Free audiobook: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

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Free Book of the MonthOver at Christianaudio.com they are offering another excellent audiobook for free this month: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek.

If you are looking for an accessible and wide-ranging book in defense of the Christian faith, then this would be an excellent choice.

Personally, along with the audiobook, I would strongly recommend that you acquire a hardcopy of the book as well, at least so you can follow up with the documentation on the quotes used and resources recommended. You’ll also want to reread some of the material in order to master it yourself. 

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Do and Don’t: The Golden Rule and Its Negative Version

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Do and Don’t: The Golden Rule and Its Negative Version

Kevin James Bywater

• • •

While at a British New Testament Conference in 2007,  I participated in a number of seminars focused on interpreting the New Testament in light of the literature of Second Temple Judaism. One presenter discussed the positive and negative formulations of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It was noted that most often in the literature of the early church the rule appears in a negative form: “Don’t do to others what you would not like them to do to you.”

Now, some have proposed that this negative form has a more limited force since it merely discourages doing harm to others rather than encouraging the doing of service for them. As such, the negative version may lend itself to a more restrictive application (e.g., “Hey, I didn’t hurt anyone!”). Also, it is conceivable that someone could use the negative form to justify inaction. However, others have proposed that the two forms imply each other. For me, while I could see the positive formulation implying the negative, the opposite is more difficult to manage.

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Oh, Those Amazing Feats!

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Oh, Those Amazing Feats!

Kevin James Bywater

• • •

Fire-walking? Oh, those amazing feats!

Perhaps you’ve seen them on late-night television. You know, “awaken the giant within” and other such rallying cries.

The conferees line up — some quietly confident, others perspiring and nervous. They roll up their trousers and hike up their skirts and . . . off they go.

Sure, it’s virtually speed-walking, but who’s to judge? Look, Mom, no hands, and no burns either.

So, is fire-walking really such an amazing feat?

firewalking

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Top Ten Posts for 2015

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Top Ten Posts for 2015

Kevin James Bywater

• • •

I can never anticipate what readers’ responses will be to any particular posts I publish here on this blog. Sometimes the responses are rather surprising. More often than not, it appears, the greatest responses arise in light of some controversial event: some political revelation, a tragedy, a social movement, some travesty. Regardless, here are the top ten posts for 2015.

OxfordMeme-CSLewis-learned_life

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Purpose and Meaning in Life

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Purpose and Meaning in Life

Kevin James Bywater

• • •

A Summit alumnus had asked, so here are some of my thoughts regarding purpose and meaning in life. 

As I’ve reflected on this over the years, I’ve felt the modern striving for purpose and meaning somewhat self-centered, even ego-centric. It needn’t be, I don’t suppose, though it certainly tends to be. I’ve also wondered about just what biblical teaching or precedents might have a bearing on these sorts of inquiries. Here are my thoughts, at a glance.

• • •

What I’ve noticed is that often highlighted in the Bible are the patriarchs, judges, kings, prophets, apostles – people in rather peculiar circumstances and particular positions. At times we read that God directly appears to or speaks to and through these individuals. I think it is rather natural to suppose that these are normal experiences . . . or, worse, that if we don’t have these kinds of experiences, then we’re not walking with God, or we’re not baptized by the Spirit, or otherwise are not attuned to hearing God’s voice.

I’ve wondered if we might not best see this as a range of mountains. Imagine that you are standing on a mountain, looking across a range of mountains. Imagine it is early morning and the midst yet remains settled in the valleys. As you gaze across the range, you see a series of peaks. You cannot see the valleys. Indeed, the valleys are not like the peaks. The peaks receive the sunshine directly, as well as the rain or the snow – whatever the precipitation. Then that precipitation runs down, from the peaks, cascading down the mountain sides and into the valleys far below, converging into streams that rush forth to the lands far beyond.

blue mountains

What if divine revelation is like that, like the precipitation that covers the peaks, that drenches them with the dew of the heavens, and then condenses into drops and streaks and trickles, then running into small channels, cascading down the mounting and coalescing into a canon of scripture that runs forth to the nations? 

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Readings at Summit Oxford • Spring Term 2016

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It undoubtedly is a truism that one can be wearied by the reading of many books. Perhaps even more so, the reading of many online articles, a bulk of blogs, frenzied Facebook statuses, hasty hashtags, and awful opinions. Even so, some publications actually can be enlightening, perhaps challenging. Some most certainly are fuel for our conversations at Summit Oxford. And sometimes our conversation get to be a bit energetic. I call these CHAT times: Christians Happily Arguing Theology (hopefully with an emphasis upon happily).

Readings at Summit Oxford • Hilary Term 2016

Our reading list changes a bit from term to term. New books are published, older ones seem less pressing or helpful, and there is ever a steady stream of articles and chapters on subjects that beg to be included. We do read a lot, mind you, approaching 2500 pages.

For the upcoming coming Autumn Term (September – December), along with a selection of articles, essays, and other items, we are reading and discussing the ten volumes listed below. I have listed them roughly in the order we will read them. Well, actually, several of them will be divvied up over the course of several days, with a chapter or section each day. Often I have our students read the books in their entirety and prepare reports/summaries for select chapters or sections. I’ve provided links to Amazon, if you care to purchase any of them.

December2015

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Sharia, Ballet, Mosques and Damp Socks

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Sharia, Ballet, Mosques and Damp Socks

Personal Reflections on Exploring Views Online,
in History, in Person, and in Islamic Legal Texts

Kevin James Bywater
• • •

Please forgive me for the length of this post. I’ve decided not to divide it up into separate posts since it is more coherent as a single post. There are three sections: the first explains that I’ve recently been conversing online about Sharia with a Muslim man; the second recounts my time with him in London on Saturday; the third presents my follow-up thoughts regarding a Sharia manual that he had recommended I consult.

emmeline ballet

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Islam, Refugees, and the Kingdom of God: A Potpourri of Thoughts

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Islam, Refugees, and the Kingdom of God

A Potpourri of Thoughts

Kevin James Bywater

• • •

The world simply won’t stop spinning – more like wobbling on its axis. So much is happening right now, and so quickly, that many have retreated to the morally corrupting and mentally dulling practice of argument by meme regarding refugees. God forbid! Beyond this, there is simply a swirling torrent of very energetic and hasty opinions expressed on social media. Some seek the solace of slogans. Others establish cliques around clichés. We might suppose that it is all simply like the fog of war. I suspect it more likely is simply the heady fog of not thinking with care, of not caring to think, of failing to practice the discipline of seeking to enhance the well-being of others. Again, this is no more evident than in so many verbal ejaculations on social media. Of course, blurting and chiding, taunting and demeaning – such emissions may bring us pleasure, but they neither enhance nor reproduce life.  

Thinking about Refugees

How can we see through this fog? There is no easy answer, as if one could simply drive up, speak into a box, move forward, pay a modest fee, and get your answer in a small paper bag. Rather, I think it is a discipline, a patient discipline that we develop over years – years complete with a menagerie of missteps and mistakes and misperceptions and misconceptions. But they are years lived with friends and mentors and neighbors, listening to those who emulate the wisdom and uprightness, the charity and clarity that provide guidance through the cacophony of voices that distract us from diligence and yet vie for our allegiance. 

Below are some bullet-pointed thoughts interspersed with some resources that may help anyone interested in escaping the morass of memed opinions sloshing about online.

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Reflections on My Term at Summit Oxford – Jeffrey Reid

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Reflections on My Term at Summit Oxford

Jeffrey Reid

• • •

Oxford. Hopkins describes it as a…

Towery city and branchy between towers;
Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmèd, lark-charmèd, rook-racked, river-rounded . . .

That is a description I love. There isn’t any place I’ve visited quite like Oxford, where history seeps from the stones while beauty blossoms on the trees.

Then there are the lovely and mundane aspects of Oxford: people turning in and out of shops, musicians busking on Cornmarket Street, and the peace and quiet at entering one’s college walls. Reflecting on this list, I am struck by how expected and unexpected pleasures are mixed throughout it. We simply cannot grasp all an experience will be before we are reflecting upon it. Unanticipated treasures are often some of the richest with which we walk away.

File Nov 18, 1 04 12 AM

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The Islamic State and Islam

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The Islamic State and Islam

Kevin James Bywater

• • •

Preface – 14 November 2015

Last night I watched online – through live video feeds and Twitter hashtags – the horror unfold in Paris. My heart sank as the numbers dying grew. I recalled that President Obama had that morning declared regarding ISIS, “What is true is that from the start, our goal has been first to contain and we have contained them.” This morning there were reports that among the perpetrators of these evil, cowardly actions were both French citizens and perhaps Syrian immigrants. Of course, ISIS had asserted that they would send operatives to Europe amidst the hordes of refugees and immigrants. Perhaps time will tell the truth about the fuller details of the identities and movements and associations of the culprits.

But now that some idea of the identities of these evildoers has come forth, again many are wondering, What does this have to do with Islam? or Is the Islamic State really Islamic? Of course, we’ve heard world leaders from David Cameron to Barack Obama, from George Bush to Tony Blair grant amnesty to Islam time and again. But this concerns me, precisely in that there appears to be an intentional glossing over of the fact that Islam is originally, and inherently, a political ideologyAs someone who has studied Islam on and off for over two decades, this now seems simply obvious to me.

However, there are plenty of Muslims who are not keen on practicing Islam as a political movement. Rather, they are practitioners of various rituals and abide by a variety of restrictions, but overall they simply want to live at peace. Many of these individuals do attempt to immigrate away from Islamic countries and cultures so they can avoid living under a dark cloud that persistently threatens them with a torrent of violence. I’ve written about such individuals previously. I truly feel for them. However, I feel that they are seeking a peace that ultimately is found through following our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, I know a former Muslim who now is a Christian who has reflected on the inherently violent nature of Islam here and here, and recounts his personal testimony here.

In the end, I sense rather seriously that unless we grasp that Islam is a political ideology, we will continue to fall prey to the slogan that “Islam is a religion of peace,” and then be befuddled when we witness the frequency and extent of violence perpetrated by some Muslims, and praised by far too many others. And we’ll also fall prey to attempts to morally equate these actions with the Crusades or some other historical events. Simply put, if you disapprove of the Crusades, then also state simply that you disapprove of these contemporary events as well. It is that simple. No need to muddle the message of disapproval and disgust, deflecting concerns to events from a long time ago.

So, what does ISIS have to do with Islam?

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