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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2019  (Read 1119 times)

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patrick jane

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Christianity Today Magazine - July 2019
« on: July 02, 2019, 08:32:51 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/july/died-apologist-norman-geisler-apologist-seminary-ses-theolo.html






Died: Apologist Norman Geisler, Who Didn’t Have ‘Enough Faith to Be an Atheist’



The masterful theologian leaves behind nearly 130 titles and a global impact.

 
Just two months after his retirement from public ministry, evangelical theologian Norman Geisler died Monday at age 86. He had been hospitalized over the weekend after suffering a blood clot in his brain.

Described as “a cross between Thomas Aquinas and Billy Graham,” Geisler was a prolific author, apologist, and professor, as well as the co-founder and former president of Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES) in North Carolina and co-founder of Veritas International University in California.

Many evangelical leaders consider Geisler among the top Christian thinkers in recent decades, with pastor Derwin Gray calling him “one of Christianity's greatest philosophers, apologists, & theologians” and Colson Center president John Stonestreet remembering him as “a towering figure in Christian apologetics and philosophy.”

Geisler was respected for the breadth and depth of his career of over 70 years, and his model of defending the faith and the Bible through classical apologetics. Current SES president Richard Land described him as a powerfully refreshing voice that inspired conservative scholars, ministers, and fellow apologists.

“For us, Dr. Geisler’s latest defense of the faith was like a long drink of cold water in the midst of what was too often an arid and sterile theological landscape,” Land wrote. “Dr. Geisler has been the ‘go to’ authority for more than two generations of evangelical seminary students who were looking for a bold, erudite, and uncompromisingly faithful defense of the inerrant, infallible Word of God and the historical doctrines of the Christian faith.”

He was on the team of theologians that wrote the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and co-wrote the popular book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist in 2004.

“Norman Geisler was one of the four to five most influential people in my life. It was meeting Norm and reading his works that first drew my interest to philosophy and the rest is history,” Talbot Seminary philosophy professor J. P. Moreland told CT. “He was a tireless worker for the Kingdom and a brother who was faithful to the end. We have lost a giant and the world is worse off for his departure.”

In addition to his scholarship and teaching, Geisler participated in theological debates with fellow scholars, including a 2011 dispute with Michael Licona around the resurrection, which was covered by Christianity Today.

He is the author, co-author, or editor of 127 titles, including a book on transhumanism due out next year. His book The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics was named by CT among the top religion reference books by living theologians in 2002.

Geisler’s works had been translated into more than a dozen languages, and online tributes for spanned the globe, from Kenya to Brazil. Brazilian theologian Roney Cozzer wrote, “I often say that Geisler was ‘a source from which I drank too much’” and praised God for his legacy.

The Michigan-born scholar received degrees from Wheaton College, William Tyndale College, and Loyola University.

William C. Roach, president of the International Society of Apologetics (which Geisler founded in 2007), was mentored by Geisler and shared details in a tribute today:

Both of us were raised in non-Christian homes, our mother’s would not allow us to play football as kids, we both had alcoholic parents, struggled significantly in school, and most importantly—after our conversion to Christ we both had to face objections to the Christian faith.

Dr. Geisler used to say he got into apologetics because he was stumped by a drunk on the streets of Detroit who claimed to be a graduate of “Moody Instita Bibiltute.” Dr. Geisler knew that he either had to find answers to people’s objections or he must stop sharing his faith. Since the latter is not an option, Dr. Geisler dedicated his life to defending the historic Christian faith.

Following the news of his passing, his ministry posted 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (ESV), one of his favorite passages to quote when he learned of a death in the body of Christ: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

Geisler’s memorial service will be held in Charlote, North Carolina, on Saturday, July 6. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Barbara Jean, their six children, fifteen grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.







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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2019
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2019, 08:09:19 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2019/july/books-why-let-go-let-god-is-my-lifeline.html




Why ‘Let Go and Let God’ Is My Lifeline



Trusting in the Lord has made my life both easier and harder.

 
Not long before his death, Henri Nouwen wrote in Sabbatical Journeys about some friends who were trapeze artists. They shared with Nouwen about the special relationship between flyer and catcher on the trapeze. The flyer lets go, and the catcher catches. As the flyer swings high above the crowd on the trapeze, the moment comes when she must let go. She arcs out into the air, where her sole job is to remain as still as possible as she opens her hands and waits for the strong hands of the catcher to pluck her to safety. One of the trapeze artists told Nouwen, “The flyer must never try to catch the catcher.” The catcher will catch the flyer, but she must wait in absolute trust.

The gospel calls us to a similar spirit of open-handed living. Over several decades of following Jesus, I’ve learned that the essence of surrender is found in the posture of our hearts. In this place of yielding, we give the Holy Spirit free rein to direct and sustain our journey, and we also realize that our lives are part of a much greater narrative: God’s story of hope and restoration in the lives of individuals, families, communities, and local churches.

My first big surrender came shortly after beginning a relationship with Jesus in high school. My dad went through a midlife crisis—which included a fancy sports car followed by a perm (another story, another time)—and then he shared the news that we would be moving from Colorado to Hong Kong right before my senior year. Angry and confused, I unleashed my frustration and let God know exactly how I felt about the situation. But at the end of my tirade, I added a sincere prayer: “In my heart of hearts, I really want to know you and do your will.”

This prayer has led me through other life disruptions, as well. After I graduated from college, I came to another crossroads. Should I attend law school? Or pursue vocational Christian ministry? I wasn’t afraid to minister overseas, but I did wrestle with what I considered my worst-case scenario: driving an ugly, outdated car and living in complete isolation and obscurity doing boring, mundane work day in and day out. Nevertheless, I remember praying a tearful but sincere prayer of surrender: “God, I will go wherever you want me to go—even if you ask me to work and live all alone and drive one of those old station wagons with fake wood paneling on the outside. Even then I will choose to follow you.”

When faced with my own cancer diagnosis a few years ago, I prayed another surrender prayer. Every morning I awakened in the dark with my mind racing, wondering if the diagnosis was a bad dream. As my mind cleared and the heavy reality set in, I would make my way upstairs to an overstuffed chair tucked away in a little nook, where I would pour out my fears to God. I wrestled with what seemed like reasonable, honorable desires of living long enough to witness the major milestones in my three kids’ lives. I wanted a front-row seat. The willingness to yield my plans and open my hands—even to let go of my very life—became a moment-by-moment choice.

Each time that I’ve placed my heart into the hands of my loving, good, and all-knowing God, my life has simultaneously been easier and harder. Sometimes I find myself trying to control the outcome of my circumstances. I pray with directives: “This is how you need to answer, God, and this is how you need to fix this situation.” But when I read Scripture, I am reminded of how God is the one who determines our boundaries and the exact places we should live (Acts 17:26).

We are born into this world without control over our family of origin; we have no say in who our parents are, the number of siblings we grow up with, or our birth order. We have no control over our gender, ethnic makeup, cultural heritage, family history, socioeconomic class at birth, or gifts and wiring. But God has his reasons for forming us as he has. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10, ESV).

In the end, we may not have the opportunity to see the direct outcome of our choices or live the life we always dreamed of, but God maps out for us a way to walk in freedom—even when our circumstances don’t make sense to us. In this place of surrender, he simply asks us to let go and trust that he will catch us.





Vivian Mabuni has spent 30 years serving on staff with Cru and is the author of Warrior In Pink and Open Hands, Willing Heart. Connect with her on Instagram/Twitter @vivmabuni or on her website www.vivianmabuni.com. This piece was adapted from Open Hands Willing Heart: Discover the Joy of Saying Yes to God (releasing July 9). Copyright © 2019 by Vivian Mabuni. Published with permission by WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.





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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2019
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2019, 08:20:46 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/july/online-ordination-universal-life-church-tennessee-clergy-ma.html




By the Power Vested in Me by God Or the Internet: The Fight Over Online Ordinations




With lay officiants on the rise, Tennessee’s ban spurs religious freedom challenge.

 
After a religious freedom lawsuit, a federal judge this week blocked Tennessee’s new ban on online ordination for wedding officiants, citing “serious constitutional issues.”

The Universal Life Church Monastery—a top destination for giving friends and family credentials to perform ceremonies—had sued the Volunteer State over the policy, which it said “grants a preference to certain religions” and “burdens its members’ free exercise of religion.”

The law was set to go into effect July 1, but federal judge Waverly Crenshaw decided on Wednesday to allow weddings conducted by online-ordained celebrants to resume until a trial later this year. Officials argued the policy was designed to ensure officiants were responsible enough to perform their duties on behalf of the state.

Unlike most denominations, churches, and religious organizations, nonprofits like the Universal Life Church and American Marriage Ministries exist primarily to ordain the growing number of friends and family members tapped to officiate weddings. Recent surveys show between a quarter and half of US ceremonies are now performed by loved ones rather than traditional ministers.

While Tennessee lawmakers see pastors and religious clergy as beyond the scope of the ban—since they already meet the legal standard of “a considered, deliberate, and responsible act” for ordination—the law could become an issue if churches begin to offer “online ordination as the culmination of online theological training,” according to Jennifer Hawks, associate general counsel at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.


“For now, if the law is upheld, most ordaining organizations will continue to ordain their leaders as they have always done,” she said. “Only those religious groups which do not include an in-person component for their ordinations would have to make changes in order to satisfy the requirements that must be met for private citizens to perform this state function.”

In the US, weddings represent a unique intersection of church and state. The government licenses marriages, in part, to codify the legal benefits and protections afforded to married couples. More than a decade ago, CT reported how Pennsylvania barred online ordination for wedding celebrants, requiring religious officials lead to a “regularly established church or congregation” to qualify. Virginia has similar requirements, asking that religious officiants provide evidence of their role at a gathered congregation and that they are in good standing with their denomination.

But after state and county procedures have long straddled the civil and religious functions of the ceremony, fewer Americans care about the latter, leading to the rise of nontraditional and secular celebrants.

Some Christian leaders have questioned whether the church should be a part of the civil ceremony at all, particularly as same-sex marriage became legal. About a quarter of pastors and a third of Americans said clergy should no longer be involved in state marriage licensing in a 2014 LifeWay Research poll.

“The argument for allowing ministers to solemnize wedding with civil effect is basically an argument of accommodating the wishes and the convenience of the couple. Many people will want their wedding performed by a minister, by a clergy person, and why make them go through a separate ceremony?” said Thomas Berg, law professor and religious freedom expert at University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minnesota.

“If the issue is accommodating the religious desires of the couple, allowing the couple to have that single ceremony, then it does not suggest that the state has a very strong interest in regulating the quality of the minister performing it,” he said in response to Tennessee’s law. “A friend may be more meaningful than anyone else.”

He and other religious liberty experts have suggested that the Universal Life Church has a solid case.

For years, even couples that weren’t active in their faith would refer to their local church when it was time for weddings or funerals. Pastors report that the availability of online ordination and private wedding venues decreased demand for those services.

Plus, many active Christians themselves are drawn to these options; only around 1 in 5 US weddings now takes place in a church, according to a survey by the popular wedding website The Knot. In almost every aspect of the wedding, people are less tied to tradition and ritual, instead preferring the kind of personalization showcased on Pinterest and Instagram, The Atlantic reported recently.

“The trends tell us that couples are not turning to the church to provide ‘marrying’ and ‘burying’ services. When was the last time you attended a wedding in a church sanctuary?” said Byron Weathersbee, co-founder of Legacy Family Ministries and co-author of To Have and To Hold and Before Forever. “Many churches are thankful to be out of the wedding business. In my opinion, this ends up costing them the relational capital to connect that newly married couple with the church.”

Involving married couples in church life is not just good for the church; research shows it’s good for the couple. According to the Institute for Family Studies, regular attenders with active faith lives are less likely to divorce and tend to be more satisfied in their relationships.

“What we're seeing in this trend [of online ordination] is a symptom of the shift away from the importance of the local church. On one hand, it's meaningful to have a friend or family member perform the ceremony because they know us well. But historically, marriage in the church has been just that—in the church,” said Catherine Parks, author of A Christ-Centered Wedding. “We submit to one another as members of a community of faith, and we need those people—pastors, elders, fellow church members—to encourage and hold us accountable in our marriages from the moment they begin.”

But the trend of enlisting friends as marriage officiants could also pose an opportunity for the church.

Scott Kedersha, who directs the marriage and newly married ministries at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, stresses the importance of couples choosing officiants that “communicate a biblical, Christ-centered view of the gospel and marriage,” whether they are a pastor, small group leader, college roommate, or best friend.

“At Watermark Community Church, we look for ways to partner with friends and family as they officiate weddings. We train and equip lay leaders to lead the ceremony well and we don’t change or lower our expectations for lay leaders to officiate weddings,” said Kedersha, author of Ready or Knot?.

While young couples may not be involved enough in a church to feel personally connected to a pastor, “candidly, as long as the gospel is proclaimed and God is honored through the relationship and ceremony, then we can still celebrate the marriage,” he said.





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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2019
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2019, 01:38:45 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/july/va-hospital-veterans-affairs-bible-display-religious-libert.html






VA Hospitals Can Distribute, Display Bibles Under Revised Policy




After a legal fight over a POW/MIA table, Veterans Affairs clarifies religious liberty protections.

 
In the wake of a Supreme Court decision permitting a cross to remain on a public highway, the Department of Veterans Affairs has revised its policies on religious symbols in displays at VA facilities.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie announced last Wednesday that the new policies will reduce inconsistencies among VA facilities.

“We want to make sure that all of our Veterans and their families feel welcome at VA, no matter their religious beliefs. Protecting religious liberty is a key part of how we accomplish that goal,” he said in a statement.

“These important changes will bring simplicity and clarity to our policies governing religious and spiritual symbols, helping ensure we are consistently complying with the First Amendment to the US Constitution at thousands of facilities across the department.”

The revised policies “allow the inclusion in appropriate circumstances of religious content in publicly accessible displays at VA facilities.”

They also permit patients to request and be provided with sacred texts, symbols and religious literature during treatment at facilities or visits to VA chapels. And they allow the VA “to accept donations of religious literature, cards and symbols at its facilities and distribute them to VA patrons under appropriate circumstances or to a patron who requests them.”

The announcement noted the Supreme Court’s June 20 decision, in which it permitted the so-called “Peace Cross,” a World War I monument in Bladensburg, Maryland, to remain in a traffic circle. The VA said the case “reaffirmed the important role religion plays in the lives of many Americans and its consistency with Constitutional principles.”

The policy revisions, announced July 3, come two months after a US Air Force veteran filed suit against the director of the Manchester (New Hampshire) VA Medical Center, seeking the removal of a Bible from a POW/MIA table at that facility.

“As a Christian, he respects and loves all his military brothers and sisters and does not want to be exclusionary by the placement of the Christian Bible,” the suit states.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which the suit says received complaints from 14 other veterans about the display, decried the VA’s revamped rules.

“These brand new VA policies — clearly based upon the US Supreme Court’s recent, idiotic decision in the Bladensburg Cross case — are nothing more than a transparent and repugnant attempt to further buttress and solidify fundamentalist Christianity as the insuperable official religion of choice for the VA, our Armed Forces, and this country,” said MRFF President Mikey Weinstein.

The MRFF has previously complained about similar Bible displays at other locations, such as a naval hospital in Japan and a Wyoming Air Force base.

First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal organization that sent a letter in May to Wilkie requesting “a VA-wide policy that permits Bibles to be included in POW/MIA remembrance displays,” applauded the VA’s revamped policies.

“This new VA policy is a welcome breath of fresh air,” said Mike Berry, director of military affairs for First Liberty Institute, which also helped defend the Maryland cross monument.

“The Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutionality of religious displays with historic roots such as those commonly found in VA facilities. We commend the VA for taking this necessary and positive action.”







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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2019
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2019, 10:39:09 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/july-web-only/whatever-happened-to-communion-baptism.html







Whatever Happened to Communion & Baptism?



Or, why aren’t we doing what Jesus told us to do?

 
There is no greater signal that evangelicals have long forgotten their roots than the disrepair into which the sacraments have fallen in our day. By way of reminder, we should note that the Second Great Awakening began as a Communion retreat. Churches from all over gathered at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in August 1801 to prepare themselves for and then partake in Communion. As I wrote in an article on this revival:

Communions (annual three-to-five-day meetings climaxed with the Lord’s Supper) gathered people in the dozens, maybe the hundreds. At this Cane Ridge Communion, though, sometimes 20,000 people swirled about the grounds—watching, praying, preaching, weeping, groaning, falling. Though some stood at the edges and mocked, most left marveling at the wondrous hand of God.
The Cane Ridge Communion quickly became one of the best-reported events in American history, and according to Vanderbilt historian Paul Conkin, “arguably ... the most important religious gathering in all of American history.” It ignited the explosion of evangelical religion, which soon reached into nearly every corner of American life. For decades the prayer of camp meetings and revivals across the land was “Lord, make it like Cane Ridge.”

As such Communions, people gathered on Friday and spent that evening and Saturday praying, reading Scripture, and listening to sermons as they prepared themselves for worship and Communion on Sunday. At Cane Ridge, Saturday was not so quiet:

The Saturday morning services had been quiet—the proverbial lull before a storm. But by afternoon, the preaching was continual, from both the meetinghouse and the tent. … Excitement mounted, and amid smoke and sweat, the camp erupted in noise: the cries and shouts of the penitent, the crying of babies, the shrieking of children, and the neighing of horses.

Then the tumultuous bodily “exercises” began. Along with the shouting and crying, some began falling. Some experienced only weakened knees or a light head (including Governor James Garrard). Others fell but remained conscious or talkative; a few fell into a deep coma, displaying the symptoms of a grand mal seizure or a type of hysteria. Though only a minority fell, some parts of the grounds were strewn like a battlefield.

Some were attended to where they fell; others were carried to a convenient place, where people would gather around them to pray and sing hymns. “If they [the fallen] speak,” one reported, “what they say is attended to, being very solemn and affecting—many are struck under such exhortations.”

Early Sunday morning, relative calm reigned, though some had been up most of the night. The central purpose of the gathering—the Communion—took place as scheduled in the meetinghouse. The minister of a nearby congregation preached the traditional sermon outside, and then those with Communion tokens went inside for the sacrament. The tables, set up in the shape of a cross in the aisles, could probably accommodate 100 at a time. Over the ensuing hours, hundreds were served. Lyle wrote that he had “clearer views of divine things than ... before” as he partook, and that he felt “uncommonly tender” as he spoke.

The point of rehearsing this history is not to suggest that we should try to create emotionally extravagant Communion services like this. Clearly, that was a unique moment in American church history. What impresses me is the reverence and seriousness with which these believers approached Communion.

Stumbling Over the Sacraments

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

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

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

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

The state of the Lord’s Supper is in a worse state. I’ve lost track of the number of startup evangelical churches—again, who are sincerely seeking to reach the world for Christ—whose practice of Communion is frankly a sacrilege. One has to give them credit for, yes, seeking out the lost and taking down unnecessary cultural/religious barriers. And one has to also praise them for at least offering Communion. But in many churches, it is something that is presented during the offering, at a small table holding crackers and juice on the side aisles for those who feel so led to partake. Sometimes this is accompanied by the words of institution, but sometimes it is not.

The idea of Communion—of the body of Christ participating with one another in an ordinance of their Lord—is completely lost. Not to mention the loss of any concerted effort by worship leaders to highlight why the sacrament is a central feature of Christian life.

In contrast to the evangelical churches of the late 1700s/early 1800s, it almost goes without saying that few if any evangelical congregations today would dedicate a whole weekend to preparing and then participating in Communion. It would not only be perceived as a turnoff to unbelievers but a meaningless rite to members. And yet it was at Communions that thousands upon thousands came to know Christ intimately for the first time.

We do well to recall the emphasis that our Baptist brothers and sisters insist on: that these are practices ordained by our Lord.
To be sure, today one can find evangelical churches, high church and low, Anglican and Baptist, who take the Lord’s Supper with utmost seriousness. They—no matter their theology of the sacrament—will say it remains a means by which they are drawn out of themselves to remember the One outside of themselves, who didn’t just come to give them affirming spiritual feelings but to die on a Cross for their sins and to rise again for the dead for their salvation.

We do well to recall the emphasis that our Baptist brothers and sisters insist on: that these are practices ordained by our Lord: “Go … baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” and “Do this in remembrance of me.” I do not believe evangelicalism will recover from its spiritual stupor, its fascination with the horizontal, until it once again practices regularly and respectfully, with earnestness and devotion, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Until, that is, it obeys the clear commands of its Lord.

As for the way forward—well, a lot depends on a particular church’s theology of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But let me hazard some suggestions.

First, I don’t think any sophisticated theology of Communion would make it an individualistic act as it has become in some churches. Simply refusing to offer Communion unless it is a part of the service in which every member or believer is invited—that’s a start.

Against all odds, a church might very well offer a weekend retreat in which the focus is Communion—with teaching and times of prayer to prepare oneself—and the climax being the receiving of the bread and cup.

As for baptism: Let’s insist that as soon as possible, as infants or after conversion (whatever your theology), that we obey the plain command of our Lord to baptize. And then when we do baptize, let’s not get in the way of the act by explaining it away, that is, saying what it is not. We might just say what we believe it is, and do so simply. There is a time and place to teach a church’s theology of baptism, but during the baptism, we should let the visual power of the sacrament, and a few well-chosen words, to the work. You can believe that baptism as such has no ultimate efficacy and still recognize that it is a powerful symbol, and as a powerful symbol, it speaks volumes.

In the context of this series, one reason I advocate the regular and reverential participation in the sacraments is because, as noted above, they require us to look at what is happening at the altar/Communion table or in the waters of baptism. We are required to look outside ourselves, to the physical means by which Christ blesses his people. Rather than encouraging us to ponder the feelings that are going on inside us, the sacraments require us, however briefly, to focus on God and what he has done for us in Jesus Christ.




Next week: How our preaching has gone awry.

Mark Galli is editor in chief of Christianity Today. If you want to be alerted to these essays as they appear, subscribe to The Galli Report.





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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2019
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2019, 05:54:36 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/july-web-only/sollereder-evolution-was-death-suffering-gods-plan.html






Predators and Prey: Was Death Part of God’s Plan All Along?



Q&A: A theologian finds God’s care amidst suffering in an evolutionary creation.

 
Last month, scientists proposed a new ancestor of all life: a tiny, versatile organism akin to a stem cell. It would truly be an awesome God who could bring about all lifeforms from such a tiny creature, according to the view of evolutionary creationists. But the story of life isn’t always pretty: Animal death and suffering over millions of years is part of the history of our world. Creatures compete for limited resources, often at each other’s expense. Predators—including humans—rely on the death of other creatures for survival. These things are often cited as consequences of the fall in Eden, but could competition and pain have been part of God’s plan all along? And could such an awesome God, complicit in so much suffering, still be a good God as well?

Bethany Sollereder is seeking to answer that very question. Sollereder, who holds a PhD in theology from the University of Exeter and is currently a postdoctoral fellow in science and religion at the University of Oxford, was first inspired to study the theology of animal suffering after hearing other Christians struggle with the interaction of faith and evolution. Having just completed a four-year residency at The Kilns, the home of C. S. Lewis, Sollereder is the author of God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering (Routledge, 2018).

Sollereder spoke with CT recently about how her work has affected her own faith and understanding of the created world.

Would you say there’s scientific evidence that animals actually suffer?

Well, in one sense, all suffering is understood by analogy. I can’t prove, scientifically, that you suffer. All I can do is look at the signs you are giving me. And the same is true for animals. Where we see a similar brain system that processes pain in similar ways to us, chemical reactions in the body that are similar, and particularly when we see behavioral responses that are similar to ours, we can assume that there’s suffering.

Scientists recently started using post-traumatic stress types of therapies with orphaned elephants and actually found them really successful, because elephants’ suffering is similar enough that the treatment can be similar and have really good results. The Calgary Zoo found that polar bears were acting very anxiously, pacing and scratching and doing the sorts of things that we would think of as anxious behaviors. One of the caretakers decided to put them on an anti-anxiety medication and found huge improvement. They started playing again; they stopped pacing.

So while you can’t prove that they suffer, there’s lots of good evidence for it.

The theory of evolution is contingent on a whole lot of suffering, over millions of years. What kinds of reactions do you see people have when they’re trying to reconcile animal suffering and evolution with a good God?

Well, there’s usually two reactions. One is, “Why would a good God allow all these animals to suffer?” And the second is, “Doesn’t the Bible say that death and suffering came with the Fall, with the sin of Adam and Eve?”

Evolution actually gives us a compelling answer of its own, which is that suffering, to a certain extent, is necessary and good for survival. People might think they’d have a much better life if they couldn’t feel pain, but that’s actually not true.

For example, Hansen’s Disease, which is commonly known as leprosy, actually just kills the pain nerves in your body. All the damage we associate with leprosy—fingers falling off and that kind of thing—happens because people hurt themselves and don’t realize it. They’re actually destroying their own bodies because they can’t feel pain. Jesus’ healing of lepers was restoring their ability to feel pain.

The Christian message has never been one of pain avoidance, right? It’s “take up your cross and follow me.” When we’ve given in to the Western idea that a comfortable life is a happy life, we’ve become pain-averse in ways that are actually problematic for our own flourishing. Which is paradoxical.

The second reaction is, “Didn’t death come through the Fall?” There’s real division on this. About one-half of scholars in this area say yes, suffering and death only entered with the Fall, but the Fall happened at the very beginning of time, whether because Satan and his angels fell or because there’s simply something about creation itself that entails a fallenness. There’s another group of us who say, actually, no, sin entered the world through humans, but death and suffering are not the result of the Fall.

It is interesting to me that throughout Scripture, God is constantly pointing out the most vicious wild animals, from the mighty leviathan to the fierce lions, with special pride. God’s speeches to Job are basically one long tirade about how God made all the most problematic bits of creation, from hailstorms to carcass-eating eagles. If all of that was a result of the fall, why does God take such pains to claim it as divine handiwork?

But also, what is meant by death is a little ambiguous. Adam and Eve are told that “in the day you eat of the tree, you shall surely die,” but they don’t fall down dead physically. When Paul talks about the entrance of sin in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, he says things like, “I die every day.” He’s not saying his body has died. He’s talking about some sort of spiritual death.

Have you found people who want to blame Satan for all animal suffering? What problems does that cause?

I think it raises two problems. The first is theological. It seems odd for God to have given up so much of creation to Satan and then not have told us about it. The overwhelming chorus of Genesis is that the world is good. Everything about the Psalms, even after sin has entered the world, says that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” So I think that if that was going to be important to the structure of the world, God might have been a bit clearer in the scriptural text.

The second problem is scientific, and it’s this: Darwin’s insight is that it’s the competition, it’s the violence that drives the beauty and the skill and the cooperation. So if you say that violence and competition are due to sin, then you’re handing over the root of all the goodness, beauty, and skill to Satan as well. Or you try and start dividing it up in really odd ways, like when it’s competitive it’s Satan, but when it turns out for the good it’s God’s work. And I find that that becomes really, really messy.

And the suffering is part of what makes that creature itself; we know that God delights in the creatureliness of his creatures.

[Theologian] Christopher Southgate pulls from Gerard Manley Hopkins’s view of “selving,” and he sort of sees God celebrating each creature becoming itself, and even transcending itself, as part of God’s purpose. The purpose of God in creation is a lot wider than just humans, and because the Bible is really mostly interested in humans, we don’t hear the rest of that story. So we have to speculate. This may not have the stamp of inspired approval, but I think it’s an important thing to do, especially in this moment of ecological crisis.

How did your understanding of God change as you undertook writing your book ? What have you learned that surprised you?

I used to think of God primarily as the cosmic architect who carefully planned, measured, and built everything, like an engineer. But engineers and architects tend to work with non-living materials. You use dead wood; you use stone.

But when I looked in Scripture, most of the analogies are organic: They’re God as king, God as parent, God as lover. Then you’re not working with a dead thing that you can plan and calculate and position. You’re working with dynamic entities who have their own modes of being. And so I sort of laid down a lot of the views of God planning so much as God accompanying, coaching, loving, growing.

So what does the cross teach us about all of this?

One view—shared by around half of the scholars who write on this topic—says the redemption that happened on the cross wasn’t just for humans, but for all the suffering of the cosmos. Jesus shared not only in humanity but in the molecules of the world. The carbon molecules in Jesus’ body were forged in the heart of a long-dead star, just like every molecule of carbon in your body. And so there’s this deep continuity of Christ with all of creation, animate and inanimate.

And then finally, you can take it to mean something like what [philosopher] Holmes Rolston says: that all of creation is cruciform, that what you’re seeing playing out in Jesus’ life is true of the whole world. In one of Jesus’ parables (John 12:24–26), the seed has to fall into the ground and die before it can produce new fruit, and in the whole evolutionary process, death is necessary to new life. You can kind of read the whole narrative of creation as a larger-scale story that the passion of Christ is the key to understanding. So Christ dies in the death of each animal and is raised in the life of all the animals who benefit out of that death.

And through the cross, Christ is really showing us how to love.

Yes. Here’s another one of my crazy beliefs: I don’t think that animals love. I think that love is a particularly human thing because it doesn’t come about naturally. I think that love is something that is sort of fermented by God in the soul. It’s baked in the soul, like bread. Bread is taking natural ingredients and combining them in a particular way to turn them into something wonderful. The same is true of beer, which doesn’t occur in nature. There’s the sort of fermentation process that doesn’t necessarily happen in nature, but we figured out how to do it.

And I think love is the same: It takes the natural evolutionary desires, whether that’s altruism, the desire for security, or selfish desires, and God takes these natural ingredients and starts working in us to develop love in our hearts, and we can resist that. And I think that’s what sin is: It’s resisting the work of God as God is transforming us into the creatures who love.

Has your understanding of what love is changed through your study of animal suffering?

I think it’s highlighted for me how patient love is. God’s love in relationship to animals doesn’t rush the process, doesn’t intervene to get to the goal faster. Learning to see the patience of God in creation and the way that love allows the other to be the other has really challenged how I have relationships. I’m not just trying to change other people to suit me, but really take them as they are and love them as they are, whether they change or not.

God’s never given up on creation. We talk about the major extinction event that’s happening now and it’s a problem. Human activity is devastating thousands and millions of species. But there have been five major extinction events in the past where 90 percent of the species have been wiped off the face of the earth, and conditions like the Snowball Earth, where there were at least five feet of ice over the whole of the earth. If another 90 percent species loss happens because of us, humans might not survive. But life probably will. And God will continue to work out the celebration of life, the journey, even if humans manage to eliminate themselves.

Because Christ is still victorious, even if we’re making terrible decisions.

Absolutely. Which is not to say we don’t need to worry about climate change. But there’s an ongoing hope in the resilience of the creation and the patience of God.




Elyse Durham is a writer in Detroit.





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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2019
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2019, 12:51:46 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/july-august/reason-lead-god-joshua-rasmussen.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29







Proving That God Exists Without Opening a Bible



How human reason alone can lay a pathway from doubt to belief.

 
Many skeptics are open to the possibility that God exists, but they’re uncomfortable affirming it on the basis of biblical authority or faith alone. The good news, says Azusa Pacific University philosophy professor Joshua Rasmussen, is that they don’t have to. In How Reason Can Lead to God: A Philosopher’s Bridge to Faith, Rasmussen shows how human reason and experience lay down a pathway to theistic belief, revealing a divine being very much like the God of the Bible. Lydia McGrew, analytic philosopher and author of Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts, spoke with Rasmussen about shepherding nonbelievers along this “bridge of reason.”

You describe your book, in the subtitle, as “a philosopher’s bridge to faith.” Are non-philosophers supposed to be part of your intended audience?

I want this book to touch—and even transform—everyone who seeks truth about God. As I wrote, I imagined different characters stepping onto a bridge. Some characters come to the bridge as young seekers, while others are seasoned professionals. I call this “the bridge of reason.” Every step on this bridge is composed of common experience and universal principles of reason. You can think of each step as foundational to a kind of argument for an aspect of God. For example, the chapter “Foundation of Mind” is about arguments for God’s mind. I use plain terms: No technical jargon, no appeals to authority. Every step is about something you can test for yourself.

Yet the bridge goes past the edges of my field. Philosophers will recognize pieces that add to current conversations. I’ve also included a special argument at the end, in which I propose a new way to deduce God’s existence from God’s nature. This is one example of what we can see on the other side of the bridge.

Is there one big lesson that a non-philosophical specialist should take away?

The most important takeaway is that reason can reveal God. Many people think there is a conflict between reason and God. They fear reason, or they flee God. I want people to see there is nothing to fear. By the light of reason, you can discover that reason is a majestic part of the most majestic being. True reason is God’s light within your mind. Shine reason on anything, and you can see more about anything. Shine reason on God, and you can discover the depths and riches of God’s nature. God is greater than we all imagined.

Why, for most of your book, do you refer to “the foundation” rather than to “God” (who isn’t mentioned explicitly until Chapter 11)?

I wanted to invite readers into a fresh inquiry, which is why I didn’t bring God in until every step of the argument was in place. Everyone has a certain impression of the meaning of “God,” and this impression can present obstacles to discovering the real God.

On some level, we all have limiting conceptions of God. Sometimes these conceptions prevent skeptics from taking arguments for God seriously. Rather than begin with any preconceptions, I simply begin with reason. Reason reveals characteristics of the foundation of reality. Once the full picture is in place, I use the term “God” to describe the reality revealed by reason. This reality, it turns out, is the most awesome God imaginable.

In debates about theism, sometimes we encounter a distinction between God as “a person” and God as “personal.” Would you agree with this distinction? And how does conceiving of God as a person (as opposed to, say, a cosmic force) inform the way you think about him?

I would say that God is more than a mere person. When we think of individual persons, we typically think of beings with particular boundaries, like shape or size. God, by contrast, is ultimate. God cannot be just another person among the many, because God is the foundation for all persons and all possible personalities. Without God, no persons are possible. It is more helpful, then, to think of personhood as a bedrock feature of reality. Personhood infuses the foundation. Thus, God is personal.

Seeing God as personal is very inspiring. Personhood includes reason, emotion, and moral agency. So, if the foundation is personal, then reason, emotion, and moral agency are part of the foundation of everything. That gives our lives context. It provides a reason for great hope. It also gives me excitement as an author. It gives my writing a higher purpose: to help people see their value in a greater light. If the foundation is perfect and personal, then there is every reason to think that God loves us and created us for everlasting purposes. You can’t get that from impersonal forces.

How do your arguments for God’s existence relate to Christianity and the Incarnation more specifically?

This book provides a prelude for investigating God’s specific works in history. I hint at the connection to Christianity in my discussion of the problem of evil. I tell a story of a world we could expect to unfold if God exists. I suggest that the greatest being would be interested in the greatest, truest story of love and adventure. In this story, we can expect the greatest Character—God—to enter the scene and display a sacrifice of love. Since Christianity describes precisely such an event, my argument for God implicitly points readers to this central event in human history.

In the closing chapters, you refer frequently to “kingly creatures,” your term for beings with rationality and free will who have the power to influence the world. How can this image motivate those seeking to investigate God’s existence?

This gets at the central point of the book. I don’t want merely to tickle someone’s mind. I want readers to see—feel—the value of their lives. The purpose of the bridge of reason is to help people see the roots of their own eternal worth. Often, academic books get bogged down in abstract moves, and it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.

I want readers to come away feeling excited. The foundation of the world is greater than we have understood, and so is the significance of our lives. Seeing the greatness of the foundation of the world helps you better appreciate the value of your own life.

Have you known or interacted with people who moved from atheism or agnosticism to belief in God on the basis of arguments like yours?

I have many, many stories. First, there’s me. In the book, I share my own story of descending into doubt and then discovering arguments that transformed my thinking. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to see many people come to believe in God after discussing these arguments with me or finding my work.

I’ll share one more story that typifies many. A few years ago, I received an email from someone who said he didn’t believe in God but was struggling to better understand an argument from cause and effect. We corresponded for about a year, and in each exchange, I never once treated him as a skeptic. I only thought of him as someone who would love to know that God exists, if reason allows. Then, one day, I received a special email of thanks for helping him come to believe in God.

In my experience, reason-based arguments help seekers unlock their own internal power to see. Once seekers feel free, respected, and encouraged, sight of God comes more easily.





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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2019
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2019, 08:03:49 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/july-web-only/elusive-presence-cult-personality-pastors.html







And Now, the Star of the Show....


How we inadvertently create a cult of personality around our preachers.

 
Here is the “most effective” and terrible sermon illustration I’ve ever used:

One day my wife and I were arguing about something—the exact subject has long been forgotten. In the course of the argument—probably when she was getting the best of me—I became so frustrated that I hit our dining room wall with my fist. The wall didn’t move, of course, but I expected to at least put a hole in the drywall. As fortune (or providence) would have it, the place I decided to punch with all my force was backed by a two-by-four stud. Let’s just say it hurt.

We both fell silent after that, and I set about sweeping up the kitchen and dining room (we were remodeling at the time). It became immediately apparent that there was something wrong with my hand, as I could barely hold on to the broom with my right hand.

My wife noticed that I was in pain and that my hand didn’t look right. She gently lifted my hand to look at it. “I think it’s broken,” she said. “We need to get you to the emergency room.” Her diagnosis was soon confirmed by the medical staff at the clinic.

From the point where she looked at my hand, there was no anger, resentment, or moral superiority on her part—all of which would have been justified. She was just concerned about my welfare. She very well knew that there was some part of me that was striking out at her when I hit the wall, but instead she focused on the fact that I vented my anger elsewhere than at her and was in deep pain as a result of my foolishness.

I used this illustration in a sermon on grace. It was the final illustration, tailored to drive home the truth that God treats us with kindness and grace even when we show ourselves to be hostile and angry, even toward him. I thought it the perfect illustration.

Turns out, very few listeners heard all that. Comments after the service, and for a few weeks running, were of three sorts:

“Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing that story.”

And, in a low voice so no one else could hear, “I’ve done that but was too afraid to tell anyone.”

And of course, “That was so funny!”

No one ever told me that as a result of the illustration they understood God’s grace better. No one.

But they understood me better. They learned something about my temper. My remodeling efforts. About my wife and my marriage. And they were entertained.

By contemporary standards, it was effective: It was riveting; it was funny; listeners remembered it for weeks, even years.

But they remembered the wrong thing. They remembered me. They didn’t remember anything about God’s grace, as far as I could tell. Therefore I have concluded that it was about the worst illustration I ever used.

The problem is this: This type of sermon illustration is the order of the day in evangelical preaching. And it’s one reason evangelical preaching is in dire straits.

When Style Becomes Substance
Preaching is one time in the week when we have the opportunity to hear about something other than ourselves, other than the horizontal. It’s the time to hear about God and the wonder and mysteries of his love, of what he’s done for us in Christ. But more and more, evangelical preaching has become another way we talk about ourselves, and in this case, to learn about the preacher.

Once again, in the interests of identifying with the culture, the entertainment world has become the model here for many churches. To begin with, the sermon in many evangelical churches represents a cross between the patter of a standup comic and the opening monologues of late-night television. The idea is to be “authentic”—that is, natural and unscripted and funny to boot.

This, of course, is naive as naive can get, because you can be sure that those opening monologues are hardly unscripted. The patter of the comedian, as well as his or her persona, has been fashioned and sharpened with months or years of practice. Late-night TV hosts and comics are entertaining, no question about that. But they are entertaining precisely because they are anything but authentic. Instead, they are deeply practiced in their profession.

The evangelical sermon mimics all this but without the use of a teleprompter or without repeating the same shtick honed over months of gigs. There are no podiums or pulpits, no notes, not to mention a sermon manuscript. You can be sure, however, that the preacher has practiced the sermon in the quiet of his or her office and memorized his or her best lines, as well as the right gestures at the right moment—all so that he or she can appear authentic.

It’s not just the setting but the content that communicates the most troublesome thing: that the sermon is, in the end, mostly about the horizontal. Given the length of the sermon and the method of delivery and the personal illustrations from the preacher’s life to drive home the message—it all brings an inadvertent focus on the one who is preaching.

Let me emphasize that word inadvertent. Because I doubt if many preachers invest in this style of contemporary preaching so as to exalt themselves. These men and women love God and strive to make him known. What they don’t recognize is that the style they are engaged in thwarts their desires.

Whatever happened to the pulpit?
Take the method of delivery—often without a pulpit (at best, a transparent lectern), and often by walking back and forth across the stage while preaching. And doing so for 30 to 45 minutes, at least half if not up to 75 percent of the worship hour. What all this communicates is this: The preacher is by far and away the most important person in the room. The preacher is the person upon whom we are riveted for the greater part of the service.

I didn’t realize how theologically important the traditional pulpit was until I received a comment after one guest sermon I preached. The church’s pastoral team liked to preach from the center of the stage and wander back and forth during the sermon—the standup comic style. I, however, stood behind the makeshift pulpit—a wooden lectern sitting on a small table. I did so mainly for practical reasons—I’m pretty dependent on notes and/or a manuscript, and I didn’t wander from them.

After the sermon, one man said to me: “Thanks for preaching from the pulpit.” When I asked why, he explained, “The pulpit reminds us that the authority of the preacher comes not from the preacher and his personality. The pulpit is a symbol that the sermon derives its authority from the church, which in turn derives its authority from Scripture.”

Pondering his comments for weeks afterward, I realized how much a pulpitless sermon, and especially the sermon delivered in standup comic style, does an extraordinarily good job of entertaining people and making the preacher, and not the preached word, the center of attention.

A funny thing happened to me on the way to church
Add to that the problem of content. Make no mistake: Jesus is preached in many evangelical churches still. But not necessarily foremost.

We evangelicals are suckers for the practical sermon that tells us how to live for Jesus. But too often, the practical crowds out the biblical. A sermon on “Five Ways to Keep Your Marriage Strong” might mention Jesus or the Bible here and there, but take away those references and the substance of the sermon remains the same: great, practical relational psychology. In a similar vein, we hear sermons on how to manage one’s finances, with the key insights drawn from financial self-help literature, decorated with verses from Proverbs. And then there are the sermons on raising children and finding a career and work against abortion so on and so forth. Such sermons are full of sound and wise advice, and we need sound and wise advice on many topics.

The question is: Is this the most vital, relevant thing we have to communicate in worship? The one time in the week in which we gather to praise and glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is this really the most important thing we can say? Have we exhausted the treasures and wonders of God’s Word? Have we said all we can say about the glories of salvation? Or are we bored with talk about God, so that we revert once again to talk about ourselves and how to make our lives more manageable?

One giveaway that we are deeply tempted by the horizontal in preaching is the number of illustrations preachers today use from their own lives. There was a time when preachers were discouraged from using their own lives as sermon illustrations. But sometime starting in the 1960s that began to change. The idea was to show listeners that the preacher was no different from the listeners and faced the same challenges, difficulties, and temptations as everyone else. This led to more attentive and appreciative listeners, who now felt they could connect psychologically with their preacher.

Today, it’s not uncommon to hear a sermon in which the opening, closing, and key illustration from the sermon’s main point is taken from the life and experience of the pastor and his family. Such sermons do a wonderful job of helping listeners connect with the pastor. And pastors keep using them precisely because when people leave the service and shake their hand, they say what a wonderful sermon it was, with comments like, “I love hearing about your family” and “Your kids are so cute” and “I really identify with you.”

Really? We want our congregations to identify with us? This is precisely the problem with personal illustrations: It inadvertently puts the spotlight on the preacher. Within a few months of such preaching, everyone knows the quirks of each member of the pastor’s family, his triumphs and failures in key parts of his life, his passions and his dislikes, and so forth. In the end, they know more about their pastor than they know about Jesus.

Some pastors defend the practice by saying they only use negative examples of themselves—talking about ways in which they have failed to live up to the call of Christ. What they don’t realize is that this just raises their status even higher with the congregation. Invariably, the illustrations turn on a moment or realization when the preacher recognized his flaw and changed direction. So now the pastor is someone who is a model of humility! And even if the pastor says, “I still struggle with this,” either no one really believes her or they exalt her as a model of spiritual seriousness—they think, She really is working hard on her spiritual life!

There is, in short, hardly a way to use an illustration from one’s personal life without it distracting listeners’ gaze from Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. That role has now been subsumed by the preacher, who depends on the personal illustration to make the sermon relevant.

Too many evangelical pastors have become addicted to using them because, let’s face it, they love the feedback. People pump their hand after the service and tell them how much they enjoyed that little story. I know of where I speak. Pastors are a lonely and insecure lot, and we need affirmation as much as (and maybe more) than everyone else. It is very difficult to resist this temptation in a day when the personal, the intimate, and tell-all is the order of the day everywhere else.

(It is no wonder that we’ve stopped understanding this part of the service as “worship.” It isn’t in so many of our churches. In this regard, I thank God for praise choruses—they at least keep the service from completely collapsing into the horizontal.)

Some suggestions
The way forward is not hard to fathom, and let me take privilege of being more hortatory in this article, as I do have experience in preaching.

First, we might bring back pulpits. It doesn’t have to be the kind that remind us of churches of yesteryear. How about designing a contemporary pulpit that accents the fact that the preacher has been commissioned by the church, and that the sermon is finally under the authority of the church—all of which is under the authority of God? Something that says in its design that in this moment, the sermon—the spoken word of God—is not about the speaker of that word but about the God who stands with and above the preacher.

Second, pastors might shorten the sermon so that the service is not dominated by one person and one voice. We can make room for more singing. Make room for more prayer. Make room for silence. Maybe make room for the regular celebration of the sacraments/ordinances. In other words, we can make room for God.

That means congregations have to give the pastor more time for sermon preparation. As hard as it might be to believe, it takes more time to prepare a shorter sermon than a longer one, because every word and phrase becomes ever more weighted. It requires the preacher to think hard about what to keep in and what to leave out.

Third, I’d suggest we put a moratorium on personal illustrations—or at least go to some lengths to curtail the number. Preachers can tell they have become addicted to personal illustrations the moment they decide to stop using them. Try for a few weeks not to use any, and what you’ll see is your mind returning to yourself and your experience time and again to drive home a point.

Of course, in a People magazine/Facebook culture, where we are dying to know the intimate details of others’ lives, where someone doesn’t seem authentic unless they reveal something from their personal life—well, we cannot be effective communicators in this culture without dropping in the occasional personal illustration. People want to identify personally with speakers and preachers and writers. So if we want to gain an audience in this culture, we have to offer them a bit of ourselves. This is precisely why, when I am a guest speaker at a church, I try to include one personal illustration toward the beginning of my talk. For better or worse, it makes it more likely that the audience will give me an ear. It’s also why my publisher asked me to include a few in my book.

So I get it. But I’m unclear why a pastor, who has all sorts of occasions other than worship to lift the veil and let the congregation see him as more than a preacher, needs week after week to draw on his own life to drive home a point in sermon after sermon. And I’ve seen too many instances when the personal anecdote becomes such a crutch that a cult of personality slowly but surely begins to develop around the pastor.

Part of this is due to sheer laziness—believe me, I speak from personal acquaintance with the vice. It’s so much easier to reach into one’s memory than it is to read extensively. And when Sunday morning is breathing down your neck, it’s just too easy to reach for the personal illustration.

Part of this is due to the fact that preachers do not feel they have time to read widely and deeply, in literature, in history, in politics, in theology. So they don’t have anything in the tank when they sit down to write a sermon. It’s another reason congregations need to insist that their pastors take anywhere from 10 to 15 hours a week in sermon preparation.

Fourth, preachers need to ask themselves at the beginning, the middle, and the end of sermon preparation: “Is this mostly about God? Does this help people better grasp who God is, and what he has done for us in Christ? Does it first and foremost exalt Christ?”

One sign of how horizontal our faith has become is the internal objection that our minds raise at this point: Really? Can I preach about God week after week? I mean, how much can one say about Christ before it gets old or one starts repeating oneself?

As if God is finite. As if there is only so much one can say about his countless attributes? As if heaven will get boring after a few weeks of praise because we will have run out of things to praise.

One objection, of course, is a good one: “Doesn’t my congregation need guidance on how to live in Christ?” Yes! And when that guidance is thoroughly and firmly grounded in who Christ is and what he has done for us, then it will be more relevant and meaningful than anything we can conjure up by talking about our needs with highlight reels from our lives.






THE ELUSIVE PRESENCE
As Christianity Today's editor in chief, in this column I reflect on American Christianity, but especially evangelical Christianity. I’ve been embedded in the movement for over five decades, so I should have something to say by now. And what I have to say about the movement is more or less what I have to say to myself, as I see in myself the same shortcomings and potential that I see in the movement at large. The title of the column, “The Elusive Presence,” is deliberately borrowed from The Elusive Presence: The Heart of Biblical Theology by Samuel Terrien, originally published in 1978. I read the book soon after it was published, but today I don’t consciously remember much from it except the title (though I suspect it has formed me in ways I remain unaware of). As this series goes on, the careful reader will understand why this is an apt title for the column. (Subscribe to The Galli Report newsletter for updates.)

Mark Galli
Mark Galli is editor in chief of Christianity Today and author, most recently, of Karl Barth: An Introductory Biography for Evangelicals.
PREVIOUS THE ELUSIVE PRESENCE COLUMNS:
Whatever Happened to Communion & Baptism?
The Temptations of Evangelical Worship
The Church’s Sickness Unto Death
More . . .





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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 - July 2019
« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2019, 11:57:04 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/july-web-only/boomers-summer-movies-marvel-iron-man-toy-story-4-yesterday.html




Boomers, Take It from Woody or Iron Man: It’s Time to Pass the Torch




This summer’s blockbusters showcase the importance of transferring wisdom between generations.

 
Dear Baby Boomers: If there were ever a time to pay attention to what’s coming out of Hollywood, it would be now.

I’m not saying that just because the Beatles-themed movie Yesterday is holding steady at the box office. From superhero flicks to kid’s movie reboots, many of the summer blockbusters of 2019 are voicing a deep longing to learn from the wisdom of previous generations. But this common impulse isn’t just about our favorite characters—it’s a wakeup call for everybody.

The immediate backdrop for these cinematic stories is the public maligning Boomers in particular have recently faced. Some have gone so far as to suggest that Boomers have “ruined everything” for younger Americans. To their credit, certain Boomers have responded by apologizing for the world they’ve handed to younger generations.

As a newly 40, card-carrying member of Generation X, I’ve always found myself somewhere in the middle—a generational interloper between the graying Boomers and hipster millennials and members of Gen Z. Gen Xers can be self-deprecating, apathetic, and downright cynical, but as we’ve aged, we’ve also come to embrace our unique role as interpreters and bridge-builders, mentoring our millennial friends and colleagues while “leading from below” in support of our Boomer bosses.

From that perspective, I see the big screen reflecting a cultural shift when it comes to inter-generational relations. (Spoilers to follow.)

Take Avengers: Endgame, the Marvel movie that kicked off the summer season and is now the highest-grossing film of all time. The movie concludes with the sacrificial death of Tony Stark (Iron Man). Released a mere two months later, Spider-Man: Far From Home picks up where Endgame leaves off. It takes place in a world traumatized by the events of the Avengers movies (including Stark’s death), with high schooler Peter Parker trying to navigate this new landscape.

As Spider-Man, Peter may have superhuman strength. He may be able to swing effortlessly through the air on his web slingers. But he is missing a secret ingredient: wisdom. This becomes a big problem when the primary threat to his post-Avengers world is Mysterio—a villain whose weapon of choice is deception. Spider-Man can’t discern what to do because he can’t tell what is real. He is in desperate need of something more than his super strength provides.

Thankfully, even from the grave, Tony Stark comes to the rescue. Indeed, Stark haunts every frame of Far From Home, and not simply because he sacrificed his life for the sake of universe. The truly heroic (and enduring) move Stark makes is to pass the torch to a younger generation, daring to imagine a world that isn’t oriented solely around his interests and concerns. Not only does he intentionally cultivate a mentoring relationship with Peter Parker while he is alive, but he also strategically positions his own intellectual and material resources to help Spider-Man face an unknown future.

In other words, mentorship doesn’t happen by accident (not even with superheroes), and it certainly doesn’t happen when each generation is pointing fingers over who’s to blame for societal issues around us. Stark’s relationship with Spider-Man gives us an inspiring, heroic picture of what it looks like to anticipate succession and support the rising generation early on (even while demonstrating how complex and fragile an endeavor of this sort can truly be).

Still holding on
Boomers, however, aren’t in the habit of passing the torch because, well, they’ve never done it before. Think of Joe Biden’s response when reminded during a recent debate that 30 years ago he was already calling for a passing of the torch to a younger generation of leaders: “I’m still holding on to that torch.” This resistance to cross-generational collaboration is not simply a political matter. It also has profound ramifications for our churches. Multiple generations of Christians (from Gen Xers to millennials to Gen Zers) have grown up without the elders and mentors that every previous generation before them has had. And why is that? To quote a boomer, who is both wise and humble enough to address this question directly, it’s “because (I hate to say it) my generation of Boomers is not discipling the next generation as well as previous generations did for us.”

The end result is not merely that the church is “losing an entire generation,” although that is certainly happening. The problem runs much deeper, and it has become increasingly clear in my work at Fuller Seminary with countless Gen Xers and millennials who are pursuing kingdom vocations of various kinds. To put it in the words of author and pastor Jonathan Martin, it’s not that the church in America is losing a generation. It’s that “a generation is losing its elders.”

In Mark 2:21–22, Jesus talked about pouring new wine into old wineskins, which is something we are prone to do when we assume the systems and structures of the past are somehow capable of addressing the pressing questions of the present. My sense is that boomers really do want younger generations to take the reins. But for one reason or another, at the very moment when the Tony Starks of the world are about to hand their EDITH glasses to the next Iron Man … they just can’t seem to let go.

Toy Story 4 takes the theme of letting go and makes it explicit. Woody has been a faithful toy his entire existence. His raison d'être—his vocation—is to make children happy. But in the fourth installment of the franchise, he faces a reality in which he is no longer needed, not by Andy, not by Bonnie, and not by the other toys in the toy bin. Still, his dogged refusal to let go of his original calling, coupled with his inability to imagine new possibilities for his post-toy bin life, means that he is constantly getting in the way of others—ironically, the very toys and children he wants so badly to help.

For Bonnie and the toys he loves to have any chance to flourish, Woody, much like the Boomers in the audience, must find a way to let go—to let the other toys step fully into their vocation—and to have enough faith in them to know that, when he does, “it’s going to be okay.”

Passing on wisdom
Yesterday turns this idea on its head in a rather fantastical way. Like Avengers and Spider-Man, it too features a “blip” of sorts that creates an entirely new set of conditions to which the characters must respond. More specifically, Yesterday imagines a world in which The Beatles—arguably the boomer generation’s most influential pop-cultural musical group—are suddenly erased from history. Only Jack Malik, a frustrated young musician, is left unfazed, which makes him solely responsible for remembering and communicating their music to the world.

Yesterday depicts in rather stark terms what is likely to transpire if boomers don’t adjust the ways in which they relate to younger generations. Millennials, Gen Zers, and yes, even us Gen Xers recognize and appreciate the contributions of the boomer generation. After all, where would contemporary music be without artists like The Beatles? But the repeated and ongoing refusal of boomers to pass the torch of leadership (whether in the realm of politics, religion, education, or economics), even and especially when it comes at the expense of their posterity, has created a generational crisis.

At least in the US, it has produced multiple generations of people detached from their history and unaware of their origins. And this intergenerational disjointedness is bad news for everyone involved—not simply because “Hey Dude,” the 21st-century version featured in Yesterday, is clearly a far worse title for a song than “Hey Jude” but because it makes the transmission of wisdom impossible.

A great example of how the transmission of wisdom depends upon intergenerational bonds can be found in Paul’s letters to his younger protégé Timothy. Yes, Paul himself intentionally mentored Timothy. However, Paul was confident in Timothy’s ability to lead his Christian community wisely not because Timothy possessed some kind innate capacity for being and becoming wise on his own, but because the wisdom borne by his Christian faith had been transmitted to him by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5).

So, when Paul tells Timothy not to “let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12), it’s not because Paul considers old ways of thinking to be inherently passé or believes that young people always know better than their elders. Rather, it’s because Timothy was a young man who was connected to the wisdom of the generations that preceded him.

Being and becoming wise is about so much more than knowing the difference between right and wrong. It’s about developing the capacity to discern when new wineskins are needed. Indeed, Jesus’ parable about wine and wineskins is itself an expression of the ancient Jewish wisdom tradition that he inherited, developed, and then transmitted to his disciples.

It is therefore no small wonder that Peter eventually developed the capacity to discern when the Spirit was calling for new wineskins, a sensibility he demonstrated well when he agreed to ignore Jewish food laws for the sake of his ministry to Gentiles (Acts 10:9–11:18). Similarly, it is this same tradition of wisdom that moved Paul to become “all things to all people” for the sake of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:22). So, whether we’re talking about Jesus, Peter, and Paul, or Timothy, Lois, and Eunice, intergenerational wisdom is the necessary ingredient for knowing when a new situation calls for new wineskins.

All this to say: Boomers, we are in desperate need of your wisdom. But we also need new wineskins. We face a world that is of a different order than the one you encountered. To move forward, we need elders who are willing to let go, empower us, and ultimately, trust that everything is going to be okay.

Of course, don’t just take my word for it. Listen to Woody, Spider-Man, and Iron Man, or maybe even John Lennon (who is still alive in the alternate reality of Yesterday). If your eyes and ears are tuned appropriately, then each of these films has the potential for serving as a timely wakeup call.

But if this summer’s slate of films doesn’t convince you, then perhaps you’ll heed the words of someone who knows a thing or two about pursuing wisdom in the midst of intergenerational crises: “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. … No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”




Kutter Callaway is associate professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary and co-director of Reel Spirituality. His most recent books are Deep Focus: Film and Theology in Dialogue and The Aesthetics of Atheism: Theology and Imagination in Contemporary Culture. He hosts the Kutter Callaway Podcast and tweets @kuttercallaway.






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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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Ted T.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2019
« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2019, 02:57:32 pm »

 Predators and Prey: Was Death Part of God’s Plan All Along?
The same is true of beer, which doesn’t occur in nature. There’s the sort of fermentation process that doesn’t necessarily happen in nature, but we figured out how to do it.


Sorry,  all fruit and grain when crushed or rotten will have naturally occurring alcohol. As long as there is sugar, yeast and water alcohol will happen.

Bread in water and left to sit has these ingredients and naturally turns to beer.  This is exactly how the earliest beer makers, the early Egyptians, made their bread beer. She is obviously a thinker, not a researcher...

...yet she didn't think that the scriptures about animals were pertinent when she was trying to understand evolution...

 Something is off about animals: 
1st hint: The serpent is declared to be more evil than the other beasts, implying that they are / have a lesser evil.

2nd hint: the serpent is cursed above, ie, more than, the other animals, a weird thing to say if they were not evil.

3d hint: the flood was a judgement on the wicked violence of man and the animals.



Many Christians suggest that the evil of animals is GOD's response to Adam's sin but that would necessitate GOD creating evil beings as a response to evil which fails at two levels: 1. GOD is light and light cannot create darkness and 2. how is more evil an answer to stop evil?

Since the animals need not be actually evil to show the fall into savagery as a natural effect of sin, the thought occurs, why were they said to be evil lite? Especially at the time the serpent was said to be full bodied evil BEFORE Adam ate? If we accept the serpent as being evil when he was mentioned to be evil then why must we put off the evil of animals from when they were said to be evil until AFTER Adam ate?

Then there is the contention that sin can only accrue to those who have chosen to be sinners by their free will decison....but animals would seem to not have the ability to make a free will decison though they are judged for their sinfulness as the flood story tells us. Hmmm.....only an intelligent spirit who chose by its free will to be sinful and then was moved into an animal body fits this particular bill at all, eh?

If some evil spirits imbue some animals, that is, if some sinful spirits receive animal bodies when they are moved into the world, Matt 13:36-39, would that cause any serious disruption to Christian thinking? It is not regular thinking but it does follow scripture and as far as I can see, it does no harm to existing revelations of GOD's nature...
« Last Edit: July 29, 2019, 03:00:23 pm by Ted T. »
Wheat are NOT reborn / regenerate tares !!!

Matt 13:36-43  ...Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.

38 the field is the world
good seed are of the kingdom sown by the Son of man
tares are of the wicked one 39 sown by the devil


Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
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by Bladerunner
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Last post June 28, 2019, 09:21:34 am
by patrick jane

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