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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - February 2021  (Read 1859 times)

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patrick jane

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Christianity Today Magazine - February 2021
« on: February 01, 2021, 08:40:43 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/february-web-only/evangelical-alliance-uk-trump-british-church-brexit-covid.html








How American Politics Complicates Evangelicalism in the UK





Facing Brexit fallout and another COVID lockdown, the head of the country’s Evangelical Alliance is eager to shift attention away from Trump and back to their mission.


For the past four years, the leader of the United Kingdom’s Evangelical Alliance faced several major national challenges: Brexit divides, religious liberty concerns, dramatic demographic shifts, a pandemic, and political baggage that made its way across the pond.

Since white American evangelicals became known as some of former US President Donald Trump’s biggest supporters, Gavin Calver saw media in his own country conflate them with the Christians his organization represents. Calver had to work even harder to educate others about the broad array of evangelicals in the UK, who don’t fully align with any single party or politician.

“I can find myself tweeting about a food bank serving in Bradford, only for someone on the other side of the world to lambast me for being a Trump supporter,” Calver wrote in a reflection that ran on Inauguration Day in The Times of London. “How did it come to this? How has the word evangelical been so politicised?”

The end of Trump’s presidency last month means Calver’s job can again focus on the mission of evangelicals in the UK—currently under its third coronavirus lockdown—without having to untangle their message from American political associations.

“I can’t pretend it’s not easier now to say ‘I’m Gavin, I’m an evangelical Christian,’ and for that to not immediately link me to politics of a nation I’ve never lived in, I’ve never voted in, and I have no plans to move to,” the Evangelical Alliance CEO said in a recent interview with Christianity Today. “People were desperate to get back to an evangelicalism that is liberated from bondage to other things, and actually focuses on the main thing, which is making Jesus known together.”

Calver has close ties to the United States. Until recently, his parents were pastors there, and his father, Clive Calver, once led World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the US National Association of Evangelicals. But he has seen how the political approaches by evangelicals in the two countries have clashed for decades; while the Religious Right made way for American evangelicals’ steady Republican support, British evangelicals have more representation across the three major parties and focus on issues over affiliation, according to Calver.

Misunderstandings over the evangelical term got exaggerated as UK media attention turned to the American president, but some of the confusion has been there all along; the faith is not as “mainstream” as in the US, he said.

Last week, Gavin Calver spoke with CT about the shared history between the evangelical communities in the UK and the US, how Trump has affected their close relationship, promising opportunities amid another COVID-19 lockdown, and what Brexit means for the unity of the British church.

How would you describe the historical relationship between US and UK evangelicals?

Our two nations have a special relationship on so many levels, and the church shares that too. Personally, the one that most comes to mind was when the late great Billy Graham came over for a couple of tours. My grandpa at the time was the chairman of a couple of his European tours. I remember as a little boy being at Crystal Palace or Wembley Stadium and seeing loads of people come to the front to give their lives to Jesus.

The ministries of Rick Warren or Tim Keller have had profound impacts in this nation, and the ministry of someone like the great late John Stott would have had a huge impact in the US. Ministries like Alpha that have worked really well in the UK worked well in the US, and the Purpose Driven Life stuff that came out of Saddleback a while ago worked well in the UK as well.

How did American evangelical support of Trump affect evangelicals’ reputation in the UK?

The problem was this word evangelical was connected to something that we had very little influence over and no control upon. In the media, they would talk about evangelical Christians doing X, Y, and Z as in the US. That by association made it look like we were the same people with the same ideology and the same everything.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We’re brothers and sisters. That’s important that we hold to that, but we’re a million miles away politically at times. It was a struggle to lead something here in the UK that was seen in the light of Trump. What Trump stood for by association the media caricatured us as standing for and, with the greatest respect, that often was not the case.

Would you say Trump’s presence and the American evangelical support for Trump tested this historically strong relationship between the two communities?

It created that awkward moment at a family dinner party where there’s something you can’t talk about because it’s just going to lead to a complete disagreement. I know that from my own experiences of visiting the US and having family there that it causes a tension in families that we don’t really understand here. Politics are important, but they’re not at any point some kind of demigods in our society here in the United Kingdom. The absolute wedding of politics and faith was not helpful when trying to have rational conversations.

Back in 2019, Franklin Graham planned a number of crusades in the UK. Multiple entertainment arenas canceled them after LGBT activists organized against his coming. How have you made sense of this situation?

The issue for us in the United Kingdom is the religious liberty issue of the “cancel culture,” that you’re not allowed to hold that kind of event in a venue. But the church was very much divided as to whether it supported or didn’t support Franklin coming. The pandemic led to an outcome in which he couldn’t come. But now it will be interesting to see what happens in some of the legal cases around freedom of religion that are going to be taking place with those venues that wouldn’t have them.

Franklin Graham’s relentless support of Trump certainly didn’t help in the UK lens. But once the venues were canceled and COVID stopped it from happening, the issue now is: What are the religious liberty consequences, if any, going forward here? That’s significant to every evangelist that wants to speak about Jesus in any public setting in the UK.

How has the UK church responded to the pandemic?

We’ve got a change in spiritual temperature. For years the church has been answering questions the world wasn’t asking, but since the pandemic, 25 percent of the population of the UK has to been to church online at least once. Normally only 5 percent of the population goes to church. We’re calling it mortality salience, which is an awareness of your own fragility. You might die one day, so you start asking the big questions.

There’s been a change in style. We’ve gone from not thinking we could do online church to doing it amazingly. There’s been a changing cultural narrative. In my role at the EA before the pandemic, I’d be asked my views on abortion or same-sex marriage or something else to try to caricature you as what the media wanted to see you as. Since the start of the pandemic we’re asked, “How are you going to help rebuild the society socially and spiritually?”

Have any churches been able to meet in person in the UK during the pandemic?

On and off. We’re in our third lockdown now. In the first lockdown churches couldn’t meet. In the second some could. In this one, you can within certain limitations, so some are. We’ve got a different situation here too than in much of the US. It’s much stricter here. We’re very much obeying the rules we’re given, and masks are not controversial here. You wear a mask because you love your neighbor and you want your neighbor to live for longer.

I’ve preached more times than ever before in my life, but I’ve seen less of people. When I have preached in a building, it’s been slightly odd; you have to wear a mask; you can’t sing in church. The church has never closed; we’ve just changed our style.

How has Brexit already begun to change how evangelicals do ministry, both domestically and in Europe overall?

It’s too early to talk about how it’s particularly changed, seeing as Brexit only fully happened about four weeks ago. The challenge for the UK evangelicals is not to become an island. You could ask, how could we evangelicals vote on Brexit? Probably as the nation voted, which is 52 percent in favor and 48 percent against.

Nationalism doesn’t really have a place in evangelicalism for me. We’re citizens of the kingdom of heaven; therefore, we need to make sure we look outwards to Europe and also look inwards to make sure that we’re being open. The church is the only organization in the United Kingdom and in Europe and in the USA that can potentially get everyone in the same place on the same team, loving one another and reaching out.

My church did men’s curry nights. We had 15 men at the curry nights, 14 nationalities. The guy who runs the curry house system said, “What on earth are you?” I said, “What you think we are?” He says, “I think you’re the church. No other group in this community can get this diverse group of people around the same table, eating together, laughing together, and being together.” The church can do something the world can’t do.”

In this season, when Britain and the United Kingdom could become like a little UK again, looking inwards, let’s look outwards. There’s no British people in heaven, just brothers and sisters celebrating for eternity.

Last year, Northern Ireland legalized abortion and same-sex marriage. Was this something that you anticipated?

We knew these challenges were coming. Obviously, we disagree with both of those decisions by the government there. We put up a good fight, but, in the end, the secular tsunami won out. However, it doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to advocate for what Scripture says and don’t continue to work with the powers that be on issues that are important like this.

The United Kingdom is a challenging landscape. It is an increasingly secular one. Whatever happens that’s really wonderful between now and the end of time, whatever happens that’s really horrible and difficult between now and the end of time, we know, at the end of the story, Jesus wins. Therefore, in the middle, we hold firm. We stand firmly on his word, and we do what we can to make him known.

What type of impact are African and West Indian believers having on the UK church in recent decades?

Absolutely huge. A quarter of UK evangelicals are not white. If you go into London, which is the place in the United Kingdom where the church has been growing by far the fastest, half of those who go to church in London aren’t white. For many years, United Kingdom sent missionaries all over the world. I’m just so grateful that many have been sent back in reverse mission.

We are grateful for it. One of the perhaps potential differences in the UK is the way that ethnicities and nationalities and different groupings of people all live together in such harmony and togetherness and unity.

Can you elaborate?

One of the most important works of the Evangelical Alliance is our One People commission led by my friend and brother Yemi Adedeji. The One People commission exists to celebrate our unity across ethnic diversity. We are used to, in this nation, very much living together. Churches are often multicultural and we are doing fairly well in that space, but there’s still a lot more work to be done. At the Evangelical Alliance, one of our main things to make sure is that we’re calling for unity, we are working our relationships together, and that brother- and sisterhood goes beyond human divides.

Certainly, in the light of the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter marches in the US, the reaction in the UK was significant and necessary, but it did feel like we were starting from a different place as well. Let’s not be naïve or foolish enough to think that the UK church in the UK itself don’t have problems with racism. They do. But it feels like on this issue that we are further down the track towards working out what it really means to be a united society that’s fair for all. But we still have a long way to go.

What are the types of issues that pose a challenge to church unity in the UK?

Brexit’s been an issue. if you said to me, 10 years ago, “Is the UK’s involvement in Europe a potentially divisive issue for the church?” I would have said, “That’s so silly. How could it be?” Then suddenly you’ve got a referendum, and you realize the church is as split as the nation. We’ve got our own wounds to recover from, and we’re trying to do that and we’re trying to say that what unites us in Christ is so much more important than what divides us.

At the Evangelical Alliance, we're saying this is our family, and it's important we bring them together.

We also want to be involved in wider acts of Christian unity as well, but the tribe that I’m part of is the evangelical one.

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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - February 2021
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2021, 05:45:15 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/february-web-only/dispelling-smog-of-falsehood-and-fake-news.html








Dispelling the Smog of Falsehood and ‘Fake News’







Old-fashioned preaching and discipleship can confront the conspiracies that threaten how we know truth.


Some of the rioters who stormed the US Capitol in early January chanted their demand to “hang Mike Pence.” But some likely thought the former vice president was already dead.

In fringier corners of former President Donald Trump’s base, particularly those influenced by the QAnon conspiracy theory, there’s a rumor that Pence was executed by a Trump-run military tribunal last year. So were the Obamas, the Clintons, President Joe Biden, and Chief Justice John Roberts. News reports showing them apparently reacting to current events, the story goes, are simply computer-generated. Or maybe holograms. Or actors? Or clones!

This is, of course, absurd. It’s also utterly unassailable: We can’t take Biden around for a doubting Thomas routine with every conspiracy theorist. Even if we could, there’s no external proof this sort of theory cannot account for and dismiss.

But most remarkable about this belief is that some significant portion of the people who hold it would describe themselves as evangelicals. Their social media bios are festooned with phrases like “conservative Christian,” “Bible-believing Christian,” “fighting for faith,” “John 3:16,” “God-fearing,” “Christian, wife, and mother.” They share Bible verses, sometimes in the same post as their conspiracy theorizing. They express faith that God will accomplish the overhaul of American governance of which the imagined executions are just one part. They might go to church—maybe your church.

Most politically engaged Americans generally, and Christians specifically, don’t believe anything quite so wild. But this theory about high profile executions is not quite the aberration we might hope. “n my experience and in my conversations among pastors, we are growing more and more alarmed by the prevalence of belief in conspiracy theories and far-fetched political ideas, especially since the election,” said Daniel Darling, who is a pastor, the senior vice president of National Religious Broadcasters, a CT contributor, and author of books including A Way with Words: Using Our Online Conversations for Good.

Darling’s perspective, which he shared with me in an email interview in January, is backed up by new survey data from Lifeway. Fully half of Protestant pastors in America say they “frequently hear members of [their] congregation repeating conspiracy theories they have heard about why something is happening in our country,” that poll found. The trend seems to be strongest, said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, “in politically conservative circles, which corresponds to the higher percentages in the churches led by white Protestant pastors.”

“With most pastors I talk to, it’s a fraction of their congregations,” Darling told me, “perhaps among the most politically engaged or the most plugged in online. And yet it is enough of an element that it has many pastors worried,” he continued, especially about “how captive many [Christians] are to their preferred media outlets, which are growing more and more extreme, and how seemingly resistant many are to hearing reasonable rebuttals.”

The effect is an epistemic crisis, and it is not exclusively a fringe phenomenon. The subtler lie can be the strongest—“If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor. 10:12). This crisis is more than a pressing political problem; it’s also an urgent matter of Christian discipleship, for Christians are supposed to be people of truth (John 8:31–32).

Epistemology is simply the study of knowledge: What do we know and how do we know it? What are trustworthy sources of knowledge? Is the world really as we perceive it? If truth exists (as Christians affirm), can we access it rightly? We are in an epistemic crisis because our answers to these questions in the public sphere are a disastrous mess.

The last five years of American politics have been a time of “alternative facts” and “truth [that] isn't truth.” Accusations of “fake news,” some fair and some cynically slanderous, fly fast and thick. Mainstream media outlets are rejected for being flawed or biased (an oft-deserved critique!), but the pseudonymous digital rumor-mongers rising to replace them are worse. Too many on the Right embrace “dreampolitik”—if it feels right, believe it—while among too many on the Left, a totalized emphasis on personal experience as a mediator of knowledge renders communication impossible across the lines of identity. The upshot is we’re certain about things that don’t warrant certainty and doubtful of basic facts. An epistemic smog is pouring into our homes and our heads via autoplay and infinite scroll.

I wanted to talk to Darling because I think I can describe this problem well. I certainly know it when I see it, including—to my dismay—in my own family. But I commonly feel at a loss as to what to do about it. I know what it looks like in my life to practice what Graeme Wood at The Atlantic called “mental hygiene” (which I would say is a spiritual hygiene, too). “The struggle is internal, and familiar to all who consume media,” Wood wrote, and for me it has meant limits—too often broken—on the time and content of my media consumption, as well as a daily routine that includes reading Scripture before my phone.

But what about other people, people who may not even recognize the epistemic crisis exists? I can’t impose my limits and routine on them. G. K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy advised against arguing with the conspiracy theorist, recommending instead to give him “air,” to show there is “something cleaner and cooler outside the suffocation of a single argument.” But what does that look like in the age of smartphones, when an endless font of controversy and confusion is always in our pocket?

Public commentary—like this very article—can only do so much, Darling told me. It serves “a purpose,” he wrote, “but this has to be solved relationally” and in the local church. Too “many evangelicals are catechized more by their favorite niche political podcast and pundits and politicians” than by the Bible, he continued, a characterization which I suspect might be unwelcome, but which is indisputable if we consider the time allotted to each.

“So perhaps pastors need to return to this kind of old-fashioned preaching that warns against bad influences and urges us to ‘renew our minds’ (Rom. 12:2) with Scripture,” Darling said, while including in their discipleship practices “a sustained and nuanced emphasis on what it means to engage politics in a healthy way.” Churches can use small groups, recommending reading, research, and podcasts, as well as classes to train and encourage members. To fail to address political engagement and content consumption, Darling argued, means “ceding that ground to the fear merchants and media conglomerates who trade eyeballs for profit.”

And all this must happen in the context of Christian love: in friendship; in prayer and fasting and spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10–18); in “bear[ing] with each other and forgiv[ing] one another” (Col. 3:13). We may not be able to argue people out of epistemic crisis—but we can appeal, Darling concluded, to Christian virtue and mission, asking questions like: Is this really worth our time and energy? Does it help us “to live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received” (Eph. 4:1)? Does it turn anyone’s mind toward Christ? We needn’t believe in Clone Biden for the answer to be “no.”







Bonnie Kristian is a columnist at Christianity Today.
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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - February 2021
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2021, 10:39:47 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/february/king-david-ancient-purple-cloak-dye-israel-archaeology-bibl.html








Israeli Archaeologists Find First Purple Fabric from King David’s Era






Researchers recreated the ancient dyeing process with mollusks.


The color purple appears several times in the Bible, usually in a robe draping one of the kings of ancient Israel. But the search for an authentic artifact dyed the royal color from the time of King David has always proved elusive.

That changed this week, after researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority, Bar Ilan University and Tel Aviv University said they had identified pieces of fabric dyed “true purple” dating to the 10th century BCE, when the Hebrew Bible says David and Solomon ruled in Jerusalem.

“This is the first piece of textile ever found from the time of David and Solomon that is dyed with the prestigious purple dye,” Naama Sukenik, curator of organic material at the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a joint statement.

The three scraps were among several discovered by archaeologists in recent years in the Timna Valley, the site of a vast ancient copper mining operation in southern Israel. Direct carbon dating revealed that the fabrics hark back to about 1000 BCE.

Timna was likely part of the kingdom of Edom, bordering the kingdom of Israel to the south. The biblical Book of Samuel relates how David and his army battled and conquered the Edomites.

The Old and New Testaments mention that David, Solomon, and the priests of the Jewish Temple, as well as Jesus some centuries later, all wore purple garments, and according to ancient sources, purple textiles were highly valued and a symbol of nobility.

Sukenik said that the vast majority of the ancient textiles excavated by archaeologists around the world were dyed with colors derived from plants. But the purple dyes in the Timna Valley find were made from another source: the secretions of mollusks.

“The use of animal-based dyes is regarded as much more prestigious, and served as an important indicator for the wearer’s high economic and social status.”

The remnants of the purple-dyed cloth that archaeologists unearthed at Timna “are not only the most ancient in Israel, but in the Southern Levant in general,” she said. The only other true purple-dyed textiles found in the region were from the Roman period: two from Masada and three from a cave in the Judean Desert.

To determine which mollusk species produced the dyes found on the Timna textiles and how the various hues were created, researchers identified dry molecules belonging to specific sea mollusk species.

Zohar Amar, a professor from Bar Ilan University, traveled to Italy, where mollusks are a favorite dish and therefore plentiful, to help reconstruct the precise origin of the dyes. The process “took us back thousands of years, and has allowed us to better understand obscure historical sources associated with the precious colors of azure and purple,” Amar said.

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal PLOS ONE, believe that in order to produce the vivid purple and azure (tekhelet) dyes worn by King David and Jesus, biblical-era dyers had to extract tiny amounts of dyestuff from thousands of mollusks, and then exposed it to varying amounts of light. More light produces azure; less light, purple.

Discovering ancient textiles made of perishable organic materials such as wool is exceedingly rare because they decompose quickly. The arid conditions at Timna preserved the fabrics.

As a result of the region’s bone-dry climate “we are able to recover organic materials such as textile, cords and leather from the Iron Age, from the time of David and Solomon, providing us with a unique glimpse into life in biblical times,” said Erez Ben-Yosef, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University. “The state of preservation at Timna is exceptional.”

Although archaeologists have not found any permanent settlements in Edomite territory, Ben-Yosef said, the fact that the textiles were discovered there indicates that the nomads who resided there lived in a “stratified society” and that some people must have had elite status and wealth.

The research at Timna “has showed us that even without such buildings, there were kings in our region who ruled over complex societies, formed alliances and trade relations, and waged war on each other.”

A nomadic society “was not measured in palaces and monuments of stone,” he said, but in items that were valued at the time.

Ben-Yosef said this insight can be applied to the kingdom of David, which archaeologists continue to search for. Many believe that excavations conducted near the Old City of Jerusalem have unearthed the palace. Others are less certain.

If the buildings excavated in Jerusalem were built by someone other than David, there is no need for despair, Ben-Yosef said. “The wealth of a nomadic society was not measured in palaces and monuments made of stone, but in things that were no less valued in the ancient world,” like purple dye.

“David may not have expressed his wealth in splendid buildings,” he added, “but with objects more suited to a nomadic heritage such as textiles and artifacts. It is wrong to assume that if no grand buildings and fortresses have been found, then biblical descriptions of the United Monarchy in Jerusalem must be literary fiction.”


« Last Edit: February 05, 2021, 10:42:56 pm by patrick jane »
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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - February 2021
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2021, 10:09:54 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2021/february/evangelical-christians-must-take-action-to-love-thy-neighbo.html








Evangelical Christians Must Take Action to Love Thy Neighbor




Extending grace can be a powerful public witness for Evangelicals today.


The events of this past summer were a wake-up call for Christians, including Evangelicals. From acknowledging centuries-old, endemic racial inequality from the pulpit, calls to prayer, protest, and action, many are trying to find ways to step from the sidelines to the playing field in the pursuit of justice.

Indeed, our faith calls us to action and accountability as God’s people. The Old and New Testaments of the Bible express a preoccupation with justice. For example, biblical teaching found in Isaiah, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression” and Hebrews, “… remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” are just two examples of the ancient Judeo-Christian witness to a God with unwavering commitment to justice.

Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship®, prioritized the Hebrews mandate to come alongside those affected by crime and incarcerated. We believe God created humanity in God’s own image, and no life is beyond God’s redemptive touch. Our faith drives us to work to bring the restorative justice envisioned and empowered by God and His Word into the broken lives, relationships, and communities we serve.

Redeeming systems as well as souls

Along the way, we have witnessed firsthand racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Stark racial imbalances at every stage of the nation’s criminal justice system confront people of color, particularly Black Americans. For example, at the arrest stage, while only 13% of Americans are Black, 27% of those arrested are Black.[1] Similarly, the 2018 adult probation population was composed of 55% white individuals but 30% Black individuals. The remaining probation population included 13% Hispanic, 1% American Indian/Alaska Native, 1% Asian, less than 1% Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, and less than 1% individuals who identify as two or more races.[2]

Communities of color are subject to higher-than-average rates of traffic stops and police searches, and African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be subject to the threat or actual use of force by police.[3] African Americans are significantly more likely to be arrested for a drug crime, even though rates of drug use and trafficking are roughly equal across all races.[4] Further, federal sentencing data indicate that when convicted, Black males are often subjected to harsher-than-average sentences and less likely to receive any form of reduced sentence, charge, or plea agreement, when compared to similarly situated individuals of non-African American descent.[5]

Historically, evangelical Christianity has greatly emphasized an individual faith commitment that transforms the whole person. Not surprisingly, Barna found 93% of evangelicals agreed their values make caring for prisoners important (compared to 75% of Americans generally).

In our focus on the individual, evangelical Christians—including me—sometimes lose sight of the Gospel’s community implications. Not only do souls require redemption but so do societal systems and structures. Yes, we should “visit the prisoner,” but we must also ask ourselves whether or not it is just that they’re there in the first place, or for so long. Further, in the U.S., some 44,000 legal barriers to housing, employment, and other opportunities prevent people with a criminal record from flourishing. While we share with incarcerated men and women that all things are possible through Christ, we cannot be complacent about a system that, upon their release, holds them back.

Living faith—inside and out

Matthew Charles spent decades caught in the disparities of the system. Arrested in 1995 for selling crack cocaine, Matthew received a 35-year sentence in federal prison. Not long after his arrest, another incarcerated man gave him a Gideon Bible. After reading it cover to cover, Matthew gave his life to Christ. “From that point on, things just started dramatically changing for the better in my life. It was just amazing,” he said.

But while Matthew experienced personal transformation, the system that imprisoned him was slow to change. The disproportionate sentencing that mandated higher prison terms for crack than powdered cocaine kept Matthew in prison 16 years for his nonviolent crime. And though his term eventually was reduced, and Matthew left prison in June 2016 under the Fair Sentencing Act of in 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice won an appeal claiming that he was ineligible for early release. Matthew then was sent back to prison in May 2018, on the grounds the law could not be applied retroactively.

Matthew’s story caught the nation’s attention. Thousands demanded his release. Then, on January 3, 2019, Matthew Charles became one of the very first people set free under the bipartisan FIRST STEP Act (FSA), which Prison Fellowship helped craft and supported alongside an extraordinary range of partners. And we continue the work of creating constructive culture for the restoration of incarcerated men and women, but we can’t stop there.

Charles Colson often repeated Abraham Kuyper’s words: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” This includes the criminal justice system. Concerned Christian advocates must help transform our system with biblical values like fairness and restoration. According to the Barna poll, communities of color—those most adversely impacted by the systems’ failings—already know this and are, unsurprisingly, more likely to agree the Church should support second chance reforms and to consider elected officials’ positions on justice when voting.

Toward a more just society

According to Barna polling, most Christians already believe the primary purpose of the criminal justice system should be restoration. They believe in redemption and second chances. At this time when the tide is turning toward racial equality, Christians must not let anything, including a lack of knowledge—both about America’s current state of criminal justice and about how to apply what the Bible says about justice—hinder taking action on our beliefs.

The changes we need to make are not abstract but readily within our grasp. Church leaders can educate themselves on the state of the criminal justice system and how to use biblical values to address its current ills, including racial injustice. They can lead their congregations to embrace second chances as a public expression of grace.

After all, it’s not a new calling but a fuller realization of our oldest one—to love God and our neighbors as ourselves.

[1] U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates, U.S. Census Bureau, (April 2020), https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045219; Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the U.S., 2018: Arrests by Race and Ethnicity, 2018, Table 43A, Uniform Criminal Reporting,: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018/tables/table-43;.

[2] U.S. Department of Justice, Probation and Parole in the United States, 2017-2018, Appendix Table 4, By Danielle Kaeble, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, August. 2020,https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ppus1718.pdf .

[3] U.S. Department of Justice, Contacts Between the Policy and the Public, Table 1, By Elizabeth Davis, Anthony Whyde, Lynn Langton Ph.D, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Nov. 2018, https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cpp15.pdf.

[4] Results obtained by calculated data obtained from, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the U.S., 2018: Arrests by Race and Ethnicity, 2018, Table 43A, Uniform Criminal Reporting: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018/tables/table-43;.

[5] United States Sentencing Commission, Demographic Differences in Sentencing, at p. 2, Nov. 2017, https://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/research-publications/2017/20171114_Demographics.pdf.

If you’re interested in getting involved with the work of Prison Fellowship and other pursuing similar goals, consider these opportunities:

Sign the Justice Declaration at justicedeclaration.org: The Justice Declaration is a statement proclaiming the unique responsibility and capacity of the Church to address crime and overincarceration.
Complete the Outrageous Justice® small-group study with a free copy : Developed by Prison Fellowship, Outrageous Justice is a free small-group study that explores the criminal justice system and pursuing restoration.
Host a Second Chance® Sunday: Every April, Prison Fellowship raises awareness on the issues discussed above through Second Chance® Month. You and your church can get involved with the toolkit.
Heather Rice-Minus is the senior vice president of advocacy and church mobilization at Prison Fellowship. Founded by the late Charles Colson, Prison Fellowship is the nation’s largest Christian nonprofit serving prisoners, former prisoners, and their families, and a leading voice for restorative criminal justice reform.
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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - February 2021
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2021, 08:52:22 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/february/white-evangelicals-qanon-election-conspiracy-trump-aei.html







QAnon Conspiracies Sway Faith Groups, Including 1 in 4 White Evangelicals




Survey examines belief in election fraud, the Deep State, and other theories on American politics.


A new survey reports more than a quarter of white evangelical Protestants believe a QAnon conspiracy theory that purports former President Donald Trump is secretly battling a cabal of pedophile Democrats, and roughly half express support for the debunked claim that antifa was responsible for the recent insurrection at the US Capitol.

Experts say the data point to a widening ideological divide not only between white evangelicals and other religious groups in the country, but also between white evangelical Republicans and other members of their own party.

The survey, which was conducted in late January by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, reported 29 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of white evangelicals—the most of any religious group—believe the widely debunked QAnon conspiracy theory is completely or mostly accurate.

QAnon has infiltrated other faiths as well, with 15 percent of white mainline Protestants, 18 percent of white Catholics, 12 percent of non-Christians, 11 percent of Hispanic Catholics and 7 percent of black Protestants saying they believe it.

In addition, large subsets of each group—ranging from 37 percent of non-Christians to 50 percent of Hispanic Catholics—said they “weren’t sure” whether the theory was true.



According to Daniel Cox, director of AEI’s Survey Center on American Life, the report suggests conspiracy theories enjoy a surprising amount of support in general, but white evangelicals appear to be particularly primed to embrace them.

“There’s this really dramatic fissure,” he said.

There was also significant support among white evangelicals for the claim that members of antifa, or anti-fascist activists, were “mostly responsible” for the attack on the US Capitol—a discredited claim repeated by former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Franklin Graham. FBI officials have said there is “no indication” antifa played a role in the insurrection.

Even so, the story has had staying power in the minds of many Americans, including 49 percent of white evangelical Protestants who said the antifa claim was completely or mostly true. So did 36 percent of white Catholics, 35 percent of Hispanic Catholics, 33 percent of white mainline Protestants, 25 percent of Black Protestants and 19 percent of non-Christians.

Among the religiously unaffiliated, 22 percent also expressed belief in the theory.

Asked to explain why white evangelicals appear disproportionately likely to embrace conspiracy theories, Cox noted that, as a group, they do not fit a stereotype of conspiracy theorists as people disconnected from social interaction. Instead, most retain strong connections to various social groups.

But white evangelicals stand out in a different way: The vast majority say some or a lot of their family members (81%) or friends (82%) voted for Trump in the 2020 election—more than any other religious group.

“People who do strongly believe in these things are not more disconnected—they are more politically segregated,” Cox said.

The resulting social echo chamber, he argued, allows conspiracy theories to spread unchecked.

“That kind of environment is really important when it comes to embracing this kind of thinking,” he said. “You’re seeing people embrace this sort of conspiratorial thinking, and everyone in their social circle is like, ‘Yeah, that sounds right to me,’ versus someone saying, ‘You know, we should look at this credulously.’”

White evangelicals express robust support for other conspiracy theories as well. Close to two-thirds (62%) believe there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election—despite numerous experts and courts at all levels refuting such claims—and roughly the same percentage (63%) believe President Joe Biden’s victory was “not legitimate.”

A majority (55%) also said they believed it was mostly or completely accurate to say “a group of unelected government officials in Washington, D.C., referred to as the ‘Deep State’ (has) been working to undermine the Trump administration.”

Cox said forthcoming data will highlight the ideological distinctiveness of white evangelicals even among people who identify as Republicans or who lean toward the party, signaling an “increasingly important divide in the GOP among people who identify as evangelical Christian and those who do not.”

“If you’re a Republican but identify as an evangelical Christian, you’re far more likely to believe in voter fraud in 2020 election,” he said. “You’re far more likely to believe that Biden’s win was not legitimate. You’re more likely to believe in the QAnon conspiracy. You’re more likely to believe in the ‘Deep State.’”

White evangelicals also stood apart from other religious groups when asked about the potential for violent action: 41 percent completely or somewhat agreed with the statement “if elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves even if it requires taking violent actions.”
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - February 2021
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2021, 08:56:40 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/february/ravi-zacharias-rzim-investigation-sexual-abuse-sexting-rape.html








Ravi Zacharias Hid Hundreds of Pictures of Women, Abuse During Massages, and a Rape Allegation





His ministry, preparing to downsize in the wake of a new investigation, expresses regret for “misplaced trust” in a leader who used his esteem to conceal his sexual misconduct.


A four-month investigation found the late Ravi Zacharias leveraged his reputation as a world-famous Christian apologist to abuse massage therapists in the United States and abroad over more than a decade while the ministry led by his family members and loyal allies failed to hold him accountable.

He used his need for massage and frequent overseas travel to hide his abusive behavior, luring victims by building trust through spiritual conversations and offering funds straight from his ministry.

A 12-page report released Thursday by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) confirms abuse by Zacharias at day spas he owned in Atlanta and uncovers five additional victims in the US, as well as evidence of sexual abuse in Thailand, India, and Malaysia.

Even a limited review of Zacharias’s old devices revealed contacts for more than 200 massage therapists in the US and Asia and hundreds of images of young women, including some that showed the women naked. Zacharias solicited and received photos until a few months before his death in May 2020 at age 74.

Zacharias used tens of thousands of dollars of ministry funds dedicated to a “humanitarian effort” to pay four massage therapists, providing them housing, schooling, and monthly support for extended periods of time, according to investigators.

One woman told the investigators that “after he arranged for the ministry to provide her with financial support, he required sex from her.” She called it rape.

She said Zacharias “made her pray with him to thank God for the ‘opportunity’ they both received” and, as with other victims, “called her his ‘reward’ for living a life of service to God,” the report says. Zacharias warned the woman—a fellow believer—if she ever spoke out against him, she would be responsible for millions of souls lost when his reputation was damaged.

The findings, alongside details revealed over months of internal reckoning at RZIM, challenge the picture many have had of Zacharias.

When he died in May, he was praised for his faithful witness, his commitment to the truth, and his personal integrity. Now it is clear that, offstage, the man so long admired by Christians around the world abused numerous women and manipulated those around him to turn a blind eye.

Miller & Martin attorneys Lynsey Barron and William Eiselstein, hired by RZIM to investigate, interviewed 50 witnesses and examined phones Zacharias used from 2014 to 2018. In the end, the lawyers said “we are confident that we uncovered sufficient evidence to conclude that Mr. Zacharias engaged in sexual misconduct,” though the investigation was not exhaustive.

The RZIM board released a statement alongside the investigation expressing regret and taking some responsibility:

“Ravi engaged in a series of extensive measures to conceal his behavior from his family, colleagues, and friends. However, we also recognize that in situations of prolonged abuse, there often exist significant structural, policy, and cultural problems. ... We were trusted by our staff, our donors, and the public to mentor, oversee, and ensure the accountability of Ravi Zacharias, and in this we have failed.”

RZIM hired Miller & Martin after a September 2020 Christianity Today report on allegations of abuse by three women who worked at Zacharias’s spas. Initially, the ministry leadership stated it did not believe the women. Today that has changed.

“We believe not only the women who made their allegations public but also additional women who had not previously made public allegations against Ravi but whose identities and stories were uncovered during the investigation,” the statement said.

In a span of eight months, RZIM has gone from having to reimagine the work of its global ministry following the death of its renowned namesake to having to restructure entirely, as Christians inside and outside the organization lost trust in its longtime leader.

Multiple speakers and RZIM staff members left the ministry during the course of the investigation, concerned about top officials’ initial response to the allegations. RZIM’s Canadian branch suspended fundraising efforts and donation collection through April, while the UK-based Zacharias Trust is threatening to split if RZIM does not apologize to victims and institute major reforms. (Update: The day after the report was released the UK board voted unanimously to separate from RZIM and choose a new name.)

Even before the report’s release on Thursday evening, RZIM leadership had shifted to reduce the involvement of the Zacharias family. Margie Zacharias, Ravi’s widow, resigned from the board and the ministry in January, while her daughter Sarah Davis stepped down as board chair but remains CEO.

Staff members inside RZIM say the ministry—the largest apologetics organization in the world—plans to dramatically downsize to as few as 10 US apologists and a few international speakers, supported by a small staff.

Investigation limited by NDA
In addition to confirming previous reports of abuse at Zacharias’s spas, the new report corroborated four-year-old allegations by Lori Anne Thompson, the Canadian woman who says Zacharias manipulated her into sending him sexually explicit texts and photos. Her case was the first sexual scandal related to Zacharias to go public, and it inspired other victims to come forward.

Zacharias had sued Thompson in 2017, claiming that her lawyer’s letter to the RZIM board alleging sexual abuse was actually an elaborate attempt at extortion. The board wrote on Thursday that “we believe Lori Anne Thompson has told the truth about the nature of her relationship with Ravi Zacharias.”

Investigators interviewed other witnesses who “recounted similar conduct” as Thompson’s allegations and found a six-year-long pattern of text messaging with other women before and after her.

Yet Thompson and her husband, Brad, were unable to participate in the recent investigation themselves. The late apologist’s estate refused investigators’ requests to lift a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) to allow the Thompsons to speak about what happened. Their attorney, Basyle Tchividjian, told investigators that with everything that has come to light, the fact that the Thompsons are still bound by an NDA is “reprehensible.”

Davis wrote in a ministry-wide email that RZIM “asked for a modification to the NDA for the purpose of the investigation,” but the organization has no authority over the estate, which is controlled by her mother, Margie Zacharias. The estate also refused to have Zacharias’s personal attorneys hand over any evidence collected from his devices at the time, leaving a gap in the record examined by Miller & Martin.

According to the investigative report, however, Zacharias continued soliciting sexual images of women as he settled the case with the Thompsons, defended himself publicly, and assured the RZIM leadership and staff he did nothing wrong and there was no need to investigate.

“While he told his staff that his real mistake in the Thompson matter was not alerting someone that he was receiving photographs of another woman, we have no indication that he ever went to RZIM management or its Board on the more than 200 occasions he received photographs of women during and after the Thompson matter,” the report says.

In fact, one day after Zacharias publicly stated in 2017 that he had learned a “difficult and painful lesson” over his communication with Lori Anne Thompson, he received more photographs from another woman, investigators found. That woman went on to send him nude pictures as well.

One thing did change, though. After the Thompson case, the investigators noticed that Zacharias did a better job of deleting his messages in ways that could not be detected or uncovered.

In its statement released with the report, the RZIM board acknowledged the failure and apologized to Lori Anne Thompson.

“We were wrong,” the statement says. “It is with profound grief that we recognize that because we did not believe the Thompsons and both privately and publicly perpetuated a false narrative, they were slandered for years and their suffering was greatly prolonged and intensified. This leaves us heartbroken and ashamed.”

‘He was able to hide his misconduct in plain sight’
Much of the abuse uncovered by investigators took place around massage, which Zacharias relied on to treat a chronic back injury. He regularly traveled with a personal masseuse and criticized a fellow RZIM staff member who questioned the “appearance of impropriety” for doing so.

While the report did not interview sources abroad, investigators uncovered evidence that Zacharias routinely met massage therapists when he traveled.

“He would often arrange for massage treatments in his hotel room when he was likely alone,” the report said. “According to his text messages, at times he would meet the therapists in the hotel lobby and at other times he would direct them to come straight to his room.”

In Bangkok, he owned two apartments in the early 2010s, sharing a building with one of his massage therapists, the investigators found. The notes app on his phone included Thai and Mandarin translations of phrases like “I’d like to have a beautiful memory with you,” “little bit further,” and “your lips are especially beautiful.”

The massage therapists and the women pictured in Zacharias’s phone albums were decades younger than him, many in their 20s.

The investigation did not find any evidence that RZIM leadership or staff knew about Zacharias’s sexual misconduct. It also shows the ministry provided little to no accountability for its namesake and founder.

“Because his need for massage treatments was well known and accepted, he was able to hide his misconduct in plain sight,” the report says.

Zacharias spoke about the importance of “physical safeguards” to “protect my integrity,” but the Miller & Martin report notes that “As the architect of those ‘physical safeguards,’ Mr. Zacharias well knew how to elude them.”

The investigation confirmed that Zacharias lied about not being alone with a woman other than his wife or daughters. He also maintained multiple phones at all times, kept them on a different wireless plan than RZIM, and never used the wireless network at the office. Zacharias said this was for security, but it ensured his communication could not be monitored.

The RZIM board’s statement acknowledges that it has “fallen gravely short” and expresses regret “that we allowed our misplaced trust in Ravi to result in him having less oversight and accountability than would have been wise and loving.”

Each example in the report contrasts with the public witness of a leader—and a ministry—known for preaching integrity and truth.

“Those of you who have seen me in public have no idea what I’m like in private,” Zacharias told his supporters in a talk he gave about a year before he died, in a recording shared with CT. “God does. God does. And I encourage you today to make that commitment and say, ‘I’m going to be the man in private who will receive the divine accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’”

Many who looked up to Zacharias as a mentor, model, and spiritual father have been trying to grapple with the new information, their feelings of betrayal, and questions about their own responsibility.

“I feel disappointed in myself and others who could have pushed harder against the tides of submissive loyalty to demand better answers earlier, as there is no part of the evangelical creed that honours cowardice or sacrifices conscience,” Dan Paterson, the former head of RZIM in Australia, wrote on Facebook Wednesday night.

“I feel a profound sense of the fear of the Lord, knowing that one day I too will give an account, where like the RZ report, everything done under the shroud of darkness will be made known. Jesus comes to restore justice through judgment. Oh, how I wish Ravi repented here!”

Changes coming to RZIM
The board (whose names are not publicly available) and leadership have been planning for a reckoning since investigators’ interim report in December prepared RZIM to expect the worst.

Going into the process in September 2020, the ministry’s official stance was that the allegations couldn’t be true but that it would conduct an investigation to clear Zacharias’s name. At first, RZIM hired the firm of one of the lawyers who sued the Thompsons. Several people inside the ministry said vice president Abdu Murray suggested enlisting a “rough” ex-cop to track down the accusers and uncover information the ministry could use to discredit them.

RZIM changed course and hired Miller & Martin in early October, after several speakers said they found the allegations credible and demanded the ministry do a real and reputable investigation.

“I believe each of us bear a degree of responsibility for what we’ve all been blind to, what we’ve unwittingly enabled, what we’ve not spoken against, and what we’ve allowed to go on and continue,” Sam Allberry, one of the speakers, told colleagues in the UK.

As CT previously reported, fights over complicity and accountability roiled the ministry for months as the investigation continued. At the start of the new year, RZIM was bracing for a split.

Davis informed staff that some global offices may decide to separate from RZIM and become independent, national organizations. Currently, each office has its own articles of incorporation or national charter as a charity and is associated with the US-based ministry through an “affiliate agreement.” This has allowed RZIM to function as a single global ministry.

“We have been able to operate as one organization in practice for over 35 years, however, in a time of crisis such as ours, this has caused some of our boards to need to exercise decisions separate from the HQ and International Board in order to make what they feel are the best decisions for their entity,” Davis wrote.

Some senior apologists in RZIM think national separation is the only way to preserve parts of the ministry that are doing good work.

John Lennox, a Northern Irish mathematician and apologist who famously debated Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and other “new atheists,” has urged the UK branch of RZIM to separate. Lennox withdrew from all association with RZIM the day after CT reported the spa allegations, but told British apologists he would happily work with them if they were to form an independent organization.

“The current allegations are of such a serious nature that I cannot be involved in any ongoing activity in the name of RZIM,” Lennox wrote in a statement to the UK and US boards. “In my view, a renaming of the organisation and fundamental restructuring of the organisation and board needs to be done and done very quickly, if the potential of the marvelous young team of apologists is to be retained in any collective sense.”

Other national boards are also in the process of disentangling themselves from the US headquarters, according to multiple sources inside the ministry. The Canadian board said in a statement that “It is clear that this ministry cannot be built on previous structures” but “must be built on new approaches and relationships.”

The Canadian apologetics ministry also laid off four team members, including Daniel Gilman, a speaker who decided he believed the women who accused Zacharias of sexual abuse and vocally challenged RZIM leadership to acknowledge complicity. Gilman told CT he was deeply concerned the ministry he loved would choose to rebrand but not repent.

Gilman’s severance package included an NDA, which would bar him from “any action that could reasonably be anticipated to cause harm to the reputation” of or “negatively reflect” on RZIM. Gilman protested and the NDA was replaced with an agreement to keep donor information confidential.

Many more layoffs are expected soon. RZIM employees told CT that they expect the international ministry, which once boasted 100 speakers and 250 staff members nationwide, will be reduced to a fraction of that. Davis told staff that layoffs will be announced in the weeks after the Miller & Martin report is released.

“This is a very difficult decision necessary only because of the situation we find ourselves in,” she wrote. “We are profoundly sorry for this.”

After the staff reductions and national splits, the team that remains will likely be some of the speakers who were closest to Zacharias and have well-established relationships with major donors. People inside RZIM expect the core to include speakers Michael Ramsden, Abdu Murray, and Vince Vitale, led by Davis.

Davis stepped down as chair of the board, handing the reins over to Chris Blattner, a retired energy company executive and major donor from Minnesota. During the crisis, however, Davis has taken on more of the day-to-day management of RZIM, personally putting her name to all internal and external communication.

The RZIM board stated Thursday that “In light of the findings of the investigation and the ongoing evaluation, we are seeking the Lord’s will regarding the future of this ministry … We will be spending focused time praying and fasting as we discern how God is leading, and we will speak to this in the near future.”

RZIM announced it is bringing in victims advocate Rachael Denhollander to educate the board and leadership on sexual abuse and advise them on best practices going forward. The ministry has also hired a management consulting firm to evaluate “structures, culture, policies, processes, finances, and practices” and propose reforms.

Answered prayer
The secret of Zacharias’s abuse started to unravel the day of his funeral in May 2020. One of the massage therapists he groped, masturbated in front of, and asked for sexually explicit images watched in shock as the apologist was honored and celebrated on a livestream. Famous people, including Vice President Mike Pence and Christian football star Tim Tebow, spoke of Zacharias in glowing terms.

Has no one come forward? she thought. No one?

She worried about other women who might be out there, hurting. She prayed that something would happen.

The woman googled “Ravi Zacharias sex scandal” and found the blog RaviWatch, run by Steve Baughman, an atheist who had been tracking and reporting on Zacharias’s “fishy claims” since 2015. Baughman blogged on Zacharias’s false statements about academic credentials, the sexting allegations, and the subsequent lawsuit. When the woman read about what happened to Lori Anne Thompson, she recognized what had happened to that woman was what had happened to her.

As far as she could tell, this atheist blogger was the only one who cared that Zacharias had sexually abused people and gotten away with it. She reached out to Baughman and then eventually spoke to Christianity Today about Zacharias’s spas, the women who worked there, and the abuse that happened behind closed doors.

The woman from the spas told CT she didn’t expect anything from RZIM. Not an acknowledgement. Certainly not an apology. A multimillion-dollar ministry built in one man’s name and on his reputation would never admit the truth of his secrets, she thought.

She only spoke out because she wanted other women—women hurt by Zacharias, and women victimized by other famous and celebrated Christians—to know the truth. She wanted them to know that they weren’t alone.

This week, she believes God answered her prayer.

“I think it happened in God’s perfect time,” she said. “It’s in his time; it’s in his way. The Lord is doing this, and what will be left over is what God wants to be left over.”
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - February 2021
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2021, 09:01:46 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/february/ravi-zacharias-books-harper-collins-lee-strobel-rzim-report.html








Ravi Zacharias’s Books Pulled by HarperCollins After RZIM Investigative Report







Author Lee Strobel also plans to revise his “Case for Faith” to remove the late apologist.


The biggest Christian publisher in the United States will no longer offer resources by the late Ravi Zacharias following the final report of an investigation confirming his years-long pattern of abuse, and is working with at least one prominent author to remove Zacharias from other works.

HarperCollins Christian Publishing—which includes Zondervan and Thomas Nelson—had published more than 20 titles authored, coauthored, or edited by Zacharias over a 26-year span, including Can Man Live Without God?, which had been released in 21 languages.

“In September, when the most-recent sexual misconduct allegations against the late Ravi Zacharias surfaced, HarperCollins Christian Publishing immediately suspended all projects and shipments of his work,” said Casey Francis Harrell, vice president of corporate communications.

“Following the findings in the independent report, the company will immediately take all his publications out of print. We are deeply saddened, and we mourn for the victims.”

The HarperCollins site listed 16 English titles authored by Zacharias, which totaled more than 2 million copies in sales by the time of his death in May 2020. One was a marriage book offering “biblical wisdom” for “lasting love.”

The month before Zacharias died, Zondervan had published Seeing Jesus from the East, which the apologist co-authored with Abdu Murray, and the book ranked No. 6 on the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association bestseller list last July. Other bestsellers included Who Made God? (2003) and The Logic of God (2019).

Jesus for You, Zacharias’s forthcoming book with Vince Vitale through Thomas Nelson, will no longer be released, blogger Steve Baughman confirmed last month.

Lee Strobel announced on Twitter on Friday that he and Zondervan decided to halt printings of his book The Case for Faith, which featured Zacharias, and would publish a revised version instead.

Strobel interviewed Zacharias more than 20 years ago. The interview spans 19 pages in the book, with Strobel describing the apologist as “gentle-spirited but with razor-sharp intellect” as he responds to questions about the exclusive claims of Christianity.

Zacharias is the latest Christian leader whose abuse revelations or other sinful behavior have caused followers to reconsider whether or not to keep using their teachings. Publishers have likewise pulled titles by leaders such as Bill Hybels, James MacDonald, and Mark Driscoll after they were forced from their leadership positions.

Jeff Crosby, the publisher of InterVarsity Press, previously told CT, “as a publisher, when a pastor-author has been credibly accused of or acknowledged wrong-doing in her or his leadership context, in particular, I believe we have an obligation to take the time to carefully and thoughtfully discern whether the published works should continue to be made available and act on what we discern even if it means lost revenue.”

The RZIM board statement did not indicate how the ministry will address promoting or sharing resources by Zacharias going forward; however, the apologist’s work has become less prominent on parts of its own site.

Zacharias’s titles Can Man Live Without God? and Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend, which appeared on RZIM’s list of “Recommended Reading” in Christian apologetics as recently as last fall, no longer appear on the page.

The board wrote in its statement Thursday that “we remain passionate about seeing the gospel preached through the questions of culture,” but that it would be “seeking the Lord’s will regarding the future of this ministry.”


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - February 2021
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2021, 09:09:13 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/february-web-only/john-phelan-separated-siblings-evangelical-judaism.html








You May Not Know Judaism as Well as You Think





John Phelan’s evangelical guide to Jewish thought and history contains many revelations—some of them painful.


I will never forget the day I stood on the ruins of a third-century synagogue in Capernaum, just a stone’s throw from the beautiful blue waters of the Sea of Galilee. I was leading a tour of Christian pilgrims. Our guide called our attention to Matthew 23:3, a verse I had read hundreds of times but which now suddenly jumped off the page: “You must be careful to do everything [the teachers of the law and Pharisees] tell you.”

I was shocked. How could Jesus have recommended the teachings of the Pharisees when he warned against their hypocrisy in the same verse (“But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”)? How could I have missed this recommendation during decades of serious Bible study?

John E. Phelan Jr.’s Separated Siblings: An Evangelical Understanding of Jews and Judaism contains this and hundreds of other surprises. Phelan, a retired theology professor and one-time president of North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, has provided Christians with one of the most engaging and comprehensive guides to Jewish thought and civilization in the last half-century. Readers are treated to detailed but delightful descriptions of Jewish terms, denominations, understandings of God, religious practices, historical events, and controversies. Phelan also uncovers new findings about the Jewishness of Jesus and Paul, and he relates the history of Zionism to the modern state of Israel.

Surprises in Store

The book is full of enlightening revelations. Christian readers will find resonance in Jewish texts they might otherwise overlook. The Kaddish, for example, is a daily Jewish prayer that begins with words nearly identical to the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer: “May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified.” Phelan observes that while the Talmud—a set of gargantuan reflections on both Jewish oral tradition and the Old Testament—might appear, to outsiders, as obsessed with “minor matters” of religious law, faithful Jews regard it as a divine guide to everyday holiness that puts reason to work “in service of love and obedience.”

Christians sometimes characterize Jewish practice as more focused on externals than matters of the heart. But Phelan points out, among many other examples of heart spirituality, the rabbinic insistence that the annual Day of Atonement “atones only for those who repent.”

Christian critics of Zionism often allege that Jewish yearning to return to Israel only began in the 19th century and was mostly secular. Yet Phelan notes that for the rabbis who edited the Babylonian Talmud in the fifth century, Israel was still the center of the world, and so “any Jew living outside of the land was missing something.” Only in the land could Jews observe the agricultural laws of Torah; therefore, as the Talmud states, “a small group of men in the Land of Israel is dearer to [the Holy One] than the great Sanhedrin outside of the land.”

This book should also surprise readers who have been led to believe that God rejected the Jews as his chosen people when most first-century Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah. Phelan argues that while God’s covenant with Moses was conditional on Israel’s obedience, his covenant with Abraham was unconditional. Moses warned that God’s people would lose control of the land if they turned to idolatry (Deut. 28:36), but they would remain God’s chosen. As Paul himself states, “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). “Even the rejection of Jesus as messiah does not lead to the final rejection of the Jews,” writes Phelan. Paul “insisted in Romans 11 that the Jews are still ‘loved’ by God” (v. 28).

Phelan takes issue with a common evangelical interpretation of Paul’s teaching of salvation by faith. He argues that Luther’s teaching on justification has often been misunderstood as a form of “cheap grace,” under which works and obedience have nothing to do with saving faith. Yet Paul, as Phelan notes, wrote in Romans 2:13 that “it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Phelan says Paul “might have meant two different things” by “law”—law as a way of salvation and law as a guide for life—but “the important point is that Paul, along, by the way, with Jesus, clearly expected that to be a follower of Jesus was to be obedient to the law of God.”

If Paul was more positive toward Jewish law than many have thought, his teaching about the future of Israel was also more Jewish than most have imagined. His prophecy in Romans 11:26 that “all Israel will be saved” has bedeviled interpreters for millennia. But Phelan helpfully shows that this was a common rabbinic teaching that appears in the Mishna, the written record of oral teaching by the rabbis before and at the time of Paul. The Mishna states that “all Israelites will have a share in the world to come,” but it specifically excludes Jews who deny the resurrection of the dead or the inspiration of the Torah, as well as Jews who live licentious lives. Perhaps, then, Paul was adapting a familiar dictum that limited the definition of “Israel” to faithful representatives of all 12 tribes.

In an important chapter that tracks recent Jewish interpretations of Paul, Phelan traces the conclusions of Jewish scholars Daniel Boyarin, Pamela Eisenbaum, and Mark Nanos, who agree that Paul kept practicing Jewish law until his death and taught Jewish disciples of Jesus to do the same. At the same time, Paul taught Gentile disciples not to get circumcised, because Gentiles and Jews were to uphold the law, as Phelan puts it, “in their separate ways.”

If the surprises Phelan documents are intriguing, they are also painful. He highlights many moments in the last two millennia when Christian leaders taught hatred for and persecution of Jews. Erasmus, for instance, refused a trip to Spain because it was too “full of Jews.” Luther preached that if Jews would not convert, “We [Christians] should neither tolerate nor endure them among us.” As Phelan explains, even Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Martin Niemoller, who “spoke out against the Nazis and anti-Semitism” before and during World War II, nevertheless in their “records reveal anti-Jewish stances and equivocal support for Germany’s Jews until it was once again too late.” The Barmen Declaration (1934) famously declared that Jesus Christ was Germany’s only leader (Führer), but it said nothing about the persecution of Jews because “the Confessing Church would not have accepted it.”

The problem, writes Phelan, was not that Christians were “merely indifferent and uninformed.” Tragically, “throughout Europe, baptized Christians aided and abetted or enthusiastically joined in the slaughter.”

A Few Gaps
Despite the many virtues of this book, there are a few gaps. While Phelan records Rabbi Jacob Neusner’s complaint that Jesus did not address Israel as a whole, he fails to mention that Jesus did just that four times—when he said that in the new world his apostles would judge all 12 tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28); when he predicted that one day all Jerusalem would welcome him (Luke 13:34–35); when, just before his ascension, he declared that the Father has fixed the time he will “restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6–7); and when, by his Spirit, he inspired John to write of the day he would come on the clouds and “all the [Jewish] tribes of the land [of Israel] will wail because of him” (Rev. 1:7, LSV).

While Phelan makes clear the centrality of the Promised Land to Old Testament mentions of God’s covenant with his Jewish people, he neglects similar emphases in the New Testament. For example, besides references to the land as the center of God’s future work (Acts 1:6; Luke 13:34–35), Jesus predicted that one day Jerusalem would no longer be controlled by Gentiles but (implicitly) by God’s Jewish people (Luke 21:24). Paul also taught that God “gave [the Jewish patriarchs] their land as an inheritance” (Acts 13:19, ESV).

In his history of modern Israel, Phelan leaves out the following significant facts: Theodore Herzl, the father of modern “secular” Zionism, hoped for a government that would be Jewish “in character” to protect Jewish culture and religion; when Jordan annexed the West Bank in 1950, both the United Nations and the Arab League condemned this as an illegal violation of international law; and while it is tragic that 700,000 Arabs lost or abandoned their homes because of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, the war also drove 800,000 Jews out of their homes in Arab lands.

Phelan closes this excellent book with a warning against four “dangerous” readings of the New Testament he calls “anti-Jewish.” First, that Jews are under a curse and even Satanic, a teaching he discerns in the MacArthur Study Bible. Second, that all Jews are responsible for killing Jesus, which he likens to the claim that “Americans killed Lincoln and Kennedy.” Third, that God is done with the Jews, which Phelan says Paul denies when he asserts, “God did not reject his people” (Rom. 11:2). And fourth, that the Pharisees, like all Jews, were invariably hypocrites and legalists—Phelan cites several occasions when they defended Paul, as they did before the Sanhedrin: “We find nothing wrong with this man” (Acts 23:9).

In a day and age when US law enforcement reports more hate crimes against Jews than any other religious group, and when scholars increasingly find that Jesus and the early church were more Jewish than previously thought, Separated Siblings promises to help Christians better understand the Jewish roots of their faith—and why that understanding is so important.








Gerald McDermott recently retired from the Anglican Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School. He is the author of Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land and the editor of Race and Covenant: Recovering the Religious Roots for American Reconciliation.
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - February 2021
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2021, 08:45:55 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/march/paul-corinthians-multiethnic-churches-struggle-with-racism.html








Paul’s Letter to a Prejudiced Church





How the apostle’s instructions on the Lord’s Supper speak to multiethnic congregations today.


Many of us have believed multiracial congregations to be solutions for white racism. But as sociologist Korie Little Edwards’s research demonstrates, even when churches gather racially diverse congregants, the way they gather often reinforces societal preference for white culture and deference to white power structures. In such cases, churches solve the problem of segregated Sunday mornings without solving the problem of a racially oppressive Christianity.

Scripture addresses a similar situation in 1 Corinthians. The apostle Paul writes to a multiracial, multiclass church made up of Jews and Gentiles, enslaved people and free people (12:13). This made their congregation far more diverse than the typical North American church today, which, according to Edwards, lacks even a single member from another ethnic group.

Paul nevertheless tells the Corinthians that their gatherings “do more harm than good” (11:17–22). The reason? The way they came to the Lord’s Supper reinforced socioeconomic divisions among them. Some had too much to eat. Others had nothing at all.

To understand Paul’s critique, we need to understand the way that meals worked within Corinthian society. Corinth had a clear hierarchy, an obvious social and economic ladder. Where you stood on that ladder depended on whether you had enough social capital to be considered “wise,” “influential,” and “of noble birth” (1:26).

This social hierarchy could be a matter of life or death. Earning one of these labels meant that you were more likely to get the economic opportunities and social network on which your survival might depend.

In Corinth, communal meals provided a primary way for individuals to claim their spot on the ladder or even move up a rung. Like middle-school cafeterias today, where you sat at the meal said a lot about where you stood in the social pecking order. Bringing more food or claiming a more honorable seat, for example, were strategies for trying to climb the ladder.

This was all just business as usual in Corinth, but Paul declares that such behavior has no place in church. Because of the way this multiethnic, multiclass congregation humiliated the have-nots, they couldn’t call what they were doing the Lord’s Supper at all. They were acting more Corinthian than Christian.

By mirroring oppressive Corinthian hierarchies in the way that they gathered, the Corinthian believers “despise[d] the church” and sinned against the very body and blood of the Lord himself (11:22, 27).

Paul’s intensity in 1 Corinthians 11:17–34 might surprise us, but it makes complete sense given his words earlier in the letter. Consider your calling, Paul tells the church:

Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong . . . so that no one may boast before him. (1:26–27, 29)

At the start, Paul tells his listeners that the way Christ arranged his church smashes to bits the Corinthian social ladder that honors the wise, influential, and well-born. How has the Corinthian church responded? By gluing that oppressive social ladder back together in the way they gather.

Paul’s solution isn’t to disband this multiracial, multiclass church, or to reduce the role the meal plays in their life together. Instead, he calls the church to “welcome one another” in the way they feast (11:33, CSB). This might be easily missed, because most major English versions translate Paul’s command in verse 33 as “wait for one another.” But in hospitality contexts, the Greek verb translated as wait can refer to welcoming someone, similar to the way we might talk about someone in the hospitality business “waiting” on tables. What would it look like for the Corinthian church to “welcome one another”?

Paul gives us a clue in what he says next. In 1 Corinthians 12:12–13, he reminds them that though they are an ethnically and economically diverse congregation, each individual is a member of the one body of Christ. The diverse members use their diverse gifts for the good of the whole. This is a message to which contemporary multiracial churches remain committed.

I’m not sure, however, that we’re nearly as excited about what follows: “But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other” (12:24–25).

God himself has structured the church so as to give greater honor and concern within the congregation to members who lack honor outside of it. God does pay attention to where people are in the social hierarchy, but only in order to privilege those at the bottom.

Because of this, Paul calls the church to welcome one another in ways that fit this countercultural arrangement. By refraining from privileging the socially powerful and by actively according special honor to the socially disenfranchised, the Corinthians would gather for the better, rather than for the worse.

The Corinthians’ preservation of social hierarchies at the Lord’s Supper mirrors the way many multiracial churches prioritize white preferences and norms in their worship styles, their approach to community engagement, and the racial makeup of their leaders. But if the problems are similar, perhaps the solutions are too.

Multiracial congregations might learn from the way historically black churches, for example, have dismantled social hierarchies in their own gatherings. Every church, regardless of its ethnic makeup, must “examine” itself and “discern” the ways congregational life privileges white culture and treats certain brothers and sisters as less than full members of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 11:28–29).

Multiethnic congregations that follow Paul’s instructions have a unique opportunity to model for the rest of us how to rearrange our corporate lives. Then we can all embrace Paul’s instructions to “welcome one another” by giving special honor within our churches to those most likely to be marginalized in broader society. May we do so with courage and joy.








Michael J. Rhodes is an Old Testament lecturer at Carey Baptist College and an assistant pastor at Downtown Church, a multiethnic church in Memphis. This article is adapted from a paper in Studies in Christian Ethics 33.4 (2020): “Arranging the Chairs in the Beloved Community.”

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - February 2021
« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2021, 07:27:46 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/march/paul-corinthians-multiethnic-churches-struggle-with-racism.html








Paul’s Letter to a Prejudiced Church





How the apostle’s instructions on the Lord’s Supper speak to multiethnic congregations today.


Many of us have believed multiracial congregations to be solutions for white racism. But as sociologist Korie Little Edwards’s research demonstrates, even when churches gather racially diverse congregants, the way they gather often reinforces societal preference for white culture and deference to white power structures. In such cases, churches solve the problem of segregated Sunday mornings without solving the problem of a racially oppressive Christianity.

Scripture addresses a similar situation in 1 Corinthians. The apostle Paul writes to a multiracial, multiclass church made up of Jews and Gentiles, enslaved people and free people (12:13). This made their congregation far more diverse than the typical North American church today, which, according to Edwards, lacks even a single member from another ethnic group.

Paul nevertheless tells the Corinthians that their gatherings “do more harm than good” (11:17–22). The reason? The way they came to the Lord’s Supper reinforced socioeconomic divisions among them. Some had too much to eat. Others had nothing at all.

To understand Paul’s critique, we need to understand the way that meals worked within Corinthian society. Corinth had a clear hierarchy, an obvious social and economic ladder. Where you stood on that ladder depended on whether you had enough social capital to be considered “wise,” “influential,” and “of noble birth” (1:26).

This social hierarchy could be a matter of life or death. Earning one of these labels meant that you were more likely to get the economic opportunities and social network on which your survival might depend.

In Corinth, communal meals provided a primary way for individuals to claim their spot on the ladder or even move up a rung. Like middle-school cafeterias today, where you sat at the meal said a lot about where you stood in the social pecking order. Bringing more food or claiming a more honorable seat, for example, were strategies for trying to climb the ladder.

This was all just business as usual in Corinth, but Paul declares that such behavior has no place in church. Because of the way this multiethnic, multiclass congregation humiliated the have-nots, they couldn’t call what they were doing the Lord’s Supper at all. They were acting more Corinthian than Christian.

By mirroring oppressive Corinthian hierarchies in the way that they gathered, the Corinthian believers “despise[d] the church” and sinned against the very body and blood of the Lord himself (11:22, 27).

Paul’s intensity in 1 Corinthians 11:17–34 might surprise us, but it makes complete sense given his words earlier in the letter. Consider your calling, Paul tells the church:

Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong . . . so that no one may boast before him. (1:26–27, 29)

At the start, Paul tells his listeners that the way Christ arranged his church smashes to bits the Corinthian social ladder that honors the wise, influential, and well-born. How has the Corinthian church responded? By gluing that oppressive social ladder back together in the way they gather.

Paul’s solution isn’t to disband this multiracial, multiclass church, or to reduce the role the meal plays in their life together. Instead, he calls the church to “welcome one another” in the way they feast (11:33, CSB). This might be easily missed, because most major English versions translate Paul’s command in verse 33 as “wait for one another.” But in hospitality contexts, the Greek verb translated as wait can refer to welcoming someone, similar to the way we might talk about someone in the hospitality business “waiting” on tables. What would it look like for the Corinthian church to “welcome one another”?

Paul gives us a clue in what he says next. In 1 Corinthians 12:12–13, he reminds them that though they are an ethnically and economically diverse congregation, each individual is a member of the one body of Christ. The diverse members use their diverse gifts for the good of the whole. This is a message to which contemporary multiracial churches remain committed.

I’m not sure, however, that we’re nearly as excited about what follows: “But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other” (12:24–25).

God himself has structured the church so as to give greater honor and concern within the congregation to members who lack honor outside of it. God does pay attention to where people are in the social hierarchy, but only in order to privilege those at the bottom.

Because of this, Paul calls the church to welcome one another in ways that fit this countercultural arrangement. By refraining from privileging the socially powerful and by actively according special honor to the socially disenfranchised, the Corinthians would gather for the better, rather than for the worse.

The Corinthians’ preservation of social hierarchies at the Lord’s Supper mirrors the way many multiracial churches prioritize white preferences and norms in their worship styles, their approach to community engagement, and the racial makeup of their leaders. But if the problems are similar, perhaps the solutions are too.

Multiracial congregations might learn from the way historically black churches, for example, have dismantled social hierarchies in their own gatherings. Every church, regardless of its ethnic makeup, must “examine” itself and “discern” the ways congregational life privileges white culture and treats certain brothers and sisters as less than full members of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 11:28–29).

Multiethnic congregations that follow Paul’s instructions have a unique opportunity to model for the rest of us how to rearrange our corporate lives. Then we can all embrace Paul’s instructions to “welcome one another” by giving special honor within our churches to those most likely to be marginalized in broader society. May we do so with courage and joy.








Michael J. Rhodes is an Old Testament lecturer at Carey Baptist College and an assistant pastor at Downtown Church, a multiethnic church in Memphis. This article is adapted from a paper in Studies in Christian Ethics 33.4 (2020): “Arranging the Chairs in the Beloved Community.”


A very good and well prepared article.

Thanks  P.j.

Blade
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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