Mere Links 12.29.14
Monday, December 29, 2014, 10:00 AM

Pope Condemns Islamic State, Decries Suffering of Children
Reuters

Pope Francis on Thursday condemned the “brutal persecution” of minorities by Islamic State insurgents and said the joy of Christmas was marred by the suffering of children in the Middle East and around the world.

Top Dozen Church-State and Religious Liberty Developments In 2014
Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

Each year in December, I attempt to highlight the most important Church-State and Religious Liberty Developments of the past year. Usually I identify the top ten stories. This year however was so full of important developments that I have had to increase my nominations to the Top Dozen.

Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God
Eric Metaxas, Wall Street Journal

The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?

Spurgeon At Year’s End
Timothy George, First Things

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) was a cigar-smoking Baptist pastor in Victorian London whose influence, even in his own lifetime, extended far beyond the bounds of his own nation and denomination. Known as “the boy wonder of the fens” for his notable preaching in the villages of Cambridgeshire, Spurgeon took London by storm when he was only nineteen years of age.



Mere Links 12.26.14
Friday, December 26, 2014, 10:00 AM

How To Change Your Mind
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

The beginning of a New Year is an an excellent time to try something new. As you make your list of resolutions and goals I want to recommend adding a simple four step process that could transform your life by, quite literally, changing your mind.

Why 2014’s God Movies Were So Bad
Emma Green , The Atlantic

This year, Jesus, Noah, and Moses all had starring roles in major films. But despite the Hollywood’s new fixation on religion, the Almighty still proves difficult capture.

Popular Pope Francis takes own path in Vatican
David Willey, BBC

In the course of 2014 Pope Francis consolidated his position as one of the most popular pontiffs of modern times, more popular even than the recently-sainted Pope John Paul II.

How adoption has forced evangelicals to grapple with race relations
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service

As evangelicals have turned their attention toward adoption in the past decade, families like the Hatmakers are grappling with race relations in a profoundly personal way, especially as national news spotlights racial tension in New York; Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere.



Mere Links 12.24.14
Wednesday, December 24, 2014, 10:00 AM

Dealing with “Bad” Bible Verses
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

he books of Joshua and Judges, which begin with the conquest of the Holy Land by the Chosen People, are dominated by the imagery of warfare.

Mary’s crisis-pregnancy and noble Joseph
Denny Burk,

What does it look like to be a righteous person? In Joseph’s case, it looks like a guy who is conscientious about God’s law but who is also conscientious about grace.

Yes, Virginia, Santa Has a Face
Dusty Gates, Crisis Magazine

Last year’s media war fought over the skin color of Santa gave us much to think about regarding racial agendas, cultural customs, and the relationship between popular tradition and concrete history.

Christmas and the Humbling of the Wise Men
George Weigel, First Things

It might seem that everything that could be said, has been said, about the shepherds, the wise men and the Christ Child. But that’s one of the marvels of Scripture: The unfolding history of the Church draws out of the inspired Word of God allegories and images previously unrecognized.



Mere Links 12.23.14
Tuesday, December 23, 2014, 10:00 AM

Pope in blistering critique of Vatican bureaucrats
Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Pope Francis issued a blistering critique Monday of the Vatican bureaucracy that serves him, denouncing how some people lust for power at all costs, live hypocritical double lives and suffer from “spiritual Alzheimer’s” that has made them forget they’re supposed to be joyful men of God.

God Isn’t Dead in Gotham
Kate Bachelder, Wall Street Journal

Thousands pack the services of the evangelical Redeemer Presbyterian Church, most of them single and under 35.

Islamic State: Yazidi women tell of sex-slavery trauma
Paul Wood, BBC

The Yazidi religious minority community in Iraq says 3,500 of its women and girls are still being held by the so-called Islamic State (IS), many being used as sex slaves. A few have managed to escape and here tell their harrowing stories.

Florida Capitol gets Satanic Temple display
Associated Press

The Satanic Temple has set up a holiday display in the Florida Capitol’s rotunda. The diorama showing an angel falling into a pit of fire went on public display Monday. Writing across the top says, “Happy Holidays from the Satanic Temple.”



Mere Links 12.22.14
Monday, December 22, 2014, 10:00 AM

How ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies’ betrays Tolkien’s Catholic themes – and his religious fans
Steven D. Greydanus, Crux

Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” marks the end (or nearly the end) of a film journey that began more than a dozen years ago and now spans six films that, when all is said and done, will likely run more than 20 hours (in the longest extended-edition cuts).

Ashes, Mannequins, And Corpses: What Will Happen To You After Death?
Chad Bird, The Federalist

Death has become quite the creative enterprise, full of entrepreneurs eager to Americanize death and cash in on your corp$e. It’s time to reclaim a more humane way.

Christians around world under siege
Steve Huntley, Chicago Sun-Times

During this season of joyous religious celebrations and especially the holiday cheer enjoyed with family and friends during Christmas time, we should not forget that in too many corners of the world Christianity is under siege with Christians abused, brutalized and murdered.

Black churches are no longer ground zero for civil rights activism
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Fifty years after civil rights movement activists marched across the South, the black church is finding new ways for activism. But often, its clergy admit, they are not the leaders, and their sanctuaries are no longer ground zero for the civil rights movement.



Mere Links 12.19.14
Friday, December 19, 2014, 10:00 AM

Satanic holiday display is coming to Capitol
Justin A. Hinkley, Detroit Free Press

A Christian Nativity at the Capitol is out, but a Satanist group from Detroit will erect its own “holiday display” at the statehouse.

How Pope Francis’ diplomacy may change everything, not just US-Cuba relations
David Gibson, Religion News Service

Pope Francis is being hailed around the world — and criticized by some in the US — for his pivotal role in brokering the historic breakthrough in relations between Washington and Havana, a role attributed to his background as the first Latin American pope and to the special position he occupies.

Christmas Is Undefeatable
Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism

A new Pew survey shows overwhelming majorities of Americans believe in the historical actuality of the Christmas story, including the Virgin Birth, the angels appearing to shepherds and the Wise Men following the star to Bethlehem.

The Role of Beauty in the Formation of Men as Men
Jared M. Silvey, Crisis Magazine

Once upon a time in the Western world, exposure to “the beautiful” was an important element in the development and formation of men. The ideal man was also an educated man, and an educated man knew something about, and appreciated, good art, good music, good literature, and good taste (and perhaps also good wine).



Mere Links 12.18.14
Thursday, December 18, 2014, 10:00 AM

Is Inerrancy a Recent Theological Invention?
Derek J. Brown,

It is sometimes argued by evangelical non-inerrantists that the doctrine of inerrancy is a recent theological innovation that finds little to no precedent in the church.

Gay Weddings and the Shopkeeper’s Dilemma
Russell Nieli, Public Discourse

One option for pro-marriage business owners: obey the law and serve gay weddings, but make it known publicly that you believe that the law forcing you to do this is unjust, needs to be changed, and is obeyed only out of your respect for law and the democratic process.

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About the Christian View of Sexuality
Glenn T. Stanton, On Faith

Why traditional Christians believe as they do regarding gender, sexuality, marriage, and the family.

Across America, Churches Continue To Struggle For Their Religious Freedom
Alan Sears, Alliance Defending Freedom

People are probably inclined to think more warmly of churches amid the cold winds of Christmas than at any other time of the year, but, sad to say, even the spirit of the season isn’t enough to dissuade some from all out legal assaults on houses of worship.



Mere Links 12.17.14
Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 10:00 AM

How to Ruin a Moses Movie
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Exodus: Gods and Kings had the potential to be one of the greatest films of all time; instead it’s one of the worst movies of the year. Director Ridley Scott aspired to produce the next Ten Commandments (1956) and instead gave us a revisionist version of the story that is almost as lame as the justifiably forgotten Wholly Moses! (1980).

Let the Church Be a House of Wonder
Athony Esolen , Crisis Magazine

Only academics can think themselves into pretending to like verse without music, music without harmony, painting without skies or flowers or animals or people. Intellectuals are the original smashers of images.

Christian Colleges vs. Hookup Culture
Kimberly Thornbury, Christianity Today

The good intentions behind conservative campus rules.

Vatican probe ends with an olive branch for American nuns
John L. Allen Jr., Crux

An unprecedented and highly controversial Vatican investigation of every community of Catholic sisters in the United States that began with criticism of nuns as having a “secular mentality” ended Tuesday with a report full of praise, and without any disciplinary measures or new controls.



Mere Links 12.16.14
Tuesday, December 16, 2014, 10:00 AM

Pope says Salvation Army and Catholics meet at peripheries of society
Vatican Radio

In a first private audience in the Vatican with a Salvation Army general on Friday, Pope Francis said theological differences do not impede the witness of a shared love of God and neighbour.

Churches key to combating slavery across the world
Caroline Wyatt, BBC News

The Catholic Church’s role and that of other churches in the UK and abroad is often a practical one, with some helping uncover victims, and then giving them practical support via charities offering safe houses and legal advice.

The Decline of War and the Rise of ‘Proximate Peace’
Joe Carter, Acton Institute

Human nature hasn’t changed since the time of Cain and Abel. So what should be make of the decline of war?

Justices Let Stand a Ruling Blocking an Arizona Abortion Law
Adam Liptak, New York Times

The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a decision temporarily blocking an Arizona law that limits the availability of medicinal, nonsurgical abortions. As is its custom when it denies review, the court gave no reasons for its action.



Mere Links 12.15.14
Monday, December 15, 2014, 10:00 AM

The New College Counterculture
Ryan Shinkel, First Things

When I first heard of Anscombe Societies, I recalled another generation of students: the ’60s counterculture student radicals. What formed their habits was a warlike refusal of silence. The dominant university culture of their time consisted of a form of technocratic liberalism.

A New Movement Against Religious Persecution
Jonathan Sacks, Wall Street Journal

My prayer on Hanukkah: For people of all faiths to work together for the freedom of all faiths.

What Do Evangelical Professors Do, Anyway?
Owen Strachan, Patheos

I have a suggestion for a fun question you could throw out at your annual Christmas party. “Professors,” you could say vaguely. “What is it they do, anyway?”

Father Christmas Is Now Better Known Than Jesus In China
The Economist

In the first decades of Communist rule in China Christianity was banned, along with other religions. Now there are tens of millions of Christians in China and faiths of all kinds are blossoming.


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