Archive for February, 2011

Book Review: Perelandra

February 27, 2011

Perelandra is the second book in C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy.  As I indicated in my last review, I often find Lewis’ fiction works to be tedious.  He spends forever in descriptions and other lengthy passages that don’t contribute much to moving the plot along.  Being essentially impatient, I struggle with that.

This book is much the same.  Thankfully, he doesn’t spend much time at all on the issue of language.  His protagonist in the last book, Ransom, is the protagonist in this book as well.  The language skills he developed on Malacandra (Mars) are applied here on Perelandra (Venus), and not much more is said of it.  This makes me very happy!
However, to make up for this deficiency in word study, he overcompensates with descriptiveness.  He spends pages and pages describing the flora and fauna and wildlife of the ocean-world of Perelandra.  Maybe you’re able to envision this and savor his imagination, and if so, more power to you.  But it tired me quickly and I was grateful to be able to skim over some of these sections to get to the good bits again.
And there are plenty of good bits.  Perelandra is essentially the story of a prelapsarian world.  In ordinary language, it’s a world that has not fallen into sin yet.  It retains the essential goodness and perfection that the Bible leads us to understand our own world once possessed – prior to Adam & Eve & the bit with the fruit in Eden.  Ransom finds himself once again hurled through space to the planet Venus, where he encounters the equivalent of the Biblical Eve.  
But Perelandra is not earth, and the Biblical rules as we understand them don’t necessarily apply on Venus.  While Venus has not fallen into sin, it still exists after the Incarnation of the Son of God on earth, and Lewis imagines that changes certain things.  The story centers around the temptation of Eve and Ransom’s struggle to prevent a repeat of the Garden of Eden on a pristine world.  
Similar to Out of the Silent Planet, Lewis does a great job at imagining how a modern man would describe and react to situations analogous to Biblical situations.  How would we describe angels, for instance?  Would we consider them as inter-dimensional beings rather than just focusing on their otherness in physicality or lack thereof?  
Again, this is worth the read, though you may find that it requires you to push yourself through sections of it.  I think it’s worth it.  If you happen to enjoy Lewis’ endless descriptions, then you will find this book to be all the more worthwhile.  
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It Gets Me Thinking…

February 26, 2011

I stumbled over this article from National Public Radio this evening while procrastinating researching.  

It’s a nice article describing the first legal bison hunt in a century for several Native American tribes.  It does a good job of conveying the excitement and the sense of honor and connectedness.  This handful of people have been able to do something that was part and parcel of their ancestor’s way of life.  It connects them spiritually and culturally to traditions larger and grander than themselves.
I started thinking that wouldn’t it be interesting if Christians viewed elements of their faith in this same way?  This is sort of a tricky thing to talk about, since late 20th century Christianity in terms of protestantism has by and large been eager to jettison the connection to the historic church in favor of inventing and discovering things for themselves.  Out with the old, in with the nouveau.  Traditions are for saps.  Spirituality and personal connectedness are what matter.  
Not all Christian traditions have been so quick to jettison the past.  Thank the Catholics and the Orthodox, as well as large swaths of more conservative denominations such as the LCMS for insisting that cultural relevance and outreach do not demand that we give up who we are as part of the historical Body of Christ.  It’s not a popular line.  It’s not an easy line.  But it’s an important line to take.  
It’s hard I think in part because by and large people in the last century in America have been free to worship as they pleased.  Church was something that could be taken for granted.  Communion?  Baptism?  Available whenever and wherever you liked.  You want dunking or dribbling?  Grape juice or merlot?  Options galore – just take your pick.  
Familiarity breeds contempt, the old saw goes, and perhaps that’s what American Christianity has experienced as much as anything.  When something isn’t available all the time, even something that you take for granted and consider to be pretty mundane takes on greater significance.  Maybe as much significance as the first bison hunt in a century.  
Then again, not to be too terribly serious and stuffy-headed, I really cracked up towards the end of this article when one of the hunters talked about the importance of sharing most of the kill.  His rational?  “Karma comes around.”
So maybe there are downsides to not being able to practice fully your spiritual way of life for over a century.  

Book Review: Out of the Silent Planet

February 23, 2011

I really don’t like C.S. Lewis’ fiction.  Yes, I understand this is heresy.

One of my best friends in high school and college was fascinated with language.  He had a gift with words, but he was also obsessed with them.  And not just our words either, not just English words.  He loved all words.  He loved burrowing between the letters to discover their roots.  He created new languages.  I think he still does.  He was the first philologist I ever knew, and perhaps the only one.  We attempted collaborations on novels and short stories, but our styles were too different.  I could never fully understand his love of language, although having studied multiple languages over the years, I’ve gradually come to both respect that love and to better appreciate it.  
And then I reread C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet , in which the protagonist, Ransom, is a philologist.  
Therein lies the majority of the problem with the book.  Lewis has some fascinating ideas.  He’s able to capture them in dialog that at times is magnificent.  But he feels the need to dwell extensively on language, reflecting his own passion for words.  This drags the book down significantly, slowing the pace to an almost excruciating crawl.  Extended sections of description of geological features and language are all ultimately wasted because regardless of the detail Lewis applies to the characters and landscape, they remain completely one-dimensional.  They are foils for Lewis’ theological musings and little more.  
Fortunately, those musings are worth skimming over the slower portions of the book.  In essence, Lewis is proposing a discussion.  How might a modern human being experience and describe celestial beings?  In our rush to insist that the heavens are really just space, we have emptied them of so much, including God.  But in addition to God, the Judeo-Christian Scriptures describe the existence of other spiritual creations as well – angels and demons.  Concepts that make the smug modernist or humanist snort and chuckle in derision as they imitate flapping wings and halos.  
But what if those beings were real, and someone from the 20th century encountered them and described their relationship to us?  What if we could come up with Biblically faithful words that access our more detailed understanding of our world?  How might we describe some of the beings the Bible describes?  What concepts would we bring to that description?
Lewis begins constructing a more modern framework for the Biblical ideas in Genesis.  God.  Creation.  Satan.  Angelic beings.  Sin.  Grace.  These concepts begin to be fleshed out in this book and are carried out in the two other books of the trilogy (Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength).   Yes, this is all speculation on Lewis’ part, but it’s intelligent speculation as well as faithful imagining.  I won’t go into the details, as encountering those nuggets are what makes wading through the prose and linguistic details of the book worth the effort.  Fortunately it’s a relatively short book and an easy read – so you aren’t suffering for very long, and you get to begin ruminating on his imaginings pretty quickly.

Digging in the Dirt

February 22, 2011

I’m digging in the dirt

To find the places I got hurt.

– Peter Gabriel – 
I’ve collected several different articles regarding the ethics of doctors and health care providers.  Particularly, are they allowed to exercise their freedom of conscience professionally without discrimination?  Should a pharmacist be able to refuse to fill a prescription for contraceptives because of their conscience?  
I’ve run across several articles on this issue.  The first one is here, but it’s really just an abstract of this article from the New York Times.  Do you notice anything interesting in these two articles?
Neither article actually gives us the name of the bill or rule or whatever you want to call it from 2008 that Bush enacted.  Neither article actually gives us the name of the bill or rule or whatever you want to call it, even though the whole article is about the controversy of the original bill and the subsequent controversy of Obama’s changes to it.  No link is made to the rule – either as it was originally enacted or as it has been or will be modified.
Huh.  That made me curious.  So I started Googling to see if I could find the name of this amendment.  Wikipedia didn’t have a link to it (or it probably did, but I would need to know the exact name of it to find it).  It took me several minutes – an eternity in online searching! – to finally come up with this Health and Human Services memo on the issue from 2008.  Through it, I was able to figure out that the 2008 legislation in question was the Weldon Act.  
At least I think it is.  I have yet to be able to successfully get a hold of that Amendment, or even be certain that I’m looking at the appropriate legislation which the Amendment is a part of.  I think that this is it.  I’m still not certain.  And even if it is, I have to figure out which portion of this massive piece of legislation is the Weldon Amendment.  
All of which leads to several interesting observations and realizations (well, interesting to me, at least!).   Firstly, in reporting news to people on legislation, the assumption seems to be that what we need and want are the perspectives and attitudes of various people on different sides of the issue.  We want to know why some people like it and why others don’t.  Of course, in reporting this, any particular news outlet is going to be tempted to skew the perspectives to emphasize or better represent the side that best matches the outlet’s own ideas or views on the topic.  The assumption is not only that the reader does not want to look at the actual legislative text, but that they aren’t capable of understanding it.  
Tragically, the latter part may be true, based on my limited explorations thus far!
Another realization is that if there are avenues for examining the enacted laws and legislation for our nation, we aren’t educated in where these resources are or how to utilize them.  I would think that this sort of public service information would be made available in various ways.  Legislators campaigning for office might provide the URL for these sites on their publication materials.  
To save you the trouble, here are some useful resources (or what I hope will be useful resources, once I get better at using them) for looking at the actual legislation being discussed or voted on or enacted, rather than listening to various people’s opinions about the legislation.  I tend to idealistically think that if citizens got used to insisting on seeing what the legislation actually says, we might also be a bit more inclined to get involved more with governance rather than relying on lobbyists and special interest groups to claim to represent us or advocate for us.  We aren’t a direct democracy, but I suspect that even representative democracy ceases to work in our best interest if we aren’t well-informed.
Here are some links:
The Library of Congress, THOMAS portal:  http://thomas.loc.gov.   This is the main mechanism provided by our government to review what our government is doing legislatively.  You can search for current or past legislation.  
US House of Representatives web site:  http://house.gov.  Information on the current House of Representatives.  
US Senate web site:  http://senate.gov.  The partner of the House of Representatives web site, providing information on the current Senate.
Enjoy!

The Difficult Blessing of Free Speech

February 22, 2011

One of our traditionally cherished American liberties is that of free speech.  Part of the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights, the wording is agonizingly brief.  

To be not quite as brief, it means that it is better to put up with someone else that you may disagree violently with than it is to forbid them to speak.  It is better for me to suffer listening to someone else, than it is for that person to suffer by being barred from expressing themselves.  After all, the hearer has the option, most of the time, to walk away, change the station, or tune out.  The person expressing themselves may have no other means of expressing their viewpoint.  And it just might be that what they need to express is hugely valuable and important and necessary, even if I don’t understand it or agree with it.
Free speech has received a growing bad rap, however.  Consider the Westboro Baptist Church.    It is astounding that by and large one extended family has done so much to make people debate whether free speech is actually a good thing.  I disagree passionately with their tactics and a their theology.  But I do not seek to prohibit them from speaking.  They have a right to be heard.  And I value that right, even though I have to listen to them at times, because that right means that I have a right to be heard as well.  By moving to limit their right to free speech, I actually compromise my own right to free speech.  
So it is disturbing to hear the arrogance of those who would abolish free speech – either legally or through public intimidation and the threat of real harm.  The threat of property damage and defamation.  A group of anonymous computer hackers known as Anonymous have issued just such an ultimatum to the Westboro Baptist Church.  Shut up, or be made to suffer for exercising your Constitutionally protected right to express yourself.  Submit yourself to what we deem to be proper and acceptable, or we will hurt you.  
Ironic that Anonymous claims to be the “Voice of Free Speech”, which seems by definition to be problematic or even contradictory.  Free Speech already has a voice – it’s the Bill of Rights.  “Advocate of the People” clearly is not an inclusive title, but rather limits itself to advocating for some people and against others.  
Yes, Westboro is truly a misguided group of people who have smeared the name of Christianity and the Bible and Jesus Christ by their thoroughly misguided interpretations of and adherence to the Bible.  I certainly would be happy to dialog with them theologically in an effort to try and demonstrate what I see as their errors – if I thought that would do much good.  But threatening them to shut up, threatening them to not exercise their Constitutional rights for fear of harm is a good solution.  It’s a very, very dangerous solution.  It is essentially bullying.
And while bullying is being highlighted as a great evil when applied to darlings of special interest groups and agendas, I’m sure that it will be just as quickly ignored by those same groups that claim to champion the underdogs and the misunderstoods.  We need to remember the words of Evelyn Beatrice Hall (misattributed to Voltaire) I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.  

DiscrimiNation

February 19, 2011

Thanks to Dr. Veith over at Cranach: The Blog of Veith.  He recently noted an article about a recent decision by the University of California Davis to define religious discrimination specifically as discrimination by Christians against non-Christians.

The school has recently rescinded this policy when two dozen Christian groups lodged a formal protest.  
So, to summarize, some of the smartest people in our country, charged with educating future generations of leaders & citizens in our country, got together and decided not simply that this was a good working definition for religious discrimination, but felt so strongly about the fact that they had hit the target squarely in the bullseye that they published it on their website and decided that this was going to be official school policy.  The epic nature of this insanity is truly intimidating.
Universities are the places that we aspire to send our sons and daughters to be educated, molded, and shaped into productive citizens of our local community and the world.  I guess we can rest assured that they are certainly being molded and shaped.  The question is, is this the mold and shape that we believe is healthiest, best, and truest?

Miscellaneous Observations

February 18, 2011

I was listening to an interview the other day on National Public Radio.  Every Friday they focus on technology and science-related features.  I caught the middle of a discussion regarding global warming.  I’m not sure who their guest was but he talked about attempting to finally convince the “science deniers” of the reality of global warming.

I thought that was an interesting moniker – science denier.  It has almost a religious ring to it, doesn’t it?  But at the time, I thought to myself that I’m not really a science denier.  I don’t argue that the earth may be heating up.  After all, scientist-types have reported for a long time now that the earth goes through periods of heating and cooling.  A tenet of my faith or understanding of the world is not that the temperature has to remain essentially constant.
But what I do doubt or deny is that we are to blame, directly, for whatever global warming may be happening.  Considering we’ve been measuring temperatures for all of a century now, and it just happens to be the century when industrialization really runs rampant, I’d say our baseline for determining the extent to which human activity is directly responsible for climate change is pretty short.  I’m not denying we could be a contributing factor, but I deny that someone can authoritatively make that claim in any sort of deductive sense.  The conclusion doesn’t necessarily follow from the premises.  
I’m teaching a college course in logic at the moment, and this is one of the things we talk about – different types of arguments and their relative strength.  You can make a very good, very logical, very structurally sound argument but it might still not demand that the conclusion follows.  Yet global warming proponents tend to sound this way.  I don’t doubt that there is a broad spectrum of science deniers, ranging from those who refuse to believe anything about global warming to those who, like myself, may concede that warming is occurring but dispute whether we’re the cause of it.  Just because temperatures are rising during the one century we’ve been tracking this somewhat systematically, and it also is a century of heavy industrialization, doesn’t require that the two are inextricably linked.  
The fallacy of causality states this.  A logical fallacy might be committed by insisting that A caused B simply because A preceded B in some fashion.  Not all events are causal to one another based on when they occur.
In other news, the US House of Representatives voted today to eliminate public funding for Planned Parenthood.  I’m thrilled about this, even though it’s not a major step in the abortion battle, per se.  In some of the articles I’ve read on the results of the Pence Amendment, those who fought to keep federal funding for Planned Parenthood often argued that this was hurting an organization that provides a wide range of health services to women who might not have any other access to such services.  
It seems to me that if these services are so critical (and I don’t doubt that they are), then someone else could provide them – someone who doesn’t also provide abortions or pro-abortion counseling.  It seems like this would be a reasonable solution.  Certainly as reasonable if not more so than asking Planned Parenthood to quit providing abortion services.  That would probably require a name change at the very least, along with a fundamental shift in the organization’s ideology that I don’t see as very likely.  This form letter This form letter on the Planned Parenthood website to respond to the vote makes that pretty clear.  
But these are both legitimate options that get lost in the rhetoric.  If abortion services are as small an aspect of Planned Parenthood’s overall operational work as it claims they are, then it should be more than willing to quit offering them to focus on the more in-demand health care it can provide to women.  According to some reports, less than 2% of Planned Parenthood’s services involve abortion.  However it also seems clear that these sorts of numbers are not necessarily reliable.  
Maybe that would be a good place to start – requiring organizations that receive tax dollars to provide very accurate and comprehensive information on what goes on within them.  What a crazy idea.  I’m certainly not destined for a future career in politics!

Biting the Tongue

February 17, 2011

Another good reason for keeping my yap shut about my frustration this morning?  About 90 minutes later I was looking at my calendar and noticed that I’m up for chapel *next* Wednesday, not this morning.  

Mmmm…humble pie.  Just the right dessert after biting my tongue!

Not Giving Offense

February 16, 2011

I just noticed that yesterday’s post was my 666 post.  That’s a little weird.

Our congregation leases some of our property to a Christian grade school that has been in town for half a century.  Each week they have chapel in our sanctuary, and roughly once a month, I’m up to give the message for the morning.  I enjoy these times with the kids, and it’s always a challenge to think how to best convey the point to them in a way they can relate to and remember.
The theme of the chapels for this year is “The Miracles of Jesus”, so each week a teacher, visiting youth leader or pastor, or myself deliver a chapel message on one of the miracles of Jesus.  I was up to bat this morning to teach on Matthew 17:24-27.  It’s a short passage where Jesus provides a very short teaching.  Sometimes, regardless of what is our right, we do things so as not to cause offense to others.  Our rights, in other words, are not to be the dictating issue in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Rather, our love for neighbor expresses itself in a willing suspension of our rights at times.  
I tried to figure out how to present this.  The miracle in this short passage involves Jesus’ instruction to Peter to go catch a fish, and in the mouth of the fish Peter will find a coin needed to pay the temple tax.  Since I hadn’t planned ahead, I swung by the Santa Barbara harbor this morning, hoping that one of the seafood markets would be open already and that I could buy a whole fish as part of the object lesson.  After all, if there’s something that is likely to remain in kids’ heads, it’s a slimy, stinky whole dead fish.  But alas, I was too early.  The supermarket didn’t have one either.  I was going to have to come up with an alternate way of presenting.
I arrived early to the office, still trying to figure out what to do.  Without any other brilliant ideas, I wheeled a white board down into the sanctuary and turned on the lights.  I could at least do something visual.  
Close to 8 am I went over to the sanctuary, but nobody was in there.  I heard piano music down at the other end of our building in the fellowship hall.  Exploration revealed that something major was afoot.  Seating was set up for about 50 people.  There were kids in various stages of costumes running around.  Apparently there was a Major Event planned for the morning.  I wasn’t going to be giving the chapel talk after all.
I was a little frustrated.
This is the second time since the first of the year that I’ve planned a chapel message (well, sort of planned), only to find out that because the schedule had been reworked without telling me, I wasn’t going to be needed.  This time, it was clear that nobody even realized that their schedule changes had left me out of the loop again.  I should have been grateful, since I was going to be scrambling for a second-rate chapel message as it was.  But I was irritated.  Part of me is ashamed to admit I still am.  
The kids were adorable.  Parents were thrilled.  Cameras clicked and flashed and whirred throughout the short play the kindergarten children performed.  A warm and fuzzy contrast to the steady drizzle of rain outside.  But I was annoyed.  The school had asked me six months ago to choose the one week each month I would do chapel for them.  They’d goofed that up once already, and here they had done it again.  Would they mess it up again next month?
I’m a busy guy.  I have a lot of responsibilities in a lot of different arenas.  The least they could do would be to keep me in the loop rather than having me waste my time preparing for something that I was no longer needed for.  I told them that I would be flexible and that I would roll with the punches, and I’m willing to do that.  But it’s not right to rearrange  your calendar of events without telling the people affected.  I have a right to at least that much respect.  
It took me a few minutes, for the realization to penetrate my petulance.  I had given the chapel message after all, or rather I had received a chapel message, and not the one that was occurring on stage.  I needed to get past the issue of being right, in order to not cause offense.  In order to be loving.  It’s not an easy lesson.
We all enjoy the slight thrill we get from being right.  From being vindicated.  From another person giving way before us in some manner.  It’s not a perverse thing necessarily, it’s just how we react at a gut level.  Being right is important – and rightly so.  But insisting on our rights at all times creates an environment where ultimately nobody is happy, and rights are effectively suppressed.  Whatever my rights might be in the moment, I have to consider what the impact of me asserting them are.  And if that impact is simply my own self-satisfaction at someone else’s expense – no matter how justified I am, perhaps I need to rethink whether or not I insist on my rights.  Maybe the most loving thing to do is to ignore them and just move on.
Moving on is hard as well.  I left the hall after the performance, feeling annoyed still but also somewhat smug and self-righteous that I had resisted the almost overwhelming temptation to make a comment to the music director, or to ask if I was still on as scheduled for next month – which of course might lead her to realize that I was supposed to be on for today.  I suppressed that urge though.  I’ll just send an e-mail.  
And when I got to my office, that’s exactly what I started to do.  A very glowing, complimentary e-mail.  But just inquiring as to whether or not I was still on for next month.  Very innocuous.  Except it wasn’t.  Even if she didn’t realize what I was doing, I did.  What did it matter if next month got mixed up, too?  I might have to spend a few extra minutes studying the Bible for no reason?  Wow.  What a risk.  
I scrapped the e-mail.  I wrote this instead.  And even this is cheating.  But I know it is, and I repent of it, and maybe it will be helpful to someone else.  Maybe I’m not the only person benefiting from the unexpected chapel lesson this morning.  If that’s the case, I empathize with you

To Ehrman is Human…

February 15, 2011

I know.  That was bad.  But it’s early, I haven’t finished my tea yet, and it’s gloriously cloudy and misty-rainy outside whilst I languish in my office.  Bad puns are really the least of your worries at this point.

Case in point, this little stunning-sounding article on the latest anti-Bible book by former Christian and religion professor Bart Ehrman.  “Bible Writers Intended to Deceive, Ehrman Says”.  What a headline!  It’s awful, of course.  But about on par with the actual topic of the article, so I guess it has consistency going for it.  The article doesn’t even bother to mention the name of the book, which is: Forged: Writing in the Name of God – Why the Bible’s Authors are Not Who We Think They Are . The book is slated for release on March 22, so the usual publicity generating mechanisms and pre-release interviews and firecrackers are appearing.
Ehrman has made a name for himself in the last decade or two with provocative books that attack the reliability of Scripture.  This is, in itself, nothing new.  Critics of Christianity have long recognized that if you hope to weaken or discredit Christianity, you have to start with the Bible.  Since many Christians view the Bible as the inspired Word of God (with a broad variety of definitions of that term), if you can discredit the Bible as divinely inspired, there is no real basis for much of the rest of Christian belief.  This article indicates that Ehrman is attacking the integrity of the early Christian authors & their readers.  Accusing them of “forgery, fabrication, and character assasination”, the article indicates that Ehrman feels Christians are foolish to place such absolute trust in a document of so dubious a quality.
A couple of quick observations.  
Firstly, you will note that the article indicates that “most of these forgeries were not included in the New Testament.”  So the hullaballoo is over inflammatory documents alleging to be “gospels”, which the early Christian leaders understood were not on the same par as the documents that we now know as the New Testament.  If you’re going to get upset about “dishonest” writing, it’s only fair to use this as an attack on Christians if the Christians themselves accept the writing as authoritative.    It would be on a par with criticizing Christianity because some of the dreck on Christian television stations is popular.   Or criticizing history and historians because a lot of people still believe that George Washington had wooden teeth.  The early Christians charged with transmitting and protecting the faith clearly understood that these documents were not authoritative, regardless of how much the masses may have liked them.
Secondly, the assertion is made that “scholars” believe that certain books in the New Testament were written by someone other than the alleged author.  Some scholars do believe this, but certainly by no means do all scholars believe this.  Those who maintain this generally do so in contradiction to the earliest voices we have attesting to the authorship of some of these books.  Church fathers in the second century who vouch for the authorship of certain books are ignored because scholars today believe that they are better qualified to determine authorship than people who lived 1800 or so years ago.  Essentially, some modern scholars believe they can determine authorship (or disprove it) based on literary analysis – studying the structure of sentences, the grammar, the type of words used (or not used), the originality (or unoriginality) of certain phrases or ideas.  Even among those inclined to pursue this line of study and analysis, agreement is far from 100% on which books might not be written by the authors they are attributed to.  In the meantime, in more conservative scholarship circles, these debates are largely non-existent, or they are more convinced that the documents could have been written by the authors they are attributed to.  Conservative scholars tend to listen to the voice of history rather than insisting on drowning it out because it conflicts with their own agenda or theories.
Third, although the title of the book appears to be pretty inclusive of all of Scripture, it seems obvious from this poorly constructed article that the main emphasis is on some of the books of the New Testament.  But that sort of distinction is not nearly as catchy a title, I’m sure.
It’s unfortunate that many Christians will first be exposed to ideas and theories on the authorship and compilation of Biblical texts by someone who has repudiated the faith and made it his mission to destroy confidence in the Biblical texts – even if that means trumpeting commonplace situations as monumental, and seeking to impugn the reliability of the accepted texts of Scripture by associating them with other sorts of popular texts that, despite their popularity, don’t appear to have been seriously considered as authoritative or equivalent to the Biblical texts.  Pastors need to help their members understand the roots of the Bible – what we know of how it was authored, assembled, and transmitted as well as what we believe about the role of God in that process.  When this information is seen in proper perspective, the Bible becomes an even more amazing, more powerful, more reliable document than many Christians consider it to be in their ignorance.