All Around the Web – June 26, 2019

AATWWORLD – A ‘positive good’?

Shattering Paradigms – Wokeness and Legalism

Stand to Reason – Why Men Can Speak on Abortion

John Stonestreet – Climate-Change Millerites

Justin Taylor – Jesus, Paul, and Virtue Signaling on Twitter.com

Thom Rainer – Is the Multisite Church Movement Still Growing? Six Updates

Facts & Trends – The One Thing That Can Reverse Any Church’s Decline

Chuck Lawless – 5 Things to Do when Obedience Hurts

Facts & Trends – 8 Things That Will Happen at Your Vacation Bible School

Christian Post – DC Talk announced their first tour together in 20 years

LifeHacker – Facebook’s New Libra Coin: How Does It Work, and Should You Buy It?

Babylon Bee – Congress Members To Wear Barcodes So Lobbyists Can Scan Prices, Self-Checkout

Babylon Bee – New Version Of ‘Operation’ Just Has Players Use Essential Oils Instead Of Performing A Medical Procedure

Babylon Bee – Father Playfully Tossing Daughter Up In The Air Accidentally Launches Her Into Low Earth Orbit

Babylon Bee – Ilhan Omar Getting Excited By All This Talk About Concentration Camps

We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf – Why Beowulf Matters

At present we are engaged in a theological exploration of the classic English work Beowulf. Before pressing on, we must explore why this story is even worth our consideration. Below I offer a few points many of which are borrowed from other scholars.

The First English Work

Scholars are quick to remind us that Beowulf is the first significant work in English we possess. To students and historians of the Anglo-Saxon world, this makes Beowulf a treasure. Whether the story is completely mythical is not the issue. It reflects cultural information we need to better understand the world of the seventh century. The information we have on the Geats and Danes is scarce and without Beowulf we would be left even more in the dark.

As the first work in English, we gain incredible insight into the language itself. The one Beowulf manuscript we posses is a treasure trove for Old English scholars. Documents like this greatly inform our understanding of ancient cultures and language.

Paganism and Christianity

One of the difficulties of the poem regards the role of Christianity and paganism. Many suggest that the original story was purely pagan which was later corrupted by Christian monks who wanted to “fix” the heathenism. Though possible, such a argument seems simplistic.


A better alternative is view the tension as intentional. The king of the Danes, Hrothgar, can at one point be as pagan as any while the next minute recite the creation account of Genesis. In such moments we should recall that the narrator(s) is not just chronicling history, but is telling the reader something of monumental importance. The structure of the poem, both chiastic and alliterated, suggests this poem was a masterpiece slowly crafted and not just a story quickly written.

I would add here that this tension between paganism and Christianity lies at the root of its theology. Beowulf tells us something profound and hopeful about Christianity but only between its pages and only when we take a step back and consider the narrative. The paganism is much more evident and being a good storytellers we shouldn’t be surprised by this tension.

Yet with that said, Beowulf shows the great contrast between the two worlds. The characters of the story live in a time before Christianity really takes a hold of the British island. Yes Patrick and those who followed him have spread the faith in Ireland, but Christianity has yet to take root among the Geats and Danes. Thus we gain great insight into the religious thinking of pre-Christian pagans and the role Christianity played in replacing that.

In short, paganism created a world of violent barbarism. Christianity brought with it civilized society. An oversimplification, perhaps, but evident in the narrative nonetheless.

Hero

In an age of superheroes, in Beowulf we meet the first hero. Beowulf is not a son of Krypton or a billionaire playboy, he’s a confident Geat who seeks to eradicate a demonic monster for his neighbors. Beowulf is flawed to say the least – his confidence is difficult for modern readers to stomach – yet his motives are good. He is a hero in the truest sense. Though described as having the strength of thirty men (especially in his grip), he is as mortal as the reader with the book in their hand.

Lewis once wrote in his book On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature:

Those who say that children must not be frightened may mean two things. They may mean (1) that we must not do anything likely to give the child those haunting, disabling, pathological fears against which ordinary courage is helpless: in fact, phobias. His mind must, if possible, be kept clear of things he can’t bear to think of. Or they may mean (2) that we must try to keep out of his mind the knowledge that he is born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil. If they mean the first I agree with them: but not if they mean the second. The second would indeed be to give children a false impression and feed them on escapism in the bad sense. There is something ludicrous in the idea of so educating a generation which is born to the Ogpu [State Police in the USSR] and the atomic bomb. Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker. Nor do most of us find that violence and bloodshed, in a story, produce any haunting dread in the minds of children. As far as that goes, I side impenitently with the human race against the modern reformer. Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the book. Nothing will persuade me that this causes an ordinary child any kind or degree of fear beyond what it wants, and needs, to feel. For, of course, it wants to be a little frightened

The key quote, of course, is “Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” Beowulf offers such a story. Yes it is gory, bloody, and violent full of monsters and murder. Yet in the midst of such a depraved world there stands a true hero: Beowulf. I agree with Lewis, since we will all “meet cruel enemies,” let us “at least have hard of brave knights and heroic courage.”

 

We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf – Introduction
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf – Why Beowulf Matters

All Around the Web – June 25, 2019

AATWJoe Carter – The FAQs: Supreme Court Issues Ruling in ‘Peace Cross’ Case

USA Today – Global Christian persecution is worsening while American churches slumber

John Stonstreet – A Dinosaur Named Sue

Justin Taylor – What Are the Requirements to Be an Elder?

Thom Rainer – Eight Updates on Sunday Evening Services – Rainer on Leadership #547

Facts & Trends – Few Churchgoers Regularly Talk About Their Faith With Other Christians

Facts & Trends – 4 Tangible Ways to Welcome and Accommodate Families with Special Needs

Facts & Trends – Colorado Pastor Announced as LifeWay President and CEO Candidate

For the Church – How to Greet Visitors to Your Church on Sunday

Managing Your Church – Religious and Individual Giving Dipped in 2018

TGC – God, Thank You I’m Not Like Those Prosperity Preachers

Fox News – Abraham Lincoln Bible surfaces, offers clues to his religious beliefs

Babylon Bee – Mother Seeks Emergency Surgery To Remove VBS Songs Lodged In Her Brain

Babylon Bee – Ocasio-Cortez Gets Head Stuck In Bucket, Journalists Rush To Explain Why It Was Actually A Genius Move

Babylon Bee – Liberals Confused By New Medical Procedure That Heals Babies Instead Of Killing Them

Babylon Bee – Smartphone That Passed Barrage Of Brutal Durability Tests During Development Broken By Toddler In Three Seconds

“Eugenics and Protestant Social Reform” by Dennis L. Durst: A Review

Image result for Eugenics and Protestant Social Reform: Hereditary Science and Religion in America, 1860-1940

Her right to procreate was eventually denied by the US Supreme Court in Buck v. Bell, which opened the door to involuntary sterilization nationwide after 1927. Laughlin and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. agreed on the wisdom of involuntary sterilization. It was Holmes who authored the 1927 decision, including the following sentence: “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.” (85)

 

One of the worse injustices of our nation is eugenics. Yet for some reasons we continue to sweep this shameful part of our history under the rug. The more I learn of this horrific story, the more hideous it becomes. In his book Eugenics and Protestant Social Reform: Hereditary Science and Religion in America, 1860-1940, Dennis L. Durst explores part of this story through the lens of both religion and science.

The sad reality is that America has participated in the active sterilization of its own citizens it considered unfit. In his book, Durst tells the story of the American eugenics movement from its genesis to the second World War. What is striking about that end date is that we openly condemn the Axis for practicing such heinous crimes without simultaneously confessing our own involvement.

Typically, these sort of books explore the role politics played in the spread of the eugenics movement and there is certainly some of that. As the above quote suggests, politicians, judges, and the rest approved of and legislated eugenic laws against “degenerates.” Yet what makes Dursts’s volume unique is the role people of faith played in this story. Each chapter is saturated with multiple examples of believers participating in the eugenics movement from the perspective of faith.

To be fair, perhaps this is my personal bias bleeding through, most of the examples documented by Durst demonstrate the depravity of progressive theology. One clear example of this is Augustus Strong, an influential baptist theologian of the early 20th century.  Strong wrote an essay entitled “Degeneration” where he “sought to harmonize evolution with several theological and empirical considerations.” (148)

This is actually an unsurprising theme throughout the book. The doctrine of evolution is, without a doubt, the primary anchor for the eugenics movement. Without it, one is hard press to find the right starting point for excusing it. Yet evolution’s progressive promise, dehumanizing anthropology, and violent survival of the fittest mantra, it is the perfect starting point for something as evil as degenerative theory.

Liberal theology struggled with evolution. Wanting to appear relevant, it could not reject the popular secular doctrine. Thus overtime, it began to spiritualize murder and injustice.

Yet it would be inaccurate to say that this is a liberal problem. Near the end, the author shows how the doctrine of original sin, even as articulated among Calvinists, were critical for degenerative theory to be propagated among the Christian community.

One of the most helpful sections of the book for me regards the chapters of how eugenics was applied to various “unfit” groups in society including epileptics, the poor, racial minorities, alcoholics, etc. To see the language is startling.

Though the book chronicles the eugenics movement up to 1940, the author does remind the reader that the story does not end there. He cites multiple examples, like the rise in wrong birth lawsuits, as examples of this mentality. Consider the following paragraph:

Certainly very few intellectuals today embrace the label “eugenicist” openly and with enthusiasm. Historical awareness of the extreme and destructive social policies carried out under the banner of eugenics in the past inhibits open expressions of approval for controlling the procreation of others in a coercive manner. Efforts to control the procreation of inconvenient “others” may still be see on occasion, such as the debate over whether judges may order women guilty of child abuse either to accept implantation of the birth control Norplant or to go to prison n the mid-1990s. Termination of pregnancies on the basis of Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, and even the XYY karyotype (sometimes, albeit tenuously, associated with criminality) is not uncommon. A the other end of the spectrum, some stats, universities, and church denominations have apologize for their past support of eugenic sterilization activities. Still, the yearning to control procreation, including the procreation of those who deviate from the ostensible “normal” mean continues to manifest itself in public policy debates of the twenty0frist century. (183)

The fight for the dignity of every life continues. And it is imperative that the tragic history of eugenics in America became more mainstream. Until we understand the past, we cannot understand the true motivation of the culture of death of the present.

All Around the Web – June 24, 2019

AATWTrevin Wax – Why Do We Find Deserted Island Stories So Compelling?

John Stonestreet – The Vatican Responds to Gender Theory

Justin Taylor – 10 Things to Know about What the Bible Teaches on God and Human Government

Russell Moore – A Conversation with Jamie Ivey

Denny Burk – Complementarianism? What’s in a name?

Thom Rainer – When Does a Church Need a Modest Revitalization? – Revitalize & Replant #098When Does a Church Need a Modest Revitalization? – Revitalize & Replant #098

TGC – Pastor, Your Relationships Are Not Secondary

Facts & Trends – What Your Church Needs to Know About Abuse Reporting Laws

Chuck Lawless – 10 “Gouge Your Eyes Out” Strategies for Winning the Battle with Pornography

Facts & Trends – The Empty Office to Come

AP – Supreme Court upholds cross on public land in Maryland

Bloomberg – Half of Americans Are Now Over the Age of 38

Today – Julia ‘Hurricane’ Hawkins, 103, breaks records at the National Senior Games

Babylon Bee – Pastor Silently Judges Congregants Who Left Their Bibles At Church All Week

Babylon Bee – Deacons Repeatedly Ask Reformed Man To Please Stop Headbanging To ‘A Mighty Fortress’

Babylon Bee – ‘Bachelorette’ Contestants Flee In Terror After Introduction Of Special Guest Host John MacArthur

Babylon Bee – Twitter To Display Warning Before You Compare Something To A Concentration Camp

 

All Around the Web – June 22, 2019

AATWFederalist – Teen Vogue Encourages Children To Explore Prostitution As A Career

John Stonestreet – A Second Chance for Sweet Cakes

Kevin DeYoung – Preaching Resources: A Summer Reading List

Managing Your Church – Atheist Organization Opts Not to Appeal Housing Allowance Ruling

Sam Storms – How Important is the Gospel?

SBTS – 10 challenges you’ll face in ministry

Thom Rainer – Just How Bad Is the Summer Slump? Six Discoveries

Facts & Trends – 10 Reasons People Are Leaving Your Church

TGC – 7 Lessons from My First 6 Months of Pastoral Ministry

Facts and Trends – 3 Ways Pastors Can Influence and Change the World

Crossway – Is the Church in Decline?

Facts & Trends – 5 Ways Group Leaders Can Facilitate Transparency

Babylon Bee – Local Mother Successfully Pawns Her Kids Off To Different VBS Every Week Of Summer

Babylon Bee – Principled Dems Remain Committed To Adopting Whatever Position Polls Say They Should

Babylon Bee – Entire Internet Crashes As Public Scrambles To Download New Babylon Bee Podcast

All Around the Web – June 21, 2019

AATWTrevin Wax – The Fears That Drive One-Directional Leadership

Tim Keller – Get Out! Tim Keller on the Exodus Story

Denny Burk – Confronting Purity Culture or Christian Sexual Ethics?

Randy Alcorn – Is an Unborn Child a Parasite, Living off Another Person’s Body without Permission?

Chuck Lawless – 10 Things the Resurrection Means for Christian Leaders

Facts & Trends – 5 Things to Remember When You Consume the News

Gospel Relevancy – How to Choose the Right Seminary: 6 Factors to Consider

TGC – The Most Epic Bible Study of All Time

Tim Challies – Peril on Both Sides

New York Times – In Stores, Secret Surveillance Tracks Your Every Move

The Atlantic – What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane

Pew Research Center – World’s population is projected to nearly stop growing by the end of the century

Babylon Bee – Taylor Swift Releases New Song ‘I Kissed A Girl And You’ll Like It Or Else You’re A Disgusting Bigot’

Babylon Bee – Out-Of-Touch Youth Pastor Still Saying ‘WASSSSUUUUUP!?!?!’

Babylon Bee – New Bible Geek Squad Will Come To Your House To Argue With You About Theology

Babylon Bee – Harvard Teaches Incoming Students Valuable Life Lesson That People Can Never Change