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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - June 2020  (Read 1241 times)

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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - June 2020
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2020, 10:19:28 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/june-web-only/jesus-and-disinherited.html







Jesus and the Disinherited









Howard Thurman still speaks to the church.


What does Jesus offer to a people who live with their backs against the wall? This is the question with which Howard Thurman began his landmark work, Jesus and the Disinherited, in 1949. The work became an intellectual pillar for the burgeoning civil rights movement in the 1950s. Howard Thurman, an unorthodox mystic and prophet, served as a spiritual mentor to civil rights leaders in the mid-century black freedom struggle. Until recently, Thurman’s work was not as widely known or studied among white Christian communities as it deserved to be. But our current historical moment offers new impetus to return to this spiritual giant and particularly to his seminal work on Jesus.

In Jesus and the Disinherited, Thurman recounts a conversation he had while on a six-month speaking tour of South Asia in the 1930s sponsored by the Student Christian Movement, a group co-sponsored by the YMCA and YWCA. At the time, India struggled for independence from British colonialism. After one of his talks, Thurman describes a conversation with a young Indian lawyer who made this observation:



Quote
What are you doing over here? I know what the newspapers are saying about a pilgrimage of friendship and the rest, but that is not my question. What are you doing over here? ... More than three hundred years ago your forefathers were taken from the western coast of Africa as slaves. The people who dealt in the slave traffic were Christians. ... The men who bought the slaves were Christians. Christian ministers, quoting the Christian apostle Paul, gave the sanction of religion to the system of slavery. ... During all the period since then [emancipation] you have lived in a Christian nation in which you are segregated, lynched, and burned. Even in the church, I understand, there is segregation. ... I am a Hindu. I do not understand. Here you are in my country, standing deep within the Christian faith and tradition. I do not wish to seem rude to you. But sir, I think you are a traitor to all the darker peoples of the earth. I am wondering what you, an intelligent man, can say in defense of your position.


Jesus and the Disinherited was the fruit of Thurman’s answer to this challenge. What does the religion of Jesus offer to those with their backs against the wall? Thurman began by focusing on Jesus’ situation as a poor Jew living in occupied territory with no civil protections, an outsider in his own land. For the Jewish people in Jesus’s day, their most urgent concern was their “… attitude toward Rome…. And Rome was everywhere. No Jewish person of the period could deal with the question of his practical life, his vocation, his place in society, until he first settled deep within himself this critical question.” As a non-citizen, living under a violent and oppressive regime, Jesus’ life, ministry, and death happened as one with his back against the wall.

Thurman went on to argue how people who live in such predicaments are pursued by “the three hounds of hell”: fear, deception, and hatred. Ironically, each hound can be heeled and used as a tool for surviving personal and systemic oppression. Fear can focus the mind and train the body to avoid situations and encounters which could lead to violence or death. Deception can keep the oppressor in the dark regarding an individual or community’s real feelings, motivations, actions, and even aspirations. And hatred can steel the resolve of those who find themselves facing overwhelming odds. But, Thurman argues, allowing fear, deception, or hatred to become the ruling ethos of the dispossessed comes with a significant price. Habitually adopting any one hound of hell ultimately takes its toll on the humanity of the oppressed, further stealing from them their dignity and their ability to reimagine the world and work for genuine social transformation.

Thurman’s gambit was that Jesus, subject to the same temptations as every dispossessed person, pursued a path distinct from the perils of adopting fear, deception or hatred as a means of survival. According to Thurman, Jesus began with the simple idea that, “Every man is potentially every other man’s neighbor,” that “Neighborliness is nonspatial; it is qualitative. A man must love his neighbor directly, clearly, permitting no barriers between.” From Thurman’s perspective, wherever the spirit of Jesus “appears, the oppressed gather fresh courage; for he announced the good news that fear, hypocrisy, and hatred, the three hounds of hell that track the trail of the disinherited, need have no dominion over them.”

Living in a day when police routinely abuse authority, when racial disparity distorts human identity, when it is accepted to discriminate against migrant children and deny individuals the right to legally seek asylum; in which current taxing and spending policies favor the rich and powerful, balloon the debt, and have produced the widest gap between the rich and the poor in over 100 years; in which the highest office of the land consistently expresses a profound ambivalence regarding the common humanity of all peoples; a time in which an ecological catastrophe is upon us and a pandemic surrounds us— Thurman’s words resonate.

In Jesus and the Disinherited, Thurman insists that to fight and struggle against oppressive powers and principalities requires a spiritual reservoir that can only be filled through the practice of spiritual disciplines like silence, contemplation, meditation, and prayer. Jesus “recognized with authentic realism that anyone who permits another to determine the quality of his inner life gives into the hands of the other the keys to his destiny.” Thurman warned his peers during the mid-century civil rights struggle against severing the labor of working for social justice from the spiritual roots, which give such work its vigor and sustaining power. Thurman reminds that the way of Jesus was trod by one with his back against the wall and that only by connecting to the Spirit of life and justice can we sustain movements for social change.












Christian Collins Winn is associate professor of theology at the Global Center for Advanced Studies, Dublin, Ireland and Teaching Minister at Colonial Church in Edina, Minnesota.

Speaking Out is Christianity Today’s guest opinion column and (unlike an editorial) does not necessarily represent the opinion of the publication.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 - June 2020
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2020, 10:21:32 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/june/conspiracy-theories-engaging-online-and-wisdom-intersection.html







Conspiracy Theories, Engaging Online, and Wisdom: The Intersection of the Three and How to Respond Biblically










While social media offers amazing opportunities to connect and learn, it seems that every new day brings new stories of awfulness.


One of the things I love about living in a major city like Chicago is that if I miss the train into the city I don’t have to wait long for the next one. Unfortunately, the same is true of examples of bad behavior on social media. While social media offers amazing opportunities to connect and learn, it seems that every new day brings new stories of awfulness. Baptizing the quote often ascribed to Churchill: the greatest argument against humanity’s inherent goodness is five minutes scrolling through the average social media feed.

In recent months this tendency has only increased. Since Ed and I wrote an editorial for the Dallas Morning News on the importance of church leaders’ discipling their people on social media habits, multiple controversies have erupted. Most often these have revolved around conspiracy theories being promoted about the motivations and actions of the protests.

Given the enduring importance of conspiracy theories, I want to circle back to some of the criticism of the DNS article before focusing on few preliminary suggestions on how Christians can begin to think through healthy online habits.

The Problem of the Media

Several responses to my article in the Dallas Morning News pointed out that their suspicion of mainstream media outlets often arises from clear incidents of bias in their reporting. This is fair criticism.

The reality is that the state of reporting on religion—and particularly in reporting on evangelicalism—is quite poor. Major outlets get obvious facts wrong about simple beliefs that betrays both a lack of knowledge about the material they’re reporting on and a laziness to not search out the answer.

Google examples of where outlets have tried to define “Calvinism” and you’ll find answers that range from simplistic to malicious caricatures. It is not hard to pick up the phone and call a pastor or seminary professor for help, but this is somehow deemed not important.

More distressingly, some outlets seem intent upon pointing to outliers as examples of evangelical behavior while ignoring the wide majority. This was evident in March when outlets focused on churches and pastors who defied shelter-at-home orders and tried to pawn miracle cures for the virus.

Literally thousands of pastors led the way on closing their churches and serving their communities, often at significant personal loss, but these were obscured.

Going Too Far

What becomes problematic is when critics of the mainstream media use these examples to push Christians to dismiss all journalism. This is often to the benefit of fringe, sometimes religiously-informed news outlets who feed a narrative that Christians are victims of a conspiracy and only they hold the truth.

Having acknowledged the failures in journalism, it is critical that Christians resist the temptation to reject mainstream reporting altogether. This is a critical mistake that leads us down the pathway to isolation whereby we invalidate any news article we find unfavorable.

Moreover, there are good journalists in major outlets, even religion journalists who strive to understand and report on evangelicalism in all fairness. At times, this leads them to our failures, but in other cases they want to detail the nuance and complexity within the movement. I might not always agree with them, but I respect their integrity and desire to report honestly.

This all-or-nothing mentality also suggests a poor understanding of Christian engagement. Our goal should be a maturity to engage the new reporting of our time with a critical eye rather than to shout bias upon seeing the outlet logo. We need to read critically across a wide range, accepting hard truths that are well supported rather than if they support our political or cultural narrative. We need to resist our temptations to echo chambers; a temptation that is common to many other subcultures across the globe.

Taking Steps

One of the frustrating takeaways from articles on social media is how they can often have great data or insights on to why and how our online platforms are useful and/or destructive but they can leave the reader at a dead end. After outlining the problem, they can often leave people with little insight into how to respond.

Even as they seem indispensable, social media platforms are new and healthy habits remain unclear. In this respect, I believe that the book of James offers a few preliminary insights in thinking through our online presence.

Lesson One: Is Christ Lord of your social media?

At first glance, this is an easy question. Anyone who’s gone through Sunday School will be quick to say that Christ is Lord. Indeed, their social media profile says “Christian” and likely includes a bible verse or two. But Christ being Lord of your social media is less a matter of what your profile says and more a matter of what you say and how you relate to others.

Just like wearing WWJD bracelets in the 1990s did not qualify, social media profiles can be misleading and even destructive if the heart behind them is not submitted to Christ.

In the Dallas Morning News piece, I paraphrased James 3:11-12 in saying that out of the same social media account cannot come professions of the risen Christ and accusations of #pizzagate. My point was, building on James, that Christians need to recognize that they cannot separate their Christian witness from their political posts.

How we speak to one another, the kinds of stories we elevate, and the language we choose all flow out of this question of lordship.

Lesson Two: Ask for Wisdom

I love that James opens with the encouragement for Christians to ask for wisdom. That James leaves it opened ended (“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God…”) is designed to provoke in the heart of the believer the obvious response that we all lack wisdom.

Indeed, later in James the author circles back to this this theme: “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.”

In a climate where truth is often secondary, we would do well to ask God for wisdom in navigating not only what we should read but what we should post. Moreover, we need to recognize how our casualness regarding the truth and brash arrogance are symptoms of rebellion not qualities to be admired. If you are uncertain during this time, bring your need before God in prayer.

Into this, James reminds us that God “gives generously to all without reproach.” If you are struggling to know who to listen to, start with prayer.

Lesson Three: Hit Pause

One of the central lessons of James that social media tends to warp is the importance of being “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” (1:19). The pace of our news cycles and our exchanges make it nearly impossible to hold off. We think it’s necessary to let others see how angry we are about something someone did or said.

Even as my column encouraged Christians to hear this encouragement and hit pause, it is stunning how quickly we can rush past James’ warning and fire away on social media.

Long ago, my father taught me one of the most valuable lessons when email was still relatively new: never send an angry email. Save it in your drafts and pray on it for at least 24 hours. I currently have dozens of saved emails from the past decade that I wrote in anger but held off on sending.

In some cases, God resolved the situation without my anger; in others, he gave me peace despite a lack of resolution. In every case, I realized that the email would only satisfy my rage and they remain in my drafts as testimonies to the wisdom in James.

It is critical that we understand that just because we’re behind a screen, this does not absolve us from James’ warning regarding anger. Instead, let me encourage you to adopt a similar practice as with my emails: if you’re going to tweet or post something in anger, bitterness, or mean spiritedness, save in your drafts and give it 24 hours.

Let God’s Spirit speak to you about whether the situation really needs this message. At its core, this willingness to submit our anger to God’s voice is a testament that, going back to lesson one, Christ is the Lord of our social media.

Andrew MacDonald is associate director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Institute.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 - June 2020
« Reply #15 on: June 12, 2020, 10:24:08 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/june-web-only/michael-heiser-angels-demons-unseen-realm.html







The Truth About Angels and Demons Is Staring Us in the Face









Michael Heiser’s books cut through the myths and legends surrounding these supernatural beings.


M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Sixth Sense catapulted the director to overnight stardom. Most people who saw the film will never forget the shock they felt when the trick ending was revealed and they were forced to reassess the meaning of each and every scene they had just witnessed. In the flash of an eye, it became a very different movie, far richer and far stranger than they had first imagined.

If I may leap from the secular to the sacred, from pop culture to inspired Scripture, I suppose the two travelers on the road to Emmaus must have felt the same way when Jesus opened up the Old Testament to them (Luke 24:27). So, they must have thought to themselves, that’s what Moses really meant—and David and Isaiah and Ezekiel and Daniel! How could we have missed it when the truth was staring us in the face all these years?

It is as if the viewers of the film and the travelers to Emmaus were trying to put together a thousand-piece puzzle without having been shown a picture of what the finished puzzle looks like. Only when the director of the film, or the gospel, revealed that picture were they able to use it as a key for assembling the pieces into a coherent image and narrative. I felt something of that sense of revelation when I happened upon Michael Heiser’s book The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, first published in 2015.

Heiser, who holds a PhD in Hebrew Bible and Semitic languages and is the executive director of the School of Theology at Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida, has devoted his career to expanding the horizons of Bible-believing Christians who have never known what to make of Scripture’s frequent references to “gods” and “sons of God.” Using Psalm 82 as his starting point, Heiser argues that God chose to work through a divine council of supernatural beings whom he created and over whom he holds full sovereignty. He intended for his council to also include human representatives who would meet at Eden, itself a nexus point between heaven and earth.

But man, tempted by a rebellious member of the council, sinned and lost Eden. Things devolved further when a series of supernatural beings assumed bodies and mated with human women to produce a race of giants, the Nephilim (Gen. 6:1–4). The evil of this race furthered the wickedness of men and led to the Flood, but even that event did not put an end to human and divine wickedness. The campaign to build the Tower of Babel showed that evil and rebellion were still rampant among men and gods alike.

As a result of that rebellion, God portioned the land and turned over those portions to the control of supernatural members of his council (Deut. 32:8–9), leaving Israel for himself as a remaining plot of holy land to be inhabited by the descendants of Abraham, whom he called for that purpose. But the supernatural guardians of those portions turned, one by one, to evil, causing God to judge and curse them, as recorded in Psalm 82. Worse yet, the descendants of Abraham turned to evil and began to worship the rebellious gods of the other nations, causing God to exile them to Babylon, the very land where the Tower of Babel had been built.

Angelic Ministry
Since the publication of The Unseen Realm, Heiser has continued to flesh out the supernatural worldview of the Bible with two recent books on the nature, origin, and functions of angels and demons. Cutting through the myths and legends that have surrounded these divine beings, Heiser allows us to see them through the eyes of the writers of the Old and New Testament as well as the Jewish and Greek writers who lived in the intertestamental period.

Although Heiser presents his case and offers his conclusions in an accessible manner, his points are backed up by a mountain of textual, historical, anthropological, and linguistic research. Indeed, one of Heiser’s great strengths is taking findings from esoteric, highly academic papers and helping ordinary, non-specialist readers understand their relevance for interpreting the Bible and seeing the overall shape of God’s work in human history.

In his 2018 book Angels: What the Bible Really Says About God’s Heavenly Host, Heiser explains that message-bearing (what the word angel means in Greek) marks only one of the many functions performed by the supernatural, non-physical beings that God created. Angels also act as ministers of God’s will, watchers who are ever vigilant, soldiers in God’s heavenly host (or army), interpreters to men of God’s messages, protectors of God’s holiness, executors of God’s divine judgment, and members of God’s council who participate in and bear witness to God’s sovereign decisions and decrees.

Heiser presents a dynamic picture of God holding session with his divine council, but he also lays down biblical limits for angelic authority and advice. One of the best examples in Scripture of God convening his council is 1 Kings 22:19–23, when he asks how the wicked king Ahab might be defeated. After performing a close analysis on the passage, Heiser concludes that the “text presents us with a clear instance where God has sovereignly decided to act but allows his lesser, intelligent servants to participate in how his decision is carried out. God wasn’t searching for ideas, as though he couldn’t conceive of a plan. He allowed those who serve him the latitude to propose options.”

In his overview of the study of angels between the period of Exile and the ministry of Christ, Heiser marshals his prodigious research to dispel two popular myths. First, he demonstrates that Second Temple Jewish writers, including the translators of the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) and the Qumran community that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, did not eliminate the language of angels as sons of god out of a fear of promoting polytheism. Their writing shows quite the opposite: a clear understanding that Yahweh is the only God but that he is surrounded by a divine council of supernatural beings who are often called gods. Second, he shows that the Dead Sea Scrolls do not embody a dualistic vision of good and evil as equal and opposite forces, but of angelic warfare between beings created by the omnipotent and always-benevolent Yahweh.

Whereas the Old Testament speaks of the angel of the Lord carrying out the judgment of God, the New Testament, written after God became man, no longer mentions the Angel of the Lord—because judgment has been “entrusted” to Christ (John 5:22). Angels are described as exacting God’s vengeance in the apocalyptic book of Revelation, but in the rest of the New Testament, they are usually seen as ministering to believers.

Some have argued that Christ’s death on the cross redeemed fallen angels as well as fallen human beings, Heiser refutes this theory, making it clear that “the sacrifice of Jesus does not help angels. It helps believers—the children of Abraham by faith.”

Demonic Rebellion
In his most recent book, Demons: What the Bible Really Says About the Powers of Darkness, Heiser takes up the story of those fallen angels whom even the death of Christ could not redeem. The book dispels the myth, popularized in John Milton’s classic poem Paradise Lost, of a single rebellion against God led by Satan before the world was created, a myth that has little actual scriptural support. Instead, Heiser defines demons, or evil spirits, as “members of God’s heavenly host who have chosen to rebel against his will.” Rather than taking place once, as it does in Paradise Lost, this rebellion (as noted earlier in this review) took different forms at different times: the serpent in Eden, the sons of God who slept with the daughters of men, and the disobedient sons of god Yahweh put in charge of the nations after the Tower of Babel.

Still, despite their rebellion, the evil spirits continued to be spirits living in a spiritual realm. As Heiser observes, “Their rebellion did not mean they were no longer part of that world or that they became something other than what they were. They are still spiritual beings. Rather, rebellion affected (and still characterizes) their disposition toward, and relationship to, Yahweh.” As for the demons described in the Old Testament, Heiser explains that some are “associated with the realm of the dead and its inhabitants,” some are linked to specific geographical locations opposed to God’s rule, and some are “preternatural creatures associated with idolatry and unholy ground.”

Regarding the third kind, Heiser notes that, while in theory any ground “not occupied by the presence of God” could be considered unholy, all places outside Jerusalem were not therefore places of spiritual danger. Nevertheless, Heiser writes, “forbidding, uninhabitable places in lands associated with other gods were unholy in the sense of sinister and evil. This was especially true of the desert wilderness, whether literal or used metaphorically to describe places ravaged by divine judgment.” It was into that wilderness that the scapegoat was sent on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16), a wilderness quite literally viewed as a locus of “a cosmic struggle involving the spiritual world.” Many modern readers, even if they believe in biblical inerrancy, will find these themes unsettling, but they are attested to in the Old Testament, carried forward into the Second Temple period after Israel’s exile, and glimpsed in the exorcisms performed by Jesus in the New Testament.

What Heiser has to say about Satan will be familiar to many, but perhaps not his argument that the demons who seek to tempt, subvert, and possess human beings were believed to have their origin in the hybrid Nephilim that were born to the sons of god and daughters of men. When those Nephilim died, Heiser claims, their disembodied spirits became demons. Another unfamiliar theme concerns the origin of the cosmic, political-territorial spiritual warfare we discover in the Bible. Heiser says it began not in a primeval rebellion by Satan and his minions, but instead when “the sons of god [to whom God had apportioned the nations] transgressed Yahweh’s desire for earthly order and just rule of his human imagers, sowing chaos in the nations.”

But we need not fear, Heiser assures us; after Christ defeated the power of Satan, he opened the way to a reclamation of the demon-controlled nations. This reclamation took place at Pentecost (Acts 2), when the gospel was carried to all those lands previously ruled by the rebellious sons of god. Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost together healed the division begun by Babel, making it possible for the Gentiles to free themselves from false gods and embrace Jesus as Lord.

Breaking Down the Darkness
Though many readers might trip over the technical aspects of Angels and Demons, with their lengthy charts and heavy emphasis on the parsing of Hebrew and Greek terms, Heiser keeps things moving and skillfully sums up his main points. I do wish, however, that he had been more sympathetic to modern spiritual-warfare advocates who share Heiser’s concept of cosmic strife that includes a strong territorial element. Though I agree with Heiser that the fallen sons of god were disinherited by the Cross, the Resurrection, and the spreading of the gospel, it’s hard to deny that certain areas of the globe remain immersed in spiritual darkness.

Spiritual-warfare advocates have located just such an area in a rectangle that stretches from the 10th to the 40th latitude north of the equator. This “10/40 window,” as missions strategists sometimes call it, encompasses North Africa, the Middle East, China, Pakistan, and India. Given that the vast majority of unreached people groups live in this window and that persecution of the church is strongest there, it does not seem unreasonable to suggest that a territorial reign of evil (or stronghold) exists in that area of the globe, and that intense prayer on the part of believers may help break down demonic communication.

I believe Heiser’s books can inspire that needed movement of prayer just as they have illuminated the full meaning and extent of spiritual warfare in the pages of God’s Word.




Louis Markos is professor in English and scholar in residence at Houston Baptist University and holds the Robert H. Ray Chair in Humanities. His books include Heaven and Hell: Visions of the Afterlife in the Western Poetic Tradition (Cascade Books).
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 - June 2020
« Reply #16 on: June 15, 2020, 03:07:37 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/june/coronavirus-end-times-middle-east-jets-pandemic-eschatology.html







Middle East Christians Grapple with Apocalyptic Pandemic












COVID-19 offers eschatology experts opportunity to refine public understanding of what Revelation teaches.


Imad Shehadeh sensed an apocalyptic felt need.

As chatter increased in the Arab world over the soaring coronavirus death tallies in China and Iran, the president of Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary (JETS) in Amman began preaching eschatology in lockdown.

“The coronavirus could qualify as one of the calamities that point to the end times, but could also just be a passing plague,” he said in a widely shared video series posted in March.

“We cannot be dogmatic, but at the very least [these] distresses have resemblance to much more severe events in the future time of tribulation.”

Diligently studying to incorporate aspects of all theological systems, Shehadeh aimed to keep the Cross central within a literal hermeneutic.

“The more we study prophecy,” he said, “the more we can see things in our world that others cannot, like a physician who knows immediately how to treat a wound.”

COVID-19 has left many bleeding.

Shehadeh has previously authored a four-volume commentary on biblical prophecy. It was written in Arabic, he said, to address the gap created by a lack of traditional Catholic and Orthodox focus on eschatology.

A gap sometimes mirrored in the older Protestant denominations of the Middle East.

Shehadeh founded JETS in 1991. By contrast, the Near East School of Theology (NEST), the first Protestant seminary in the Middle East, was founded in Beirut in 1932 by pioneering Presbyterian and Congregationalist missionaries.

“Every time there have been wars and pestilences in history, some people have either proclaimed the end or busied themselves with the question of signs,” said George Sabra, president of NEST. “We should not waste time doing the same, but show God’s love and compassion toward the suffering.”

In fact, there is a distinct danger in a dispensational-type approach to eschatology, he said. It often leads to Christian Zionism, which, with its pro-Israel bias Sabra believes is “harmful” to the Christians of the region.

Shehadeh sees harm going both ways.

“We need to shield ourselves from theologies that often lead to a Christianity dominated by a victim mentality, in line with political and religious extremism,” he said, acknowledging that some dispensationalists also fall prey to such extremes.

“But allegorical interpretations deny God the right to express himself through the plain-sense words of Scripture.”

Shehadeh emphasizes his approach is not about any modern political entity but about God’s mercy to all nations. Many Americans, however, put Israel in the forefront.

According to a LifeWay Research survey released in March, 7 in 10 evangelical and black Protestant pastors see the modern state of Israel as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy in advance of the end times.

The “birth pangs of the Messiah” are a shared belief between evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, stated Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries, a joint sponsor of the survey.

And a similar survey sponsored by the Joshua Fund suggests Jews—at least in America—are responding at even greater rates. Nearly 2 in 5 (38%) said the pandemic has increased their interest in the Bible’s teachings (including end-times prophecies), compared to 1 in 5 (22%) for non-Christians in general.

It is unwise to guess if these findings hold in Israel, said fund founder Joel Rosenberg, who also co-sponsored the LifeWay survey through the Alliance for Jerusalem.

But while the Hasidic community has been hit hard by the pandemic, Rosenberg believed the return to the Bible—including the New Testament—is driven by the less observant.

“Most Jewish people in Israel, the US, and around the world have either rebelled against or drifted from strict Orthodox Judaism,” he said.

“Whatever the reasons, the rejection of their own religion has left them spiritually empty and searching.”

To address this need, the Joshua Fund published a 12-page fact sheet in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. It summarizes God’s “sovereign purposes” for plagues as either divine judgment, warning of sin, or awakening from spiritual slumber.

Just like Pseudo-Methodius, back in the seventh century.

The original Methodius was a fourth-century church father, a bishop in Olympus. But in northern Syria, an unknown author appropriated his name to write a Syriac apocalyptic text, following the Islamic conquests of Christian territory.

“Islam’s arrival was the punishment for sin,” said Wageeh Mikhail, a Christian-Muslim relations expert for ScholarLeaders, summarizing Pseudo-Methodius. “But even if Islam is dominating now, a later Roman emperor will arise and defeat the enemies of the faith.”

After establishing peace, this emperor would proceed to defeat the armies of Gog and Magog. He would then go to Jerusalem and offer his crown to Christ. The crown would be taken up to heaven along with the spirit of the emperor, at which time the Antichrist would appear and usher in the final battle.

Yet the delay in these eschatological events eventually shifted Middle East Christian literature from apocalypse to apologetics, said Mikhail, formerly the director of the Center for Middle East Christianity at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo.

The shift is witnessed in two 13th-century commentaries on Revelation preserved from the Coptic golden age. One, by Bulus al-Bushi, calculates Muhammad’s name to equal the 666 mark of the beast, wrote Stephen Davis of Yale University in The Harvard Theological Review. The other, by Ibn Katib Qaysar, mentions Bushi but leaves out this detail. Instead, using Quranic terminology it identifies the apostle John, the author of Revelation, in similar reference to Muhammad, as a “messenger.”

Yet Qaysar also revives a literal understanding of the millennium, which church fathers uniformly abandoned by the fourth century.

“Patristic writing did not limit eschatology to future events,” Mikhail said, “but applied it as a present reality after the Incarnation.”

Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Maronite Catholic eparchy of Brooklyn said this approach still influences Lebanon today.

September 14 is the Feast of the Holy Cross, though the Maronite “vibrant understanding of the end times” extends this focus until November. The liturgy emphasizes the need for preparedness through the eschatological passages of Jesus, Paul, and Revelation.

“It is not so much an end-of-time prediction,” Mansour said, “but the world’s resistance and opposition to God, every time he is introduced to society.”

And in this light, the bishop appreciated the approach of Pope Francis, who said the new coronavirus is not necessarily God’s judgment on us, but an opportunity for us to judge ourselves and see where we went wrong.

Sympathetic, Archbishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox diocese of London believes this is a crucial time to refine the message even further.

So far, the Middle East has suffered more than 36,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, and more than 3,700 deaths.

Even so, in Egypt, Christians do not tend to be overly worried about the end times, where the government has said the nation is “coexisting” with the virus.

But Angaelos is nevertheless very concerned by talk that emphasizes either God’s wrath or the waywardness of the world.

“People are so troubled and fragile, they need a comforting, empowering word to get them through these days,” he said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic will pass, but the image of God we engrave in their hearts and minds will not.”

Back in Jordan, Shehadeh agrees.

Only 20 percent of Revelation is about judgment, he said in his video series. The rest is about God’s feelings for people tragically led toward sin by Satan.

“Proper eschatology must keep the centrality of the Cross in a message of God’s grace,” Shehadeh said.

“And we prepare for the end times by trusting in the character of God as his witnesses, eager not only to warn of his judgment, but also to share of his love in Christ.”

Additional reporting by Jeremy Weber
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 - June 2020
« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2020, 03:11:04 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/june-web-only/religious-freedom-covid-church-restrict-reopening-lawsuits.html







Religious Freedom Lessons from COVID-19 Disputes











Understanding the legal issues at play can help the church if government restrictions return with another pandemic spike.


After almost three months of COVID-19-related closures, thousands of congregations of all faiths can gather again in person because state or local orders have expired or relaxed. The situation is complex. Congregations still face restrictions like size limits or social distancing rules; in some places, the restrictions remain severe. Out of safety concerns, many congregations that are free to gather will stay online.

And a surge in cases in some places is causing communities to rethink their plans.

Restrictions on in-person worship have been divisive in the general public and within congregations. Those challenging the restrictions have often accused the government of devaluing religious practice. The challengers have often been accused of ignoring the common good.

While many churches are free to resume their gatherings, the questions and disputes around government restrictions during a pandemic remain. As a legal scholar and religious liberty advocate (Thomas Berg) and a law student and church leader (Shawna Kosel), we believe examining the legal principles and convictions at play will help us extend grace to those on both sides of the latest religious freedom disputes. It’ll also provide a better understanding if the virus spikes again and strict restrictions on worship return.

Religious Freedom Considerations

In their early weeks, state orders prohibiting worship were relatively strict across the board, prohibiting a wide range of in-person activities. But as states began to open up, they allowed more activities like in-restaurant dining and “personal services” (hair salons, tattoo parlors, and barbershops). Both of those bring people into close proximity for extended time periods, two of the significant factors that make worship services risky for coronavirus transmission.

If government restricts worship but allows activities presenting similar risks, that can amount to a religious freedom violation in two ways.

One is under the Supreme Court’s First Amendment doctrine, which says that government can restrict religious practice if, and only if, the law in question is “religion-neutral and generally applicable.” According to several court decisions, a law restricting religion fails the general-applicability standard, even if it doesn’t target religion alone, if it allows other activities that cause similar harms.

The second is that under both federal and state rules, government can restrict religious conduct if can prove the restriction is necessary to serving a “compelling” governmental interest (like public health). It’s difficult to prove that restricting religion is a compelling necessity if activities causing similar harms are allowed.

Candidly, we see downsides when churches assert their rights aggressively by pointing to other activities that the government has allowed. Such assertions can intensify an unhealthy sense of grievance among Christians. They can play into the “what-aboutism” that often makes it difficult to establish any agreement in public debate today.

But equal treatment is also an element of intuitive fairness, and an important means of guaranteeing liberty. As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson once wrote, “[N]othing opens the door to arbitrary action so effectively as to allow [government] officials to pick and choose only a few to whom they will apply legislation, and thus to escape the political retribution that might be visited upon them if larger numbers were affected.”

Not only have a wide range of entities opened up, but in the last two weeks cities nationwide permitted large, crowded protests, complete with chanting and singing, exceeding the limits that COVID orders generally place on “mass gatherings.” The protests’ message challenging racism and police brutality is crucial—and often religious. But regulation must rest on the activity’s riskiness, not on the content of its message. Admittedly, the protests were outside, and their grassroots nature would’ve made stopping them impossible. But congregations have already begun to argue that declining to enforce health rules strictly to stop protests means you cannot invoke them strictly to stop worship.

How Courts Have Ruled So Far
As states and cities “open up,” more have permitted in-person worship with limitations. One survey reports that 31 states have no statewide prohibitions on in-person worship, 11 have prohibitions similar to those for other activities, and 9 restrict worship more severely. Some closure orders expired when a new reopening phase began, but others ended only because of actual or threatened litigation.

Many but not all local restrictions have been lifted too. Last week, after a threatened lawsuit, Madison, Wisconsin, eliminated its provision restricting worship gatherings to 50 people (they are still limited to 25 percent of room capacity).

On May 29, the US Supreme Court refused a request by a church to block California’s order confining worship services to 100 people and 25 percent of capacity. Chief Justice John Roberts cast the decisive vote, writing that churches had been treated no worse than “comparable secular gatherings” such as “lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports, and theatrical performances.” He added that in the “dynamic” situation of a pandemic, judges should not “second-guess” elected officials on when to reopen.

The Court’s ruling presents a hurdle to litigation, but it won’t mean the end of it. The California church faced a stiffer standard than normal because it was seeking an emergency injunction. And the scope of the restrictions may make a difference. California successfully defended its 100-person limit, while Madison rescinded its 50-person limit.

Essential vs. High Risk
Many orders allowed “essential services” to continue (groceries, food takeout, banks, and health care), but omitted in-person worship from that category, instead classifying them with “mass gatherings” like theatre and spectator sports. The exclusion from “essential” activities is probably the element that most angered those who oppose the orders. Members of Shawna’s congregation were stung that during the weeks when in-person worship was barred, the flashing LED lights of the local liquor store read, “We are essential!”

The rationale for these classifications cannot be that worship services are “inessential.” The First Amendment, by explicitly protecting religious exercise, treats it as an important activity. Classifying worship with sports and entertainment should not reinforce the attitude that religion is one “hobby” among others, rather than part of the lifeblood of society. Churches can be a vital resource during this crisis, comforting people and educating, leading, and encouraging them in acts of compassion and self-sacrifice.

Putting in-person worship in the restricted category can only be based on the risks of transmission it creates. Those are real. In worship and other mass gatherings, as Chief Justice Roberts observed, “large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time,” longer than in most retail settings. Worship can also involve hugs and the sharing of sacraments or hymnals. And singing seems to propel respiratory droplets further. These factors justified tight restrictions on in-person worship in early weeks—although as already noted, that justification weakens when activities presenting similar risks are “opened up.”

There’s some perspective in knowing that similar disputes arose during the 1918 flu pandemic. In early October, churches in the District of Columbia complied with authorities’ official request to close, which soon became an explicit ban on even outdoor services. Three weeks later, with cases and deaths declining, the Protestant clergy federation sought permission to hold services on Sunday, October 27. One pastor argued that churches were “not a luxury, but a necessity” and should not be put “in the same class with poolrooms, dance halls, moving picture places, and theaters”; another said that “in quieting through strengthened faith in God the panic and fear in which epidemic thrives, the churches are potential anti-influenza workers.” The ban was lifted on October 29.

Congregations reassembled then, and they’re reassembling now. But the language of “essential” activities has created unnecessary resentment. In their phased reopening plans, many governors and mayors have instead focused explicitly on the relative risks that different activities pose. They should continue with that focus if they have to impose new restrictions in the fall.

Online alternatives?
Congregations have made creative use of livestreaming and recorded videos for online worship. But for legal purposes, that’s not a sufficient answer. Religious-freedom rules do require a claimant to show that a government action “substantially burdens” religious exercise—but substantial limits on in-person worship unquestionably meet that threshold. Civil courts are in no position to question the religious importance of meeting in person; such theological judgments are beyond judges’ authority.

Moreover, some people cannot participate in online services. At Shawna’s church, which is located an hour outside Minneapolis, 10 percent of the congregation lacks internet access. One congregant, who created masks for Shawna’s whole family, told Shawna she’d had no connection with worship for several weeks until drive-in services began recently.

One study estimates that 42 million Americans—including one-third of the population in rural areas—lack broadband access and, during the pandemic, are “being cut off even more from daily life, from doctor’s appointments to online worship services.” African American churches face disproportionate barriers: In a Pew survey, only 73 percent of black regular churchgoers said their churches had moved online, versus 84 percent of all regular churchgoers.

Conflicts Over Reopening
Congregations that are legally free to open still face multiple questions about whether and how it’s safe to do so. As a pastor’s spouse and a leader in her church, Shawna writes:

The considerations for reopening are staggering, and the members of our congregation and community have strong, clashing opinions about each. Our town’s ministerial association hoped to promote unity by opening all 13 churches on the same Sunday, but it quickly became clear that different congregations’ unique situations would make that impossible.

Our church had to remember our core values in deciding when and how to reopen. We are generationally diverse and put priority on doing church together. We constantly promote the gospel work of bearing with one another, loving each other by setting our preferences aside. We have not yet returned to our building, because the car service has been the most “together” we can be. More vulnerable people can keep their windows rolled up; kids can sit in lawn chairs near their cars. We are considering an evening prayer service tailored to vulnerable attenders. We’re glad we now have freedom to make those decisions.

We are praying for a resurgence of encouragement and patience, of understanding and hope as we move forward. Whether or not it’s called “essential,” the church is still committed to facilitating redemption, reconciliation, peace, mercy, justice, and love.






Thomas Berg is James Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis.

Shawna Kosel is a wife and mother, community leader, and religious philosopher pursing a law degree at St. Thomas as an extension of her love of learning and commitment to the common good.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 - June 2020
« Reply #18 on: June 17, 2020, 08:35:03 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/june/churches-experiment-with-in-person-gatherings-but-many-are-.html







Survey: Churches Experiment with In-Person Gatherings but Many are Split









Regardless of whether churches are meeting in-person or not, this summer is a wonderful time to take advantage of granting leaders rejuvenation and a vision for the next season.


After three months of shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders, states and local governments have begun loosening their guidelines, allowing some businesses to return to in-person operations. And just as churches have begun settling into virtual services and more decentralized ways of doing ministry, church leaders are now faced with the decision to return to in-person corporate gatherings or to continue as they have been.

Much of the tension experienced by church leaders in this time comes from the desire to exercise the right of religious assembly while understanding the risk of coronavirus spread. In some states, churches have taken legal action against what they perceive as an infringement of First Amendment rights. Still, others would insist that the most compassionate and civically responsible action to take would be to continue hosting virtual services until the levels of risk are greatly mitigated.

In the last few weeks, some churches have begun hosting in-person worship gatherings again, meeting at a much lower capacity than before the pandemic. The focus of this survey was to discover the state of churches returning to in-person gatherings as of late spring and into the summer months. Because there is a projected increase of coronavirus spread in the fall, monitoring the confidence of churches assembling during the summer can perhaps help leaders better prepare for the fall if a spike should indeed occur. This confidence can be gauged by understanding how quickly churches intend to return and at what capacity they are returning based on their state guidelines and restrictions.

The efforts of this survey and report are done in partnership with the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center’s Send Institute, Exponential, and the Association of Related Churches (ARC). The survey was administered June 1-12, 2020 through an online form distributed by Exponential to church leaders from their constituency and received 767 responses from 46 states.

The overall findings are that while some churches have indeed begun returning to in-person corporate worship gatherings, most have still not returned and many from among those are still uncertain about their timeline. Those who are returning are having to make accommodations for many of their church members who are not yet ready to return. Those who have not returned are having to provide meaningful virtual engagement, especially for church members who are eager to return. This reveals a tension that church leaders have begun navigating, as many are now having to lead congregations through the summer with a split difference of opinion on whether to return or not.

There are four specific findings from this report church leaders may find insightful as they continue to make decisions for the summer and fall. Each section includes an analysis from the survey and helpful suggestions to keep church members engaged amid this phase of the pandemic.

Firstly, most churches have the potential to gather at some capacity but a large majority (67%) still have not yet gathered.

The capacity at which a church is allowed to gather is one of the indicators for when a church expects to return to in-person gatherings. How churches return largely depends on how they abide by the specific state and local restrictions and guidelines.

Church leaders were asked, “Given your state’s mandates, how much of your church can potentially gather at a time for in-person corporate worship gatherings?” Only 6% responded they were in a state or a region that could not gather in-person at all. Twenty-five percent of church leaders indicated they were able to gather up to half of their usual attendance, while only 14% indicated they could gather their entire congregation.

Some states or regions have placed a hard cap on the number of people that can gather. Twenty percent of church leaders say that they can only gather up to 50 people. However, there is still a big disparity between the ability to gather and actually gathering.








Regardless of restrictions and guidelines, 67% say their churches have not yet begun gathering. Some church leaders explain that while they are allowed to gather in some capacity, the health and safety of their congregation and community outweigh their ability and desire to gather. Others have shared that restrictions on congregational singing, hesitation from ministry volunteers, and the inability to linger before and after services for conversations, greatly reduce the value of their in-person gatherings.

The churches least likely to gather right now are churches with 1000+ in pre-pandemic attendance. Eighty percent of church leaders from large churches indicate that they are not yet gathering. Compare this to other church sizes: 501 to 1000 (66%), 101 to 500 (61%), 51 to 100 (65%), and less than 50 (65%).

From among the 33% that have returned to in-person gatherings, most are seeing less than half of their congregation attend. And the overwhelming majority indicate that their meetings are abbreviated or have taken some other format than their pre-pandemic services. Only 18% indicate their gatherings have returned to their usual meeting format.

Taking Advantage of Your Gathering Capacity for Equipping

Most churches can safely gather in groups of at least 10. This means that small groups can begin meeting not only for home fellowship but also for equipping and leadership development. Consider taking time this summer to create small gatherings to meaningfully invest in your leaders and ministry volunteers. Churches can rotate small group meetings in their facilities. Leaders can regularly gather to strategize mission and ministry opportunities. While you can do this virtually, taking advantage of the in-person can prepare some for when the church begins meeting together again in a larger group.

Secondly, half of churches will return to in-person worship gatherings by June but almost a third are still not sure yet about their return (28%).

While a majority of churches are not yet meeting, many are planning their return at the beginning of this summer. Eighteen percent of church leaders say their churches have been meeting since at least May, and 33% indicate their churches will be meeting in June sometime. This would mean that by the end of this month, half of churches will have some sort of in-person worship service. Another 20% of churches will plan to meet before the fall.

However, this leaves 28% of respondents who are still unsure if and when they will begin meeting again. A few of the reasons have already been listed above, and along with the projected increase in coronavirus cases in the fall, some churches are preemptively waiting longer to tell.

In a phone conversation with a pastor of a large church in a region with over 7300 confirmed cases and 159 COVID-19 related deaths, he admitted that while the numbers are still relatively low in his region, the church leaders are still uncertain whether or not they will return to in-person gatherings before 2021. As a large church in a region with significant restrictions, it does not make sense to church leadership to hold worship services for only a small percentage of their congregation while risking the chance of increasing the number of coronavirus cases in their community. Their plan is to continue month by month and to continue to improve their virtual engagement, with possibly some small group meetings.












Urban churches are least likely to return before the summer. Only 40% of respondents in urban contexts indicate that they will be returning to in-person gatherings by June. Compare this to church leaders from suburban (50%) and rural contexts (72%). Thirty-two percent of urban church leaders are not sure when they will return while only 16% of rural church leaders feel the same.

While the fall dynamics are still too far away to tell, churches are displaying both courage and caution in returning to in-person gatherings this summer.

Use Your Return to as a “Relaunch” to Reach New People

For the last few months, you have probably been getting your church settled into pandemic life with not much opportunity to think about trying new things. Whether you just began meeting or are still planning your return, you have an opportunity to try something new that could reach new people. Many churches have seen returning to worship gatherings as a “re-launch” of their church. Every church is a church plant! This could be a chance to try out a new worship service format or it could mean that you are taking your small groups and turning them into missional communities.

Thirdly, a significant number of church leaders feel their members are split on whether to return to in-person gatherings right now.

Church leaders ranked church membership care as their top priority followed by weekend services and evangelism. When asked about the level of influence church members had on returning to in-person corporate worship, the largest responses were “Some influence to return sooner” (38%), “Some influence to wait longer” (22%), and “No influence” (20%).

In addition to figuring out technology and implementing social-distancing, the pandemic has posed another challenge for church leaders from within their congregations.

As we progress further into the stages of the pandemic and businesses are opening up more, this has created a sense of frustration in church members. Some are feeling frustrated because their churches are not yet gathering while businesses, especially large corporate ones, are almost fully operational. Others are feeling frustrated because their church is gathering, or planning to do so, while the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb.

When asked about their current situation, 28% of church leaders indicated that “the church is close to evenly split on whether to return to in-person meetings now”, the largest response from all categories.















A significant percentage of church leaders say either “A majority of the church support returning to in-person meetings now” (22%) or “A majority of the church support continuing our current online meetings” (17%). Looking at churches as a whole across the nation, these figures do not show a uniform sense of how churches feel about returning. A large number of churches feel split about returning, and it would seem that across the nation, churches are split about returning.

In the oncoming months, church leaders will have to make the right decisions on behalf of their churches and communities. For some churches, this may mean that they will meet sooner than they expected. For other churches, it means waiting just a little longer. In some spare cases, it may even mean having to stop in-person worship gatherings, again, after restarting them for only just a few weeks.

Repurpose Tension for Greater Commitment to Mission

While it is important to pay attention to what church members believe is best for the congregation and community, tension is often the occasion to cast vision for what is the true purpose and mission of the local church. A return to a gathering should be done with a commitment to keep scattering for the mission. And a commitment to remain scattered should be done for Kingdom’s sake, and not out of fear or apathy. Addressing people’s underlying fear by reminding them of God’s purpose for your church in the community can help transcend the conversation beyond just whether to return on Sundays.

Finally, state leadership is the greatest factor for why churches are waiting longer to reopen while federal and denominational leadership have the least influence overall.

While this may not come as a huge surprise, it is important to remember that how churches are planning to return to in-person gatherings reflects both their civil freedom as well as their witness as Christians, especially amid what can become a very divisive issue.

Church leaders were asked about how the following categories influenced their return to in-person corporate worship:

Denomination/Network leadership
Local/municipal leadership
State/provincial leadership
Federal leadership
President Trump calling churches “essential places of faith to open right now”
Other churches
Our church members
Our church’s leaders (staff, elders, deacons, etc.)
They were asked to rank each category’s level of influence based on this scale:

No influence
Some influence to wait longer
Some influence to return sooner
Significant influence to return sooner
The categories that had the largest percentage indicating “Some” to “Significant influence to wait longer” was State/provincial leadership at 67% and both Local/municipal leadership and Our church’s leaders at 52%.

The categories that had the largest percentage indicating “Some” to “Significant influence to return sooner” was Our church members at 47% and Our church’s leaders at 39%.

The largest category with “No influence” on church leaders was President Trump calling churches “essential places of faith to open right now” at 61%. However, 34% indicated that the president’s statement had “Some” to “Significant influence to return sooner”.

Fifty-nine percent indicated Denomination/Network leadership and 47% indicated Federal Leadership had “No influence” as well.

Only 10% of respondents felt that Our church’s leaders had “No influence” over returning.

Be Involved Citizens and a Public Witness

Part of being a responsible citizen is to ensure that the rights of churches and other religious groups to assemble are not being infringed upon. In addition, it is a part of our public witness as Christians to be at peace with our local leaders and to honor them as they make decisions to keep our communities safe. This is a crucial time for church leaders to get to know their municipality and state leaders. As a church leader, it is worth the time getting to know your city council representative or alderman, your county clerk, and your state senators. They are in need of your prayers and encouragement. Your voice will matter more if you already have an established relationship with them.

Conclusion

The first survey conducted revealed that at the end of March, churches were frantically pivoting to get worship services online and to meaningfully engage and care for church members as well as effectively serve their community while in quarantine. Just as the rest of the world was experiencing it, the speed at which the pandemic created change was more than enough for church leaders to handle. There were many uncertain things to worry about such as creating meaningful connections for members and the financial future of the church, but pastors and leaders were responding with the best of their ability and intentions.

The second survey conducted revealed that over a month into the pandemic, church leaders were both optimistic but also tired. For some, the new kind of innovative ministry in addition to added time at home with the family created a surge of energy and encouragement. Moreover, while giving trends seemed to be down for many churches, there remained an optimism around church finances. Some churches even saw an increase over their regular giving. However, the survey also revealed that a large number of pastors were working longer hours than usual which meant that the summer would be a crucial time for their rejuvenation.

The data in this survey suggests that church leaders across the nation are cautiously planning their return to in-person worship gatherings this summer. However, the return to in-person gatherings is not as simple as turning on a light switch. Many precautionary measures are being put into place to ensure health and safety for church members and the community at large. For some churches, their current virtual gatherings and their new norm of doing ministry are working well enough not to risk meeting, but instead to ensure safety and preserve energy for when they are able to meet at full capacity.

While we are seeing greater levels of what the “new norm” looks like in this stage of the pandemic, the future of how churches will meet and do ministry in the fall is no less uncertain than it was before. However, the courage and caution that some churches are taking during the summer months to meet will hopefully offer its members some reprieve from the several months of shelter-in-place orders, and hopefully, refresh the few that are attending through in-person worship and fellowship.

Regardless of whether churches are meeting in-person or not, this summer is a wonderful time to take advantage of granting leaders rejuvenation and a vision for the next season. Those who are taking advantage of virtual, small, and large group gatherings to equip and inspire their leaders this summer will likely find a more motivated and fresh leadership team for the fall and for beyond the pandemic.

Report by Daniel Yang, Ed Stetzer, Todd Wilson, and Andrew MacDonald
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 - June 2020
« Reply #19 on: June 17, 2020, 10:37:33 am »


https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/june/moody-apologizes-over-historic-blackface-photos.html







Moody Apologizes Over Historic Blackface Photos










The discovery of “deeply offensive” snapshots from 1974 and 1984 spurs a deeper review of racism at the 134-year-old school.


Decades-old photos depicting white students in blackface in Moody Bible Institute yearbooks have led the leaders to issue an apology and pledge to carefully examine racism in its history and current ministry.

“Regardless of when these photos were taken, or what the intent of the students was at that time, these pictures are shocking and deeply offensive. As senior leadership of Moody Bible Institute, we come together in this letter to deeply apologize for these photos and the underlying ignorance and the racist foundation blackface represents,” wrote Moody president Mark Jobe, addressing the 1974 and 1984 yearbook photos.

“This behavior absolutely does not reflect how we envision our Moody community, which is grounded in God’s Word and the gospel of Jesus Christ,” the statement said. “It also undermines the advancements we have made together in the area of diversity.”

Jobe’s apology comes two weeks after he issued a call for prayer in response to the killing of George Floyd and the racial unrest in Chicago and around the country, and 10 days after Moody leaders shared personal reflections on race in a video for the faculty and staff.

“I am most discouraged, personally, not so much by the violence I see outside, even though I am very discouraged about that. I am most discouraged by once again the lack of the evangelical church, which I am a proud member of, not necessarily taking the lead in solving some of these very, very deep problems,” provost Dwight Perry said in the video.

Perry, the author of Breaking Down Barriers: A Black Evangelical Explains the Black Church, is working with Jobe to review Moody history to ensure the school is “reflecting God’s values” regarding racial issues. It did not include any details of this process, a timeline, or possible outcomes.

Moody has promoted several initiatives and resources around diversity in the years since a 2015 campus controversy over “white privilege.” Posters for a student-led event entitled “White Like Me” were vandalized, and a theology professor spoke out to suggest the term was unbiblical.

Then-president J. Paul Nyquist released a statement affirming the event, decrying the misunderstanding of white privilege, and addressing the need for more ethnic diversity on campus. Moody professor Jamie Janosz wrote for CT at the time of the incident calling on the campus—whose long history dates back to include civil rights icon Mary McLeod Bethune as an early African American student in the 1890s—to stop putting up defenses and listen.

Black students (like at other majority white evangelical institutions) have continued to report experiencing microaggressions, discrimination, and racial tension on campus, according to accounts published in Relevant Magazine in 2018.

The issue of blackface in college yearbooks reemerged last year around a photo discovered on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s 1984 med school yearbook page. (Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. recently apologized for tweeting a picture of that blackface photo on a COVID-19 mask as a jab at the governor.)

In 2019, USA Today reviewed 900 yearbooks from over 120 institutions and found that “a stunning number” of colleges and universities published photos of students in blackface during the 1970s and 1980s. The report found 200 examples of offensive or racist material at colleges in 25 states. The report did not specifically identify if any of the schools were Christian institutions.

A few examples of contemporary blackface costumes have come across Christian students’ social media feeds in recent years, like a group of Whitworth University soccer players who wore afro wigs and black makeup to dress up like the Jackson 5 in 2015 and a pair of Abilene Christian University students expelled over a blackface Snapchat in 2016.
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - June 2020
« Reply #20 on: June 17, 2020, 10:41:09 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/june/how-do-we-work-together-towards-racial-equality-important-c.html






How Do We Work Together Towards Racial Equality? An Important Conversation with Six Leaders









Below is a list of the resources our panel members will suggest for further reading.


Three weeks after the death of George Floyd, our nation continues to see widespread protests. This is a time for pastors to listen and lead. Recently, we convened a conversation with six respected church leaders to help us understand these issues. The panel included: James Meeks, Senior Pastor, Salem Baptist Church, Chicago, IL; Brian Brodersen, Senior Pastor, Calvary Chapel, Santa Ana, CA; Johnson Bowie, Lead Pastor, Victory Church, Norcross, GA; Charlie Dates, Senior Pastor, Progressive Baptist Church, Chicago, IL; Laurel Bunker, Associate Vice President, Christian Formation and Church Relations, Bethel University, St. Paul, MN; and John K. Jenkins Sr., Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Glenarden, Landover, MD.

Today, we are broadcasting this conversation on my Facebook page at 12PM CST. I hope you will join me as I am joined by Laurel Bunker as we talk through your questions. I encourage you to engage the Facebook conversation, then discuss it together with your staff. Below is a list of the resources our panel members will suggest for further reading. Join me at 12PM CST over on my Facebook page.

During the call, several suggested resources. We’ve listen them here.

From Brian Brodersen:

John Perkin’s books:
One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love by John Perkins
Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win by John Perkins
And other books from John Perkins
Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rotherstein
The Third Option: Hope for a Racially Divided Nation by Miles McPherson
From James Meeks:

Black Labor, White Wealth by Claude Anderson
Divided by Faith by Michael O. Emerson
Before the Mayflower by Lerone Bennett
Oneness Embraced by Tony Evans

From Charlie Dates:

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Family Properties by Beryl Satter
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Cotes
Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby
What Had Justice to Do with Righteousness by Charlie Dates (coming soon)
From Laurel Bunker:

How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin Diangelo & Michael Eric Dyson
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
From Johnson Bowie:

One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love by John Perkins
HD Leader by Derwin Gray
Right Color, Wrong Culture by Bryan Loritts
https://victoryatl.com/onevideos/
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - June 2020
« Reply #21 on: June 17, 2020, 10:47:49 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/june-web-only/artificial-intelligence-todays-tower-of-babel-ai-ethics.html







How Artificial Super-Intelligence Is Today’s Tower of Babel











Mimicking the human brain might be man’s search for significance in himself.


In May, Microsoft unveiled a new supercomputer at a developer conference, claiming it’s the fifth most powerful machine in the world. Built in collaboration with OpenAI, the computer is designed to train single massive AI models in self-supervised learning, forgoing the need for human-labeled data sets. These AI models operate in distributed optimization, resulting in significant improvement in both speed and level of intelligence. This is a major step forward in mimicking the human brain, with the ultimate goal of attaining artificial super-intelligence (ASI), a fruitful outcome from Microsoft’s $1 billion investment in OpenAI in July 2019.

Is achieving ASI hubris? Can artificial intelligence created by humans be superior than human intelligence created by God, displaying man’s supremacy, glory, and independence in himself, apart from his Creator?

As a technologist in the field, I am intrigued by the cleverness in designs and algorithms of various AI disciplines advancing the world every day. However, I take issue with making super intelligence that out-performs humans the ultimate goal of AI. First, such an agenda not only faces immense technical limitations, but it also extremely underestimates the intricacy of God’s design in his creation of mankind. Second, such an agenda will incur an expensive opportunity cost to augmented intelligence, the agenda of which is human collaboration, not competition to supersede humans, as a more realistic and practical approach to benefit humanity.

Scientists define artificial intelligence as a machine’s ability to replicate higher-order human cognitive functions , such as learning, reasoning, problem solving, perception, and natural language processing. In a system like this, its engineering goal is to design machines and software capable of intelligent behavior. OpenAI’s daring goal is classified as artificial super-intelligence—a state in which machines become superior to humans across all domains of interests, exceeding human cognition. Some scientists envision ASI as a monolithic, super-intelligent machine called the “singleton,” a single decision-making agency at the highest level of technological superiority, so powerful that no other entity could threaten its existence.

Past progress made this aspiration seems hopeful. In 2016, Google’s DeepMind AlphaGo beat South Korean Go champion Lee Se-dol. In 2011, IBM Watson won US quiz show Jeopardy!, demonstrating AI’s superior performance over human in processing speed and data-volume. In 1996 and 1997, IBM Deep Blue defeated chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, demonstrating the machine’s superiority in looking ahead at different possible paths to determine best moves. Do these breakthroughs mean ASI is within reach?

In Genesis 11:1–9, the people of the earth sought to build the Tower of Babel, a monolithic super-state in the land of Shinar. Today, scientists seek to build ASI, a monolithic decision-making agency as a super-intelligent singleton. Similarities between the two transcend time and space. Both are a quest for supremacy of mankind: one with a tower that reaches heavens, the other with a singleton that is capable of dominating man. Both are quests for self-glory: making a name for themselves, seeking the glory in themselves instead of seeking the glory of God. Both are a quest for independence from God: People would rather trust the creations of their own hands than trust their Creator.

Unmasking the unspoken presumptions

Famous physicist Stephen Hawking believed that when we arrive at ASI, “(AI) will take off its own, redesign itself in an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.” Hawking presumed that a human is only a brain, no different from a computer. Hawking’s stance, popular within the AI community, presumes (1) evolution, (2) non-existence of God, and (3) humanity as no different from objects.

As a technologist in this field, I operate with a strikingly different set of presumptions that are based on my faith in God and informed by his Word. There are four biblical pillars, I call them, that anchor my presumptions and draw the perimeter within which I explore and formulate my AI points of view.

First, mankind is the image bearer of God. Theologian Anthony A. Hoekema said, “The most distinctive feature of the biblical understanding of man is the teaching that man has been created in the image of God.” This presumption not only asserts the existence of God but also validates the value of people as bearers of God’s image. It stated the hierarchical order between God, the Creator and man, the creatures. Any endeavor to defy this hierarchical order is outside the set perimeter. Computer scientists such as David Poole, Alan Mackworth, and others asked among themselves, Just as an artificial pearl is a fake pearl, is artificial intelligence real intelligence?

Second, I consider the divine mandate of mankind to subdue the earth and everything within it (Gen. 1:28 ), including AI. This presumption guides the AI agenda into submission to mankind and takes issue with an AI agenda seeking to supersede it.

I also rest on a third pillar: Humans are integrated beings—spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess. 5:23)—a striking contrast to Hawking’s presumption on humanity. While AI attempts to digitize a fragment of human intelligence, the human spirit, the imprint of God’s image, the faculty that connects to God, is not within the reach of AI.

Last, I remember that humans are beings of love as God is love (Ps. 8:4–8; Ps. 57:10; Ps. 139:13–18), demonstrated by Jesus, who came to earth to serve (Phil. 2:6–8 ). Therefore, when we ask “why AI?” the answer is to see AI as tools to serve and to bless for the benefit of the world.

The ASI singleton: Will mankind arrive?
The inception of AI can be traced back to 1950, when Alan Turing published the landmark paper asking “Can machine think?” and devised the Turing test using human as benchmark.

Generally speaking, most AI we think of today has only achieved capability of the first of three stages of AI, as defined by computer scientists. The breakthroughs previously cited, which beat humans in different games, solved specific problem of narrow domain but are incapable of adaptability to derive solutions for problems in diverse contexts. These machines, which rely on humans to feed them data, are called artificial narrow intelligence or ANI. They “learn” by performing statistical analysis over training data to formulate a generalized model that can be used to predict and prescribe. As training data and generalized models accumulate, machines are able to solve problems of broader scope with more precision. But they have limitations. By design, they can only find correlations, not discover causality. Their accuracy depends on the training data’s representativeness of the population data at large. Amazon’s AI hiring engine behaved discriminately against hiring women, illustrating the problem of representativeness in data resulting in bias.

Then, before we even get to a singleton, there is yet another stage to achieve. AI would have to be comparable to humans (artificial general intelligence or AGI). Machines would become capable of self-adaptation, self-understanding, transferring learning to problem contexts not previously exposed. With autonomous control, machine intelligence would be proactive and interactive like humans. While machines can surpass humans in certain areas such as retention and retrieval of knowledge, extracting insights from data in volume, speed, etc., AGI is still considered ambitious, with many challenges before it can claim to be comparable to humans holistically.

For example, emotional AI, formally known as affective computing, can only process and simulate sadness in very limited forms, such as facial recognition and language processing, but is unable to elicit emotions, such as sadness coming from compassion or empathy triggered by a flashed memory of a deceived love one or seeing a starving child.

So, the final echelon of accomplishment of artificial super intelligence is yet far off. A survey of AI experts published in 2016 indicated that there is a 90 percent chance of reaching AGI by 2075 and a 75 percent chance of reaching ASI by 2105. The core question remains: Is arriving at ASI a function of time? Or is it a function of nature? Would 155 years since 1950’s landmark discovery be all it takes for human-created intelligence to become superior than human intelligence created by God? Or is ASI unattainable by nature? Is ASI today’s Tower of Babel, another project of humanity waiting to fail?

Setting an alternate AI trajectory
Not everyone in the AI field shares the ASI presumptions and its agenda. Some doubt the plausibility of the ASI agenda. Others realize that humans are more than their intelligence. Wisdom, as differentiated from intelligence, is uniquely human and superior to intelligence. Intelligence only addresses the what, demonstrated in efficiency, capacity, and accuracy. Wisdom addresses the why, encapsulating the moral compass, discernment, sound judgment, discretion, prudence, understanding, compassion, empathy, intuition, etc. We feel the effects of wisdom: harmony, peace, sense of justice, respect, fruitfulness, righteousness, purity, love, prosperity. Psychologist Mark McMinn further calls out critical wisdom as “embedded in complexity and paradox, requiring exceptional discernment and creativity,” compared to conventional wisdom as “living a good and effective life.” To accomplish the ASI goal to supersede mankind, surpassing human intelligence, even if successful, is insufficient. ASI must also surpass human wisdom, coming from the imprint of God’s image in mankind.

Furthermore, we are free to choose a strikingly better trajectory for AI. If “better” is defined and measured by the number of people benefited and the magnitude of the benefits, then we may assert that blessing humanity is a better AI agenda than creating a singleton to supersede humanity. It is up to us to step up to subdue the earth as beings of love, by creating and applying AI technologies, such as augmented cognition, for the blessings and the betterment of others: better management of resources entrusted to us, healing the sick, offering cognitive relief to the stressed out workforce, and more.

Setting an AI trajectory in alignment with God’s prescribed hierarchical order, with his heart to love and to serve under the lordship of God, gives us access to his divine wisdom for our AI work to bring wise solutions to solve critical problems that are also dear to God’s heart. It is far more intriguing for mankind to be the embodiment of God’s divine wisdom (DW) than AI as the embodiment of mankind’s intelligence. Adding to McMinn’s critical wisdom, divine wisdom is the spirit of mankind receiving God’s revelations, the “secret and hidden wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:7, ESV), the “great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jer. 33:3), through the Spirit of God that God promised to generously grant to those who call on him and ask in humility.






Joanna Ng is a founder of an AI startup. A former IBMer, she headed up research in IBM Canada and is an IBM Master Inventor; she has 44 patent grants, with 12 pending; and has published 2 computer science books and 20-plus papers.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 - June 2020
« Reply #22 on: June 17, 2020, 11:44:59 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/june-web-only/bostock-supreme-court-ruling-religious-liberty-implications.html







LGBT Rights Ruling Isn't the Beginning of the End for Religious Liberty











Social conservatives liked Neil Gorsuch before they didn’t. Maybe they were right the first time.


The US Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia is not the last word on the conflict between LGBT rights and religious freedom rights. In fact, Bostock could be the first step in breaking the impasse.

The case will certainly have major implications for religious exercise. But contrary to initial reactions, this decision should not be read as a decision that dooms religious liberty in America, but rather as an inevitable step toward something Congress and most state legislatures have thus far been unable to do: crafting a compromise that balances LGBT rights and religious freedom.

Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia involved a man named Gerald Bostock—by all accounts an exemplary worker with a decade on the job—who was fired for conduct “unbecoming” a government employee shortly after he had started participating in a gay softball league. The Supreme Court was asked to decide whether the 1964 federal law barring employment discrimination “on the basis of sex” protects people who are discriminated against because of sexual orientation and gender identity. And by a 6-3 margin, the court ruled that it does.

Social conservatives were distraught. Robert George described the majority opinion as “sophistical” and the position it endorsed “untenable.” “Hard to overstate the magnitude of this loss for religious conservatives,” added Rod Dreher. Denny Burk said the decision “eviscerated” religious liberty, while Andrew Walker called the opinion “devastating,” adding, “If you're a Christian higher ed institution taking federal monies, buckle up.”


Denny Burk

@DennyBurk
Indeed. Pray for Christian business owners. Their ability to operate their business in accordance with their religious conscience just took a major blow.

The Supreme Court just eveiscerated religious liberty.

Cannot overstate how disastrous this decision is. https://twitter.com/puredesigntees/status/1272542084789125121

From Twitter:
PureDesignTees
@PureDesignTees
Replying to @DennyBurk
Say a prayer for Christian business owners everywhere.

70
9:54 AM - Jun 15, 2020
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64 people are talking about this


These reactions, while understandable, are premature. Bostock, while a significant decision following 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges, is limited in what it can tell us about the future of religious freedom. Its implications for future cases involving religious organizations and institutions are real, yes, but for people concerned about the future of religious liberty, there is reason for cautious optimism.

It should be noted, for one thing, that the majority opinion in the case was authored by Neil Gorsuch. His appointment to the Supreme Court was lauded by many of the same people criticizing his ruling now—and it’s possible they were right the first time.

Gorsuch ruled the way he did because of his commitment to the conservative legal philosophy called textualism. This is the philosophy famously embraced by the conservative justice Antonin Scalia. The philosophy says that judges ought not extrapolate principles from laws and rule based on these extrapolations. Nor should they try to imagine the intents of the many lawmakers who bargained and bartered their way to the passage of a bill. Those approaches leave too much leeway for creative interpretation and judicial activism. Judges should rather, according to Scalia and Gorsuch, restrict themselves to the plain, ordinary meaning of the text of the law. They should ask, what do the words say?, and make limited rulings based on that.

David French notes that Gorsuch’s legal philosophy shaped the whole case. Bostock’s attorneys appeared to make their arguments expressly with Gorsuch in mind.

You can see how textualism works in Gorsuch’s opinion. He dedicates pages of analysis to interpreting the meaning of “sex” and “discrimination” when Title VII of the 1964 law was written. The analysis is cautious and relies on the dictionaries of the era to interpret the ordinary meaning of those terms at the time the statue was being drafted. Gorsuch concludes that “homosexuality and transgender status are inextricably bound up with sex,” as “sex” was understood in 1964, so Title VII necessarily protects sexual orientation and gender identity from employment discrimination.

While other conservative justices disagree with Gorsuch’s textualism in this case—Samuel Alito, notably, calls the decision “preposterous”—there is little reason for people who care about religious liberty to doubt Gorsuch is a legal ally. He has a record, after all, of applying textualism in religious freedom cases. Gorsuch’s concurring opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop, defending a Christian baker’s right not to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, shows this. In the ruling, as Robert George has explained, he critiques a colleague’s understanding of what a wedding cake is and, importantly in that case, what it means. In doing so, Gorsuch demonstrates that he understands the crucial issues of conscience.

In the Bostock ruling, he writes: “We are also deeply concerned with preserving the promise of the free exercise of religion enshrined in our Constitution.” He explicitly says that religious liberty issues will likely come up for other employees in other cases and there will need to be other rulings.

Gorsuch also indicates his understanding of the issue in some sublte ways. He favorably cites the Hosanna-Tabor case, in which the court unanimously exempted ministers from employment discrimination laws. Gorsuch also calls the Religious Freedom Restoration Act a “super statute, displacing the normal operation of other federal laws,” suggesting that it protect religious liberty in the hypothetical cases worrying religious conservatives post-Bostock.

While defenders of religious freedom have reason to be more concerned after Bostock than before, there is more reason for optimism. Case after case in recent years—Hosanna-Tabor, Hobby Lobby, Holt, Trinity Lutheran, Masterpiece Cakeshop—have protected religious exercise. There is no reason to believe the court is poised to roll back protections for religious liberty. If anything, the appetite exists to expand them.

The controversy at the heart of Bostock has been foreshadowed for decades, intensifying in the years since the court’s landmark gay rights decisions. As a result, there have been efforts at all levels of government to balance LGBT rights with protections for religious freedom. Utah is often held as a standard for such a compromise, as a bipartisan bill of this sort was signed into law in 2015, just months before Obergefell.

At the federal level, however, these measures, commonly called Fairness for All, have stalled. Democrats appear to have consolidated around the Equality Act, which grants legal protections to LGBT Americans without any religious exemptions. At the same time, many religious conservatives do not support Fairness for All, saying any law protecting someone like Bostock from getting fired because of his sexual orientation is unreconcilable with religious liberty. And now, opponents of the Fairness for All proposals are citingBostock to justify their opposition, saying that once sexual orientation and gender identity are protected, there is no guarantee that religious freedom protections will be maintained.

Given larger cultural trends favoring LGBT rights, recognizing sexual orientation and gender identity under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act may have been inevitable. But the court’s opinion here does not mean it is game over for religious freedom arguments in these disputes. It means that the debate rages on, most likely through the courts.

Despite some of the initial reactions, Bostock could conceivably be the first step in breaking the impasse. Those praising the court for its decision in Bostock will probably criticize related decisions in the future, and those upset today could very well be praising the Court in future cases involving religious freedom. While Fairness for All has not fared well in the legislative process, it is not difficult to see how the basic ideas of the proposal could be enacted via a series of judicial rulings, especially under the current composition of the court. Legal protections for LGBT Americans balanced with religious liberty exemptions may win the day after all.

Our pluralist society guarantees conflict and is dependent on compromise. While this process isn’t always comfortable, Christians should nevertheless come away from Bostock hopeful for the future. This does not deny the necessity of strategic engagement moving forward; such engagement is needed now more than ever. But our engagement must be paired with hope—not a naïve hope in a flawed and fallen political and legal system, but hope in him who has overcome the world.








Daniel Bennett is associate professor of political science at John Brown University. He is also assistant director of the Center for Faith and Flourishing, and is president of Christians in Political Science.

Speaking Out is Christianity Today ’s guest opinion column and (unlike an editorial) does not necessarily represent the opinion of the publication.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 - June 2020
« Reply #23 on: June 17, 2020, 06:24:02 pm »
Two points on this for me.  I agree our pluralist society does guarantee there will be conflicts. Church and state, law, and belief, conservative and liberal, and many others.  It is going to happen.

The second is about the ruling of the SCOTUS on LGBT employment rights.  You can be a  Christian conservative and find this goes against you beliefs, but still rule in favor of the LGBT community fo employment rights.  You have not abandoned anything.  The justices have the obligation to look at the laws, constitution, and only those.  This request was a narrow focus so it should and did not put the conservative court at odds with their personal beliefs or political agendas now ravaging the court's lack of bias in the past.

I am proud of how and why they ruled no matter my personal feelings, which are my own private feelings.
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - June 2020
« Reply #24 on: June 18, 2020, 10:25:03 am »


https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/june/standing-between-white-privilege-and-black-disprivilege-asi.html







Standing Between White Privilege and Black Disprivilege: An Asian American Perspective










How do I as a Chinese-American view the protests that have swept across our country?


As protests have swept across the United States in the aftermath of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others, the sign Black Lives Matter has been on prominent display. The tipping point has been reached. Demonstrators have marched in all 50 states calling for the end of racial violence against black people.

There is the occasional rejoinder, White Lives Matter or All Lives Matter. These statements are certainly true in and of themselves as the life of every individual is precious in God’s eyes. All lives do matter to Him regardless of color. However, what these latter statements miss is the context of the racial situation in our country.

To say that white lives also matter minimizes the reality of white privilege in the United States. Those who are born white experience institutional benefits not available to those of other ethnicities. They gain access to power and resources purely on the basis of skin color as they resemble those in the upper echelons of society. Those who are privileged may struggle with this concept. They might not recognize that they enjoy untold benefits not granted to others whereas those in the minority see it very clearly.

The Black Lives Matter movement began as a response to the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012, and the subsequent acquittal of his shooter, George Zimmerman. Being black carries with it a stigma. They are disprivileged. One automatically becomes suspicious of anyone who is from the black race whereas whites are seen as individuals and judged on their personal merit. Thus Trayvon Martin was deemed suspicious and followed by Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch. Similarly Ahmaud Arbery was targeted for jogging in a community which had experienced previous robberies. Hence Gregory and Travis McMichael hotly pursued him.

Quite often in the past, discourse on race has been largely binary seen through the lenses of white and black. However, the human race comprises a spectrum of colors. How do I as a Chinese-American view the protests that have swept across our country?

As a minority immigrant, I’ve personally encountered racism in both overt and subtle ways. I’ve witnessed the glass ceiling, aka bamboo ceiling, limit Asian Americans even in religious organizations.

The recent PBS series Asian Americans documented the struggles of Asian Americans in this country. These ranged from acts of violence and murder perpetrated by individuals, to discriminatory laws passed by Congress. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act is but one example. It has the distinction of being the first significant law restricting immigration as it banned Chinese labor immigration and denied naturalization to the Chinese.

In the intervening years, Asian Americans have been lumped together and held up as the “model minority” by the dominant racial group, ignoring the hardship and poverty many of them face. Moreover, this label pits Asian Americans against all other minorities. The implicit question raised is why other people of color can’t be like Asian Americans, including African Americans?

In regard to relations specifically with African Americans, there have been both positive and negative experiences. However, the majority have been negative as Asian Americans have experienced victimization by members of the black community. Consequently, Asian Americans become wary of African Americans and assign disprivilege to black skinned people.

My wife was a New York City public school counselor. On the first day of school one year, she was called into a classroom to address the frantic crying of a three-year old boy. He had just arrived from China and did not speak English. The boy kept repeating a specific phrase in his native dialect. It was “black devil.” The teacher’s assistant was a black woman and he was deathly afraid of the “black devil” each time she walked near him.

Black people are called “black devils” and white people are “white devils” in vernacular Chinese. Calling both black and white people “devils” is a reflection of the ethnocentric view of the Chinese that has remained in our vocabulary. If this boy was freshly arrived in the United States, where did he acquire his racial understanding of people if not from his family and their friends who had warned them about the blacks in America? He was assigning black disprivilege to her at the tender age of 3, a fear he did not have of the “white devils”!

Asian Americans have experienced discrimination as a minority people. Stories of injustice, mayhem, hate crimes, internment camps and even lynching are part of our history in this country. Nevertheless our overall experience pales in comparison to black disprivilege. We are not taught the sixteen commandments that Cameron Welch learned from his mother by the time he was 11 years old, rules which he has shared on Tik Tok. We do not need to constantly worry, as many African American men do, whether they will return home safely every time they leave their house. We are not looked upon with suspicion by the police purely on the basis of color.

As the so called model minority, we’ve been extended some of the residual benefits of white privilege. As we’ve risen through the ranks, we are able to command high salaried positions. We can live in affluent neighborhoods and give our children access to educational, artistic and recreational opportunities to better ensure a prosperous future for them. It is easy for us to turn a blind eye to the struggles of the less educated Asian American immigrants, much less speak out against black disprivilege. It is safer and easier to maintain the stereotypical Asian silence (one quality that makes us such a “model minority”) than to engage in activism to support those outside our race.

As an Asian American, I need to continue to repent of my own learned prejudices and support the idea that Black Lives Matter. I need to voice my objection to Black Disprivilege and see each person as an individual, not a race. Their struggle is also my struggle as a person of color.

During this pandemic, my Chinatown church has intentionally served our community and reached out to surrounding neighborhoods. We've distributed food to Chinese and Latinos alike, who line up for hours outside our church. We've delivered food and masks to African American organizations in Chicago who better know how to distribute these items to those in need in their communities. We’ve also had teams help shop owners sweep up broken glass and restore some semblance of order to their looted stores. We’re slowly abandoning our insular attitude as we attempt to transform “the other” into “one another.”

These efforts are miniscule compared to the task ahead of us. Most importantly, this is what Jesus calls us to do as we collaborate with others “to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”



Rev. Andrew Lee was born in Hong Kong but came to the United States on a boat when he was 3 years old. He has been married to Penny for 40 years and they have three adult children and three grandchildren. He recently retired as senior pastor of the Chinese Christian Union Church in Chicago, the largest Chinese church in the Midwest. He has taken on a new role as associate director of the Global Diaspora Institute at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. Dr. Lee has a PhD in Religion from Baylor University.
The Exchange is a part of CT's Blog Forum. Support the work of CT. Subscribe and get one year free.
The views of the blogger do not necessarily reflect those of Christianity Today.

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June 18, 2020



Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 - June 2020
« Reply #25 on: June 19, 2020, 09:44:54 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/june-web-only/juneteenth-truer-independence-day.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29









Juneteenth: A Truer Independence Day










The official end of slavery in America more fully embraces the self-evident truth of all people as created equal.


What, to black Americans, is the Fourth of July? To the slave, as Frederick Douglass famously said, it is “a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him,” Douglass continued, “your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”

Douglass spoke those words in 1852. It would be another 11 years before the Emancipation Proclamation—and two more years after that before news of this liberation reached every state in the rejoined Union. The final announcement came to then-remote Texas on June 19, 1865, and thus was born our nation’s second—and fuller—Independence Day: Juneteenth.

This year, Juneteenth will arrive after weeks of protest of police brutality, endemic unfairness in our justice system, and broader racial injustice too little reckoned with or rectified in our history, governance, and culture. Many white evangelicals, like our white compatriots more generally, are seeking to better understand what it’s like to be black in America—to learn how we can better have “the same mindset as Christ Jesus” “not looking to [our] own interests, but to the interests of others,” our black brothers and sisters (Phil. 2:4-5). Commemorating Juneteenth tomorrow is a good place to begin.

If you are white, as I am, perhaps this is the first you’re hearing of Juneteenth. I learned of it well into adulthood, in 2016, reading the work of my then-colleague, Zuri Davis, who is now an assistant editor at Reason. That was the first year Davis celebrated Juneteenth, too, she told me, the first year of honoring “the Independence Day that actually had me in mind.” Now she marks it annually, in her work and her Catholic faith alike, using “the day to pray for racial reconciliation and economic and personal freedom in black communities.”

For white evangelicals, Davis said, Juneteenth is a “unique opportunity,” a moment to “question why so many Americans still feel like subclass citizens or outsiders in their own country” and to “go into black spaces and start a dialogue, rather than wait for their black brothers and sisters to find them.” It is an entrance point, an occasion for education and self-scrutiny—but also communion and joy.

That it comes shortly before the Fourth of July is a chronological accident, but a useful one: We can mark Juneteenth before (or even instead of?) our more limited Independence Day. “Juneteenth helps us understand the history of this country in more honest ways than July 4th ever has,” Drew G. I. Hart, a theology professor at Messiah College and author of Trouble I've Seen and Who Will Be A Witness?, told me in an email interview. “Juneteenth, in contrast, offers a more honest view of the struggle for genuine freedom in the United States, which has often been delayed and denied to black people (and for our indigenous siblings).”

For American Christians in particular, Hart said, Juneteenth “forces us to grapple with what we even mean when we discuss freedom”: Have we allowed a hyper-individualist notion of our personal rights to crowd out “God’s righteousness, which requires justice and mercy for our neighbor”? Have we been careless, selfish, uninterested in learning why Douglass’s exhortations still ring fresh and true for our black neighbors? Have we been indifferent?

Has ours been the religion Douglass decried in 1852: “an empty ceremony, and not a vital principle, requiring active benevolence, justice, love and good will towards man”? Does our faith esteem “sacrifice above mercy; psalm-singing above right doing; solemn meetings above practical righteousness”? Have we been like the Pharisees Jesus rebukes in Matthew 23, the “whitewashed tombs”—clean outside but rotten inside—neglecting the weightier matters of “justice and mercy and faith” (vv. 23, 27, NLT)? Juneteenth is an opening to explore our full history—national, ecclesial, and personal. For churches wondering how to respond to the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, Juneteenth is a timely opportunity.

This is a holiday with a built-in tension: It celebrates a delayed and, in many ways, incomplete liberation. But it still celebrates and hopes for a future held by God in Christ. Juneteenth “reminds me that my ancestors struggled for more freedom for their children,” Hart said, “and that I am a part of a longer river that has been flowing for generations, not giving up on God’s dream for us,” a dream of freedom, justice, and the flourishing of the biblical shalom, the peace Christ himself is for his people (Eph. 2:14).

In Juneteenth’s tension we may be reminded of the already/not yet of God’s kingdom: Jesus is already victorious over sin, death, and every evil and oppression that besets us, but this victory is not yet fully realized here among us. “We live in this present evil age, and as a result we live in the tension of the already and not yet, meaning that Christ’s kingdom has been inaugurated due to Christ’s advent and finished work of the Cross, but the full manifestation of the kingdom of God hasn’t come yet, and it will not come in its fullness until Christ returns,” explained Ekemini Uwan in a Juneteenth sermon at Citypoint Community Church in Chicago last year. As Christians, she continued, we seek justice now, “which points forward to the perfect justice that will reign when Christ returns.” In celebrating Juneteenth, then, we find a new way to say, “Come, Lord Jesus, come” (Rev. 22:20).




Bonnie Kristian is a columnist at Christianity Today, a contributing editor at The Week, a fellow at Defense Priorities, and the author of A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today (Hachette).
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 -


Copyright Disclaimer: All audio and music belongs to the owner/creator. This is a non-profit. Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

 

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