New Atheism: There’s probably no lasting impact


I think the New Atheists are overrated. I find myself under-whelmed at their bus campaigns, their books, the way that journalists throw softball questions in response to their every problematic pronouncement, and their whole position. I have been scratching my head for years trying to work out where all the interest in them comes from, let alone why they are treated as some kind of serious attack on religion in general and the Christian faith in particular. (more…)

The future of complementarianism (4): things people do and don’t fear


This debate between complementarians that the Piper incident has helped highlight has reinforced my growing impression that there are significant differences between the egalitarian and complementarian “sides” in how they approach ‘in house’ differences. Some reflections on this is my fifth and final observation and will take up the whole of these last two posts. (more…)

The future of complementarianism (3): tradition and clarity


The third observation is that those of us who disagree with what (at least seems to be) Piper’s approach of linking what men and women should be doing to claims that men more naturally do some things well and women more naturally do other things well need to realize that if that is Piper’s view then that is arguably also the basic way in which pre-feminist Christians for 2000 years explained the logic behind the relevant Biblical commands. (more…)

The future of complementarianism (2): the search for the One True Complementarianism


The second observation is that the debate over the place of gender in public ministry and the husband/wife relationship is more complex than it can appear on the surface. As I suggested in my previous series, underneath the term ‘egalitarian’ there are a huge number of mutually contradictory positions held for a wide range of mutually contradictory reasons. Underneath the term ‘complementarian’ appears to be a smaller number of positions but which seem to be increasingly concerned to differentiate themselves from each other and which are about as quick to shoot each other for being unbiblical as they are for apparently being egalitarianism. (more…)

The future of complementarianism (1): feeling, nothing more than (Christianity has a masculine) feeling


In case you missed it, there was a minor ripple through the evangelical portion of the web recently. John Piper was reported to have declared that Christianity has a masculine feel in a talk he gave on J.C. Ryle’s ministry to a men’s conference on ministry. Blogs and Facebook lit up as Christians reacted—and as is usual with the social media, with those unhappy with the statement responding first, and then others reacting to the first group’s stated disagreement with Piper. (more…)

New Atheism (8): The next generation—The Neo-New Atheists, part 2


Last post I argued that Davies, Pratchett, Whedon, and Adams handle death far more empathically and sensitively than is New Atheism’s tendency. It is similar when it comes to meaning in life. These writers do not agree with each other about the answer to the meaning of life, but they all share far more in common than they do with New Atheism. (more…)

New Atheism (6): Different strokes for different blokes—Christian leaders


The third group is Christian leaders. The issues here are usually much the same as the second group, and the solutions will work much the same. The distinctive extra element leaders bring to the table is the particular demands that come from exercising some kind of leadership role. On the one hand, they usually (if they’re any good) have high expectations of themselves. So the ambiguities and compromises of life can often vitiate their sense of the vitality of the Christian life more than for ‘run of the mill’ believers. The right expectation that they will be an exemplar of the life of faith puts pressure on them that sometimes ends up being directed to the reality of God himself. Their falling short in life and godliness can make the whole faith seem less real. This in turn can leave them vulnerable to arguments that the faith is merely a human construct, with no inner objectivity or power. (more…)

New Atheism (5): Different strokes for different blokes—Younger and older Christians


Which Christians are particularly vulnerable to New Atheism’s polemics? The first group is teenagers and young adults growing up in some kind of Christian framework. This group will generally be relatively ignorant of the content of the Christian faith and how it can answer challenges such as that presented by New Atheism, as they haven’t had time to mature and sink their roots down deep. They are in the process of transitioning into the man or woman they are going to be and so are usually, whether they realize it or not, coming to conclusions about where they stand in relation to the God they have grown up with. They are in the process of deciding whether or not, and if so to what degree, their life will be a pursuit of the kingdom of God. (more…)

New Atheism (4): Different strokes for different folks—Ground zero


The third group New Atheism has an effect on is Christian believers. It seems to have some success in persuading some people to abandon their faith. My impression is that the numbers involved are fairly small, and New Atheism’s effect is usually only one of a constellation of factors; there’s usually a number of other things going on in that person’s life. Nonetheless, given New Atheism’s weaknesses and flaws it’s a bit surprising it has any effect at all. (more…)

New Atheism (3): Different strokes for different folks—The enemy of my enemy mightn’t be my friend but boy is he useful!


The second main group relating to New Atheism is ‘Joe and Jill Average’. This is the average Aussie or English or American, etc. They are not signed up members of New Atheism, but they aren’t signed up believers in anything in the way of organized religion either. They’re the bread-and-butter target of our evangelism. (more…)

New Atheism (2): Different strokes for different folks—The true believers


[This is the second article in a series on New Atheism. Read part 1.]

So, if New Atheism is a passing fad, what kind of impact should we expect while it’s around, and where should we expect it? I’ll suggest three main areas over the next three posts, acknowledging that they’re broad categories and there’ll be a fair-sized assorted grouping of people that don’t fit in these three broad categories. (more…)

New Atheism (1): Sound and fury, signifying nothing


Over the next several posts I’m going to outline some of my thoughts about the relative strengths and weaknesses of New Atheism, and things I think people should keep in mind as they think about addressing its claims and its criticisms of God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ. This series is aimed primarily at Christians who have some sort of public evangelistic or teaching role. It’s not a ‘how to’ guide on dealing with specific New Atheist positions—there’s a lot of great material around that does that, and it would be highly unlikely I could offer anything that hasn’t already been done much better by someone else. As a consequence I don’t really address any of New Atheism’s truth claims; I focus more on the reasons why I think it has the influence it does, reasons that are generally irrespective of its truthfulness or falsehood. (more…)

Working with clowns

Everyday Ministry

The movie Real Men is at best a guilty pleasure. A womanizing super-agent teams up with a wimpy suburban family man to save the world, one long dad joke after another. For me, the scene which captures the style of the movie best is when the protagonists are attacked by a bunch of rogue CIA agents… all dressed in clown suits. It begins with the line “Who are those clowns?” and finishes as the last clown standing looks around and says (and if you couldn’t see this coming when the scene began, you should hang your head in shame) “I’m working with a bunch of clowns”, before running away.