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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - February 2020  (Read 226 times)

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patrick jane

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Christianity Today Magazine - February 2020
« on: February 04, 2020, 11:02:24 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/january-web-only/tom-holland-dominion-christian-revolution.html






Christianity’s Influence on World History Is Real but Easily Overstated




Did the teachings of Jesus launch a sweeping revolution in human consciousness? Maybe, but we need better evidence.


Tom Holland’s Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World is a substantial work that makes a straightforward case. In Holland’s view, the teachings of Jesus constituted an ethical revolution that would gradually transform human consciousness, to the extent that we today find it hard to imagine credible alternative systems. When we see Christians, past or present, behaving in ways we may find abominable, in matters such as war, slavery, colonialism, or patriarchy, our disgusted attitudes must themselves be understood as products of that sweeping revolution. Without the existence of Christianity, it would not occur to us to abhor such things, whoever the perpetrators might be.

Beyond any single policy or attitude, Christianity mattered because it taught respect (or even veneration) for the poor and the oppressed. That implied the historically unprecedented exaltation of humility, forgiveness, and love. Moreover, the faith created the practical urge to offer aid and relief, to assist the poor, and (among other things) to reject infanticide. Christianity is the essential foundation of the liberal West, of democracy, and of notions of human rights. As the book’s jacket copy proclaims, “Concepts such as secularism, liberalism, science, and homosexuality are deeply rooted in a Christian seedbed. From Babylon to the Beatles, Saint Michael to #MeToo, Dominion tells the story of how Christianity transformed the world.”

Christian, or Western?

These are bold claims, to which I will certainly offer some caveats. What is not debatable is the very high quality of the book as a whole, and its appeal to anyone interested in Christian history. Rather than offering a straightforward narrative, Holland tells his story through 21 vignettes, each representing a particular historical moment, which he uses to advance his larger argument. Those together constitute three distinct eras of the church: Antiquity, Christendom, and a period he calls Modernitas, extending from roughly the middle of the 17th century to the present day.

The Antiquity section begins, winningly, with some pre-Christian examples, which serve to outline the framework from which the new order would emerge. Later, for instance, we have snapshot accounts of the issues and debates arising from Mount Tabor in Bohemia in 1420, St George’s Hill in England in 1649, or the Somme battlefield of 1916. In each case, Holland takes a specific incident as a launch pad for a wide-ranging account of related movements and themes, an approach that yields surprising and provocative connections. Thus, a section on “Lyon 177” naturally begins with the Gaulish persecution of that year, and the deeds of the church Father Irenaeus, but is soon conducting the reader through the following two centuries, through pivotal figures like Origen and sects like the Donatists. Some of Holland’s biographical sketches, such as that of Catherine of Siena, are effective, moving, and memorable.

I am confident that Holland could, if he chose, have expanded any or all of these quite rich vignettes to book-length studies in their own right. A reader feeling daunted by the whole book could very profitably dip into any of these chapters as a freestanding item. Although the book assumes little previous knowledge, the more familiarity readers have with the larger field, the more they will get out of this erudite work, and it repays multiple readings. This is a seriously rewarding project, well written and consistently thoughtful, and it can be heartily recommended.

But—and obviously there is a but—I would raise some objections. Looking through the list of vignettes, we must be struck by their overwhelmingly European focus, particularly upon Western Europe, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant. From the seventh through the 18th century, for instance, all the examples fit this category. You might find that reasonable, given that, during this era, Christianity had been seriously reduced from its earlier splendors in other parts of the world, such as Central Asia. But in Egypt and across the Middle East, those other churches persisted very strongly well into the 13th century and beyond. Nor, oddly, does Holland have much of note to say about Eastern Orthodox Christians, who right up to the First World War constituted perhaps a third of the world’s Christian believers.

In noting this, I am not just pleading for a larger number of representative examples, but mainly suggesting that perhaps the Christian reality Holland stresses—this supposed Christian revolution—hit some areas of the world and not others. If, for instance, we find that churches in France or Italy saw some values as fundamentally and integrally Christian, while the churches of Egypt or Syria did not, that does undermine the idea that the tradition of Jesus and his first followers inevitably led to certain conclusions or outcomes. We can hardly argue that the Coptic or Russian churches, for instance, just failed to receive the appropriate memos. Rather, it implies that those “revolutionary” values arose from a particular constellation of circumstances that affected Christians in (Western) Europe and Euro-America, but not elsewhere. They simply were not part of the faith’s original DNA, which exposes a weak point in his argument.

Holland justifies his exclusion of Orthodox and Eastern churches in an interesting way, declaring that he prefers to concentrate on “how we in the West came to be what we are, and to think the way that we do.” But if the model he uses does not apply outside the Christian West, then surely he can hardly claim to root it in Christianity itself. He is describing a Western revolution, which is not necessarily a Christian one. If those Western revolutionaries found scriptural justifications for their policies within the Christian tradition, they might just as well have found similar support elsewhere.

On a related point, it is far from obvious what the components of that Christian revolution might be. Just as Christian attitudes varied enormously around the world during the early-church era, so they were extremely diverse over the two millennia of the faith’s historical development. It is not clear, then, why the attitudes prevailing in one particular time or place should be privileged over the attitudes prevailing in other eras and regions.

That is especially true in matters of gender or sexuality, which have differed widely among Christian and Christian-derived societies. In my view, Holland does find himself overstretching at various points, as when he roots the #MeToo phenomenon in the Christian urge to sexual continence, especially in its Puritan manifestations. Could I not argue, in response, that sexual hedonism is equally a product of Christian-derived radical individualism? We begin to wonder which aspects of modern Western civilization could not be credited with ultimate Christian roots, with varying degrees of plausibility.

The Slavery Example
The challenge of assigning proper credit to Christian thought emerges clearly in the matter of slavery, to which Holland returns frequently. Most modern Christians would see slavery as antithetical to the faith, but other generations have held very different opinions. In the New Testament or the early-church era, we easily find remarks urging humane treatment of slaves. Owners were instructed to treat their slaves with humanity and compassion, avoiding brutality or sexual exploitation. They were encouraged to consider freeing or manumitting their slaves on easy or generous terms, which did not preclude replacing them with new arrivals.

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But as Holland acknowledges, explicit condemnations of slavery as such, or outright calls for its abolition, are vanishingly rare, and they are not explicitly present in the New Testament itself. For whatever reasons, slavery became less common in medieval Europe, although it remained remarkably stubborn in particular societies. When the Normans invaded the great Christian kingdom of England in 1066, around one-tenth of the population they encountered were slaves, and slave raiding and trading were both key parts of economic life and political action. That was a full millennium after Paul’s time.

The brutal institution of slavery returned full-force in the early modern era, with the vast European exploitation of Africa. Yet from (say) 1450 through the 1760s, it is extremely difficult to find any vaguely mainstream Christian church, group, or individual challenging the institution of slavery as such. Even in the 1760s, that radical, new anti-slavery position was at first mainly a product of the Anglosphere. Before that point, abolitionist opinions, which seem so fundamental to us today, were the preserve of the most radical and marginal sects, such as the Quakers. Only in the 19th century did Christian advocates of slaveholding become a diminishing and ultimately insignificant minority, as Christian powers felt a moral obligation to fight the practice wherever it might appear.

On what basis, then, can we reasonably say that opposition to slavery and slave-holding grew directly or inevitably from Christian ethical principles? If that linkage seems so natural to us, it was not so for at least 80 percent of Christian history. Surely nobody is arguing that around 1760, Europeans suddenly opened their New Testaments for the first time and realized the horror of their policies.

Has Christianity remade the world? Yes. But did it launch the sort of across-the-board Christian revolution for which Holland contends? Maybe, but we really need better evidence.

Readers of Dominion will find themselves better informed, but they will also be repeatedly disturbed and provoked and driven to rethink just how they understand the relationship between religion and the development of culture. I mean that as high praise.








Philip Jenkins is distinguished professor of history at Baylor University. His many books include The Next Christendom: The Rise of Global Christianity (Oxford University Press) and The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade (HarperOne).
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - February 2020
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2020, 11:09:19 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/january-february/americans-are-having-fewer-children-evangelicals-are-no-exc.html






Americans Are Having Fewer Kids. Evangelicals Are No Exception.






Declining fertility rates and environmental crisis challenge our understandings of family, stewardship, and being a good neighbor.


Lily Jones Howard grew up in a church in southern California with a burgeoning children’s and youth ministry. The church held afternoon and evening AWANA clubs and ran separate junior high and high school youth groups. She compares that to the church she and her husband and two children attend now. The median age of members, she guesses, is about 65 or 70. “The pastor has said explicitly that children are the lifeblood of the church,” Howard said. The congregation makes an effort to welcome young families like hers.

In the near future, an increasing number of American evangelicals may find themselves with church experiences like the Howard family’s for one principal reason: evangelicals with children are slowly becoming harder to find.

Americans in general are having fewer children today than they did two generations ago. Spiking after World War II, the fertility rate declined to around two lifetime births per woman in the ‘80s and has hovered there since, according to the Pew Research Center. Evangelicals, however, had maintained higher than average fertility rates until recently, according to University of Oklahoma sociologists Samuel Perry and Cyrus Schleifer.

Perry and Schleifer analyzed data from several decades of the General Social Survey (GSS) and found that, between 1972 and 2016, conservative Protestants went from having six percent more children than mainline Protestants to roughly the same number. Painted in broad strokes, what this means is that evangelicals now seem to be having about the same number of children as anybody else in America.

Demographers, politicians, and pundits are all concerned about head counting as the 2020 US Census approaches on top of a presidential election. Some are concerned about the economic and social burdens of an aging population, while others worry about each new person’s carbon footprint.

Evangelicals also weigh seemingly conflicting concerns. Some see God’s command in Genesis to “be fruitful and multiply” as paramount, while others glean from the creation story a responsibility to steward creation, which might mean having fewer children.

How does having children fit into a broader vision of God’s kingdom? What values are informing—and what values should inform—our decisions around family size?

Declines Across the Board
Perry and Schleifer set out to explore how differences in religious commitment and belief might intersect with denominational affiliation in influencing childbearing decisions. Taking 44 consecutive annual samples of around 1,500 people who had completed their childbearing years (ages 45 and over), they compared the number of children born to Catholics, mainline Protestants, and conservative Protestants. Then they asked how factors like biblical literalism and regular church attendance affected family size.

According to their results, fertility has declined across Christian denominations, from an average of 2.7 children ever born in 1972 to 2.3 in 2016. The researchers looked at the effect that church attendance and a more literal view of the Bible had on a person’s family size. If mainline Protestants and Catholics attended church regularly, childbearing slightly increased. However, among conservative Protestants fertility rates declined regardless of attendance levels.

Perry surmises that this difference has to do with how evangelicals define themselves. “If you’re evangelical, you’re already pretty conservative,” he said. Church commitment and taking the Bible more literally come with being an evangelical. Within mainline Protestants and Catholics, however, there is a noticeable split between liberal and conservative types. Regular church attendance and belief in a literal interpretation of the Bible among these two groups, Perry said, indicate more traditional values, which correlate to higher fertility.

Economist Lyman Stone contends, however, that people who are more religious are still having more babies than others. “When you look at specific beliefs or religious behavior—religious people are becoming more distinctive. We’re not seeing this huge turn. There is still some fertility decline, but it’s far more modest,” he said.

Stone, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, points to a single survey: the 2014 Pew Religious Landscape Survey (PRLS). Evangelicals averaged 2.3 children born, about 8 percent higher than the 2.1 national average. The Pew survey used a much larger one-time sample (over 35,000 adults) compared to the survey Perry and Schleifer used, which could make it a more accurate estimate of recent fertility rates.

Despite different outcomes, both Perry and Schleifer’s research and the Pew survey are in line with recent headlines: People are having fewer babies. Evangelicals are no exception.

The “Mainstreaming” of Evangelical Christianity
Mandy Cobb and her husband struggled for years to conceive and underwent multiple fertility treatments. Their son’s birth in 2015 was traumatic, including an emergency C-section and ICU stays for both mother and baby. They won’t be having more biological children for health reasons, and while adoption has been discussed, Cobb said, it would probably just be one. “Having more than two or three would alter my mental sanity.”

Cobb is a full-time working mother, coordinating a radiation program for a technical college in Georgia. “I absolutely love what I do,” she said. Knowing that she wants to keep working, having a lot of children doesn’t make sense financially. “The more kids I have, the more I’d be working to pay for childcare,” she said.

While Cobb’s story can’t be reduced to sociological trends, it offers a glimpse into how evangelicals’ thoughts around childbearing are changing.

In the latter 20th century, evangelicals began shifting from their separatist, fundamentalist roots and engaging more across society. The changing role of women, said Baylor University historian Philip Jenkins, is one of the biggest factors influencing downward fertility trends. Research shows an inverse correlation between women’s educational attainment and family size. As evangelical women like Cobb increasingly work outside the home, it changes their calculus around family size.

Another related factor is marital status and age at marriage. Evangelical marriage rates dipped from 59 to 55 percent between 2007 and 2014, according to Pew. They follow the pattern of Americans as a whole, marrying at later ages and sometimes foregoing marriage and children altogether. Delayed marriage, Stone said, may explain much of the fertility decline in the past two decades, as married women have more children than unmarried women.

This all points to the larger trend Perry identified—the “mainstreaming” of evangelicals since the 1970s. Simply put, evangelicals are absorbing many of the values of the surrounding culture, which itself is becoming less religious (26 percent of American adults identified as “nones” in 2019, up from 17 percent in 2009).

Changing Views on Children
Victoria Riollano and her husband live in Northern Virginia and have six children, from ages one to 12. Her family gets plenty of stares when they leave the house. “Once you get to three, people start looking at you like you have three heads,” she said. As their numbers grew, Riollano felt called by God to stand up for her family, rather than accept the assumptions. When people remark, “You have your hands full,” she replies, “I’m so blessed,” or “Yes, but they are good helpers,” pointing to the older children. She doesn’t want her children to get the message that they are a nuisance, which is how she felt growing up as one of two children.

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For Riollano, raising children is an integral part of her calling as a Christian. She goes back to Genesis 1:28, when God blessed Adam and Eve and told them to, “Be fruitful and multiply.” “That’s part of our commitment to God. Children are for keeping the name, the legacy alive,” she said.

Riollano contrasts her view to that of her generation, which she said sees children as optional, having them “if it’s convenient for me.” Indeed, views of children have changed dramatically from past generations, when children were integral to the family economy, whether as farm hands or wage earners.

The widespread availability of contraception has also changed how we think about childbearing. A century ago, noted the Baylor researcher Jenkins, everyone had about the same number of children, regardless of religion, because they didn’t have options otherwise. While some forms of contraception were available earlier, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the use of reliable, long-term birth control such as the Pill and IUDs became commonplace.

“Protestants jumped into the contraception and birth control movement with two feet,” said Wheaton College theologian Emily McGowin. “We didn’t think a lot about what we were buying into.” It’s no surprise to McGowin that we are still struggling to articulate a consistent, faithful vision for children and families. Theologically, “it’s going to take a good hundred years to actually come to terms with this,” she said.

In the meantime, declines in fertility rates bring new urgency to these questions: Why have children? What are families for?

Are Children Biblically Mandated?
Many evangelicals would agree with Riollano that childbearing, if you’re able to, is part of the biblical mandate in Genesis. “We are told that children are a blessing and gift from God,” the economist Stone said. “There is a cultural change going on among Christians—we are choosing not to read the biblical passages about the joy and beauty and excellence of large families.”

Others question whether God’s command to Adam and Eve applies to us today, or whether it was even a command at all. “We’ve already multiplied,” said Lisa McMinn, sociologist and writer in residence at George Fox University. “There is a population and resource issue, and the best way to love our children and to love the future’s children and to love, really, all people, or all children, will be to limit our family size,” she told CT in 2010.

Meghan Rogers-Czarnecki, who has two biological children and one adopted child, sees it as a story of God creating humankind to watch over and care for creation. “That’s really our purpose. We’ve morphed it into just caring about people,” she said. Even caring for people, she added, involves stewarding its resources for future generations.

Rogers-Czarnecki grew up in a Quaker church in Oregon where creation care is central to their faith. If she had taken the time to think through things more thoroughly when she and her husband first married, she said, she would have just adopted. In a time when non-renewable resources are being rapidly depleted and the disastrous effects of climate change are becoming apparent, “it seems irresponsible to grow our population,” she said. This applies especially in America, where we consume such a disproportionate amount of the world’s resources. And, Rogers-Czarnecki added, “many kids need homes.”

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Stone believes such thinking is misguided. Carbon emissions are the problem, not population, he said. It is an issue of “policy, resource allocation, and innovation… It puts the cart before the horse to try to fix climate change by reducing the number of people who will enjoy the world we save,” he said. Stone sees stewardship—of the earth and of one’s finances—as for the sake of the family, not the other way around.

But, McGowin points out, there is not one unbroken view of family throughout the Bible. The Old Testament has a different vision than the New Testament, which itself is not particularly family-friendly. “Jesus very much relativizes biological family for the sake of discipleship to him. Paul is ambivalent about it,” McGowin said.

From McGowin’s perspective, the family gains its significance in the new covenant in relationship to the church. “The church is the institution, the body, that will endure into the new heavens and earth. The body of Christ is primary. The primary work of the family, as part of the household of God, is to make disciples—disciples of the parents as well as the children. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should have more (kids),” McGowin said.

Matthew Sleeth, founder of the creation care organization Blessed Earth, argues that Jesus’s command to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19) outweighs the Genesis command. “We are to ‘teach,’ not out-procreate, all nations,” Sleeth wrote in Serve God, Save the Planet.

Aging and Shrinking Communities
The Washington Post recently ran a dismal report on Maine, the oldest state in the country with a fifth of the population older than 65. Its growing number of older adults require more home health care and nursing homes, but there are not enough workers. As a result, an increasing number of elderly people are not getting the care they need, and families struggle to fill in the gaps. According to the article, Maine’s situation is a preview of the nation’s future.

Evangelical churches are aging along with the rest of the country. The median age of evangelical adults rose from 47 to 49 between 2007 and 2014, according to Pew. While evangelical numbers continue to grow, they are starting to decline as a percentage of the nation’s population. Perry and Schleifer predict that, if fertility rates continue along the same downward trend, the evangelical population will start to shrink.

Some denominations are already shrinking. The Southern Baptist Convention, for instance, the largest denomination in the country, lost 1.4 percent of its members from 2007 to 2014, according to Pew. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod lost .3 percent. While adults leaving the denomination play a role, most of the declines, Perry said, may have to do with people having less children.

Using Pew numbers for current fertility rates, as well as rates of adults leaving and entering denominations, Stone calculated the average number of children that women would need to have in order to maintain current numbers. Baptists would need a minimum average of 2.58 children per woman. In 2014, the actual number of children they had per woman over 45 was 2.27. In contrast, Pentecostals, who bring in more members through conversion than they lose to apostasy, need only an average of 1.89 children per woman for their denomination not to shrink. In 2014, they were having 2.7 per woman.

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Some may look at the numbers and see a need to shore up evangelism efforts, bringing more converts into the faith to make up for losses from lower fertility. Stone points out the need to be realistic. “Statistically, it takes about 30-40 Christians to evangelize one adult,” he said.

North Park University theologian Soong-Chan Rah sees another way. “The standard approach to church growth has been biological and conversion growth,” he said. A third element, however, is immigration.

Rah points out that while many white evangelical churches are seeing membership declines, immigrant and ethnic minority churches are thriving. “There is an incredible movement of people around the world coming to us. Immigrants are a population stop-gap, able to fill in where the post-boomer generation did not have the numbers.”

Many immigrants are also committed Christians, Rah said, and fill in a spiritual gap. “We’re looking at this answer God sent. But because of our nativism, racism, and anti-immigrant stance, many Christians are not receiving it.”

While immigration may be part of the answer, it may not be enough, especially for the long-term, Jenkins said. The birth rates of immigrants, which is typically higher, synchronizes with the general population after a generation or two. Fertility rates in sending countries are also plummeting. Mexico, for instance, has seen a decline in total fertility from about 7 per woman in the 1960s to 2.2 today.

Digging Down to the Values
Whether one leans toward moral arguments for having more or fewer children, “it’s easy to cast all of this as bad or good, being dualistic, rather than think about the core values that are driving [the trends],” McMinn said.

Evangelicals are having fewer children for many, overlapping reasons. Perry encourages Christians to consider how secular values influence our own, such as whether consumerism drives us to work more to have more stuff, making a big family more unfeasible. “To what degree am I being influenced by what Jesus wants me to do or to what degree am I internalizing or reflecting what the broader society says I should prioritize?” he said.

At the same time, Perry said, many families are limiting their size because women want to play a broader role in society outside of childrearing, which he affirms. “If reversing this trend requires women not going to college and not going to work, it’s going to be difficult to get in front of the church and scold women for earning, exercising their gifts, and putting their kids in daycare,” he said.

While Europe has long had a reputation for generous family leave policies, in recent years some European countries have begun offering more aggressive economic incentives to encourage women to have children and reverse population decline. Hungary, for example, where far-right president Viktor Orbán recently put forth a “procreation, not immigration” policy, gives large families steep tax breaks and interest-free loans. “At the core of a lot of those policies is a concern about [a white population] being outbred,” Perry said. If we are having more children to “fight off the brown hordes” that will change a nation’s culture and makeup, Christians may have a prophetic voice in speaking against such values, while still supporting family-oriented policies.

Parenting into the Future
In Portland, Oregon, Daniel Holcomb and his wife and three children live in a 900-square-foot house with a big yard. They’ve thought intentionally about their house size and the number of children they have, considering their own social and emotional parenting capacities and their family’s impact on the environment.

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Holcomb, who grew up as a missionary kid in East Africa and has traveled extensively, has seen the financial strain of having extremely large families. He has also seen the emotional and elder care gap families experience when, in only a generation or two, they shrink from having eight or ten children to having just one or none.

In Portland, he regularly comes up against anti-human sentiment, a sense that people are what’s wrong with the world and shaming those who do have children. He talks with his children, ages 3 to 9, about these messages. He wants them to have “an understanding that they are created in God’s image” but at the same time know that “humans can be really bad stewards of the environment.” They talk about endangered species, how ecosystems work, and how even spiders and ants play a role. On their own property, they’ve created a forest-garden with plants and flowers that will sustain the bee population.

Holcomb and his wife wrestled with the environmental impact that children would have but concluded that their children could have a positive impact for future generations. “We try as much as we can, even at a younger age, to encourage each of the kids to be protectors and good stewards of the natural world around them rather than just seeing it as resources to be used and exploited,” Holcomb said.

Recently, seeing firsthand how services and care can break down when there are not enough younger people to fill positions, he has also started to view childbearing in terms of being a good neighbor. It is a way that “Christians can have the numbers to care for either their actual parents or parents in the body of Christ,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb acknowledges that he can’t control the outcome. “We hold their futures loosely. They’re their own people.” Not everybody is called to it, he said, and not everyone is able to. But for those that do, “it can be one of the longest-term discipleship relationships in a person’s life. Having children can be a way to bless the world and others.”







Liuan Huska is a writer living in the Chicago area. Her forthcoming book on chronic illness is publishing with InterVarsity Press.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - February 2020
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2020, 11:39:52 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/january-february/god-works-within-us-and-beyond-us.html





God Works Within Us and Beyond Us




It’s surprisingly hard to remember that “our” ministry is actually God’s doing.


I have to confess, when I took a job working with college students, I was apprehensive. God’s call seemed to be there, and I love the ministry field, but I worried about heading back and facing the familiar vicious cycle of anxiety, despair, and competitive pride.

If you’ve been in ministry for any amount of time, you know the temptation to ride high when it seems like numbers are up and students (or members) are happy with you. Or the flipside: the worry that floods your heart when you don’t see a student for a few months; the creeping despair that your work has been ineffective and in vain when you are having the same conversation about the same sins over and over; the self-reproach when you see the “success” of the ministry up the street
But God, in his kindness, has been working on my heart with two weighty doctrines about how he works to bu.
ild his church: dual causality and providence. Put more simply: God is at work within you and beyond you.

We see these principles at work in Paul’s important discussion of ministry with the Corinthians. Here he’s dealing with the divisions and party spirit that had arisen in Corinth, with folks picking teams and favorite apostles. To this he replies, “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Cor. 3:5-7).

First, Paul says we need to get clear that all true spiritual growth comes from God. Enough, then, with fixating on human workers—even ourselves. Despite all outward appearances, ultimately God is the one working effectively to call sinners to himself, cleansing them, redeeming them, conforming them to the image of his Son. All credit, all glory, all honor is due to God for the work that he does to build his church. Paul reorients our thoughts about ministry by reminding us it’s not about us, “for faith allows no glorying except in Christ alone” (John Calvin).

Second, after putting human work in its place, so to speak, it’s not the case that our labor means nothing. Planting is true work, as is watering. And God has chosen to use, to work within and through, human “servants, through whom you came to believe.” In theology, we hold these two truths together by talking about the idea of “dual causality.”

By talking about “dual causality,” we’re emphasizing the fact God is not just one actor among other actors in history; he is history’s author, the Creator who upholds all things by the word of his power. It’s not the case that either you work or he works. His work isn’t competitive with our work; he is the actor above all actors, the cause underlying every cause, who can truly work in and through us.

As Paul says elsewhere, he proclaims and toils for the gospel: “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me” (Col. 1:29). By his Holy Spirit, God is at work within you and through you. If you take up his Word, take comfort in knowing your work isn’t void or in vain, because God never allows it to be voided: “It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11).

Third, thankfully God is at work beyond you. Paul talks about one planting, another watering, and God giving the growth. The important thing to catch here is that God is always at work in all things—even those things that don’t involve you and you don’t even see.

So that lost sheep you’ve labored to find for months, who won’t return your calls? Trust that God is still at work beyond your ability to see it. Or that other congregant who decided the ministry up the street was a better fit? It might be disappointing at first, but in God’s economy, “The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose” (1 Cor. 3:8). This is the doctrine of providence at work in ministry.

Little surprise, then, that the solution to my fears and anxieties about returning to gospel ministry find their answer in the God of the gospel himself.





Derek Rishmawy is the Reformed University Fellowship campus minister at UC-Irvine and a doctoral candidate at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - February 2020
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2020, 08:35:23 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/january-february/god-works-within-us-and-beyond-us.html





God Works Within Us and Beyond Us




It’s surprisingly hard to remember that “our” ministry is actually God’s doing.


I have to confess, when I took a job working with college students, I was apprehensive. God’s call seemed to be there, and I love the ministry field, but I worried about heading back and facing the familiar vicious cycle of anxiety, despair, and competitive pride.

If you’ve been in ministry for any amount of time, you know the temptation to ride high when it seems like numbers are up and students (or members) are happy with you. Or the flipside: the worry that floods your heart when you don’t see a student for a few months; the creeping despair that your work has been ineffective and in vain when you are having the same conversation about the same sins over and over; the self-reproach when you see the “success” of the ministry up the street
But God, in his kindness, has been working on my heart with two weighty doctrines about how he works to bu.
ild his church: dual causality and providence. Put more simply: God is at work within you and beyond you.

We see these principles at work in Paul’s important discussion of ministry with the Corinthians. Here he’s dealing with the divisions and party spirit that had arisen in Corinth, with folks picking teams and favorite apostles. To this he replies, “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Cor. 3:5-7).

First, Paul says we need to get clear that all true spiritual growth comes from God. Enough, then, with fixating on human workers—even ourselves. Despite all outward appearances, ultimately God is the one working effectively to call sinners to himself, cleansing them, redeeming them, conforming them to the image of his Son. All credit, all glory, all honor is due to God for the work that he does to build his church. Paul reorients our thoughts about ministry by reminding us it’s not about us, “for faith allows no glorying except in Christ alone” (John Calvin).

Second, after putting human work in its place, so to speak, it’s not the case that our labor means nothing. Planting is true work, as is watering. And God has chosen to use, to work within and through, human “servants, through whom you came to believe.” In theology, we hold these two truths together by talking about the idea of “dual causality.”

By talking about “dual causality,” we’re emphasizing the fact God is not just one actor among other actors in history; he is history’s author, the Creator who upholds all things by the word of his power. It’s not the case that either you work or he works. His work isn’t competitive with our work; he is the actor above all actors, the cause underlying every cause, who can truly work in and through us.

As Paul says elsewhere, he proclaims and toils for the gospel: “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me” (Col. 1:29). By his Holy Spirit, God is at work within you and through you. If you take up his Word, take comfort in knowing your work isn’t void or in vain, because God never allows it to be voided: “It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11).

Third, thankfully God is at work beyond you. Paul talks about one planting, another watering, and God giving the growth. The important thing to catch here is that God is always at work in all things—even those things that don’t involve you and you don’t even see.

So that lost sheep you’ve labored to find for months, who won’t return your calls? Trust that God is still at work beyond your ability to see it. Or that other congregant who decided the ministry up the street was a better fit? It might be disappointing at first, but in God’s economy, “The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose” (1 Cor. 3:8). This is the doctrine of providence at work in ministry.

Little surprise, then, that the solution to my fears and anxieties about returning to gospel ministry find their answer in the God of the gospel himself.





Derek Rishmawy is the Reformed University Fellowship campus minister at UC-Irvine and a doctoral candidate at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Not a good place to be.
1 Cor 15:3-4.."For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:"

Acts 17:11.."These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - February 2020
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2020, 08:57:43 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/february-web-only/rr-reno-return-strong-gods-nationalism-populism.html






Are Nationalism and Populism the Cure for What Ails the West?





The “strong gods” of old are knocking at the door. We ought to be wary of letting them inside.


This November’s presidential election could be understood in many different ways. It could be seen as a referendum on Donald Trump’s eventful first four years in the White House. It could be viewed as a response to the president’s impeachment and acquittal in Congress. Or perhaps it could be taken as just the latest election in which a majority of Americans are frustrated with an uninspired, binary choice. But there is a larger narrative unfolding in the mind of First Things editor R. R. Reno, with much more at stake than just the next four years.

In Return of the Strong Gods: Nationalism, Populism, and the Future of the West, Reno traces the condition of Western society in the aftermath of the “postwar consensus.” Prioritizing openness and free markets in order to prevent global catastrophes like the two world wars, this consensus has shaped the most influential thinking of our age, from Karl Popper and Jacques Derrida to Friedrich Hayek and William F. Buckley. Reno says it has affected most aspects of society and culture, including politics, economics, education, and even architecture.

In terms of preventing another global conflict, the postwar consensus has been an unmitigated success. But at what cost? As Reno tells the story, the West is now facing several pressing challenges that ought to be laid at its doorstep, including widespread addiction, disenchantment, and loneliness, along with a general loss of social solidarity. And the ruling class—comprised of liberals and conservatives alike—is too focused on maintaining this consensus to notice or care. Yes, countries may not be perpetually on the brink of war, and free trade has made the world more prosperous and closely connected than ever before. But while the postwar consensus has safeguarded and strengthened the global community, Reno sees a loosening of the ties binding individuals to community and nation, ties that lend their lives stability and purpose.

Unifying Forces
Notably, in assigning blame for these developments, Reno does not focus on just one faction of the political ruling class. He has no shortage of criticism for the political left, referring to identity politics as a “cancer” and expressing impatience with those who “despise patriotic ceremonies and traditions.” But he also takes to task those on the political right who have bought into the postwar consensus—proponents of free market capitalism, he believes, have contributed just as much to the hollowing out of Western society as cultural liberals have.

Reno does not believe we can correct these problems under our current political and social arrangement. As he writes in his prologue, “We need to face the challenges of the twenty-first century, not the twentieth.” Instead, he argues, Western society must welcome back the “strong gods” it once tossed aside. What exactly are these strong gods? One is clearly nationalism, which Reno equates with “cherish[ing] self-government.” The postwar consensus demonized nationalism as a driver of conflict, but Reno sees it—and its cousin, patriotism—as a positive force for unity at a moment when society is remarkably fractured. Two other strong gods are the family and the church, institutions that started breaking down as the postwar consensus emphasized other, potentially competing values.

But if there is a leader among the strong gods, it is populism. This is a belief system bigger than Donald Trump or Brexit or Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister. Populism, according to Reno, challenges the hegemony of the “leadership class.” It emphasizes “strong borders, not open ones; advantageous trade, not open trade; loyalty and patriotism, not open minds.” And it reflects “a growing sense that ‘we’ needs shoring up.” Reno believes that by embracing the strong gods of populism, nationalism, and the like, the West can address the negative effects of the postwar consensus, effectively confront the challenges of the past century, and put itself on a stable footing going forward.

Return of the Strong Gods is sweeping yet concise—the ground Reno covers in just 170 pages is impressive. But the book’s weaknesses are clear in part because of that very succinctness. One consistent problem with Reno’s work is the lack of support he lends to his secondary claims. For example, when discussing the problems of modern education, he writes, “Most education professionals think it’s good for young children to have transgender teachers.” While we occasionally see stories of drag queens in libraries and gender fluidity in the classroom, it is something else to claim without evidence that “most educational professionals” recognize this as a good in itself. A collection of anecdotes does not a consensus make. Reno’s characterization about those protesting Donald Trump’s inauguration—“overwrought women in ridiculous hats”—is similarly problematic and ultimately unhelpful.

The book also occasionally falls prey to odd errors and omissions. For example, in criticizing Barack Obama’s infamous observation that many in the white working class “cling to [their] guns or religion,” Reno writes that Obama’s remark was directed toward “those who were insufficiently appreciative of his leadership.” But Obama said this during his first presidential campaign in 2008, in the context of a larger description of people being left behind by the same leadership class Reno is inclined to criticize. And though Reno critiques the “open borders” sentiment that permeates the postwar consensus, he omits any discussion of the waves of immigration during other periods of American history. In his discussion of the “shared loves” that fuel patriotic attachment, for example, what would he make of the experience of Ellis Island?

Reasons for Skepticism
The message at the heart of Return of the Strong Gods may be tempting for Christians. The central critique of the postwar consensus is that it has transformed society from a connected, united, and shared community to an atomized, anomic shell its past self. Of course, Christians should seek community with those around us, and if the postwar consensus has made that more difficult, then why shouldn’t Christians oppose this arrangement? And there is plenty to lament about the state of contemporary society from a Christ-centered perspective, including the well-documented decline of the traditional family unit and the diminishing influence of the church in our culture.

But are the strong gods the answer? There are reasons for Christians to be skeptical. The values of nationalism and patriotism are not inherently bad, but elevating them the way Reno wants could turn them into the very idols he decries. Moreover, this book conjures some of the more worrisome features of recent debates over the heritage and future of “liberalism” in the West. Culturally conservative writers like Sohrab Ahmari and Patrick Deneen have taken aim at America’s emphasis on individual rights and freedoms, blaming the liberal tradition for undermining faith, family, community, and the common good. Yet as other (equally culturally conservative) writers like David French have countered, Christians need not abandon the whole of liberalism simply because it produces some results they do not like; indeed, this would be a case of the cure being worse than the ailment. Liberalism long predates the postwar consensus, of course, but I cannot help wondering whether a similar caution applies to Reno.

Article continues below
As we continue to struggle with our role in a changing, increasingly inhospitable culture, we would be wise to remember where our identity ultimately lies: neither in our nation nor in our culture, but wholly and completely in Jesus. Such knowledge should equip us to engage our culture in a way that confidently transcends its conventions, rather than shaping our behavior and solutions to the culture as it is or has been. Put differently, Christians can respond to the challenges of the postwar consensus without embracing a return to some sort of pre–postwar consensus.

Despite its shortcomings, Return of the Strong Gods is successful in prompting serious reflection on the challenges of our moment. And considering that the strong gods do appear to be knocking on the door of the West, this is precisely the sort of reflection in which Christians ought to be engaged.






Daniel Bennett teaches political science at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. He is the author of Defending Faith: The Politics of the Christian Conservative Legal Movement (University Press of Kansas).
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - February 2020
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2020, 09:19:18 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/february-web-only/priestly-celibacy-pope-francis-amazon-synod-archives.html







Celibate Priests: What You Need to Know


After the Amazonian Synod, the Catholic stance on clerical celibacy remains unchanged. Here's how CT has covered this issue over the years.


One of the most significant and contentious issues under discussion during the Catholic Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region, held in October 2019, was the question of whether to allow married men in that region to become priests. The reason for this consideration is the significant shortage of priests among indigenous people groups in the Amazon region. Due to the shortage, many indigenous Catholics in that region are unable to regularly celebrate the mass and receive other forms of pastoral care. After months of reflection, Pope Francis responded to the Synod in Querida Amazonía without directly addressing the issue of allowing married men to become priests, thus leaving the current expectation of clerical celibacy unchanged.

What Scripture Says


The Bible affirms the value of celibacy for both lay Christians and church leaders, most notably in 1 Corinthians 7. In this passage, Paul speaks of his own unmarried state (vv. 7–8) and commends celibacy as a way to focus on pleasing the Lord (vv. 32–35). Paul emphasizes the liberty unmarried Christians have in contrast to the obligations married Christians have to their families. Paul’s reference to avoiding entanglement in “civilian affairs” in 2 Timothy 2:4 is also thought to refer, at least in part, to singleness and celibacy. It is important to note that, alongside its discussion of celibacy, 1 Corinthians 7 also clearly affirms Christian marriage. Further, multiple passages of Scripture speak directly about married church leaders, including specific instructions about married bishops or overseers (1 Tim. 3:2), elders (Titus 1:6), and deacons (1 Tim. 3:12).

Celibacy in Church History

Priestly celibacy was discussed and debated by Christian leaders during the earliest centuries of the church, including at the Council of Nicaea. While some at that time upheld celibacy as an ideal state for clergy, others opposed requiring it. Bishop Paphnutius (who was himself unmarried) opposed placing that expectation upon church leaders, saying “too heavy a yoke ought not to be laid upon the clergy,” and that “marriage and married intercourse are of themselves honorable and undefiled.” Within Eastern Orthodoxy, the Council in Trullo (A.D. 625) affirmed that men who were already married could be ordained to the priesthood, though unmarried priests could not marry after ordination. Within Catholicism, clerical celibacy continued to be viewed as ideal by many, and various ecclesial rulings in the early centuries of Christendom supported this view. The expectation that Catholic priests be celibate was clarified and more strictly enforced beginning in the 11th century under Pope Gregory VII. After the Reformation, many Protestant leaders (notably Martin Luther) affirmed marriage and family life for clergy.

Why Catholic Priests are Celibate
A primary reason Catholic priests are unmarried and celibate is the Catholic belief that a priest acts in persona Christi—that he acts “in the person of” or as a representation of Christ. Because Jesus was unmarried, priests are to model themselves after Christ’s example. The Catechism of the Catholic Church further expounds that priests are “called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to ‘the affairs of the Lord,’ [1 Cor. 7:32]” in order that they can “give themselves entirely to God and to men.” The Catechism emphasizes that this priestly celibacy “radiantly proclaims the Reign of God.”

Not All Priests are Celibate
Today, it is important to note that within Eastern Catholic rites married men are commonly ordained as priests; the emphasis on priestly singleness and celibacy is found primarily within the Latin (or Western) rite of the Catholic church. In some rare cases, the Latin rite also allows married men to become priests if they previously served as ministers within specific Protestant denominations prior to their conversion to Catholicism.

CT on Priestly Celibacy
Christianity Today has examined the topic of clerical celibacy in a variety of ways throughout the years. Here are some of our most important articles on this topic:

Celibacy: A Christian Option
EDITORIAL | CT MAGAZINE
Celibacy: A Christian Option
In this 1969 editorial, CT reflected upon Paul’s teachings about celibacy and marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, posing important questions for both Protestants and Catholics. The topic of priestly celibacy was covered many times in CT during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, in part due to a 1971 Catholic synod that discussed the possibility of ordaining married men in Latin America. You can read some of CT’s coverage of priests speaking out against celibacy here, as well as our coverage of the 1971 synod here and here.

Taking Care of (Church) Business
Taking Care of (Church) Business
More was decided at the Council of Nicaea than the nature of Christ.
PAUL L. MAIER
While the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 primarily focused on discussing Christ’s divine nature and confronting the heresy of Arianism, church leaders also discussed a variety of other issues, including clerical celibacy. This article explains why the council decided not to require it.

The Character Question
The Character Question
How the church has answered throughout history.
BRUCE L. SHELLEY
Here, historian Bruce L. Shelley explores various visions of pastoral leadership throughout church history, including a discussion of clerical celibacy and monastacism in the fourth century and beyond.

Luther: Father of the Christian Home
Luther: Father of the Christian Home
He forged a new concept of marriage and the family.
THOMAS F. MILLER
This 1983 article describes Martin Luther’s transition from celibate monk to married man and father, detailing some of his teachings regarding marriage.

A Preventable Tragedy
A Preventable Tragedy
Evangelicals must not pretend to be immune to sexual sin by clergy or volunteers
A CHRISTIANITY TODAY EDITORIAL
Two Cheers for Celibacy
Two Cheers for Celibacy
People who expect a sudden reversal of the century long clerical requirement show an inadequate understanding of why the Vatican is committed to this policy
CHRISTIANITY TODAY EDITORIAL
In 2002, CT published two editorials related to this topic. “A Preventable Tragedy” comments on child sexual abuse in both Catholic and Protestant settings, refuting the idea of directly linking celibacy to abuse. “Two Cheers for Celibacy” further addresses the sexual abuse of minors, as well as the problem of noncelibate homosexual clergy within the U.S. Catholic church. It makes the case for allowing marriage within the priesthood while continuing to affirm the value of clerical celibacy.

Catholic Leaders Are Discussing Married Priests, Female Church Leadership, and Climate Change
QUICK TO LISTEN | 47 min
Catholic Leaders Are Discussing Married Priests, Female Church Leadership, and Climate Change
What Protestants need to know about Pope Francis’s Amazon Synod.
CT’s fall 2019 Quick to Listen podcast featured an episode discussing the Amazonian Synod, including the Pope’s consideration of allowing married priests among the Amazon’s indigeonous people groups.

Pope Francis's Emerging Revolution
SPEAKING OUT
Pope Francis's Emerging Revolution
I'm not a Catholic, but each day brings more encouraging news about the new bishop of Rome.
KENNETH TANNER
Here, Protestant pastor Kenneth Tanner shares his own reflections on the unique nature of Pope Francis’ approach to ministry, including his views on celibacy, his vision for active ministry, and his dedication to the poor.

The Forgotten Alternative in First Corinthians 7
The Forgotten Alternative in First Corinthians 7
TERRI WILLIAMS
In this piece, Terri Williams discusses 1 Corinthians 7 as she reflects on the value of celibacy for single Christians and advocates that celibacy be honored in the church.

Are We Afraid of Single Pastors?
Are We Afraid of Single Pastors?
If being unmarried was good enough for Jesus and Paul...
MARK ALMLIE
Are We Afraid of Single Pastors? (Part 2)
Are We Afraid of Single Pastors? (Part 2)
Where did the prejudice against single pastors come from, and how do we move past it?
MARK ALMLIE
While celibacy is required for Latin-rite Catholic priests, many Protestant churches have an unspoken opposite expectation: that their pastors be married. In this two-part series, Mark Almie provides a Protestant case for valuing and honoring the ministry of unmarried, celibate pastors. Almie notes that “For the first 1,500 years of church history, singleness, not marriage, was lauded as next to godliness. Let me say that again—for the first fifteen hundred years.”

Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/february-web-only/coronavirus-doctor-whistleblower-christian-li-wenliang.html






It Doesn’t Matter If the Coronavirus Whistleblower Was a Christian




There’s little evidence of his faith. The church has something to learn from his life anyway.


On February 7, the internet realm was jammed with news of the death of the Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang, and the whole network was filled with a strong feeling of sadness. There were rumors late last night that Li died of his illness, but some people said he was still under treatment. All kinds of news made hundreds of millions of netizens worried and confused.

Until the early hours of February 7, Li Wenliang’s hospital (Wuhan Central Hospital) released this message on its official micro-blog: “Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist in our hospital, in the fight against the new coronavirus infection, was unfortunately infected. After all efforts were made to rescue him, he died on February 7, at 2:58 a.m. We are deeply sorry and mourn for him.”

On the internet, people mourned for and remembered him in many ways, especially because Li Wenliang was one of the earliest discoverers of the pneumonia outbreak, and thus became one of the original eight “rumor mongers.”

On December 30, 2019, after hearing colleagues saying that the hospital’s emergency department had quarantined seven SARS patients from Wuhan South China Seafood Market, Li Wenliang posted the news for the first time in a social media group of more than 150 college alumni and explained: “To define it as SARS is not very accurate. It should be a kind of coronavirus and the specific categorization is yet to be confirmed.” He warned the group to watch out for prevention, but also particularly stressed on not spreading the news yet.

Despite his group warning, a WeChat screenshot of “7 confirmed SARS patients from South China Seafood Market” was eventually circulated and had a large number of retweets online. Ultimately, it attracted the attention of the local police and the matter temporarily ended in Li receiving an official warning from the local authority.

However, as the truth of the outbreak gradually surfaced, the name of Li Wenliang, “the rumor monger,” began to enter the public eye. The 34-year-old young doctor was also affectionately known in the media and among the netizens as “the outbreak ‘whistleblower.’”

Li died young and the public reacted overwhelmingly. At noon on February 7, the government announced “with the approval of the Central Committee, the State Monitoring Committee decided to send an investigative team to Wuhan City, Hubei Province, to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the relevant issues concerning Dr. Li Wenliang as reflected by the public,” which caused great public concern!

Meanwhile on the Christian internet…
In the Christian online community, however, there is a different picture. Many Christian WeChat groups are retweeting a message that Li Wenliang was a Christian, like Luke in the Bible.

To this end, many Christians on the internet go about telling each other, acting very exuberantly, as if this is not the time to express grief but to sing Hallelujah to praise the Lord’s great moment! Many brothers exclaimed how so many Christians were saying that Li Wenliang was a Christian in their WeChat moments.

There are also many Christian public platforms taking the chance to launch hot tweets, raising the matter to a spiritual height by commemorating him. For instance, there are claims that Li “gloriously returned to his heavenly home,” “he rested in the Lord’s arms,” and some are even like this: “Latest Breaking News! Dr. Li Wenliang was a brother in Christ,” as if discovering the New World...

For a while, in the Christian networks, the style of paying tribute to Li has completely changed, which is totally different from the former mourning scene: Because some Christians think that Li Wenliang “gloriously returned to his heavenly home,” they give applause and flowers not for cheering for him daring to tell the truth, but for cheering for his “returned to his home.”

Some of the Christian public platforms even commemorate him in Paul’s voice, excavating its “spiritual significance” as if Li was like Paul who fought a “good fight”:

“Paul said: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearance’ (2 Tim. 4:7-8). Every Christian who does his duty in his job is a wonderful witness to Christ, and he is fighting that wonderful battle for the Lord.”

In order to further “elevate,” there is a message with a picture that says, “Harvard Medical School in the United States, for Dr. Li Wenliang, lowered its flag at half-mast.” In fact, this is a rumor, because it has been pointed out that Harvard was flying the flag at half-mast for an alumnus, Stephen P. Dretler.

Just as many Christians are cheering for the sudden discovery that Li Wenliang was a “brother in the Lord,” there are astute Christians who have questioned where the news that Li was a Christian came from and whether it was confirmed that he was going to any church. The rumor only says that the news came from the churches in Wuhan; but given that Wuhan is so big with so many churches, it leaves out the question of the exact church.

In this unusual period, rumors spread fast. By comprehensively processing the information on the network, it is concluded that Li must have been to the church, and even participated in a Bible study, but he was not baptized. Looking at his tweets, there is no trace of a Christian faith. On the internet, some brothers also pointed out that if Li was really a Christian, in a critical condition, then his church should have released a message of prayer on his behalf; but the network is devoid of any specific prayer message/request for Li, despite several of such on behalf of other brothers and sisters. So, according to these criteria, Li was not a Christian.

Interestingly, the original Christian platform that announced that Li was a Christian soon issued a message in a bid to “prevent the rumor” by changing the “Christian” Li Wenliang into an “interested individual” (a faith seeker to Christianity). As a result, its tweet title was changed to: “Remembrance of Brother Li's (a faith seeker) Glorious Return to His Heavenly Home.”

The cases of “Christian celebrity” glamour
Li Wenliang was an ordinary man. Only by suffering from this unprecedented outbreak of coronavirus did he become the center of public attention, which is why his name is well known to the point of being hailed as a hero. Therefore, there is no doubt that Li Wenliang went viral.

Therefore, many Christians hope that Li Wenliang was also a Christian just as the previous expectation that Yang Liwei, the astronaut, was a Christian. It is the same psychological logic. It is too wishful an expectation that people believe it will rain when they hear the wind. They seem to feel that these celebrities can give their faith “glamour.” At the end of the day, the fact that many Christians believe that Li was a Christian is still out of this unhealthy so-called glamour.

Upon taking a closer look at some of the dominating and various false testimonies on Christian networks recently, you will find most of them are taking advantage of today’s high-ranking celebrities to create attention-grabbing articles.

Article continues below
There are false testimonies that take CCTV as a gimmick, such as “CCTV evangelism” or a certain Christian “appears on CCTV.” Even today, a shoddy Christian platform issued a message titled “Critical moment of the epidemic! Pastor spoke on CCTV conference!” Those are all sensational headlines. As you click on it to read, you will quickly discover that it is an old piece of news that has been recycled to create hype, and CCTV has nothing to do with it.

Can false testimonies help us “evangelize”? Like raising the bar? Absolutely not! Although these false testimonies pretend to promote the “noble purpose” of evangelism, they instead undermine the most basic and universal virtue of honesty and reduce the quality of Christianity; by extension, it vulgarizes and destroys the evangelical testimony that Christians are supposed to have, eventually turning the sacred testimony into a laughing stock.

That is to say, the gospel will be damaged by the false testimonies! One brother said it quite well: “God never needs false testimonies to glorify Him! ‘Deception,’ ‘Fear’ and ‘Confusion’ in the Christian circle are all evils that dishonor God, and every believer needs to be vigilant: neither become a rumor monger nor spread the rumor!”

As to Li Wenliang, the man has gone. To find out whether he was a Christian, in fact, is not that important. Most importantly, the young doctor did his duty with his conscience and professionalism, and eventually got martyred in his career, an admirable sacrifice in the fight against the epidemic. That is enough to know.

That should be the most appropriate memorial to Li Wenliang, who had many aspects worth learning from, even as Christians. As Christians, have we ever reflected on this?









A version of this article translated from Chinese first appeared on China Christian Daily.

Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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