Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What Compels Muslims To Turn To Jesus?

This is an important question primarily for two reasons: (1) Islam is statistically the fastest growing religion in the world; (2) There is a surging Islamic-fascists presences in the world that seeks the destruction of Western culture, a culture which many Muslims believe is "Christian". It is this second reason that provokes fear in the hearts of many people in the world because we don't know how to appropriately respond to the acts of violence committed by radical Muslims against Westerners and Western interests all over the world. Furthermore, most of us don't even understand what motivates such extremism and hatred for Westerners, but particularly Americans. This raises an interesting problem for the church in America because the gospel is meant to be extended to all nations - including Islam-dominated nations - and including those Muslims who would take great pleasure in killing you. If the gospel is going to be brought to Muslims, what are the means that God is going to use to bring them to faith in Jesus (besides the obvious means of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit)? An article in Christianity Today answers these questions. You can read the entire article here, but you'll find a summary of what has compelled Muslims to turn to Jesus, even in the face of persecution, below.

1. The lifestyle of Christians, including an ethic of love and the rejection of violence.
2. The power of God in answered prayers and healings.
3. Deliverance from demonic power.
4. Dissatisfaction with the type of Islam they had experienced as Muslims.
5. The gospel message, especially its emphasis on assurance and forgiveness.
6. The spiritual truth in the Bible.
7. Love expressed through the life and teachings of Jesus.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Culture Says: Hypocrisy = Judgmental

David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Research Group, a Christian think-tank, recently published a book called Unchristian: What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity. The book, based on a survery of 867 participants, 440 who were not Christians, discovered that a significant majority viewed Christianity as anti-gay and hypocritical among other things. 87% felt Christianity was judgmental, 85% believed it was hypocritical, and 75% believed that Christians were too involved in politics.

In an article from a local newspaper at Lousiana State University in Baton Rouge, one student, Emily Territo (a sophomore biology major) said:

... she has an issue with the amount of judgment that seems to come with the faith.

"I do find that there are hypocrisies in the church," she said. "They say judge not, but then they judge you."

Here is what I find interesting about this quote. This student, and many others like her, equate hypocrisy with judging. In many cases I've found that non-Christians complaints about the hypocrisy in the church has very little to do with lack of purity in the church and everything to do with lack of acceptance of an individuals sinful lifestyle. Isn't this the primary complaint of the homosexual community in regards to conservative evangelical churches? I challenge you to find one example of where a church or Christian community has been labeled hypocritical by the homosexual community (or any individual or community of individuals who flaunt their depravity as a badge) because the church itself is impure or immoral. Generally the church's character is attacked on the basis of lack of acceptance by the deviant community, not lack of purity.

Let me be clear about this: this isn't to say that the church isn't hypocritical at times because of impurity and sinful indulgences. The visible and invisible church of Jesus is a church full of hypocrites precisely because it is a group of redeemed sinners. In this sense, all followers of Jesus are hypocrites because none of us are without sin and yet we are called to pursue holiness. But it is more theologically appropriate for us to realize that true followers of Jesus are saints who sometimes sin and shouldn't pursue a lifestyle of sin that would appropriately earn us the label hypocrites.

Getting back to Ms. Territo's complaint, her issue isn't with the fact that Christians preach holiness and then deliberately live as antagonists and enemies of the very message proclaimed (isn't this the true nature of hypocrisy?) Her complaint is that Christians speak against immorality and then place demands on people for acceptance into Christian fellowship (i.e., the church). I'd like to ask Ms. Territo, "How is this different than what Jesus demanded from people in the New Testament?" Mark tells us precisely this in his gospel:

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15)

Under Ms. Territo's definition, Jesus then, is a hypocrite, because he is violating her understanding of what Jesus meant in Matthew 7 when he teaches us not to judge others. By calling people to repentance (change in lifestyle), Jesus is excluding all who say they desire to love and follow Jesus but aren't willing to lay aside their love for sin first.

Huckabee's Bid For The Christian Right

This is a good article by Time Magazine about Mike Huckabee's bid for the Christian right. Yesterday Sandy posted that Huckabee's candidacy will be in serious financial dire straights soon even if he fares well in Iowa and she is right. Hopefully his campaign will gain some traction soon. One thing that Huckabee is undeniabely right about is the need for Republicans to vote according to their conscience and values, not according to whom they think can defeat Sen. Hillary Clinton.

"Don't ever let expediency or electability replace our principles," Huckabee urged the crowd.

Jonathan Alter (Newsweek) has also written a compelling article about why Huckabee might be the best choice for the Republicans.

For me it really comes down to this: As Christians, should we support the candidate that will best represent and fight for the cause of justice and morality in our country and culture, or should we support the candidate that we think can beat Clinton? The current political landscape and front-runners in the GOP reveal that most Republicans don't really believe we can have both in 2008.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Guiliani Capitalizing On Fear, Insecurity At The Expense Of Life

Political and evangelical conservatives are faced with a difficult choice this fall. The candidate that most evangelicals find most attractive is stuck in the quagmire of a campaign that can't seem to gain any momentum or traction (Mike Huckabee), largely because he doesn't have the deep financial pockets of Rudy Guiliani or Mitt Romney. Evangelicals can't seem to get over over at least two issues with Romney: (1) He is Mormon. Mormonism is a cult. There no way of getting around it. However, does one have to be Christian to be a good leader? (2) Romney historically supported both gay marriage and abortion rights. He says he's changed. Can we believe him? Fred Thompson entered the race too late and doesn't appear to have anything of any substance to say. The GOP candidates have done an excellent job marginalizing Thompson and his candidacy. John McCain is a candidate that some conservatives think needs to be reevaluated. However, McCain isn't without his flaws, one of which is his lack of desire to actually see Roe vs. Wade overturned. While McCain is pro-life, he ultimately sees no benefit to striking down the abortion laws in this country, though he affirms that he would like to see a day when Roe vs. Wade is deemed "irrelevant". This leaves us with Rudy Guiliani, the current GOP front-runner, in spite of the fact that his views on gun control, abortion, and gay rights are antithetical to the strong evangelical voting base whose support Guiliani will need to get elected to the presidency. This fact has everything to do with Guiliani's appeal to conservatives at the Values Voter Summit in Washington recently.

What has become clear to me is that Guiliani is the GOP front-runner because he appears to be strong on the issues of national security and terrorism. I say that he appears to be because this is really nothing more than a mirage. There is no question that Guiliani led boldly and courageously in the aftermath of 9/11. However, he was the impetus behind very little as it related to national security and terrorism in the years that have followed these horrific events. Guiliani led the implementation of a host of security procedures and protocols in New York City. However, this is no indication of his ability to do the same thing when it comes to foreign policy and the delicate issues associated with terrorism, national security and the rights of both citizens and aliens in our counrty and abroad.

Now what we have are Republicans seriously considering tossing aside years of labor to establish the Republican party as the party of life and values in our country by throwing support behind a candidate that may or may not have the best chance to defeat Sen. Hillary Clinton in the national election. One of the few differences between Guiliani and Clinton is the fact that Guiliani states that he will appoint strict constitutionalists to our benches, most importantly, to the Supreme Court, even though in so doing he will violate his personal beliefs about issues related to gun control, abortion and gay rights. Are we really so naive that we should believe that Guiliani will really do this when he couldn't even remain faithful to not one, but two spouses? I believe it was FDR who stated that the personal morality of the President will influence his public policy. This is something we cannot ignore.

If Guiliani wins the Republican nomination we as Americans, but more specifically as conservatives, will be demonstrating that we love and value our own personal comfort and security more than we value the comfort and security of unborn children. Read that sentence again slowly because I believe it is an accurate indictment of what is happening politically within the Republican party. The only two issues that give Guiliani's campaign any traction are national security and terrorism, even while he openly defies and rejects the conservative position of evangelicals and conservatives and many other important social issues. Are we willing to compromise those things that have defined the Republican party for twenty plus years simply because it seems more likely that Guiliani can defeat Clinton? Do we love our comfort so much that we would compromise the right to life of our children to preserve it? Are we so fearful of what might happen that we are willing to sabotage the future of the unborn to secure a false sense of security when the reality is that no President or administration can guarantee our safety long-term? The truth is that if conservatives would mobilize behind another GOP candidate like Mike Huckabee, you may discover that he has just as much a chance of defeating Clinton, a candidate that 45% of Americans say that they will not support under any circumstances, as we think Guiliani does.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Why Wayne Grudem Thinks Evangelicals Should Support Mitt Romney

Wayne Grudem, a staunchly conservative evangelical Christian whom I have deep respect and admiration for, believes that evangelicals should cast their support towards Mitt Romney. I must admit that I am troubled about who to support in the upcoming Republican primaries. I find Mike Huckabee to be the candidate I am most sympathetic towards, but he isn't electable (at least not yet). Realistically, only Rudy Guiliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain and Fred Thompson have a viable shot at the Republican nomination (unless evangelicals decide to support Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee in mass). I found Grudem's argument persuasive and thought-provoking, so much so that I intend to spend some more time researching Romney. Maybe Romney is the only front-running Republican candidate who shares the morality and values conservatives have fought to hard to make a bench-mark of the national Republical party, and perhaps he is be the only pro-life candidate who likely stands a chance against the Democratic nominee (likely Hillary Clinton).

Check out Grudem's argument here.

As persuasive as Grudem's argument may be, I'm not convinced entirely that he is right. I think that conservatives and evangelicals are drawn to Romney, not because he is the best candidate, but because he seems to be the most electable candidate not named Guiliani.

Planned Parenthood's Masquerade

In doing some research about vaccinations and aborted fetal tissue I came across the following from Planned Parenthood in Amarillo, Texas.

A woman's choice to donate to medical research tissue that she has aborted begins and ends with her. Federal and state laws have been specifically written to ensure that her choice to donate tissue from her abortion to medical research is made in an informed and ethical manner. First, she is legally required to give her written consent to have an abortion. Only after she has consented to have an abortion can she provide the necessary written consent to donate the fetal tissue. She cannot be paid for the donation. She cannot know or designate the recipient (USCA, 1988; USCA, 1993).

Knowing she can donate her aborted fetus to potentially lifesaving medical research may help a woman turn an unintended pregnancy about which she may feel a sense of loss into a social good. The choice to donate fetal tissue often gives solace to women who may need to end their pregnancies (Anderson et al., 1994; Martin, 1993).

Why would women feel a sense of loss if they are doing nothing more than removing "tissue" from their uterus, in the same way that one might remove an unwanted or "unintended" mole? The semantics and linguistic hoops that pro-choice men and women have to jump through reveals the sinister, wicked motives behind abortion. We live in a culture where we advocate death as long as it preserves our own right to comfort, convenience and life.

Scripture teaches us that Satan disguises himself as an angel of life (2Cor 11:14). No where is this twisted perceptive of reality more clearly revealed than through the posturing of Planned Parenthood in their efforts to validate this genocide against the unborn by championing the potential lifesaving benefits of embryonic stem-cell research.

The picture above is what our baby (11 weeks today) looks like right now.

The Terminator Is A Coward

Glenn Jones posted an article about legislation that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger just signed that outlaws terms perceived as negative to homosexuals, such as "mom" or "dad" and qualifying persons as "male" or "female" rather than allowing for the possibility of transgender. The bill will also permit students to use restrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex if this is where they feel most comfortable.

I found this article frightening and only heightens my concerns about state-run education as we consider what to do with Emeline in the next two years in regards to her education. Public schools continue to endorse and propogate the sexualization of our children over and above their education. This is not acceptable and Christians must not remain silent on these issues in the public sector.

School Board Approves Birth Control For Middle School

Tragic. What else is there to say?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Joel Osteen on 60 Minutes

Denny Burk's anaylsis of Joel Osteen and his message is dead on. Osteen is a likeable, obviously sincere person. This is what makes criticism of him so difficult. But I agree wholeheartedly with Michael Horton's statement in the 60 Minutes interview that Osteen's message is heretical. It is an anti-gospel message. These words carry weight and I do not utter them casually. Osteen's message is deceptive. While his motives may not be deliberately sinister, he leds as one who deceives and is himself deceived (2Tim 3:13). Several years ago I sat at the beside of a young man whom I love who had cancer. I asked him what had strengthened his faith during the dark days of cancer. He said it was Osteen's book Your Best Life Now. My heart broke when I heard those words. Why, you may ask? Because he found comfort in a message apart from the gospel, and there is no comfort, no salvation, no security apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Once again, Burk gets is right:

I am writing this blog because I think Osteen is dangerous. The prosperity “gospel” that he preaches makes the Almighty into a cosmic slot machine; just believe hard enough and you’ll hit paydirt and have your “best life now.” Yet the Christian gospel explicitly teaches that if a person tries to have their best life now, they will forfeit eternity: “Whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:25-26).

Listen to Joel Osteen at your own risk. He is peddling death. And he is affable enough to make you feel like it’s life. But do not be deceived. Nothing could be further from the truth.

You can read the whole post here.

Elders in Congregational Life

There is no question that there is a biblical pattern for leadership established in 1Timothy and that pattern is meant to include both elders (overseers, pastors) and deacons. The question, however, is that most Southern Baptist churches do not function in this way. As a matter of fact, historically, the departure from the model established by the Apostle Paul began as early as the 2nd century.

Most serious Christians want to be bibilical - both personally and corporately - in their expressions of their faith. But one has to wonder: (1) why the church departed from elder-led congregations; and (2) how would a church that has deviated from the mandate for most of its existence successfully transition back to this biblical form of church government and what would it cost (not necessarily financially, but in terms of church unity, structure, service, etc)?

This post begins to ask some good questions, which is a necessary starting point for the discussion. What would an elder-led church look like practically? How would it function? How would the standard pastor-led or deacon-led church have to change to make this biblical transition? The questions asked on this blog aren't exhaustive, but they are a start. What questions might you have?

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Political Waters Are Stirring

Recently I've read several compelling posts by evangelicals about why they would not support Rudy Guiliani if he wins the Republican nomination, even if it means conceding the Presidency to Hillary Clinton.

You can see them here, here, and here.

Paul Kengor, a presidential historian who recently authored God and Hillary: A Spiritual Life talks about why a Clinton presidency should be of grave concern to pro-lifers:

If you’re a pro-lifer, and if no issue is more important to you than the right of an unborn child to have life, then nothing could be more calamitous than a President Hillary Clinton. I don’t know of any politician who is more uncompromising and extreme on abortion rights than Hillary Clinton. I know this well and don’t state it with anger or hyperbole. Her extremism on abortion rights was the single most shocking, inexplicable find in my research on her faith and politics. I couldn’t understand it. No question. It is truly extraordinary. Nothing, no political issue, impassions her like abortion rights. For Mrs. Clinton, abortion-rights is sacred ground.

By the way, speaking of Catholics, Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II saw this abortion extremism in Hillary, and both confronted her on it repeatedly, especially Mother Teresa, right up until the day she died. I have a chapter on this in the book. It’s a gripping story.

As the Republican and Democratic primaries near, evangelicals must get serious about how we are going to respond to the prospects of potentially two pro-choice candidates running for office. The time may well be upon us that we can no longer vote a ballot strictly according to political parties. Evangelicals need to mobilize behind an electable candidate who holds to our core values, even if that reduces us to one-issue voters (such as John Piper). I, for one, will never knowingly cast a vote for a pro-choice candidate, even if it means that I have to be governed by the socialist Hillary Clinton.


I'm in a love hate relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention. I'm a Baptist because I believe that on most issues Baptistic doctrine most accurately reflects Scripture. I'm a Southern Baptist by choice. Honestly. there are days I wonder if I've made the wrong one. Today is one of those days.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, led by Dr. Paige Patterson, while rightfully encouraging and stressing a complimentarian view of gender roles, is taking things too far. This fall the seminary launched a program that allows women (only) to earn credit towards a bachelor's degree by learning how to set tables, sew buttons and sustain lively dinner conversation. The program lead the author of an article in the LA Times to grossly overstate with broad, sweeping assumptions the biblical view of traditional biblical roles as a life where, "Men make decisions. Women make dinner."

Here is why I think SWBTS has gone too far, and it's not because I disagree with their theological conviction that women and men, while equal, were created to serve different roles and purposes as we practice dominion over the earth:

(1) Southwestern has assumed the responsibility of the local church and overextended its calling to equip called men and women of God with a theological education. While the heart behind this program may be sincere, it is not the responsibility of seminaries to mentor young women in this way; it is the responsibility of the church. In Titus 2:3-5, when Paul gives pastoral instruction to Titus, he clearly places the responsibility of mentoring as it relates to gender roles on older women within the local church. A seminary is not a church.

(2) While persecution and mockery are to be expected from our secular counterparts and the church should also be prepared for stinging, irresponsible, misrepresentative characterizations from culture, should we knowingly subject ourselves to such abuse? Peter tells us (1Pet 2:12)that we should live with such honorable conduct that when unbelievers speak of us as evil-doers (which is what feminists think the traditional roles of women are - evil), that they may see our good deeds and be persuaded to follow Jesus. How exactly is instituting a program where women receive seminary degrees for baking chocolate chip cookies and table settings going to accomplish this purpose? Doesn't advocating a degree in homemaking only reinforce the stereotypes that are associated with a traditional view of gender roles? Maybe I'm being too harsh in my critique of this program, but it seems to me that energy would be better spent living and loving Jesus in biblical community, pursuing causes of injustice and serving the poor, while at the same time loving our wives as Jesus loved the church (men) and submitting to your husband as the church submits to Jesus' leadership and authority (women), recognizing that this kind of relationship isn't about domination or keeping the wife quiet, barefoot and pregnant, but rather about a picture of the gospel so that the marriage becomes a platform for God's glory. Maybe this program is intended to accomplish this goal. I just don't see it. Isn't there a more winsome, compelling way to champion our equality but distinctiveness as men and women in our culture?

1 in 5 Pregnancies End in Abortion

A study completed in 2003 reveals the disheartening news about abortion. Consider the following:

Globally (2003), there were 31 abortions for every 100 live births;
In Eastern Europe there were more abortions than live births (105 abortions for every 100 live births);
In Europe 32% of every pregnancies end in abortion;
48% of all abortions performed were unsafe to the mother (while obviously lethal to the child);
41.6 million abortions performed in 2003.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Redeeming Life in the Suburbs

I thought this post by Chris Smith was interesting. He lists ten ways to live more intentionally in the suburbs as a way to develop more meaningful biblical community. Essentially it boils down to this: live near the people you go to church with, share everything, spend more time outside, and support local establishments even when it is inconvenient. What do you think about the list?

God-Glorifying Work

Jerram Barrs has a good post about the value of secular work and how it can be used to glorify God.

Monday, October 01, 2007

John McCain

Presidential hopeful John McCain is being lambasted by Muslim and Jewish groups for stating his belief that the United States was founded as a "Christian" nation and that his personal preference is that the person leading the United States share in his faith.

McCain clarified his remarks on Sunday night:

"What I do mean to say is the United States of America was founded on the values of Judeo-Christian values, which were translated by our founding fathers which is basically the rights of human dignity and human rights," he said.

"I believe that anyone can be president of the United States of any faith," McCain said, saying he was angry his remarks were misinterpreted but "there's nothing I can do about it."

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations took exception with McCain's comments because they seem to suggest that Islam is not a religion that values human dignity or the concept of human rights.

"Sorry, Islam and other faiths have their basis in human dignity," Hooper said.

However, one has to question if this is essentially true? Can Islam to be said to be a religion that values human dignity and human rights when Islamic-rule governments regularly torture, imprison and put to death converts from Islam? Or how about the treatment of women within Islamic culture?

As this relates to John McCain, who recently stated this week he is a practicing Baptist, isn't it sad that a Presidential candidate cannot publically state his personal preference that the leader of the United States share his religious beliefs and values? Does expressing his own personal views disqualify him from service? Must our political leaders be so publicly open minded that we have no idea of what they really value and treasure personally?

"...no longer looks like Jesus."

A recent study suggests that negative attitudes among young non-believers continue to pervade the cultural climate of America. Even more interesting is the impact that the impressions and perceptions of non-believers is having on younger evangelicals in the Western church.

"Older generations more easily dismiss the criticism of those who are outsiders," Kinnaman said. "But we discovered that young leaders and young Christians are more aware of and concerned about the views of outsiders, because they are more likely to interact closely with such people. Their life is more deeply affected by the negative image of Christianity. For them, what Christianity looks like from an outsider’s perspective has greater relevance, because outsiders are more likely to be schoolmates, colleagues, and friends."

I believe this sensitivity among younger evangelicals is promising, but it also possess significant risks to the gospel. A desire to embrace the perceptions of outsiders for the sake of relevance and significance can sometimes lead to the neutering of the gospel and the dismissal of essential doctrines for the sake of unity, as we have seen in some streams of the Emerging Church. But one thing is certain: change is coming in the Western Church.

"While Christianity remains the typical experience and most common faith in America, a fundamental recalibration is occurring within the spiritual allegiance of America’s upcoming generations."

You can read a summary of the entire study here.