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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2019  (Read 446 times)

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patrick jane

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Christianity Today Magazine - October 2019
« on: October 04, 2019, 09:02:12 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/september/prophetic-voice-of-hong-kongs-protesters.html






The Prophetic Voice of Hong Kong’s Protesters




The political forces in the region also pose an existential threat to the church.


The people of Hong Kong have protested for greater freedoms for years, but the latest demonstrations represent a historic outcry.

Since 1997, July 1 has marked the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return as a territory of China after 150 years of British colonial rule. Beginning in 2003, it is also the date of annual protests by Hong Kong residents calling for increased democracy.

These demonstrations have been generally peaceful—until this summer, when a group of protesters stormed the Legislative Council parliament building. They were angry at what they saw as China’s most recent, and most egregious, effort to weaken the freedoms of Hong Kongers.

In April, Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, had introduced a bill that would allow Hong Kong to detain and transfer people wanted in countries and territories with which Hong Kong has no formal extradition agreement, including mainland China and Taiwan. The bill, she argued, was necessary to send a Hong Kong man wanted for murder to trial in Taiwan. It specifically included exemptions for political crimes, religious crimes, and certain white-collar crimes.

The Hong Kong public, though, saw the bill as a thinly veiled ploy to give China additional power over the semi-autonomous territory. The bill has kicked off nearly four months of protests that have, at times, had as many as 1.7 million participants—a remarkable number for a city of 7.4 million people.

Even as the extradition bill was suspended by Lam, and then withdrawn altogether, the protests against Chinese overreach have continued, with turnout spiking leading up to another anniversary: National Day. October 1 marks the 70th annual commemoration of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

Aside from the bill itself, four of the protesters’ five main demands remain: Lam’s resignation, an inquiry into police brutality, the release of those arrested, and greater democratic freedoms.

Many Hong Kong Christians, while comprising less than 12 percent of the population, have played a prominent role in the protests—marching, singing hymns, holding prayer circles, and providing food and shelter to other demonstrators. (The Jesus People song “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” became an unexpected anthem of the protests, as participants sang the tune to calm confrontations with police.)

For Christians there, the Chinese Communist Party may be the greatest existential threat to the Hong Kong church. In the past few years Chinese president Xi Jinping has systematically cracked down on Christianity in the mainland, razing churches, arresting leaders, and ejecting foreign missionaries. The persecution has extended to other faiths, with Xi’s government detaining as many as one million Muslim Uighur people in re-education camps in the country’s western region.

Under the Hong Kong Basic Law, a constitution agreed to by the United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China when the former handed Hong Kong back to the latter, none of these things should happen in Hong Kong—at least not until 2047, when the Basic Law and Hong Kong’s semi-autonomy expire.

But in the 22 years since Hong Kong became part of China again, the Communist country has shown a willingness to push the boundaries of that agreement. The Hong Kong legislature is stacked with pro-Beijing lawmakers; the supposedly free press is regularly censored. On multiple occasions, China has pushed for history curriculum in Hong Kong schools that, among other things, erases significant events like Mao Zedong’s disastrous Great Leap Forward campaign and the Tiananmen Square massacre. Electoral reforms proposed by Beijing, which gave the Chinese Communist Party more influence over who was eligible to run for office in Hong Kong, sparked the Umbrella Movement in 2014.

Even without an extradition agreement, China has already shown its willingness to abduct and detain Hong Kong residents that have angered Communist leaders. Most notably, five Hong Kong booksellers who sold books critical of Chinese leaders disappeared in 2015, claiming later that they had been imprisoned on the mainland. In a country where as many as 99.9 percent of defendants are found guilty, the idea of justice is questionable at best.

For Chinese Christians within the diaspora, the threat from the mainland is no less real. Those born in the 1930s and 1940s grew up as Mao Zedong and his staunchly atheist Communist Party came to power. Many Chinese Christians who now live abroad fled after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, with Hong Kong often being one of their first stops toward the freedom to practice their faith.

Today Hong Kong remains the safest haven on the border of mainland China for missionaries and ministries, where they go to purchase supplies, attend trainings, post on social media, or simply to escape the ever watchful Chinese authorities, known for monitoring communications and the movements of foreigners. Hong Kong often serves as the staging ground or headquarters for missions efforts into the mainland. As China attempts to exert greater control over Hong Kong, their work is even more at risk.

Of course, no protest movement is perfect in its motivations and actions. Protesters in Hong Kong have been criticized for shutting down the city’s bustling international airport on multiple occasions, damaging government buildings, scuffling with police, and harming the tourism industry.

But even flawed protest movements can provide a prophetic voice, bringing to light the forces threatened by a people who are free and empowered. The demonstrators’ persistent efforts have highlighted police brutality; they have incurred the aggression of the Triads, organized crime syndicates in Hong Kong.

Protest leaders, including Joshua Wong, a Christian activist who rose to prominence during the 2014 protests, and anti-Beijing lawmakers have been arrested. The Chinese military is amassing security forces on the Hong Kong border as a stark warning to the protesters about the possible consequences of their actions.

In recent years, the international community has been more inclined to overlook China’s curbing of human and political rights within the mainland and its territories, in hopes of currying favor with the economic and military superpower. But with these protests, it has become much harder to ignore the fact that China ranks 135th on the Human Freedom Index. Activists from Hong Kong have recently testified before the United Nations Human Rights Council and the US Congress.

At this point, no one knows how the story unfolding in Hong Kong will end. Some could even argue that their efforts are futile, given that, in a short 28 years, Hong Kongers will have lost all claim to their existing freedoms and political systems. The many thriving churches and ministries in Hong Kong may be forced to close their doors or go underground after 2047.

But, for now, they continue to raise their voices. They continue to march. And the spotlight continues to shine into some of the darkest corners of Chinese rule.




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« Last Edit: November 02, 2019, 09:54:24 am by patrick jane »
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2019
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2019, 03:50:00 am »
Clandestine medical abortions reportedly on the rise in the US

While the number of in-clinic abortions in the United States is reportedly down, the sale of illicitly acquired abortion pills may be up, according to recent data from the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute.

According to data from Guttmacher, a total of 339,640 medication abortions occurred in 2017, making up about 39% of all abortions. But because of the “black market” abortion pills acquired online or otherwise surreptitiously, it is difficult to track exactly how many abortions are occurring this way. Researchers told the New York Times that they estimate that secret medical abortions are making up a growing and “irreversible” portion of abortions in the United States.
“This is happening,” said Jill E. Adams, executive director of If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, told the New York Times. “This is an irreversible part of abortion care here in the United States.”

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/



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


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2019
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2019, 11:24:38 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/october/arkansas-man-vandalized-church-baptized.html






He Got High and Broke Into a Church. Months Later, He Was Baptized There.


An Arkansas Baptist church opted to forgive the man who caused $100,000 in damage.


February 28, 2019 was one of the worst days of 23-year-old Brenton Winn’s life. But it paved the way for one of the best.

Angry at God after he relapsed from an addiction to methamphetamines despite spending time at a faith-based recovery program, Winn knew nothing about Central Baptist Church of Conway, Arkansas, when he broke in that February evening.

High on drugs, Winn went on a rampage and destroyed $100,000 of church property, including laptops, cameras, and other electronics. He remembers little of that night, except that he felt desperate.

Six months later Winn stood in a baptismal pool at Central Baptist as Mike Lefler, the church’s associate pastor of ministries, celebrated the young man’s decision to follow Christ through baptism.

“As I’m starting to understand how God works, I’ve realized I didn’t pick the church that night. God picked me,” Winn said. “If it had been any other church, I think I’d be sitting in prison right now.”

Winn grew up in what he calls a “God-fearing” home. His mother and stepfather attended a Church of Christ congregation. At 14, he started experimenting with methamphetamines. By 16, he was taking drugs every day.

“Before I knew it, I had a full-blown drug addiction,” Winn said. “From the time I was 16 until a few months ago, my life was nothing but chaos, suicide attempts and brokenness.”

In 2016, Winn went into a two-week faith-based recovery program. For a year, he stayed off drugs and got a job at a local Lowe’s store. But in September of 2017, his cousin committed suicide. Devastated, he fell back into addiction. By last February, when he broke into the church, Winn was homeless and desperate.

Winn’s journey from a jail cell in February to a baptismal pool in September began when Central Baptist senior pastor, Don Chandler, talked to the prosecutor the following Monday. Chandler knew the godly response to Winn would be to offer forgiveness rather than judgment.

“You can’t preach something for 50 years without practicing it, especially in front of your whole church,” Chandler said. “Had we not shown some grace to him, everything we’ve talked about and encouraged, would have gone by the wayside. It was simply the right thing to do. This was not a hardened criminal. This was a young man who had made some mistakes. He was on drugs and alcohol when he did what he did. But he was redeemable.”

Chandler mentioned that day to the prosecutor that the church would like to see Winn get help. One of the church’s partner ministries had been Renewal Ranch, a faith-based residential recovery ministry just outside of Conway. James Loy began the ministry in 2011, just six years after he began a relationship with Christ and kicked a 23-year drug and alcohol addiction.

Over the next few weeks Chandler, the prosecutor, and Winn’s lawyer continued to discuss the best way to help Winn. The case’s judge, who at time had been a board member of Renewal Ranch, gave Winn the option. He could either go to jail, where he was potentially facing 20 years of incarceration, or he could voluntarily choose to go to Renewal Ranch. Winn chose Renewal Ranch.

Renewal Ranch is a 12-month program based on biblical principles. For the first six months, participants are housed on the 102-acre property, where they are given their lodging, food and program materials for free. Every week local pastors and volunteers lead 15-plus hours of Bible study. Participants also have access to trained biblical counselors and are required to do 300 hours of community service.

In the second six-month phase of the program, participants live in off-campus apartments operated by the program, work at jobs and continue to go through the Renewal Ranch program. Since 2011, 300 men have come to faith in Christ through the ministry.

“Our goal of this program is to make reproducing disciple-makers for Jesus Christ,” said Loy, who serves as the ministry’s executive director. “I tell people, my goal is not for them to be abstinent of drugs and alcohol. I want that for their lives, but my main goal is for these men to fall in love with Jesus. Through that personal love relationship. There’s freedom from the bonds of addiction.”

Winn accepted Christ as His Savior after one of the Bible studies at Renewal Ranch. Winn and other ranch residents attend church at Central Baptist on Wednesday evenings. Winn chose to be baptized at the church on one of those Wednesday nights.

“I gave my heart to Christ that night,” Winn said. “I used to think it was a coincidence [that I chose to break into the church that night], but now I call it confirmation that God is real, and he answers prayers. What was weighing on my heart was that I needed a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Winn still must finish the program in order to avoid jail time. Once he completes the program, he will likely still spend a couple of years on probation.

“We’re challenging our members to continue praying for this man because his story is not over,” Lefler said. “And that’s true for every one of us. God is still working a beautiful story of grace in every one of our lives.”




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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2019
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2019, 04:28:28 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/october/announcing-gc2-summit-on-leadership-burnout-and-mental-illn.html







Announcing the GC2 Summit on Leadership, Burnout, and Mental Health



Join us December 6th as we face the hard truths and challenges of pastoral ministry.



Less than two years ago I wrote an article on The Problem of Suicide. In it, I stated:

Each year, 44,193 Americans die by suicide which, on average, amounts to 121 suicides per day. For many of us, these figures don’t feel too far off. We can picture the faces and remember the names of those in our own communities who’ve taken their own lives.

As a young pastor, I too came face to face with the harsh realities of suicide and the pain brought on by watching those I loved experience such deep suffering. Particularly, I remember a man named Jim in our congregation who was struggling with mental illness. For a while, he fought the good fight and did what he could to spend time in prayer and read Psalms to find comfort. Eventually, however, filled with despair, he took his own life.

I was devastated. At the time, I was unprepared, idealistic, and largely unsure how to handle the events that had just transpired in the church community I was shepherding. Unfortunately, I think many churches today fit that same description. They are trying to figure out how to help people struggling with mental illnesses and care for loved ones in the aftermath of loss but don’t really know quite what to do.
Before and since that time I have written often on mental illness among church leaders in particular, most recently upon the passing of Jarrid Wilson. Jarrid and I were friends. More and more we are hearing about church leaders struggling—in their leadership, in their personal lives, in their understanding of themselves and our world.

We are struggling emotionally, spiritually, and physically. This is in no small part due to growing awareness that the demands on pastors and church leaders today are outpacing the self care and resources available to lead from a place of health and wholeness. In essence: pastors are hurting and often struggle to get help.

Let’s be honest…many of us are on the edge of burnout

I am not immune. Combating feelings of being overworked and overwhelmed seems to have become my status quo. And just like scores of pastors across the world—very likely including your own—I can easily defend my perpetual hamster-in-the-wheel state with statements like “But this is for the Kingdom!” “Our world needs Jesus, and our churches need the fire to tell others about him!” and “Our culture is confusing and if I’m able to help churches navigate it well, I need to!”

In other words, many of us are balancing on the edge of burnout.

This is our narrative. Often, in our efforts to do good and be mission-minded, we can lose ourselves. We can lose the simple fact that a healthy me = a healthy leadership style = a healthy way of dealing with challenges that both my church and I face.

But the church in North America has a crisis in church leadership on its hands. A recent Lifeway Research study revealed that the role of pastor can be challenging:

• 84 percent say they’re on call 24 hours a day
• 80 percent expect conflict in their church
• 54 percent find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming
• 53 percent are often concerned about their family’s financial security
• 48 percent often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle
• 21 percent say their church has unrealistic expectations of them

More than just data, I have front row seats to the truth of our situation at the dozens of pastors’ conferences and networking events where, in the hallways between lectures, stories pour out from pastors on this edge. Commonly burdened and burned, they nonetheless whisper in hushed tones in hopes they aren’t overheard by their peers. For all our talk of honesty, the perception persists that such struggles for a pastor leave an indelible mark of shame.

Yet this is hardly unexpected. Pastors are people too and the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that in the United States over 46 million people are plagued by mental illnesses each year. This is 1 out of 5 adults.NAMI also reports that mental health disorders are seen in over 90 percent of all deaths by suicide.

Lord, help us.

It’s time our churches become healthy places for those who are struggling, including pastors

Now the concept of those in church leadership feeling overwhelmed is not new. Unfortunately, neither is the truth that too many in leadership feel isolated and alone and lack accountability and the capacity to handle conflict and challenges well.

Common, yes. Okay, no.

Each time I talk with a pastor friend who is feeling overwhelmed I am reminded that we need to be doing more to care for our leaders and to be giving them space to struggle and wrestle with hard issues. After all, a healthy body of Christ is one where we want to be open about who we are inside instead of trying to portray a disingenuous appearance outwardly.

The past few years have shown us that the health of our church leadership is less than ideal in many cases— and even toxic at times.

Moral and ethical failures have been on display for a watching world to see. These same failures have damaged countless congregations and trusting parishioners who are now asking what it looks like to have leadership that is accountable and trustworthy.

Often buried under these headlines are the countless stories of pastors dealing with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Most distressingly, these have become more normative. Although these stories are difficult to hear, in doing so, I believe, we have an opportunity to provide space for many to find healing and wholeness—if we do it right.

A one-day summit to help those in pastoral ministry

Last year, when we at the Billy Graham Center held the Reflections GC2 Summit on Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Violence, we saw the same thing. Heinous stories that were once stored in the dark came out, opening the door for others to feel as though they have permission to bring theirs to light as well. But we have much work to do.

This is the case for the crisis in church leadership today.

But it’s past time that we elevate the conversation that other organizations, churches, and counselors have been involved in for years. On Friday, December 6, 2019, in partnership with the Wheaton College School of Psychology, Counseling, and Family Therapy, we will be hosting our 4th GC2 Summit at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL, this time on Facing the Hard Truths & Challenges of Pastoral Ministry: A Conversation on Leadership, Burnout, and Mental Health.

The GC2 Summit will be a time for pastors, church leadership teams, and lay Christians to come together to:

Hear from other pastors addressing issues of burnout, mental illness, isolation, and stress
Get tools to support you in building accountability and support, prayer, personal discipleship, and more
Learn from top counselors addressing issues of taking care of the whole body, the dangers of mental illness and burnout, and developing boundaries to care for oneself and others well
Engage with experts speaking on the tangibles of healthy leadership
Receive prayer and personal support
Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church, and Derwin Gray, founding pastor of Transformation Church, will be keynoting the event along with an amazing line-up of speakers who will be addressing issues of leadership burnout, soul care, healthy team assessment, identifying issues of mental illness, supporting senior leadership, and building a congregation of care and compassion.

Additional speakers include Dr. Margaret Diddams, organizational psychologist and provost at Wheaton College; Dr. Phil Ryken, president of Wheaton College; Dr. Eric Brown, director of Wheaton's Clinical Mental Health Counseling M.A. program; Ruth Haley Barton, author and founder of The Transforming Center; and Drew Hyun, pastor of Hope Church Midtown, as well as the founding pastor of Hope Church NYC.

We invite pastors, church leaders, church staff and elder boards, and all those who care about the issue of pastoral leadership and pastoral care to join us.

C.S. Lewis once said, “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”

Let’s all come together and talk about our broken hearts and how to become the leaders and churches that God desires us to be.

Will you join us? Space is very limited so save your seat today. Register at www.gc2-summit.com.



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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2019
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2019, 04:32:54 am »

https://theologyforums.com/index.php?threads/why-it%E2%80%99s-easier-to-accept-david-as-a-murderer-than-a-rapist.8448/#post-221285






Why It’s Easier to Accept David as a Murderer than a Rapist



The current debate over what happened to Bathsheba forces us to think deeper about motives and power.


As a kid growing up in the church, I certainly heard a lot about Jesus. But just short of the Savior, I heard countless stories about King David: stories of bravery, courage, power, trust, risk, battle, war, triumph, and conquest.

Christians have always recognized David’s brokenness to an extent, particularly his pursuit of Bathsheba, which has typically been considered (and decried as) adultery. Lately, there has been quite the debate over what exactly happened between David and Bathsheba, and whether it should be characterized as rape.

This is not a new conversation, which is always important to remember in our age of hot takes. Denny Burk, Boyce College professor and president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, points to a journal article by Alexander Abasili that addressed this question in detail in 2011, years before the scrutiny of the #MeToo movement.

Not all interest in this issue is a result of current cultural pressure or capitulation; there is a legitimate, significant question over how we understand David in this story.

I agree with Abasili’s analysis that story doesn’t explicitly include the details that seem to be specific to instances of a Hebrew understanding of rape—namely, direct physical force and the victim crying out in anguish for help. And yet, the story of David and Bathsheba appears to many modern readers, including me, to meet contemporary definitions of rape.

So how should we think of it? Did David indeed rape Bathsheba? And why does it matter that we as Christians today get this right?

Jesus Expands the Law

While Abasili establishes that the David and Bathsheba story does not meet the criteria of rape detailed in biblical law, Old Testament professor David Lamb previously wrote for CT describing a basic argument that David was guilty of “power rape rather than adultery” since Bathsheba had no choice.

But the question is not just a matter of whether we go by the Old Testament laws or our own modern ones. Scripture itself points us to a deeper look at the heart behind David’s behavior.

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ doesn’t diminish the impact of the law, he expands and intensifies it: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28).

According to a basic reading of Old Testament law, looking upon a woman with lustful intent doesn’t meet the criteria of adultery. But, when we read the command against adultery through the lens of Christ’s instructions on the law, we find that looking upon someone who is not one’s spouse with lustful intent is, and has always been, adultery.

Jesus moves the focus from the details of the law to the intent and motivation of the heart. And Jesus doesn’t just do this with adultery. He does it every time he discusses the law.

If we approached the Old Testament law on rape the same way that Jesus addresses various aspects of the law, we would have to look beyond the explicit details enumerated in the law code and ask: What is happening in David’s heart and mind when it comes to Bathsheba?

Thinking of the question this way, the defense that David’s actions don’t meet the criteria for rape weakens considerably, and in fact, misses the point.

A Prophet’s Rebuke
Using the basic hermeneutical principle that Scripture should interpret Scripture, we find further context regarding David’s motivations just a few paragraphs away, in 2 Samuel 12, when he is rebuked by Nathan the prophet.

Nathan describes an imbalance of power between a rich man and a poor man, where the poor man had one precious lamb that he loved dearly, like a child, and the rich man took the poor man’s sole lamb to prepare for a guest (a way to accrue further social capital by hosting this guest well) because he had no pity.

Nathan tells him, “You are the man!” in the story, and then expands on David’s self-condemnation: God made you King, he delivered you, he gave you all that you have, and this wasn’t enough. You stole, you exploited, you killed, and you did it “secretly” for selfish gain. Even according to David and Nathan, David’s sin isn’t merely that he slept with Bathsheba, but that he did so in a way mired by his exploitation of power, deception, and self-gain. The power imbalance is clearly called out.

Nathan goes on to describe the fate of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah: “You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites” (2 Sam. 12:9).

Perhaps more intriguing than determining David’s motives is our own determination to spare him from disrepute.
Nathan uses conquering language that positions David as a murderer, the one who “struck down” and “killed him.” And yet, we know that Uriah didn’t die by David’s own sword, but by proxy after being sent to the front lines. While his actions would not constitute murder according to the detailed terms set out in the Old Testament, we absolutely see him as responsible for his death.

When the issue is whether David murdered Uriah, readers generally feel free to expand how the Old Testament murder law should be read. But when we ask whether David raped Bathsheba, then some readers push back demanding precision around what the law says explicitly about rape.

Both Jesus and Nathan’s focus on the intent and motives of the heart give us good reason to look beyond the letter of the law. The story of David and Bathsheba is not a story of adultery or an affair, but one where a powerful man is sexually exploiting a vulnerable woman and is willing to use coercive power to call her to his chamber and cover up his actions.

Our Defense of David
Perhaps more intriguing than determining David’s motives is our own determination to spare him from disrepute. We don’t want David to be a rapist. We actually find it easier to stomach him being a murderer of a man than an abuser of a woman.

And, if the preponderance of sermons is any indication, Christians have historically been willing to slut-shame Bathsheba to keep any stink (beyond adultery) off of David. It’s nonsensical, particularly because in Scripture, Bathsheba is never accused, indicted, or even maligned in any way for what happened.

David, though, is not just another figure in the Bible. He is the “man after God’s own heart,” championed both as a heroic figure for young boys in Sunday school and the subject of Christian studies on manhood and masculinity.

The phrase we so often associate with the biblical king is not a blanket endorsement for David’s example, nor the idea that he represents what it means to be like God as a man. It means that David was God’s chosen man as king of Israel. John Woodhouse says this phrase “is talking about the place the man has in God’s heart rather than the place God has in the man’s heart.”

Scripture is full of broken people, and King David, for all his virtues, is a broken man. So why has this particular story become such a contentious one for us? I’m convinced that we don’t want David to be a rapist because we don’t want to reckon with the sin of abusive power.

If David was merely a weak man who fell prey to a tempting woman on a lonely night, then we don’t have to grapple with the far more insidious reality: David was one of many (mostly men) throughout history who used their power for sexual exploitation. He leveraged his position as king to have an innocent man killed after using his power summon and sexually exploit that innocent man’s wife.

Is it any wonder that this great evil has largely remained unexplored in David’s story when the majority of those entrusted with telling the story stands to profit from not pointing it out? When we get to the story of David and Bathsheba the ones who would benefit most from sitting under the sobering impact of the story are those who are responsible for the telling. The spiritual leaders in our churches, mostly male pastors, must be willing to tell the story the way it is written: as an indictment of the spiritual abuse of power for exploitation. They must measure their life and the culture of leadership in their church in its scales.

We have to consider that we may have misread this story in a major way. Our misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what happened with David and Bathsheba may result in a truncated understanding of God’s good vision of power and sex, just when we so desperately need a holy vision for these things.

Perhaps the story of David isn’t just a cool story about giants defeated and battles won, but also a cautionary tale about the way that power can corrupt even the noble. And that the same power that a king had earlier used to defend the vulnerable could be turned to exploit the vulnerable.

The story of David and Bathsheba is an invitation to all of us, but particularly those in place of spiritual authority and leadership, to consider if we are making use of God’s gift in the way he intended. Power is a gift from God, but the temptation to use it for our own selfish gain is ever-present and endlessly enticing. Those entrusted with power must look to the Son of God, Jesus Christ, as the paradigm for faithful practice of power.

He, who possessed everything by right, surrendered it all for love. Christ, to whom the whole world belonged, approached the vulnerable with care and honor. Christ used his power to dignify the vulnerable and defend the shamed. What will we do with the power we’ve been given?




Kyle Worley planted and serves as one of the pastors at Mosaic Church in Richardson, Texas. Alongside Jen Wilkin and JT English, he serves as one of the hosts of the Knowing Faith podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @kyleworley.





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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2019
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2019, 04:42:12 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/october/kapic-we-need-christian-liberal-arts-colleges.html







Why We Still Need Christian Colleges



As the liberal arts struggle, we should rally around Christian campuses that still embrace them.


In their recent book, For the Life of the World, Yale theologians Mirsolv Volf and Matthew Croasmun argue that there is a crisis in theology—that it has lost touch with what non-theologians consider to be real problems. This hurts not just the church but the whole world, they say, because theology can contribute to conversations about human flourishing in ways that no other discipline can.

In fact, this crisis extends beyond theology and into Christian higher education in general.

In 2018, The Atlantic and The Chronicle of Higher Education both ran lengthy features about the decline of the humanities (a rough synonym for “liberal arts”) in contemporary higher education. Facing economic pressures and multiple ideological critiques, bachelor’s degrees in the humanities have declined by about 35 percent on average since 2008, according to the Department of Education.

The Wall Street Journal reported a shift at liberal arts institutions away from the classic liberal arts disciplines and toward more “career-ready” degrees. According to Vicki Baker, an economics professor at Albion College in Michigan, an estimated one-third of colleges that called themselves liberal arts in 1990 no longer meet that description. “It’s an evolution and we are losing some of our liberal arts colleges as schools try and manage these pressures,” she said.

At the same time, the value of a specifically Christian education is frequently questioned. When Wheaton College in Illinois suspended a professor in 2016, accusing her of violating its statement of faith, many in the academic community expressed concerns that statements of faith threaten academic freedom and have no place in higher education. John K. Wilson, for example, co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog, argued that statements of faith are violations of academic freedom and “completely illegitimate” under the 1970 interpretive comment, which states that the AAUP doesn’t endorse departures from its academic freedom statement. This skepticism is mirrored by softening interest in religious studies disciplines, which have declined 43 percent in bachelor’s degrees awarded since 2008, according to 2017 Department of Education statistics.

In spite of these trends—perhaps because of them—I argue that the distinctively Christian liberal arts college is more valuable than ever.

Why Christian?
Questions about human purpose and meaning are essential for the health of the human person, but when do we ever take the time to explore them at the level they deserve? And when are we in an environment with experts who can help us with them? While the value of a liberal arts education and the place of religion in the academy may be in doubt at the moment, questions of meaning, purpose, and the “good life” are very much alive and well. And when we ask what human flourishing is and we fail to take God into account—as so many do—the consequences are devastating.

LinkedIn, the career-focused social media network, conducted a worldwide survey in 2016 of over 40,000 professionals and found that 74 percent of respondents want a job where they feel that their work matters. Lifestyle trends such as exercise routines, fad diets, or even decluttering all attempt to find, articulate, and live a life of flourishing.

But according to the World Happiness Report, Americans have reported an overall decline in life satisfaction over the last ten years. It is part of a longer-term trend: A 2009 study in Clinical Psychology Review showed that, despite increasing freedoms, better technology, and sustained economic growth, the depression rate among college students has been increasing over the last 50 years. One of the study’s authors, social psychologist Jean Twenge, toldNew York magazine, “There’s a paradox here that we seem to have so much ease and relative economic prosperity compared to previous centuries, yet there’s this dissatisfaction, there’s this unhappiness, there are these mental health issues in terms of depression and anxiety.”

This distorted vision of flourishing, mistaken as it is, has also taken root among Christians, producing a flattened-out, bumper-sticker Christianity that is spiritually divorced from the world in which we live. I frequently hear from young (and older) Christians who have been fed a steady diet of slogans instead of wisdom, self-help programs instead of Christian formation, and clichés instead of pointing to the difficult beauty of following our crucified and risen Savior. We need young Christians trained in more holistic ways for the challenges of our day.

Real life, real work, real relationships, real joy and pain call for the deep wisdom of the God of Abraham and Isaac, Mary and Paul. Additionally, we must grow in our understanding of an increasingly complex, fallen world. Instead of dividing our lives between the spiritual and the worldly, we are called to discover what it means to be a child of God, called by him to pursue meaningful work in his world. Such work is meant to be an outgrowth and expression of one’s faith, not a distraction from it.

The research of Robert Bellah and his colleagues, published in their book Habits of the Heart, concluded that people approach their work either as a job, a career, or a calling. While job and career are understood primarily in material terms—money or status—those who engage their work as a calling find aspects of it inherently fulfilling, taking satisfaction in the work itself.

Scholars, not all of them Christians, sense the need for what Christians call “vocation.” But without a transcendent reality to secure it, without God’s presence and blessing, the idea that work can be intrinsically satisfying loses stability: It points us in the right direction, but it can’t answer the questions “Who is calling us? Why does my enjoyment of the work matter?” A specifically Christian liberal arts education investigates how the good God is connected with the everyday aspects of life.

Every college or university employs plenty of faculty who follow an academic discipline because they love it and want to convey that love to their students. This is a good and right instinct, but unless we embed learning in its proper subordination to God, then learning can become our god. When this happens, all our affections, our desires, and our actions are directed toward temporal realities alone.

This substitution of the creation for the Creator is idolatry, as is treating the good gifts of God as if they were God himself. Without a proper Christian framework for understanding our world, we tend to belittle God’s good creation or to fragment life into compartments, where we bow to God for the “spiritual” parts of life and ignore him for the remainder. Instead, learning to love God’s creation as just that, God’s creation, puts us into a fruitful place of receiving and using the creation rightly as gifts from our loving God. Delighting in God’s gifts as just that, gifts from God, enables us to live in a healthy place, neither denigrating nor deifying creation, and enables us to hear God’s calling for us in the world he has given.

Why Liberal Arts?
Because God had set us in a creation that he repeatedly called “good,” Christian theology addresses all spheres of life, not just church life. It asks novelists about books, painters about art, actors about the stage, historians about the consequences of the slave trade. These Christians immersed in the liberal arts are vital to the rest of us.

A background in the liberal arts enables students, whatever their major disciplines, to understand their studies externally in relation to the whole world and internally in relation to interests beyond their jobs. Such an exploration can show how a student’s particular gifts and callings fit into what God is doing both around them and within them. We don’t have to do everything; we just have to discover our place in what God is doing and then serve him faithfully in his church and world.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the average baby boomer has had at least 12 different jobs during their life. A Christian liberal arts education can prepare students not simply for a job, or even a career, but for vocation—the wisdom that hears God’s call to respond with the whole self to produce meaning and purpose in God’s world. Engaging a broad swath of learning in the concentrated context of Christian higher education can encourage a fair-minded, holistic approach to life, grounded on the Scriptures and the faith of the church through the ages.

Weary or simply lacking resources, we have too often opted for simplistic and naïve answers to the hard questions of faith and life. Whether dealing with theology or science, economics or psychology, we find it easy to substitute careless proof texts for the hard work of absorbing the wisdom of Scripture and addressing this complicated, broken world. Busyness, tiredness, and defensiveness often keep us from the difficult task of discovering how to live our lives and do our work as an expression of our faith. What would it mean, say, to be a Christian economist rather than a Christian who is also an economist or an economist who happens to be a Christian?

Learning to be faithful stewards of God’s world, whatever our vocation, requires a whole array of knowledge that is too vast for any one person to effectively learn. A Christian education grounded in the liberal arts engages learning across disciplinary and ideological boundaries to equip the student to appreciate God’s will in and for God’s world.

We are all alarmed at the growing tribalism and fragmentation in North America and around the world, but we must not settle for simplistic answers that become tribal markers. We cannot afford to reject others who don’t say things exactly the same way we do; we need them to help us on the journey of seeking after God’s truth. We miss the full breadth of God’s wisdom when we substitute stereotypes for real people or cling to one-dimensional answers. When we are threatened by a constructive reflection that seeks wisdom wherever it may be found, we demonstrate a lack of trust in our heavenly Father who delights to give good gifts to his children (Matt. 7:11). Christians, of all people, should have the liberty to actually learn.

Rather than being afraid, we can explore all of God’s creation, learning to do good work in any profession, confident in God. That confidence teaches us that our lives have meaning and purpose now, not just in the future. That confidence also teaches us that our limits are not threats but paths to growth and learning from people whose faith has led them through years of study to a God-centered expertise. A Christian liberal arts college provides a distinctively God-centered environment for collaborating with such scholars.

Why College?
Christian education is not merely about giving the “Christian answer” to questions. No, the advantage of a Christian liberal arts college is that it provides a broad, sustained, relationally based conversation led by trusted scholars about who God is, who we are, and how to live faithfully in this world. It is broad because the resources available span many disciplines, not only the pastoral and the theological. It is sustained because the ministry engages the student’s vision for every hour of every day—not just Sundays. It is relationally based because the significant amount of time the community spends together for four years allows for deep, consistent engagement with peers, mentor-experts, and big questions. Finally, it is a conversation in which all parties can ask penetrating, inconvenient, uncomfortable questions because we are confident the truth can stand the closest scrutiny.

In his 2012 book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt argues that while we imagine that we are led by pure logic and reason, we are really more often led by intuition and our passions. We know what we want to think and we know the conclusion we want to end up with, so we sift through arguments to find what aligns with our preconceived opinion.

This is a problem for all of us, regardless of political or ideological persuasion. This is what makes us all vulnerable to “fake news.” Haidt argues that we tend to gather data that supports our views (accurate or not) and ignore data that questions our convictions (despite the weight of evidence). This brings to mind the biblical warning about “self-righteousness”: We are so consumed with the problems we see in others that we fail to see our own shortcomings, both morally and intellectually (Matt. 7:1–5).

In his 2018 book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, Haidt writes that we are losing our ability to know how to debate and how to wrestle with difficult ideas, let alone how to learn from those who say things we find objectionable.

One version of this shows up in Christian parents who send their children to secular universities while cautioning them, “Enjoy the football and college life, but be careful about those faculty. You can’t really trust them.” Though this is certainly not always the case, stories persist of two kinds of bad reactions.

On the one hand, these dire warnings about unbelieving, anti-Christian professors lead some students to assume that everything the professor says is basically wrong. The students are 19 years old and have no expertise for navigating the scholarship, so by default they reject it, stifling real learning—which was the goal for going to college in the first place! From biology to economics, from philosophy to educational theory, some doubt everything they hear.

On the other hand, others discover that these “unbelieving” teachers are good people who are not only passionate and compelling but also give the students tools for handling aspects of the world that their parents only ignored. If the only Christianity these students have been taught can’t handle the “real world,” was any of it true? Young Christians sometimes abandon their faith because the choices seemed to be either a faith that couldn’t grow or growth without faith. They felt like they were forced to pick between intellectual rigor and Christianity—but we know this is a false dichotomy.

There is no reason that Christians attending a secular university have to make this choice. But they do have the disadvantage of being neither scholars nor theologians, so it can be tough going. Many Christians do attend secular universities, get a great education, and keep a strong faith. But a quality Christian liberal arts college provides a community of living examples of Christians who are both intellectually engaged and deeply faithful to the gospel that can be much harder to find in the secular academy.

College students, stepping afresh into adulthood, ask deep questions about life, ethics, vocation, and purpose. They are concerned that Christians too often embody worldly individualism, consumerism, and arrogance. I have been a college professor for almost two decades and I hear versions of these concerns weekly. Young people want more—not more money but more meaning, more purpose. They want to discover a vision that integrates a rich theology with insights from specialists in all the disciplines.

College provides four years for digging into some of the deep questions of life, years of formation that shape one’s imagination and intuitions, then shape the communities where graduates go. This is where one can set a reliable foundation for asking what constitutes “the good life.”

At a Christian liberal arts college, we wrestle with the hard questions (not always solving them!), while applying to these challenges the faith handed down through the ages. We seek not easy answers but slow-growing wisdom and the formation of godly instincts. One of the most important things Christian faculty members at any institution can do is believe. Students witness thoughtful professors who don’t have all the answers, who are honest about the real challenges, who delight in insights from whatever source (including non-Christians), and in it all, the professor still stands there believing.

Is education at a Christian liberal arts college the complete answer to the problems of higher education? Will its students emerge as completely equipped Christians? No, obviously not. But, with all its imperfections, it supplies a depth and breadth of tools and resources unavailable to the local church and a Christian scholarly context either unavailable or largely absent at secular universities. It will help us live out one of the ways we honor God and our neighbor: by taking this world seriously.

Christians desperately need deep learning, not only in theology but in the wonder of God’s creation. What a gift it is to the church and to the world when a Christian liberal arts college graduates students who are not simply interested in a job or a career but who see their work as a calling. Whether they enter the laboratory, the classroom, or the courtroom, whether they rear children or serve as accountants, they enter their work not as a distraction from their faith but as a vital expression of it.



Kelly M. Kapic is professor of theological studies at Covenant College. He is the author of The God Who Gives: How the Trinity Shapes the Christian Story (Zondervan) and co-author, with economist Brian Fikkert, of Becoming Whole: Why the Opposite of Poverty Isn’t the American Dream (Moody).





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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2019
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2019, 09:16:31 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/october/kapic-we-need-christian-liberal-arts-colleges.html







Why We Still Need Christian Colleges



As the liberal arts struggle, we should rally around Christian campuses that still embrace them.


In their recent book, For the Life of the World, Yale theologians Mirsolv Volf and Matthew Croasmun argue that there is a crisis in theology—that it has lost touch with what non-theologians consider to be real problems. This hurts not just the church but the whole world, they say, because theology can contribute to conversations about human flourishing in ways that no other discipline can.

In fact, this crisis extends beyond theology and into Christian higher education in general.

In 2018, The Atlantic and The Chronicle of Higher Education both ran lengthy features about the decline of the humanities (a rough synonym for “liberal arts”) in contemporary higher education. Facing economic pressures and multiple ideological critiques, bachelor’s degrees in the humanities have declined by about 35 percent on average since 2008, according to the Department of Education.

The Wall Street Journal reported a shift at liberal arts institutions away from the classic liberal arts disciplines and toward more “career-ready” degrees. According to Vicki Baker, an economics professor at Albion College in Michigan, an estimated one-third of colleges that called themselves liberal arts in 1990 no longer meet that description. “It’s an evolution and we are losing some of our liberal arts colleges as schools try and manage these pressures,” she said.

At the same time, the value of a specifically Christian education is frequently questioned. When Wheaton College in Illinois suspended a professor in 2016, accusing her of violating its statement of faith, many in the academic community expressed concerns that statements of faith threaten academic freedom and have no place in higher education. John K. Wilson, for example, co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog, argued that statements of faith are violations of academic freedom and “completely illegitimate” under the 1970 interpretive comment, which states that the AAUP doesn’t endorse departures from its academic freedom statement. This skepticism is mirrored by softening interest in religious studies disciplines, which have declined 43 percent in bachelor’s degrees awarded since 2008, according to 2017 Department of Education statistics.

In spite of these trends—perhaps because of them—I argue that the distinctively Christian liberal arts college is more valuable than ever.

Why Christian?
Questions about human purpose and meaning are essential for the health of the human person, but when do we ever take the time to explore them at the level they deserve? And when are we in an environment with experts who can help us with them? While the value of a liberal arts education and the place of religion in the academy may be in doubt at the moment, questions of meaning, purpose, and the “good life” are very much alive and well. And when we ask what human flourishing is and we fail to take God into account—as so many do—the consequences are devastating.

LinkedIn, the career-focused social media network, conducted a worldwide survey in 2016 of over 40,000 professionals and found that 74 percent of respondents want a job where they feel that their work matters. Lifestyle trends such as exercise routines, fad diets, or even decluttering all attempt to find, articulate, and live a life of flourishing.

But according to the World Happiness Report, Americans have reported an overall decline in life satisfaction over the last ten years. It is part of a longer-term trend: A 2009 study in Clinical Psychology Review showed that, despite increasing freedoms, better technology, and sustained economic growth, the depression rate among college students has been increasing over the last 50 years. One of the study’s authors, social psychologist Jean Twenge, toldNew York magazine, “There’s a paradox here that we seem to have so much ease and relative economic prosperity compared to previous centuries, yet there’s this dissatisfaction, there’s this unhappiness, there are these mental health issues in terms of depression and anxiety.”

This distorted vision of flourishing, mistaken as it is, has also taken root among Christians, producing a flattened-out, bumper-sticker Christianity that is spiritually divorced from the world in which we live. I frequently hear from young (and older) Christians who have been fed a steady diet of slogans instead of wisdom, self-help programs instead of Christian formation, and clichés instead of pointing to the difficult beauty of following our crucified and risen Savior. We need young Christians trained in more holistic ways for the challenges of our day.

Real life, real work, real relationships, real joy and pain call for the deep wisdom of the God of Abraham and Isaac, Mary and Paul. Additionally, we must grow in our understanding of an increasingly complex, fallen world. Instead of dividing our lives between the spiritual and the worldly, we are called to discover what it means to be a child of God, called by him to pursue meaningful work in his world. Such work is meant to be an outgrowth and expression of one’s faith, not a distraction from it.

The research of Robert Bellah and his colleagues, published in their book Habits of the Heart, concluded that people approach their work either as a job, a career, or a calling. While job and career are understood primarily in material terms—money or status—those who engage their work as a calling find aspects of it inherently fulfilling, taking satisfaction in the work itself.

Scholars, not all of them Christians, sense the need for what Christians call “vocation.” But without a transcendent reality to secure it, without God’s presence and blessing, the idea that work can be intrinsically satisfying loses stability: It points us in the right direction, but it can’t answer the questions “Who is calling us? Why does my enjoyment of the work matter?” A specifically Christian liberal arts education investigates how the good God is connected with the everyday aspects of life.

Every college or university employs plenty of faculty who follow an academic discipline because they love it and want to convey that love to their students. This is a good and right instinct, but unless we embed learning in its proper subordination to God, then learning can become our god. When this happens, all our affections, our desires, and our actions are directed toward temporal realities alone.

This substitution of the creation for the Creator is idolatry, as is treating the good gifts of God as if they were God himself. Without a proper Christian framework for understanding our world, we tend to belittle God’s good creation or to fragment life into compartments, where we bow to God for the “spiritual” parts of life and ignore him for the remainder. Instead, learning to love God’s creation as just that, God’s creation, puts us into a fruitful place of receiving and using the creation rightly as gifts from our loving God. Delighting in God’s gifts as just that, gifts from God, enables us to live in a healthy place, neither denigrating nor deifying creation, and enables us to hear God’s calling for us in the world he has given.

Why Liberal Arts?
Because God had set us in a creation that he repeatedly called “good,” Christian theology addresses all spheres of life, not just church life. It asks novelists about books, painters about art, actors about the stage, historians about the consequences of the slave trade. These Christians immersed in the liberal arts are vital to the rest of us.

A background in the liberal arts enables students, whatever their major disciplines, to understand their studies externally in relation to the whole world and internally in relation to interests beyond their jobs. Such an exploration can show how a student’s particular gifts and callings fit into what God is doing both around them and within them. We don’t have to do everything; we just have to discover our place in what God is doing and then serve him faithfully in his church and world.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the average baby boomer has had at least 12 different jobs during their life. A Christian liberal arts education can prepare students not simply for a job, or even a career, but for vocation—the wisdom that hears God’s call to respond with the whole self to produce meaning and purpose in God’s world. Engaging a broad swath of learning in the concentrated context of Christian higher education can encourage a fair-minded, holistic approach to life, grounded on the Scriptures and the faith of the church through the ages.

Weary or simply lacking resources, we have too often opted for simplistic and naïve answers to the hard questions of faith and life. Whether dealing with theology or science, economics or psychology, we find it easy to substitute careless proof texts for the hard work of absorbing the wisdom of Scripture and addressing this complicated, broken world. Busyness, tiredness, and defensiveness often keep us from the difficult task of discovering how to live our lives and do our work as an expression of our faith. What would it mean, say, to be a Christian economist rather than a Christian who is also an economist or an economist who happens to be a Christian?

Learning to be faithful stewards of God’s world, whatever our vocation, requires a whole array of knowledge that is too vast for any one person to effectively learn. A Christian education grounded in the liberal arts engages learning across disciplinary and ideological boundaries to equip the student to appreciate God’s will in and for God’s world.

We are all alarmed at the growing tribalism and fragmentation in North America and around the world, but we must not settle for simplistic answers that become tribal markers. We cannot afford to reject others who don’t say things exactly the same way we do; we need them to help us on the journey of seeking after God’s truth. We miss the full breadth of God’s wisdom when we substitute stereotypes for real people or cling to one-dimensional answers. When we are threatened by a constructive reflection that seeks wisdom wherever it may be found, we demonstrate a lack of trust in our heavenly Father who delights to give good gifts to his children (Matt. 7:11). Christians, of all people, should have the liberty to actually learn.

Rather than being afraid, we can explore all of God’s creation, learning to do good work in any profession, confident in God. That confidence teaches us that our lives have meaning and purpose now, not just in the future. That confidence also teaches us that our limits are not threats but paths to growth and learning from people whose faith has led them through years of study to a God-centered expertise. A Christian liberal arts college provides a distinctively God-centered environment for collaborating with such scholars.

Why College?
Christian education is not merely about giving the “Christian answer” to questions. No, the advantage of a Christian liberal arts college is that it provides a broad, sustained, relationally based conversation led by trusted scholars about who God is, who we are, and how to live faithfully in this world. It is broad because the resources available span many disciplines, not only the pastoral and the theological. It is sustained because the ministry engages the student’s vision for every hour of every day—not just Sundays. It is relationally based because the significant amount of time the community spends together for four years allows for deep, consistent engagement with peers, mentor-experts, and big questions. Finally, it is a conversation in which all parties can ask penetrating, inconvenient, uncomfortable questions because we are confident the truth can stand the closest scrutiny.

In his 2012 book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt argues that while we imagine that we are led by pure logic and reason, we are really more often led by intuition and our passions. We know what we want to think and we know the conclusion we want to end up with, so we sift through arguments to find what aligns with our preconceived opinion.

This is a problem for all of us, regardless of political or ideological persuasion. This is what makes us all vulnerable to “fake news.” Haidt argues that we tend to gather data that supports our views (accurate or not) and ignore data that questions our convictions (despite the weight of evidence). This brings to mind the biblical warning about “self-righteousness”: We are so consumed with the problems we see in others that we fail to see our own shortcomings, both morally and intellectually (Matt. 7:1–5).

In his 2018 book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, Haidt writes that we are losing our ability to know how to debate and how to wrestle with difficult ideas, let alone how to learn from those who say things we find objectionable.

One version of this shows up in Christian parents who send their children to secular universities while cautioning them, “Enjoy the football and college life, but be careful about those faculty. You can’t really trust them.” Though this is certainly not always the case, stories persist of two kinds of bad reactions.

On the one hand, these dire warnings about unbelieving, anti-Christian professors lead some students to assume that everything the professor says is basically wrong. The students are 19 years old and have no expertise for navigating the scholarship, so by default they reject it, stifling real learning—which was the goal for going to college in the first place! From biology to economics, from philosophy to educational theory, some doubt everything they hear.

On the other hand, others discover that these “unbelieving” teachers are good people who are not only passionate and compelling but also give the students tools for handling aspects of the world that their parents only ignored. If the only Christianity these students have been taught can’t handle the “real world,” was any of it true? Young Christians sometimes abandon their faith because the choices seemed to be either a faith that couldn’t grow or growth without faith. They felt like they were forced to pick between intellectual rigor and Christianity—but we know this is a false dichotomy.

There is no reason that Christians attending a secular university have to make this choice. But they do have the disadvantage of being neither scholars nor theologians, so it can be tough going. Many Christians do attend secular universities, get a great education, and keep a strong faith. But a quality Christian liberal arts college provides a community of living examples of Christians who are both intellectually engaged and deeply faithful to the gospel that can be much harder to find in the secular academy.

College students, stepping afresh into adulthood, ask deep questions about life, ethics, vocation, and purpose. They are concerned that Christians too often embody worldly individualism, consumerism, and arrogance. I have been a college professor for almost two decades and I hear versions of these concerns weekly. Young people want more—not more money but more meaning, more purpose. They want to discover a vision that integrates a rich theology with insights from specialists in all the disciplines.

College provides four years for digging into some of the deep questions of life, years of formation that shape one’s imagination and intuitions, then shape the communities where graduates go. This is where one can set a reliable foundation for asking what constitutes “the good life.”

At a Christian liberal arts college, we wrestle with the hard questions (not always solving them!), while applying to these challenges the faith handed down through the ages. We seek not easy answers but slow-growing wisdom and the formation of godly instincts. One of the most important things Christian faculty members at any institution can do is believe. Students witness thoughtful professors who don’t have all the answers, who are honest about the real challenges, who delight in insights from whatever source (including non-Christians), and in it all, the professor still stands there believing.

Is education at a Christian liberal arts college the complete answer to the problems of higher education? Will its students emerge as completely equipped Christians? No, obviously not. But, with all its imperfections, it supplies a depth and breadth of tools and resources unavailable to the local church and a Christian scholarly context either unavailable or largely absent at secular universities. It will help us live out one of the ways we honor God and our neighbor: by taking this world seriously.

Christians desperately need deep learning, not only in theology but in the wonder of God’s creation. What a gift it is to the church and to the world when a Christian liberal arts college graduates students who are not simply interested in a job or a career but who see their work as a calling. Whether they enter the laboratory, the classroom, or the courtroom, whether they rear children or serve as accountants, they enter their work not as a distraction from their faith but as a vital expression of it.



Kelly M. Kapic is professor of theological studies at Covenant College. He is the author of The God Who Gives: How the Trinity Shapes the Christian Story (Zondervan) and co-author, with economist Brian Fikkert, of Becoming Whole: Why the Opposite of Poverty Isn’t the American Dream (Moody).





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The LGBT groups are on the march against the Churches and anything religous. just a matter of time.

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1 Cor 15:3-4.."For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:"

Acts 17:11.."These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2019
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2019, 03:11:15 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/october-web-only/early-church-thrived-amid-secularism-we-can-too.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29







The Early Church Thrived Amid Secularism and Shows How We Can, Too



The pre-Christendom church managed to avoid both isolationism and accommodationism. Their model gives us a map for post-Christendom challenges.


I attended seminary in the 1970s. I had to take several classes in the history of Christianity, though in those days it was called “church history.” My professor taught the course largely as a history of Christian thought. We studied orthodoxy and heresy in the early Christian period, monastic and scholastic theology in the medieval period, the Reformation controversies of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the evangelical awakenings of the eighteenth century, and the liberal theology of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as its major twentieth-century critics (Barth and Bonhoeffer).

In general, we learned church history from a Christendom perspective. Questions of correct belief loomed largest, at least as I remember it. We studied it as a kind of history of the Christian family, which was our family.

In the beginning of my teaching career, I taught the history of Christianity in much the same way. My primary interest was Reformation theology and the evangelical awakenings, though I never totally neglected to tell the larger story. Students seemed interested enough, at least for a while.

But then students began to change, and their interests shifted. They started to question the attention to doctrinal precision that emerged during the Reformation period. They wondered about the emotion of the evangelical awakenings. Doctrinal faith seemed too abstract and narrow, emotive faith too fragile and insecure.

I was teaching a Christendom course, but my students were asking for something different. I discovered that they needed something different because they were (and still are) growing up in a world very different from the one that existed only a generation ago.

Together we—professor and students—found it in early Christianity.

They began to pepper me with questions. How did early Christians start and sustain a movement over such a long period of time (some 250 years) before Christendom began to emerge? How did the church maintain a steady rate of growth under such difficult circumstances? How did Christian leaders make disciples without the religious benefits and privileges we take for granted today? How did this minority movement influence the larger culture, even though the vast majority of people living in the Roman Empire did not assume Christianity was the one true religion, Christian ethics were the best way to live, and Christian institutions were worthy of special privilege?

The success of the early church was certainly not inevitable. Christians could have accommodated to the culture to win recognition and approval, which would have undermined the uniqueness of their belief system and way of life. Or Christians could have isolated themselves from the culture to hide and survive, which would have kept them on the margins—safe, to be sure, but also irrelevant.

Instead, Christians engaged the culture without excessive compromise and remained separate from the culture without excessive isolation. Christians figured out how to be both faithful and winsome. They followed what was then known as the “Third Way,” a phrase that first appeared in a second-century letter to a Roman official named Diognetus.

What made the Third Way so successful and fruitful? At the heart of it was the unique identity and mission of Jesus. Jesus Christ shaped everything that followed in his wake. No one in the ancient world had ever encountered the likes of him before. Romans had no categories for him and neither did Jews. Not even his disciples could make sense of him until after the resurrection. Jesus Christ summoned his followers to a new way of life because he was first and foremost the way to new life. In other words, it was his uniqueness that made the early Christian movement unique.

The Third Way spawned a new movement—new in theology, in story, in authority, in community, in worship, and in behavior. Christian belief was so new, in fact, that it required Christians to develop a process of formation in the Third Way to move new believers from conversion to discipleship, from outsider to insider, from observer to full-fledged member, which produced generation after generation of believers who, established firmly in the faith, were able to grow the movement over a long period of time.

What can we learn today from the church’s witness to Rome some 2,000 years ago?

At the center, of course, was Jesus Christ himself—human and divine, crucified and resurrected, suffering servant and triumphant King, Son of Man and Son of God. Early Christians believed that God had revealed himself as Jesus Christ. They claimed that this revelation showed the world who God is as well as what kind of people humans were created to be.

They viewed worship as a bridge between divine and human worlds, as if in worship Christians stepped into a liminal space between heaven and earth. They did not see themselves primarily as consumers who attended worship to hear a good sermon and sing a few familiar songs but as beholders of the unspeakable glory of God. Worship not only ushered them into the very presence of God but also prepared them to return to the ordinary life of market, home, and neighborhood as disciples of Jesus.

Christians embraced a new story, too. The story of Jesus opened their eyes to see history not as a narrative of the empire’s achievements—and atrocities—but as a narrative of God’s redemptive work in the world, which often occurs in quiet and mysterious ways. For them, Bethlehem and Golgotha occupied center stage, not the Roman court.

Jesus Christ reshaped identity. He promised to make people new creatures; he broke down dividing walls of hostility; he transformed how his followers saw themselves and treated “the other.” Primary identity in Christ changed all earthly and secondary identities—marital, ethnic, and economic.

Christians became a nation within a nation, a new oikoumene or universal commonwealth that spanned the known world, crossing traditional cultural barriers. Their primary loyalty was to fellow believers, not nation or race or tribe or party or class. Christians created a new oikos (house church), too, which established a different kind of family. God was true Father; they were all brothers and sisters. The Christian movement was therefore both radically global and local at the same time. Both oikoumene and oikos had the effect of undermining and transforming the traditional social order.

They lived differently in the world. Christians were known as the people who cared for the “least of these,” challenging Rome’s patronage system and culture of honor and shame. They lived this faith out with enough consistency and success to attract Rome’s attention, which is why Rome identified the Christian movement as the Third Way. Rome’s various responses—fascination, confusion, suspicion, opposition, persecution—only underscored how unique the movement was.

In the same way that it’s not easy to understand and to follow the Christian faith in our increasingly post-Christendom setting, it wasn’t easy to make sense of in a pre-Christendom setting. Which is why the early Christian movement established the catechumenate as a strategy of formation. This ancient Christian process of formation, which lasted two or three years, was both inherent to the faith and necessary for its survival and growth. It was inherent because discipleship was the only possible response to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And it was necessary because the church faced stiff opposition and competition in the ancient world. The difference between Roman religion and Christianity was so great that the church had to develop a process to move people from the old world of traditional religion to the new world of Christianity.

Can this ancient movement speak to us today? It depends upon how fiercely we cling to the old arrangement.

As long as Christians assume we are still living in Christendom, the church will continue to decline in the West, no matter how ferociously Christians fight to maintain power and privilege. If anything, the harder Christians fight, the more precipitous the decline will be, for cultural power and privilege will come at an increasingly high price. Christians will either accommodate until the faith becomes almost unrecognizable, or they will isolate until their faith becomes virtually invisible.

Nothing short of a change of church culture will suffice—from a culture of entertainment, politics, personality, and program to a culture of discipleship. Such a radical change will require patience, steadiness, and purposefulness.

The good news is, we are not alone, and the story of early Christianity reminds us of this fact. Faithful Christians have gone before us, bearing witness to the truth of Christianity, the power of the gospel, and the high calling of discipleship. Calling out across the centuries, they tell us that it is possible now, as it was then, to live as faithful followers of Jesus the Lord in a culture that does not approve of it or reward it.

Two millennia ago, Jesus Christ—his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension—set in motion a movement that turned the world upside down. He is the same Lord today. It can happen again.




Gerald L. Sittser is a professor of theology and a senior fellow in the Office of Church Engagement at Whitworth University. He is the author of eight books, including the best-selling A Grace Disguised, The Will of God as a Way of Life, and Water from a Deep Well.





This essay is adapted from his latest book, Resilient Faith: How the Early Christian “Third Way” Changed the World. Used by permission from Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group copyright 2019.




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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2019
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2019, 09:37:50 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/october/syrian-christians-open-doors-preemptive-love-aid-relief.html







Syrian Christians Brave Insecurity to Stay Behind and Help





Preemptive Love’s Jeremy Courtney says despite the Turkey deal, “This crisis shows no sign of letting up, and we can’t either.”


Though most of the fighting has stopped for now, Turkey’s incursion on Kurdish-controlled northern Syria has left another humanitarian crisis in its wake.

Local churches as well as Christian organizations like Open Doors and Preemptive Love Coalition have prioritized caring for the citizens who took the risk to stay behind and helping the displaced return.

Last Saturday night, after three days of Turkish bombing, the Alliance Church of Qamishli met to make a decision. Would they flee for safety, or remain and help?

To some degree they had no choice.

Fadi Habsouna, a father of two, was injured when missiles hit his home and ruined his shop. His wife is in critical condition. His grandfather’s home was destroyed by a bomb. The pastor housed them in church-owned property, and decided to remain to assist the family, and others suffering similarly.

The church agreed; only eight families would leave.

“These are extremely brave people who want to be salt and light in their communities,” said David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, who relayed this story from his field staff. “They want to maintain the presence of Jesus and reach out.”

Open Doors is better known for its advocacy work on behalf of the persecuted; Syria ranks no. 11 on its World Watch List of places hardest to be a Christian. Its local partners keep a low profile in order to provide on the ground assessment. But the crisis in Syria has driven them to humanitarian aid.

It is not the first time. Following the rise of ISIS in 2014, Open Doors helped 150,000 Christians located in camps along the Turkish and Lebanese borders. Now their community hubs are providing food, medical care, hygiene kits, and temporary shelter in the northeast Syrian towns affected by the Turkish incursion.

“Christians have to make hard choices,” Curry said. “Leave the communities they were raised in, move inland, or stay and hope they are not killed.”

Displacement and US-Turkey Deal
Jacques Behnan Hindo, Catholic Archbishop of Hasakeh, said half of his diocese, totaling 5,000 families, have fled the area. He reports similar numbers in nearby Qamishli.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that 146 civilians have died so far. Over 160,000 have fled, including 70,000 children. The Kurdish-led local authority counted the total displaced at over 275,000. Of the 3 million people who lived in the northeast, 1.25 million were already receiving UN aid. Now the number in need has risen to 1.8 million, including 900,000 in acute need.

And worse, the Turkish military operation began during the winter planting season, and the region—Syria’s breadbasket—provides 90 percent of the nation’s cereal production.

The situation may get worse before it gets better, especially as most NGOs were forced by the violence to leave the area entirely. It is not yet clear how the deal struck between the US and Turkey will affect operations.

Under terms announced in a joint statement announced Thursday, Turkey will pause their offensive for five days, allowing Kurdish troops to withdraw. Turkey will then take control of a 20-mile deep safe zone running 280 miles along much of the border with Syria.

The UN expressed its cautious support, thankful for de-escalation, but admitting there is still a long way to go.

“We just cannot effectively operate with the heavy shelling, roads closing, and the various and constantly changing armed actors in the areas where we are working,” said Made Ferguson, deputy country director for Mercy Corps, which had been operating in the area since 2014.

Other major agencies, like Médecins Sans Frontières, have also had to relocate. The UN remains, but the World Health Organization has reported that two national hospitals, three field hospitals, and several health centers are either out of commission or offering limited services.

But some organizations are sticking it out.

“We’ve been able to continue, because we work with and through locals who know the area, know the needs, and know the security situation extremely well,” said Jeremy Courtney, founder of Preemptive Love, which has been active in Syria since 2016. “That said, this is very much a high-risk environment.”

And Courtney doesn’t expect the deal will make it any better—but rather worse.

“It is likely that families will continue to be displaced from the border zone as Turkish forces move in,” according to their official statement. “Those already displaced may have no home left to go back to, as a direct result of this deal.”

Struggles to Provide and Fund Relief Efforts
Preemptive Love had been focused on helping the displaced return. In the first half of 2019 they rebuilt 45 homes, helped launch 61 businesses, and created 500 farming jobs.

In response to the Turkish incursion, they opened two mobile clinics. But Courtney said a recent phone call providing updates was interrupted when the local partner had to pull bodies from the street.

“This crisis shows no sign of letting up, and we can’t either,” he said. “The Kurds of northern Syria already feel betrayed and abandoned. We cannot leave them to fend for themselves.”

Save the Children is also remaining, securing safe places to play in refugee camps, said Erin Taylor, senior director of communications. Basic services are provided, but they must wait until they can determine how and when to safely scale up delivery.

But following the deal, plans may change.

“There will be a huge impact on where we’re able to access in the northeast,” said Sonia Khush, the Syria response director at Save the Children. “We have to leave as the battle lines change.”

Even local churches are having difficulty.

Ibrahim Nseir, pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Aleppo and a board member of the Synod of Syria and Lebanon, said their three sister churches in the area are well-qualified to help, but have no funding.

“The churches are the means of God to take care of the needy and the marginalized,” he said. “They have carried the largest share of relief work.”

Until now, Christian communities have primarily relied on their own. Ashur Eskrya, president of the Assyrian Aid Society (AAS), said that roughly 700 Assyrian Christian families and 27 Armenian families fled the conflict zone, relocating to churches and family members in Hasakeh, Qamishli, and Damascus. Other Armenians went to Aleppo.

Based in Iraq, AAS was not prepared for this current crisis. Still, their access to funding is great, in regular conversation with USAID.

Without designating recipients, President Trump pledged $50 million for stabilization support and the protection of ethnic and religious minorities.

“The US condemns the persecution of Christians,” he said. “We pledge our support to Christian communities everywhere suffering under the burden of oppression and brutal violence.”

But Edward Clancy, director of outreach for Aid to the Church in Need USA (ACN), said his Catholic organization, working in Syria since 2011, is hindered from providing immediate support through their church networks.

He hears local Christians expressing hope that the merger of Kurdish-Arab militias and the Syrian army will calm the area and repel the Turks.

Response from Neighboring Iraq
But some reports say international aid workers are leaving the region for that very reason. If Damascus is back in charge, their presence may be illegal.

ACN has been providing assistance in regime-held areas where the needs have been greater—until now. There are roughly 30–35 Christian villages in Kurdish-held areas, he said, but many are practically ghost towns. Stability must come first, and then those who remain can assess their needs.

“There is no military convoy to protect you,” Clancy said. “But if there is a call, we will respond.”

From Iraq, one already has. Bashar Warda, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil in the autonomous region of Kurdistan, asked the church to prepare to receive another wave of refugees. He prayed the government would let them in.

But the wave did not come, because according to reports, it was the Kurdish militias who blocked the border. They did not want their numbers to diminish compared to the Arab population.

The UN says only about 1,000 Kurds have fled to Iraq. Ashty Bahro, vice president of the Evangelical Alliance of Kurdistan and head of Zallal Life, a Christian NGO, puts the number between 2,000 to 3,000. His multi-ethnic staff includes Kurds, Arabs, Muslims, and Yazidis. As a rule, they don’t ask how many refugees are Christian.

Zallal Life, founded in 2007, is providing food, mattresses, blankets, and supplies. And their unity as a staff provides a powerful witness. Many then ask for Bibles, or to go to church.

“We reveal Jesus through our actions,” said Bahro. “We love others, we are all one, and we want to show this.”

Though in full agreement, Steve Gumaer, founder and president of Partners Relief and Development, takes great care in this regard. Partners is a signatory to the Red Cross and Red Crescent Code of Conduct, which forbids aid from being used to further a particular political or religious standpoint.

“I can’t think of a worse time to ask people to change their religion than when they are facing a crisis,” he said. And when people ask, he tells them, “You matter, and how we treat you is the acid test of our faith.”

Partners first registered in Erbil in 2012, and began working in Syria in 2014. Having built strong partnerships with the Kurds, they are also one of the few organizations remaining in the northeast, with a focus on children.

Raqqa, the former capital of ISIS’ proclaimed caliphate, has been a center of their work. It is a third regional city to which Christians are fleeing. Partners rebuilt five area schools, returning 1417 children to an education.

Prior to the Turkish attack, an American child psychologist was due to arrive in 2020. While plans and permits may depend on ongoing stability, Gumaer is astounded by the overall resilience of those they serve.

“The Christians accept this is the life they have to live,” he said. “They don’t blame God the way I might if it happened to me.

“They have a hold on God’s goodness, and they still worship him.”

But the best service foreign and Christian aid can offer, said Preemptive Love’s Courtney, is simply to show up.

“There are 160,000 people without a home today because of decisions made a week ago,” he said. “I’m not interested in counseling others on how to make sense of their suffering, when I can do something to help prevent it.”






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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2019
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2019, 09:40:57 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/october/editorial-how-to-stop-gun-violence.html






How to Stop the Shootings



There is no simple solution to America's gun violence. But there is hope.


This summer we witnessed—again—horrific shootings by enraged gunmen who injured and killed the innocent and unaware. It’s even more worrisome that such events, happening once a week or more, are so common now that we don’t even hear about all of them.

The understandable hue and cry to pin the blame on one or two things is irresistible. Depending on your politics, the cause is Donald Trump or racist nationalists or identity politics or Antifa radicals or the NRA or Hollywood or video game producers—on it goes. It is said that when asked, “What’s wrong with the world?,” G. K. Chesterton replied, “I am.” The same might be said in reply to “What is the cause of our nation’s gun violence?” We are each right to reply, “I am.”

By this, I don’t mean that the cause can be simply identified, or that each of us subconsciously relishes the murder of innocents. Instead, I mean gun violence is that in which we live and move and have our being in America. Or to put it another way: We live in a land of structural gun violence. We have been rightly reminded that racism is not just individual but embedded in institutional structures, that injustice is not just individual acts but also defects in our system. So it is with gun violence: It is woven into the fabric of the American ethos.

America has been habituated to gun violence from its very beginning. Canada managed to administratively negotiate its independence from Britain, but we instinctively reached for our guns and demanded our immediate freedom. Britain managed to end the slave trade and slavery in its empire through legislation. We could imagine no other way than to start shooting at one another.

To be clear: I am not a pacifist and think that violence is sometimes justified. What is interesting to me is the repeated pattern and how quickly and easily we reach for weapons when faced with a crisis.

It’s woven not only into government policy but into the Hollywood industrial complex. It’s a trope to the point of boredom: movies in which a horrific problem is solved by the heroes blowing away the bad guys. I thought we might see a shift when women began playing leading roles in such movies, but we now only model more of the same.

Examples abound to suggest that there is no one culprit or solution. For instance: Not only are guns protected by the Second Amendment, they are also indirectly protected by the First—as long as there is freedom of speech, a large portion of Americans will argue for liberal gun laws. This isn’t about a small cabal of NRA leaders but about what most Americans really want. It’s not just about Hollywood making too many violent movies, but about you and me going regularly to those movies because, in part, we enjoy the satisfaction of seeing malevolent evil getting its just reward.

None of these are the solution and all of them are, all at once. To search for and demand a simplistic and quick solution will, if history is any guide, fail. Simple answers, in fact, often exacerbate the problem. The solution lies at the end of a long and winding road, and we Christians, of all people, should have the patience and hope to take some first steps.

Regarding hope: One example of many would be the Vikings, famous for unrelenting violence as they conquered northern Europe. But as the centuries unfolded, there were cultural transformations that gave Viking leaders economic and political motives to curtail violence. Perhaps most important was their conversion to Christianity, which slowly but surely prompted them to turn their swords into plowshares. But again, this was just one important factor among many and this transformation took centuries of work at all levels of church and society.

Change our leaders? Pass new laws? Transform our media habits? Yes, yes, yes, and more. And not all of our efforts in the public square to address violence will be directly related to weapons.

We also need a conversion of the American psyche, a transformation of the American mind. We don’t just mean the salvation of individual souls—although that wouldn’t hurt. Changing the way Americans think of themselves and how they instinctually react to crises will require cultural transformation at the deepest level. That is something that the church knows about (Rom. 12:1–2) and an arena where we, while encouraging action on many levels, might have some unique gifts to offer.




Mark Galli is editorial director of Christianity Today.



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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2019
« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2019, 09:55:36 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/october/playing-trump-card-political-season-civility-hostility.html







Playing the Trump Card this Political Season: Civility within Political Hostility







Without tolerance of different worldviews, there will be no dialogue or progress.


Just the simple fact that I used the word “trump” in my article’s title is sure to generate hate mail. Some might see it as a subversive tactic to promote the current president—others the opposite. Neither is the case. I’m simply using it as a hook for you to read what should be the “trump card” this political season.

If you’ve ever played a card game, like Spades, you understand the idea of a “trump card.” If you play an Ace of hearts and I don’t have any hearts, I can then play a “trump card” and beat your Ace.

In this article, I want to briefly share what this political game is about, how people tend to behave in the game, and conclude with an exhortation to believers to play the trump card of virtue and civility during this political season.

What’s this political game about?

George Washington, in his farewell address, states,

…Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. . . . And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
Religion, at the very least, provides a framework for morality.

Our political climate has always had sides that disagreed and fought over the role of government within culture. Small government verses big government. Yet, for the most part there was a common worldview held by both sides. That is no longer the case.

What is transpiring today is the clash of two completely different worldviews—an accelerated culture of secularism facing off against an aging culture of Christendom.

For many Americans, the stakes are extremely high as they engage in what James Davison Hunter calls the “culture war.”

How do people tend to behave in this game?

Who really likes to lose? With the opposing sides believing what’s on the line, the vehemence and hostility shown from both shouldn’t surprise anyone.

James Davison Hunter, years ago in his book, Culture Wars, describes the back and forth hostile climate as competing visions for a preferred American future. Within this war for the culture—from a place of desperation—each side has to discredit the opposing side to gain legitimacy for their beliefs, views, and policies.

In other words, in an attempt to win and become king of the proverbial cultural hill, they have to make the opposing side out to be the enemy.

Not to be too simplistic, but the volatile climate boils down to one side fighting “for” something as they feel oppressed by the limitations and restrictions (and even archaic views) of a previous generation, and the other side fighting “against” something as they feel like their way of life has been and is being threatened.

Political seasons are typically super-charged. But it seems that over the last few political cycles they are becoming downright vicious. Truth be told, it seems there’s nothing but clanging noises of people shouting, yelling, and demonizing those who hold differing political views.

What I believe we are witnessing today is a climate where fire is fought with fire. I have been a critic of President Trump. I believe there are things that he does that is unbefitting of the office of president. I also believe that he has riled up some right-wing conservative evangelicals who have adopted such tone and rhetoric that dismisses, discredits, and demonizes the other side.

However, the same is true for many on the left. Elizabeth Warren mocking response to a question posed to her at the most recent Equality Town Hall was telling. She pretty much dismisses anyone—particularly a man who would hold a traditional view of marriage. What’s interesting is that in a follow up question, Warren answers it by singing a song she remembers from her church when she was an adolescent. The song? “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”

After singing the chorus, she describes how that song expresses how she sees her faith informing her of those who would identify as LGBTQ. But I find it odd that her faith informs how she sees those in the LGBTQ community, but not the “old-fashioned” man who holds to a traditional view of marriage.

What seems fairly obvious is that we live within this environment where tolerance is lacking towards anyone who holds a different worldview or who embraces a different policy. And if tolerance doesn’t exist, neither will dialogue or discussion.

The Common Good, the Great Commandment, and the Golden Rule

What is the “trump” card within such a hostile, vitriolic climate? People who work for and towards the common good, who love God and love others, and who do unto others as they would have them do unto them.

Could you imagine the future of a nation that consisted of a group of people enacting such virtue and civility?

Such behavior will serve as a breath of fresh air amidst such a life-sucking environment. But even more so, as we move deeper into the 21st century, such behavior will be vital for the church to fulfill her greater purpose—to give witness to the lordship of Christ.

Therefore, virtue and civility—embodied in working for the common good, loving God and others, and treating others the way we would want to be treated—will be our trump card in the age of hostility!

To help lead out in displaying civility in a political culture of hostility, I am partnering with the National Institute for Civil Discourse and their Golden Rule 2020: A Call for Dignity and Respect in Politics initiative to promote civility in our country.

The launch of this initiative will take place on November 3, 2019—exactly one year before the 2020 election.

On this day, congregations are invited to take a few minutes in their worship service to 1) pray for our country and 2) promote the application of the Golden Rule and other Christian principles in political discussions.

To find out ways your congregation can participate by using prayers, Bible readings, statements, bulletin inserts, sermon ideas, and other available resources, visit www.revivecivility.org.






Ed Stetzerholds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.

Josh Laxton currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Billy Graham Center, Lausanne North American Coordinator at Wheaton College, and a co-host of the new podcast, Living in the Land of Oz. He has a Ph.D. in North American Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.





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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2019
« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2019, 02:54:58 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/october/middle-east-christians-view-turks-kurds-syria.html






There’s No One Christian View on Turks and Kurds




Middle East believers say the enemies of their enemies are not necessarily their friends.


As reports circulated that Turkey had violated its five-day pause in operations against the Kurds on the Syrian border, President Recep Tayyip Erdoan’s rhetoric intensified. If Kurdish fighters did not withdraw from their positions, as agreed between Erdogan and President Donald Trump, Turkey would “crush their heads.”

The front now appears quiet as Turkey has secured its “safe zone” in cooperation with Russia.

In America, as reported in the press, Christian opinion has been almost universal in its condemnation. But the Christian landscape in the Middle East, home to the oldest and some of the most enduring persecuted traditions in the faith, offers a complex array of responses.

CT has previously covered anti-Turkish sentiment from the Syriac, Assyrian, and Protestant communities of the region.

But there is an underreported—and contested—pro-Turkey and anti-Kurdish contingent as well.

Arameans:


“President Trump is right on Syria!” stated Johny Messo, president of the World Council of Arameans, in a press release. “These ‘heroes’ have oppressed vulnerable Arameans, taken their innocent lives, Kurdified their lands, and still use a tiny Christian group as their mouthpiece.”

The Arameans, though an ancient expression of Christianity, represent a 20th-century revival of identity tied to the ancient biblical land of Aram. Communities exist in Syria, Turkey, and elsewhere in the region, and have been recognized by Israel.

While the West has rallied behind the democratic Syrian enclave that permits religious freedom, Messo says what it commonly called Kurdistan is actually ancient Christian territory, taken over.

When Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces enter a village, they raise the flags of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), defined as a terrorist entity by the United States. They have kidnapped Christians and seized their lands, says Messo. And by provoking Turkey, they are bringing additional suffering upon all—including local Christian communities.

“As the indigenous people of Southeast Turkey and Northeast Syria, we call upon the PKK to end its violent struggle for independence,” Messo stated, “so that Arameans, Kurds, Arabs, and Turks can work together on a mutually enriching coexistence between different ethnicities, religions, and languages.”

Syriacs and Assyrians:
The Syriac Catholic archbishop of Al Hasakah-Nisibi, one of the cities where fleeing Christians have taken refuge, agrees with his anti-Kurdish stance.

“For years, I have been saying that the Kurds are trying to eliminate the Christian presence in this part of Syria,” Jacques Behnam Hindo told Aid to the Church in Need last year. His particular concern was the Kurdish effort to change the curriculum of local Christian schools—in operation since the 1930s—or to shut them down, as happened in three cities in 2018.

Syriac has traditionally been associated with language and liturgy, rather than ethnicity. Also based in Turkey and Syria, some Syriacs identify as Arameans, others as Assyrians. This latter group is strong in Iraq, with communities in Iran.

From Iraq, where the constitution grants Kurds an autonomous region in the north (bordering Syria, Turkey, and Iran), one influential voice prefers not to take sides.

“We don’t want Turks, we don’t want the PKK, and we call for international protection,” said Ashur Eskrya, president of the Assyrian Aid Society.

“The Turks will make things unstable, and Christians will flee. But the PKK will change the demography and not allow us to live with our heritage.”

Historically, Turkey has been blamed for the Armenian genocide that took place more than a century ago, and many other Christian communities have complained of its Ottoman Empire and nationalist beginnings. And back then, the Turks were allied with Kurds.

“The Kurds do have a history of genocidal acts towards Assyrians that needs to be recognized,” said Peter Burns, government relations director with In Defense of Christians. “But that does not mean we should simply side with whomever is pointing guns at Kurds in the moment, as in some cases they align with Christian interests against common enemies.”

The Assyrians are a “passionate” sect within regional Christianity, Burns wrote in an analysis for Providence, a Christian foreign policy journal. They trace their ancestry to the biblical Assyrian Empire, and their faith to the preaching of Thomas and Thaddeus, Jesus’ disciples.

But other Christian subgroups—such as Chaldeans and Syriacs—chafe at Assyrian insistence on a Christian homeland, preferring not to get caught up in Assyrian nationalist political ambitions. And according to Burns, Aramean is a controversial term created in modern times to encompass the broader Christian community in the region. Most Christian sects do not embrace it as their ethnic identity.

In the fight against ISIS, some Christian militias have aligned with the Kurds, such as the Nineveh Plains Guards. But one in particular, the Babylon Brigades, has preferred Iran.

Official Leaders of Christian Confessions in Turkey:
Crossing into Anatolia—the biblical Asia Minor—other ancient Christian confessions have come out in favor of the Turkish incursion. While citizens of Turkey, many Christians there identify with their historic ethnic and church affiliations.

“We pray that Operation Peace Spring, which aims to end terrorism and ensure the security of the borders, will continue in accordance with its purpose, and establish peace and security as soon as possible,” Sahak Masalyan, head of the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey, told the state-run Anadolu Agency. “Unfortunately, it’s not possible to establish peace with a peaceful path every time.”

Along with the Armenians are foundations representing the Syriac and Assyrian churches in Turkey, which released an almost identical statement.

“We support Operation Peace Spring launched by our country, and the security of the people living in Syria,” it stated. “Our soldiers are fighting at the expense of their lives, and we hope they will return to their country unharmed.”

Mustafa Akyol, senior fellow on Islam and modernity at the Cato Institute, shares many Western concerns about the Turkish incursion. He thought the Turks would not target Christians, though he expressed doubt about Turkey’s aligned Islamist militias.

But the PKK is Turkey’s biggest terrorist problem, he said, and the Kurdish militias on the Syrian border are clearly linked.

Within this cauldron, he had clear advice for regional Christians.

“Stay as apolitical as possible,” Akyol, author of The Islamic Jesus, told CT. “Otherwise, they will easily fall victim to the wrath of the various groups fighting each other, often without any clear ‘good side.’”

This includes the Turkish state, said Pinar Tremblay, visiting scholar of political science at California State Polytechnic University–Pomona. She told CT the pronouncements of support, while not inauthentic, were unlikely fully free.

“I do not think any religious figure is independent in Turkey—and that includes Muslim scholars as well,” she said.

“The state flexes its muscles over their statements routinely, and anyone who doesn’t support the operation could face legal and social consequences.”

The Associated Press reported 500 people were investigated and 121 detained for social media posts critical of the operation, according to Turkey’s Interior Ministry. Reuters reported 24 people were arrested.

And in the Kurdish-majority southeast of Turkey, five mayors were jailed and two others were detained, accused of links with the PKK.

But whereas the Syrian Observatory recorded that 224 SDF forces, 183 Turkish-backed rebels, and 72 civilians were killed in fighting so far, Tremblay believes it was the Christian deaths that worried the government.

“Ankara was particularly concerned that news of Christian casualties would anger the White House,” said the Al-Monitor columnist, to which she attributed the statements. “Turkey desperately needed to boost its image.”

Anonymous Christian Leaders in Turkey:
But that does not mean the sentiments were untrue. CT spoke with three Turkish Christian leaders, each of whom requested anonymity.

“Turkey has the right to protect its own borders,” said the first.

“We are praying for the protection of our soldiers, and I am outraged at Trump’s letter,” said the second, referring to the American president’s personal missive warning Erdogan “don’t be a fool.”

The third put it plainly: “The prisons of Turkey are filled with authors and reporters who have written down their opinions freely. If my answers are revealed to be my own opinions, my imprisonment without trial or inquiry will be a certain future.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists states Turkey is the world’s worst jailer, with 68 reporters imprisoned.

One source said the real reason behind the Syria incursion is Erdogan’s recent electoral setbacks and the declining economy. Another said that “killing Kurds” helps Erdogan’s nationalist agenda. And the other called it an “invasion” that will result in suffering for many innocent lives.

All three said they were against the war.

“Turkish Christians know very well that war is a bad thing and that it does not serve God,” said one. “For this reason, they take every opportunity to say that they are praying for the war and the bloodshed to stop.”

“Most Turkish Christians around me are against this war,” said another. “We are praying for peace and for this war to end.”

The other said there was a lot of confusion in the churches, as Christians feel like they are walking on eggshells.

“There are so many things we know very little about, and there are big games being played,” the source said. “This is how evil is operating.”

One leader in Turkey worried that peaceful protest would not be possible, and all Christians can do is pray.

In this regard, Masalyan’s official statement on behalf of the Armenian church may be most poignant.

“We are also praying for Syrians, who were tortured, oppressed, and forced to leave their country because of terror, for them to live in peace and look forward to a brighter future without losing faith in justice, peace, and good days,” he stated. “May the Lord inspire our leaders and commanders with the spirit of wisdom, compassion, and common sense.”





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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2019
« Reply #12 on: October 31, 2019, 01:23:16 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/october/exorcism-vatican-training-protestants.html






Meet the Protestant Exorcists




How fighting the devil became an ecumenical pursuit.


Anglican Erich Junger has seen a lot in his wide-ranging career as an enlisted sailor in the US Navy, a medical examiner, a police detective, and a crime scene analyst.

More than a decade ago, his calling shifted to a different kind of investigation. It’s careful work, sometimes secretive and sensitive. He goes after a master manipulator, an enemy responsible for physical, psychological, and spiritual havoc.

Well, not just any enemy. The Enemy.

An exorcist in the Anglican Church of North America, Junger now dons a clerical collar as he advises fellow believers to “put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:11).

Scriptural directives to defend against the Devil take on a heavy urgency once you have seen the twisted work of Satan up close, again and again. Junger dedicated his ministry to studying spiritual warfare—specifically, the physiological effects of demonic activities—back in 2007. Ten years later, he became licensed as an exorcist.

To outsiders, the work of exorcism carries significant cultural baggage, whether due to misperceptions gleaned from the movies or the many real-life cases where possession had been faked or confused with mental illness. This is tricky spiritual territory to navigate. That’s why exorcists like Junger would say their expertise in identifying and combating the presence of the demonic is so crucial right now.

This realm of ministry remains particularly mystifying in the United States, where most Christians see Satan as a symbol of evil rather than a living being, according to Barna Research.

“Many priests and ministers of most all denominations have lost their sense of the reality of Satan as a real entity bent on our destruction,” Junger said. “Instead, they either don’t preach about what has always been clearly stated in sacred Scripture, or they minimize the extent.”

Ministers specializing in spiritual warfare attest that as long as Christians downplay the threat of Satan, the more vulnerable they will be to his advances. As Peter wrote, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

C. S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, warned of two dangerous errors regarding devils. “One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them,” Lewis wrote. “They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

Evangelicals of different times and traditions have fallen to both. In recent years, Protestant exorcists on both sides of the theological spectrum—liturgical traditions like the Anglican Communion and spirit-filled charismatics—have reported an uptick in interest. They keep busy in places like Latin America and Africa and say they are also seeing more demand in the US.

One of the most popular sessions at last year’s Q Ideas conference was an exorcism discussion with a Catholic demonology expert, Adam Blai, who discussed how he interacts with Protestants who want to understand and fight possession.

“How can we be Christians and not try to better understand what’s happening in the spiritual realm?” founder Gabe Lyons asked after 80 percent of Q attendees said their churches rarely or never discussed the topic. “Isn’t that a pretty big deal to what we believe is actually going on in the world?”

This year, for the first time, a handful of Protestant ministers—Junger and four others—joined the Vatican’s annual training on exorcism and deliverance. Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox may have different beliefs and practices, but they certainly have a common enemy.

The new partnerships may make way for a more ecumenical era for exorcism, and, God willing, will better equip the global church to face and fight its literal demons.

Junger, an American based in Bangkok, Thailand, traveled to Rome last May for the Catholic church’s exorcism conference. The setting resembled a university lecture, with around 250 people sitting in green auditorium seats, hearing from panelists—theologians, neuroscientists, and anthropologists—on methods for addressing demonic possession.

Exorcism generally refers to spiritual efforts to expel evil spirits from people (or sometimes places or objects) believed to be possessed. Prayers of deliverance or liberation tend to be used in cases of broader spiritual bondage or oppression.Both rely on God’s authority to cast out evil spirits, as Jesus himself did repeatedly in the New Testament.

“Deliverance prayer seeks to bolster and strengthen the victim as well as repel the external forces that are oppressing them,” Junger said. “Exorcism is a direct assault on the demon who has gained total control and is now a ‘soul-squatter.’ ”

The definitions and approaches differ between traditions, and many Protestants don’t differentiate between the two.

As Pedro Barrajón, a Catholic priest and one of the conference organizers, told The Telegraph, “The Catholic rite is very structured, whereas some of the other churches are more creative, they don’t use a precise format.”

Exorcism tends to be affiliated with Catholics, thanks to the tradition’s historic adoption of the practice as well as its place in the popular imagination. The centuries-old practice has been reclaimed by the Catholic church in recent years, with the Vatican formally recognizing the rite in 2014 and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops offering priests an English version of the Vatican’s exorcism handbook in 2017.

Soon after his election, Pope Francis himself performed an impromptu exorcism in St. Peter’s Square on a young man who, according to an accompanying priest from Mexico, was believed to be possessed.

“Pope Francis and many Catholic exorcists believe that battling the Devil and his minions is of such urgency and import that it’s better to join forces with Protestant demon fighters than compete with them,” said Andrew Chesnut, chair in Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Only five Protestants came to the Catholic exorcism conference: three Anglicans, a bishop in the Independent Lutheran Charismatic Church in Argentina, and an evangelical psychologist from Hong Kong. Junger said the invitation “makes everyone realize just how real and pervasive” the problem of demonic presences has become.

Pagan Popularity and Pop Culture
It’s a global battle, but one that has been obscured by disenchanted, Western thinking, exorcists say. Many Christians have forgotten about demons altogether, occasionally referring to “spiritual warfare” without thinking much about the Enemy on the other side.

In the US, Protestant churches aren’t the ones suddenly talking more about demons—pagans are. Some Christians are starting to pay more attention to dark presences because of their New Age neighbors who are bringing back occult rituals, according to Benjamin McEntire, an appointed exorcist in the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches.

Witchcraft and other occult practices, from charging crystals to reading tarot cards, are making their way into the mainstream as New Age traditions have experienced a massive rise in recent years. (The latest Pew Research Center figures had Wiccans and pagans at about 1–1.5 million US adults in 2014.) Though hexes and dark magic aren’t typical for today’s witches, they still recognize the power and presence of demonic forces.

Satan is also making a comeback on the small screen, including shows like Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (which turned out much more spiritually dark than its Archie comic origins). And just this fall, CBS added a procedural drama where a priest-in-training and psychologist investigate possessions and other unexplained phenomena. The show is called Evil.

Of course, films and TV shows sensationalizing demonic possession always spike interest in the real thing. Many denominations “are being ‘reawakened’ to the reality of demonic activity in the world,” Junger said, “particularly since secular society has worked so hard at destroying the notion of demons and demonic activities.”

Exorcists are trained to look for signs of demonic activity that the rest of us might ignore. Some point to habits like compulsions related to sinful behaviors, intrusive evil thoughts that persist despite corrective effort, and disruptions during holy activities.

“Many practitioners have learned ways to test the difference using prayer exercises,” said McEntire, a Protestant who also attended the Vatican event. “I’ve seen people blocked from physically repeating fairly mundane prayers, the confession and renunciation of specific sins, to the point that they had to strain to pray the words.”

A priest and chaplain from Alaska, McEntire began to focus on spiritual warfare in college. He wrote his dissertation on exorcism and deliverance at Ashland Theological Seminary and went on to dedicate his career to helping people escape and recover from spiritual bondage.

“While most groups allow for the possibility that believers can be subjected to bondage, many reject that possibility and miss signs of demonization in believers,” the 37-year-old said. “Demonization in Christians is highly controversial in evangelical circles, with strong opinions on both sides of
the debate.”

Many evangelicals believe that the Holy Spirit dwells within his people and that his presence would be enough to defend against possession.

Demon-Hunting Across Denominations
McEntire attended the Rome conference to better understand the Catholic perspective and to make connections for building Christian unity in these ministries as the global church enters a new era in defending against demonic possession.

“It makes sense that those who are confronting the same enemy in the name of the same Lord would do so together,” said McEntire, who is writing a book comparing exorcism and deliverance ministries, “but currently there’s still a significant amount of institutional isolation with minimal formal communication and dialogue.”

Historically, Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox scholars have not engaged one another’s approaches to addressing demonic possession—or the traditions have focused on dismissing outside techniques.

“During previous centuries we witnessed competing Christian denominations decrying each other’s deliverance practices,” said Kate Kingsbury, an anthropologist at the University of Alberta. “Especially during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation when ostensible misuse of exorcism and other related practices might entail one be burned as a heretic.”

Amid efforts to form a united front “against Satan and his allies,” some denominational differences may be hard to overcome. The major fault lines fall around the difference between exorcism and deliverance, who can perform exorcisms, and whether Christians themselves can come under bondage to demons.

Catholics require an ordained priest and permission of a bishop for exorcisms, while Pentecostal movements rely on the Spirit’s prompting in the moment, tailoring the response to the victim before them.

Even within the structure of the church, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement has been the current vanguard for exorcisms. With lively worship services that could be confused for the praise nights of Protestant Pentecostals, this expression of Catholicism, especially in places like Africa and Latin America, has fueled demand for exorcisms, calling on the power of the Spirit to deliver, heal, and see people baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Some Protestants have gleaned from prominent Catholic charismatics like Francis and Judith MacNutt and Catholic deliverance pioneer Neal Lozano.

Other Causes of Suffering
Across denominations, all professional demon-hunters must take on this work carefully, particularly as they navigate other potential causes for seemingly “possessed” behavior.

Critics still consider exorcisms to be harmful relics of an ancient, superstitious age. Misdiagnoses can and have heaped further suffering on victims. Historically, overzealous exorcists have tortured troubled children in what amounts to child abuse and kept the unwell from seeking medical treatment.

It took 400 years before the Vatican’s exorcism guidelines finally, in 1999, drew distinctions between possession and mental and physical illness. This is a crucial area for today’s exorcists. Gary Thomas, an American Catholic exorcist, has worked with doctors and psychiatrists to standardize a means of ruling out other causes of suffering like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder before diagnosing demons.

“It’s important to differentiate between psychopathic illnesses, neurasthenia, pathologies,” Cardinal Ernest Simoni said in his keynote during last year’s Vatican conference. “Satan you can recognize.”

To combat potentially abusive or antiscientific practices, the organizers emphasized a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together practitioners not just across the church but also psychology, medicine, sociology, and law.

Indeed, medical help is now seen as a first response when possession is suspected.

“My experience and reading suggest that if someone you know is thought to be suffering from the presence of evil spirits, the first action is to seek medical help,” Graham H. Twelftree, of the London School of Theology, wrote in Premier Christianity. “There are likely to be natural causes to the suffering, and medical responses that will bring healing. If mature, wise, and widely respected Christians are of the opinion that there is a demonic dimension to the suffering, in the company of at least one other Christian, there can be a time of prayer for the person.”

This sense of pragmatism and perspective has improved Protestants’ approach to suspected cases, McEntire said, by “not assuming everything is demonic and focusing less on the Enemy and more on helping the person address the sources of bondage.”

Exorcism’s Resurgence
The Devil may be everywhere, but evangelical exorcists are not nearly so pervasive—yet.

Vincent Lampert, an exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, told The Atlantic last year that he received 1,700 requests between January and October, the most he’d ever received. Other priests said if they didn’t have their support networks, exorcism work would take up all their time.

“Exorcism has become such a hot commodity, so to speak, that I foresee some evangelicals who have historically shied away from it embracing it in the near future,” Chesnut, the Catholic studies professor, said. “We can’t forget that the future of Christianity is in the Global South, especially Africa, where the belief in demonic possession is
common currency.”

Other Protestant denominations may increasingly follow in the footsteps of Pentecostals, adopting practices
that resonate with indigenous populations. In the US and Western contexts, the fight may enlist spiritual and technological forces.

At last year’s exorcism conference, mobile phones were included for the first time alongside the more traditional “spiritual paraphernalia of holy water, Bible, and crucifix.” That means priests are starting to encourage exorcisms from afar, via phone calls and Skype.

“This explosion of exorcism services in virtual spaces, I posit, may also lead to increasing popularity and acceptance of demonic deliverance in ever wider circles,” said Kingsbury, the anthropologist.

But even as interest in these practices grows, they remain specialized and deliberate. There is no one method for determining whether a person is possessed, no single incantation that can rid the body of evil spirits.

Instead, as Junger has learned, it is an active investigation. He must know as much as he can about the victim and the demons he asks God to expel.

He declined to elaborate much on the latter. Saying too much can fuel fakers who want to discredit the kind of work he does, as well as feed psychoactive affective disorders, he said.

“The specific signs we look for cannot be affected or mimicked by a fraudster, which is also why detailed investigations must be undertaken to precisely know as much as we can about the person’s background,” he said. “Everything you saw in The Exorcist movie is something that can either be faked or carried out through mental illness.”

Some exorcists describe a change in the irises of the victim’s eyes. Or uncanny abilities to know things they shouldn’t be able to know, like suddenly speaking a different language or being aware of where the priest has hidden holy items.

In one talk, Junger mentioned how demons may recall past sins committed by the exorcist himself. “When they’re telling you things that happened when you were 10 years old and no one but you could know that, you get a clue real quick that this is not a game.”

As more Christians wake up to the evil he has actually looked in the eye, he is hoping their churches—whether Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox—will be there to offer sound support and powerful defenses against darkness.

“The more we work together in sharing cases, attending mutual training sessions, and talking with one another about how we can handle these cases is key,” he says. “Once we break down the denominational barriers and work together as Christians first, just as the original church did, then we will give Satan a real run for his money, thanks to the grace of God.”




Griffin Paul Jackson is a writer in Chicago.





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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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