Thinking Out Loud

November 28, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Welcome to another collection of news and opinion pieces you might not have seen elsewhere. The reading time of the list is about four minutes, to read all the articles is probably about 75 minutes. Consider yourselves challenged!

♦ Why They’re Dropping Out: No, it’s not research into Millennials leaving the church, but missionaries leaving the field. More often than not, the survey showed the reasons were family-related.

♦ More on I Kissed Dating Goodbye: Should someone as young as Harris ever been given a publishing contract in the first place?

…Did anyone in the chain of decision making consider the theological wisdom of letting such a young author (who was neither married nor a parent, the two most formative experiences possible in these questions) draw such deep lines in the sand? They may have, but I do wonder whether there was so much attention given to the wave-making potential of a child preacher that such concern rang hollow.

What Harris is saying today, via an apology tour, a documentary, and a pretty thick social media campaign, is that he spoke too soon. He’s not the same person he was twenty years ago, and he doesn’t believe the things he believed then. Should this really be an unsettling thing to hear? Is it even possible to go from 23 to 43 without radically refining our worldview, especially on those things that are so deeply intertwined with lived experience…?

♦ Provocative (to some) Headline of the Week: “God May Be Gender Neutral But He’s Still Our Father.” Sample: “The desire to de-gender God, especially by those who do not really accept the Bible’s teaching, is not prompted by a desire for theological accuracy but by a desire to blur human gender distinctions and to signal our equality and diversity credentials.”

♦ Story Finally Getting Attention: A Christian family hoping to bring an adopted son home from Africa is facing an unimagined nightmare as the adoption is delayed by bureaucracy in Ghana followed by a severe relapse of the mom’s Multiple Scoliosis. (If you research the name Kim Moran, you’ll find several links to recent coverage at the CTV and Global networks.) (Pray!) [Wednesday morning update: Kim has returned home for treatment while her husband remains in Ghana with the boy awaiting completion of paperwork.]

♦ Things continue heating up at Harvest Bible Chapel. If, as alleged, the figures in this article accurately represent salaries paid to the James MacDonald family in 2015, it involves one million U.S. dollars.

♦ A year after they gave asylum to an undocumented immigrant, members of a United Methodist Church in Durham, North Carolina feel they were betrayed by a government that chose not to play fair.

♦ Celebrating the season:

It’s hard to “keep Christ in Christmas” because for many he was never there to begin with. Christian believers need to focus on keeping Christ in our worship services, in our homes, in our hearts. Let the world have Rudolph, Elf on the Shelf, Coca-Cola drinking, red BMW driving Santa Claus. You can’t control what the Hallmark Movie Channel does from Oct 1 to Dec 31. You can totally control what verses you read, hymns you sing and prayers you say in your family devotions.

♦ Biomedical ethics: In what may be this week’s longest-impacting story, a scientist in China has “successfully” edited the genes of twin girls. Some say it’s just “human experimentation.”

♦ Best answer I’ve seen: Greg Boyd on tithing in the era of the New Testament. “We are not called to be a people that are shamed by a rule, but a people who are captivated by a vision.”

♦ A missionary responds to the John Chau case and the potential backlash on people serving in foreign countries.

♦ Article Title of the Week: The Santa Clausification of Christmas

♦ Our Entertainment Choices Department:

The problem is not that we visit the movie theater. The problem is that we feel more at home in the movie theater than we do with the gathered church on Sunday. The problem is not that we have Taylor Swift on a guilty pleasures playlist. The problem is that when a relationship crumbles, our gut instinct is not to turn to the Psalms, which are inspired by the Holy Spirit (the same Spirit that we claim is dwelling inside of us), but rather we try to quiet our souls by turning to a pop singer whose own relationship history would suggest that she is not the wisest and most reliable counselor.

♦ Christmas quotes from pastors and theologians: 12 of the best.

♦ The husband and wife duo Aaron Smith and Jennifer Smith cracked the Publisher’s Weekly Top 20 Religion non-Fiction chart in the summer of 20166, marking the first time self-published authors had ever made the list. In a recent 46-minute video, they share the struggles they had with sexual intimacy; an area of their lives which was the springboard for their ministry.

♦ Another response to Carey Nieuwhof’s article about mediocre churches — at least according to his standards — is this piece by Stephen Altrogge. Sample: The Early Church was seriously mediocre. If you’re laboring in a small, ‘mediocre’ church, keep at it. Don’t buy into the lie that you need to up your production value before God will bless your efforts. Focus on the things that matter and let God handle the growth of your church.”

♦ For the science nerds: “…the rate at which the universe is expanding may be different depending on how far back we look at distant stars and galaxies.” Why is this important? J. Warner Wallace explains.

Before our universe came into existence, nothing existed. Nothing. No time, no matter and no space. Nothing. This singular truth about the universe exposes an even greater mystery. The long-established (and accepted) Principle of Causality dictates that whatever begins to exist requires a cause. If our universe came into existence from nothing – and that certainly appears to be the case – it had a cause, and not just any cause will do.

The cause of our universe cannot be spatial, temporal or material, given that space, time and matter didn’t exist (according to scientific discoveries) until the universe came into existence. Whatever the first-cause, it cannot be described using the attributes we typically ascribe to the natural realm. It could rightfully be described as “extra-natural.” Or “supra-natural.” Or even “supernatural.”

♦ All your questions about Jehovah’s Witness answered. Well, most of them. This particular Q&A-formatted article is one of several about JWs which appeared this summer at Mama Bear Apologetics

♦ Evangelicals increasingly relaxed attitude toward alcohol.

♦ Breaking one of our rules here to include this review of a new book which looks at what is exactly new in the New Testament. (Please…look for alternatives to supporting Amazon.)

Beyond the actual use of the word “new,” there are also instances of obvious conceptual reference to new realities: new exodus, new Moses, new Israel, new people, renewed nature, new temple, new law, new priesthood, new high priesthood, new sacrifice, new descendants of Abraham, second Adam, and the dawning kingdom of God itself.

♦ For the authors among us: At what level of copy-and-paste do the quotations in your book constitute copyright infringement?

♦ Cassia’s Story: From losing the life she’d had, to reaching out for help. This is a promotional commercial for 2018 at the Salvation Army in New Zealand. A reminder at this time of year of the good that they do worldwide

♦ Parenting Place: A double-feature from the same blog. 

♦ KidMin: Download and print free Advent coloring sheets; up to 24 to choose from.

♦ Catholic Corner: A 13-minute fun call-in podcast on the meaning of The Liturgy of the Hours. (Personally, I think that’s about the right length for a podcast.)

♦ Last month, for National Coming Out Day, the creator of the popular The Brick Bible — which when released was carried in many Christian bookstores — came out as a lesbian transgender woman.

♦ That conservative preacher was actually right when he said the characters in Pokémon Go are “virtual cyber demons.” “Ghost monster” is how Japanese folklore might express it. [Good or bad might depend if you live up-river or down-river.] [Don’t watch the video just before going to bed.]

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