Category : Other Churches

Perspective from the Pages of History–Methodism in Oxford in 1758

Posted in Church History, England / UK, Methodist, Religion & Culture

Martin Davie: What should Anglicans make of the new Methodist report on marriage and relationships?

…Secondly, however, they should also note that there are a number of central parts of the teaching of the Bible and the orthodox Christian tradition concerning sexuality and marriage that the report rejects or underplays:

  • God has created his human creatures as male and female and given them a command to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:26-28, Matthew 19:4).
  • God has ordained marriage as a permanent and exclusive relationship between one man and one woman as the sole legitimate context for sexual intercourse and as the appointed means for the procreation of children (Genesis 2:24, Genesis 4:1).
  • It is this form of marriage that bears witness to the love between God and his people in this world and to the eternal relationship between God and his people in the world to come (Hosea, Ephesians 5:21-32, Revelation 19:7).
  • All forms of sexual activity outside of marriage, including same-sex relationships, are types of sexual activity that are contrary to God’s will for his people and exclude people from his kingdom (Leviticus 18:1-30, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
  • A sexual ethic involving sexual abstinence outside marriage and sexual faithfulness within it is an integral part of Christian discipleship (Matthew 5:27-30, Ephesians 5:3-14, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8).
  • Furthermore, because marriage is something created by God and not be human beings it is not something that human beings can change. What marriage is, is what God has ordained it to be. Consequently, the act of the British parliament in establishing same-sex marriage in 2013 has no validity from a Christian perspective.
  • God is a God of justice and love, but we reflect his justice and embody his love by living according to his will ourselves and encouraging others to the same. To love God is to obey his just commands (John 14:15, 15:9-10). [4]

Because these things are so, the claim in the Methodist report that God is calling the Methodist Church to affirm sexual relationships outside marriage and marriage between two people of the same sex must be wrong. It also has no support from the teaching of John Wesley who held an entirely biblical and orthodox view of sexual ethics.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Telegraph) Methodist Church should allow same-sex marriages, report states

Methodists have recommended that gay couples be allowed to marry in their churches for the first time in a groundbreaking report.

In a document published on Tuesday ahead of the Methodist Church’s Conference this summer, a task force called for a series of recommendations in a bid to modernise the Methodist Church.

The report was drawn up amid changes in society regarding same-sex relationships, cohabition and the delicining marriage rate, the legalisation of civil partnerships and same-sex marriage.

It also comes following the Government’s revelation last year that civil partnerships would be rolled out to heterosexual couples and the proposal has been welcomed by the LGBT community.

The recommendation to change the rules to allow same-sex weddings in its chapels was revealed in the publication entitled ‘God in Love Unites Us’, and was drawn up by the Methodist Church’s Marriage and Relationships Task Group.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(CNN) Attack on Catholic church in Burkina Faso leaves 6 dead

Six people were killed Sunday during mass at a Catholic church in central Burkina Faso, according to state media.

Gunmen on motorcycles stormed the church in Dablo on Sunday morning, killing six men, including the priest, identified as Father Simeon Yampa. The attackers then set fire to the church and other buildings in the area, the Burkina Information Agency reported.

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Posted in Burkina Faso, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic, Terrorism, Violence

(Premier) Paul Blackham–Richard Bewes (1934-2019) RIP: An outstanding preacher who loved the Word of God

Richard Bewes was one of the most outstanding preachers, Bible teachers and Church leaders of our age.

Through his books, sermons, hymns and video series he opened up the Bible to show us the Lord Jesus and the great adventure of Church life with him.

Richard was most of all a mighty preacher. Others gave good lectures on the Bible, full of accurate information and solid content, but Richard’s sermons were always so much more than that. He worked so hard at getting the Bible right and would never be satisfied until that truth was shown off in bright, warm and living colours.

He was loved by so many because he cared about people so much. Many of us were drawn into Church life because Richard spoke with integrity, compassion and warmth. He was always looking above and beyond the current fads and conflicts to the Kingdom of God over all the empires and ages. He loved the book of Daniel because it portrays the Kingdom as a stone that becomes a mountain and covers the whole world. He always lifted our vision to the heroic and colourful characters of Church history, all over the world, on every continent. No one could tell stories the way Richard did!

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

(CLJ) Anne-Sophie Constant on Jean Vanier–The Message Is the Messenger

God has revealed his mysteries to little children; he has chosen the weak of the world to shame the strong. But this is difficult to hear and believe. Jean Vanier didn’t believe it in the beginning, either. The man who settled in Trosly with Philippe and Raphaël in 1964 thought he knew what he was doing. At least, he knew what he wanted: shocked by the living conditions of people with intellectual disabilities, he wanted to give them a more dignified life and to help them be fulfilled. He had few doubts that he would know what must be done and how they should live. He was wise and well-educated. He was cultured, efficient, organized, generous, and religious. But he quickly discovered that these were not qualities that mattered for his new companions. Little did he know at that time that they were the ones who would help him understand himself. It was they, the weak and despised ones, who would become his “masters in humanity,” in a way that was totally upside-down for him.

I discovered that we grew together and that it was they who helped to fulfill me, they who little by little revealed to me my humanity, they who led me further and further into a world of friendship and communion that healed my heart and awakened life in me. Yes, I knew how to do things, I knew how to organize, lead, and teach. I could be efficient, but I discovered that that was not primarily what they wanted from me. They wanted what was most important: a presence, a relationship, love.

What Philippe and Raphaël wanted was a friend, someone who could simply be happy in their company, someone who would love them just as they were. “Living with Philippe and Raphaël, these two men who were so fragile and weak, having suffered so much from rejection, I discovered that everyone thirsts for communion with other human beings.” What surprised Jean was that he found that same thirst in himself. He discovered that there is a wounded child hiding in each of us, a child who has been calling in vain, whom we wall up and silence with our social standards, professional titles, and personal successes. We have hidden this inner child behind so many walls that we have eventually forgotten him. Yet he is awakened in us by the cry of the poor, by their raw thirst for relationships and love, their inability to play the social games of power and prestige, their inability to disguise their feelings, and their lack of satisfaction with those superficial relationships that we settle for all too often.

Read it all.

Posted in France, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(WSJ) S. Joshua Swamidass–Evangelicals Take On Artificial Intelligence

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(Chr History) Nikolaus von Zinzendorf–“There can be no Christianity without community”

Nearly two centuries after Luther posted his 95 Theses, Protestantism had lost some of its soul. Institutions and dogma had, in many people’s minds, choked the life out of the Reformation.

Lutheran minister P.J. Spener hoped to revive the church by promoting the “practice of piety,” emphasizing prayer and Bible reading over dogma. It worked. Pietism spread quickly, reinvigorating Protestants throughout Europe””including underground Protestants in Moravia and Bohemia (modern Czechoslovakia)

The Catholic church cracked down on the dissidents, and many were forced to flee to Protestant areas of neighboring Germany. One group of families fled north to Saxony, where they settled on the lands belonging to a rich young ruler, Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf.

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Posted in Church History, Other Churches, Theology

(Crux) Theologian Gerald McKenny: Biotechnology cannot transcend God’s ultimate purpose

Camosy: In this video you suggest that one of your central questions as a theologian is how we should respond to our vulnerabilities and limitations. Why and/or how did this become a central question for you?

McKenny: When I began studying bioethics in the 1980s, advocates of patient autonomy were still trying to establish it as the fundamental bioethical principle while others, in response, were trying to reclaim a Hippocratic focus of medicine on the patient’s good. I agreed with both but thought that they ignored that when people turn to medicine it is because in one way or another they are face-to-face with their vulnerability. Medicine should respect autonomy and serve patients’ good, but it is first of all a ministry to humans in their vulnerability. Around the same time, the Human Genome Initiative and human gene therapy were getting underway. There was a lot of talk, in retrospect unrealistic, about how genetic knowledge and technology would push back at our creaturely limits, giving us new abilities and so on. So, I began to think about medicine, biomedical research, and so forth as a way we respond to our vulnerabilities and limitations. And that is of course a way of thinking about it that is, or should be, theological.

What do you say to Christians who argue that God made us with vulnerabilities and limitations and we ought not to defy God’s will in using biotechnology to address them?

Like all creatures, we are finite, and like all living creatures, we are dependent-on each other, on our environment. To be finite is to be limited, and to be dependent is to be vulnerable, so these are features of our nature as created by God and should be accepted as such. But acceptance of some aspect of our creaturely nature does not necessarily mean keeping it just as it is. For one thing, some of our present vulnerabilities and limitations are due to sin and are not part of our nature as God created it. To mitigate the effects of sin is not to defy God’s will.

Also, we know that our nature will be perfected in eternity, and some people think we can, in modest ways, anticipate aspects of that perfection now, through biotechnology. But more broadly, much of what people want to do with biotechnology – improve cognitive or perceptual functions, increase muscular strength or agility, live longer – aims at attaining certain states that we perceive as good, as fulfillments of our nature as God created it. If these states really are true human goods (of course, that’s a big “if”!) then it might well be God’s will that we pursue them, assuming we don’t harm people or violate their autonomy in doing so. They would make us a little less limited or a little less vulnerable than we were. But we will still be limited and vulnerable: Still creatures.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology

(CT) Jean Vanier RIP

“Over the last forty-two years we’ve had many deaths, and we’ve spent a lot of time celebrating death. It’s very fundamental to our community,” he wrote, referencing his experience in L’Arche community of Trosly-Breuil, France—where Vanier began the first of an international network of communities for people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities to live together in faith and friendship.

As he recounted in his book Living Gently in a Violent World, “To celebrate death is to gather around and talk about the person—about Janine, for example, who died recently. We gathered to say how beautiful she was, how much she had brought to us. Her sisters came, and we wept and laughed at the same time. We wept because she was gone, but we laughed because she did so many beautiful things.”

Likewise, those of us who have been formed and inspired by Jean Vanier have hearts heavy with both grief and gratitude as we celebrate the beautiful things we learned from a leader who helped us all to become more human.

We don’t often find people born into privilege and status, and highly educated, who then follow the downward path of Jesus. But as founder of L’Arche International, Vanier spent decades in community with people with and without intellectual disabilities and embraced the joys, complications, and demands that go along with such a life.

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, France, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Samuel James–The Besetting Sin of Christian Worldview Education: Why do many evangelicals fail to recognize the genetic fallacy?

The besetting sin of Christian worldview education is the genetic fallacy, defined as an irrational error made by appealing to something’s origin (or “temporal order”) to explain away its truth-claims (or “logical order”). Here’s an example of how someone using the genetic fallacy (GF) might respond to various arguments:

A: “Politics is downstream from culture.”

GF: “Andrew Breitbart said that, and he was a right-wing troll, so you’re obviously wrong.”

B: “The unanimous testimony of Scripture is that homosexual acts are sinful.”

GF: “That’s exactly what Westboro Baptist Church says. Do we really want to be like them?”

C: “How well or poorly policies and systems treat minorities matters to God.”

GF: “Progressive Democrats talk about systemic injustice all the time. This is just code for abortion/socialism.”

Notice that in each example of the genetic fallacy, the retort is factually true. Andrew Breitbart DID say that politics was downstream from culture, and he DID popularize a belligerent style of journalism. Westboro Baptist Church DOES preach against homosexuality, and they ARE a horribly cruel cult. Progressives DO talk a lot about systemic injustice, and they often DO mean abortion and socialism as part of the solution. The retorts are true, or at least believable.

So if the retorts are true, why are these answers fallacious? Because they do not answer the actual question. Statements A, B, C make independent claims that stand alone. By invoking a suspect source and then critiquing it, the responses are actually responding to a claim—about the worthiness of the source—that’s not being made. In other words, the retorts don’t actually tell us anything about the validity of the claim, only the validity of people who make similar claims.

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Posted in Apologetics, Evangelicals, Philosophy, Theology

(NYT) Becoming Roman Catholic in the Age of Scandal

The Archdiocese of Newark alone saw more than 1,000 people receiving the sacraments this Easter, roughly the same number of people as have been welcomed fully into the church each year over the past decade. The Diocese of Brooklyn, where just over 1,000 people received sacraments for the first time this Easter, also said its numbers were on par with prior years.

Many catechumens this Easter were part of groups that were well over a dozen people, huddled together in large churches. But there was also a service with just one woman, surrounded by family and friends, alone in her neighborhood parish.

Why convert, and why now? It is not a capricious choice. Converting required months of preparation, diving into the abundance of rituals and traditions of Catholicism and the theology that underpins it all. For each catechumen, there was a different path.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(FTS) Colin Brown RIP

The Fuller community mourns the passing of Colin Brown, professor emeritus of systematic theology at Fuller Seminary, who passed away on the morning of May 4, 2019. He was at home, surrounded by his children and loved ones, when he died. We are thankful for the life of Dr. Brown, and his significant scholarship, which he pursued with curiosity and vigor, as well as his influence as a professor known for his generosity.

“Colin Brown was a distinguished scholar and teacher whose contributions shaped Fuller for over three decades,” said Richard J. Mouw, president emeritus of Fuller. “Dr. Brown dialogued passionately with the voices of history to understand the nuances of the Western church’s Christology, and he strove unceasingly to enhance the intellectual life of the seminary and the church at large.”

Brown joined the faculty of the seminary in 1978 after several years as an instructor at other American, British, and German institutions. Primarily teaching courses on systematic theology, Brown was especially interested in Christology and also led advanced seminars on Jesus in contemporary Western thought, the politics of Jesus, miracles, and theological method. But Brown’s influence went far beyond the territory of theological thought.

“Colin and Olive were mentors for both Olga and myself,” said Juan F. Martínez, professor of Hispanic studies and pastoral leadership. “Colin opened doors for me at Fuller, specifically by inviting me to guest lecture on Latino and Latin American theological trends in one of his theology courses every year. Even though we had very different understandings of the theological task, he encouraged his students to be attentive to the contributions of those who decentered the European/American theological narrative.”

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Theology

(CT) Warren Wiersbe RIP, Preachers’ Favorite Bible Commentator

Of all his many writings his “Be” commentary series is his most well known and well loved, including books like Be Loyal (Matthew), Be Diligent (Mark), Be Compassionate (Luke 1–13), Be Courageous (Luke 14–24), Be Alive (John 1–12), and Be Transformed (John 13–21). Wiersbe sawhis love of expounding the Scriptures as a gift that God had given him for the sake of others:

Writing to me is a ministry. I’m not an athlete, I’m not a mechanic. I can’t do so many of the things that successful men can do. But I can read and study and think and teach. This is a beautiful, wonderful gift from God. All I’m doing is using what He’s given to me to teach people, and to give glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.

His wisdom and teaching has left an indelible mark on countless pastors and Christian leaders.

Jerry Vines, Baptist minister and two-time past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, remarked on Twitter that “so many things I did were birthed by Warren Wiersbe.” Remembering his “great mentor and friend,” Vines said Wiersbe “is the man who taught me how to expound the Word of God.”

Daniel Darling, vice president for communications at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, also spoke of Wiersbe’s influence: “Wiersbe had a formative influence on me as a writer and pastor. A long full life of service to the church.”

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Alan Cross–Alabama Is More Pro-Immigrant Than You Think

“Our country is made up of people from all different countries,” Ms. Hemp said. “I don’t know what the answer is to the bigger problems, but this is something I can do on a local level to make a difference.”

Eastside Baptist Church, located in Union Springs, an old cotton town around 45 miles southeast of Montgomery, began reaching out to the town’s immigrant community eight years ago, providing tutoring, mentoring and other assistance. Gene Bridgman, the pastor, told me that it all started when a woman in the congregation brought by 10 children whose families came from southern Mexico, part of a large influx of agricultural workers. She was already doing what she could to help them — and soon the rest of the church was, too.

What gives me hope is that this openness isn’t just on the individual or congregational level; it is spreading across communities, as their faith overtakes their fear.

Earl Hinson, a former mayor of Union Springs and a member at Eastside, said that while the arrival of so many immigrants had taken some adjustment, the town’s residents have come to accept them. “Once people get to know them, their hearts change,” he said. “The perception that people have against them mostly comes from the news.”

Bruce Smithhart, a retired prison guard and veteran, said: “The Union Springs economy depends on immigrants. Immigrants are why Union Springs is as good as it is.” Everyone I talked to from the church agreed.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Immigration, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CT) Ajith Fernando–Six Biblical Responses to Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings

4) Leave Vengeance to the Lord

In our hearts we must apply the principle of God’s “holy-love” as we think through the situation. The Bible is clear that our holy God punishes wrong. The reason we are to “never avenge [ourselves]” is because we “leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom. 12:19). When wrong is done, something in us says, “That deserves to be punished.” That is a biblical sentiment. God has given government officials the authority to be agents of his wrath by punishing wrongdoers (Rom. 13:3–4). We must let justice take its course. But even if it doesn’t take place on earth, we know that it will at the final judgment.

The doctrine of judgment on earth and at the end of time is one of the factors influencing our response to the evil that occurs on earth. God gives us the freedom to take our hands off the revenge cycle. Instead we are told to do what we can do: We are to love our enemies and bless them (Rom. 12:17–21). Without a doctrine of judgment, we would be too bitter to forgive and show love to those who hurt us. Freed from bitterness, we can be agents of healing and reconciliation. This is especially true in a situation like Sri Lanka’s attacks which are being touted as revenge for the Christchurch mosque attacks. We can choose to stop the downward spiral of revenge where violence begets violence and huge destruction results.

Revenge is often considered the honorable response to harm in Sri Lankan culture. It comes out of the correct notion that sin must be punished, but misapplied to personal revenge. We must teach our people that personal revenge does not solve problems. We leave it to the state and to God to handle that. That is a hard lesson for our people to learn. But I believe that when it springs from the doctrine of God, there is a convincing base for people to latch onto. How important to teach these aspects of God’s nature to Christians before tragedy strikes!

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Evangelicals, Sri Lanka, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Egyptian Copts who once expressed hopes for more safety under President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi say their situation is worsening instead

Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority is facing a surge in sectarian attacks, with increased instances of violence and threats from Muslim neighbors forcing churches to close and casting a pall over Orthodox Easter on Sunday.

In one recent incident that echoed many others, residents of central Egypt’s Sohag province were seen in a video recorded earlier this month and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal beating their male Coptic Christian neighbors with sticks as women screamed, leading to the shutdown of a local church, according to Coptic groups and a human- rights organization that documented the incident.

Nowhere has the assault on Copts been worse than in Minya province, some 130 miles south of Cairo on the western bank of the Nile, the site of at least three mob attacks on Coptic churches since August. On Jan. 11, a crowd waving wooden clubs jeered at a group of Copts as they fled in a pickup truck through narrow streets. “Leave! Leave!” the crowd chanted, as seen in a video filmed by residents and corroborated by church officials. The Coptic church in the village was closed indefinitely. The month before that incident, a police officer shot dead a Coptic man and his teenage son following a dispute, triggering angry protests by Christians in the area. The officer was sentenced to death earlier this month for the killing.

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Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(UMNS) United Methodist Top Court OKs part of Traditional Plan, exit plan

The United Methodist Church’s top court has found that while some provisions of the newly adopted Traditional Plan remain unconstitutional, the rest of the plan is valid as church law.

That was the Judicial Council’s ruling on a requested review of the Traditional Plan, which was approved during a special denomination-wide legislative session in February to strengthen enforcement of bans on “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy and same-sex weddings.

In a separate ruling, legislation to provide an exit strategy for local churches wishing to leave the denomination meets three minimum requirements and thus is constitutional “when taken together with the consent of the annual conference” as specifically outlined in the Book of Discipline, the court said.

Both decisions came at the conclusion of the Judicial Council’s April 23-26 meeting.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Methodist, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Albert Mohler–The Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Reality of the Gospel

As the disciples preached in the earliest Christian sermons, “This Jesus God has raised up, of whom we are all witnesses . . . . Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” [Acts 2:32,36].

The Resurrection was not a dawning awareness of Christ’s continuing presence among the disciples, it was the literal, physical raising of Jesus’ body from the dead. The Church is founded upon the resurrected Lord, who appeared among His disciples and was seen by hundreds of others.

The Church does not have mere permission to celebrate the Resurrection, it has a mandate to proclaim the truth that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrected Lord gave the Church a sacred commission to take the gospel throughout the world. As Paul made clear, the resurrection of Christ also comes as a comfort to the believer, for His defeat of death is a foretaste and promise of our own resurrection by His power. “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” [1 Corinthians 15:53].

So, as the Church gathers to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we should look backward in thankfulness to that empty tomb and forward to the fulfillment of Christ’s promises in us. For Resurrection Day is not merely a celebration”“it is truly preparation as well. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the promise of our resurrection from the dead, and of Christ’s total victory over sin and death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the very center of the Christian gospel. The empty tomb is full of power.

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Posted in Easter, Eschatology, Evangelicals, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(The Arda) The caring evangelical: New studies question stereotypes

In the study on empathy and political orientation, researchers from the University of Toronto, University of Calgary and the University of Texas, San Antonio, analyzed data from the 2004 General Social Survey.

They found that self-identified political conservatives scored lower on measures of empathy than self-identified political liberals.

But those differences disappeared as conservatives reported higher levels of belief in a loving, supportive God engaged in their lives, or prayed frequently or were regular worship attenders.

“These patterns suggest that religious institutions and the beliefs and practices they socialize might provide multiple pathways to bolster social‐psychological processes like empathy,” researchers said.

In the other study, researchers from Texas A&M and the University of Minnesota analyzed data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey to determine five basic conceptions Americans have of God, from the divine as a non-entity to a loving God concerned with human beings.

The largest group consisted of those who viewed God as a loving, nonjudgmental deity who is engaged with humanity. The next two largest groups were those who perceived God as a loving deity who is neither judgmental nor engaged with humanity and those who viewed God as loving, engaged and judgmental.

What did not gain much traction is the idea of God as punishing and judgmental.

“We find little evidence that respondents perceived God to be only an angry entity,” researchers reported. “Instead, much of the variation among the three classes that imply a robust God revolves around how God’s tendencies toward judgment and engagement with humanity intersect with love.”

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Posted in Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(Crux) John Allen–Easter attacks on churches in Sri Lanka are tragic, but hardly surprising

Sadly enough, there’s now an ugly and utterly predictable dynamic on Easter Sunday: Somewhere in the world, full churches will be attacked and some number of Christians will die for no other reason than that they chose to attend services to celebrate what is supposed to be the faith’s great celebration of life.

Today, it happened in Sri Lanka, where, as of this writing, at least 138 people have been killed and more than 560 injured after coordinated bomb blasts hit a number of high-end hotels and churches across the country.

At St. Sebastian’s in Katuwapitiya, located in a heavily Catholic neighborhood north of Colombo known as “little Rome,” more than 50 people had been killed, a police official told Reuters, with pictures showing bodies on the ground, blood on the pews and a destroyed roof.

In all, three churches and three hotels were struck in what seemed a calculated attack on “foreigners” – both the sorts of foreign visitors who stay in four and five-star hotels, and faiths perceived as “foreign” by nationalists and extremists.

Read it all.

Posted in Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Violence

Samuel Zwemer–‘If the Cross of Christ is anything to the mind, it is surely everything –the most profound reality and the sublimest mystery’

“But Christian messengers of the good news cannot be silent about the cross. Here is the testimony of the American missionary Samuel M. Zwemer (1867–1952), who laboured in Arabia, edited The Muslim World for forty years, and is sometimes called ‘The Apostle to Islam’: The missionary among Moslems (to whom the Cross of Christ is a stumbling- block and the atonement foolishness) is driven daily to deeper meditation on this mystery of redemption, and to a stronger conviction that here is the very heart of our message and our mission…. If the Cross of Christ is anything to the mind, it is surely everything –the most profound reality and the sublimest mystery. One comes to realize that literally all the wealth and glory of the gospel centres here. The Cross is the pivot as well as the centre of New Testament thought. It is the exclusive mark of the Christian faith, the symbol of Christianity and its cynosure. The more unbelievers deny its crucial character, the more do believers find in it the key to the mysteries of sin and suffering. We rediscover the apostolic emphasis on the Cross when we read the gospel with Moslems. We find that, although the offence of the Cross remains, its magnetic power is irresistible.”

–John R W Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downer’s Grove, InterVaristy Press, 2006), page 41

Posted in Atonement, Books, Christology, Evangelicals, Holy Week

(CT) Peter Leithart–Taste and See That the Lord’s Supper Is Good

Evangelicals need to thicken our theology of the Lord’s Supper, first by drawing more of the Bible into the discussion of the Supper, and second by drawing more of the Supper into discussion of the Supper.

Even a fine recent treatment of Reformed sacramental theology, Todd Billings’s Remembrance, Communion, and Hope, is still too thin on both counts. Billings does discuss the key New Testament passages—the institution narratives, Jesus’ resurrection meals, 1 Corinthians 10-11—and makes passing references to Passover and other Old Testament passages, meals, and festivals. But the richness of Old Testament theology still feels lacking. Billings observes that Paul sees manna as a type of the church’s covenant meal, but he doesn’t follow up the clue. If manna is a type, might there be others?

Many examine the Supper through a “zoom lens,” focusing narrowly on the most disputed point in historic debates—the metaphysics of the bread and wine. Much to his credit, Billings pulls back the camera to give us a wider view. In several “congregational snapshots,” he reminds us that the Supper involves people gathered to say and do, eat and drink. He rightly shows that a theology of the Supper must be integrated with the theology of the church.

But we need an even wider angle. Communion bread doesn’t fall from heaven. Wine doesn’t come tricklin’ down the rock. As one Eucharistic prayer puts it, the bread and wine are “fruit of the earth and the work of human hands.” Bread and wine represent nature transformed into culture by human action. A thick theology of the Supper needs to broaden beyond the theology of the church into a theology of culture. So, I offer a suggestive, not definitive, picture of what a thicker theology of the Supper might look like—a pencil drawing, not a portrait.

Read it all.

Posted in Eucharist, Evangelicals, Holy Week, Sacramental Theology

(Crux) Life and death with a Jesuit: Father James Schall on the important things

Lopez: What is best about life?

Schall: What is best about life? The first thing is having it, actually being in existence and knowing that we exist as this human being, that we do not cause ourselves to exist. We are given life. What is best about life is to know that it is a gift rather than some blind development with no internal meaning to itself as this, and not that, being.

Following on this realization of our own existence, what is best is knowing that we are not alone. We live among others and seek and rejoice in our friends. We discover in revelation that we are also to become friends of God. Our lives are often filled with sin and suffering, when we need others most, for forgiveness, for help, for understanding.

What is best about life is also the fact that we can walk this green earth, see things, and especially know what not ourselves is. We exist also that what is not ourselves in all its variety and complexity can be known to us. We are not deprived of the world or others because we are not they. Instead in knowledge, the world and our friends return to us. We know a world that is not ourselves; we are blessed.

What is most challenging about life?

Finding its order. My book, The Order of Things, goes into this issue. At first sight, the world seems a chaos, a disorder. But the earth and all in it reveal an order that is not there because we put it there. We find it already there. This is what we discover when we discover anything.

Modern (and Muslim) voluntarism will claim that nothing is stable (an old Greek view also). Everything can be its opposite. Therefore, there are no evils. But there are evils, due precisely to a lack of order. Moral evil is a lack of order that we put in our own thoughts and deeds because we reject that order that is given to us that constitutes our own real good. The challenge of life is to deal with the reasons for evil without despair or without affirming that evil is good.

Even in the worst circumstances, we strive to see what is in order. But when it is our responsibility to affirm or allow that order, we can prefer our own ideas. In doing so, we implicitly reject the being that is. Thanks to the redemption, this rejection can be repented and reordered, but even here, we are required to act in a way that confronts what is really wrong. We are responsible for our own lives. In the end, the story of our personal existence will be told in terms of how we lived and understood the gift of life that we have been freely given.

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Philosophy, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Aleteia) Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., noted political philosopher, dead at 91

He was a member of the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace at the Vatican, 1977-82; and of the National Council on the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1984-90.

“The most remarkable feature of Fr. Schall as a thinker is the way he has internalized the Catholic intellectual tradition,” said V. Bradley Lewis, Associate Professor in the School of Philosophy and Fellow at the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America. “He has often seemed to me to be that tradition incarnate. His erudition is enormous, and his powers of synthesis are extraordinary. He has always been one of the first persons you wanted to hear discuss any significant development because you knew he would be able to think about it in the context of his command of the tradition.”

That was true especially of political matters and issues of political theory, Lewis said. Fr. Schall was “one of the very few really deep explicitly Catholic political thinkers around because he has such a deep knowledge of the history of political philosophy itself, but also of the specifically Catholic political thinkers.”

“Even in retirement, books, columns, and articles have continued to come at a dizzying pace,” said Bradley Lewis.

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Philosophy, Roman Catholic

Anglicans and Catholics make joint submission to Foreign Office review on persecuted Christians

From there:

The Church of England and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales have made a joint submission to the Independent Review of Foreign and Commonwealth Office support for persecuted Christians.

In a joint letter accompanying the submission, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said that in many places “our Christian sisters and brothers face persecution of an intensity and extent unprecedented in many centuries.”

However, the Archbishops added that these threats to freedom of religion or belief are not restricted to Christians alone, but are a widespread experience of the followers of other faiths.

“We ask Her Majesty’s Government to take note of the practical recommendations offered by our Churches in this Submission and to take meaningful action not only in protecting Christians facing persecution but also in promoting freedom of religion and belief more widely,” they said

(follow the link to see the 2 full letters).

Posted in Church of England, Ecumenical Relations, Globalization, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Roman Catholic

(CT) The Gospel of AI: Evangelicals Want Tech to Remain Good News

As artificial intelligence (AI) makes its way into social media and smart devices, markets and health care systems, military and public policy, evangelicals are raising big questions about its revolutionary potential.

“We recognize that AI will allow us to achieve unprecedented possibilities, while acknowledging the potential risks posed by AI if used without wisdom and care,” state the authors of the new Evangelical Statement of Principles on Artificial Intelligence, unveiled today in Washington, DC. “We desire to equip the church to proactively engage the field of AI, rather than responding to these issues after they have already affected our communities.”

The statement was initially endorsed by about 65 leading evangelical voices, including Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president J. D. Greear; pastors Matt Chandler and Ray Ortlund; professors Wayne Grudem, Michael Horton, and Richard Mouw; as well as leaders of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), which released the document. (CT’s editor in chief, Mark Galli, also signed the statement.)

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Posted in Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(Tennessean) Why John Perkins, a leading voice on racial reconciliation says evangelicals aren’t focusing enough on unity

The book emphasizes biblical reconciliation, which it describes as “the removal of tensions between parties and the restoration of loving relationship.” Perkins, who has dedicated his life to reconciliation work, sees his latest book as a manifesto of sorts.

“The problem of reconciliation in our country and in our churches is much too big to be wrestled to the ground by plans that begin in the minds of men,” Perkins writes. “This is a God-sized problem. It is one that only the church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can heal.”

While there is still much work to be done, Perkins has seen signs of unity in the American church, especially in the past 15 years or so. He has been encouraged by the inclusive attitudes and determination of young people and by congregations successfully starting new multi-ethnic and multicultural churches.

“I praise God for that,” Perkins said.

He pointed to a successful Memphis church as an example, saying that its congregation also has gotten involved in trying to heal some of the city’s wounds, too.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ecumenical Relations, Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(PRC FactTank) The countries with the 10 largest Christian populations and the 10 largest Muslim populations

“Top 10” lists can often be helpful in displaying and illuminating data. For example, the two tables of countries with the largest Christian and Muslim populations featured here reveal differences in the concentration, diversity and projected changes in the world’s two largest religions.

The two lists show that the global Muslim population is more heavily concentrated in Islam’s main population centers than the global Christian population is for Christianity, which is more widely dispersed around the world. Indeed, about two-thirds (65%) of the world’s Muslims live in the countries with the 10 largest Muslim populations, while only 48% of the world’s Christians live in the countries with the 10 largest Christian populations.

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Posted in Globalization, History, Islam, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(CT’s The Exchange) Ryan Burge–Race, Religion, and the Future of American Evangelicalism

Evangelicals are having a branding problem. When I searched Twitter in December of 2018 for tweets that contained the word “evangelical,” I was surprised to see that one of the most popular words that appeared in those tweets was the word “white.” In fact, I looked back over a number of different sets of tweets going back to 2017 and the term “white evangelical” comes up frequently among those discussing evangelical Protestants on social media. That means that at least one vocal portion of the population sees that evangelicalism has become strongly linked with a white racial identity. That’s bad news if you are concerned about the future viability of American evangelicalism. In this article, I want to outline three important trends regarding race and faith that we should consider as we try to lead evangelicalism through this period.

First, Evangelicals are not keeping pace with America’s racial diversity

It is a widely accepted statistical fact that the racial makeup of the United States is rapidly changing. In 2018, about seven in ten people living in the United States are non-Hispanic whites. However, that will dramatically change over the next 30 years. The United States Census Bureau now projects that somewhere between 2045 and 2050, the share of the population that is white will drop below fifty percent.

While there are numerous reasons for this change, it appears to be due to two key factors. First, the average age of the white population is steadily increasing, while the ages of other racial groups are staying much lower. Second, the fertility rate of racial minorities is far outpacing the number of children that are born to white Americans. This is already evident in the data. In the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), just 57% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 25 were white.

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Posted in Evangelicals, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture