I was thinking about the recurrence of terrible atrocities done in the name of Islam, again, today. Barcelona has been hit, and one assumes that Islam, as a worldview, has something to do with the events, in some way. Now let’s take this to the extreme (no pun intended). Let’s imagine that a large Islamic […]
Why theologian Matthew Bates would have evangelicals profess ‘allegiance’ to Christ.
In his provocative book Salvation by Allegiance Alone, Matthew W. Bates expresses deep concern that Christians—particularly North American conservative evangelicals—misunderstand what the Bible means when it calls people to faith. Too often, he argues, they reduce faith to cognitive assent, as if believing in Christ simply means agreeing with certain propositions. Further, they often reduce conversion to saying a one-time prayer, thus presenting faith as a kind of “fire insurance”—a way to avoid God’s judgment, no matter how one decides to live. The effect is to disdain good works and God’s law as self-righteousness, creating a false opposition between faith and obedience and neglecting the Bible’s call to love God by keeping his commandments (John 14:15).
Bates has two main concerns: first, that gospel is too often equated with justification by faith alone. But this equation is not faithful to the New Testament. The gospel is something Jesus announces and embodies; it is the story of the eternal Son becoming one with us in his incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement as king and judge. God’s people are justified by faith alone only as they are united to the risen King by the Holy Spirit. Our faith, then, is rooted in the story of Jesus the King; we celebrate his victory over sin and death while also submitting to his everlasting reign.
This takes us to Bates’s second concern. He argues that the term pistis, most often translated as “faith,” should instead be translated as “allegiance,” because this concept more faithfully conveys the New Testament understanding. This allegiance has three dimensions: “mental affirmation ...
President’s faithful want him to stay in office, and trust him on Russia.
Even before the fallout over President Donald Trump’s remarks on the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, a growing number of Americans hoped to see the country’s 45th leader impeached. However, white evangelicals—a group that largely voted for Trump—were among the most likely to want him to stay in the White House.
A PRRI poll conducted in early August found that 40 percent of Americans believe the President should be impeached, up from 30 percent who said so in February.
Among white evangelicals, 79 percent oppose the calls to impeach Trump—more so than white mainline Protestants (63%), white Catholics (61%), and nones (45%). Overall, about half of Americans say Trump does not deserve to be impeached.
The findings fit with broader trends in Americans’ approval ratings of the President, which have lagged behind those of previous administrations. Evangelical leaders have cheered Trump’s US Supreme Court appointee, challenged his immigration and refugee policy, and awaited much-anticipated changes to the healthcare system. But Trump has also faced ongoing criticism over his rhetoric, turnover among White House staff, and investigations into his campaign’s ties to Russia.
“There is an effort to do whatever is necessary to take this president down,” said Robert Jeffress, one of Trump’s evangelical advisers and head pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, on CBN this week to describe the negative media coverage of a president whom Jeffress views as “very honest” and who “refuses to be politically correct.”
Last month, a different poll by USA Today/iMediaEthics listed evangelicals among Trump’s strongest supporters, with about half ...
Months late, the new Secretary of State quickly highlights ongoing genocide in the Middle East in intro to annual report.
The US State Department kept its annual assessment of international religious freedom unusually short this year, reiterating the country’s commitment to the cause and calling out ISIS as perpetrators of genocide.
Over the past five years, the executive summaries for the department’s annual religious freedom report have averaged more than 5,000 words. They typically detail problems such as North Korea’s religious prisoners, Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria, and the instability caused by Islamic extremism in the Middle East.
This year, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson skipped the lengthy executive summary and laid out a preface just 440 words, naming only a single concern in his written introduction: ISIS.
“ISIS has and continues to target members of multiple religions and ethnicities for rape, kidnapping, enslavement, and death,” the Trump administration appointee and former Exxon CEO wrote. “The protection of these groups—and others who are targets of violent extremism—remains a human rights priority for the Trump administration.”
The report was also a few months later than normal, released on August 15 rather than by May 1. In his remarks, Tillerson repeated the genocide designation for ISIS and also referenced the nomination of Governor Sam Brownback as the department’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.
The annual report reviews the state of religious freedom in 199 countries, and CT has highlighted six places where Christians continue to face significant barriers to worshiping freely: Iraq, Indonesia, India, Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.
Deadly Terror in Iraq
ISIS was responsible for half of all verified casualties (5,403) in Iraq during the ...
“But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”
The goal isn't merely getting closer to God, but making a difference in everyday life.
One crisp fall morning, I watched my son’s first-grade soccer team attempt to play soccer. Many of his teammates had not played the game before that season. Even a few weeks in, the young athletes were struggling.
While watching, I thought back to their practice earlier in the week and found myself intrigued. During practice, they had executed drills without any problems. They had dribbled, taken shots, and even passed the ball to one another. They looked like they could play soccer—but their practice did not translate into the ability to play a real, live game.
I began to wonder: Why was there such a disconnect between the practice and the game? Were their practices really preparing them to play the game of soccer?
Then I began to think of our churches and ask similar questions. Like my son’s soccer team, don’t we sometimes experience a disconnect between real life and what we “practice” at church? Are Sunday school classes, small groups, and spiritual disciplines the equivalent of ineffectual soccer drills? Perhaps, even when Sunday school classes are full, small groups well attended, and spiritual disciplines regularly practiced, these practices are not helping us know how to love God and our neighbors in the nitty-gritty of real life.
Vertical and Horizontal
These are the kinds of questions Kyle David Bennett asks in Practices of Love: Spiritual Disciplines for the Life of the World. Bennett, a professor of philosophy and director of The Spirituality and Leadership Institute for Young Leaders at Caldwell University, is eager to show believers what it looks like to follow Jesus on the ground. Bennett believes that spiritual disciplines are supposed to help us as we seek to follow Jesus, ...
How the church can come to the aid of sufferers and their loved ones.
In the era of modern medicine, a great many human afflictions can be treated, if not cured outright. Medicines easily defeat diseases that once would have killed us, while prosthetics and pain-relief drugs help us adapt to disabling symptoms and incurable illnesses. Dementia, unfortunately, remains neither curable nor especially treatable—and it is only getting more common as our population ages.
Dementia is especially fearsome in a culture like ours, one that treats autonomy as essential to human flourishing. Losing the ability to think and make rational decisions is always a profound loss, but it is especially terrifying for people who value independence so highly. Thankfully, Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia by physician John Dunlop is an excellent companion in thinking through the questions that dementia raises.
The first half of the book covers some basic theological precepts about sin, illness, and the body, as well as medical and scientific details about dementia. Dunlop then describes the daily experience of those who suffer from dementia and the people who care for them. Plenty of books and resources contain this sort of information, but this book remains immensely useful for anyone—pastors, family members, or even people in the early stages of dementia themselves—seeking basic facts about the disease and subjects like in-home care or nursing homes. Having spent many years caring for demented people at every possible stage, Dunlop helps readers step into the non-slip socks of a person with dementia and understand his or her frustrations and sorrows.
For the rest of the book, Dunlop asks whether we can find any grace in dementia. To do this, he first confronts the assumption that makes people ...
Why congregational worship is a feast we prepare all week long.
The Christian musical landscape includes dozens of widely known worship leaders and recording artists but comparatively few hymn writers. Of these, Keith and Kristyn Getty are preeminent. Their songs are enormously popular (over 40 million people sing “In Christ Alone” in church services each year, according to their website). And in June, Keith—who is from Northern Ireland—became the first contemporary Christian musician to be honored as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, an award given by Queen Elizabeth II. Over the last decade, the Gettys have been leading seminars around the United States for pastors and ministers of music. This teaching work forms the foundation of their book Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church. Steve Guthrie, associate professor of theology at Belmont University (and head of the school’s Religion and the Arts program), spoke with Keith about reinvigorating the Christian practice of singing, in congregations and families alike.
With so many difficult issues facing the church today, why give special attention to congregational singing?
As evangelicals, we take the Bible as our authority. And when we look at the Bible, we find that, actually, the second most common command is to sing. It wouldn’t come up that often if it weren’t extremely important to God. Yet when Kristyn and I started studying this, we realized we couldn’t find good books on singing for ordinary people.
In 2013, we did a series of leadership lunches where we would ask the participants: “What’s the first question you ask about music in church?” And we got a whole range of answers, from production to musical style to personality to presentation. ...
An excerpt from 'Hope for the Prodigal.'
Having a prodigal in our lives can expose us—in a good way—although the exposure doesn’t always feel beneficial at the start. We might not be prodigal ourselves, but ultimately, the crisis shows where we may have gone off the rails or developed false beliefs. God may allow or ordain circumstances that expose our attitudes and beliefs, revealing our deep need for God’s ongoing help.
When my son Christian was still in high school and going through his rebellious season, I (Jim) was senior pastor of Real Life Ministries, as I am now. Our town, Post Falls, Idaho, has a population of about 35,000, and our church has about 6,000 people, so we have a fairly large presence in town. Christian was known in high school, in the community, by the police, and by the church. Christian embarrassed himself and my wife and me publicly on many occasions. It was painful. His DUI and arrests for that and other things put us all in a poor light.
When a prodigal leaves home (or church), chaos and tension can enter a family. It’s much like a hurricane sweeping through. The prodigal leaves and others are left to clean up the mess. Some people try to ignore the problem; some become angry and blame others. Some give in to depression, and in grief over the broken relationships, they withdraw and isolate themselves. Some people live in regret—they dwell on what they wish they’d done or hadn’t done. For me, though I had been sober for many years, the temptation to retreat into alcohol was the strongest it had ever been.
When Christian was going through his difficult season, Lori and I disagreed on how to parent him and sometimes argued about it. The crisis exposed weaknesses in our marriage and in us as individuals. ...