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Mere Links. June 25, 2015
Thursday, June 25, 2015, 10:32 AM

Democracy Isn’t the Problem: The Benedict Option Meets the Buckley Option
by  Andrew T. Walker, Public Discourse
. . . If the Benedict Option is about developing a “thicker” Christian community that grows more deliberate about sustaining and catechizing itself, count me in. But if the only result of the Benedict Option is a more aesthetic and intellectual homeschooling movement, then I have concerns about its long-term viability. A Christianity that isn’t simultaneously attentive to both its own institutions and its public witness simply cannot fulfill the robust demands of orthodoxy. . . .

Religion vs. Science: The Catholic Church as Fall Guy
A book that didn’t deserve to be published
by Stephen M. Barr, Aleteia
Amir Aczel has written many popular books on science and mathematics, including one that has been published in 28 languages. He was a Sloan Foundation grant recipient and a Guggenheim Fellow. He holds a Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Oregon and has been a visiting scholar at Harvard; plus he’s written for Discover Magazine and Scientific American. Given these chops, when I sat down to read Aczel’s latest book, Why Science Does Not Disprove God, it was with whetted appetite. I enjoy seeing New Atheist claims demolished, and I was about to see it done with erudition and finesse, if the back cover accocolades on his book were true. Alas, I was in for a surprise. . . .

Destroyed Foundations: Calling for “Bisexually Healthy Congregations”
by Bryan Ballas, IRD
With the gay rights movement getting old and the transgender movement in full swing, religious leftists are now moving on to bisexuality. To that end, Marie Alford-Harkey recently hosted a webinar stressing the need for more bisexual-friendly churches. . . .

Spirited Hearts
Wednesday, June 24, 2015, 9:53 AM

Screen Shot 2015 06 24 at 10.43.58 AM Spirited Hearts

Follow Touchstone on Twitter, where we regularly post articles from the current issue and also ones from among the thousands of articles in the online archive. This one–from the May/June 2015 issue–has just been posted.

Spirited Hearts

Stephen Muse on Why Men Without Chests Are Not Free & Do Not Love

. . .

Unwillingness to move beyond one’s own unredeemed subjectivity in order to encounter the other and the world on their own terms inevitably produces what Lewis calls “a man without a chest,” that is, someone who is content to allow basic fallen instincts and imagination to overpower and co-opt reason because he has no discerning heart able to integrate instinct and rationality in the service of goodness, truth, and love. A “man without a chest” is someone who does not distinguish his desires from their effects on others, someone whose heart remains untrained, undisciplined, blind, weak, and ineffectual. In effect, he is a man who is not free and does not love.

. . .

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Mere Links. June 23, 2015
Tuesday, June 23, 2015, 1:29 PM

Public Debt, Political Paralysis, and the West
by  Samuel Gregg, The Public Discourse
The West’s struggle with high public debt highlights the inertia and indecision of both governments and citizens in the face of difficult economic choices.

Rearing Slaves, Rearing Sons
by Peter J. Leithart, First Things
Fear never produces healthy child-rearing, or healthy children. Neither does guilt. Fear, for one thing, is self-fulfilling. The closer we clutch our kids, the more they squirm to get away. The more we isolate them, the glitzier the outside world appears. Jesus has a simple message for parents: Don’t be afraid. Don’t be haunted by past failures, because the merciful God forgives. Don’t be afraid of the future, because the Father knows what you need. Don’t be afraid of the world. Jesus has overcome the world.

Hundreds of thousands rally in Rome to defend natural family and protect kids from gender theory
by Pete Baklinski, lifesitenews.com
“We rally to defend our children from gender theory introduced in the schools, that damages the innocence and the healthy development of children, to defend the natural family from the assault to which it is constantly subjected by our Parliament, to defend the right of parents to educate their children, and to promote the right of every child to grow up with a father and a mother,” rally organizer and long-time Italian pro-family activist Toni Brandi told LifeSiteNews.

The July/August Touchstone
Monday, June 22, 2015, 3:03 PM

bigcover 28 04 226x300 The July/August TouchstoneSelect articles from the new issue of Touchstone are now available online.

Majority Report
The Future of Marriage & the Natural Family by Allan Carlson

“If the Supreme Court embraces same-sex marriage as a Constitutional right, it will—in the long run—mean little. Some children will suffer. For a time, the United States will formally join that small cluster of Western governments giving priority to cultural nihilism. However, healthy subcultures of orthodox Christians, Jews, and (yes) Muslims will survive the political madness; despite intermittent persecution, they may even thrive . . . just as Christians did in pagan Rome during the third century a.d.”

Higher End Gifts
Louis Markos on How You Can Take It with You

“How many of us have practiced for days a speech or a song or a musical piece, or worked long hours on a meal or a painting or a poster, or spent long years on a degree or a career or a relationship, only to find our efforts greeted with ambivalence or envy or scorn? Do we then nurture our talents only for the pleasure of others? Is there no other standard by which to measure our growth and our success? I think there is, and I think it resides partly within.”

The Genuine Preacher
What All Clergy Can Learn from Billy Graham by Robert Hart

“Billy Graham is a Baptist, and very clearly of the best in the Baptist tradition. But he has had ecumenical appeal and been admired by Christians from all denominations. A friend of Pope John Paul II in later years, and of many well-known figures in Anglicanism and various other Protestant denominations, he really did preach ‘mere Christianity.'”

Mere Links. June 19th, 2015
Friday, June 19, 2015, 3:52 PM

What is a Healthy Culture?
by Anthony Esolen, The Imaginative Conservative
They are also, I am coming to believe, interrelated things. I am not saying that each one implies every other one, necessarily. I am saying that they are characteristics of human culture, and that a healthy culture will manage to get most of them done most of the time. So when we ask, “Why are the churches empty?” we might also ask, “Why are our public buildings so ugly? Why do we no longer have any folk art to speak of? Why do neighbors not know one another? Why are there no dances for everyone of all ages to enjoy? Why is the sight of a young lad and lass holding hands as rare now as public indecency used to be? Why is no one getting married? Why have family trees turned into family sticks, or family briars?

The Church of Darwin
by John G. West, First Things
Right from the start, ­Darwin’s theory was about much more than scientific truth. Darwin himself believed that ­evolution by natural selection refuted the idea that nature displayed evidence of purposeful design. Writing near the end of his life, he wrote that “the old argument from design in Nature . . . fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered.” He recalled poignantly the sense of wonder that as a young man he once experienced in a Brazilian rainforest, which inspired in him a “conviction that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body.” “But now,” he concluded, “the grandest scenes would not cause any such convictions and feelings to rise in my mind.”

Porn: sexual cannibalism
by Jonathon van Maren, lifesitenews.com
Sexual cannibalism is our culture’s addiction to the flesh of others. But as we know, cannibalism isn’t healthy. And the evidence for this is everywhere. For example, Covenant Eyes cited in their 2014 statistics a number of conclusions about the impact of pornography reached by the Journal of Adolescent Health:
-An exaggerated perception of sexual activity in society
-Diminished trust between intimate couples
-The abandonment of the hope of sexual monogamy
-Belief that promiscuity is the natural state
-Belief that abstinence and sexual inactivity are unhealthy
-Cynicism about love or the need for affection between sexual partners
-Belief that marriage is sexually confining
-Lack of attraction to family and child-raising

Just Christians
Thursday, June 18, 2015, 10:39 AM

The new issue of Touchstone (July/August 2015) will be mailing out soon, with a selection of the articles from it available for reading online. When a new issue of Touchstone becomes available online, we also make available some past articles in the online archives. This time one of those is the editorial from July/August 2013. I post an excerpt below. Just Christians: On Homosexuality & Christian Identity by S. M. Hutchens

. . .

In 1 Corinthians 6, St. Paul gives vital clarification on a subject where there is much foggy thinking among those who ask questions like, “What should the Church’s approach to homosexual Christians be?” The apostolic answer is that there is no such thing as a homosexual Christian. There are brethren who struggle with various temptations, to be sure, and may on occasion fall to them before rising again. But believers who resist homosexual lust are not “homosexuals.” They are just Christians, as are the rest of us with our own besetting sins.

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? [Then comes a list of sinners, including “sexual perverts.”] And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Such were some of you. The apostle is writing to the baptized saints in the church of Corinth who are no longer these things. He does not say they are no longer susceptible to their old sins, nor that these old sins mustn’t be dealt with: addressing the problems old sins create is a large part of the epistle’s burden. Given this apostolic definition, however, we cannot—we dare not—say there is any such thing as a “gay (or lesbian, etc.) Christian,” for the Christian by definition has been cleansed of his homosexuality. He cannot regard himself as a homosexual—or idolater, or thief, or drunkard—nor can the Church affirm him, or the various acts associated with the old vice, as such.

. . .

Mere Links. June 16th, 2015
Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 3:19 PM

Teenagers Are Losing Confidence in the American Dream
by Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic
Compared to their counterparts in recent years, high-school seniors in the mid-1990s appeared to have more faith in social mobility and less confidence in the power of having money.

Churches may be in decline, but Gregorian chant beats secular competition
by Leslie Miller, Religion News Service
A new Gregorian chant CD by a group of Benedictine monks in Norcia, Italy, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s classical music chart last week (June 10). The album, “Benedicta,” was also the top overall seller at Barnes & Noble, was No. 2 on Amazon and made iTunes’ Top 40.

The Darwinists & the Albigenses
by Anne Barbeau Gardiner, New Oxford Review
In Ecclesiastes 1:9 Qoheleth says, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Darwinist Michael Ruse (not to be confused with NOR Associate Editor Michael S. Rose) recently called evolutionism a “faith,” but is it altogether new? Or, to quote the Preacher again, has it existed “already in the ages before us”? One might well ask if evolutionism is a distant relative of the Albigensian heresy, a radical form of Catharism that prevailed in southern France for about four hundred years, from the eleventh to the fourteenth century. For when one examines the two “faiths” side by side, one finds striking parallels between them.

Mere Links. June 15th, 2015
Monday, June 15, 2015, 12:36 PM

Why We Celebrate the Magna Carta
The Church’s Role in Guaranteeing Our Freedoms
by Eric Metaxas, Breakpoint
June 15th marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta—a document that has been called “the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.” As you might expect, Great Britain is pulling out all the stops to celebrate the anniversary. And as you might also expect, the celebrations are omitting an important detail: the role of Christianity in “the foundation of freedom.”

Doctors and Evolution
by David Klinghoffer, The Poached Egg
In an almost charmingly naïve article, Francie Diep at Pacific Standard wonders, “Why Do Some Doctors Reject Evolution?” Her news peg is Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon who has expressed reservations about Darwinian accounts of evolution — though I don’t know that anyone has questioned him sharply and in an informed way about his ideas on the subject. Miss Diep is perplexed: “We assumed such beliefs would be unusual among doctors.” Not so, she discovered.

Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015)
by Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition
Elisabeth Elliot (née Howard; born December 21, 1926) died this morning (June 15, 2015) at the age of 88. She was a beautiful woman of whom the world was not worthy. Here is her brief testimony, told in her typically understated way…

(Read an interview with Elisabeth Elliot from Touchstone in 2000. Woman on A Mission: Elisabeth Elliot on Missions, Youth, Men & Women.)

Mere Links. June 11th, 2015
Thursday, June 11, 2015, 10:31 AM

Don’t Use My Pain as a Weapon: Infertility and Same-Sex Marriage
by  Oliver Olivarez, The Public Discourse    
Infertility does not invalidate our marriage, but we constantly experience infertility as an inability to fulfill a basic aspect of marriage. It is a loss for us in a way that it can never be for a same-sex couple. Our relationship is ordered toward having children, even though it is frustrated and kept from this fulfillment.

American Pastor Saeed Abedini Attacked & Beaten by Fellow Prisoners
by Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ
This wasn’t the first time he was beaten.  Over the course of his nearly three years in prison, he has suffered numerous beatings, including from prison guards.  He has sustained internal injuries that require surgery.  With each beating, his condition worsens.  Even before this most recent beating, Naghmeh testified about the toll it has taken on him, “I’m not just worried about his physical pain, but his psychological [pain].” He is suffering because of his Christian faith, beaten and bruised for the Gospel.

Biologist in TEDx Talk: Life’s “Complex Interacting Molecular Machines” Appear “Built by an Engineer”
by Casey Luskin, evolutionnews.org
Recently a friend sent me a link to a TEDx talk, “Digital biology and open science — the coming revolution,” which affirms that life’s “complex interacting molecular machines” reveal “molecular clockwork is real and pervasive” and appear to be “built by an engineer a million times smarter than” we are. The speaker is biologist and engineer Stephen Larson, who holds a PhD in neuroscience from University of California, San Diego, and is CEO of MetaCell, a systems biology research and consulting company that seeks to understand biology through computation.

Authors in the Archives
Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 4:34 PM

Some biographies of interest from the Touchstone archives:

A Lonely Poet
Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief by Roger Lundin
reviewed by Patrick Henry Reardon

. . . “Hers was to be a quintessentially modern world,” Lundin writes of Dickinson, “one in which inner realities outweighed the whole of the outside world.” But there is a problem here, as I see it, having to do with the meaning of the word “reality.” In classical Realist philosophy, the mind’s inner world truly is larger and more real than the outer world of the senses, by reason of the intellect’s capacity to perceive the universal “forms” of eternal truth. Because free from the vicissitudes and death attendant upon the physical realities known through the senses, these noetic forms were perceived to have more reality than the material world that pointed to them. . . .

Greene’s True Colours
The Life of Graham Greene; Volume III: 1955–1991 by Norman Sherry
reviewed by Franklin Freeman

. . . Greene, to the end of his life, had a powerful desire to believe in the Living God and His Sacrificed Son. Only Greene would put truth so resolutely in the centre of a fable [in Monsignor Quixote], and wrap doubt snugly around great faith. As a fox to the furrier, that’s how Greene approached the Catholic church. . . .

The Heart in Twain
Mark Twain and the Spiritual Crisis of His Age by Harold K. Bush, Jr.
reviewed by Franklin Freeman

. . . Twain was left to maintain a [in Twichell’s words] “flat necessitarianism” and accept the moral implications of that position: that ultimately mankind is not responsible for his sins, so God must be. Still he often suffered utter despair in the face of what he perceived to be his own guilt. . . .

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