Category Archives: history

Am I a recalcitrant pagan if I use CE rather than AD?

As someone with a background in history at a secular university as well as a Christian seminary I have lived between two worlds. I noticed a recent article on the use of CE (e.g., Common Era) versus AD (i.e., Anno Domini, Latin for “in the year of our Lord”) in regard to describing the dates of historical events. Scot McKnight also mentioned this issue on his popular blog and I was asked this same question by the parent of a teenager after her son was instructed to use BCE/CE in all of his papers at a local public school.

In my undergraduate training it was clear that I was to strive for objectivity. Though I am a Christian and cannot divorce my personal faith and worldview from my historical inquiry, it would be inappropriate to advocate a particular faith position in my writing. I must attempt to understand my biases and, to the best of my ability, allow the evidence to lead me to appropriate conclusions. Though the legacy of Christianity is still implicit in the BCE/CE dating system (what do you think we are counting from?), it is less overt in its advocacy of Christianity. It is no more accurate to say 40 CE than 40 AD. However, CE claims no reference to faith and, therefore, is more appropriate for a pluralistic environment.

There is nothing Biblical about counting from the point of Jesus’ inaccurately dated birth. We don’t even want to get started on trying to date from the point of creation (settle down you young-earthers).

Any thoughts?

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The Bible as Icon

Beyond doubt, the Bible for many Americans is, as Martin Marty phrases it, an “icon” as well as an object of study. With no American group is this more the case than with evangelicals… Evangelicals, by reputation and self-definition an antiliturgical folk, have nevertheless made a formulaic phrase, “the Bible says” (or its variants, like “my Bible says”), an all but essential part of the sermon. The iconic place of the Bible accounts for the fact that so many evangelicals profess belief in scriptural inerrancy, yet know little about the book’s actual content. It also helps explain why many different bodies of evangelicals continue to insist that they follow “the Bible alone” and are not influenced by historical or cultural conditioning, as they go their mutually exclusive ways in doctrine and practice.

– Mark Noll, Between Faith and Criticism

Supporting the Troops but not the War?

I recently heard an analogy that caused me to seriously question (not deny but critically evaluate) if I am able to “support the troops but not the war.”  As you may, or may not know, I am not in support of the military actions of America in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Despite that fact, I have always considered myself a strong supporter of the military and the troops that are obeying orders and dutifully serving.

My ethical quandry is related to the morality of these particular conflicts and those “dutifully” serving.  I heard it put this way:

Saying you support the troops but not the war is like saying, during the Civil Rights movement, you support the police who are using the German Shepherds and fire hoses to attack African-Americans but not the policies of discrimination.

What do you think?  Is this consistent logic.  Should I rethink my classic bifurcation of policy and persons?  Is it possible to support the persons carrying out a policy and be morally opposed to the policy itself?

*Note: If I have not been clear, I am seriously trying to evaluate the critique that was leveled against my position.  I am very supportive and thankful of those who serve in the armed forces but am trying to honestly, critically, and realistically evaluate my positions.  No one should read into this post anything other than what is here.  I am not critiquing the military or the troops but merely asking a simple question in regard to my logic.