Category : Evangelicals

(EF) Thinking through how a biblical work ethic clashes with contemporary European life

In its report World Employment Social Outlook, published this year with data from 2018, the International Labor Organization (ILO), says that “a majority of the 3.3 billion people employed globally in 2018 experienced a lack of material well-being, economic security, equal opportunities or scope for human development”.

The volatility of employment is what leads the coordinator of GBG (the Spanish IFES Graduates group) and of the Lausanne Movement in Spain, Jaume Llenas, to consider, “the long-term commitment and the emotional involvement with people as the main challenges that the biblical work ethic poses to the current labour system”.

“Although the companies we work for ask us for teamwork and mutual collaboration, they foster superficial and utilitarian relationships, dispatch their workers without any relational consideration, and use and throw away workers following other very different principles”, he says. Furthermore, “this sharp contrast of values provokes the corrosion of the character, the destruction of the person”.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Evangelicals, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture, Spain

(CT) Mark Galli–Whatever Happened to Communion & Baptism?

Let clarify my use of the term sacrament. Some evangelical churches call the Lord’s Supper and baptism ordinances, to suggest they are actions Jesus commands us to participate in, and that they signal our faith in and obedience to Christ. The term sacrament includes these two ideas and another crucial one: that they are means of grace. By “means of grace” I’m not proposing any specific theology—whether trans- or consubstantiation, whether real or symbolic presence. But for all believers, Communion and baptism are practices in which one’s faith is deepened and strengthened, and that sort of thing only happens by God’s grace. This is what I mean by “means of grace” in this article, and why I will use the word sacrament to talk about them.

As I said, I believe these sacraments are in a profoundly low state in many areas of evangelical church life.

Take baptism. Even among churches that believe Matthew 28:19 is the church’s rallying cry—“Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them ….”—the sacrament is no longer central to their mission. It would be difficult to come by statistics that suggest the problem, but one anecdote suggests it’s a serious one. I belong to an Anglican church in Wheaton, Illinois, which meets not far from Wheaton College. The charismatic singing and Bible-centered preaching attract many Wheaton College students to attend worship and to become members. However, to partake in Communion, as well as to become a member, one must have been baptized. The pastors are continually surprised at the number of Wheaton College students—no doubt some of the most earnest, devout, and intelligent young believers in the evangelical world—who have yet to be baptized. One would have thought that their churches would have attended to this matter long before they left home for college.

Another sign of the problem is the deep fear some evangelicals have of baptism. I attended an independent church in Dallas, Texas, on a Sunday on which they were having a mass baptism for some 400 people. This speaks well of the effectiveness of their outreach and their desire to obey the commands of their Lord. As part of the service, four or five people came on stage and were interviewed by the pastor to help them give their testimony. At the end of each testimony, the last question the pastor asked each was this: “But you don’t believe that baptism saves you, right?” It wasn’t just the question, but the leading way in which it was asked time and again that suggested to me that the pastor was deeply afraid of the power of the sacrament. And the fact that he also asked this right before each person was baptized went a long way into ensuring that the sacrament did not become a means by which God broke in and blessed the recipient but became all about the horizontal: an act of the person’s faith.

The state of the Lord’s Supper is in a worse state.

Read it all.

Posted in Baptism, Eucharist, Evangelicals, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(France 24) Evangelical churches gaining ground in France

“In France, a new Evangelical church is built every 10 days, thanks to the efforts of highly motivated young believers. Once a fringe religious movement, Evangelism (sic) is gaining ground and now counts 700,000 followers across France. What are the reasons for this success? Our France 2 colleagues report, with FRANCE 24’s Emerald Maxwell.”

Watch it all (about 4 2/3 minutes).

Posted in Evangelicals, France, Religion & Culture

(CT) Celibate Gay Christians: Neither Shockingly Conservative nor Worryingly Liberal

Researchers Mark Yarhouse and Olya Zaporozhets step bravely (foolishly?) into this battleground with their comprehensive study of people like me: Costly Obedience: What We Can Learn from the Celibate Gay Christian Community. It’s an important book with an academic feel that grows more pastoral as you read on. Yarhouse has written multiple volumes on LGBTQ experience based on careful research from the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity at Regent University in Virginia, where both of the authors teach. I wouldn’t agree with everything he’s ever written, but I thank God for the gracious tenor of his contributions.

This newest book is essentially a listening exercise, based on an in-depth survey of celibate gay Christians. You hear their stories of milestone events and experiences in church life and ministry—as well as research that maps their mental health outcomes and relational challenges. But they are not the only voices recorded: There’s also input from friends, along with some fascinating insights into the perspectives of some evangelical pastors. The authors helpfully add their own measured reflections.

Certain conversation topics could prove controversial. We hear differing thoughts, for instance, on such questions as the origins of same-sex attraction, the correct labels to use (is it “gay,” “same-sex attracted,” or something else?), the possibility of same-sex desires that aren’t wholly sinful, and the prospect of changing one’s sexual orientation. But one of the authors’ strongest points is the need to discuss these issues more carefully. They write, “Some church leaders and some celibate gay Christians seem to us, at times, to be describing two different things, rather than disagreeing on precisely the same thing.”

This appeal for a better conversation within evangelicalism couldn’t be timelier.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(Churchman) A 1957 Article by (then) Bishop Hugh Rowlands Gough–Our Evangelical Heritage

A study of our Evangelical Heritage would be grossly incomplete unless attention were drawn to the high standard of conduct and of disciplined holy living set by our forefathers. These Evangelicals of old were men who knew their God ; they were men of God, men of Prayer, men of Christlike character, men filled with the Holy Ghost.

They proved the truth of the Evangelical Doctrines by the way they lived. They demonstrated the reality of justification by faith by their works. Through their evangelistic preaching and through the witness of their lives, thousands upon thousands of sinful men and women were converted and experienced a similar transformation of character, and this miracle was one which even their opponents admitted. Although special emphasis in their preaching was always laid upon the Atonement and man’s consequent reconciliation with God, the great implications of the Doctrine of the Incarnation were not neglected. By word and by example these men proclaimed how the Lord Christ, Who became Man, still dwelled with man upon earth, entering into his daily life and toil, so that work became worship, and “the daily round, the common task” a thrilling experience of the presence and power of God.

Moreover, as these truths were more closely studied, the Evangelicals became foremost in the movement for social reform, for the material as well as the spiritual welfare of their fellowmen….

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Evangelicals, Theology

([London] Times) The Rev Richard Bewes RIP

It became something of an open secret during the latter years of Richard Bewes’s ministry that he might have to “drop everything” if the call from the US came. A long friendship with Dr Billy Graham had led Graham and his family to ask Bewes to preach at his funeral. That honour was a measure of Bewes’s stature and a signal not only of the respect between the two men, but of their shared Gospel convictions.

For decades Bewes enthusiastically supported the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse International. He had chaired Graham’s Eurofest event in Brussels in 1975. He was also an energetic member of the planning committee of the Amsterdam 2000 Congress, which brought together more than 11,000 evangelists from around the world.

It was an immense disappointment to Bewes that, after Graham’s death (obituary, February 22, 2018), his failing health prevented him from flying to take part in a ceremony viewed by millions. It could have been a fitting climax to a magnificent career.

Bewes was one of the most versatile Anglican parish clergy of his generation. He served as rector of All Souls, Langham Place in central London from 1983 to 2004 as a successor to John Stott and Michael Baughen.

Read it all (subscription).

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

(CT) Mark Galli–The Temptations of Evangelical Worship

In the last decade or so, evangelical congregations have woken up to the centrality of praise and adoration as Scripture commands. One of the great developments of our time is how we worship. “Praise choruses” and contemporary worship music, for all their limitations, aim our hearts and minds in the direction of God. One does not even have to be taught to lift your face or raise your arms as you sing these songs, as the songs themselves often drive one upward to seek and praise God. One has to be a spiritual miser not to recognize how such music has helped the church worship God.

Yet the temptation of the horizontal is with us always, and it comes in many disguises in our worship. Worship leaders—as they themselves often admit—are tempted to take cues from Finney’s Lectures on Revivals. Every worship leader worth his or her salt knows how to manage the emotions of the congregation, moving them from quiet devotion to raucous praise or from bass-throbbing adulation to whisper-quiet meditation. We don’t have to deny that, despite sometimes obvious manipulation, we’ve been touched by God in such services. But it is a constant temptation to replace God with technique, to seek not the Holy of Holies but mostly devotional exhilaration.

That is to say, many weeks what we mostly want is for worship to give us a good spiritual feeling. I suspect that by our inattention to what we’re singing. We sing various choruses that say, “Bring down your glory” and “show us your face.” But we do not know what we’re asking for. People in the Bible who actually encountered God’s glory fall on the ground in fear. For example, after the miracle of the fishes, Peter knows he has seen glory and that he is in the presence of the Glorious One. He doesn’t give God an ovation. He doesn’t weep with joy. He falls on his knees, begging Jesus to depart from him. The glory of Jesus has made it clear to him that he is a sinful man (Luke 5).

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology

(AM) Andrew Symes–“We don’t do prosperity theology” – or do we?

Historically, among white British Christians there has probably been a more natural tendency towards emphasis on the stiff upper lip against adversity and even poverty rather than expectation of miraculous and abundant provision. There remains a suspicion of demagoguery; also, the huge improvement in living standards generally over the past 50 years has meant less fertile ground for the preachers appealing to those desperate for supernatural intervention in personal fortunes. As Joel Edwards comments:

“Most traditional evangelicals …who belong to affluent churches have less need of a God who acts vibrantly in the material world… the prosperity gospel and its audacious faith holds little cultural or theological attraction”.

But is this the whole story? Perhaps most challengingly from this book, experienced mission leader Eddie Arthur warns the British church against arrogance and complacency. We might not be taken in by the white-suited emotional preachers, but have we unwittingly swallowed other forms of prosperity teaching without realizing it?

Certainly we’re not immune from consumerism. When as lay people we drive half an hour to a large church, is it because of the “good teaching”, or the well-staffed kids work, excellent coffee, numerous programmes and sense of ‘success’? As clergy faced with powerful pressure to conform to new ethical norms, or making decisions about ministry, do we tend to prioritize personal comfort and steer away from sacrifice, rationalizing perhaps that the more godly approach is to keep quiet in the face of obvious wrong (for the sake of “continued opportunities for the gospel”) rather than speaking out?

Many Western Christians continue to be generous in their giving and humble and servant hearted in their leadership – these are good ways of counteracting greed and hunger for power in ministry. But as our affluence increases at the same time as the possibility of persecution and the temptation to avoid it through disobedience, the need is more pressing for us to learn from the disadvantaged and suffering parts of the global church which have not succumbed to the prosperity preachers.

Read it all.

Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Evangelicals, Psychology, Theology

(CT) Evangelicals Can Help at the Border. They Just Can’t Do It Alone.

Leaders like San Antonio pastor Max Lucado have urged Christians to pray and act. “This is a mess. A humanitarian, heartbreaking mess. As we are wondering what can be done, let’s do what we are called to do,” he wrote in a lament for CT. “Let’s pray. Let’s lament. Let’s groan.” (You can read a collection of six Christian leaders’ prayers for the border here.)

Grief over the conditions at the border has compelled many evangelical Christians to act, but they prefer to work directly with evangelical mercy ministries.

However, in these moments when the law stands between Christians and acts of mercy—like not being able to drop off donations at a detention center—they can be uncomfortable with idea of supporting government aid or state humanitarian efforts, said Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy for the Texas Baptists’ Christian Life Commission.

“Even for Christians who tend to be leery of government intervention,” Freeman said, to get the diapers and wipes to the children in custody, “the reality is that Congress has to take that up and do it.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Health & Medicine, Immigration, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology

(AI) GAFCON kept in the dark about Jonathan’s Fletcher alleged misconduct

Though Mr. Fletcher was removed from public ministry in 2017, he continued to hold himself out as a priest in his retirement and led an active ministry life. Following the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Andy Lines in Illinois by GAFCON archbishops last summer, a commissioning service was held in September 2018 at Emmanuel Church to inaugurate his English ministry. GAFCON Archbishops Peter Jensen and Ben Kwashi participated in the service.

The GAFCON spokesman explained: “The service was officiated by Robin Weekes [Emmanuel’s minister]. Jonathan Fletcher did a Q and A with Bishop Lines as part of the evening. The GAFCON global folks there did not know Jonathan’s PTO had been removed.”

He added that no one informed them of Fletcher’s status or the allegations of misconduct. Asked when Bishop Lines understood his long standing relationship with Fletcher may have been unhealthy, the spokesman said:

“Bishop Lines didn’t begin to recognize the nature of the abusive relationship until later in 2018 and didn’t fully come to grasp with it until the first quarter of 2019.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, GAFCON, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(Christian Today) Prominent evangelical minister Jonathan Fletcher accused of spiritual abuse

A report in The Telegraph has detailed allegations of spiritual abuse against prominent evangelical leader and former Reform trustee Jonathan Fletcher.

According to the report, in 2017, the Bishop of Southwark stripped Mr Fletcher of his powers to continue preaching and officiating at services following anonymous complaints.

It is understood that the complaints against Mr Fletcher did not involve criminal behaviour and related only to spiritual abuse, not physical or sexual.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NAE) Inhumane Conditions for Migrant Children Are Unacceptable

In the letter, evangelical leaders ask the administration and Congress to:

  • Immediately appropriate adequate funding and deploy appropriately trained staff to care for children and families who are held in temporary processing facilities and in facilities for unaccompanied children;
  • Respect and enforce the protections of U.S. asylum laws, ensuring that no one with a credible fear of torture or persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” is returned to their country of origin or forced to remain in unsafe third countries, and that all asylum seekers are afforded due process and treated humanely throughout the process;
  • Minimize the use of detention, especially the detention of children, and utilize effective alternatives to detention to ensure that those with pending asylum cases show up for court; except in cases when there is a valid reason to suspect that an individual presents a threat to public safety, families should be allowed to rely upon sponsoring relatives and friends throughout the U.S., or upon the assistance of local churches and non-profit
    organizations, rather than being detained at taxpayer expense;

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Health & Medicine, Immigration, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

More Saturday Food for Thought–John Wenham on Liberal Theology

It needs to be re-emphasized that liberalism is the arch-enemy of the Gospel. Biblical theism stands for the clearest distinction between Creator and creature, for the absolute distinction between right and wrong, for the reward of well-doing and the punishment of wrong, for the unity and perspicuity of revelation. Liberalism is pantheizing, blurring the distinctions between God and man, between right and wrong, embracing contradictions and ambiguities within its system of truth.

When liberalism takes on the cloak of ecumenism, it is the enemy of clear doctrinal statement. It has no idea of the unity and perspicuity of revelation, so it never expects to reach doctrinal agreement. It finds contradictory beliefs within the Church, but is not worried by them and does not think that they are capable of resolution. It deliberately seeks unity by ambiguity. It sets no store by the value of a clear, united declaration of the one and only Gospel of God. It is this characteristic of the Theological Considerations of the Anglican Methodist Conversations which is so deeply distasteful to all who are looking for a clear statement of biblical principles. The whole statement is about as clear as mud, in marked contrast to the clarity of the dissentient statement.

–John Wenham, A Conservative Evangelical looks at the Ecumenical Movement, Churchman 79,3 (1965), p.192 [found there.]

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, Evangelicals, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(EF) Age of first access to pornography falls to 8, study finds

The youngest Member of Parliament in Spain is leading an initiative to force porn websites operating in the country to install credible age verification systems.

The recently elected 26-year-old Andrea Fernández has called to end the “culture of porn” among young people which has lead in the last years to more than one hundred cases of so-called “manadas” (English: packs, herds) – groups of young men who plan to rape vulnerable women.

The limitation of pornographic contents online was included in the electoral programme of the the newly elected Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez (Social Democrats). The goal of the new government is to implement a new strict age verification system for these kind of websites. This has already been approved in the UK, with the support of 88% of parents.

The social debate about the role of pornography in the education of children becomes more important as new data of a research conducted by the Balearic Islands University among 2,500 people aged 16-29 showed a disturbing reality.

The report “New Pornography and the changes in interpersonal relationships” says some children are starting to consume pornography at 8. The average age for boys to start to consume pornography is 14, 16 for girls. The legal age required to access such contents is 18.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Evangelicals, Pornography, Religion & Culture, Spain

([London] Times) Frances Whitehead RIP

[Frances] Whitehead was fast and focused: her typing speed perhaps 80-90 words a minute on a manual typewriter. Phone calls were always brief, some would say terse. Yet those who knew her well encountered warmth and laughter. She brought a genuine care for people expressed through a huge correspondence, some 30 personal letters a day, over her own name or John Stott’s. A seminary library in San Salvador was named after her in 2006 to mark 50 years of service.

[John] Stott and Whitehead ran global endeavours on a shoestring, with help only from a study assistant. Using Charles Simeon’s phrase, Stott named the three “the happy triumvirate”.

In 2001, Archbishop George Carey conferred on Whitehead a Lambeth MA, for which she donned the Oxford gown and red silk. When news of this honour was announced in All Souls, it was greeted with a standing ovation.

Frances Whitehead was born in 1925 in Bovey Tracey, in Devon, the second child of Captain Claude Whitehead, and his wife, Evelyn Eastley. Her older sister, Pamela, died of leukaemia, aged eight. She would go on to Malvern Girls’ College, where she was head girl of Summerside House.

During the war she worked as a mathematician at the Radar Research and Development Establishment (RRDE) in Malvern and then, from 1951, she worked at the BBC, under the producer Mary Treadgold. She was a good horsewoman, and enjoyed the BBC riding club, hiring horses in Victoria, and riding up to the barracks of the Household Cavalry in Knightsbridge.

Read it all (subscription).

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

(CT) A Visit with Luis Palau, Still on Fire for Christ in the Sunset of Life

As our time drew to a close, I felt compelled to ask Palau how he faces the sunset of his life. In A Life on Fire, he deals quite candidly yet encouragingly with his illness. I wondered what he might tell Christians in similar circumstances who might be tempted to fall into despair.

With a slight laugh, Palau said, “Now that I’m sick, I have more authority. I tell people I’m dying, and suddenly they listen to you.” A short while later, he addressed the issue head-on. “Every campaign, I always talked about heaven. So, to me, it is as real as flying to New York, only better. But the fact is that Satan attacks, and he’ll use all his stratagems to make you feel guilty or lose faith or despair. Be ready for that. I went back to Hebrews 8, 9, and 10 … all of those passages about this intercession for us, the assurance. Go back to that. Don’t read too many other books about heaven. Just read what the Bible says. Underline those passages. Take it to heart. Make notes to yourself that the One who is seated in heaven covered all your sins. Don’t let Satan lie to you that some sins are unforgiven. They’re all forgiven. They’re all cleansed.”

Perhaps it was cliché to ask, but I couldn’t resist: “It’s one thing to be passionate, starry-eyed, and eager in your 20s and 30s. But as you’ve aged and are now facing this possible closing of your life here, do you still feel that you are living a life on fire?”

“Yes. I am,” he said confidently. “The only regret is that the body won’t respond.” Ever the evangelist, Palau takes to the airwaves if he can’t be somewhere in person. For him, media interviews are “a chance to speak these wonderful truths one last chance [while] alive.”

“I’m still on fire, praise the Lord,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Evangelicals, Theology

(CT) Mark Galli–How We Have Forgotten God–Evangelical faith is no longer characterized by its initial passion

[My friend]…concluded, “When it comes down to it, I’m a practical atheist. I’ve learned to live most of my life as if God is a nice add-on—when I have time and when I really want him—but otherwise I’m content with living as if he is not a living presence.”

As I noted in the introduction, I deeply identify with my friend’s dilemma. (That phrase “practical atheist” is from Anthony Bloom’s Beginning to Pray). In talking with many friends, I’d say we’re not alone. So it’s not quite true that we’ve completely forgotten God. But our spiritual Alzheimer’s has progressed to dangerous levels.

To let grace have a word: This is a common human condition and certainly no surprise to God, who is still willing to work with us despite our attempts to use him for our ends. It is not remarkably evil that we are so distracted by life and responsibilities and earthly desires that God takes a decided back seat. We needn’t whip ourselves with guilt and shame over this. This essay in particular and this series is intended not as wholesale condemnation but as a wake-up call, or at least the start of a larger conversation.

I think it is incumbent on evangelical Christians to take this with special seriousness. We have rightly prided ourselves in practicing a form of faith that emphasizes the personal relationship with Jesus one can enjoy. And among us are many who can be characterized in just this way. But overall I believe our movement has degenerated in ways I have described above, with the vast majority of us falling into patterns that emphasize the horizontal at the expense of the vertical.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Theology

(CT) Mark Galli–The Heart of the Evangelical Crisis–It’s more fundamental than we’ve been led to believe

I was skeptical at the time [Michael Spencer]…wrote this, and said so in print. But today I admit that Spencer was more right than he was wrong. Recent events and surveys bear out many of his predictions. We truly are in a moment of crisis in the American evangelicalism.

To be clear, I have no money in this game, meaning it doesn’t matter to me if, as many predict, the movement known as American evangelicalism fades away with the sunset. God has raised up many reform movements since the day of Pentecost, and has seen many die—some of which I suspect he has killed off. If evangelicalism fades away, he will in his mercy raise up another movement that will revive his people. The future of the church in America does not hinge on the health of evangelicalism; it hinges on the power of God. I’d say we’re in good hands.

That being said, American evangelicalism has had a unique beginning, one that energized it and carried it along for two centuries and more. And it has been one of the most revolutionary movements in church history, changing the face not only of North American Christianity, but with the 19th century missionary movement, the entire globe. This history has many troubling elements, as many have pointed out. This is not surprising, because it is a movement full of sinners. But God has been good and has nonetheless used it to enable people from all walks of life and every corner of the world to know the unsurpassable grace of Jesus Christ.

Still, contemporary evangelicalism is in serious trouble. Actually, its crisis is the same one that afflicts all Christianity in America. At the risk of hubris, and the risk of merely adding one more item to the seemingly endless list of crises, I believe that the crisis lies at the heart of what ails large swaths of the American church. Alexander Solzhenitsyn named it in his speech upon receiving the Templeton Prize in Religion in 1968. He was talking about Western culture when he used it. I apply it to the American church, evangelical and not:

We have forgotten God.

Read it all.

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

(CEN) Richard Bewes RIP– A man with a Bible in his pocket and Jesus in his heart

Christian leaders from across the world responded with warm tributes to the news of Prebendary Richard Bewes’ peaceful release from months of suffering from cancer at 6.25pm on Friday 9 May at his home in Virginia Water, surrounded by Timothy, Wendy, Stephen and his wife Pam.

A child of the East African Revival in the 1930s, he treasured his African roots and was the UK chairman of African Enterprise for 32 years. The son of missionary parents, Canon Cecil and Mrs Sylvia Bewes, he was born in 1934 in Nairobi and spent his first five years in what became (over 40 years later) the library of St Andrew College of Theology and Development in Kabare, founded by Archbishop David Gitari in 1977.

The family moved then to Weithaga where — along with his two brothers and sister — he had ‘the most tranquil upbringing a child could have’ on the lower slopes of Mt Kenya.

He told the story of how he first experienced revival as a child to the sound of thousands of African voices singing, in his most recent and final book Under the Thorn Tree – when Revival comes.

Coming to England at the age of 13, he was educated at Marlborough College, (and Iwerne Minster Camps), Emmanuel College and Ridley Hall, Cambridge. He was ordained by Bishop Chavasse of Rochester in 1959 and served a six-year curacy under Herbert Cragg at Christ Church, Beckenham. Then successively he was vicar of St Peter’s, Harold Wood, Emmanuel, Northwood and finally successor to Michael Baughen as vicar of All Souls, Langham Place.

Read it all (subscription).

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

(EF) Leonardo De Chirico–Deciphering Vatican II: A new book especially helpful for evangelicals

What are the implications of such a “paradigm change” occurring at Vatican II for evangelicals? Massive! Here are three tentative ones.

1. For the time being, Rome will not have an “oppositional” posture in relating to non-Catholics but will always try to find commonalities, underline unity, stress fellowship, and embrace evangelicals as much as possible. Evangelicals need to be aware that if they want to be faithful to the gospel, they need to be “counter-cultural” and talk of gospel distinctives, biblical separation, and convenantal allegiance to the Triune God over idols. Biblical truth always needs to confront and refute error, even when it comes from a traditional institution like the Roman Catholic Church.

2. Even after Vatican II, Rome is not commited to the biblical gospel but is dedicated to the all-embracing gospel of “analogy” and “participation” that is translated into Rome’s ecumenism, mariology, ecclesiology, inter-religious dialogue, mission, etc. Pope Francis may not even use the language of “analogy” and “participation”, but his message of “unity” and “mercy” is steeped in it. Evangelicals need to become more acquainted with the ground motives of present-day Roman Catholicism if they want to understand where Rome stands. The words used may be the same (gospel, grace, faith, conversion, etc.), but their meaning is different because Rome uses them within the theological framework of Thomistic “analogy” and “participation”.

3. Rome changes according to her pattern, which implies degrees of renewal always in the context of substantial continuity with its well-established self-understanding. Evangelicals need to learn to understand the Roman Catholic dynamics of change if they want to account for both continuity and discontinuity in present-day Rome. The Catholic Church may even talk about the need for a “reformation”, but it will always be below the standards of biblical reformation and always in a way that protects the institution. For all these reasons, Guarino’s book on Vatican II is particularly helpful for evangelical readers.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Evangelicals, Roman Catholic, Theology

(CT) Greg Johnson–I Used to Hide My Shame. Now I Take Shelter Under the Gospel.

At age 11 the realization hit me. The fact was that I felt toward other guys the way they felt toward girls. 1984 was a terrible time to realize you’re gay. As the year progressed, around 1
So I’ve lived my life as a unicorn in a field of horses, constantly hoping that no one notices the horn. Years ago I was teaching a group of seminarians who were learning to preach, and one of the students mentioned in a sermon illustration how “nobody wants to be an Average Joe.” I was dumbfounded. I’ve never wanted anything more than to be an Average Joe. I’m inundated with invitations for me and my spouse. I have to decide which friend’s phone number to put on the back of my diabetic ID bracelet. When I welcome people to my fantastic little condo with my Saarinen table and Corbusier chairs, I compulsively mention that my undergrad was in architecture. It’s an instinctive strategy to obfuscate their gaydar.

In the late 1990s, I sought out a pastor I respected, and I opened up with him about wanting to share my story with my church. I was fatigued from a lifetime of trying to hide my shame. “Do not do it!” he thundered. “If your church knew, they would never be able to accept you.” I was still young and impressionable, and I accepted his voice as the voice of God. For decades, I’ve had Christian leaders asking me to please not share my Christian testimony, despite my thorough agreement with the church’s historic teaching on sexuality. Even the language of same-sex attraction—which many believers have found helpful as a way to disassociate themselves from assumptions about being gay—feels to many others like a tool of concealment, as though I were laboring to minimize the ongoing reality of sexual orientations that in practice seldom change.

I’m thankful that a campus minister named Bill loved me. He didn’t try to fix me, control me, or ship me off to a conversion therapy camp. He loved me, welcomed me into his home, sat with me, and invested so many hours in me. He was the first person to suggest I pray about going to seminary.

Jesus hasn’t made me straight. But he covers over my shame. Jesus really loves gay people.

The gospel doesn’t erase this part of my story so much as it redeems it. My sexual orientation doesn’t define me. It’s not the most important or most interesting thing about me. It is the backdrop for that, the backdrop for the story of Jesus who rescued me.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Young Adults, Youth Ministry

(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

(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

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

(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.”

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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.

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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!

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Posted in Christology, Evangelicals, Sri Lanka, 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