The Summit Oxford Study Centre does not simply fulfill items on the bucket list of your own small life. Everything about the experience—from the centuries-old cathedrals and cobblestone streets, to evensong after a hard day’s work, to long hours reading classic primary texts, to Kevin’s repeated reminder during discussions that God has always hated idolatry, immorality, and injustice—invites you out of your own little story and into the Great Conversation. Oxford is still dedicated to the best ideas that have been thought throughout all history, and the Summit Oxford program is dedicated to these ideas’ context within God’s grand story, which is but history rightly conceived.
There is a profound power in forgiveness, a power not easily matched. Forgiveness is not simply for ourselves; it is intended for giving to others.
A few weeks back, while on the train from Oxford to London, I noticed someone across the aisle reading a newspaper. One headline jumped out at me. It read, “Forgiveness is the Best Vengeance.” Simultaneously, that struck me as humorous and as hard-hearted. It was humorous because one might not normally think of forgiveness as a kind of payback. Indeed, if forgiveness is an expression of love, then the idea of it being a species of vengeance doesn’t normally follow. As such, it came off to me as hard-hearted, a peculiar kind of lovelessness we express in disregard for the other’s well-being. I didn’t have a chance to read that article, so I don’t know what sorts of clever or diabolical advice may have trickled and tickled beneath that headline. But it wasn’t the first time the thought of forgiveness has resonated in my heart.
“Indeed, we honor and respect Adam and Eve for their wisdom and foresight.” – A Mormon Apostle
These stunning, even counter-intuitive statements beg for an explanation. Both assertions come from publications approved of, and used by, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the Mormon Church.
It is common to hear of Mormonism being “just another denomination.” I would suggest that this is a misperception. Many Christian books have pointed up differences between Mormonism and Christianity. Some of their proposed differences have been, to my mind, less than illuminating; others have been clarifying; still others have been important, even profound. We’ll focus on one the latter in this post.
Of Mormonism and Maps
Part 3 of My Conversation with Mormon Missionaries
by Kevin James Bywater
12 July 2008, Manitou Springs, Colorado — The following recounts a conversations with three Mormons, two of whom were missionaries. It is a continuation of a conversation I began to recount in previous posts. So, lets join the conversation.
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One missionary asked whether I had prayed about the Book of Mormon. I knew we were entering what I term “the time of decision.” This is precisely the point at which the missionaries offer what they deem to be a clincher. They firmly believe that if people openly read the Book of Mormon, sincerely pray about it, and have some good feelings in the meantime, that this is the witness of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith truly was a prophet of God and the founder of the restored church.
I admitted that I had not prayed specifically about the Book of Mormon since our last meeting. I explained, however, that I had prayed and praised God for his faithfulness, for his promises and presence, and had thanked him for his many gracious answers to our family’s previous prayers. Then I noted that I had read the Book of Mormon in the past, and that I had prayed about it. I also noted that when I had done so, I hadn’t received the answer that the missionaries expected.
“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.”
It is hard to imagine a way to be more provocative when writing in a scientific journal. Regardless, on 11 April 2015, the British medical journal, The Lancet, published a single-page comment by Richard Horton that summarized the senses and feelings of many who were present at a recent, closed-door symposium in London. Among the conclusions was the above bombshell. Much more was said as well.
The following are excerpts from articles well worth reading in their entirety. They are presented here in no particular order. And they were somewhat arbitrarily selected from dozens of others that were read this week. They include articles on…
• the church and the poor and the culture war
• the prematurely announced demise of the Christian church in America
• how marriage was already redefined in western culture, and even among evangelicals
• 5 ways Europe is trying to get people to have more babies
• where we should go from here on marriage in our culture
• some thoughts on writing by William Zinsser
• a video by Frank Turek on why Christians should be involved in politics
Enjoy some weekend reading!
At the Summit Oxford Study Centre‘s October 2013 conference, C.S. Lewis: Then and Now, we enjoyed a number of engaging and inspiring presentations by eminent scholars who have long studied the life and works of C.S. Lewis. Previously I posted “Jack: My Mentor, My Friend,” by Walter Hooper, and “Lewis and the Poetic Imagination,” by Malcolm Guite.
Among the other presenters was Alister McGrath, who currently is Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, is the Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, and is a Fellow of Harris Manchester College Oxford. A prolific author, McGrath published dozens of books and articles, more recently C.S. Lewis: A Life (audio) in 2013 and If I Had Lunch with C.S. Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of C.S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life (audio) in 2014.
McGrath gave two presentations during the conference. The first was a brief overview of Lewis’s life, with a view to his conversion to Christian faith: “Lewis – Convinced and Converted” (m4a, 39mb). Among the many insights in the talk are the following remarks.
“Christianity, in the end, isn’t a set of ideas; it’s a story. And its a story that generates ideas. And because the story generates ideas, the story always take priority over the ideas. And therefore, the best way of articulating the Christian faith is not through a systematic exploration of ideas but the telling of stories, which…can retell the Christian story, but…angle it for certain audiences.”
“Stories capture the imagination whereas arguments quite often leave you cold.”
“A story opens up ways of thinking…opens up possibilities that otherwise you might not entertain at all.”
The following observations of Judge Robert H. Bork are worthy of some consideration as we await the upcoming Supreme Court decision on Obergefell v. Hodges, a case regarding whether or not these federal judges will require all states to permit same-sex-marriage, that is, whether the SCOTUS will yet again engage in a bit of judicial culture-making.
“Along with the undoubted successes of judicial dominance has come a virulent judicial activism that increasingly calls into question the authority of representative government and the vitality of traditional values as they evolve through nonjudicial institutions, public and private. Instead, Americans are force-fed a new culture and new definitions of virtue, all in the name of a Constitution that neither commands nor permits such results. America is moving from the rule of law to the rule of judges.” —Robert H. Bork, Coercing Virtue: The Worldwide Rule of Judges (Washington, D.C.: AEI, 2003) 52
Frankly, I find it rather clarifying to realize that five (out of nine) lawyers in black robes can redefine for American law and culture what is good, what is true, what is beautiful, and what is just.
It may have been a long time since you or I enjoyed a lesson in American civics. Sure, over the last decade, more and more people have become interested in politics (or so it seems), though sometimes individuals choose not to vote due to a sense of frustration, cynicism, or just plain futility.
Sometimes it is supposed that one should vote only for candidates with whom one agrees nearly completely. (I’ve previously written about whether Christians can vote for Mormons, as well as electing to be truly pro-life and the so-called “lesser of two evils” diversion.) On the other hand, we often hear that it is important to vote, simply to vote, just vote, just because you can, therefore you should. If you refuse or fail to vote, it is thought, then you are no better than someone who is refused the very right to vote. I’ve previously registered my opinion that voting in itself is not a virtuous act. But this isn’t the subject for this post.
Rather, here I’d like to point your attention to two brief videos that explain a bit about the American system for electing a president. It can seem a bit odd. It often is overlooked, if not maligned. There is a movement in America seeking to do away with it. That is, they are seeking to undermine and subvert something that is written in the U.S. Constitution, namely the Electoral College.
During the conference we enjoyed several days of insightful, compelling, witty, and immersive presentations. Below you will find Malcolm’s reflections on Lewis’s poetry and imagination.
As a taste of Malcolm’s poetry, here is a sonnet he wrote in honor of Lewis.