Are we getting nicer? – “Despite the gloomy mood, the historical backdrop is stunning progress in human decency over recent centuries. War is declining, and humanity is becoming less violent, less racist and less sexist — and this moral progress has accelerated in recent decades. To put it bluntly, we humans seem to be getting nicer. That’s the central theme of an astonishingly good book just published by Steven Pinker, a psychology professor at Harvard. It’s called “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” and it’s my bet to win the next Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. “Today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence,” Pinker writes, and he describes this decline in violence as possibly “the most important thing that has ever happened in human history.”
Over the next two years, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google will increasingly collide in the markets for mobile phones and tablets, mobile apps, social networking, and more. This competition will be intense…There was a time, not long ago, when you could sum up each company quite neatly: Apple made consumer electronics, Google ran a search engine, Amazon was a web store, and Facebook was a social network. How quaint that assessment seems today.
Along similar lines, Ray Bradbury has finally allowed Farenheit 451 to be released as an e-book. I recall reading that book years ago, and loving it as it was pro-books. While it seems the future Bradbury predicted has to some degree come true, the growth of e-readers has not eliminated reading, as Bradbury feared technology would. I am glad he has changed his mind.
Finally, Roger Olsen’s article on “Who is a Christian” is great:
This is why the distinction between “Christian” and “saved” is so important. And I don’t just mean it in the sense of “Christian” as a nominal term to designate membership in a Christian church. Almost everyone recognizes the distinction between “saved” and “Christian” when the latter term is used that way. (Everyone has heard and agrees with the old adage that “Just because something’s in the garage doesn’t make it a car!”)
What’s more controversial (for reasons quite beyond my comprehension) is my distinction between “saved” and “Christian” in which I say a person can be saved but not be a Christian.
So what makes a person a Christian? What makes a person saved? As I said, the latter is God’s business but he has given us some guidelines in his Word. I believe anyone who confesses Jesus Christ as Lord, risen from the dead, and puts his or her trust in him for their salvation, and who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through faith, is saved. (I don’t insist that a person call his or her spiritual life a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” That’s what I’m calling a life of devotion to Jesus Christ.)
Having said that, I personally withdraw from making decisions about whether a person is saved or not; that’s God’s business and between the individual and God.
However, whether a person is a Christian is NOT just between the individual and God; churches and Christian parachurch organizations must make that decision about applicants for membership, for example. I propose that ANY Christian church would decline to accept into full membership a person it believes is not a Christian. So people must sometimes make that judgment call. As a Christian theologian I feel obligated to make such a judgment at times, but it is not a judgment about a person’s eternal destiny or current relationship with God as reconciled or not. That neither I nor anyone else can know with certainty.