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Category Archives: Theology

Southern Baptist malaise

They’re fretting.

About 800 to 1,000 Southern Baptist congregations cease to exist annually, largely due to a stagnant vision among the leadership and lack of impact within their communities, says a church planting director. However, church leaders say the closures are often the symptom of a greater problem.

“Churches are closing in large part because they have either become disconnected from culture and, or disconnected from Scripture. When this happens, life leaves the church,” Joshua Hedger, director of Center for Church Planting at Midwestern Seminary, told The Christian Post.

Although the Baptist convention opened 1,300 new churches last year, Hedger says they are not gaining enough new ground and will rely on church planters to create a movement that will hopefully put an end to dying congregations. The church revitalization process usually involves new leadership taking over a declining church, who then implements a strategy on how to grow the congregation again.

“In some churches, a simple change in leadership and culture takes place,” Hedger said. “Some fully shut down and allow a new church to take over their facilities, assets, and people. Others find themselves anywhere between those two extremes.”

Dr. Rodney Harrison, a former revitalization pastor says part of the process is also addressing issues that the former leadership of a church did not deal with, such as “problems caused by members who embodied the works of the flesh.”

“In these restarts, church discipline has always been a part of the revitalization process. The goal of discipline is restoration, however, since the process is painful, most churches in need of revitalization have not addressed the issue of members behaving badly,” Harrison said.

I have an idea or two about how they might possibly improve their fortunes.

You know that old joke about the guy who goes to the doctor, tells him it hurts when he bends his elbow, and his doctor tells him not to bend it?

There is much wisdom in that, actually.

Hey, Southern Baptists: you know whatever you’re doing that isn’t working?

Don’t do those things. :)

Yes, discipline is important.

But it’s not the only thing.

I’m heavily biased, as an ex-evangelical, and as someone who’s Reformed, so bear that in mind.

Even so, here are my thoughts:

(a) Stop the fighting between Calvinists and non-Calvinists. How you chose to do so, is up to you – either, as I’d naturally endorse, embrace Calvinism categorically and silence any dissent against it from pastors and ruling elders (or whatever you call them) and seminarians; or, alternately, reject it categorically and silence any dissent from pastors, elders, seminarians; or, third option, embrace the ‘big tent’ approach decisively, saying you’ll have room for both perspectives, and will officially as an organization be neutral, and agree to have a truce and stop the infighting. I don’t know which is best, though I like the first option naturally, but seriously, anything but the status quo, where there’s much squabbling and infighting, even if below the surface.

(b) Stop doing whatever else it is that you have been doing, and re-embrace your roots. You have an old hymnbook, and old-fashioned liturgy? Return to it. You used to eschew megachurches? Return to small congregations only. And so on. You used to take decidedly conservative stands on virtually all political matters? Go back to doing so exclusively, and stop fretting about outreach to minorities, and work on outreach to your base – white folks. Stop embracing increased immigration, and political amnesty for illegals, to curry favour with such communities. Stop with the apologizing for the fact your denomination used to be pro-slavery. That was a century and a half ago; sheesh! On the other hand, stop being knee-jerk neo-con as regards foreign policy matters – Israelis aren’t going SBC, and Putin is not the anti-Christ. Relax. Ignore foreigners. Work on America.

(c) Stop having pastors and seminarians and other bigwigs in your organization who white-knight, and kiss women’s asses while bashing men; e.g. Russell Moore, Al Mohler, etc. Give men a reason to attend your church; care about matters of importance to them, and don’t let any pastors badmouth men, in general; none of the ‘Mother’s Day, we celebrate mothers / Father’s Day, we focus on fathers’ shortcomings’ crap.

Those are my ideas, free of charge, take them or leave them.

And I’m feeling so magnanimous tonight, I won’t even mention your stupid teetotalitarianism. (Wait; oops! :) )

 

Femingelicals of today celebrating mainline churchian feminists of yore

Their intellectual and spiritual forebears, after all…

Blah blah blah… (Hat tip: Darryl Hart):

Later came defenses of women from one of Quakerism’s founders, Margaret Fell Fox (1614–1702); Tory pamphleteer, Mary Astell (1668–1731); abolitionist Hannah More (1745–1833); and the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797). Most of these writers acted out of a Christian impulse with the relatively unified objective of elevating women to their rightful place.

In the 18th century, the first Great Awakening brought a return to the earliest centuries’ involvement of lay people. Women’s involvement in missions sometimes included preaching, and on the frontier, Christian women experienced increased levels of autonomy. By the 19th century the pro-woman consciousness had a label: “the woman movement,” now called first-wave feminism. Male and female Bible-believers gathered at the Seneca Falls Convention, where the group drafted a declaration addressing the role of women in society.

In the half-century that followed, many believers joined the push for women’s suffrage, and dozens of foreign mission societies sent out women missionaries. The editor of The Message and Deaconess Advocate, Lucy Rider Meyer defended their role in her 1895 defense, saying, “In deaconess ranks to-day may be found physicians, editors, stenographers, teachers, nurses, book-keepers, superintendents of hospitals and orphanages… A bit of history shows that the ‘new woman’ is not an invention of the last decade but that, in the character of Hilda, Abbess of Whitby.”

This “new woman” is not an invention of second-wave feminism either. Betty Friedan did not start the “woman movement;” Christians did. Motivated by the belief that men and women were made in God’s image to “rule the earth” together, these pro-woman, pro-justice believers sought to right wrongs for those who had less social influence.

Nice of the HerWymyneutics writer to remind us, the ‘woman movement’ started out as a Christian heresy (though Friedan and other Tribe wymynfolk have done much damage from the ’60s onwards. But I digress).

Blah blah blah:

Building the Old Time Religion: Women Evangelists in the Progressive Era takes an in-depth look at the lasting impact that the ministry and achievements of 24 women have made on U.S. Christianity. These women founded educational institutions, organizations and denominations during the Progressive Era and many of their contributions remain pivotal to American society today.

They range in name from Virginia Moss, Elizabeth Baker, Mary Lee Cagle, Emma Whittemore and Martha Lee to Iva Durham Vennard, Aimee Semple McPherson, Helen Sunday, Evangeline Booth and several others. Their denominations include Methodist, Roman Catholic, Salvation Army, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, and others. Among the many institutions and churches these women founded are the Catholic Truth Guild, Apostolic Faith Mission, Door of Hope, Good Will Mission, L.I.F.E. Bible College, Angelus Temple and Beulah Heights Assembly.

According to theologian and author Priscilla Pope-Levison, the 24 women evangelists featured in Building the Old Time religion broke ground and pressed against the tide of the times to follow and fulfill the calls they felt God had placed on their lives. Pope-Levison, professor of Theology at Seattle Pacific University and an ordained United Methodist minister compresses 20 years of research into less than 200 pages and leaves no stone unturned in her effort to reveal the accomplishments, struggles and shortcomings of these “theologically conservative” Christian leaders.

Below is an edited transcript of The Christian Post’s interview with Pope-Levison. Read part one of CP’s interview with the author: ‘Building the Old Time Religion’ Explores Women Evangelists’ Monumental Impact on US Christianity.

CP: Can you name a few ways in which these women have left a lasting impact on Christianity in America? Institutions, of course are obvious. But is there anything they established that remain with us today that Christians might not be aware of?

Pope-Levison: I think they really broke the ground for women’s religious leadership within mainline Christianity in terms of mixed-gender institutions. In other words, they were among the first women in mainline Christianity to have religious authority over women and men. That to me is a legacy that paved the way for those of us today who are ordained, who are serving as pastors, theological teachers.

So, today’s ordained evangelical pastoresses celebrate the ground-breaking path blazed by ‘progressive’, mainline Protestants before them, without whom, after all, there most likely indeed wouldn’t be churches with ordained female pastors within evangelicalism. Makes sense; heresy begets more heresy, usually…

 

Christ’s call to the rich

I’m glad to see someone articulate something I’ve long thought about, but which doesn’t tend to get much attention given to it, in your average Bible study or sermon topic.

That is, that not only did Christ have compassion on and pay particular attention to the poor, but also to the rich.

When Christ is seen eating with “sinners and tax collectors”, to the disapproval of the Pharisees (Matt. 9:10-13; Luke 5:29-32) — the modern analog of which would be befriending IRS agents and Wall Street bankers, while the ‘social justice’ crusaders look on with rueful scorn — this caused some scandal. Of the various sorts of sinners he’s eating with, only tax collectors are singled out by name, signaling that their profession was seen as especially odious and sinful by many. In much the same way, the IRS and Wall Street bankers are widely despised today, given their intimate dealings with the money of others and possible, or actual, corruption associated with it. And why does Jesus choose such dubious company? “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. . . for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Christ reiterates this ‘preferential option for the sick and lost’ when he asks what a man would do if he had a hundred sheep and one went astray. “Does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.” Matt. 18:12-13. And who is more afflicted, more sick, and more lost than a worldly person obsessed with wealth?

Ironically, this is made especially clear in the account of the rich man who had kept all the commandments from his youth (Matt. 19:16-26; Mark 10:17-27; Luke 18:18-27), which is usually cited to opposite ends. The rich man’s inquiry in this incident is “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Christ responds by telling him that “if thou wouldst be perfect”, in addition to keeping the commandments, he ought to sell all he has and give the proceeds to the poor. The central concern here is explicitly the eternal life and spiritual perfection of the rich man. Christ seeks to cure him of his worldly affections — which he knows to be inimical to the life of the eternal Kingdom — and laments when the man leaves dejected by this call to dispossession. Christ does not lament, you’ll note, because the poor will suffer so terribly without the man’s wealth, but because it will be so difficult for the man to enter the Kingdom of heaven.

In Luke 19:1-10, Jesus singles Zacchaeus, “who was a tax collector and rich”, out of a crowd and treats him with kindness and love, again to the grumblings of the crowd — grumblings which are very familiar these days and can be heard coming from self-righteous liberals who treat the rich with naked animus, while expecting all enlightened persons to do likewise. In response to Christ’s love, Zacchaeus demonstrates repentance in deed by selling half of his goods to give to the poor, and restoring what he has taken illicitly fourfold. This brings him salvation (which again appears as the central concern), and Christ reiterates in this context that he came to seek what was lost. And who was lost? Zacchaeus with his earthly, worldly, self, and wealth-mindedness. This great affliction of Zacchaeus’ elicited special attention and care from Christ, precisely because he was lost; because he was sick; and because Christ has come to find the lost and heal the sick.

In the parable of the Publican (or tax collector) and the Pharisee, found in Luke 18:9-14, Jesus chooses — of all people — a tax collector to exemplify a stance of righteousness before God. If we replaced ‘publican’ with ‘Wall Street banker’ in this parable, we would see the Pharisee thanking God that he ‘isn’t like that nasty Wall Street banker’ and might get a sense of how this parable would strike the ear of its first-century audience, and what a scathing rebuke it remains today.

Good on Nathan Duffy for emphasizing something we may not think of, all that often.

That being the case, how shall we minister and witness to the rich? After all, there are missions in inner cities to the poor, everyone knows about the Salvation Army, World Vision, and so on.

But has anybody ever thought of, say, hosting cocktail parties with Gospel presentations for the rich?

Just a thought.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on April 2, 2014 in religion, spirituality, Theology

 

And this is why churches shouldn’t do ocean baptisms…

… there’s always a danger of someone getting swept out to sea, as happened yesterday.

A California man remains missing a day after he was swept out to sea during an ocean baptism.

Benito Flores, 43, was among several people helping his cousin, Pastor Maurigro Cervantes, baptise a man near the Guadalupe Dunes Preserve north of Santa Barbara.

[...]

The baptism was just finishing up at 10:00 local time (17:00 GMT) on Sunday when the church members were hit by the wave.

[...]

The US Coast Guard and as well as local rescue officials were involved in the search but there are no plans to resume it.

Santa Barbara Fire Captain David Sadecki said it would be difficult for anyone to survive more than 30 minutes in the cold water.

Mr Cervantes, who leads the Jesus Christ Light of the Sky church in Santa Maria, said his church performed such ceremonies two or three times a year, according to the Santa Maria Times.

The Jordan River was good enough for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Himself; and a baptismal font has been good enough for most Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox down through the ages; why follow in the ways of ’70s charismatic ‘Jesus Movement’ California hippie freaks, and do ocean baptisms?

 

Should one disregard physical attractiveness, in pursuing a potential spouse? Of course not.

It is encouraging to find elements of Christian ‘Red Pill’ thinking from outside of the Christian manosphere, within the wider Christian community; recently I found such a blog post written a little over a year ago, here, by Stephen Altrogge, a Reformed writer, musician / songwriter and former pastor, in which he combats erroneous thinking encouraging relative disregard for physical attraction in relationship decision-making processes.

Some excerpts:

Recently Mike McKinley and Tim Challies both wrote articles which argued that young people, particularly men, should choose to be attracted primarily to a potential spouse’s spiritual beauty rather than physical beauty. I really respect both of these guys, love their gospel work, and usually agree with them, but as a pastor, both of these articles made me nervous. They made me nervous for two reasons.

First, the articles don’t fully appreciate the place of physical attraction in scripture. Yes, scripture is clear that in a marriage relationship, character is more important than physical attraction. But physical attraction matters.

[...]

The Song of Solomon devotes chapter upon chapter to describing the physical attraction between a man and woman.

[...]

Solomon clearly delights in the physical beauty of his bride. He doesn’t go on and on about her quiet spirit and devotion to God, as important as those things are. He is enraptured by her beauty. He is magnetically drawn to her appearance, and can’t stop thinking about her. Throughout scripture there is an underlying assumption that a man will be physically and spiritually attracted to a woman.

If a young man came to me, and said he was thinking about a particular girl, I would ask him two questions:

  1. Is she godly? If yes, proceed to question number two.
  2. Do you think she is attractive?

If he answered “no” to number two, I would counsel him to pause, and pray, and wait before pursuing the relationship. I wouldn’t want to press him into a relationship based solely on spiritual attraction, and then later have him feeling trapped in the relationship. Scripture is clear that spiritual character is most important when considering a potential spouse, but physical attraction also plays a significant part.

This leads me to a second, pastoral concern, regarding these articles. As a pastor, I’ve seen difficult marriages in which one spouse felt pressured into marriage, even though they weren’t particularly attracted to their spouse.

[...]

A husband and wife should be spiritually compatible AND physically attracted to each other. This doesn’t mean that the man or woman is a supermodel. Beauty is fleeting, and charm is deceitful, which is why we don’t make those things the primary factors in a relationship. But God created us as both spiritual and physical beings. We are not sexless, spiritual beings. God made us to have flesh and blood. He created us to be attracted to the opposite sex.

 
14 Comments

Posted by on March 3, 2014 in religion, spirituality, Theology

 

Sixteen or so ways to find a wife, according to Scripture

There is no one Biblical method as to how one should obtain a wife. Why, Scripture discusses some sixteen or so different possible ways:

1) Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she’s yours. (Deut. 21:11-13)

2) “Lay hold on” a virgin who is not betrothed to another man, and “know” her, but afterwards pay her father a sum of money. Then she’s yours. (Deut. 22:28-29)

3) Find a prostitute and marry her. (Hosea 1:1-3)

4) Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his flock.–Moses (Ex. 2:16-21)

5) Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal.–Boaz (Ruth 4:5-10)

6) Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife.–Benjaminites (Judges 21:19-25)

7) Have God create a wife for you while you sleep. Note: this will cost you a rib.–Adam (Gen. 2:19-24)

8) Agree to work seven years in exchange for a woman’s hand in marriage. Get tricked into marrying the wrong woman. Then work another seven years for the woman you wanted to marry in the first place. That’s right. Fourteen years of toil for a wife.–Jacob (Gen. 29:15-30)

9) Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law’s enemies and get his daughter for a wife.–David (1 Sam. 18:27)

10) Even if no one is out there, just wander around a bit and you’ll definitely find someone.–Cain (Gen. 4:16-17)

11) Become the emperor of a huge nation and hold a beauty contest.–Xerxes or Ahasuerus (Esther 2:3-4)

12) When you see someone you like, go home and tell your parents, “I have seen a woman; now get her for me.” If your parents question your decision, simply say, “Get her for me. She’s the one for me.”–Samson (Judges 14:1-3)

13) Kill any husband and take HIS wife. (Prepare to lose four sons though.)–David (2 Sam. 11)

14) Wait for your brother to die. Take his widow. (It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law!)–Onan and Boaz (Deut. or Lev., example in Ruth)

15) Don’t be so picky. Make up for quality with quantity.–Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-3)

16) A wife?–Paul (1st Corinthians, chapter 7)

Humourous, but the point should be clear: Scripture doesn’t mandate any one particular method.

That’s up to you. As you perceive yourself Spirit-directed, while exercising wisdom and discernment, of course.

Therefore don’t let anyone say either, on the one hand, that one particular method, whether dating, courtship, betrothal, arranged marriages, etc., is ‘the Biblically preferred / sanctioned’ method, or, on the other hand, that Scripture resolutely condemns a particular method (if it even mentions said method; Scripture is likely not exhaustive of all possibilities, and doubtless wasn’t intended to be, either) – unless, of course, you can find a specific Biblical passage against it. If you do, please share with everyone; we’re all ears. But you won’t.

AND Paul reminds us that it is legitimate to choose not to marry, either, for that matter.

 
18 Comments

Posted by on January 28, 2014 in humour, on the lighter side, religion, Theology

 

Struggling with Singleness

From Dr. David Powlison of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation.*

*Update: I posted this because I liked some of what Dr. Powlison had to say, and I still do. Nevertheless, in my opinion, deti raises some worthwhile objections to much of the content of this video in his comment below, with most of which I do concur. So, take the above with such caveats; with such ‘grains of salt’.

 
10 Comments

Posted by on January 24, 2014 in religion, spirituality, Theology

 

The Mystery of Christmas Past and Present: The Light Who Transcends the Impending Darkness

A Christmas story, here.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 20, 2013 in music, religion, spirituality, Theology

 

Harold Camping’s World Comes To An End

i.e. he died.

Camping was one of those silly date-setters; he predicted the world would end in 2011, in two different stages.

camping2

camping

Of course, as always, the date-setter was wrong.

Down through history, there have been many people who have predicted the imminence of the end of the world, going as far as to set dates for it – and they’ve all been wrong.

Anyone ever hear of William Miller? He predicted the world would end in 1844. Of course, it didn’t, so then he had to explain it away, and revise his predictions.

Since then, there have been a plethora of different sects which have arisen, all claiming that the world is going to end on a specific day, all of which have been proven wrong.

For Christians, they sure don’t know their Bible:

Matthew 24:36-44
Mark 13:32-37
1 Thessalonians 5:1-2

Nobody knows when the world as we know it will end.

And nobody will ever know exactly when it will happen.

However, for most of us, our own world’s end will come first – just as did happen with Harold Camping – which is why “we look for the Resurrection of the Dead, and the live of the world to come”, as per the Nicene Creed, rather than stupidly hoping to be still alive on Judgment Day – we all will again be alive on that day, anyway!

R.I.P. Brother Camping. Let’s hope folks learn from your errors, and less imitate such ways henceforth.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on December 18, 2013 in music, The Decline, Theology

 

Christian Mini-Linkfest

Stations of the Cross; St. Brendan's Catholic Church; Rockport, Ontario.

Stations of the Cross; St. Brendan’s Catholic Church; Rockport, Ontario.


Amos & Gromar: Christianity’s 26 Idols of the Age

The Avenging Red Hand: Orthodoxy and Catholicism: Hope for Reunion? A Response to Bryce Laliberte (aka @AnarchoPapist)

John Zmirak: What Is Pope Francis Saying to the Right?

Bonald: What’s really driving Pope Francis? Possibilities

Kristor: The Importance of the Creeds

Unmasking Feminism: The Church that Knows Nothing

Chris: The dignity of laity

Elspeth: Transforming my mind as a Christian wife

Okay, Whatever: Guilt Factories, Part II

The Fat Guy: The Swiss Army Knife of Prayers

Rev. Shane Lems: Go Back and Be Like the Early Church?

Rev. Andrew Compton: Conservatives and Liberals Together…

Rev. Bret McAtee: Francis Nigel Lee on Pietism

 
5 Comments

Posted by on October 11, 2013 in Linklove, religion, spirituality, Theology

 
 
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