Category : Evangelicals

John Stott on William Wilberforce’s Great Example of Perseverance on Wilberforce’s Feast Day

It was in 1787 that he first decided to put down a motion in the House of Commons about the slave trade. This nefarious traffic had been going on for three centuries, and the West Indian slave-owners were determined to oppose abolition to the end. Besides, Wilberforce was not a very prepossessing man. He was little and somewhat ugly, with poor eyesight and an upturned nose. When Boswell heard him speak, he pronounced him ‘a perfect shrimp’, but then had to concede that ‘presently the shrimp swelled into a whale.’ In 1789 Wilberforce said of the slave trade: “So enormous so dreadful, so irremediable did its wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for the abolition…. let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest till I had effected its abolition.

So abolition bills (which related to the trade) and Foreign Trade Bills (which would prohibit the involvement of British ships in it) were debated in the commons in 1789, 1791, 1792,194, 1796 (by which time Abolition had become ‘the grand object of my parliamentary existence’), 1798 and 1799. Yet they all failed. The Foreign Slave Bill was not passed until 1806 and the Abolition of the Slave Trade Bill until 1807. This part of the campaign had taken eighteen years.

Next, soon after the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars, Wilberforce began to direct his energies to the abolition of slavery itself and the emancipation of the slaves. In 1823 the Anti-Slavery Society was formed. Twice that year and twice the following year, Wilberforce pleaded the slaves’ cause in the House of Commons. But in 1825 ill-health compelled him to resign as a member of parliament and to continue his campaign from outside. In 1831 he sent a message to the Anti-Slavery Society, in which he said, “Our motto must continue to be PERSEVERANCE. And ultimately I trust the Almighty will crown our efforts with success.” He did. In July 1833 the Abolition of Slavery Bill was passed in both Houses of Parliament, even though it included the undertaking to pay 20 million pounds in compensation to the slave-owners. ‘Thank God,’ wrote Wilberforce, that I have lived to witness a day in which England is willing to give 20 million pounds for the abolition of slavery.’ Three days later he died. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, in national recognition of his FORTY-FIVE YEARS of persevering struggle on behalf of African slaves.

— John R W Stott, Issues facing Christians Today (Basingstoke: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1984), p. 334

Posted in Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations

(CT) Mainline Protestants Are Still Declining, But That’s Not Good News for Evangelicals

This rapid shift in American religion was driven primarily by evangelicals becoming more prominent in American culture. The rise of televangelists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson coincided with the Religious Right beginning to assert itself in electoral politics. Because the nones were relatively small at this point, there’s ample reason to believe that significant numbers of mainline Protestants became evangelicals through the 1980s.

By the late 1980s, evangelicals had become 25–27 percent of the population, and the mainline population was stuck around 20 percent. In 1993, evangelicals hit their peak in the data at just under 30 percent and have since gone into a slow and steady decline over time.

Between 2000 and 2018, the decline among evangelicals has been relatively modest—just about two percentage points. The mainline also declined three times as fast during this same time period, dropping from 16 percent in 2000 to just over 10 percent in 2018.

When you look at where both traditions started in 1972, evangelicals are slightly up, while the mainline is significantly smaller.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(PCN) Tributes to ‘hero of the faith’ Joel Edwards who has died from cancer

Former General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance and senior UK church figure, Rev Dr Joel Edwards, has died from cancer.

On Wednesday morning, the family confirmed the passing of the 70-year-old pastor by posting a letter Rev Edwards had written thanking people for their prayers.

“This is to say a final goodbye. First, my incredible thanks for your prayers, love and holding on with me to that fingernail miracle,” the letter said.

“Words cannot express the depth, breadth and height of my gratitude, but I have gone home.

“My earnest prayer is that your faith and tenacity on my behalf will not be considered a pointless religious exercise, but that it will have strengthened your faith in a God who is marvellous, mysterious and majestic in all that He does: The Faithful One.”

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture

(RNS) At 71, Christian author Philip Yancey still believes in amazing grace, despite the county’s divisions

If you could talk to evangelical leaders right now or to people in the pew, what would you tell them?

I go back to that beautiful discourse in John Chapters 13 to 17, which is Jesus’ last time with his disciples. He’s turning over the whole thing to them. And they haven’t really proven themselves. In fact, they’ve proven themselves unreliable. So, what did he do? He washed their feet. And he said to them, this is your stance in the world. You’re a servant, you’re not the leaders. Then he said, you should be known by your love. And you should be known by your unity. Those three things.

Yet so often the church seems more interested in cleaning up society, you know, returning America to its pristine 1950s. That’s the myth we have — we are making America pure again, cleaning it up.

Jesus lived under the Roman Empire, Paul lived under the Roman Empire, which was much worse morally than anything going on in the United States. They didn’t say a word about how to clean up the Roman Empire, not a word. They just kind of dismissed it.

So, why are we here? Well, we’re here to form the kind of community that makes people say, ”Oh, that’s what God had in mind.” We’re here to form pioneer settlements of the kingdom of God, as N.T. Wright puts it. It’s about demonstrating to the world what the whole human experiment is about.

Let’s remember why we are here. We love people, we serve and we show them why God’s way is better. Let’s concentrate on that rather than tearing people down or rejecting them or denigrating them in some way. We’re here to bring pleasure to God. I believe we do that by living in the way God’s son taught us to live when he was on earth.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Theology

Interesting food for thought from Christ City Church Vancouver BC

The Evangelical Statement of Faith

We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the infallible, authoritative Word of God.
We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration of the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Posted in Canada, Eschatology, Evangelicals, Theology

(Cardus) Timothy Keller–The Fading Of Forgiveness: Tracing The Disappearance Of The Thing We Need Most.

A recent interview with an actress in Global Heroes, a magazine insert in The Wall Street Journal, perfectly exemplifies the therapeutic turn. When asked, “What is one good choice that everyone can make to improve the world around them?” she answered, “Look for your own truth, LIVE your own truth instead of repeating anyone else’s.” She elaborated: “What’s crucial to me is to make my audience . . . [question] old beliefs.” She counsels her fans to engage in a daily practice of asking, “What do I need today?” and then to go and get it.

Gregory Jones sees this therapeutic turn as perhaps the greatest reason that we have such “impoverished contemporary understandings and practices of forgiveness in modern western culture. . . . If all that matters is individual autonomy, then forgiveness and reconciliation—which are designed to foster and maintain community—are of little importance.” Today, Jones argues, forgiveness is either discouraged as imposing a moral burden on the person or, at best, it is offered as a way of helping yourself acquire more peaceful inner feelings, of “healing ourselves of our hate.”

In contrast, the Bible orients us toward “Christian life embodied in eschatological community.” The church is to be a foretaste of the future world of love and perfect community under the lordship of Jesus. Our sin inclines us to behaviour that regularly weakens and breaks relationships, but through the Spirit we are given the ability to realize—partially, never fully in this life—something of the beauty and joy of those future relationships through practices and disciplines of forgiveness and reconciliation now.

In October of 2006 a gunman took hostages in a one-room Amish schoolhouse at Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He shot ten children ages seven to thirteen, five of whom died, and then he committed suicide. Within hours members of the Amish community visited both the killer’s immediate family and his parents, each time expressing sympathy for their loss. The Amish uniformly expressed forgiveness of the murderer and his family. The forgiveness and love shown toward the shooter and his family amazed many. Numerous voices called Americans to emulate the Amish and become more forgiving.

Four years later a group of scholars wrote about the incident. One of their main conclusions was that our secular culture is not likely to produce people who can handle suffering the way the Amish did. They argued that the Amish ability to forgive was based on two things. First, at the heart of their faith was a man dying for his enemies. Through communal practices this self-sacrificing figure was seen, sung, believed, rehearsed, and celebrated constantly. For Jesus to give his life and forgive his tormentors was an act of enormous love and spiritual strength, and so within their worldview orientation, the Amish saw forgiveness as the greatest gift and virtue. In American culture, in which church attendance is declining, this view of Christ is slipping more and more out of daily view.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(EF) Michael Oh–John Stott: The head and heart of the Lausanne Movement

The two leaders with whom the Lausanne Movement is most closely associated are Billy Graham and John Stott.

Billy was the face and voice of the movement. That voice echoed through the halls of the Palais de Beaulieu in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974 on the first night of the First Congress on World Evangelization exclaiming, ‘Let the earth hear his voice!’

John Stott, however, was the head and heart of Lausanne.

I first met Uncle John 25 years ago while I was a student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where I had the unexpected blessing of lunch with him. It was like meeting a real-life hero. Not the kind that you watch in movies, but the kind that we all truly need. Not a man of fame and fortune, but a godly, wise, and humble servant.

The topic of our conversation was birds—a topic Uncle John was always animated about. After sharing with me some of the fascinating lessons on life and faith to be learned from birds, he expressed his hope to one day write a book on his favorite hobby.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Globalization, Theology

Tim Keller reviews Samuel L. Perry and Andrew Whitehead’s book ‘Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States’

White Americans are divided into almost equal numbers of Ambassadors, Accommodators, Resisters, and Rejecters. African Americans, however, are more supportive of Christian Nationalism than whites—65% of all African-Americans are Ambassadors or Accommodators, the largest proportion of any racial group. Hispanics are mainly found in the two middle, moderate groups, as are Asians and other races (41). All of this indicates that socially conservative views, and a general comfort with a Christian-influenced culture, are not positions exclusively held by white people. Many non-whites are religious, traditional, and conservative in their orientation and shy away from progressive political views that are highly negative and critical of America, its ideals, and its past.

Another surprise is that, while about 50% of the Christian nationalists are evangelicals, nearly 25% of the strong Resistors or Rejecters are also evangelicals.This shows that evangelical beliefs do not automatically cause Christian Nationalism. They can also be the basis for its rejection. Therefore, Christian Nationalism is far more “ethnic and political than it is religious” (10). It is not an inevitable or logical result of traditional, biblical beliefs. It uses the Bible selectively, mainly appropriating for America promises like 2 Chronicles 7:14 (that are given to Israel), promising prosperity if they obey their covenant with God. It ignores the Old Testament passages demanding justice for the poor and the immigrant, and it never deals with New Testament calls to love enemies and turn the other cheek.

And so Christian Nationalism “isn’t localized within [any] particular religious tradition” (13). It doesn’t arise from strongly-held Christian beliefs of a Protestant evangelical, Catholic or any other group. “In fact…religious commitment [to a particular theology] and Christian Nationalism appear to foster distinct moral worldviews that differ in critical ways” (13). That is—Christian Nationalism ignores much of Christian teaching and puts together a highly selective pastiche of biblical texts with commitments to nativism, white supremacy, and so on.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Evangelicals, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CT) Makoto Fujimura Sings with God, Carries His Cross, and Awaits the New Creation

Fujimura believes that the Crucifixion reveals this theological vision in powerful ways. As he writes, “Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, Christ’s bloodshed, becomes an entry point of faith for all of us.” Artists, he argues, are uniquely able to witness to the hope of redemption amid brokenness by letting their artistry emerge from the traumas and tragedies of living in a fallen world:

Art literally feeds us through beauty in the hardest, darkest hours. … Through this wine of New Creation we can be given the eyes to see the vistas of the New, ears to hear the footsteps of the New, even through works by non-Christians in the wider culture.

Metaphors like “new wine” are among the key ways Fujimura expresses his vision. He draws heavily on the image of soil as a regenerative space where even our brokenness can testify, over time, to new creation. And he attests to the invaluable gift of tears as expressions of sanctification and consecration.

This theme of suffering is central to the book, as it is to Fujimura’s work as a fine artist. Art and Faith gives particular focus to the Japanese art form of Kintsugi, in which broken pottery is reformed using precious metals. The result, writes Fujimura, is a work of newly created beauty, “which now becomes more beautiful and more valuable than the original, unbroken vessel.”

In many insightful moments, Fujimura relates this redemptive vision of Kintsugi to experiences of suffering in his own life.

Read it all.

Posted in Art, Books, Evangelicals, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture, Theology

The 100th Anniversary of John Stott’s Birth (VII)–A Message from Chris Wright

Posted in Church History, Evangelicals

The 100th Anniversary of John Stott’s Birth (VI)-Canon J John: John Stott Is Still a Hero Every Christian Should Know About

I was privileged to meet with ‘Uncle John’ on many occasions. I was particularly encouraged when, still finding my feet as an evangelist, he invited me to tea, supported what I was doing and encouraged me to deepen my knowledge of God through Bible reading and prayer. One cherished memory is how, whenever I met him, he would give me a characteristic hug, gaze at me with his blue eyes and ask, ‘Brother John, are you still preaching the gospel?’ to which he would inevitably add, ‘This is the one thing you must do!’

One of the fascinating and challenging things about John was the way that he balanced things that could have easily been opposites.

So although John was extraordinarily self-disciplined, he was also gentle. He would rise early— 5 or 6 a.m.— and devote himself to prayer and Bible reading. He seemed to live life with a remarkable efficiency and never seemed to waste time. Yet there was never any sense of him being any sort of driven individual whose projects demand priority; with John you always felt that people came first.

Equally, although John was an authority, he was also humble. He was one of the very few Christian leaders to be known and respected globally: Time magazine labelled him as one of its ‘100 Most Influential People’ in 2005. Yet you never felt any sense of superiority or self-importance with John. He listened graciously to other views and always seemed to have time for people. He lived humbly too; it’s fascinating that the only property he ever owned was that tiny cottage in Pembrokeshire. With John, the idea of being a servant of others was no cliché but the truth.

Finally, although John was a deeply spiritual man, he was also utterly relevant.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Evangelicals, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

The 100th Anniversary of John Stott’s Birth (V)–The full Service of Celebration for this Momentous Event from his home Parish of All Soul’s Langham Place

There are many wonderful people whom you will get to hear from–do take the time.

Posted in Church History, Evangelicals, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology

The 100th Anniversary of John Stott’s Birth (IV)–His Address to the World Congress on Evangelism in 1966

All this implies a recognition that Jesus of Nazareth was no mere Jewish teacher who founded a Jewish sect, but rather the Saviour of the world who summons all nations of the world to His allegiance.

The Church, in other words, is fundamentally a missionary society, commissioned and committed to proclaim the Gospel of salvation to the whole world. Insofar as any inhabitants of the globe have not heard the Gospel, the Church should have a heavy conscience. Christ has sent us to herald forgiveness to all the nations, but we have not done so. role have failed to ‘fulfill His final commission. We have been disobedient to our Lord.

There is still time to make amends, however. As the world population explodes, the Church’s task might seem to be getting harder and the goal of world evangelization more remote. But as modern means of mass communication increase, and as the Church humbly seeks fresh spiritual power, the task once again appears possible. This spiritual power is, in fact, the fifth and last aspect of the Lord’s commission which Luke mentions. We are to proclaim the forgiveness of sins on the ground of Christ’s name and on condition of repentance to all the nations.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Germany, Missions, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

The 100th Anniversary of John Stott’s Birth (III)–Tim Chester: Ten Things You Should Know about him

2. The main influence on Stott’s preaching was someone he never met.

The culture into which Stott was converted was one where preaching was only loosely related to the Bible. Yet a few years later, his preaching was electrifying congregations with sermons that gained their power from the text itself. Stott had spent the intervening years at university in Cambridge, and I believe it was a Cambridge preacher who transformed his preaching: Charles Simeon, the vicar of Holy Trinity. But Stott never met Simeon because Simeon was preaching in the 19th century—a century before Stott went to Cambridge. Stott met Simeon only through Simeon’s writings. “Simeon’s uncompromising commitment to Scripture,” Stott once wrote, “captured my imagination and has held it ever since.” In his London apartment Stott had various pictures on his wall of some of the places that had been significant in his life, but he had only one portrait—a portrait of Simeon.

3. Stott belonged to only one congregation.

Stott’s father was a doctor and lived in Harley Street, the area of London traditionally associated with the medical profession. The nearest parish church was All Souls, Langham Place, and it was there that Stott was taken as child. Stott spent his school days at boarding school and it was at Rugby School that he was converted. After graduating from Cambridge University, he was ordained and became a curate, or trainee pastor, back at All Souls under the then-rector Harold Earnshaw-Smith. But within months, Earnshaw-Smith had suffered a heart attack and Stott was largely left in charge. Five years later Earnshaw-Smith died and in September 1950, Stott became the new rector. Though not entirely without precedent, it was unusual for a curate to move straight to the senior role in the same parish. Stott remained at All Souls as Rector and then Rector Emeritus for the rest of his ministry. Only in the last few months of his life did he move to a retirement home outside London.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Evangelicals, Theology

The 100th Anniversary of John Stott’s Birth (II)–Paul Woolley’s Credo in last weekend’s London Times

In 2006 he said: “My hope is that in the future, evangelical leaders will ensure that their social agenda includes such vital topics as halting climate change, eradicating poverty, abolishing armouries of mass destruction, responding adequately to the Aids pandemic, and asserting the human rights of women and children in all cultures. I hope our agenda does not remain too narrow.”

Stott set out to destroy the myth of the sacred-secular divide, the idea that some parts of life (church services, praying, reading scripture) are important to God, but everything else (work, the arts, science, sport) is “secular”. “We must not marginalise God, or try to squeeze him out of the non-religious section of our life,” he wrote. Similarly, Stott was committed to the “liberation” of the laity, recognising that while clergy had a crucial job to do, so did lawyers, industrialists, politicians, social workers, scriptwriters, journalists, and homemakers.

Stott’s appeal lay in his authenticity. He did not want power or status. He was unassuming and lived simply. He gave his wealth away. “Pride is without doubt the greatest temptation of Christian leaders,” Stott said in 2006 during a visit to the US. “I’m very well aware of the dangers of being fêted and don’t enjoy it, and don’t think one should enjoy it.”

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Church History, Evangelicals, Theology

The 100th Anniversary of John Stott’s Birth (I)–John Yates III: John Stott Would Want Us to Stop, Study, and Struggle

While many leaders are known for their egos, John is rightly remembered for his humility. One of the hallmarks of that humility was his deep sensitivity to the needs of others and his tireless commitment to caring for those needs. Undistracted by concern for himself, he had the mental and emotional energy to attend to those around him.

While some leaders search for glimpses of themselves in the eyes of others, John looked into others’ eyes as windows instead of mirrors, seeking to catch sight of their hearts and minds.

On the final morning of that Easter conference, John insisted that the young translators come out of their soundproof booths and join him on stage in order to be thanked by their peers. It was the loudest cheer of the week, during which John slipped quietly out of the spotlight.

On this centenary of his birth, I pray that God would give the church more leaders like John Stott: leaders who understand the value of pain in the mind, who are generous in personal friendship, and who are humble enough not just to share the spotlight but to step out of its warm glow entirely in order to pass on the legacy of godly leadership to the next generation.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Evangelicals, Theology

(Spectator) Chris Wright–John Stott: the centenary of a true radical

But such evangelicals, a fraction of the global majority, are not typical. Most evangelicals are more aligned with the faith modelled by John Stott, which had nothing to do with ethnic or political allegiance but simply a personal devotion to Jesus Christ as saviour and Lord, belief in the trustworthiness of the Bible, and a commitment to live out their faith in daily practice.

Decade after decade, Stott travelled around the globe, speaking and teaching at conferences, building friendships among church leaders in the majority world, and mentoring young men and women by his own example of humility, integrity, and servanthood. Together with Billy Graham, he launched the Lausanne Movement in 1974 which, in partnership with the World Evangelical Alliance, holds evangelicals to the historical legacy of Wesley, Wilberforce, and Shaftesbury – integrating their evangelistic message and mission with social action in combatting the evils of poverty, injustice, racism and slavery.

As an Anglican clergyman who stayed rooted in his own local parish for 50 years, he had a profound love for the Church of England and the rapidly growing Anglican churches in other continents, especially in Africa. He founded and inspired the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion (EFAC), a global network to encourage faithfulness to the Bible’s teaching and moral standards. But his vision also embraced all denominations of the global church – he founded the Langham Partnership to resource churches worldwide with enhanced theological scholarship, quality literature in local languages and cultures, and training in biblical preaching.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Theology

(GR) Richard Ostling–Inspiring feature idea on Christianity near Holy Week sent aloft by (what are the odds?) producers at MSNBC

This got The Guy to thinking about how much we’re missing on TV and religion. Leave aside fictional entertainment, which when religion turns up in the plot too often causes anybody who knows anything about religion to cringe. And let’s not get into the fare transmitted by paid-time preachers.

Eastertide or Christmas may bring seasonal documentaries, often over the years sensationalized attempts to debunk the church or the Bible. David Gibson’s 2015 archaeology series on CNN, “Finding Jesus,” was an exception.

But what about intelligent treatment throughout the year of news and ideas in the world of religion, which interests masses of today’s viewers just as it has gripped imaginations across human history?

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Holy Week, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(PW) Fear and Hope: When Timothy Keller’s Book Met His Life

“Most books you write after you have gone through an experience, but in this case what was so strange was I was having the experience while writing the book,” he told PW. “When you realize this may be the end and you have this abstract belief in heaven and the promise of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, you have to ask, do I really believe this? So writing the book was really a struggle with that question.”

It’s not much of a spoiler to say that the 70-year-old Keller, founder of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in the sodom known as Manhattan does believe in a literal resurrection of Jesus. While writing, he spent extra time in prayer and “experiencing the presence of the risen Christ,” as he put it. “I was just shocked at how much more experience of God there was than I found before. So I have grown and I have confidence in the resurrection after a combination of faith and experience.”

Keller has buckets of experience as an author. His first title, The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism (Dutton, 2008) hit number five on PW’s Bestseller List and sold more than 150,000 copies in its first year. That was followed by more than 20 titles on everything from love to suffering, Christmas to church planting. He hit PW’s twice more, with Prodigal God (Dutton, 2008) and Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Dutton, 2014), both of which hit the 100,000 copies sold mark. Hope in Times of Fear is intended as a bookend to Hidden Christmas, a holiday book published by Viking in 2016. In between books, Keller became one of the pioneers of the now-standard megachurch model of multi-site worship. Before retiring in 2017, he spent years of Sundays hopscotching across Central Park, going uptown and down, giving three or more sermons a day at Redeemer’s five different sites. Today, there are Redeemer-affiliated churches in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Throughout his publishing career, he has been with one editor — Brian Tart, president and publisher of Viking Penguin. Tart heard about Keller and his popular church in 2006 and headed there one Sunday to hear him preach. “Obviously, he knew the Bible inside and out, but he also took a lot of examples from stories and myths and movies and books. He was really engaged in the cultural conversation of the moment and there wasn’t a barrier of entry for people to understand him. He reached people where they were,” Tart told PW. “That Tim is talking about cancer makes his personal journey to God helpful to people. He is saying ‘I’ve been through a dark time, we all been through a dark time, and yet I feel this great reservoir of hope.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(TGC) Justin Taylor–Questions for David French on the Connections between the Atlanta Killer and Purity Culture

But what’s the evidence that the shooter, who would have been in youth group during the presidencies of Obama and Trump, was taught the toxic purity culture that peaked in the 1990s?

My argument is not “no evidence will ever or could ever exist,” but rather “no one actually knows, and therefore we shouldn’t draw that connection until and unless evidence emerges.”

If I was a betting man, I would actually put a hefty wager on this young man having heard the normative / traditional / orthodox teaching on sexuality that David French taught his youth group instead of the toxic legalism that Bill Gothard taught.

And if that’s true, then the argument of this piece basically falls apart. It could become a good standalone article on purity culture, but not a very illuminating one of the killer and his theological culture.

(By the way, if you want to hear from the church itself, you can read their statement.)

So my encouragement to everyone: let’s slow down on drawing connections that might seem obvious but are actually quite tenuous.

Read it all.

Update: Terry Mattingly also has helpful reflections Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Youth Ministry

(TLC Covenant) Gareth Atkins reviews Bruce Hindmarsh’s new book ‘The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism: True Religion in a Modern World’

Among historians of evangelicalism it has long been an article of faith that the movement they study was an Enlightenment phenomenon. Rooting its self-examination in Lockean empiricism, its offers of salvation in consumer-driven individualism, and its optimism about an imminent millennium in notions of human progress, David Bebbington, David Hempton, Phyllis Mack, and others have situated early evangelicalism squarely within the wider Anglo-American and European intellectual universe. But has anyone else noticed?

Thanks to J.G.A. Pocock, J.C.D. Clark, and others, we no longer think of Enlightenment as the rise of modern paganism. Indeed, recent scholarship is coming to emphasize continuity: Enlightenment as late humanism, with the “new” philosophy sharing many of the concerns of the “old,” and borrowing many of its intellectual tools, too. Sermons remained probably the most popular single literary genre in a print sphere dominated by divinity. But even so, among social and cultural historians what may be termed the Roy Porter view predominates: that if religion still mattered it was because it hitched itself to the coat-tails of the political order; and that if it was still taken seriously intellectually it was because it was prepared to dilute itself with enough rationalism to make it palatable to polished literati. Enthusiasm was the province of a few extremists. And few were more enthusiastic than John Wesley, George Whitefield, and their ilk, who are therefore assumed, according to this view, to be fundamentally anti-enlightened. Exhibit A for exponents of the Porter view is William Hogarth’s Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism: A Medley (1762), which depicts an unhinged preacher – possibly Whitefield – ranting about witches and demons to a congregation of drooling misfits.

Bruce Hindmarsh’s magnificent new book underlines how misleading that over-reliance on hostile caricatures has been. “The rise of evangelicalism,” he states crisply at the outset, “occurred in tandem with the rise of modernity and in the midst of a hugely consequential turn away from transcendental frames of reference to the authority of ‘nature’ in multiple fields” (p. ix). Lockean sensibility, Newtonian physics, Shaftesburian politeness, and the growth of the public sphere, he argues, opened up fresh cultural and intellectual space for more personal, emotional and individualistic forms of belief, allowing and indeed impelling figures like Jonathan Edwards in New England and Whitefield and the Wesleys in Old England to pose an urgent question: “Is it possible to experience the presence of God in the modern world?” Their answer was urgent, disruptive and democratic, offering the possibility of spiritual rebirth to all, not as the result of incremental, ordered contemplation, but as an immediate, transformative and potentially explosive experience: “be born again”; “expect it now” (pp. 2-3). Wesley preached on the “one thing needful” more than fifty times, while Whitefield’s pious mnemonic, “one thing is needful,” scratched onto a friend’s window with a diamond, was still visible a century later (p.3). The simple but fervent piety thus produced overtopped denominational and national boundaries, as Methodists in England and Wales, “New Lights” in North America, evangelicals in the Churches of England and Scotland, Moravians, and evangelical nonconformists strove to experience God for themselves.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church History, Evangelicals

David French–Why the Atlanta Massacre Triggered a Conversation About Purity Culture

As this conversation unfolds, it’s important to keep two things in mind. First, the purity culture I’m describing never fully captured the church. Millions of people have thankfully lived their entire Christian lives free from the extremes I’ve described above.

Second, however, it’s absolutely vital that Christians do not leave the task of confronting extremes to a secular world and media that is often hostile to (or doesn’t understand) Christian orthodoxy itself. The secular critique is typically all confrontation, no redemption.

The Christian response, however, requires both confrontation and redemption. It recognizes that Christ holds the answer when the church fails. As I’ve written before when addressing the failures and faults of the purity movement, through Christ even stories of past pain and suffering can be redeemed and transformed into instruments of grace and mercy.

Shortly after we received the first reports about the Atlanta killer’s motives, my friend and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Karen Swallow Prior tweeted two insightful words, “Culture cultivates.” A culture that defines a person by their sexual sin cultivates misery. When it places women in a position of guarding a man’s heart, it cultivates abuse. And sometimes, when a man’s heart is particularly dark, it can even cultivate murder.

The problem with purity culture is not Christianity. The problem with purity culture is that its extremes are not Christian at all.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Youth Ministry

(SBC) Bible teacher Beth Moore, splitting with Lifeway, says, ‘I am no longer a Southern Baptist’

For nearly three decades, Beth Moore has been the very model of a modern Southern Baptist.

She loves Jesus and the Bible and has dedicated her life to teaching others why they need both of them in their lives. Millions of evangelical Christian women have read her Bible studies and flocked to hear her speak at stadium-style events where Moore delves deeply into biblical passages.

Moore’s outsize influence and role in teaching the Bible have always made some evangelical power brokers uneasy, because of their belief only men should be allowed to preach.

But Moore was above reproach, supporting Southern Baptist teaching that limits the office of pastor to men alone and cheerleading for the missions and evangelistic work that the denomination holds dear….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Baptists, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Women

(Wash Post) An evangelical scientist on reconciling her religion and the realities of climate change

Because here’s the thing. When I run into people who are very adamant about rejecting climate change — they’re not that many; only 7 percent of people are dismissive, but they’re very loud about it. I look at those people, whether it’s on social media or if they wrote me a letter — rarely do I run into them in person; most prefer to be behind the safety of a keyboard before they attack you — but I look at who they are because I’m curious. And easily 90 percent of the time — probably more than that — climate change is just one of a package of issues: extreme nationalism, anti-immigration, right-wing politics. You know, whatever the current issue of the day is — covid, school shooting — you can guarantee that whoever rejects climate change will also be adamantly defending the right of people to bear weapons and supporting covid myths and disinformation. It all goes together.

So only 7 percent are what we would call climate-change deniers?

Yeah. Seven percent are really hardcore, but then what happens is that a lot of people are not outright dismissive — they just are what social scientists call “cognitive misers.” We all are. [Laughs.] Because who has time to read all of these things and develop a thoughtful opinion on the myriad issues that we’re expected to have in order to vote or to advocate or even [address] when it comes up in conversation? So we look to the opinions of people we respect, whose values we believe that we share, who we assume have spent a bit more time thinking about it than we have. And we adopt their opinions. Unfortunately, today a lot of that has become very politically polarized. And you have a lot of people who are just really confused because they hear people whose values they share, who call themselves Christians, who have called themselves Republicans or conservatives, telling people, “Oh, this isn’t real.” “Those scientists are just making it up.” “It’s just a liberal hoax.”

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

Time Magazine talks to Russell Moore

Often Moore has to tap-dance around the gap between his church’s beliefs and its behavior. He dismisses as a “manufactured controversy” the criticism of six SBC seminary presidents who in November released a public condemnation of critical race theory. “I don’t find any postmodern theory motivating those who are concerned for racial reconciliation and justice,” says Moore. “I find that what motivates such things is the Bible.” And while Moore has set himself apart from those who support the President, he declines to condemn those who opted to vote for Trump because they believed in the platform, not the man.

Moore thinks reports of the death of American Christianity are overblown. But as increasing numbers of Americans tell pollsters that they are not affiliated with any kind of religion, and in the wake of Trump, he wants the church to take a harder look at its priorities. “The biggest threat facing the American church right now is not secularism but cynicism. That’s why we have to recover the credibility of our witness,” he says. It’s one thing to dismiss the teachings of his faith as strange and unlikely, he notes, but “if people walk away from the church because they don’t believe that we really believe what we say, then that’s a crisis.” This is what he fears will be the legacy of an era in which people of faith put so much faith in a President. “There is an entire generation of people who are growing cynical that religion is just a means to some other end.”

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CT) Mexican Census: Evangelicals at New High, Catholics at New Low

The Catholic majority in Mexico is slipping, as Protestants surpassed 10 percent of the population in the country for the first time ever.

According to recently released data from Mexico’s 2020 census, the Protestant/evangelical movement increased from 7.5 percent in 2010 to 11.2 percent last year.

The Catholic Church has historically dominated the religious landscape across Latin America, but especially in Mexico, which ranks among the most heavily Catholic countries in the region. Today, though an overwhelming majority of Mexicans still identify as Catholic, declines are accelerating.

It took 50 years—from 1950 to 2000—for the proportion of Catholics in Mexico to drop from 98 percent to 88 percent. Now, only two decades later, that percentage has slipped another 10 points to 77.7 percent.

National church leaders attribute the boom in Protestantism to a range of factors, from the influence of Americans and fellow Latin Americans in the country to effective evangelical outreach in indigenous areas.

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Posted in Evangelicals, Mexico, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sociology

(CH) David Mills–The Ecumenical Dog That Doesn’t Bark

I’m all for praying for Christian unity and making a big deal of it for a week. But we should be clearer about what this means than the ecumenically-minded tend to be. They prefer the dog not to bark, but the barking dog warns us of something we need to remember.

Jim Packer remembered it. He wanted me to give in. I wanted him to give in. In our own circles, we both barked, and I think felt that a bond. We each knew what the other wanted and remained friends, with a deep respect for each other as well as affection. We enjoyed a great degree of unity despite our differences.

We should pray for Christian unity. But also offer the old-fashioned prayers that our Protestant friends would convert. And be the kinds of Catholics whose lives encourage people to join us.

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Posted in Ecclesiology, Ecumenical Relations, Evangelicals, Roman Catholic, Soteriology

St Helen’s Bishopsgate announces “broken partnership” with House of Bishops

St Helen’s Bishopsgate, following much prayer and reflection, has announced a state of broken partnership with the House of Bishops of the Church of England.

St Helen’s and many other churches have over a prolonged period called for and prayed for Bishops, as the denomination’s senior leaders, to uphold their vows to teach what the Bible says, including in the area of sex and marriage, and to deny false teaching and practice. Instead theHouse of Bishops is divided on sex and marriage; its official orthodox doctrine is expressly undermined by how some bishops speak and act, and by the failure to speak and act of many others. This has resulted in a muddled message and confusion for churchgoers across England.

Despite their consecration vows, Bishops have overseen the appointment to influential leadership positions of people who openly advocate change to the Church of England’s doctrine and/or forms of service, and Bishops have permitted alternative services and events that do not uphold the Church of England’s stated doctrinal position on sexual ethics.

Seven years ago the House of Bishops published the Pilling Report which called for ‘facilitated discussions’ on sexuality. Earlier this month the House of Bishops published the Living in Love and Faith book, course, and library of resources which call for yet further discussion. Living in Love and Faith demonstrates the division in the House of Bishops with some sections setting out the orthodox biblical teaching but others erroneous alternative views. The overall effect suggests that the clear biblical teaching on sex and marriage is not clear. The House of Bishops is responsible for upholding biblical doctrine in the Church of England. Whilst St Helen’s is encouraged by the faithful work of some involved in the LLF project, the clarity and consistency of the bible’s teaching on sex and
marriage is in marked contrast to theHouse of Bishops’ muddled message.

In good conscience, St Helen’s is no longer able to remain in gospel partnership with theHouse of Bishops until they again speak and act consistently in accordance with the plain reading and plain teaching of scripture on sex and marriage, as recognised by the church down the centuries.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CC) Jessica Hooten Wilson reviews Esau McCauley’s new book ‘Reading While Black–African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope’

What does it mean to exercise hope while reading the Bible? Esau McCaulley approaches this question through the perspectives and questions Black readers bring to the interpretation of scripture. Reading While Black is a much-needed addition to the shelves of hermeneutic resources available to preachers, students, and teachers. Its insights, although designed for Black readers, should be read by others as well.

As a military spouse who attended many events meant for the wives of soldiers, McCaulley learned that there are advantages to being the one man listening to the conversations in a room full of women. In this book, he offers a similar advantage to White readers: the chance to visit a majority Black space and see how Black people talk differently than they would if they were the minority in the room. For both insiders and outsiders to its conversations, Reading While Black opens up fresh ways of seeing ancient truth.

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Posted in Books, Evangelicals, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews ‘J.I.Packer – His Life in Thought’ by Alister McGrath

McGrath outlines Packer’s views on a number of issues. He was an enthusiastic champion of the Puritans, believing that they have much to teach us today. As McGrath puts it, Packer believed ‘the wisdom of the past can be re-appropriated by today’s Christians allowing it to enrich and challenge our own ideas and lives’. Although McGrath does not draw the parallel, there is much in common with Packer’s approach and the way of ‘ressourcement’ advocated by Catholic theologians who sought to learn from the early church and whose work was a major influence at Vatican II.

To the wider Christian community Packer was known as the author of ‘Knowing God’. This book really expressed the heart of Packer’s theology. Knowing God does not just mean knowing about him; to know God is to enter into a transforming relationship. His account of what it means to know God is cognitive, experiential and relational. There is an emotional element as in all close personal relationships and also deep change within us just as those we love change us.

As years went by, Packer gained a reputation as a conservative in the church. Many were surprised that he cooperated with two Anglo-Catholics, Eric Mascall and Bishop Graham Leonard, in opposing Anglican-Methodist reunion but Packer saw both Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics as allies in defending orthodoxy and the importance of doctrine in Christianity. He would have no truck with the WCC slogan ‘doctrine divides, ministry divides’. This led him to play an important role in the dialogue between evangelicals and Roman Catholics in the US.

It could be said that conservatism led Packer to a progressive attitude to ecumenical relations with Catholics. He showed the same progressive attitude in his readiness to engage with the charismatic movement although early life he opposed the holiness teaching of the Keswick Convention.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Books, Evangelicals, Theology