Two very different approaches to internet debate

angel and devilI had two very different conversations on my comment threads yesterday with people who disagreed with something I had written. In the first case, I was put on the defensive and became increasingly convinced that I was being judged unfairly. In the second case, I was disarmed and ended up conceding that I had made an irresponsible choice in how I worded something. Since I saw my own natural tendencies in the first approach, I thought it seemed like the opportunity for a teachable moment for me and perhaps you as well. Continue reading

Is private philanthropy more efficient than the state at helping the poor?

CNN today features an article talking about the corruption in America’s charity industrial complex. One of the things that has happened most recently is that many charities are funneling most of their donation money to the for-profit fundraising firms they use to solicit people. CNN gives the example of the Kids Wish Network foundation which gives 3 cents out of every dollar to the kids that it raises money for, the rest going to consultants and for-profit fundraisers. One of the basic assertions of the Reagan era of the last three decades has been that private philanthropy is always better than the government at taking care of people in need. I’m pretty sure that even the least efficient government bureaucracy can do better than 3 cents on the dollar. It seems like the profit motive does a plenty good job of creating corruption and waste. Capitalism at its finest!

Reformation Day & Augustine’s hermeneutical standard of love

When the Reformation happened in the 1500’s, there were very different assumptions in place about who had the authority to interpret scripture. The Biblical “literalism” that evangelical America takes for granted today was not at all the standard. It’s important for evangelicals to recognize that “literalism” is not a claim about the authority of scripture, but about the authority of the interpreter. It concerns whether I need a priest to interpret the Bible for me (which would be a conservative position) or if I can open the Bible to any given verse and interpret it for myself (which is not a conservative but a populist claim). Both Martin Luther and John Calvin relied heavily in their treatises on the work of 4th century theologian Augustine to make their case for breaking with Roman Catholic tradition. Their argument was conservative (the present church has strayed from an apostolic orthodoxy in the past) rather than populist (screw tradition; I have the authority to read the Bible for myself). One way to describe the crisis of Biblical interpretation today is that the evangelical descendents of the Reformation have betrayed the original Reformers with the populism of Biblical “literalism”; we need to return to the heremeneutical standard of the master-theologian to whom Luther and Calvin tethered their thinking.

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