of worship of the Creator.”

More than 2 million of the 12 million scientists in the United States identify as evangelical, according to research by Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund. March organizers nodded to faith’s place at the march when their diversity committee stated a ...

Continue reading...

Cease Squirming and Know That I Am God: Why Don’t We Share the Gospel?

We share the gospel because men and women need to know they are loved by God.

I’ve seen people squirm and fidget whenever the topic of evangelism is mentioned. Of course, the reasons vary from person to person.

Awkwardness

I wonder if some feel awkward engaging in an activity they’ve never, or seldom, done. They are awkward when it comes to sharing their faith.

But I’m convinced that none of us is very life-skilled, even about significant features of life. For instance, nobody is ready to get married; if we waited until we were, we would miss those joys of life. Nobody is ready to have children; if we waited until we were, the whole human race would end in this generation.

And nobody is ready to share their faith; if we waited until we were, the mission of God, mediated through His people, would come to a halt.

We cannot wait until we are ready. We function awkwardly throughout life. A toddler learning to walk falls down and gets bruised. A six-year-old taking the training wheels off the bicycle falls down and gets scratched. In fact, every new endeavor in life reveals that we are awkward. One could say if we are not awkward someplace in our lives, then we are just not growing.

Historical Baggage

For others, the squirming about evangelism may be a result of watching those who shared the gospel abusively. There are those who use the Bible as if it were a club to coerce and bludgeon people to God. Such insensitivity seldom bears kingdom fruit. Nevertheless, those who are turned off by abuse fail to realize that silence in matters of the gospel also contributes to the failure of the Church; it does not correct the abuse.

In fact, Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Summa Theologica that “an abuse does not nullify a proper use.” If we judged any segment of society by its worst examples, ...

Continue reading...

Blasphemy Blocks Re-Election of Indonesia’s Only Christian Governor

But after losing Jakarta race, Ahok finds some favor in court.

The blasphemy charges that cost Indonesia’s top Christian politician his re-election race won’t send him to jail.

Just a day after Basuki Purnama—popularly known as Ahok—conceded the runoff for governor of Jakarta, prosecutors recommended a light sentence of two years probation instead of the maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Ahok, a double minority in the archipelago as a Christian and as an Indonesian citizen who is ethnically Chinese, secured approval ratings as high as 70 percent in the capital region during his campaign. But when the anti-corruption crusader was accused of distorting a Qur‘an teaching to convince the nation’s overwhelming Muslim majority to vote for a Christian, public opinion shifted dramatically.

Ahok repeatedly denied the claims as a translation error, and accused Indonesia’s hardline Muslim groups of coordinating an attack against him. He ultimately conceded Wednesday’s election, trailing in the polls by less than 10 percentage points.

But Christians’ prayers were answered the following day, when government prosecutors decided to end the trial against him, CBN reported. The official sentencing ruling will come in early May.

“Ahok is very positive. He says that everything is in God’s hands and that everything has a purpose,” said Lucille Talusan, CBN’s Indonesia correspondent. “Even if he is under trial for what is happening in his life, he believes that one day God is going to bring him back to his calling. The first thing in his heart is to serve his people in Indonesia.”

The 50-year-old still sees a future for himself in Indonesian politics and hopes to be president. Indonesia still hasn’t ever directly ...

Continue reading...

‘The Lost City of Z’ Points to the City That Is to Come

The thrilling story of British explorer Percy Fawcett dramatizes our search for a transcendent home.

James Gray’s The Lost City of Z opens with a rousing sequence of sport: British army officers on horseback, galloping through the picturesque Irish country on a stag hunt. Complete with a bagpipe score, sweeping vistas, and shots of adoring wives and children cheering on their men, the scene embodies masculine attraction to danger, adventure, exploration and competition. When Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) wins the hunt and shoots the stag, he raises a toast with his fellow hunters, with words that should resonate with those of us who just celebrated Easter: “To death, the best source of life.”

The scene is important for character development, positioning Fawcett as an ambitious, genteel, but insecure man seeking to prove his manly mettle and bolster his soldierly reputation. But the scene also introduces some of the film’s questions about the nature of man: What are we really after when we seek to hunt a stag—especially when it’s an animal we don’t need to eat? When we aren’t fighting for survival (as in war or wilderness exploration), why must men seek to fight in sport, game, politics, and more? Need there be a concrete mission or prize, or is the point simply in the struggle itself, the test of strength? In what sense is death the best source of life?

Based on David Grann’s 2009 book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon—and, before that, Grann’s 2005 New Yorker story—the film follows the adventures of Fawcett, who pioneered multiple explorations into the Bolivian jungle between 1906 and 1925. At first commissioned by the Royal Geographic Society to survey the land for mapmaking purposes (and to act as a third party between ...

Continue reading...

How to End Sibling Rivalry Like a Christian

No teasing, no favorites, and hours and hours of time with one other.

Sibling friendship is a countercultural notion. TV shows, movies, and books rarely portray siblings as allies. Sibling rivalry has been elevated from an occasional challenge to the cultural norm.

Under this norm, parents function as referees and judges—breaking up fights, assigning blame, and steering siblings to leave each other alone. But the Bible indicates that siblinghood (both spiritual and physical) consists of more than simply tolerating each other.

I’ve been pondering Proverbs 18:24: “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” True friendship is a gift of the rarest kind. When the writer of Proverbs wants us to conceive of the deepest form of friendship, he says, in essence, “Imagine a depth of friendship that exceeds even that between siblings.” He points to siblinghood as the gold standard.

I came to parenthood with no vision for my children to be friends. I grew up the only girl among four brothers, and “adversarial” does not come close to capturing the dynamic among us. Our fights explored the full range of verbal, physical, and psychological aggression. We loved each other, but we didn’t really learn to like each other until later in life.

By contrast, my husband has called his sister, Emily, his best friend for his whole life. At first, I thought he must be lying. But there was evidence—pictures of them holding hands (holding hands!) on a trip to Disney as teenagers, full-body hugging at a family gathering, and heading to a dance together her senior year when she didn’t have a date.

I wanted to scoff, to say they were a statistical anomaly. But I also wanted to hope: What if Jeff and ...

Continue reading...

Interview: Jen Pollock Michel: God Is a Homemaker Who Does ‘Women’s Work’

And other thoughts on the biblical and theological significance of home.

Home sweet home. Home is where the heart is. Human beings have crafted a multitude of expressions that testify to an innate desire for rootedness, comfort, and belonging. In Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home, writer Jen Pollock Michel (also the author of Teach Us to Want, CT’s 2015 Book of the Year) explores this universal longing through biblical, theological, and practical lenses. A. J. Swoboda, author of The Dusty Ones: Why Wandering Deepens Your Faith, spoke with Michel about our “spiritual homelessness” and the God who prepares a place for us (John 14:3).

Why do you argue that all human beings are spiritually homeless?

It is easy for us to say that those inside the church are spiritually “homed,” while those outside the church are spiritually homeless. I see us all as spiritually homeless in this world. The home that God wants us to have is not fully realized. We may gloss over spiritual homelessness by saying that we have God and then moving on. But we are not home yet. We live in a broken, inhospitable world. I believe the church can do a better job of sympathizing with the condition of homelessness in our world, particularly among our neighbors, but we also need to identify it in ourselves.

You write at length about the “spirituality of housekeeping.” I was reminded of Brother Lawrence’s description of “the God of the pots and pans.” Can we find Jesus while doing the dishes?

It means demolishing the divide between the sacred and the secular. Even just last evening, around the dinner table, my family and I were talking about Christ’s call to serve in John 13: How do you serve? Whom do you serve? What are the qualities of Christian ...

Continue reading...

On Immigration, Welcoming the Stranger Is Only One Piece of the Puzzle

Why Christians should support reforms that recognize both the dignity of immigrants and the rule of law.

Early in his new book, Just Immigration: American Policy in Christian Perspective, Mark Amstutz recounts the story of a young man in California who had completed law school and was seeking admission to the state bar. But his aspiration was so controversial that he eventually found himself in front of the California Supreme Court.

The problem? This young man was not an American citizen. His parents had brought him from Mexico to the United States when he was just a boy, and he was undocumented. In a surprising decision, the California Supreme Court ruled that even though the man was not authorized to be in the United States, he nonetheless could be admitted to the state bar and practice law.

Amstutz, professor of political science at Wheaton College, cites this story as an example of the incoherence and double-mindedness of US immigration policy. It certainly is that. But in a way, it’s also symbolic. What could better epitomize our national immigration debate than the image of a young man, on the threshold of fulfilling his American dream, facing the reality that he was never an American? On one side, hope for a better life. On the other, demands of justice and the rule of law. What should we make of this?

It’s this moral and political knot that Amstutz, who has researched and taught for nearly 30 years on the intersection of Christian ethics and public policy, wants to help untangle. Just Immigration is an admirably thorough, well-researched overview of the United States’ immigration policy. It’s also an explicitly Christian look at the ethical dimensions of national immigration laws and practice. Amstutz aims to reshape how American believers approach these intertwined issues.

Monstrously Complex

Just ...

Continue reading...

Your Smartphone Is Neither a Cancer nor a Cure-All

A balanced, biblical take on the devices we can’t seem to live without.

I remember the day I got my first smartphone. Upgrading from a “dumb phone,” I was dazzled. Crisp and clear pictures. Email and calendar in one place. Ready access to Twitter, Facebook, and any search engine I wanted. In the words of the AT&T ad, I could now “move at the speed of instantly.”

But as the months went on, I realized my smartphone was not a neutral tool that would leave my life unaffected. My days started to change—sometimes drastically. It began with email. I started checking it almost obsessively. Wake up, turn over, check email. Get coffee, check email. My daughter would ask a question. “Hold on, honey, I’m just finishing this email.”

Then came social media. I could now post pictures directly to Facebook. Yet rarely did I consider whether my 300 “friends” needed to see my weekend family adventures. Twitter became my news source. Even though I clicked on dozens of articles, I noticed I never read them through. My thoughts started to fragment into smaller and smaller pieces. Oddly enough, even though I now held in my hand the key to unparalleled productivity, at the end of the work day I felt a new level of exhaustion.

Tony Reinke’s new book, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, makes explicit what many of us feel bubbling under the surface: quietly, subtly, our phones are changing us.

Reinke catalogues the quiet catastrophe he believes our phones are causing. For instance:

We’re distracted. We check our smartphone 85,000 times a year, or once every 4.3 minutes.

We’re a hazard to others. Texting and driving makes us 23 times more likely to get in a car accident.

We crave approval. Each social media moment is another scene in our “incessant ...

Continue reading...

A Shoplifter’s Search for God

I equated material possessions with happiness, until a high-school mission trip changed my thinking.

Growing up, I was something of a nomad. I spent the first years of my life in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. Then, at age six, I moved to Hong Kong, where I would remain until the third grade before moving back to Maryland. I grew up speaking Chinese at home but learned to master English at school. At a young age, I became adept at adapting to different environments.

My ambitions were as quirky and unorthodox as my upbringing. Since I loved watching movies and morphing into different personas, I thought I might like to become an actor someday.

My dad was a musician, and my mom was a journalist. They raised my brother and me in the church, but they gave us a long leash to explore. By the time we returned from Hong Kong, both of us had stopped going. In any event, my priorities lay elsewhere. I was obsessed with four things in particular: video games, sports, acquiring material things, and chasing women (at one point, I found myself trying to see three different girls at once).

On the court, I loved playing basketball and tennis. But I really excelled with the video game controller in my hand. I hung around with a community of hackers and pro gamers, and at one point, I was one of the top 10 Warcraft 3 players in the United States.

But my grades were suffering. And meanwhile, I had begun regularly shoplifting at the mall. On a weekly basis, my friends and I would compete to see who could walk out of the mall with the highest dollar value of stolen goods. Thankfully, God wouldn’t let me drift too far down this dangerous road.

Appetite for God

At age 16, I began attending church again, hoping to find another source for friends and fun. Instead, I found myself slowly developing an appetite for God. I had always believed ...

Continue reading...

Why the Church Needs the Infertile Couple

We're missing a broader scope of familial love.

At the center of the remarkable montage near the opening of Pixar’s Up stands the sorrow of infertility.

On one side lie the joys of a budding marriage, and on the other the delights of its twilight. In the hour of crisis, Carl sees Ellie sitting in the garden facing the sun with a forlorn look, feeling the devastation of their joint barrenness. Neither character speaks throughout the montage, but here their silence is particularly apt: the wordlessness of grief weighs heavily upon them, and upon us. Relief begins when Carl, who is by no means immune to their sadness, places Ellie’s “adventure book”—which has many more pages in it for them to fill—in her lap. It is the most beautiful depiction of infertility I know of; it is among the most tender five minutes of film I have ever seen.

But the adventures Carl and Ellie are given in the latter half of their lives are not the grand, exotic drama they had wanted. They hoped to someday live on top of a waterfall. Instead, car tires go flat, the roof needs replacing, and bones are broken. At every turn, the ordinary challenges of living in this world prevent them from pursuing the dreams of their youth. Yet if their adventure book is incomplete when Ellie dies, it is not empty; we glimpse the fullness of their love and feel like it is enough. The sadness at their separation stems not from their inability to live out their dream, but from the reality that they are no longer together.

While the montage is widely regarded as one of the most moving parts of the film, it almost failed make the final cut. Director Pete Docter said the studio was leery of showing their infertility because it was “going too far.” But the filmmakers had no real ...

Continue reading...