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Social Media and Purgatory

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:11 AM

I must confess I didn't see this coming:

The Vatican has taken another step in its efforts to embrace social media by offering “indulgences” to followers of Pope Francis' (@Pontifex) Twitter account. Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reports that the church will reduce the time Catholics have to spend in purgatory if they follow official Vatican events on TV, radio, and through social media.

Can't you just imagine @DrMLuther nailing an iPhone with the #95Thesis displayed onto the door of the Wittenberg cybercafe? Charles V would have had a much easier time if he could have just tracked trending hashtags.

Off the Record with Scientology

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:36 AM

A few months ago, I was reading a journal article on Scientology which noted a conversation with a spokesperson for the group who answered some questions and then (presumably after talking to his superiors) became unhelpful and refused to go on the record any further. It seems like an odd pattern to intentionally follow, but as I read a story about the latest Scientology campaign aimed at silencing its critics, I noted the spokeswoman who was interviewed played that same game:

She goes on to write that “Marty Rathbun is a defrocked apostate removed from any position in the Church for malfeasance nearly eight years ago and has no firsthand knowledge of its activities.”

Contacted by phone later, Pouw declined to comment further and would not speak on the record about the Office of Special Affairs or other details mentioned in the email Rathbun references.

Perhaps this is because they have only a few, prewritten responses and when those run out the spokespeople do not have anything they are able to say?

The E-Ink Gideons

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:54 AM

According to the Telegraph, one hotel is replacing the hard cover Gideon's Bible that is so familiarly located in any given hotel room with a Kindle preloaded with the Bible:

From today, all 148 rooms at the Hotel Indigo will contain a Kindle e-reader pre-loaded with a copy of the Bible. The hotel is claiming to be the first in Britain to offer such a service.

I wonder how they keep all of the units charged and safely stored within the rooms?

Topography of Faith

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:22 AM

If you curious about the religious breakdown of the United States, this map is quite insightful. It is almost five years old, so it might be slightly out of date, but it should still be relatively representative of the country's demographics.


By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 8:09 AM

After reading two of Timothy Wengert's books on Master Philipp, I find my sympathy for the Lutheran humanist theologian has only grown. There is something tragic about how those he admires (Erasmus) or considers friends (John Agricola) end up turning on him.

At least he didn't end up exiled like Bucer.


By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:22 AM

Collin Morris gives a very true observation about Peter Abelard: he “had a talent for expressing new truths in an awkward form.”

Creation Study Report

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:34 AM

If you are looking to understand various readings of Genesis 1-3 within the PCA, you could do far worse than to read the Report of the Creation Study Committee. It does a superb job of breaking down some of the more complex views within the bounds of our denomination, including the Analogical Day and Framework views.

More importantly, it models the humble attitude we should take towards those with whom we disagree on such matters:

Nevertheless, our goal has been to enhance the unity, integrity, faithfulness and proclamation of the Church. Therefore we are presenting a unanimous report with the understanding that the members hold to different exegetical viewpoints. As to the rest we are at one. It is our hope and prayer that the Church at large can join us in a principled, Biblical recognition of both the unity and diversity we have regarding this doctrine, and that all are seeking properly to understand biblical revelation. It is our earnest desire not to see our beloved church divide over this issue.

The Peacemaker of the Reformation

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 4:20 AM

Ephraim Emerton describes Martin Bucer's reaction to the writings of Michael Servetus:

Bucer in Strassburg, often known as the Peacemaker of the Reformation, seems at first to have listened with some patience, if not actual interest, to the Spaniard's vagaries, but now, having read his book, he publicly declares that such a man ought to be disembowelled and torn to pieces.

Not all peacemaking is created equal.

Evangelicalism is the New Liberalism?

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:26 AM

My fellow theo-blogger and colleague, Travis McMaken, succinctly puts his finger on something I've been mulling over concerning Evangelicalism:

The really strange thing about this quote is that the things Barth identifies as present-day (in terms of 1920's Germany) tendencies emanating from Schleiermacher — “church life, experiential piety, historicism, psychologism, and ethicism” — are precisely the things that seem to me to be holding the field within contemporary American evangelicalism, in many ways. It is a well-worn trope of comic books and action movies that one is always in danger of becoming what one fights against. Have evangelicals started becoming liberals, in the classic European sense of the term?

I think he is on to something — read in a vacuum, Schleiermacher sounds remarkably “Evangelical” or Evangelicals can sound remarkably Schleiermachean. That Barth was identifying the same problematic tendencies in the Church of his day highlights the strength with which these sirens of theology sing.

Travis continues with a challenging question worth considering:

If so, how advanced are the symptoms, what is the prognosis, and what can be done to combat this malady?

Common Grace and Natural Law

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 3:11 AM

While the ideas of Thomas and Calvin overlap a great deal (more than is often admitted), their agreement does not always seem obvious at the surface level. Certain key words differ in ways that create the appearance of a chasm between the scholastic and the reformer where such does not necessarily exist. Paul Helm has a nice essay that looks at one of those areas: common grace and natural law.

To say that a human ability or activity is the effect of common grace or that it is the working of nature, human nature, are thus two ways of saying the same thing, or almost the same thing. What the phrase 'common grace' brings out is that these abilities and activities, as found in fallen and unregenerate human nature, are the result of undeserved, divine goodness. The effects of the Fall on human nature could have been worse than they are, and why they are not worse than they are is due to God's undeserved goodness. 'Nature' looks at the same phenomenon from another angle, focusing on the persisting structures of human nature.

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