Tuesday, November 27, 2007

'The Backlash Against Tithing' - Wall Street Journal

Some denominations require their members to pay a tithe of their income to the church. This practice is often justified using texts from the Old Testament and presented as if it is a requirement that God has imposed on all believers, including Christians. The Wall Street Journal has just published an interesting article by Suzanne Sataline entitled The Backlash Against Tithing. You can read the article here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The truth in religion - Times Online

John Polkinghorne, who is a professional theologian and a mathematical physicist, reviews two recent books written by atheists once again questioning religious belief, specifically, Christianity. I can’t make any comments about the two books, but Polkinghorne’s review is worth reading for the perspective he offers on the approach of atheist writers like Dawkins and Hutchins (both of whom I have read). The commentary following the review is also very interesting. You can check out the article in Times Online here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Book Review: People in Glass Houses

10972_fTanya Levin’s People in Glass Houses is a penetrating, often witty, account of the author’s spiritual journey inside Hillsong as a child, and outside of Hillsong as an adult. Levin draws on personal experience and research that she has undertaken in recent times to present a compelling analysis of what is going on, not only in Hillsong, but in Pentecostal and Christian fundamentalism more generally.

Levin grew up in the Assemblies of God church now known as Hillsong. Hillsong is probably the most visible Pentecostal church in Australia with its music being listened to and sung in churches across the nation. But, according to Levin, all is not what it seems on the surface. The book is a series of anecdotes from her own experience, observations she has made, research she has done, and material from interviews with those in and outside the church.

It is difficult, of course, for people outside of Hillsong to evaluate how accurate Levin’s portrayal is. But an enormous amount of what she describes resonates with other sources on pentecostalism and Christian fundamentalism. She names names and recognises her own "warts" as she shares her story.

People in Glass Houses was controversial even before it got published. In February 2007, The Bulletin reported on the dropping of this book by Allen & Unwin whose lawyers suddenly reversed their previous approval of the book. According to the report, Levin’s publisher had decided that there was too high a possibility that Hillsong would sue for defamation. And Hillsong have told Levin she is not welcome on the premises of Hillsong anymore. There are also those who defend Hillsong and its activities.

Clearly, People in Glass Houses is one person’s view. Some people insist that Levin has an axe to grind. Others who have had experience with Hillsong support what she says. But it is a view that should be heard. Judgments about Levin’s motives should at least be reserved until after reading her book. In my view, a good deal of what she says is not surprising given what I know about Pentecostal theology and the people I know who subscribe to it. Levin also names and documents sources where they are needed.

People in Glass Houses is an engaging, thought-provoking, fascinating expose of the darker side of Hillsong and ’Word of Faith’ Pentecostal fundamentalism.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Bible, Christianity, & Homosexuality

I’m sure you will already know that the issue of homosexuality is highly contentious within Christianity with a variety of views held by a diverse range of people. A lot of the arguments are highly emotive - on both sides of the debate. I recently came across a very interesting article by Justin R Canon entitled The Bible, Christianity, & Homosexuality. Canon examines all of the main passages of the Bible which are commonly used to argue against homosexuality and provides an alternate reading of them based on his understanding of the cultural and literary context of each passage. The essential conclusion is that the Bible does not address the issue of homosexual orientation nor ongoing committed relationships (marriage) between same-sex partners. It’s a fascinating and thought-provoking article written in plain language. You can download a copy here. I would be interested in comments anyone might have in response to it - particularly critique of the exegesis of the biblical texts. Related Links