Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 125

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. In my sermon this week I alluded to the global impact of the Protestant Reformation and mentioned two outcomes you might have found surprising — the spread of democracy and the rise of science. To learn more about the first, check out Robert Woodberry’s article The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy, for the second go inspect Peter Harrison’s book The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science. For similarly edifying academic reads, check the list of resources at The Gospel and Green Library.
  2. Tuesday was the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. I found two unexpectedly similar responses to it:
    • From a Protestant: Which Henry Caused The Reformation (Carl Trueman, First Things): “But if we are truly to understand the problems the church faces in today’s world, and respond appropriately to them, we need to move beyond the blame game, and beyond seeing the matter in purely theological or ideological terms. It was the motor car, not Luther nor Calvin, that made the church just one more consumer choice. And therein lies the problem.”
    • From a Catholic: Who Won The Reformation? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “First, [the dominant cultural narrative] goes, Protestantism replaced the authority of the church with the authority of the Bible. Then, once it became clear that nobody could agree on what the Bible meant, the authority of conscience became pre-eminent — and from there we entered naturally (if with some bloody resistance from various reactionary forces) into the age of liberty, democracy and human rights.”
  3. How the prosperity gospel is sparking a major change in predominantly Catholic Brazil (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post): “Brazil, which has the most Catholics of any country in the world, is undergoing religious debates similar to those sparked in 1517 by a fiery German preacher named Martin Luther — over church riches and corruption, political power, and the proper way to read the Bible. By 2030, Catholics, now the religious majority in Brazil, are projected to become a religious minority.” Recommended.
  4. Across Myanmar, Denial of Ethnic Cleansing and Loathing of Rohingya (Hannah Beech, New York Times): “‘We do something that we call educating the people,’ said U Pe Myint, the nation’s information minister. He acknowledged, ‘It looks rather like indoctrination, like in an authoritarian or totalitarian state.’” This is insane. Also, reading this may cause you to revise your opinion of the intrinsically peaceful nature of Buddhism and the significance of the Nobel Peace Prize.
  5. Jobs Are A Cost, Not A Benefit (Tim Worstall, Forbes): “It is simply nonsense that we should prefer using the labour of more people to achieve a goal than using less labour to achieve the same goal. Absolute, arrant, nonsense…. Labour is, after all, the sweat of the brow and the breaking of the back for those who have to do it: people who would probably prefer to be enjoying a little more of that work life balance and some leisure with loved ones if they didn’t have to be climbing windmills in the middle of a North Sea gale.” Recommended by an alumnus.
  6. ‘I Am a Man With Down Syndrome and My Life Is Worth Living’ (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “Parents who carry a fetus with Down syndrome to term, or who are conflicted about whether or not to do so, will almost certainly speak with a medical professional, and perhaps with a counselor or religious adviser. But they are unlikely to hear from an adult with Down syndrome—and perhaps unaware that many are loving their lives, bringing joy to others, and giving themselves to their communities.”
  7. Is Atheism Irrational? (Kelly J. Clark, Big Questions Online): “According to a culturally influential narrative, religious beliefs are irrational because they are caused by unreliable cognitive mechanisms, whereas atheism is rational because it is the product of rational reflection on true beliefs. We have debunked a portion of the narrative: atheism, at least in some cases, is correlated with and mediated by a cognitive deficit.”
  8. Prostitution Reduces Rape (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): Huh. I find it interesting that even though prostitution is condemned throughout the Bible, it was not actually outlawed in Old Testament Israel except in certain specific circumstances. In light of this research, that makes a lot of sense. See to skim some of the key Bible verses.

Things Glen Found Amusing

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have some thoughts about slavery and the Bible – Does The Bible Support Slavery? (a lecture given by the warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge University, the link is to the video with notes) and Does God Condone Slavery In The Bible? (Part One – Old Testament) and also Part Two – New Testament (longer pieces from Glenn Miller at Christian Thinktank). All three are quite helpful. (first shared in volume 76)

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.


Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it).

Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it.

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