Thinking Out Loud

August 21, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Each Saturday for several years, Religion News Service sends me the top pictures of the week in the wide world of religion and faith. To see all from the last week, click the image.
Caption: An Indian boy scavenges for reusable items amid idols of Hindu goddess Dashama lying in the river Sabarmati after the end of Dashama festival in Ahmadabad, India, on Aug. 11, 2019. The ten-day festival celebrated in the Shravan month of the Hindu calendar culminates with the immersion of the idols of the deity who is worshipped for good health and prosperity in this western state of Gujarat. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

We’re back. You’re back. Let’s begin…………………………………………………………………………………………………………(random bunch of dots to mess with the Twitter preview.)

■ Houston, we have a problem: Too many people are interpreting stories posted on the Christian satire site, The Babylon Bee as being real news.

■ British children are going hungry during the summer holidays. Churches are stepping in. “This year, more than any before has seen a growing recognition that the school holidays present significant challenges for low income families reliant on free school meals. In addition, tax changes and welfare cuts made over the past decade have compounded the situation – often hitting those who are most vulnerable, the hardest.”

■ …Meanwhile in the UK, the iconic — first broadcast in 1961 — weekly BBC television show Songs of Praise, which normally features…wait for it…songs of praise instead presented a same-sex wedding.

■ This story adds to my hypothesis that the reason many people who left the ministry under less than desirable conditions return to preaching is because they really can’t do anything else. “As he gets ready for the fall launch of his unaffiliated The Sanctuary church in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Billy Graham’s grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, who was stripped of his preaching credentials in 2015 due to extramarital relationships with former congregants, says they were all ‘consensual’ and not an abuse of power.

■ Peter Enns is sorry to disappoint you, but America is not in the Bible. (Or maybe he’s not so sorry.)

■ It’s fiction, but not Christian fiction; at least not overtly since it’s published by Simon and Schuster, not Zondervan or Bethany House. A mainline Protestant church is the subject of a new book, The Dearly Beloved. “First-time novelist Cara Wall tells the story of two ministers and their wives, who are called to a large Presbyterian church in New York City in the early 1960s and spend their lives ministering there. Each individual in the foursome gets equal treatment—their stories, their inner lives, their histories, and their perceptions of each other are handled like a cube that is slowly turned over in the reader’s hands. They become increasingly interconnected…” (Review may contain spoilers.)

■ Recent stories of de-conversion: Scot McKnight weighs in, “…a person apostasizes or leaves the faith to find independence. This autonomy can be intellectual, psychological, or moral (or behavioral) or more than one or all of them. My study leads me to believe we should be looking through the statements of someone like Marty Sampson to what he wants to do, how he wants to behave, to whom he wants to answer. He’s looking for independence for something.”

■ 10 Questions to find out if you’re prepared for marriage. Just maybe not the 10 questions you were expecting.

■ Steve Carter on last month’s statement from the elders at his former church, Willow Creek. “…Regardless of intention, the elders chose to step over and sidestep the women who had already been so victimized by the leadership of Willow. The truth wasn’t named, but reconciliation was advised again and again. Reconciliation is a beautiful word and so close to the heart of God, but scholars will tell you reconciliation isn’t possible if the truth is not named…”

■ Parenting Place: From the wider internet, this article on ten things you need to establish as a new school year begins.

■ This October InterVarsity Press (IVP) is re-issuing, in its Signature Collection series, two classic books: How to Give Away Your Faith by Paul Little and Basic Christianity by John Stott. See all the new IVP releases at this link. (Announcer: A long time ago, in a world before subtitles…)

■ For Pastors: 5 Things I learned as a pastor’s kid.

■ One-minute video message: Who wrote the book of Jonah?

■ Dating Dilemma: Don’t go to church looking for a mate, at least not according to a new study by Lyman Stone: “Just 12% of prime-age unmarried men both believe basic Christian teachings and are meaningfully practicing Christian piety. The figure is about 18% for women. This means that for both men and women, majorities are not in any meaningful sense practicing or believing Christianity.” An article about the study notes, “That means that if you are a devout Christian looking to marry another devout Christian, the number of potential spouses is tiny. Stone believes this explains why today only four percent of Americans meet their significant other at church – whereas it was still 12 percent in 1940.” The author writes, “Finding a good spouse requires a considerable volume of options…”

■ Essay of the Week: We don’t usually get political, but for the sheer poetry of this article it’s worth the read, regardless of your stand: If Migrants Were Handguns

■ …which brings us to… Who is behind the National Prayer Breakfast? A new Netflix documentary examines ‘The Family’ in a 5-part series. John Fea at The Washington Post” Many viewers will inevitably equate the Family with American evangelicalism. And who would blame them if they did? Some of the Family’s most troublesome practices reflect an approach to religion and politics that led 80 percent of American evangelicals to vote for Trump in 2016. Many of the politicians who gravitate toward the Family have run campaigns designed to convince evangelicals that gays, Muslims, Barack Obama and immigrants are eroding white Christian America.”

■ As a follow-up to the article we posted here yesterday, Sarah Bolme at Christian Book Marketing asks, How Many Christian Bookstores Remain? …

■ …Steve Laube also weighed in on the same subject, pointing to a new website that helps U.S. consumers locate existing stores

■ …which you can find here.

Veggie Tales is back! “The iconic Christian children’s program, which has attracted millions of fans with its mix of Bible lessons, trademark silly songs and, yes, Monty Python-esque humor, is undergoing its latest revival this fall on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. The Christian broadcaster will air 18 new episodes of VeggieTales, beginning with a Christmas special that will debut in late fall.” TBN applied to “license the show from NBCUniversal, which now owns VeggieTales.”

■ …Buried in the above story, Veggie Tales co-creator Mike Nawrocki “started his own creative company­ — one of his projects is a new series of kids books called “The Dead Sea Squirrels”…

■ New Music: Jason Gray – I’m Gonna Let it Go

■ New Music : Hollyn – I Think We Should Break Up (this one’s different, that’s for sure.)

■ The movie Overcomer opens this weekend. If you missed the trailer, here it is

■ …and we can now reveal that six months ago, the Kendrick Brothers talked to The Wally Show. (But you can’t really call this an interview.)

■ Scandalous! You’ve heard of the Preachers ‘N Sneakers account on Instagram which reveals how much megachurch pastors paid for their shoes? Wait ’til you see what Andy Stanley paid for his.

■ Finally — and remember not everything on “Finally” is true — Donald Trump tells Jesus to “Go back to Galilee.” ““Why is so much glory given to Jesus when Galilee is the worst run, most infested rathole in Israel? It’s a backwater. A complete and total catastrophe. And this guy tells the people of the United States how to live?” 

And now…Bible Illustrated presents, “When Christians Write Fiction”






  1. PK’s – Our daughter is in Girl Scouts and we plan dates and activities so she can spend time with a friend or with groups. She is an only child to begin with and the church I pastor has no other children her age. I naturally worry that her understanding of church will be framed as something boring that grown ups do, the same way she thinks of baseball games and TV news. A paranoia I have, hopefully unjustified, is that the next time I am considered for a prospective pastorate one or more people will target the 10-year-old as a source of information. “Do mommy and daddy ever fight.” “how many movie channels do they subscribe to” or “how often does your family eat out?” Sometimes preacher’s kids or pastor’s kids are expected to be super saints, like some of theology gene gets passed down. I’ve never had to tell a deacon or Sunday school teacher to leave my kid alone but it’s something I imagine pastors sometimes doing, and I still may before she is grown.

    Andy’s shoes – That’s the first thing I’ve ever read about Andy Stanley that I like. Props to him. I buy all of my clothes, shoes included, at Walmart. Nobody asked but there it is. (Things are slowly wearing out and being thrown away that came from the OBI Friendship House; we’ve been gone since 2012. The Cole Haan’s I wore every Sunday for years my wife picked up for me for the cool price of $0.)

    Comment by Clark Bunch — August 21, 2019 @ 10:52 am

    • I’ve never heard of a search committee interviewing the candidate’s preteen children, but it would be an interesting strategy.

      Re. Andy: Ouch! You need to watch more of his sermons.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — August 21, 2019 @ 11:53 am

      • Andy Stanley is about 10% more church pastor than Joel Osteen. No, I do not need to listen to his sermons or watch any videos from his fake church. I listen to Charles Stanley and have met his protege Anthony George.

        Comment by Clark Bunch — August 21, 2019 @ 8:24 pm

      • You say you don’t need to listen his sermons or watch his videos, and then you pass judgment.
        That’s not gonna fly here.
        Not on my watch.

        Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — August 21, 2019 @ 9:14 pm

  2. “Many have lost faith because of something about the Bible or in the Bible – the Old Testament in particular. Once they can no longer accept all the historicity of the Old Testament, once they couldn’t go along with all the miracles, once somebody poked a hole in the Genesis creation, you know, myth – once all that went away suddenly their house-of-cards faith came tumbling down because they were taught it’s all true, it’s all God’s Word and if you find one part that’s not true [then] uh-oh the whole thing comes tumbling down.

    “[But] not Christianity. The Bible did not create Christianity. The resurrection of Jesus created Christianity and launched Christianity. Your whole house of Old Testament cards can come tumbling down [but] the question is: Did Jesus rise from the dead? And the eyewitnesses said He did. I know that’s a little disturbing for some of us. I know for many of you, this is liberating.” -Andy Stanley

    From his church’s website: If you were raised on a version of Christianity that relied on the Bible as the foundation of faith, a version that was eventually dismantled by academia or the realities of life, maybe it’s time for you to change your mind about Jesus. Maybe it’s time for you to consider the version of Christianity that relies on the event of the resurrection of Jesus as its foundation. If you gave up your faith because of something about or in the Bible, maybe you gave up unnecessarily.

    Andy Stanley suggests we republish all Bibles and divide them into two section; “God’s covenant with ancient Israel” and “God’s Covenant with the world.” I did not pass judgement without knowing what he believes and teaches. He believes that Christians need to unhitch themselves from the Old Testament. Jesus quoted from 24 Old Testament books during his earthly ministry. He certainly didn’t feel the need to unhitch himself from it, though Stanley might point out that was before the resurrection. I don’t think we can fully understand the New Testament without the Old. The Bible tells one story, of how Holy God relates to people that are sinful, fallen and broken. At the center of the story is Jesus. I don’t think we need a “version” of Christianity unhitched from God’s Word.

    Like I said, props to Andy for the shoes. But I consider his theology apostasy.

    Comment by Clark Bunch — August 21, 2019 @ 11:12 pm

    • This is all about changing our approach to evangelism, and as such it is a refreshing perspective that addresses some seriously liabilities we face in this present culture. With that as context, and having been there (online) when he did the sermon series from which the book emerged and said the things he said, there is nothing — nothing at all — that you’ve quoted with which I would disagree, though I think even Andy himself would say that the use of the word “unhitched” (said more as hyperbole than literally) was lamentable given the backlash.

      If this means I am also counted among the heretics, than yes; count me in. If this approach is apostasy, I’d rather be counted among the apostate than to consider pursuing an approach which blindsides and devastates our children once they head off to college or university.

      Maybe you’ll see it differently when at some point in the future, your child comes home from college for Thanksgiving break and begins the reunion with, “Mom and Dad, one of my science professors said something that’s left my head spinning and now I’m no longer sure what I believe.”

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — August 22, 2019 @ 1:26 pm

      • The transition to adulthood often involves re-examining one’s faith. Our daughter is ten so we’re not there yet but I remember going to college and having to define my faith in my terms rather than those of my parents for the first time. I warn high school graduates all the time that the job of college professors is to turn youth group Christians into atheists so watch out for that. I cannot imagine, however, that if my child returns home from college with tough questions my response will be “I wish as a family we had read the Bible less.”

        I think the failings of the modern church stem from the fact that in some cases we have just about abandoned the Bible completely. I don’t think moving further away from the Bible than we already have is the answer.

        Comment by Clark Bunch — August 24, 2019 @ 8:29 am

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