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--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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The result has been an obvious change in tone and emphasis — but not teaching or policy — at many churches. Almost all evangelical churches oppose same-sex marriage, and many do not allow gays and lesbians to serve in leadership positions unless they are celibate. Some pastors, however, now either minimize their preaching on the subject or speak of homosexuality in carefully contextualized sermons emphasizing that everyone is a sinner and that Christians should love and welcome all.
“Evangelicals are coming to the realization that they hold a minority view in the culture, and that on this issue, they have lost the home-field advantage,” said Ed Stetzer, the executive director of LifeWay Research, which surveys evangelicals. “They are learning to speak with winsomeness and graciousness, which, when their view was the majority, evangelicals tended not to do.” A handful of evangelical churches have changed their positions. City Church in San Francisco, for example, has dropped its rule that gays and lesbians commit to celibacy to become members, and GracePointe Church in Tennessee has said gays and lesbians can serve in leadership roles and receive the sacrament of marriage. Ken Wilson, who founded the Vineyard Church in Ann Arbor, Mich., published an open letter calling for a greater embrace of gays and lesbians in evangelical churches. But Mr. Stetzer said they are the exceptions.
“Well-known evangelicals who have shifted on same-sex marriage, you could fit them all in an S.U.V.,” Mr. Stetzer said. “If you do shift, you become a media celebrity, but the shift among practicing evangelicals is minimal.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Rural/Town Life Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Supreme Court * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
“We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can almost be as stupid as a cabbage as long as you doubt.”--Dallas Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God (IVP, 2012), p.283
At First Baptist Dallas, where the pulpit was adorned Sunday with red, white and blue bunting to honor the Fourth of July, the pastor called the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling “an affront in the face of Almighty God.”
The iconic rainbow colors that bathed the White House Friday night after the court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide represent “depravity, degradation and what the Bible calls sexual perversion,” the Rev. Robert Jeffress said.
“But we are not discouraged,” Jeffress said. “We are not going to be silenced. This is a great opportunity for our church to share the truth and love of Jesus Christ and we are going to do it.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Update (June 22): InterVarsity has given CT more details about its reinstatement at 19 California campuses.
"Cal State has not changed the language of their 'all comers' policy," said Greg Jao, vice president of campus engagement. "They have clarified that the policy only requires that (a) we allow all students to become members, which we have always done, and (b) we allow all students to apply for leadership positions.
"We have been assured that we can have a rigorous selection process which reflects InterVarsity’s mission and message as a Christian ministry," he told CT. "We’re confident in our ability to choose leaders who reflect our mission and message."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture Young Adults * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals
Let’s also recognize that if we’re right about marriage, and I believe we are, many people will be disappointed in getting what they want. Many of our neighbors believe that a redefined concept of marriage will simply expand the institution (and, let’s be honest, many will want it to keep on expanding). This will not do so, because sexual complementarity is not ancillary to marriage. The church must prepare for the refugees from the sexual revolution.
We must prepare for those, like the sexually wayward Woman at the Well of Samaria, who will be thirsting for water of which they don’t even know.
There are two sorts of churches that will not be able to reach the sexual revolution’s refugees. A church that has given up on the truth of the Scriptures, including on marriage and sexuality, and has nothing to say to a fallen world. And a church that screams with outrage at those who disagree will have nothing to say to those who are looking for a new birth.
We must stand with conviction and with kindness, with truth and with grace. We must hold to our views and love those who hate us for them. We must not only speak Christian truths; we must speak with a Christian accent. We must say what Jesus has revealed, and we must say those things the way Jesus does — with mercy and with an invitation to new life.
Read it all from Russell Moore.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Eschatology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
“As evangelical Christians, we dissent from the court’s ruling that redefines marriage. The state did not create the family, and should not try to recreate the family in its own image,” the leaders wrote. “We will not capitulate on marriage because biblical authority requires that we cannot. The Supreme Court’s actions pose incalculable risks to an already volatile social fabric by alienating those whose beliefs about marriage are motivated by deep biblical convictions and concern for the common good.”
In the statement, the leaders suggest that the Court’s ruling is part of a negative trajectory on marriage and “represents an aftermath that evangelicals themselves, sadly, are not guiltless in contributing to. Too often, professing evangelicals have failed to model the ideals we so dearly cherish and believe are central to gospel proclamation.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
Last week marked the passing of a woman whose missionary work and writings inspired hundreds of thousands of Christians to live lives of faith and obedience to God, and led thousands to bring the gospel to people in countries around the world. Elisabeth Elliot died June 15 at age 88, but her legacy will continue through the lives transformed by her example. I knew her simply as “Aunt Betty,” as she was my father’s sister.
Elliot first entered the news in January 1956, when her husband, Jim Elliot, and four other missionaries were killed by a group of Auca Indians, today known as Waorani, in the deepest jungles of Ecuador. The five missionaries—three of them, like Elisabeth, were former students at Wheaton College in Illinois—felt called by God to bring the gospel to this fiercest of tribes, one that had no connections to the outside world.
After months of groundwork, the missionaries made friendly contact with three tribal members near the main Waorani village. But two days later, several warriors burst out of the jungle and speared and hacked the men to death. The missionaries were armed, but when the attack came they only fired their weapons into the air, as they had agreed they would in such an event. Why? Because they believed that they were ready to meet their maker, while the Waorani were not. The incident made headlines around the world, including articles in Life, Time and Reader’s Digest magazines.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Missions Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Christology Eschatology Soteriology
Before he became senior pastor of the Fort Lauderdale congregation, [Tullian] Tchividjian’s church plant, New City, merged with the larger Coral Ridge. Seven months in, a group of church members, headed by Kennedy’s daughter, circulated a petition calling for his removal. Church members voted 69 percent to 31 percent to keep him, but a group of congregants formed a new church in response.
Tchividjian was described by the Miami Herald as a pastor who would focus on specific Bible passages rather than on the news, preferred more contemporary music over the organ, and chose podcasting over broadcasting.
The Hartford Institute for Religion Institute’s database of megachurches lists Coral Ridge as having 1,900 attendees. The church began in 1978 under Kennedy, and its weekly services were televised as the Coral Ridge Hour, reportedly reaching up to 3 million people. Kennedy was a founding board member of Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Moral Majority and developed the popular curriculum “Evangelism Explosion.”
Last year, Tchividjian broke up with the Gospel Coalition, a network of Reformed leaders, over a theological dispute. His popular blog was hosted at TGC and he wrote several books with evangelical publishers Crossway and David C. Cook.
Read it all from the Washington Post.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Loving Lord and Heavenly Father I offer up today all that I am, all that I have, all that I do, and all that I suffer, to be Yours today and Yours forever. Give me grace, Lord, to do all that I know of Your holy will. Purify my heart, sanctify my thinking, correct my desires. Teach me, in all of today’s work and trouble and joy, to respond with honest praise, simple trust, and instant obedience, that my life may be in truth a living sacrifice, by the power of Your Holy Spirit and in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ, my Master and my all. Amen(Hat tip: Lent and Beyond who a has a link to more background also)
In 1952, both Elisabeth and Jim left independently for Ecuador as mission workers. Elisabeth's assignment was with the Colorado Indians of the western jungle. Jim began work with the Quichua Indians of the eastern jungle area. When a flood necessitated rebuilding part of the station where Jim lived, he and Elisabeth decided to marry. The civil ceremony took place in Quito on October 8, 1953. Together they worked on the Quichua language and translation of the New Testament, under the sponsorship of Christian Missions in Many Lands. On February 27, 1955, their daughter Valerie was born.
Proximity of the remote Waorani people (or as called by their neighbors Auca or savage)had previously stimulated Jim Elliot's determination to attempt contact and evangelization. In 1955, plans were made for contacting the Waoranis. These plans included aerial reconnaissance flights with Nate Saint, Mission Aviation pilot, and bucket "drops" with gifts for the Waoranis. Rudiments of the Waorani language were studied and broadcast from the plane during these contacts. The language had been translated by Rachel Saint, sister of Nate, through her work with Dayuma, a refugee girl from the Waorani tribe whose family had been killed by tribesmen.
On January 2, 1956, Saint and Elliot, with Pete Fleming, Roger Youderian and Ed McCully, landed on Curaray Beach and established a camp. After an apparently friendly visit from two women and a man from the Waorani tribe, the five men were killed with wooden spears on January 8, 1956. The international attention focused on their deaths resulted in a request to write their story. Through Gates of Splendor was published in 1957, authored by Elisabeth. It was followed a year later by Shadow of the Almighty, a biography of Jim Elliot. His personal journals were edited by Elisabeth as The Journals of Jim Elliot and published in 1978.
Following her husband's death, Elisabeth decided to remain, with Valerie, and continue the work with the Quichua Indians in Ecuador. (She briefly returned to her parents’ home in New Jersey after Jim’s death.) During the next two years, further contacts were made with the Waorani tribes and on October 8, 1958, Rachel Saint, Elisabeth and Valerie, accompanied by Dayuma, were able to move in with the tribe in the their remote village, Tewaenon, on the Tiwaenu River and live with the family group which had killed the men. Elisabeth was given the name Omiwaeni, which means Crane, because of her height. There they studied the language and worked on Bible translations. Their experiences were recorded in Elisabeth's book, The Savage My Kinsman (1961). Jim Elliot's killers and other members of the tribe were later converted to Christianity. She also wrote two other books about her missionary experience, No Graven Image, a novel (Harper & Row, 1966) and These Strange Ashes (Harper & Row, 1975)
Read it all.
[Recently]...Elisabeth Elliot came face to face with her heart’s truest love—Jesus Christ. On Earth, she married three times—her first two husbands preceded her in death – but from earliest childhood her deepest affections were for her Savior, and it was for Him that her soul yearned. June 14, 2015 is the day her lifelong passion, zeal, and rugged obedience see fulfillment in his presence. I am thrilled for her!
I, on the other hand, am sitting here with tears in my eyes, already missing one of my most sacred companions on the journey towards home. I know from the get-go that I will not be able to fully articulate her impact on me; words are going to fail me in my attempt to honor her, but I have to try.
As a college freshman in 1972, I got to be a part of history. My little (at the time) college—California Baptist—was no different than hundreds of other Christian colleges. We lived in the era of no dancing, drinking, smoking, girls couldn’t wear pants to class, “mixed bathing” was frowned upon, drums and guitar in worship were radical ideas, and boys with long hair were instantly pegged as hippies (which was definitely not a good thing). Our faith was buttoned up, quiet, respectful, filled with rules and regulations, and not very exciting or challenging.
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The country's largest evangelical denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, announced this week that their membership fell for the eighth straight year in 2014. But as I recently explained, American Christianity, particularly evangelicalism, is neither dead nor dying.
There are numerous evangelical denominations, though, and many are thriving. The Assemblies of God, the second-largest evangelical denomination in the United States, reported their 25th year of growth this week.
Still, there is a correct perception that many evangelical denominations are declining, even as the number of evangelicals overall is growing.
Here are three ways to square that statistical circle...
Read it all from Ed Stetzer.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals
But then, in a very curious paragraph, [Mark] Galli stated:
“We’ll be sad, but we won’t panic or despair. Neither will we feel compelled to condemn the converts and distance ourselves from them. But, to be sure, they will be enlisting in a cause that we believe is ultimately destructive to society, to the church, and to relations between men and women.”
I have to admit that I do not understand how those two sentences can be combined. If the view of the “converts” to same-sex marriage and the acceptance of homosexual partnerships is “ultimately destructive to society, to the church, and to relations between men and women,” how can that distance be avoided?
The reality is that it cannot. This is a moment of decision, and every evangelical believer, congregation, denomination, and institution will have to answer. There will be no place to hide. The forces driving this revolution in morality will not allow evasion or equivocation. Every pastor, every church, and every Christian organization will soon be forced to declare an allegiance to the Scriptures and to the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexual morality, or to affirm loyalty to the sexual revolution. That revolution did not start with same-sex marriage, and it will not end there. But marriage is the most urgent issue of the day, and the moment of decision has arrived.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Marriage & Family Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
...we were surprised when former CT editor David Neff on Facebook praised Campolo’s move. As he put it in an email to me clarifying his comment, “I think the ethically responsible thing for gay and lesbian Christians to do is to form lasting, covenanted partnerships. I also believe that the church should help them in those partnerships in the same way the church should fortify traditional marriages.”
At CT, we’re saddened that David has come to this conclusion. Saddened because we firmly believe that the Bible teaches that God intends the most intimate of covenant relationships to be enjoyed exclusively by a man and a woman. We’ve stated this view explicitly in many editorials, and it is implicit but clear in many of our feature stories.
Still, many of our readers become alarmed when a prominent evangelical leader says otherwise. Add the changes of mind to the legal juggernaut sweeping through the land to legitimize gay marriage, and the orthodox can become demoralized. They fear that history will sweep all of us into this view eventually.
But it’s not at all certain that the rapid cultural shift in America on gay marriage will be mirrored in the Christian church. North American and European Christians who believe in gay marriage are a small minority in these regions, and churches that ascribe to a more liberal sexual ethic continue to wither.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals
Bailey's story nailed that other development, too, that caused waves on social media:
After Campolo’s announcement, David Neff, retired editor in chief of Christianity Today who still writes a column for the magazine, indicated his similar support on his private Facebook account, drawing notice from some observers.....
Neff confirmed his support for same-sex marriage in a statement. Neff says that he still holds a high view of biblical authority, but that he has learned to read the relevant biblical passages in a different way than he used to.
“I think the ethically responsible thing for gay and lesbian Christians to do is to form lasting, covenanted partnerships,” Neff said in a statement to CT. “I also believe that the church should help them in those partnerships in the same way the church should fortify traditional marriages.”
Read it all.
In its story of May 16, 2015, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel carried a story tiled (on its cover at least) “Are Evangelicals Winning the World?” [That is my translation. The German wording is “Are Evangelicals conquering…” I substituted the less martial-sounding English “winning”. To the best of my knowledge, there is a remarkable scarcity of Evangelical suicide bombers.] The story states that Evangelical congregations are generally growing in Germany. But it concentrates on two congregations: one in Stuttgart, in western Germany, the other in a suburb of Dresden, in the former DDR (the defunct Communist German Democratic Republic.) The second location is particularly startling.
The Stuttgart congregation is described as the first American-style mega-church. It is also clearly Pentecostal or charismatic. On Sunday morning some 2,000 people attend services, close their eyes and raise their hands in ecstatic prayer, “speak in tongues” (meaningless babble to outsiders), and watch their preacher perform miracles of healing. The Dresden congregation is located in a suburban area that has been called the Saxon “Bible belt”, in yet another echo of America. Both regions have a long history of Pietism, the German phenomenon closest to American Evangelicalism (but without the miracles). Whether this Pietist heritage (going back some three-hundred years) provides some links with what is happening now is an open question. But the Dresden case raises a more proximate question: how relevant is its more recent history under Communism? The Austrian sociologist Paul Zulehner has called the former DDR one of three European countries in which atheism has become a sort of state religion (the other two are the Czech Republic and Estonia). Is this wild eruption of supernaturalism a delayed reaction to the period when the Communist regime made propaganda for “scientific atheism”? Immediately after the fall of that regime there was a popular revival of the much more sedate form of Protestantism of the Landeskirchen, the old post-Reformation state churches; that revival did not last very long after these churches lost their appeal as one of the few institutions at least relatively free from the control of the party.
According to some data, there are now about 1.3 million members of congregations united in something called the German Evangelical Alliance (the German word is “evangelisch”). T
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe Germany * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals
We started by approaching Portland’s mayor, Sam Adams, the first openly gay mayor of a major American city, with a simple question: How can we, as the Body of Christ, best serve the city?
To be sure, my dad, Luis Palau, was the first worldwide evangelist Adams had ever hosted. In that first meeting, Adams was impressively open to us, not showing a hint of defensiveness. He sensed our sincerity and commitment — and was also sincerely concerned with the needs of the city.
Assured there were no strings attached — and feeling he had nothing to lose — he started the conversation by naming his biggest concerns: hunger, homelessness, healthcare, the environment, and public schools. So began a partnership, CityServe, between the city and a band of churches.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Poverty Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology
A study on religion and faith in Canada conducted by the Angus Reid Institute was released a few weeks ago detailing the views of various faiths in Canada and how Canadians perceive faith and religion as a whole. It is a fascinating study, and I think some of its data is important especially as we consider the state of evangelicalism in Canada and how evangelicalism may move forward proclaiming the gospel and discipling people.
Let’s take a more focused look at the data from the Angus Reid Institute, which looked at people of all faiths in Canada, and see what their data tells us about evangelicals specifically.
Read it all.
Opponents of payday lending have a new ally in the fight against predatory lenders: Leaders from the 15.7-million member Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
“We cannot sit by idly while some of the poorest among us are preyed on by people simply looking for a quick buck with no regard for the devastation they cause in the lives of others,” said Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
The ERLC is one of the founding members of the newly-formed Faith for Just Lending coalition, which launched earlier this month. Among other members are the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the National Baptist Convention USA, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, and the PICO National Network.
“While representing distinct institutions with different histories and practices, these faith organizations hold a shared conviction that Scripture speaks to the problem of predatory lending—condemning usury and teaching us to respect the God-given dignity of each person and to love our neighbors rather than exploit their financial vulnerability,” the group stated in a press release. “They believe that just lending is a matter of biblical morality and religious concern.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Poverty Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life The Banking System/Sector Politics in General * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
....perhaps the day has arrived in the PCA when progressives need not worry about any negative connotations of the term "progressive." However, it might still be proper to ask, "Towards what are the progressives asking their church to progress? If we follow the path of progress or get swept along by its tide, what will be left behind and where will we end up?" (Or, for real traditionalists, "where up will we end?")
Dr. Chapell places the label "Traditionalists" on those who are "highly committed to Confessional fidelity and are often worried about perceived doctrinal drift." Is there a more pejorative term in America, where you buy your laundry detergent because it is "new and improved," than the term "traditional"? Not even conservatives want to be traditionalists unless they are appealing to "traditional values" (as in "family" or , peculiarly in Mississippi, "traditional Mississippi values" - wink, wink, hint, hint, get it?). Americans fought a great War for Independence so we wouldn't have to be traditional like those stuffy old British. The last thing a true American wants to be is a stick-in-the-mud old fuddy-duddy traditionalist.
In the churches it's the old and soon to pass from the scene folks who attend the "traditional" service, which may not be traditional at all but a service in which gospel hymns are sung with a song leader rather than praise and worship songs with a praise team. The cool kids flock to the contemporary service, where they will not be turned off by robes, minsters leading worship, and too much Scripture and prayer - until that comes to feel like it is traditional in which case they may join Rachel Held Evans who likes her doctrine and morals progressive but her liturgy sort of traditional in The Episcopal Church.
Read it all (my emphasis).
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology
Speaking thirty years ago, Attorney General Meese warned that “there are ideas which have gained influence in some parts of our society, particularly in some important and sophisticated areas that are opposed to religious freedom and freedom in general. In some areas there are some people that have espoused a hostility to religion that must be recognized for what it is, and expressly countered.”
Those were prophetic words, prescient in their clarity and foresight. The ideas of which Mr. Meese warned have only gained ground in the last thirty years, and now with astounding velocity. A revolution in morality now seeks not only to subvert marriage, but also to redefine it, and thus to undermine an essential foundation of human dignity, flourishing, and freedom.
Religious liberty is under direct threat. Just days ago the Solicitor General of the United States served notice before the Supreme Court that the liberties of religious institutions will be an open and unavoidable question. Already, religious liberty is threatened by a new moral regime that exalts erotic liberty and personal autonomy and openly argues that religious liberties must give way to the new morality, its redefinition of marriage, and its demand for coercive moral, cultural, and legal sovereignty.
A new moral and legal order is ascendant in America, and this new order is only possible, in the arena of American law and jurisprudence, if the original intent and the very words of the Constitution of the United States are twisted beyond recognition.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Philosophy Religion & Culture Sexuality * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals Other Faiths Secularism Religious Freedom / Persecution * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
....Neuhaus had an extraordinary talent for bringing people together—to discuss, debate, and strategize. He regularly convened intellectually and theologically diverse groups to spend a couple of days discussing topics of interest. (In my own case the topics included, civil religion, multinational corporations, ecumenism, faith and politics, and “culture wars,” among others.)
But the most important of these projects was the 1990 founding of First Things. While Neuhaus had previously edited two similar journals, Worldview and This World, they had each been sponsored by larger foundations, the Carnegie and Rockford Institutes respectively. This time around the journal was Neuhaus’s own, to shape as he wished. And shaped it he did, with great talent and flair, bringing together like-minded writers representing Catholicism, evangelicalism, Orthodoxy and Lutheranism, along with fellow travelers from Judaism and Islam.
First Things was the flagship publication of Neuhaus’s Institute on Religion and Public Life, and the concept of “public life” was foundational to his efforts. Neuhaus always insisted that politics is only one aspect of a larger “public square”—one that makes room, as best it can, for a variety of religious, moral, and communal traditions. Boyagoda reminds us that Neuhaus and Berger actually coined the term “mediating structures,” now commonly used in social science, in their 1977 book To Empower People. That short book (just over 50 pages) showed how a wide range of smaller institutions—families, churches, professional associations, teams, guilds, neighborhood organizations, book clubs, schools—can offer a protective, nurturing space between individual and the power-hungry state.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Evangelicals Lutheran Roman Catholic * Theology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology
Pew has released another major poll focused in much greater depth on the United States, and it's being widely interpreted as providing evidence that religion (or at least Christianity) is indeed on the decline in the United States.
So was Dennett right, at least about America? Is the future of Christianity in the United States bleak after all?
Short answer: Not necessarily.
A nearly 8-percentage point drop in those calling themselves Christian (from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent) in just seven years is a big deal. If those numbers are accurate, Christianity is certainly shrinking in America at a rate that, if it continues over the coming years and decades, will produce profound cultural changes.
But we're not there yet.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture Sociology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals Roman Catholic * Theology Christology Soteriology
True confession... this elf hasn't had time yet to listen to the full audio posted below. But Trevin Wax is usually very worth reading or listening to. The questions he raises in his blog post are excellent. With Kendall needing to cut back on blogging, it seemed this might be a good resource to post, and might stimulate a good discussion.
What disciplines will help us as Christians identify our cultural "blinders" and diligently assess and engage Biblically with our culture, and be faithful disciples in our times?
Please share any books or resources you've found helpful in "knowing and responding to the times."
We live in a society that has been formed, in some measure, by Christian ethics. Here, it’s easy for Christians to assent to Christian teaching and embrace certain practices common to Christianity, and yet still make decisions from a framework that is more influenced by a rival conception of time, because it remains hidden from view.
“Bible Believers” Living Out of Other Stories:
This is a source of continual frustration among pastors.
- We get discouraged when many of the people in our congregations, people who are faithful in attending church and who claim to have personal times of Bible reading, seem to be okay with the fact that their kids aren’t as religiously oriented as they are, as if it’s expected for kids to drop out of church for awhile and hopefully come back (but at least they made a decision for Christ at camp one summer!).
- We get discouraged when we see people put Bible verses on their Facebook page right next to a post about a television show they’re watching, a show drenched in the ethos of the Sexual Revolution and all the lies that come with it.
- We mourn the loss of people who are as kind as can be to us while they’re walking out the door to visit another church that has better services and programs for their kids. We thought they were committed to our church, but they were really just committed to their preferences.
A Question for Our Generation
As cultural currents move faster and we see rapids and waterfalls ahead and wonder what the future holds, one of the questions we must ask is this:
What kind of discipleship is necessary to fortify the faith of believers so that we understand what time it is, we rightly interpret our cultural moment, and see through the false and damaging views of history and the future that are in our world?
That is the question I posed in my workshop at TGC this year: Discipleship in the Age of Richard Dawkins, Lady Gaga, and Amazon.com: Grounding Believers in the Scriptural Storyline that Counters Rival Eschatologies. The audio from the talk is now available here.
What are the disciplines we need as we read our times? Oliver O’Donovan again:
To see the marks of our time as the products of our past; to notice the danger civilisation poses to itself, not only the danger of barbarian reaction; to attend especially not to those features which strike our contemporaries as controversial, but to those which would have astonished an onlooker from the past but which seem to us too obvious to question. There is another reason, strictly theological. To be alert to the signs of the times is a Gospel requirement, laid upon us as upon Jesus’ first hearers.
Read the blog entry here. You can listen to the audio here..
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Moody Bible Institute professor has called on the school to abandon the term white privilege in discussions about diversity, calling it “inflammatory,” “repugnant,” and “unworthy of Christian discourse.”
“I suggest we should rip the term ‘white privilege’ out of our discourse at Moody,” wrote theology professor Bryan Litfin in a letter to the editor published April 15 in the student newspaper. “The underlying issues that need to be addressed should be described with more wholesome, less divisive terminology.”
Litfin proposes five reasons why he believes the term is “intended to address an important topic” yet isn’t biblical enough to be effective because it is “taken straight from a radical and divisive secular agenda.” “The problem is, the term itself is inflammatory, so the real topic goes unheard because of the offense,” he wrote, concluding, “Why employ terms that divide the body of Christ? As students of God’s Word, let us draw our terminology from the Bible, not the wisdom of man.”
The letter follows an apology he made in March for comments he had made on social media about a campus diversity event.
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The Episcopal Church (TEC) is a complex and diverse denomination. Only last January I had the pleasure of worshipping at two Episcopal churches in Houston, which was a great experience with some wonderful people. In a broad church like TEC there are people to the theological left and right and everything in between. However, TEC as a whole is typified by a radical liberalism and an authoritative leadership that punishes dissent and persecutes conservative believers (I can provide evidence if you wish!). Bishops in TEC have denied every line in the Apostles’ Creed and there is a flagrant rejoicing in apostasy. I have to tell you that the vast majority of world-wide Anglicans look on TEC with a mixture of confusion and disgust and have broken fellowship with TEC. It is because of TEC that the next Lambeth conference has been indefinitely postponed. The African and Global South Anglican bishops have responded with no shortage of rage and rancor at TEC’s actions and attitudes towards Scripture. Now if the TEC presiding bishop asked you, as something of a celebrity recruit to TEC, to go to Africa and get the African bishops to chillax and to receive TEC back into the Anglican fold, what would you say to them? In other words, should the global south Anglican bishops be in fellowship with TEC?
Read it all.
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Many church leaders are recognizing a heartbreaking reality. We have received the good news of the Gospel but we’re not actually communicating that good news. Paul writes to the church in Corinth that we are compelled by love in particular because we know if Jesus died for all, then those who live should no longer live for themselves but for the One who died for them and was raised.
Research shows that Protestant churchgoers in the United States and Canada as a whole are not telling this good news message. According to Paul, part of our new life is that we have been commissioned by God to reconcile the world to Himself through Christ. So we’ve been reconciled to become agents of reconciliation. Unfortunately, most Christians have become cul-de-sacs on the Great Commission highway.
In the Transformational Discipleship study, we asked 3,000 protestant churchgoers how many times they had personally shared with another person how to become a Christian. Sixty-one percent said that they had never shared their faith. Zero times. Forty-eight percent said they hadn’t invited anyone to church during that period of time.
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As our economy continues to improve, there is a crushing weight holding many back: payday loans. While state and local leaders have taken up the cause in certain jurisdictions, this is a national problem that requires Congress to act. Unscrupulous lenders lure those who are already facing financial hardship into a debt trap from which it is very difficult to escape.
Drawn by slick marketing, desperate borrowers are induced to accept unfavorable terms they may not fully understand. The cost of a typical payday loan exceeds 300 percent annual percentage rate. By requiring full repayment from the next paycheck, payday lenders virtually guarantee that the borrower will be forced to ask for a new loan, with additional fees and interest, to pay back the old one.
This violates the underwriting standards applied to virtually every other type of loan. Payday loans perpetuate a cycle of debt, poverty and misery.
Three quarters of the fees payday lenders bring in come from borrowers, mostly low income, who have taken out 10 or more loans in a single year. More than half of all payday loans are renewed or rolled over so many times that consumers wind up repaying at least twice the amount they originally borrowed.
Read it all, another from the long queue of should-have-already-been-posted material.
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It’s tax day and Rachel Held Evans’ latest book has just emerged, Searching for Sunday (Nelson Books, 269 pages, $16.99 pb). In some ways this book has appeared at just the appropriate moment, because in some ways it is like a refund check from the IRS, much anticipated, and a big help. In some ways however, the book is simply taxing, burdened down with a false sense of righteous outrage about an issue Rachel should have given more thought and prayer to before choosing to start firing away against the Evangelical womb from which she has emerged. This is not to say that she isn’t right that a large portion of the church has wrongly stigmatized and singled out gay and lesbian people, and wrongly treated them as if they were somehow worse sinners than the rest of us. We have often done that. Hypocrisy stinks, and Rachel is right to stress this point. I will speak about what she says on the issue of same sex relationships and marriage later in the review, but I want first to say a few things about this book which I really like.
First of all Rachel is indeed a genuine Christian person, genuinely wrestling with deep issues....
There are many poignant moments and powerful passages in this book about the sacraments, about silence, about other spiritual disciplines, and especially about the feeling of being bereft, cut off from the church, feeling abandoned or even spurned by the Evangelical Churches in which she was raised. A trial separation from such churches gradually became something of a divorce, and she landed in a ‘less-judgmental’ Episcopal Church in Cleveland Tn. What her book fails to really grapple with however is the major difference between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance of us as we are.
Frankly put, God doesn’t ‘accept’ us as we are, because what we are is fallen and flawed sinful people. God loves us as we are, but God is insistent that we all change, repent of our sinful inclinations and ways, and become more like Christ. A loving welcome by Jesus does not exclude incredible demands in regard to our conduct, and indeed even in regard to the lusts of our hearts. As it turns out, God is an equal opportunity lover of all humanity, and also an equal opportunity critiquer of all our sin, and with good reason— it is sin that keeps separating us from God and ruining our relationship with God. This is why the only proper Biblical approach to everyone who would wish to be ‘in Christ’ and ‘in the body of Christ’ is that they are most welcome to come as they are, and they will be loved as they are, but no one but no one is welcome to stay as they are— all God’s chillins need to change. Welcoming does not entail affirming our sins, much less baptizing our sins and suddenly calling them good, healthy, life giving.
Read it all.
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I have little in common, politically or theologically, with evangelicals or, while I’m at it, conservative Roman Catholics. But I’ve been truly awed by those I’ve seen in so many remote places, combating illiteracy and warlords, famine and disease, humbly struggling to do the Lord’s work as they see it, and it is offensive to see good people derided.
On a recent trip to Angola, the country with the highest child mortality rate in the world, I came across a rural hospital run by Dr. Stephen Foster, 65, a white-haired missionary surgeon who has lived there for 37 years — much of that in a period when the Angolan regime was Marxist and hostile to Christians.
“We were granted visas,” he said, “by the very people who would tell us publicly, ‘your churches are going to disappear in 20 years,’ but privately, ‘you are the only ones we know willing to serve in the midst of the fire.’ ”
Foster, the son and grandson of missionaries, has survived tangles with a 6-foot cobra and angry soldiers. He has had to make do with rudimentary supplies: Once, he said, he turned the tube for a vehicle’s windshield-washing fluid into a catheter to drain a patient’s engorged bladder.
Read it all.
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A Trinitarian Theology of Religions Gerald R McDermott and Harold Netland OUP, pb...
Vatican II: Catholic Doctrines on Jews and Muslims Gavin D’Costa OUP
Alan Race once suggested that Christian approaches to other religions fall into three categories that he labelled as pluralism, exclusivism and inclusivism. Race’s typology was widely adopted but has come under strain as theological debate has progressed. It is difficult to fit either of these books into Race’s categories. Both works, one evangelical, the other Roman Catholic, are conservative but while not inclusivist they cannot be labelled exclusivist in any straightforward way. McDermott and Netland advance what they term an ‘evangelical proposal’ but their informed and clearly argued book deserves to be read by a wide audience. One of their starting points is that evangelicals have neglected the doctrine of the Trinity but, following Veli-Matti Karkkainen (who together with Lamin Sanneh, Vinoth Ramachandra and Christine Shirrmacher comments on the book’s proposals), they are sceptical of those theologians who have attempted to isolate the work of the persons of the Trinity and see the Spirit active in other religions. “Other religions,” they write of the Trinity, “may have some connection with God but it is always with that tri-personal God and no other.” D’Costa is quoted arguing that the presence of the Spirit outside the church is always to be seen as Trinitarian and ecclesial, drawing people towards Christ and towards incorporation in his body, the church.
Read it all.
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Today that question, that debate—Did Jesus really rise from the dead historically, bodily?—is not as prominent or as intense because, at one level, people feel that it doesn’t matter to them, because different people believe in different things, and maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t; and if it did, or didn’t, and that helps you get along in life, fine; but it doesn’t make much difference to me. I may or may not call myself a Christian, and if the resurrection seems helpful to me, I may believe it; and if it doesn’t, then I won’t, and I don’t think any body should tell me that I have to.
Behind those two different kinds of unbelief—the kind from 40 years ago and the kind from the present day—is a different set of assumptions. For example, in my college days the assumption pretty much still held sway, though it was starting to give way with the rise of existentialism, that there are fixed, closed natural laws, that make the world understandable and scientifically manageable, and these laws do not allow the truth of the claim that someone has risen from the dead to live forever. That was a commonly held assumption: The modern world with its scientific understanding of natural laws does not allow for resurrections. So unbelief was often rooted in that kind of assumption.
But today, that’s not the most common working assumption. Today the assumption is not that there are natural laws outside of me forbidding the resurrection of Jesus, but there is a personal law inside of me that says: I don’t have to adapt my life to anything I don’t find helpful. Or you could state it another way: Truth for me is what I find acceptable and helpful.
Read it all.
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Each of us, religious or non-religious, live out our beliefs in our actions. Christians act on a belief that the claims of Jesus Christ are true. Non-Christians act on other beliefs. As theologian Lesslie Newbigin observes, “We are continually required to act on beliefs that are not demonstrably certain and to commit our lives to propositions that can be doubted.” Recognizing this fact of the world does not make us relativists.
Even though Confident Pluralism is one practical outworking of Christian witness in a liberal democracy, it finds resonance in Christian theology. For example, in our English translation of Psalm 118:9, we see the psalmist proclaim, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” And the well-known verse from Hebrews asserts that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (11:1).
Such examples of confidence in the Christian tradition bring to mind what Newbigin calls “Proper Confidence.” For Christians, the proper object of our confidence is always the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In that confidence, we can engage with those who don’t share our beliefs. And we can do so with a grace that flows out of our confidence in the gospel.
That is not relativism. It is witness.
Read it all.
LAWTON: Feinberg believes joy is a universal impulse.
FEINBERG: Across the globe, humanity speaks so many different languages and yet scientists have noted that there’s one language that all of humanity shares and it is the language of laughter. We are meant to experience this thing called joy.
LAWTON: As a Christian, she sees joy as a virtue derived from God.
FEINBERG: It is that thing that I believe emanates out of an abiding sense of being fiercely loved by God.
LAWTON: Feinberg also believes joy can be activated through practical means. She says for her, one of the first steps was an ancient Jewish grieving ritual.
FEINBERG: I remember going in my bedroom and taking my blouse and making a small clip just like they often do at Jewish funerals and ripping it open and as I did, you know, speaking the words of Job and making that confession to God, and there was something that would happen in those rippings of the garment where grief was allowed to flow. I think like it’s meant to. I think one of the ways that we fight back with joy is that we learn to grieve well.
Read it all.
Without hope, it is all but impossible face life and endure suffering. But hope must be grounded in something real and lasting. True hope enables us to navigate both sorrow and joy. In Jesus Christ, we have a living hope grounded and sustained in an ever-living savior.
Listen to it all.
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In recent days we have heard claims that a belief central to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—that we are created male and female, and that marriage unites these two basic expressions of humanity in a unique covenant—amounts to a form of bigotry. Such arguments only increase public confusion on a vitally important issue. When basic moral convictions and historic religious wisdom rooted in experience are deemed “discrimination,” our ability to achieve civic harmony, or even to reason clearly, is impossible.
America was founded on the idea that religious liberty matters because religious belief matters in a uniquely life-giving and powerful way. We need to take that birthright seriously, or we become a people alien to our own founding principles. Religious liberty is precisely what allows a pluralistic society to live together in peace.
Read it all.
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Yet, there was one large omission that set all other truth dangerously at risk: the omission of holy rest. The refusal to be silent. The obsessive avoidance of emptiness. The denial of any experience and any people in the least bit suggestive of godforsakenness.
It was far more than an annual ignorance on Holy Saturday; it was religiously fueled, weekly arrogance. Not only was the Good Friday crucifixion bridged to the Easter resurrection by this day furious with energy and lucrative with reward, but all the gospel truths were likewise set as either introductions or conclusions to the human action that displayed our prowess and our virtue every week of the year. God was background to our business. Every gospel truth was maintained intact and all the human energy was wholly admirable, but the rhythms were all wrong, the proportions wildly skewed. Desolation—and with it companionship with the desolate, from first-century Semites to twentieth-century Indians—was all but wiped from consciousness.
But there came a point at which I was convinced that it was critically important to pay more attention to what God does than what I do; to find daily, weekly, yearly rhythms that would get that awareness into my bones. Holy Saturday for a start. And then, times to visit people in despair, and learn their names, and wait for resurrection.
Embedded in my memory now is this most poignant irony: those seven or eight Indians, with the Thunderbird empties lying around, drunk in the alley behind the Pastime Baron Saturday afternoon, while we Scandinavian Christians worked diligently late into the night, oblivious to the holiness of the day. The Indians were in despair, religious despair, something very much like the Holy Saturday despair narrated in the Gospels. Their way of life had come to nothing, the only buffalo left to them engraved on nickels, a couple of which one of their squaws had paid out that morning for four bony ham hocks. The early sacredness of their lives was a wasteland; and they, godforsaken as they supposed, drugged their despair with Thunderbird and buried their dead visions and dreams in the alley behind the Pastime, ignorant of the God at work beneath their emptiness.
Take the time to read it all.
The Warrens held their first Bible study on Jan. 25, 1980, in their Laguna Hills home near Moulton Parkway and Via Iglesia.
That same day, Kay Warren’s grandmother died. The couple wondered if they should cancel the church launch. They didn’t.
The first public service took place weeks later, on April 6, 1980, at Laguna Hills High School. There were 205 in attendance.
“It was confirmation that this was really going to work,” Kay Warren said.
Read it all.
The church started Jan. 25, 1980, as a small Bible study in Rick and Kay Warren’s Laguna Hills condo. Today, it includes 10 campuses in Southern California and four in other countries, averaging 27,000 weekly worshippers.
As part of Saturday’s celebration, Rick Warren shared a portion of the first sermon he preached at Saddleback 35 years ago, outlining his vision for the church. The pastor – who delivered the invocation for President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 – choked up as he said he’s realized that vision and more, encouraging the crowd not to be afraid to aim high.
“I dare you to dream great dreams for God,” Warren said from the pitcher’s mound. “Whatever God asks you to do, do it, even if it’s at great risk.”
Read it all.
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In recent years, John Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, has been both lauded and criticized for his interpretation of Genesis 1–2. In his 2009 landmark book, The Lost World of Genesis One (InterVarsity Press), he argued that to rightly understand Genesis 1—an ancient document—we need to read it within the context of the ancient world. Read alongside other ancient texts, he says, Genesis 1 is not about how God made the world, but about God assigning functions to every aspect of it. In 2013, Walton contributed a chapter in Four Views on the Historical Adam (Zondervan). There he argued that Adam was a historical person, but also that Adam’s primary function in Scripture is to represent all of humanity. For Walton, Genesis 1–2 is not concerned about human material origins, but rather about our God-given function and purpose: to be in relationship with God and work alongside him, as his image bearers, in bringing continued order to our world.
Walton spoke recently with CT assistant editor Kevin P. Emmert about his newest book, The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate (IVP Academic).
Read it all.
Calvinist-inclined Baptists and Presbyterians attending this year’s upcoming national conference of the Gospel Coalition are adding a place at the table for a new constituency: conservative Anglicans who have broken with the Episcopal Church.
Joining mainstays like Danny Akin, Mark Dever, Albert Mohler and Russell Moore scheduled to speak at the April 13-15 gathering in Orlando, Fla., is John Yates II, rector of The Falls Church Anglican in suburban Washington.
Other Anglican leaders are offering seminars and workshops at the Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference, and there will be an informal gathering one evening for Anglicans to come together for fellowship and encouragement, Yates said in a Gospel Coalition blog titled “Who Are These Anglicans in TGC?”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Baptists Evangelicals Presbyterian * Theology
Anderson grew up in modern evangelical “purity culture,” with all its widely documented problems. “I listened to story after story of being unable to feel close to God because of shame, being kicked out of one’s home, losing friends, separation from one’s faith community,” Anderson writes. “Many grew up being told over and over that their virginity was the most important thing they could give their spouse on their wedding night, only to reach that point and realize that having saved themselves didn’t magically create sexual compatibility or solve their marital issues.”
With Damaged Goods, Anderson wants to provide healing for those who have suffered from faulty teaching, and help for those who want to find a better, more genuinely Christian way to live. Anderson believes that the purity culture taught her to pride herself on living a celibate life and to look down on others who failed to live up to her high standards. Today, she regrets that prideful and contemptuous attitude and feels compassion for those who were hurt by it.
The church benefits from such course-correction and calls for healing in the wake of false teachings and unhealthy emphases in its teachings on sexuality. However, Damaged Goods goes further than that, conflating the misguided portions of purity culture—a relatively recent and proscribed phenomenon—with the Scripture-based beliefs about sexuality that the church has taught since its founding.
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I identify myself as a heritage Anglican, or a main stream Anglican, on the basis of that view of things. I adapt to state my Anglican identity, words from the great Pastor Duncan of the Free Church of Scotland, who something like 150 years ago, said in answer to a question about his identity as a minister of the church, "I'm first a Christian, second a Protestant, third a Calvinist, fourth a Paedo-baptist, and fifth a Presbyterian". Well, I go with the first four; and then "fifth I'm an Anglican". And if I'm asked to explain further what is the Anglicanism that I stand for, I reel off eight defining characteristics of my Anglicanism like this.
Anglicanism is first biblical and protestant in its stance, and second, evangelical and reformed in its doctrine. That's a particular nuance within the Protestant constituency to which the Anglican church is committed - the 39 Articles show that. Ten, thirdly, Anglicanism is liturgical and traditional in its worship.
I go on to say, fourthly, Anglicanism is a form of Christianity that is pastoral and evangelistic in its style. I quote the ordinal for that and I point out that ever since the ordinal and the prayer book required the clergy to catechize the children, Anglicanism has been evangelistic, though the form of the evangelism has not been that of the travelling big tent - the form of the evangelism has been rather institutional and settled; the evangelism was part of the regular work of the parish clergyman and the community around him. But let nobody say that institutional parochial Anglicanism is not evangelistic and, today, I know the wisest folk here in England are recovering parochial evangelism in a significant way. Thank God they are.
And then I say, fifthly, that Anglicanism is a form of Christianity that is episcopal and parochial in its organization and, sixthly, it is rational and reflective in its temper.
Guess the year and then go and read it all (also used by yours truly in the presentation to Diocesan Convention).
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That headline might sound familiar to readers at Faith & Reason. And it should. The sociologist I wrote about last winter when her research showed the majority of scientists identify with a religious tradition, not God-denying atheists, myth-busting again.
Now, the myth that bites the data dust, is one that proclaims evangelicals are a monolithic group of young-earth creationists opposed to theories of human evolution.
Actually, 70 percent of self-identified evangelicals “do not view religion and science as being in conflict,” said Elaine Howard Ecklund, a sociologist and director of Rice University’s Religion and Public Life Program.
Read it all.
Toward the end of his life Stott spoke of his “three renunciations.” First, he decided against an academic career, feeling God had called him to be a pastor. Second was Stott’s renunciation of marriage. Third was his renunciation of the episcopate when some wanted him to be a bishop. His pastoral calling, he felt, remained primary.
As to marriage, Stott said this: “I was expecting to marry. I went about with a weather eye, and in my twenties and early thirties was looking for a possible bride. I did have two girlfriends—not simultaneously but one after t’other! But all I can say is that when the time came to decide whether to go forward in the relationship or not, I lacked the assurance that I should. That is the only way I can really explain it” (pp. 271-72). This was more a circumstantial and passive renunciation than an intentional choice.
Read it all.
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In fact, during The Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference, April 13 to 15 in Orlando, a number of Anglican leaders are offering seminars and workshops, and there will be an informal gathering one evening for Anglicans to come together for fellowship and encouragement.
Let me explain a little of how we reached this point. Many evangelicals might not know that in 2009 the Anglican Church in North America was established, and there are already a thousand or more congregations with a vigorous church planting flavor. While many are former Episcopalians, believers from various other traditions have been drawn down the Canterbury Trail. Many have rediscovered the beauty of Anglican worship and been surprised by the strong Reformation doctrines that permeate the Book of Common Prayer and its Thirty-Nine Articles. The Anglican Reformers of the 16th century were closely linked with the continental Reformers, and Thomas Cranmer—martyr and author of the first Anglican prayer book—was not only greatly influenced by Calvin and Bucer, but also married the niece of Luther’s disciple Osiander.
While the Episcopal Church in the United States has gradually self-destructed over the last 40 years, a decidedly Reformed and evangelical movement has matured and found expression in parts of ACNA, Trinity School for Ministry in Pittsburgh, and a growing number of congregations around North America.
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In 1534, Abbot Paul Bachmann published a virulent anti-Protestant booklet entitled “A Punch in the Mouth for the Lutheran Lying Wide-Gaping Throats.” Not to be outdone, the Protestant court chaplain, Jerome Rauscher, responded with a treatise of his own, titled “One Hundred Select, Great, Shameless, Fat, Well-Swilled, Stinking, Papistical Lies.” Such was the tenor of theological discourse among many of the formative shapers of classical Protestantism and resurgent Roman Catholicism in the sixteenth century. Such rhetoric was brought from the Old World to the New. Fueled by local prejudice and nativist traditions, it continued to deepen the divide between the heirs of the Reformation debates.
Imagine the surprise, then—in some circles the shock—when on March 29, 1994 the statement “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium” was released in New York. Here, the old hostility between Catholics and Evangelicals was replaced by a new awareness of their common Christian identity—a shared life in Jesus Christ. The core affirmation of the first ECT statement, and of the entire project, was this declaration: “All who accept Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in Christ. Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ. We have not chosen one another, just as we have not chosen Christ. He has chosen us, and He has chosen us to be his together.”
On the following day, the story of the new Evangelical and Catholic initiative was carried on the front page of The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, and other newspapers across the country. The reaction was immediate and explosive. While some saw this new effort as a hopeful sign, others, especially some conservative evangelicals on the right, were disturbed and distraught. Best-selling author Dave Hunt wrote of the ECT statement: “I believe the document represents the most devastating blow against the gospel in at least one thousand years.” For their part, many left-leaning progressives, both Catholics and Protestants, dismissed the statement as a publicity stunt tied to conservative politics.
It seemed to me that both of these narratives had badly misjudged the situation.
Read it all.
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Every January, tens of thousands of Christian college students from all over the world attend the conference Passion, where they sing, pray, and hear from a variety of pastors, authors, and activists about issues resonating within evangelical culture. For the last several years, conference founder Louie Giglio has made the issue of human trafficking an increasingly central part of these activities. In 2013, 60,000 students gathered at Passion in Atlanta for a late-night candlelight vigil dedicated to celebrating “Jesus, the ultimate abolitionist, the original abolitionist,” Giglio told CNN. The organization’s anti-trafficking project designated Feb. 27 as “Shine a Light on Slavery Day,” encouraging young people to raise awareness by taking selfies with red X’s drawn on their hands.
Human trafficking—and sex trafficking in particular—has become something of a Christian cause célèbre. There are prayer weekends, movies, magazine covers, Sunday school curricula, and countless church-based ministries. More unusual efforts include lipstick sold to help “kiss slavery goodbye” and tattoo alteration services for victims who say they have been “branded” by their captors. An extraordinarily complex global issue has somehow become one of the most energetic Christian missions of the 21st century.
Many of the new anti-trafficking advocates compare their work to the 19th-century abolitionist movement against chattel slavery—with some leaders in the movement referring to themselves (and, apparently, Jesus) as “abolitionists.” But, according to Gretchen Soderlund, author of the 2013 book Sex Trafficking, Scandal, and the Transformation of Journalism, 1885–1917, the better comparison may be to the “white slavery” panic of the late 19th century.
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Jesus intentionally went to Samaria. His disciples James and John wanted, elsewhere in the Gospel of John, to vaporize the villages there with fire from heaven. But Jesus spoke of water, of living water that could quench thirst forever. Thirst is a type of desperation, the sort of language the Psalmist uses to express the longing for God, as for water in a desert land. We live in a culture obsessed with sex, sex abstracted from covenant, from fidelity, from transcendent moral norms, but beyond this obsession there seems to be a cry for something more.
In the search for sexual excitement, men and women are not really looking for biochemical sensations or the responses of nerve endings. They are searching desperately not merely for sex, but for that to which sex points—for something they know exists but just cannot identify. They are thirsting. As novelist Frederick Buechner put it, "Lust is the craving for salt of someone who is dying of thirst."
The Sexual Revolution cannot keep its promises. People are looking for a cosmic mystery, for a love that is stronger than death. They cannot articulate it, and perhaps would be horrified to know it, but they are looking for God. The Sexual Revolution leads to the burned-over boredom of sex shorn of mystery, of relationship shorn of covenant. The question for us, as we pass through the Samaria of the Sexual Revolution, is whether we have water for Samaria, or if we only have fire. In the wake of the disappointment sexual libertarianism brings, there must be a new word about more permanent things, such as the joy of marriage as a permanent, conjugal, one-flesh reality between a man and a woman. We must keep lit the way to the old paths.
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Karen Swallow Prior/ March 4, 2015
Hannah More: Powerhouse in a Petticoat
Image: Frances Reynolds / Bristol Museum and Art Gallery / Bridgeman
Imagine yourself seated at a fashionable London dinner party in 1789.
The women are wearing hoops several feet wide, their hair dressed nearly as high and adorned with fruit or feathers. In between hips and hair, bosoms overspill. The men sport powdered hair, ruffled shirts, embroidered waistcoats, wool stockings, and buckled shoes. Politeness and manners reign around a table laden with delicate, savory dishes.
As guests wait for the after-dinner wine to arrive, a handsome but demure woman pulls a pamphlet from the folds of her dress. “Have you ever seen the inside of a slave ship?” she asks the natty gentleman seated next to her. She proceeds to spread open a print depicting the cargo hold of the Brookes slave ship. With meticulous detail, the print shows African slaves laid like sardines on the ship’s decks, each in a space so narrow, they can’t lay their arms at their sides. The print will become the most haunting image of the transatlantic slave trade—as well as a key rhetorical device used to stop it.
The woman sharing it is Hannah More.
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Narrating the details of my seventy-plus year pilgrimage would bore me almost as much as it would bore others. I do, however, remember a few events that might be interesting enough for public airing. One of them is the time that I turned down an invitation to appear in Penthouse magazine.
The phone call—it was the late 1970s, I think—came to our home in Grand Rapids late one afternoon. A pleasant woman asked me if I was willing to fly to New York City to serve on a panel of religious ethicists discussing “evangelicals and sexuality.” When I asked about the sponsorship of the panel, she immediately told me she would get to that topic after some other details, and then she reeled off the proposed date and the amount of a generous honorarium. I persisted: Who was sponsoring the panel? She answered: “I am calling on behalf of Bob Guccione of Penthouse magazine.”
“Oh, for crying out loud!” I exclaimed into the phone, and began to say that I would not do it. But she shot back, mentioning that a well-known professor from a university religion department had assured her that I was the right kind of person to appear in this published discussion. I got angry, urging her to tell the professor and Mr. Guccione what they were “full of.” And I hung up.
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My modest purpose is briefly to lay out six factors that illegitimately inhibit apologetic engagement today. If these barriers are removed, our apologetic witness may grow into what it should be in Christ.
Too many Christians don’t seem to care that Christianity is routinely ridiculed as outdated, irrational, and narrow-minded in our culture. They may complain that this "offends" them (just as everyone else is complaining that one thing or another "offends" them), but they do little to counteract the charges by offering a defense of the Christian world view in a variety of settings. Yet Scripture commands all Christians to have a reason for the hope that is within them and to present this with gentleness and respect to unbelievers (1 Peter 3:15). Our attitude should be that of the Apostle Paul who was "greatly distressed" when he beheld the idolatry of sophisticated Athens. This zeal for the truth of God led him into a fruitful apologetic encounter with the thinkers gathered to debate new ideas (see Acts 17). It should for us as well. Just as God "so loved the world" that he sent Jesus to set us right with God (John 3:16), Jesus’ disciples should so love the world that they endeavor to reach the lost by presenting the Gospel and answering objections to the Christian faith (John 17:18)....
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arriage is in crisis throughout the Western world. The data from the United States alone tell an unmistakable—and unmistakably sad—story. Fifty years ago, some 70 percent of American adults were married; today the figure is just over 50 percent. Then, close to 90 percent of children lived with their natural parents; today fewer than two-thirds do. The birth rate has declined, and the abortion rate has climbed from less than 1 percent of live births to over 20 percent.
Everyone suffers from the current crisis in marriage, but some suffer more than others. A growing class divide is becoming alarmingly clear. College-educated men and women marry and are unlikely to get divorced. The less educated are less likely to marry, and those who do so are three times more likely to get divorced. Rates of illegitimacy are even more striking. A very small percentage of college-educated women have children out of wedlock (6 percent). Nearly half of women without a college education now have children out of wedlock.
In considering the demise of marriage culture and the decline of the institution of marriage, we are profoundly aware of the challenge posed by the Lord, that “whatever you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40). The effects of the decline of marriage on children are dramatic, unequal, and deeply disturbing. Among the well-educated and economically well-off, the traditional family remains the norm. This is no longer true for children born to less educated and less affluent women. By age fourteen, nearly half of these children no longer live with both parents, posing dire consequences for their futures. Young men raised in broken families are more likely to go to prison. Young women in these circumstances are more likely to become pregnant as unwed teenagers. The dramatic decline of marriage is a major factor in the misery of many in our society.
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The story started at home, with the multiple ways Graham helped shape the movement’s internal culture. For one thing, he prompted evangelicals to shift their focus from the venial sins of cussing, smoking, drinking, dancing, and premarital sex to the mortal sins of greed, lust, racism, and, above all, faithlessness. Which is to say, he prompted evangelicals to shift their focus from moral misdemeanors to moral felonies. That did not mean that he started out that way. Nor did it mean that he ever winked at the misdemeanors, or got entirely beyond preaching about them himself. But it did mean that he helped evangelicals establish a sense of scale. In a closely related move, Graham also alerted evangelicals to the difference between core and peripheral doctrines. Not every doctrinal difference was worth going to the mat for. He brought many of them to appreciate, in other words, the philosopher William James’s dictum: “The art of wisdom is the art of knowing what to overlook.” Or at least, gaining a mature sense of which doctrines should— and should not— qualify as a test of fellowship.
Then, too, Graham helped evangelicals see that justice for everyone, regardless of social location, was not peripheral but central to evangelicals’ affirmations and obligations. He did not always lead the way as boldly as he might have done, even by his own lights, but he was rarely very far behind the movement’s shock troops, and far ahead of the great majority of his constituents. To be sure, Graham never retreated one inch from his conviction that enduring social change started with changed hearts. But if changed hands did not follow, hearts needed to go back into the shop for more work.
The preacher helped his co-workers both deploy and regulate their entrepreneurial impulses....
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At its heart this book, Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith, is an extended effort to assure gay and lesbian people that entering the church will not mean the suppression of their longings and loves. It will, Tushnet promises, mean that those loves will be changed, reshaped, or reconfigured. But it won’t mean that they’ll simply be erased. Borrowing the historic language of vocations, she speaks of “figuring out how God is calling me to love and then pouring myself out into that love.” If gay people fear that becoming a Christian equals a one-way ticket to lifelong loneliness, Tushnet’s book is one long argument to the contrary.
The book has an uncluttered structure. Following several chapters that narrate her upbringing, including her coming out at age 13, her days as a student activist, and her eventual conversion to Catholicism while an undergraduate at Yale, Tushnet simply examines several possible ways that gay Catholics may give and receive love while remaining faithful to traditional Christian sexual ethics. There’s a chapter on friendship—not the anemic variety we now associate with Facebook verbs (“friending” and “unfriending”), but the vowed, lifelong kind associated with the church fathers and saints like Francis of Assisi and Clare, his spiritual sister. There are chapters on intentional community and parish life. There are explorations of service (Tushnet herself volunteers at a crisis pregnancy center, where she speaks of how her “connection to other women does have an adoring and erotic component, and [how she] wanted to find a way to express that connection through works of mercy”). And there are discussions of possible roadblocks gay Catholics may encounter in their search for loving community.
This book articulates, better than anything I’ve been able to find, the real yearnings, fears, and questions of gay Catholics (and other traditionalist Christians). But more than that, it also portrays, in vivid and personal terms, the hope of the church—the hope of the gospel that speaks to those desires and fears and beckons us on, to a brighter future in the household of God. I recommend it wholeheartedly, without reservation, as the best book of its kind.
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Ambiguity is the devil’s volleyball, said former President of Yale, Kingman Brewster, Jr. Robin A. Parry and Christopher H. Partridge’s book, Universal Salvation? The Current Debate (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003...) gives us a well matched game of back and forth with the theological hot potato that is at the heart of the book’s “debate.” While the writers in this volume are articulate and responsible in handling this (again) current hot topic among evangelicals, if there is one null theme the critical reader may pick up is that the debate is fueled, in part, by the inherent ambiguity of the concept in the biblical text that all sides claim for their points of view. Biblical ambiguity is the one reality few seem ready to confess when conceding an opponent’s point on the issue.
The volume’s “debate” opens with three chapters (Part I) by Thomas Talbott, a professor of philosophy at Willamette University and an advocate of the universalist position (in effect, Talbott argues that Scripture teaches the ultimate salvation of all people, including those in Hell). His treatment and defense for this position is thorough, reasoned, and responsible. Though Talbott’s case for universalism includes arguments from theology and a Pauline interpretation of relevant texts, the strength of his argument is philosophical. His logical treatment of theological thoughts on the subject is exemplary and rigorous. Neither Talbott nor the writers who respond adversarial to his views shy away from claiming the authority of the Bible, or the primacy of Scripture to inform theology, tradition, and reason to put forth their arguments.
The remaining part of the book (parts II to V) consists of rebuttals to Talbott’s arguments by other evangelical scholars.
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If religious liberty doesn’t apply to small or unpopular minorities, then it isn’t liberty at all but becomes another government handout to a special-interest group. We want a candidate who will argue consistently for soul freedom for everyone, even those we would argue with about everything else.
This isn’t only a Republican issue. Democrats and Republicans stood together for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—signed by President Clinton. Perhaps it is time for Hillary Clinton to stand up for Jefferson’s vision of freedom of conscience against the sexual-revolution industrial complex in her party, which too often dismisses basic protections of free exercise as a “war on women” or a “right to discriminate.”
Likewise, a Republican who seems embarrassed about religious freedom, or who takes weeks to muster up an opinion on basic questions of whether consciences ought to be respected, will find that evangelicals will pay no mind when that candidate starts spouting “God and country” talk borrowed from a 1980s-era television evangelist.
Religious liberty is too important to see it become one more culture-war wedge issue.
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[joshua] Harris is the oldest of seven children of Gregg Harris, one of the early national leaders of the Christian home-schooling movement and a strong advocate of independent learning. Joshua was 21 when he wrote “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” a memoir that became a cult classic to young evangelicals by urging them not only to hold off on sex but even dating — saying it was a form of promiscuity to spread around one’s emotional intimacy.
In the years since, nondenominational Christianity became more popular and loose. Informal networks of churches, groups and individuals have formed, such as the Vineyard, Willow Creek and the Gospel Coalition — the last of which Mahaney and Harris were leaders. But these are akin to social groups and not meant to hold one another accountable as denominational organizations often do....
Harris said he expects that studying at Regent College, a graduate school of theology, will broaden his perspective, including on accountability.
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In the wake of an interfaith Vatican conference on marriage two months ago, a coalition of Roman Catholics and evangelicals -- including Southern Baptist Timothy George -- has issued a statement calling the legalization of same-sex marriage "a graver threat" to society than either "easy acceptance of divorce" or "widespread cohabitation."
"We must say, as clearly as possible, that same-sex unions, even when sanctioned by the state, are not marriages," the statement, titled "The Two Shall Become One Flesh: Reclaiming Marriage," says. "Christians who wish to remain faithful to the Scriptures and Christian tradition cannot embrace this falsification of reality, irrespective of its status in law."
At least two additional Southern Baptists -- Rick Warren and Daniel Akin -- have endorsed the statement, which is slated to appear in the March 2015 issue of First Things, the journal's editor Russell Reno told Baptist Press. A list of approximately 30 Christian leaders to endorse the statement may include other Southern Baptists when it is finalized, Reno said.
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Reading N. T. Wright's latest book, Simply Good News: Why the Gospel is News and What Makes It Good (HarperOne), is somewhat like listening to a compilation album. All the classic hits are here: "the kingdom of God is for earth now," "the gospel is the key moment in a story," "resurrection is about bodies," "something has happened," and, of course, the well-loved ballad "fundamentalists and liberals are both missing the point." For those who are new to Wright, Simply Good News will offer a helpful introduction to and summary of his work. For those who have read plenty of him already, or for those who dislike compilation albums in principle, it will probably have less to offer.
The focus of the book is admirably clear: to explain what the gospel is, and why we should think of it as good news. In eight succinct chapters, Wright explains the nature of good news (chapter one), the essence of what that good news is (chapters two and three) and is not (chapters four and five), and what it means for the way we live now (chapter six), think about God (chapter seven), and pray (chapter eight). Each of these chapters is readable and insightful, characterized by Wright's familiar mixture of rich scholarship, vivid illustration, and contemporary application.
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As a statement about the making of church doctrine, that comment might not sound too startling, and it is quite obvious to Catholic and Orthodox believers. But it does point to a major paradox in the thinking of that numerous and influential section of the world’s Christians who are evangelicals. Surprised, and even shocked, as they might be to hear it, they are in fact far more Catholic than they might ever have thought.
Evangelicals pride themselves on their reliance on Scripture alone, the core Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura. If you look at evangelical debates, the question will soon arise: how do you ground this in scripture? Give me chapter and verse!
But here’s the problem. Evangelicals believe absolutely in core doctrines of faith that cannot be derived simply from scripture, but rather grow out of church tradition.
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In October, Seacoast’s Mount Pleasant Campus pastor took the stage to tell its 14,000 weekend attendees that he felt God calling the church to alleviate, even end, the local foster care crisis.
A few weeks later, 550 church members showed up for two interest meetings to learn more. An orientation meeting drew nearly 100 serious about becoming foster parents, almost as many people as licensed foster homes existing in Charleston County today.
Next week, the first series of foster parents licensing classes is full with 20 couples.
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In addition to personal hurt, the baggage accumulated here, again, might result in the “baby” of holiness getting thrown out with the “bathwater” of legalism. If the ex-fundamentalist does not become a New Atheist — the inverted modernist equivalent of the rationalizing fundamentalist — he might drift in the Anglican direction. Here he will decide whether to let John Spong usher him through the dusty halls of a bygone Protestant liberalism back towards Dawkins et. al. or, via the “Canterbury Trail,” he will head towards the more romantic tradition of Anglo-Catholicism. The temptation then is to construct an Anglican identity that is more concerned with “not being fundamentalist” than with being Christian. So ex-fundamentalists are largely reacting against pride and legalism, while ex-evangelicals are reacting against the spiritual emptiness of faddish evangelicalism. But, of course, there are degrees of mixture between the two.
In closing, I want to say that although this new generation of Canterbury Trail Anglicans has a lot to offer the Anglican and Episcopal churches which we now inhabit — especially in our greater desire for unity than many a Boomer who busies himself with ecclesial marketing, lawsuits, or even doctrinal and moral “purity” — we also carry a lot of baggage. Not having “stayed put” in those places where we originally received the faith, we struggle here too in this Anglican place to practice what we have come to preach. Here we counsel the local “cradle” Anglican evangelical not to throw overboard the riches of the tradition in order to fill the pews. But we also need to be reminded that without mission, evangelism, and, yes, conversion, the tradition simply becomes liturgical histrionics, much to the annoyance of the local Anglican evangelical. Finally, the new Canterbury Trail Anglicans need to be more than “not fundamentalists” or “not-Southern-Baptists.” Not only would such an attitude contradict the ecumenical spirit, not only does this tempt us to throw out the legitimate orthodoxies held by those we react against, but, contrary to the spirit of humility, it also tempts us to “via media” pride, as if we somehow have got it all together. Truth, humility, and unity are a package.
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Though Ms. Hillenbrand recounts Zamperini’s conversion, she doesn’t say much about how it influenced the rest of his life. In the movie “Unbroken,” Billy Graham goes unmentioned, and Zamperini’s redemption narrative is largely reduced to a few title cards flashed before the closing credits. Yet Zamperini himself believed that the religious event was the pivotal moment of his long journey. In his 2003 memoir—titled, like one he published in 1956, “Devil at My Heels”—Zamperini recounts the tent-revival experience in detail and thanks Billy Graham in the acknowledgments “for his message that caused me to turn my life around.”
In some ways the 1949 revival was also a turning point for Billy Graham: The Hollywood-handsome Southern evangelist had started his crusade ministry in 1947, when he was 29 years old, but it was the success of his Los Angeles Crusade that brought him to national prominence. The revival went on for eight weeks, with Mr. Graham preaching 65 full sermons. He addressed nearly 350,000 attendees, and by the end 3,000 people had committed their lives to Christ.
Those numbers prefigured things to come. When Mr. Graham retired from public life nearly seven decades later, more than three million souls who heard his sermons had signed commitment cards pledging their faith.
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Before Jesus told His disciples about the many mansions and before He gave them the hope of Heaven, He said, “You believe in God, believe also in me.” Then He said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2).
Eternal life comes by and through the Lord Jesus Christ. To put it in the Bible’s words, here is the secret of the blessed hope: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life” (John 3:36).
When Christians die, they go straight into the presence of Christ—to Heaven—to spend eternity with God. An unsaved sinner’s destiny is separation from God, a place that Jesus has called hell.
I wonder where you are going. Have you given your life to Jesus Christ? Have you been transformed by the power of the Spirit of God?
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What about what some call the greatest mission field, which is our own secularizing or secularized culture? What do we need to do to reach this increasingly pagan society? I think we need to say to one another that it’s not so secular as it looks. I believe that these so-called secular people are engaged in a quest for at least three things. The first is transcendence. It’s interesting in a so-called secular culture how many people are looking for something beyond. I find that a great challenge to the quality of our Christian worship. Does it offer people what they are instinctively looking for, which is transcendence, the reality of God?
The second is significance. Almost everybody is looking for his or her own personal identity. Who am I, where do I come from, where am I going to, what is it all about? That is a challenge to the quality of our Christian teaching. We need to teach people who they are. They don’t know who they are. We do. They are human beings made in the image of God, although that image has been defaced....
Read it all--quoted in part in the morning sermon by yours truly.
Philip Yancey’s book What’s So Amazing About Grace? has been a modern classic in Christian reading for more than 15 years. In it, Yancey explored what grace in action truly looks like.
This fall, the best-selling author released Vanishing Grace, in which he argues that the American church has often failed at communicating grace and shows how we can get back on track.
We talked to Yancey about his new book Christians in politics and what it looks like to live in grace in a “post-Christian” society.
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When written by journalists like Newsweek‘s former editor Jon Meacham or TIME reporters such as David Van Biema, the articles were often balanced and genuinely insightful. Meacham and Van Biema knew the difference between theological liberals and theological conservatives and they were determined to let both sides speak. I was interviewed several times by both writers, along with others from both magazines. I may not have liked the final version of the article in some cases, but I was treated fairly and with journalistic integrity.
So, when Newsweek, now back in print under new ownership, let loose its first issue of the New Year on the Bible, I held out the hope that the article would be fair, journalistically credible, and interesting, even if written from a more liberal perspective.
But Newsweek‘s cover story is nothing of the sort. It is an irresponsible screed of post-Christian invective leveled against the Bible and, even more to the point, against evangelical Christianity. It is one of the most irresponsible articles ever to appear in a journalistic guise.
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The death of a church isn’t an easy subject, particularly to those who are losing their spiritual home.
But it is something being talked about more and more as church closings are becoming an increasingly regular occurrence — some estimates are nine a day in the United States.
The trend took on a very high profile Dec. 28 when Baptist author and pastor Rick Warren gave the final sermon at Mars Hill Church, the Seattle-based megachurch that dissolved after Mark Driscoll, its lead pastor of 20 years, resigned amid church discipline and leadership issues.
In a pre-recorded video beamed to Mars Hill’s numerous campuses, Warren urged members of the dissolving church to be gracious and forgiving to Driscoll and other church leaders during their grief. He urged an avoidance of bitterness and gossip, and an embrace of forgiveness and gratitude.
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It’s easy to forget the purpose of Christmas. This time of year we have so many things that can get in the way: commercialism, traditions, even family and church commitments.
To find the real purpose of Christmas, you have to fast forward from the shepherds, the wise men, and the dirty stable. We have to go to a statement Jesus made during his adult years about why he came: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10 NIV).
The reason we celebrate Christmas is because Jesus came to Earth to seek and save the lost.
Jesus uses three stories in the gospel of Luke to demonstrate what it means to be lost: the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. They teach us that when we’re disconnected from God, we lose....
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The Gospel is not that Jesus Christ comes to earth, tells us how to live, we live a good life and then God owes us blessing. The Gospel is that Jesus Christ came to earth, lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died—so when we believe in Him, we live a life of grateful joy for Him. If these things didn’t happen, if they’re just parables, what you are saying is that if you try hard enough, God will accept you.
If Jesus didn’t come, the story of Christmas is one more moral paradigm to crush you. If Jesus didn’t come, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere around these Christmas stories that say we need to be sacrificing, we need to be humble, we need to be loving. All that will do is crush you into the ground. Because if it isn’t true that John saw Him, heard Him, felt Him, that Jesus really came to do these things, then Christmas is depressing.
First John 1:3 says, “Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son.” “Fellowship” means that if Jesus Christ has come, if Christmas is true, then we’ve got a basis for a personal relationship with God. God is no longer a remote idea or a force we cower before, but we can know Him personally. He’s become graspable.
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Take the time to listen to it all--deeply relevant in the current climate.
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‘Cheer up, you’re worse than you think,” Rev. Timothy Keller says with a smile. He’s explaining that humans are more weak, more fallen, more warped than they “ever dare admit or even believe.” Then comes the good news: At the same time people are “more loved in Christ and more accepted than they could ever imagine or hope.”
Do you know many New Yorkers who believe that? Perhaps not, but on Sundays some 5,500 city folk file into the church Mr. Keller founded 25 years ago, Redeemer Presbyterian, at eight packed services across three Manhattan locations, the Greenwich Village campus of which I attend on Sundays. The service is traditional, the congregation less so: Most who show up, if you can believe it, are single and under 35, whether bankers, lawyers, actors or artists.
Mr. Keller has a growing national following and is often described as a Christian intellectual who takes on the likes of Nietzsche, Marx and Freud in a sermon rooted in a specific Biblical text. He’ll sprinkle in references from popular culture—something about contentment he read in the Atlantic, a poignant passage from “Lord of the Rings.” His fruitful work has multiplied. Redeemer efforts have helped plant more than 300 churches in 45 cities, from Santiago to Dubai.
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There we are: Evangelicals are hidebound and change-allergic, straining attempts at compromise. Never mind that Archbishop Welby – who, as the Times itself says, "backed the push for female bishops" – is himself widely known as an evangelical.
There's also a glitch in the Times saying that Libby Lane's appointment will test the compromise. If Thomas' concern is male oversight for conservative churches, why wouldn't he be satisfied with a female suffragan who draws her authority from a male bishop? He should have been asked, don’t you think?
Nor does the article's grasp of history sound much better. Not when the story says, "The tradition of all-male bishops dates to the Church of England’s break with Rome five centuries ago, in the days of King Henry VIII."
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Though I respected, and continue to respect, both groups [IVCF and Campus Crusade] equally, I eventually chose IVCF because it put more focus on friendship evangelism and less on door-to-door evangelism. Whereas the door-to-door method follows a sales model, with the evangelist approaching a stranger and then taking him through a carefully scripted gospel presentation (the booklet of choice in my day was “The Four Spiritual Laws”), the friendship model attempts first to cultivate a relationship with a non-believer (who might live in your dorm or attend classes with you) and then introduce the gospel in a more casual and natural way.
At the time, I did not possess any theories about the most effective or most biblical method of evangelism. I gravitated toward friendship evangelism because it better suited my personality and because, well, it “felt” right. Like many other Americans, I’ve always hated the “hard sell” and have quickly (if politely) closed the door or hung up the phone whenever a solicitor has tried to sell me something. If I was going to share the message of grace with my fellow students, I did not want it to sound like a sales pitch. I wanted it to rise up organically from our friendship, or at least from a sense of shared interests and passions.
Jonathan Dodson, founding pastor of City Life church in Austin, Texas, has practiced, and clearly respects, both forms of evangelism. However, in his new book, The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing (a 2015 CT Book Awards winner), he argues that our current social-cultural moment has made the door-to-door model not only less effective, but potentially counter-productive. “Wave after wave of rationalistic, rehearsed (and at times coerced and confrontational) evangelism,” he writes in his preface, “has inoculated, if not antagonized, the broader culture.”
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Two October evenings in 1949 brought together an alcoholic war hero and a fiery young evangelist. From then on, neither would be the same.
The preaching in that rented circus tent in Los Angeles changed Louis Zamperini, then 32 — who put away the bottle forever and devoted the rest of his life to Christian testimony and good works.
And those Los Angeles nights also changed the preacher, Billy Graham, and the future course of American evangelicalism as well. In Graham’s autobiography, “Just As I Am,” he calls that chapter of his life “Watershed.”
On Christmas Day, a movie directed by Angelina Jolie about Zamperini’s extraordinary survival amid the horrors of Japanese POW camps opens in theaters. “Unbroken,” is based on the award-winning book by Laura Hillenbrand.
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The film doesn’t ignore faith, but it includes no mention of Jesus or Graham. Faith is portrayed more generically — unlike the 2010 book by Hillenbrand (she also wrote the best-selling “Seabiscuit”), which was praised by Christian readers for capturing the drama of Zamperini’s conversion.
Zamperini died from pneumonia on July 2 at age 97. His son, Luke Zamperini, is helping promote the film.
Jolie’s role as director prompted questions about the film’s faith element; given Jolie’s own lack of faith, some reviewers questioned whether the actress would give short shrift to Zamperini’s faith.
“There doesn’t need to be a God for me,” Jolie said in 2000. “There’s something in people that’s spiritual, that’s godlike.” Her husband, actor Brad Pitt, has said he is “probably 20 percent atheist and 80 percent agnostic.”
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Among the entries:
--Cheerful Confidence after Christendom
--How to Survive a Cultural Crisis
--Is Christianity in Britain in Terminal Decline?
Read it all (yes, really).
This month marks the tricentennial of the birth of the most famous man in America before the Revolution. George Whitefield, born on Dec. 16, 1714, was a Church of England minister who led the Great Awakening, a series of Christian revivals that swept through Britain and America in the mid-1700s. Whitefield drew enormous audiences wherever he went on both sides of the Atlantic, and his publications alone doubled the output of the American colonial presses between 1739 and 1742. If there is a modern figure comparable to Whitefield, it is Billy Graham. Buteven Mr. Graham has followed a path first cut by Whitefield.
What made Whitefield and his gospel message so famous? First, he mastered the period’s new media. Cultivating a vast network of newspaper publicity, printers and letter-writing correspondents, Whitefield used all means available to get the word out.
Most important, he joined with Benjamin Franklin, who became Whitefield’s main printer in America, even though Franklin was no evangelical. Their business relationship transformed into a close friendship, although Whitefield routinely pressed Franklin, unsuccessfully, about his need for Jesus.
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The suffragan see of Maidstone in Kent, vacant since 2009, is to be revived to accommodate a conservative Evangelical bishop, it was announced on Thursday.
The appointee will take a conservative view on male headship. Such a bishop was promised by the House of Bishops during the debates over women bishops, to reassure conservative Evangelicals who opposed the change that they were still welcome in the Church of England.
The Dioceses Commission agreed unanimously on Thursday with a proposal from the Archbishop of Canterbury that this conservative Evangelical bishop be appointed to the see of Maidstone.
In the build-up the meeting of the General Synod in July, a note from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Synod acknowledged that the "normal processes" for appointing bishops had not yet selected an Evangelical with the conservative Evangelical position on headship.
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Sir Fred Catherwood, who has died aged 89, was an accountant and businessman who in 1979 became one of the first Conservatives to be elected to the European parliament in Brussels. His life was shaped more directly and profoundly, however, by his evangelical Christian beliefs. He was the sort of pro-European Conservative whose views are almost extinct in the current party and he made little secret of his opposition to the economic price of Thatcherism.
Catherwood’s ecumenism extended to working closely with Labour governments in the 1960s as director general of the National Economic Development Council (NEDC, known in the jargon of the time as Neddy), the ultimately ill-fated attempt to bring management and trade unions together with government to boost Britain’s industrial regeneration. In 1971, the year he stepped down from the post, he was knighted. He transferred that enthusiasm for economic co-operation to Europe, where he ultimately became vice-president of the European parliament (1989-91). For much of this time he also ran weekly Bible classes at Westminster Chapel, the independent evangelical church in central London.
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I mean, there is no excuse that I can think of for choking a man to death for selling illegal cigarettes. This is about cigarettes. This isn't a violent confrontation. This isn't a threat that anybody has reported, a threat of someone being killed. This is someone being choked to death. We have it on video with the man pleading for his life. There is no excuse for that I can even contemplate or imagine right now. And so we've heard a lot in recent days about rule of law, and that's exactly right. We need to be emphasizing rule of law. And a rule of law that is Biblically just is a rule of law that carries out justice equally.
Romans 13 says that the sword of justice is to be wielded against evildoers. Now, what we too often see still is a situation where our African-American brothers and sisters, especially brothers, are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be executed, more likely to be killed. And this is a situation in which we have to say, I wonder what the defenders of this would possibly say. I just don't know. But I think we have to acknowledge that something is wrong with the system at this point and that something has to be done.
Frankly, nothing is more controversial in American life than this issue of whether or not we are going to be reconciled across racial lines. I have seen some responses coming after simply saying in light of Ferguson that we need to talk about why it is that white people and black people see things differently. And I said what we need to do is to have churches that come together and know one another and are knitted together across these racial lines. And I have gotten responses and seen responses that are right out of the White Citizen's Council material from 1964. In my home state of Mississippi, seeing people saying there is no gospel issue involved in racial reconciliation.
Are you kidding me? There is nothing that is clearer in the New Testament that the gospel breaks down the dividing walls that we have between one another.
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Evangelicals are teaming up with environmentalists to support the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning power plants.
The Rev. Mitchell Hescox, president and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network, submitted comments from more than 100,000 “pro-life Christians” who he said are concerned about children’s health problems that are linked to unclean air and water.
“From acid rain to mercury to carbon, the coal utility industry has never acted as a good neighbor and cleaned up their mess on their own,” Hescox told reporters on Monday (Dec. 1). “Instead of acting for the benefit of our children’s lives, they’ve internalized their profits while our kids (have) borne the cost in their brains, lungs and lives.”
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As many of you on this list are brothers and sisters in Christ who attended Westminster Chapel in the 1950s and 1960s we thought that you might like to know that my father, Frederick Catherwood, one of Dr. Lloyd-Jones's two sons-in-law, passed away very peacefully this morning in Cambridge, England, with my mother holding his hand, which is what she had prayed for. He was 89, and this year was their 60th wedding anniversary. I have pictured him with my mother below, as anyone who knew my father for more than about 5 minutes knew that she was the center of his life here on earth.
Even though my father was in business and politics for most of his life, he always said that the most nervous he had ever been in his life was the day he had to walk down to the front of Westminster Chapel after one of my grandfather's more thundering sermons to ask for his elder daughter's hand in marriage, even though Dr. Lloyd-Jones could not have been more gracious or delighted!
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[Michael] Shermer lauds the liberal society being brought ever more fully into view under the liberal dominion as one of equality, liberty, prosperity, and peace. This is at the very least a willful misreading of the signs of the time. The society that comes ever more clearly into view is one that efficiently and ruthlessly sifts the “winners” from the “losers,” the strong from the weak. It has transformed nearly every human institution – from the family to the schools to the universities to the government – to assist in this enterprise. Modern liberalism congratulates itself on its liberation of disadvantaged minorities – so long as some of their number can join the side of the winners – but is content to ignore or apply guilt-assuaging band-aids to the devastation of life prospects experienced by the “losers.” Tyler Cowen has described this aborning world as one in which “average is over,” in which you will either be one of the 10-15% of the winners, or 85-90% of the losers destined to live in the equivalent of favelas in Texas where you will be provided an endless supply of free Internet porn. This is the end of history, if we follow the logic of liberalism.
So, since Shermer ends with a prediction, let me make one also. Those Christians and other religious believers who resist the spirit of the age will be persecuted – not by being thrown to lions in the Coliseum, but by judicial, administrative, and legal marginalization. They will lose many of the institutions that they built to help the poor, the marginalized, the weak, and the disinherited. But finding themselves in the new imperium will call out new forms of living the Christian witness. They will live in the favelas, providing care for body and soul that cannot not be provided by either the state or the market. Like the early Church, they will live in a distinct way from the way of the empire, and their way of life will draw those who perhaps didn’t realize that this was what Christianity was, all along. When the liberal ideology collapses – as it will – the Church will remain, the gates of Hell not prevailing against it.
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You can find a bit in Wikipedia here and a J.I. Packer article on Sir Fred Catherwood+Britain's Evangelical Alliance in 1994 there.
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The pastor of a Sacramento megachurch had already raised the money he sought for a program to provide food and shelter to the homeless. But Rick Cole, who began the fundraiser with a stunt where he would live on the streets, couldn't leave after only a few days. So, he spent the next two weeks living life as the homeless do — and the experience opened his eyes.
"I've walked past people that stay in some of the places of homelessness. And really almost not even noticed them, not considered their plight and what's going on in their life. Now I was living among them," Cole told NBC News.
Unrecognized by his new neighbors, the 57-year-old pastor spent his days looking for food and worrying about where he'd sleep at night. He didn't preach he didn't proselytize. He just listened. "I think I began to experience how people ignore others. I became the one ignored. People walked by me like I didn't exist."
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We are witnessing that the state has no business in recreating marriage, but the state does have a responsibility to safeguard children, by holding mothers and fathers to their vows to each other and to the next generation.
In this sense, we are acting much as Jesus did when he was asked about the payment of the temple tax. Jesus believed himself and his disciples to be heirs of the kingdom and thus free from this obligation. Nonetheless, he paid the half-shekel “so as not to give offense to them” (Matt. 17:27).
If the state ever attempts to force us to call marriage that which is not marriage in our churches and ceremonies, let’s obey God, even if that means we sing our wedding hymns in the prison block. But, for now, by registering Gospel-qualified unions as civil marriages and not officiating at unions that are not Gospel-qualified, we call the government to its responsibility even as we call attention to its limits.
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In light of the grand jury decision handed down tonight in the wake of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO, I think it is of utmost importance that all Christians, but specifically white evangelicals, talk a little less and listen a little more.
Or, put another way, maybe some need to spend less time insisting that African Americans shouldn't be upset and spend more time asking why some are. Yes, this case reminds us again that the racial divide is clear, as a just released CNN poll demostrated.
I wasn't in the grand jury room, and I don't know the evidence, but many godly African American leaders are hurting and they are explaining why.
I think we should listen to them.
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In one of Ross’s most effective chapters, she argues that low-church evangelical liturgy has taken many of its cues from the Gospel of John, while more high-church traditions have tended to look toward the synoptics. She cites John’s emphasis on personal faith, de-emphasis of high offices, and prioritization of Christology as ways in which this particular gospel has deeply influenced low-church liturgical practices. Ross’s goal here, she tells us, is not to establish which reading or which liturgical practice ought to be favored. She seeks instead to highlight that the breadth of scripture suggests that a breadth of interpretations can be welcomed and affirmed by the Christian church. Ross writes, “Nonsacramental Christianity is one faithful way of embodying the shared confession of faith. My hope is that the discipline of liturgical studies is wide enough to embrace ‘both-and’ without mandating ‘either-or.’”
Yet for all the book’s strengths, it is one thing to demonstrate that a system of thought or group of practices are coherent; it is quite another to demonstrate that they are good. While any fair-minded high-church reader of Ross’s work should be able to finish this book with a greater understanding of evangelical liturgical practices, I am not sure that he will come away from this book feeling more sympathetic to low-church evangelicalism. It is possible, in fact, that greater theological clarity might bring about greater discomfort, as some high-church readers may see their worst fears being confirmed in these elucidating pages, particularly by phrases like “nonsacramental Christianity.” Furthermore, those already suspicious of the excesses of Finney and Whitefield are unlikely to be persuaded otherwise by Ross’s discussion of their role in the formation of evangelical liturgical practices.
Still, it is better to have an informed conversation than an uninformed one.
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Prominent U.S. evangelicals Russell Moore and Rick Warren blasted the sexual revolution at a Vatican conference Tuesday (Nov. 18) and said it is destroying the institution of marriage.
Moore, the public face of the Southern Baptist Convention, said sexual liberation had created “a culture obsessed with sex” that had simply led to a “boredom of sex shorn of mystery.”
“Western culture now celebrates casual sexuality, cohabitation, no-fault divorce, family redefinition and abortion right as part of a sexual revolution that can tear down old patriarchal systems,” Moore told a global gathering of leaders from Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and other faiths as part of the “Complementarity of Man and Woman” conference convened by Pope Francis.
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What lessons were learned from the ERLC conference that might serve as a guide in the days ahead?
On homosexuality and same-sex marriage, the conference stands alone, at least from my perspective, as an earnest first attempt to move evangelicals in a deliberate direction toward more loving, thoughtful engagement on issues that are deeply visceral and deeply divisive. The conference also highlighted the ongoing attempt to rehabilitate the institution of marriage in a same-sex marriage world.
Simply being against same-sex marriage is an insufficient apologetic for rebuilding marriage as a cultural fixture. When deviations from marriage—such as cohabitation, divorce, and promiscuity—become routine, same-sex marriage can seem intelligible and acceptable. In attempts to halt the dictatorship of sexual relativism, the ERLC is dedicated to helping undo the foundations of the sexual revolution that have chipped away at marriage, not just fixing its symptoms.
The conference also revealed that evangelicals are taking a play out of the pro-life handbook.
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Carlos Whittaker, a prominent evangelical writer and musician, was singing worship songs on stage in 2005 when he suddenly felt like he was having a heart attack and that he would soon die. An audience of 2,000 people watched, and the band played on, as Whittaker left the stage, not knowing that he was having a panic attack.
Though some people still tell Whittaker that his anxiety could be improved if he would just make his faith stronger and pray more, evangelical leaders and grassroots activists are orchestrating a shift in the way the community approaches mental health issues.
“This has nothing to with whether I believe in Jesus,” Whittaker told the Guardian. “This does not have anything to do with whether or not I am reading my Bible or how hard I am praying. I can pray 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and I’m still going to have to take that little white pill every single day.”
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When two global religious leaders embrace one another, someone is sure to turn the encounter into a photo opportunity.
The photo-op on Nov. 7 was symbolic and, for many, historic. The elder statesman was the Rev. Billy Graham, and rather than an evangelical superstar, the man who met with him at his North Carolina mountain home was Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev. This visit was linked to a Hilarion address to a Charlotte gathering of Protestant and Orthodox leaders, organized by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
After generations of work with organizations such as the Episcopal Church and the World Council of Churches, the archbishop said many Orthodox leaders now realize that -- on issues of sex, marriage, family life and moral theology -- some of their ecumenical partners will be found in evangelical pulpits and pews.
"In today's pluralistic world, the processes of liberalization have swept over some Christian communities. Many churches have diverted from biblical teaching ... even if this attitude is not endorsed by the majority of these communities' members," said Hilarion, who is the Moscow Patriarchate's chief ecumenical officer.
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The remarkable fall from grace of the evangelical preacher Mark Driscoll could provide case-study materials on public ministry for years to come. The Seattle pastor’s resignation from his megachurch on Oct. 14 and the subsequent dissolution of the church he built had nothing to do with the sort of sordid scandals that in the past brought down preachers such as Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. Mr. Driscoll’s downfall had a great deal to do with the online world that he had seemed to master, a world that made him famous but also exposed what he called in his resignation letter his “pride, anger and a domineering spirit.”
Boosted by live streaming, podcasts and social media, Mr. Driscoll harnessed the Internet to propel his nondenominational ministry beyond Mars Hill, his local congregation. He was known for his muscular, in-your-face style of preaching about Jesus, depicting Christ as more superhero than lamb of God, once declaring: “I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” This aggressive posture, visible online and off, paradoxically made the once “cussin’ pastor” famous but also helped bring down his ministry.
“The same rough edges that can land you in hot water are the very same things that attracted, in some cases, tens of thousands of people to you in the first place,” Mark DeMoss, whom Mars Hill hired to do public relations for six months before Mr. Driscoll’s resignation, told me.
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Prominent author and pastor Rick Warren and his wife Kay recently sat down for an honest and heartfelt discussion about how to fight for an awesome marriage in a society that continually pulls against it.
The couple, who have been married for 39 years, use four seasons to describe different stages of marriage and share tips on how to best draw closer to God and to one another during each seasons.
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According to a former editor of Marvel Comics, one reason why the graphic novel has nearly universally eschewed marriage is that it “kills a good story.” Whatever could be exciting about Clark Kent if he were to remain married to Lois Lane? Not much, apparently, because DC Comics erased the 1996 marriage from history, returning Superman to bachelorhood, the preferred state of our superheroes.
Exceptions exist, of course. Amour, The Incredibles, and In America, along with many Tyler Perry films, focus on and celebrate marriage. Recent movies, such as Drinking Buddies, also trace the relation between friendship and romance, and even between friendship and marriage, explored, for example, throughout the Harry Potter franchise.
One marvelous exception is the critically acclaimed television series Friday Night Lights (FNL), which aired from 2006 to 2011. It tells the story of ordinary people in a small Texas town and their impassioned love of football. But, as Basinger notes, FNL is not so much a show about football as it is “a show about how marriage works when it actually does work.” For critics and fans alike, there has arguably never been a more honest marriage portrayed on the screen than that of coach Eric and Tami Taylor.
Theirs, unfortunately, remains the exception. More common on the small and large screen is the sense that marriage, particularly traditional marriage, is dull and irrelevant as storytelling material. More usual is the view that, “as in the days of the judges,” each one does with marriage what seems right in his or her eyes, whether in “open,” “free,” or “transgressive” style.
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He stood for many years alone—he was long opposed, ridiculed, shunned—his doctrines were misrepresented—his little peculiarities of voice and manner were satirized—disturbances were frequently raised in his church or he was a person not taken into account, nor considered in the light of a regular clergyman in the church.--as quoted in William Carus, Memoirs of the Life of the Rev. Charles Simeon (New York: Robert Carter, 1848), p.39
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