Moonshot: What Barth, Tillich, and Tozer Thought of the Space Age

CT’s 1958 interview provides some bearing on today’s missions to the sun, Mars and beyond.

It seems like so long ago that a moonshot was just a moonshot. Today, “moonshot” has come to mean an improbable mission—curing cancer, artificial general intelligence, or interstellar flight—a giant leap for mankind. Humanity’s current leap is toward the sun, as the Parker Solar Probe speeds toward its third perihelion—the point in an orbit closest to our home star—in September.

As we mark the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s moonshot—his one small step on July 20, 1969—it is easy to forget how improbable reaching the moon seemed before we actually did, when a moonshot was just a moonshot, 11 years before at the dawn of the Space Age.

What might pastors and theologians from 60 years ago think about the success of our space missions today? In digging through our archives, we discovered that Christianity Today posed the question, “Moonshot: Its Meaning?” to 25 of the greatest theological minds of 1958, from Karl Barth to C. S. Lewis to Paul Tillich to Emil Brunner, coupled with a lead-off essay by A. W. Tozer, “A Christian Look at the Space Age.”

What does a moonshot mean for a Christian? Reading over the brief interviews today, several themes stand out: How do Christians interpret world events rapidly occurring without misreading their implication for Christians? In contrast to the many horrific events of the 20th century, can space exploration offer a new hope for the world? Or more of the same? And how does space exploration change the way we see people and the way we see God?

We had only just begun to absorb the ramifications of the Nuclear Age when the Soviet’s Sputnik 1 changed the trajectory of our world in the fall of 1957. With …

Continue reading…

Interview: Proving That God Exists Without Opening a Bible

How human reason alone can lay a pathway from doubt to belief.

Many skeptics are open to the possibility that God exists, but they’re uncomfortable affirming it on the basis of biblical authority or faith alone. The good news, says Azusa Pacific University philosophy professor Joshua Rasmussen, is that they don’t have to. In How Reason Can Lead to God: A Philosopher’s Bridge to Faith, Rasmussen shows how human reason and experience lay down a pathway to theistic belief, revealing a divine being very much like the God of the Bible. Lydia McGrew, analytic philosopher and author of Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts, spoke with Rasmussen about shepherding nonbelievers along this “bridge of reason.”

You describe your book, in the subtitle, as “a philosopher’s bridge to faith.” Are non-philosophers supposed to be part of your intended audience?

I want this book to touch—and even transform—everyone who seeks truth about God. As I wrote, I imagined different characters stepping onto a bridge. Some characters come to the bridge as young seekers, while others are seasoned professionals. I call this “the bridge of reason.” Every step on this bridge is composed of common experience and universal principles of reason. You can think of each step as foundational to a kind of argument for an aspect of God. For example, the chapter “Foundation of Mind” is about arguments for God’s mind. I use plain terms: No technical jargon, no appeals to authority. Every step is about something you can test for yourself.

Yet the bridge goes past the edges of my field. Philosophers will recognize pieces that add to current conversations. I’ve also included a special argument at the end, in …

Continue reading…

Who Needs Those TPS Reports? Venezuelan Christians

Churches benefit when the US government shows mercy to groups versus individuals.

A blank foster parent application sits on Andrea’s kitchen table, waiting to be filled out. When she and her husband—both youth pastors at a small-town evangelical church—printed the form, she looked forward to fulfilling a lifelong dream of becoming a foster family: a safe, stable place for children whose lives had been turned upside down. Children unlike herself.

Growing up, her childhood as a Salvadoran immigrant to the United States was tranquil. Andrea, who requested that her last name not be used, did have vague knowledge of the rolling deadline that came up every 18 months, with its accompanying stress over paying the $2,000 fee to maintain her family’s temporary protected status (TPS) with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). But every family had financial concerns, so she felt theirs was nothing abnormally burdensome.

“We just lived a normal life,” Andrea said. “We’re as rooted as anybody.”

The TPS program currently allows 417,000 immigrants who fled extraordinary circumstances to live in the US with permission to work. Many have become deeply enmeshed in their communities, impossible to extricate without sending ripples of instability through families, churches, and businesses.

The Trump administration’s decision to terminate TPS for some countries has shaken America’s immigrants. Many will face the decision to remain illegally in what they consider to be their home or to return to a place that would be unsafe for their families. The terminations also cast a shadow of uncertainty over efforts to extend TPS to immigrants from Venezuela. The political situation there has grown dramatically unstable as opposition leader Juan Guaidó, backed …

Continue reading…

A Deeper Look at Immigration & Potential Targets of the ICE Raids

Religion plays a key role in American immigration politics.

This should come as no shock, but immigration is President Trump’s signature issue. He campaigned on building a wall that Mexico would pay for. ICE enforcement has ramped up dramatically with the number of daily immigrants arrested up nearly 50% since he took office.

Nearly half a million immigrants in the United States under the temporary protective status program have had their legal protections ended by the Trump administration. Additionally, under Trump directives, the number of visas issued to individuals wanting to come to this country legally was down approximately 13% in 2018. Not to mention that the status of DACA recipients is still very much uncertain.

Using this national debate as a backdrop, it seems helpful to ask some basic questions: Are certain religious groups going to be hurt disproportionately by these immigration policies? What do immigrants who come to the United States look like? What are their racial backgrounds? What are their religious traditions?

The 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election study asked all 64,600 respondents: “Which of these statements best describes you?” and were given the following options:

  1. Immigrant Citizen
  2. Immigrant non-citizen
  3. First Generation
  4. Second Generation
  5. Third Generation

The answers to this question paint a fascinating picture of the American population. For instance, nearly 3 in 10 respondents indicated that their family has been in the country for two generations or less. Said another way, 30% of Americans indicate that their great grandparents did not live in the United States.

How does that break down by religious tradition? The above graph displays the differences graphically. Note that Black Protestants, Evangelicals, and Mainline Protestants all have …

Continue reading…

Jenni Catron on Women in Leadership and Leadership Burnout, Part 2

“Where I see women in leadership either pull back, step down, or burn out, is when they don’t have peers and mentors.”

Ed: As a leader who has served large churches and other organizations, what are the differences and similarities particular to women leaders at higher levels? Do you think there is a different kind of mindset that you take with you as a woman in high levels of leadership?

Jenni: One of the dynamics we as women have to navigate in those seats is that we are often the only one at the table. There’s a lot that could be racing through one’s mind being that isolated.

However, I’ve seen those instances as a privilege. I’ve always looked at those opportunities as an honor. Therefore, I’ve sought to seize those opportunities as a means by which I could create a great experience where men and women can work and serve together with the hopes of paving a healthier environment for more diversity in leadership.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It can be a lonely seat. Many time, I’ve asked men in leadership how it would make them feel if the script was reversed and they were the only male sitting at the table surrounded by women. Armed with that thought, I challenge them to be sensitive to women who might be in that position.

Nevertheless, women need to embrace the feeling of being an outlier. But in doing so, I’ve encouraged women leaders to find a circle of women who are in similar leadership positions who can be a safe community of support and encouragement.

To be honest, I believe that support mechanism is essential. Where I see women in leadership either pull back, step down, or burn out, is when they don’t have peers and mentors.

Ed: For men, how can we help more to empower and release women leaders?

Jenni: First, just that question alone is empowering and releasing! I’m really …

Continue reading…

Meeting Jesus as a Black Woman in a White City

I asked God to rescue me from a place I hated. He wanted me to stay put.

It’s one of my most vivid memories as a girl: sitting on the edge of my bed, face angled toward the window, eyes peeled for my daddy. My heart would race as a new set of headlights approached—maybe that’s him—before sinking as the car passed into the distance. Still, I’d hold on to hope. From the time my parents divorced—I was four—I looked forward to these planned outings with my dad.

Although they were both college-educated and hard-working, my parents differed greatly. My mom was very much a homebody. Other than work, she hardly ventured anywhere. Even so, I admired her: Everything she did, she did excellently. And when she had convictions, she stuck to them. She gave me a wonderfully stable, predictable life. But for me, that often translated to boring.

My dad was the fun one. Mom would never ride a roller coaster, but Dad would coax me into the front car. He played sports, loved music, and had an infectious laugh. Whenever I knew he was coming, I’d have my bag packed, ready to go.

Where is he? Did he forget about me? Daddy was always out and about, so there was never any point trying his landline. (This was the era before mobile phones.) All I could do was wait, even as daylight turned to dusk and dusk to night. Tears would gather as I realized he wasn’t coming. Again. More than once I thought, I must not really matter. He must not really love me.

When I picture that little girl looking out the window, pining for her father, it’s amazing to think that God was watching me even then. He knew the void I felt. He knew the relationship I longed for. And he knew that one day he would draw me to himself.

Craving Intimacy

I was raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland, …

Continue reading…

I Befriended Bart Ehrman by Debating Him

I’ve been blessed by my friendships with debate opponents, despite strong disagreements.

It was February 2008. I had committed to a public debate with the prominent agnostic New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman. He was an established scholar, an award-winning professor at a prominent university, and a New York Times best-selling author. Additionally, he already had several public debates under his belt.

In contrast, I was still a year away from completing my PhD and knew far less about the New Testament and early Christianity. And yet, there I was, committed to debating Bart Ehrman.

A few months earlier, I had been talking to Phil Roberts, then the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Roberts knew about my apologetics work and had asked me if I might be interested in doing a public debate. I told him I’d want to debate Ehrman, and Roberts set it up.

Why did I choose to face this giant? His scholarship was leading people away from the Christian faith and sowing seeds of doubt in the minds of many others; he needed to be answered.

Preparing with ‘Pseudo-Bart’

The topic for our debate was “Can historians prove Jesus rose from the dead?” My nearly completed doctoral research focused on this very topic, so I was confident I knew more about it than Ehrman. Over the next five months, I dedicated no less than 50 hours a week to preparing.

I read everything Ehrman had written on the topic and formulated answers to his various assertions. I dissected his previous debate with the prominent Christian philosopher William Lane Craig and thought through how to respond if Ehrman were to make the same points and rebuttals. I wanted every answer to be sound, succinct, and accessible to our audience. I practiced managing the time for giving each answer so I wouldn’t have to rush.

My friend …

Continue reading…

Whatever Happened to Communion & Baptism?

Or, why aren’t we doing what Jesus told us to do?

There is no greater signal that evangelicals have long forgotten their roots than the disrepair into which the sacraments have fallen in our day. By way of reminder, we should note that the Second Great Awakening began as a Communion retreat. Churches from all over gathered at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in August 1801 to prepare themselves for and then partake in Communion. As I wrote in an article on this revival:

Communions (annual three-to-five-day meetings climaxed with the Lord’s Supper) gathered people in the dozens, maybe the hundreds. At this Cane Ridge Communion, though, sometimes 20,000 people swirled about the grounds—watching, praying, preaching, weeping, groaning, falling. Though some stood at the edges and mocked, most left marveling at the wondrous hand of God.

The Cane Ridge Communion quickly became one of the best-reported events in American history, and according to Vanderbilt historian Paul Conkin, “arguably … the most important religious gathering in all of American history.” It ignited the explosion of evangelical religion, which soon reached into nearly every corner of American life. For decades the prayer of camp meetings and revivals across the land was “Lord, make it like Cane Ridge.”

As such Communions, people gathered on Friday and spent that evening and Saturday praying, reading Scripture, and listening to sermons as they prepared themselves for worship and Communion on Sunday. At Cane Ridge, Saturday was not so quiet:

The Saturday morning services had been quiet—the proverbial lull before a storm. But by afternoon, the preaching was continual, from both the meetinghouse and the tent. … Excitement mounted, and amid smoke and sweat, the camp erupted in …

Continue reading…

When Christians Don’t Get a Second Chance

Most evangelicals want America’s criminal justice system to offer it. But immigrant Christians like Detroit’s Chaldeans don’t get one.

Standing in the small chapel at Our Lady of Perpetual Help on a crisp April morning, it would be easy to exoticize the Iraqi worshipers, gathered for Monday Mass and tethered to ancient roots. The lingering aroma of incense clings to the thick carpet and dark upholstery of the Chaldean Catholic church in suburban Detroit. The ornate icons, candles, and rosaries evoke a more gilded era of Catholicism. Chanting in Arabic, some of the women gently sway under delicate white lace veils.

It doesn’t look like a community on the brink of being torn apart.

When news broke in the summer of 2017 that the US government planned to deport 1,400 Iraqis, it sounded at a national level like yet another immigration story. Mostly men with felony records, the group had been living under “final orders of removal”: a judicial sentence deferred for 5, 10, 20, and even 30 years in some cases because of continuing instability in Iraq.

But a closer look at one of the largest concentrations of Iraqi American Christians, Detroit’s Chaldean community, reveals a portrait of a people whose past and future are deeply interwoven with colliding interests and cultures. It is, in short, a more American story.

It also illustrates how the near-universal sympathy of American Christians for the persecuted church abroad clashes with their divided political views back home. And not just views on immigration policies. The Chaldean Christians’ presence in the United States, their experience here, and the threat of their forced return to Iraq—something many of them consider a death sentence—are inseparable from America’s foreign policy, criminal justice system, and economic inequities.

Foreign Entanglements

In the aftermath …

Continue reading…

Interview: How J. P. Moreland Presented His Anxious Mind to God

The apologist opens up about his battles with mental illness.

In public, J.P. Moreland is best known for battling in the arena of Christian apologetics. But privately, he has waged a personal struggle against occasionally debilitating mental illness. The longtime Biola University philosophy professor opens up about this side of his life in Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought Peace. Eric L. Johnson, director of the Gideon Institute of Christian Psychology and Counseling at Houston Baptist University, spoke with Moreland about the spiritual and psychological lessons he’s learned.

Finding Quiet is centered on the story of your journey of recovery from anxiety and depression. Tell us some of that story.

I was born into a family with a genetic predisposition, on my mother’s side, toward an anxiety disorder. I went through life with periods of anxiety, but in 2004, following my most stressful year as a professor, I had a complete nervous breakdown, complete with daily panic attacks and irrational fears. I was afraid when the phone rang, afraid to check my email. This lasted seven months, before therapy, medication, and other measures helped me regain stability. Then, ten years later, the same thing happened. By fall I was unable to teach my classes because I was completely dysfunctional. I couldn’t even let my grandchildren visit because it was too much stimulation.

After recovering once more, I began reading everything I could about dealing with anxiety, along with many books about spiritual formation. From this, I learned that anxiety was largely a habit—though of course not entirely a habit. So I began practicing habit-forming disciplines to help reprogram my brain, heart, and nervous systems, as well as my soul. It changed …

Continue reading…