Category : Theology

(CT) Ravi Zacharias Remembers His Young Protégé, Nabeel Qureshi, RIP

The first time I saw Nabeel Qureshi, he sat at a table across from me, his one leg constantly moving almost subconsciously, warming up for a run. It was a habit of his restless disposition.

That was Nabeel in true expression; he hated sitting still. He was a man with a mission, ready to run. Sadly, for us, he finished his race all too soon and our hearts are broken at the loss of one who ran with spectacular passion to do what filled his soul.

He was a thorough-going evangelical. He held dear the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Old and New Testaments and carried the message of salvation. Jesus’ grace for a transformed heart was his message.

For years as a young man, he labored and struggled to gain “righteousness before God” only to find out that righteousness was already met in the cross through Jesus Christ. That was his message in his best-selling book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.

Qureshi was not just an evangelical; he was passionately evangelistic….
Read it all.

“Qureshi was not just an evangelical; he was passionately evangelistic…”
Reflecting on @NAQureshi in @CTmagazine: https://t.co/yAhP0ZzDNn

— Ravi Zacharias (@RaviZacharias) September 20, 2017

Posted in America/U.S.A., Apologetics, Christology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Islam, Religion & Culture, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

Food for Thought on a Wednesday: “What would become of us were we not supported by hope?”

….for the Spirit of God shows to us hidden things, the knowledge of which cannot reach our senses: Promised to us is eternal life, but it is promised to the dead; we are assured of a happy resurrection, but we are as yet involved in corruption; we are pronounced just, as yet sin dwells in us; we hear that we are happy, but we are as yet in the midst of many miseries; an abundance of all good things is promised to us, but still we often hunger and thirst; God proclaims that he will come quickly, but he seems deaf when we cry to him. What would become of us were we not supported by hope, and did not our minds emerge out of the midst of darkness above the world through the light of God’s word and of his Spirit? Faith, then, is rightly said to be the subsistence or substance of things which are as yet the objects of hope and the evidence of things not seen. Augustine sometimes renders evidence “conviction,” which I do not disapprove, for it faithfully expresses the Apostle’s meaning: but I prefer “demonstration…”

–John Calvin, from his Commentary on Hebrews (Hat tip: GB)

Posted in Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Bible Readings

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,” God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.

–1 Corinthians 2:9-13

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(AP) Episcopalians struggle with history of Confederate symbols

“You do have an identifiable connection to the Confederacy,” said Doug Thompson, history professor at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. He said Episcopal churches prayed for the president of the Confederacy, not the Union, during the war. “Episcopalians have built into their very structure an attachment to this national identity.”

Just steps away from the Statehouse, the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral is wrestling with Confederate ghosts. The South’s Gen. Wade Hampton and its poet laureate, Henry Timrod, are buried on the parish’s grounds. A plaque in its sanctuary honors members who died in the Civil War. However, the church doesn’t allow the display of Confederate flags, and the Very Rev. Dean Timothy Jones said Confederate flags recently placed on soldiers’ graves were removed.

“I care deeply about how historical symbols can create hurt and communicate a message of discrimination,” Jones said. “We believe in redressing the terrible wrongs of slavery and affirming the dignity of every human being.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Church History, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CT) Go Where The Humans Are: What One Movement’s Small Town Task Force Has Learned about Church Planting So Far

“Is Vineyard committed to planting churches in small town America?” Five years later, I still can’t believe I asked the question. It was directed to Michael Gatlin, national coordinator of Multiply Vineyard, Vineyard’s church planting arm. The occasion was the Q&A session at our first Small Town USA conference. We had only met once before this conference. I braced for his answer and he answered in classic Gatlin style: “I thought we were supposed to go where the humans are. If there are humans in small towns, then they need churches. And if there are humans in metro areas, then we need to plant there.”

Go where the humans are. That answer has propelled us these past five years. So what have we learned?

Planters are hungry for someone to talk about small town planting.

Over the past five years, the Small Town USA team has written scores of blog articlesproduced 4-6 webinars annually, and led seminars in places as diverse as Mechanic Falls, Maine; Tomahawk, Wisconsin; and San Luis Obispo, California. We’ve hosted two national conferences. While attendance has been modest (75-100), we’ve been amazed that people flew from places like Colorado and drove from places like Minnesota and Missouri just to attend a conference in Ohio dedicated to planting in small towns. We’ve had at least 11 states represented at these events.

The conversation around small town planting took off enough in our movement that one concerned leader asked if Vineyard still cared about planting in large cities. Of course we do! Remember we “go where the humans are.” But so much of the church multiplication discussion has been from the large church and large city perspective (we’re talking to you, Atlanta, NYC, Chicago, and San Diego) that our small town planters have been left out.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Rural/Town Life, Theology

From the Morning Bible Readings

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to thee, when my heart is faint. Lead thou me to the rock that is higher than I; for thou art my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in thy tent for ever! Oh to be safe under the shelter of thy wings!

–Psalm 61:1-4

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Forward in Faith UK Responds to the Sheffield Review

Forward in Faith welcomes the report on the nomination to the See of Sheffield and related concerns by the Independent Reviewer, Sir Philip Mawer, and his recommendations. As the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have said, the report is ‘detailed, thoughtful and authoritative’. Like them, we shall read it carefully. We look forward to the more detailed response that the Archbishops promise.

We welcome Sir Philip’s statement that ‘there is no doubt that Bishop North’s nomination was consistent with the House of Bishops’ Declaration and the Five Guiding Principles’ (para. 130).

Sir Philip finds that ‘not nearly enough’ has been done to inform and educate clergy and laity about the 2014 Settlement (190). We welcome his recommendation that the House of Bishops provide resources to help dioceses, deaneries, parishes and training institutions to engage in further consideration of the issues and to ensure that ‘mutual flourishing’ is achieved (191).

We note that Sir Philip does not believe that Professor Percy’s ‘view of what constitutes “mutual flourishing” is consistent with what the House and the Synod had in mind in espousing the Declaration and the Five Guiding Principles’ (167). He comments, ‘The challenge posed by Professor Percy and some others… is in effect a fundamental challenge to the 2014 Settlement’ (132). We welcome Sir Philip’s recommendation that the House of Bishops give further attention to this theological challenge to the Settlement (198). It is the House of Bishops’ Declaration, so the House of Bishops needs to defend it.

As Sir Philip says, the Settlement was a package. We note that the Measure and Canon which permit the ordination of women to the episcopate form part of that package. As Sir Philip comments: ‘Try to unpick the package and the basis for the settlement is immediately called into question’ (16b)….

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, Theology

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–The Challenge of Jewish Repentance

The Jewish drama is less about character and fate than about will and choice. To the monotheistic mind, the real battles are not “out there,” against external forces of darkness, but “in here,” between the bad and better angels of our nature. As the religion writer Jack Miles once pointed out, you can see the difference in the contrast between Sophocles and Shakespeare. For Sophocles, Oedipus must battle against blind, inexorable fate. For Shakespeare, writing in a monotheistic age, the drama of “Hamlet” lies within, between “the native hue of resolution” and “the pale cast of thought.”

The trouble is, of course, that faced with choice, we often make the wrong one. Given a second chance, Adam and Eve would probably pass on the fruit. Cain might work a little harder on his anger management. And there is a straight line from these biblical episodes to the destruction left by Homo sapiens: war, murder, human devastation and environmental destruction.

That is still our world today. The key fact about us, according to the Bible, is that uniquely in an otherwise law-governed universe, we are able to break the law—a power that we too often relish exercising.

This raises an acute theological dilemma. How are we to reconcile God’s high hopes for humanity with our shabby and threadbare moral record? The short answer is forgiveness.

God wrote forgiveness into the script. He always gives us a second chance, and more.

Read it all.

Posted in Judaism, Theology

(NYT Upshot) Whites Have Huge Wealth Edge Over Blacks (but Don’t Know It)

“I’m a person who studies inequality, who should really know how inequality looks,” said one of the psychologists, Michael Kraus, who researches the behaviors and beliefs that help perpetuate inequality. “And I look at the black-white gap, and I’m shocked at the magnitude.”

Black families in America earn just $57.30 for every $100 in income earned by white families, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. For every $100 in white family wealth, black families hold just $5.04.

If Mr. [Michael] Kraus, of all people, is taken aback by these numbers, what are the odds that most Americans have a good understanding of them? The answer, he and his colleagues fear, has broad implications for how we understand our society and what we’re willing to do to make it fairer.

Americans, and higher-income whites in particular, vastly overestimate progress toward economic equality between blacks and whites, the psychologists reported Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Americans believe that blacks and whites are more equal today than they truly are on measures of income, wealth, wages and health benefits. And they believe more historical progress has occurred than is the case, suggesting “a profound misperception of and unfounded optimism” regarding racial equality.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Theology

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–An Introduction to the Prophets Series (Isaiah 6:1-8)

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Thou hast kept count of my tossings; put thou my tears in thy bottle! Are they not in thy book?
Then my enemies will be turned back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise,
in God I trust without a fear. What can man do to me?

–Psalm 56:8-11

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Sunday [London] Times) ‘They’re here, then they just die’: opioid addiction kills 175 Americans a day

At first glance, Manchester, New Hampshire, seems a typical New England town. A pleasant, low-key sort of place, free of extreme poverty or urban decay.

You do not have to look far, however, to see something is amiss: this is a town firmly in the grip of the opioid crisis that is devastating America.

Dotted around the central squares and parks are small groups of people visibly suffering from addiction. Yesterday, hundreds of residents took part in a “rally for recovery” in the town centre, gathering to highlight the plight of their friends and neighbours.

On the walls of the Hope addiction recovery clinic, a few hundred yards away, are pictures from a kayaking expedition. Karla Gallagher, who works at the clinic, cannot look at it without becoming close to tears.

“We lose these people all the time,” she said, pointing to a picture of a smiling young girl on a canoe. “We lost her. One day they’re here and then they just die.”

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Death / Burial / Funerals, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, State Government, Theology

(CT) Ed Stetzer–No, the World Won’t End Next Week and There’s No Such Thing as a Christian Numerologist

…there it is on the front page of Fox News, “Christian doomsdayers claim world will end next week.”

It’s under the heading “Science.” When you click on it, the article headline proclaims, “Biblical prophecy claims the world will end on Sept. 23, Christian numerologists claim.”

No, the world won’t end on September 23rd and, Fox News, believe it or not, there is no such thing as a ‘Christian numerologist.’ (And, who are the other Christian numerologists in the headline, beyond the one quoted?)

Every time end-of-the-world predictions resurface in the media, it is important that we ask ourselves, “Is this helpful? Is peddling these falsehoods a good way to contribute to meaningful, helpful discussions about the end times?”

Of course, the answer to this is no, they most definitely do not.

Every time.

To be fair, all it takes is a quick Google search to see that Fox News isn’t the only media outlet making these unfounded claims. Fake news—fed to an often unsuspecting public by a careless media—is alive and well in our world today. Stories like these are an embarrassment to Christians and the faith convictions we take so seriously. Moreover, they are a distortion of God’s word and deserve to be exposed for the fabrications that they are.

Read it all.

Posted in Eschatology

Aaron Armstrong–The gospel is more beautiful when we take sin seriously

Among the saddest media moments of the last decade was the public self-destruction of Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who made international headlines in 2013 for his public drunkenness, lewd behavior, and, later, videos of him smoking crack appearing on YouTube. He quickly became fodder for Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. He was an (embarrassing) topic of water cooler conversation for months. And the whole time, his family stood by him, denying that he was in any real danger.

“Robbie’s not a drug addict,” his sister, Kathy, told reporters. “If you want to consider binge drinking once every three months and you get totally plastered, which he just makes a fool out of himself…fine.”

We laugh at men like Ford, who died of cancer in 2016. I suppose we turn people like him into a perverse form of entertainment because it’s too painful to do otherwise. But we can’t run from it, anymore than we can ignore it when a squeaky clean teen idol changes her image to prosti-tot at exactly 12:01 am on her 18th birthday.

We’re not really any different. We are all prone to pretend that sin is something other than what it is….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Soteriology, Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Bible Readings

And he arose, and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

And there he came to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Eli′jah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Eli′jah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Eli′jah?”

–1 Kings 19:8-13

Posted in Theology: Scripture