Judicial Culture-Making

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The following observations of Judge Robert H. Bork are worthy of some consideration as we await the upcoming Supreme Court decision on Obergefell v. Hodgesa 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.

Five people.

Five!

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The Electoral College and American Presidential Elections

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ballotIt 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.

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C.S. Lewis and the Poetic Imagination, by Malcolm Guite

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guiteMalcolm Guite – a pastor, a scholar, a poet – joined us in the autumn of 2013 for the Summit Oxford Study Centre’s conference, C.S. Lewis, Then and Now.

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. 

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C.S. Lewis on Christian Scholarship

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C.S. Lewis on Christian Scholarship

Dr. Michael Ward 

Michael Ward

Dr. Michael Ward

As an Englishman living and working in Oxford, I meet a great number of Americans. Many are members of Oxford University; many are tourists. In the past two years I have greatly enjoyed getting to know a particularly fine example of the species: the Summit American. 

I now have lectured several times for the Summit Oxford Study Centre (see the invitational film) about my work on C.S. Lewis. I have even had the chance to visit the home of Summit Ministries in Colorado, where I discovered how appropriate the name ‘Summit’ really is. Altitude sickness was a new experience for me!

Summit Oxford students, like most students in Oxford, tend to be more than usually intelligent. But the typical Summit Oxford student, so I have noticed, has another dimension. He or she is not only smart, but also purposeful. Summit Oxford aims to promote ‘scholarship for the sake of the church and the culture’. The students I have met evidently keep at the forefront of their minds the transformative effect that they may have on the church and on the culture at large as highly educated members of God’s kingdom on earth.

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Walter Hooper – “Jack: My Mentor, My Friend”

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Walter HooperFrom time to time I have had the delight of meeting and hearing from someone who grips me with their graciousness, who shakes me with their sincerity, who carries me to contemplation and imaginative reflection. One such person is Walter Hooper, personal secretary to, and friend of, C.S. Lewis.

Walter is such a gracious man that on those rare occasions when our paths cross in the city of Oxford, he not only greets me but pauses his schedule to inquire genuinely of my and my family’s well-being. The conversation that ensues most often ceases only when I bring it to an end.

In the autumn of 2013 the Summit Oxford Study Centre hosted a conference called C.S. Lewis, Then and Now. We enjoyed several days of insightful, compelling, witty, and immersive presentations. Below you will find Walter’s reflections on his mentor and friend, Jack. You may listen here or download the mp3 below.

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Orienting Marriage

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As western culture is all a hurry with a whirlwind of words and emotive engagements about marriage and sexuality, it behoves us to be conversant with the people and competing conceptions of reality now in public collision. It is worth making time for this. But it will take some time. However, the pay out is significant.

It is evident that we could use some help in rightly orienting marriage and sexuality.

This past weekend I came across a series of presentations by two extraordinary people, both of whom have spent years living, studying, and thinking about marriage and sexuality. They are extraordinarily skilled and have a clear command of the required rhetoric. More than that, both also have tremendous hearts, as is evident throughout their presentations.

You must note, however, when combined, the presentations are over five hours long. There is an option on YouTube where you can speed up a video. It is in under the settings cog at the lower righthand side of the video. There you can increase the speed 1.25, 1.5, or 2 times normal. That can help with the overall time. However, each of these presentations is worth listening to with care and attention, perhaps more than once. 

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Summit Oxford – Invitational Film

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Perhaps you’ve wanted to know a bit more about the Summit Oxford Study Centre. If so, there are several ways to find out more.

• join us on Facebook
• visit our website
• look over our latest brochure (pdf)
• draw from our current course readings.

Perhaps the best way to glimpse the purpose and vision of Summit Oxford, to witness the heart of our mentoring, is to view our invitational film. Please view it below.

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Inside Mecca – Understanding Islam

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In the worldviews course at the Summit Oxford Study Centre we spend a good deal of time on the subject of Islam. In fact, the worldview of Islam is something of a test case for us. Rather than surveying numerous worldviews (as many books on worldviews do so well), our practice is to draw our focus down, read some primary sources (and not simply Christian books about Islam), speak with a local imam, and to try to understand, somewhat sympathetically, Islamic convictions. Our time is limited, however, so we have to move fairly quickly through the material. However, our study of Islam usually takes place over the span of three or four or five days, depending on where our explorations and conversations take us. This part of the course takes place during our worldview intensive, which runs weekdays from 10am to 5pm.

Before students arrive, we ask them to read the Qur’an in its entirety. Mind you, it is not a book that is easy to read. It feels foreign, seems disjoined, and appears to have a number of repetitive features. However it is shorter than the New Testament, and thus is relatively accessible. Nor do we require students to study the Qur’an. Rather, my purpose is simply to introduce them to the Qur’an, and to have them gain an initial understanding of the book. And we also have students spend six hours reading in the Hadith. (There is one writing assignment as well, an exploratory essay on Islam utilizing these sources, and a few others.)

The video below is assigned viewing for the purpose of gaining a glimpse into the lives of a few Muslims. The documentary follows three Muslims from different parts of the world as they go on hajj, the pilgrimage that is one of Islam’s five pillars. The video humanizes the three, pointing up determination and disharmony, tensions and resolutions along the way.

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Old Testament Law and New Testament Ethics – 6: Ten Commandments

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Old Testament Law and New Testament Ethics

6 – Ten Commandments

As our series on Old Testament law and New Testament ethics continues, I thought it best to point our attention to the Ten Commandments in this post. (We’ll pick up the material on sinful impurity soon.) The previous posts are as follows.

1 – Prefatory Playfulness
2 – Love and Leviticus 
3 – Practice and Priorities
4 – Abominations
5 – Ritual Impurity

Unlike the previous posts, in this one I will provide a short essay that derives from a sermon I preached at St. Leonard’s Church in Eynsham, England, on 21 March 2010. At the end of the post you will find the sermon itself, which you can stream or download.

— Ten Commandments —

It is commonplace to imitate the Ten Commandments, not necessarily offering an alternative set of moral rules but a set of rules for particular kinds of tasks. Thus we find “the ten commandments of” various professions and practices, of both the remarkable and the routine: of marriage and medicine, and even of the Mafia; of picnicking and painting, and even of politicking. Imitation may indeed be a form of flattery, but it also may trivialize the original, downgrading it from divine command to an inconvenience.

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