Thinking Out Loud

January 23, 2014

Christian Denominational Heads in Israel With Canadian Prime Minister

The Canadian falls at Niagara are probably frozen as you read this

The Canadian falls at Niagara are probably frozen as you read this

Sometimes I make a discovery online only to recognize that another blogger can handle the story better. Besides, with a 72% American readership, stories about my home and native land aren’t really all that interesting. So I passed on this and besides, the link list took priority yesterday.

In Canada, many of our political scandals have to do with the misspending of funds. With one tenth of the U.S. population, budgets are smaller and errors generally don’t run into the billions, as they might south of The 49th Parallel. But when the Prime Minister decides to take 208 people with him to Israel, it’s hard not see a future scandal in the making. At the very least, it’s an obscene amount of spending. The government is covering the airfare for 30 of the 208, and hotel (and presumably this entails some food) for all of them.  This does not include an official delegation of 31 which traveled on whatever the Canadian equivalent is of Air Force One.

But a handful of the travel party were the heads of some of this country’s largest Evangelical denoms.

Don Simmonds from Crossroads Christian Communications
David Wells, Pres. of Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC)
Don Hutchinson, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC)
David Hearn, president of Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA)(and his wife)
Stephen Jones, president of Fellowship of Evangelical Baptists of Canada (FEBC)
Shawn Ketcheson, pastor Trinity Church, Ottawa

The EFC thing actually duplicates the three denominations since it is the umbrella group to which they all belong. No mainline churches are represented; no Presbyterians, no Anglicans, no Roman Catholics and no one from the United Church of Canada, whose ministers are now moving to become Canada’s first clergy trade union.

Should the Evangelicals have accepted this gift? Honestly, methinks not, especially should the word ‘scandal’ ever become attached to this little junket/photo-op. Okay, for the business representatives that are part of the 208, it’s more than a photo-op, but for a Member of Parliament who was caught by CBC news begging to be allowed in to the Western Wall with the PM for some pics, it was more about domestic politics back home than foreign relations.

But like I said at the beginning, this type of story really isn’t my beat, so we’ll throw you over to investigate journalist Bene Diction.

(you were supposed to click that!)
(Bene can take all the tough questions!)

August 6, 2013

The Holy Catholic Church

“…I believe…in the holy catholic church…”

…Wait a minute, the what?

Those words in the Apostles Creed have been a tripping point for both young and old Evangelicals. We even made a last minute modification in our worship slides on Sunday to avoid the terminology. At the blog Internet Monk, in a classic Michael Spencer re-post from 2006, we’re reminded that many Baptists solve the problem by simply dropping the creed altogether.

The article is lengthy, and I know some of you won’t wade through it. But if you desire, especially if you’ve always wondered about that phrase, the link is here. For the record, “catholic” in this sense means “universal.”

Here’s how the article wraps up:

…We need a generous catholicity.” Not a competition where the winner plays the role of the brat, but a humble and sincere attempt to see Christ in his church, and not just in ours. It will not hurt us to say that Christ’s church is larger than our own, or to act like it.

  • We differ on Baptism. Can we agree that Baptism belongs to Christ, and is not dispensed by the church?
  • We differ on matters such as “eternal security” and speaking in tongues. Can we agree that the Holy Spirit manifests himself in his church according to his good pleasure, and not only within the bounds of our preferences (or nice theological conclusions?)
  • We differ on church government. Can we agree that Christ is the head of the church?
  • We differ on how we profess our faith. Can we agree that we receive a brother in Jesus name’ and not our own?
  • We differ on the Lord’s Table. Can we agree that all of us read the same texts with the same passion to be connected to Christ through that table, and that even if we cannot share it together, we can agree that it is our table, and the table where our elder brother seats us all in places of honor?

We differ on much and always will. Can we agree that we are all…all of us…the church catholic? The one, holy, apostolic, blood-bought, inheritance of Jesus? That we are all the fruit of his incarnation and suffering, and that our divisions do not divide Christ (I Corinthians 1:13), but only ourselves from our family?

Looking for an alternative? You could do a lot worse than this one, which I found at this site.

We believe in Jesus Christ the Lord,

* Who was promised to the people of Israel,
* Who came in flesh to dwell among us,
* Who announced the coming of the rule of God,
* Who gathered disciples and taught them,
* Who died on the cross to free us from sin,
* Who rose from the dead to give us life and hope,
* Who reigns in heaven at the right hand of God,
* Who comes to Judge and bring justice to victory.

We believe in God His Father,

* Who raised Him from the dead,
* Who created and sustains the universe,
* Who acts to deliver His people in times of need,
* Who desires all men everywhere to be saved,
* Who rules over the destinies of men and nations,
* Who continues to love men even when they reject Him.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,

* Who is the form of God present in the church,
* Who moves men to faith and obedience,
* Who is the guarantee of our deliverance,
* Who leads us to find God’s will in the Word,
* Who assists those whom He renews in prayer,
* Who guides us in discernment,
* Who impels us to act together.

We believe God has made us His people,

* To invite others to follow Christ,
* To encourage one another to deeper commitment,
* To proclaim forgiveness of sins and hope,
* To reconcile men to God through word and deed,
* To bear witness to the power of love over hate,
* To proclaim Jesus the Lord over all,
* To meet the daily tasks of life with purpose,
* To suffer joyfully for the cause of right,
* To the ends of the earth,
* To the end of the age,
* To the praise of His glory.

Amen.

This item first appeared here in August 2010

July 4, 2013

When Faith Doesn’t Stick

Recently, my wife and I have had a number of recurring conversations prompted by comments overheard that among some Christian parents we know that their children have arrived at their late teens or early twenties only to reveal that the Christian faith they were immersed in, for lack of a better phrase, didn’t take.

At that point, I usually shake my head in despair and usually lament the time and energy that was poured into their Christian education would appear to have been entirely ineffective, at least to this point. Specifically, my comments repeatedly run along the lines of:

  • “…all those Sunday school classes…”
  • “…all those nights at youth group…”
  • “…all those weeks at church camp…”

and other variations you can fill in. 

The other day when I was finishing up this litany my wife said something that arrested me in my tracks. Now remember that, (a) she is very wise, and (b) she had the advantage of experiencing multiple repetitions of my soliloquy before issuing a comeback.

So when I said, “…all those years in church…” she said, “Yes, but you don’t know what was said in the car on the way home.”

True.

Or over dinner.

I can’t imagine that any of the parents in question would do anything knowing that it had the least potential of undermining the nurture of their children’s faith, but that’s just the point, isn’t it?

How many kids are destined for a young adulthood (and beyond) without a faith component because we inadvertently did a really crappy job of modeling for them what Christ-following looks like?

You don’t want to think about that.

So parents, be careful what you say in the car ride home on Sunday. Your comments are being picked up by little ears.

Coincidentally, The Pew Research Forum has just released a report on the religious life of Canada, my home and native land. The charts and graphs all speak for themselves — two are reproduced below — but the message is clear that an attrition is taking place in the church as we’ve not seen before. Furthermore, in Canada and the United States, the religious landscape is forever changed because of immigration policy.

Pew Research - Canada - 1

Pew Research - Canada - 2

The results are similar to a study done by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), called Hemorrhaging Faith, which we reported on here a few months ago. That study looked at four demographic areas: Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics in Quebec, and Roman Catholics Outside Quebec; and divided respondents into Engagers, Fence Sitters, Wanderers and Rejecters.

The Pew Study looked only at Protestants and Catholics, as well as respondents from other religions and the rapidly growing category known as “the nones” (not nuns) who check off the “none” box on census and other surveys. Unfortunately in the EFC study, the results for Evangelicals — while showing stronger adherence — did not point to a much brighter future over the long term.

Survey companies like Barna and Pew make money selling reports, and the very nature of the business means that bad news tends to get more attention. So books like David Kinnaman’s unChristian are better known than the counter response found in books like Bradley Wright’s Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites: And Other Lies You’ve Been Told reviewed here. People will flock to buy a book on how the sky is falling, but not so much toward one which advises the sky is intact.

But the Pew Research study and the Evangelical Fellowship’s study highlight statistics that are undeniable: Kids are leaving the church in record numbers.

June 19, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Your Lifeguard Walks on Water

Has it been a week already? The above graphic is from Happy Monday at The Master’s Table.

The Church of the Nativity of Our Lady from Peredki: I'd like to build something like this at camp sometime. Click the image for more info.

The Church of the Nativity of Our Lady from Peredki (16th Century): I’d like to build something like this at camp sometime. Click the image for more info.

May 30, 2013

A Homicide Investigator Looks at History’s Most Famous Death

Cold Case ChristianityEvery decade or so a great work of apologetics appears which breaks the boundaries of the discipline and reaches a wider audience. Josh McDowell did it years ago with Evidence That Demands a Verdict; Frank Morrison with Who Moved the Stone? and more recently Lee Strobel brought a large audience to the discussion with The Case for Christ series.

Enter former Los Angeles County homicide investigator J. Warner Wallace and his book Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. (2013, David C. Cook).  Like Strobel, Wallace was a skeptic turned believer, and like McDowell, Wallace leaves no stone unturned in his study of the reliability of scripture, from obscure passages to those central to core doctrine.

The book is divided into two parts, the nature of cold case investigation — and this case is 2,000 + years old, and the particular evidence that the Bible offers. But first one other book comparison, and you won’t see it coming. Years ago Philip Keller wrote A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. People loved that book because there were particular insights that only one who tended sheep could offer toward interpretation of the text that begins “The Lord is my shepherd.” In many respects, Cold Case Christianity offers the same type of intimacy with the subject matter that only an insider who has worked in this vocation can contribute. So if you feel you’ve read enough apologetics titles to last a lifetime, allow me to offer you one more! 

It’s important to note that Wallace approached this originally from the perspective of an atheist. While the evidence in this case is compelling, I found the first part of the book (which is more than half of the total) most interesting. Possible recipients of this book would include men (Father’s Day is coming) and anyone who reads mysteries or watches mystery or suspense or programs related to the justice system on video or TV.

In a sense, in Cold Case Christianity you, or someone you know who is sitting on the fence in terms of belief, are the jury. So the other possible recipients of this book would be anyone who is investigating Christianity; including people who might not read other books in the apologetics genre.

The second part of the book is the evidence itself. Here, Wallace brings in much from non-Biblical sources, satisfying the oft-voice complaint that some apologists are simply using the Bible to prove the Bible.

J. Warner Wallace is now part of the ministry of Stand To Reason, and posts articles and blogs at PleaseConvinceMe.com . This is a handbook I intend to keep within reach and will no doubt refer back to many times.

March 15, 2013

Extreme Makeover: Papal Edition

Wednesday night we were reflecting at dinner on all the free television coverage the Roman Catholic Church received as a result of its search for a new leader. I noted that in American terms, this was much like the ‘bump’ the U.S. political parties get after the Republican National Convention or Democratic National Convention. An infomercial that is broadcast free of charge for the parties and seen by the viewer free of any other commercials.

But Mrs. W. pointed out to me that much of the commentary up to the point where they announced the new Pope was actually somewhat undermining what was taking place. The talking heads on the major networks were pontificating (couldn’t resist that one) about how what was needed was a younger leader and someone who would address the changing role of women in society as it affects the church.

And then, switching analogies, she said, “It’s like you’re watching Extreme Makeover and Ty Pennington says, ‘Move that bus;’ and the bus moves out of the way and you find yourself left with the same house you started with.”

In a way, that’s what happened. The older white gentleman who was the Pope was replaced by another older white gentleman, albeit one is from another continent who up until this week insisted on cooking his own meals and taking public transit. Perhaps Pope Francis would bring some major changes and leave an impressive legacy, but on Wednesday evening things looked relatively unchanged.  

By Thursday afternoon however, the first-day reporting on Pope Francis’ tenure was offering some most positive signs. Things that make you go, “Hmm.” Could it be that things are really going to change? And then, this item on Mark Shea’s blog at Patheos concerning “then-Cardinal Bergoglio, chewing out some of his priests for refusing to baptize children of single mothers.”

“In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don’t baptize the children of single mothers because they weren’t conceived in the sanctity of marriage,” Bergoglio told his priests. “These are today’s hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it’s baptized!”

Perhaps it is, indeed, a makeover.

January 16, 2013

Wednesday Link List

In the first link today, I want you to join me in a promotion project for a deserving songwriter and embed the video on your Facebook page, your blog, or whatever it takes to spread the word.

  • Our first link today is the above video. I’ve been corresponding with the creator of this for some time, but it couldn’t go public until now.  “An uplifting song that furnishes a concept of peace and oneness for humanity in deliberate contrast to John Lennon’s iconic anthem, ‘Imagine’.”  Here’s the story behind the song. I want to encourage you to share this with everyone you know! 
  • Here’s an article I wrote for C201, that I may yet reblog here. It’s about Jesus’ last words to his disciples, and they may not be the words you’re thinking of right now. 
  • And another C201 post that is both packed with scripture and introduces the new Chris Tomlin song, Whom Shall I Fear.
  • Essay of the week: Canadian Dave Carrol explains his faith, his faith journey, and his ‘conflicted’ Protestant and Catholic sides to a largely secular audience in his city’s newspaper.
  • The Harvard Theological Review is postponing publication of a major article on the papyrus fragment in which Jesus seems to refer to his wife, raising further doubts about a discovery that was set to turn Christian history on its head. More at Religion News
  • Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove critiques a PBS special on the abolitionists; noting what the producers missed and what he is pleased they included.
  • If you’ve been following the Jack Schaap story, you’ll want to know that First Baptist Church in Hammond (IN) has hired a new pastor, John Wilkerson. More also at the church website.
  • Meanwhile in another casting call, how about Brad Pitt as Pontius Pilate?
  • Would Brian McLaren be a good fit to replace Louis Giglio at the Presidential bash?
  • And what if a letter from Barack Obama to Louis Giglio looked something like this letter?  Plus, I couldn’t overlook a piece that Gabe Lyons wrote on how Louis was ‘bullied off the stage.’
  • Pushing past the controversy, Christianity Today reported on Louis Giglio’s signature event, The Passion Conference. Between Passion and Urbana, it’s easy to see what American Christian youth were up to over the holidays. So why does a search for Urbana at CT turn up nothing?
  • While it doesn’t have a Christian message, this 3-minute public service announcement from the Australian government should give you good reason to slow down in all areas of life.
  • As the countdown begins to the Big Game in the U.S. (February 3rd, if you’re wondering) poet Greg Asimakoupoulos: laments that these sports extravaganzas now routinely happen on Sundays. As game day approaches, you might want to copy and paste this to the American football fans you know.  [HT: David Fisher]
  • The issue of prayer at civic events switches this week to a debate about the subject at West Point Academy.
  • Mike Duran is closing in on 300 comments for a piece he wrote about websites that put evangelicalism under the microscope or simply put it to ridicule. Some of the language is edgy, but if you’re okay with that, check out, The Anti-Evangelical Hate Machine. Later, in an effort to better understand one of the bloggers, he interviews Darrel Dow of Stuff Fundies Like.  (SFL is also the source for today’s lower graphic.)
  • A few weeks ago we attended a New Year’s Eve-Eve night of ‘clean comedy’ with Timmy Boyle, and learned that a number of comedians in Canada are creating a family-friendly comedy circuit. Here’s a story of Matt Falk, a similar entertainer whose debut album topped the iTunes comedy category on its day of release. 
  • Also for my Canadian readers, next Monday night at 8:00 PM on CBC TV’s Mr. D., history teacher Gerry Duncan wades into religion with this line, “Jesus was Jewish and even he was Catholic.” Sigh.
  • Ending with a video since we opened with one: Cindy Jacobs tells an interviewer about the ‘miracle’ of her shoes not wearing out.

Christian Family Off For Vacation

January 12, 2013

The Go Deep Link List

The Go Deep List Lynx

The Go Deep List Lynx

It’s like the regular link list but for people who want something they can really chew on.

  • If you read the Wednesday list here, you saw a brief reference this week to Becky.  Becky is a fictional prototype of the ideal listener to Christian radio who, according to Sean Palmer, is more than just a media marketer’s target, but she is also setting the agenda for the modern church.  And then there’s this damning statement:

    Every element in a church worship service; each program or each new area of ministry has to pass the Becky-test. This means milk toast, predictable, and less engaging worship experiences. The depths and riches of Christian experience go ignored because Becky has no framework to understand them and Christian sub-culture is happy to allow her her illusions of faith provided those illusions are accompanied by her patronage.

    No wonder the article is called Killing Becky.

  • Although youth ministry guru Mark Oestreicher — I’m getting to where I can type his name right on the first take — wrote this with youth ministry in mind, it has much broader implications for church ministry as a whole. Mark had me from the first paragraph:

    I see the Kingdom of God in less black-and-white frames these days. To say it’s a full gray-scale doesn’t even do it justice. The Kingdom of God deserves a color palette so broad, deep and rich that we don’t have names for all the nuance and variation.

    And also

    In the U.S. church, we want so desperately to be independent mavericks, a Christianized version of the Marlboro Man, riding through the landscape of culture, needing no one, emulating no one. But if we look carefully at the American church in the last 40 years or so, we’re really not all that original. Most of the time we are acquiesce-ers, copiers. We copy culture, and convince ourselves we birthed it.

    The article is actually the first in a series. The main link here is to Presence in Youth Ministry Part One, but there’s also a part two and a part three.

  • And then there’s this one, which connects to the graphic below. Basically the idea is that rock hard empirical evidence can only take you so far, and beyond that, whether you choose Atheism or Theism, it involves a major step of faith.

    …the relationship between strength of belief and theism/atheism could be visualized as independent variables in a bivariate function, and that doing so might shed some light on my own perspective.

    And this insight

    …Although it is not a linear relationship, I would say the inclination of the individual to proselytize–that is, to attempt to win others to camps that occupy the same region on the curve–increases proportionally with the level of certainty.

    While he uses words like ‘bivariate’ this is a very concise article that is quite easy to follow, and has implications for your next conversation with someone who you’ve seen as having an opposing worldview, but who you now know shares more in common with you than you thought.  Check out Dan Martin’s The Belief Matrix.

The Belief Matrix

December 6, 2012

Where is Pro-Choice Protest over Royal ‘Baby’ News?

Baby or tissue

From a hardcore pro-choice position, it’s not a baby. Not yet. But absolutely everyone is caught up in the celebration. And at least one blogger at Flagrant Regard had the courage to point out the resulting double-standard in an open letter to pro-choicers:

You rant and scream at your rallies, on your blogs, in your liberal-leaning newspaper columns and directly at your detractors that abortion – especially if performed on a woman prior to the 24-weeks-pregnant mark – is okay because the creature, the ‘it-thing’ inside that woman’s body is a fetus. ‘Fetus’, in your minds, being a word for a disposable type of developing life-form that’s not, in fact, a little human person.

Really? ‘Cause you wouldn’t know it today.

Every news server this morning broke the story that Kate Middleton, the internationally admired, beloved Dutchess and wife of the future king of England is about 12 weeks pregnant.

Websites have already been created in homage to the ‘baby-to-be’, throngs of royal-watchers are passionately discussing what the baby’s name might be if it’s a boy or a girl, women everywhere are gushing and/or vicariously ‘glowing’ over, with or for Kate Middleton in anticipation of the newly expected ‘child’ who will be 3rd in line to the royal throne (as if he/she had the job in hand already).

Is the issue here the celebrity brought on by pure celebrity or because this is a ‘royal’ pregnancy? Maybe there would be fewer abortions if all women felt they were carrying a child in line to a royal throne.

So if I am understanding this correctly, a woman has the right to call something growing inside her a “zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus” (thank you for the terminology, Pro-Choice Action Network) and then rip it out of her body if she believes it to be anything less than a prince or princess in the making?

And that’s just the beginning. Our anonymous blogger has just begun his well-placed rant.

Continue reading here. I’m sure some of you will want to comment, too; so I’ve shut comments off here so you can leave them with the author. You know you want to.

August 4, 2012

Ravi Zacharias Predictions Ring True

I’m currently in the middle of one of those extensive cleanups where you find all sort of things from the past, in this case Connection,  a 14-year old newsletter from Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto.

In the spring of 1998, author, speaker and Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias received an honorary doctorate from Tyndale, and the newsletter summarized his address on the front page:

Five Changes In This Century That Will Change the Future

  • the “God is Dead” movement, begun by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche
  • religious pluralism
  • the power to inform through the visual
  • the loss of center for cultural molding
  • the shifting power to a youth culture

Zacharias then suggested that Christians need an apologetic that:

  • is seen and not just heard
  • is felt and not just argued
  • rescues the ends, not only the means

Today, 12 years into that new century we see:

  • the rise of militant atheism and a political correctness devoid of God
  • pluralism and demographics shifts in Western nations that will move to change laws, political structures and education systems
  • the power of screens, visual learning, info graphics; text has been reduced to bullet points or less
  • a fragmentation in media that means culture is shaped by a seemingly infinite number of influences
  • a world where, even in the modern church, 40 can be too old; though overall power hasn’t shifted to the young so much as to those who can think young, especially in their mastery of the new technologies

While we face challenges Ravi didn’t mention — particularly issues of gender and sexual orientation, the European economic tensions, political instability in the middle east — his words to the Christian university audience were certainly prophetic.

Read some of Ravi’s popular quotes here at C201 and learn more about his ministry at RZIM.

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