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Christianity Today Magazine

News and analysis from the world's leading Christian magazine.

Last Build Date: Sat, 21 Jan 2017 10:06:43 PST

Copyright: Copyright 2017, Christianity Today

The Church’s Integrity in the Trump Years

It begins by recognizing the name above every name.


We’re having to write this two months before Inauguration Day. But one doesn’t need the gift of prophecy to project that Christians will divide over the new administration. Each side, in an attempt to support or challenge an unprecedented and tenuous administration, will inevitably find itself at odds with others. Some Christians will call for eternal vigilance, looking for signs that the new president is promulgating yet another injustice. Others will be tempted to defend his every move. Inevitably, the rhetoric will drift toward the apocalyptic and remain mired in the partisan, and the name that will continue to be above every other name will be Donald Trump.

“Love your neighbor” means we all are called to engage in our nation’s public life in one way or another. But when cultural engagement leads to ecclesial divorce, something has gone seriously wrong. More than ever, we evangelical Christians are finding it hard to live under the same roof. When asked about the family, we sneer, “We’re not like those Christians, those hardly worthy of the name.” Some have even filed for divorce with the evangelical adjective.

Can we then be mystified when news pundits and social media mavens identify us only by our allegiance to—or repudiation of—this king or that, instead of the King of kings? Some Christians have claimed that the evangelical vote for Trump has set back the cause of the gospel 50 years. Others are equally sure the gospel would have been set back by a different election outcome. One wonders if our raised fists and ugly rhetoric directed at brothers and sisters is the real scandal.

The early Christians took a decidedly different approach, under a regime that is ...

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Saturday is for Seminars - Fractured, The Church and Mental Illness, One Night Centered on God
Join me in person or online. Fractured – Tuesday, January 24 – Wheaton, IL The Church and Mental Illness – Tuesday, January 24 One Night Centered on God – Friday, March 17 – Wheaton, IL Coming Soon Monday & Tuesday, January 30 & 31, 2017Restore: A Conference on Mission Orlando, Florida Saturday, February 4, 2017Day of Encouragement Dordt College Sioux Center, Iowa Sunday & Monday, February 8 & 9, 2017Multiply Conference Vancouver, British Columbia Saturday & Sunday, February 11 & 12, 2017Christ Fellowship Miami, Florida Friday, February 17, 2017 Wycliffe President’s Forum Phoenix, Arizona Thursday - Saturday, February 23-25, 20172017 Great Commission Conference Springfield, Missouri Monday & Tuesday, February 27 & 28, 20172017 Empower Conference Irving, Texas Thursday-Saturday, March 16-18, 2017Sola: National Conference Wheaton, Illinois Saturday & Sunday, March 25 & 26, 2017Christ Fellowship Miami, FloridaContinue reading... [...]

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone: My Review
Donna and I attended the premiere last night in Chicagoland. Last night, my wife, Donna, and I, attended the premiere of The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, a new movie that brought together the strange bedfellows of Vertical Church Films and World Wrestling Entertainment, the well-known wrestling company. The movie is the latest in a line of Christian films marketed towards a faith-based audience. Of course, such films draw the scorn of many. However, I'm not actually in that camp. I consistently seek to encourage the development of such films and think it's healthy for churches to be engaged in filmmaking. First, let me share about the movie itself. I was glad to see that it doesn't take itself or its Christian subject too seriously. One of the things you'll notice that is different from some Christian films is that most of the jokes are actually on us. In other words, the quirks of Christianity are intentionally highlighted instead of scorned and mocked, and they come across as quite funny (one of my favorite lines involves the reference to “my father”). It was one of the few Christian films where people in the theater were consistently laughing, including Donna and me. In this case, both the insider jokes (which I think Christians will enjoy) and the jokes directed at Christians are done in a good-natured way that creates an atmosphere that welcomes all people in. Second, the storyline is familiar—you probably won’t be surprised how things resolve, though you should still have fun getting there. As the Hollywood Reporter explained, “This genial religious-themed dramedy is refreshingly lacking in preachiness.” For what it’s worth, there are several familiar subplots, including some relationship issues between father and son (think, ...Continue reading... [...]

Trump Inauguration’s Bible Reading Is Not in Your Bible

Why it's good for Protestants to hear from the Apocrypha.


When Cardinal Timothy Dolan moved to the podium to pray at President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, his prayer may have struck you as oddly familiar.

The passage he prayed from is very similar to Solomon’s prayer for wisdom in 1 Kings 3. But, it’s not the version Protestant Christians know, because it’s not in the Bible that we read.

It comes, instead, from the Wisdom of Solomon, a book included in the Catholic and Orthodox churches’ Old Testament, but not included in Protestant churches’ Old Testament.

Wisdom of Solomon is one of the books found in a collection of early Jewish writings that Protestants call “The Apocrypha.” The books included in this collection were mostly written between 250 BC and AD 50; some within the land of Israel, others in a diaspora context (Jews living outside of Israel); some in Hebrew, others originally in Greek. The collection includes historical books (1 and 2 Maccabees), wisdom texts (Wisdom of Ben Sira, Wisdom of Solomon), liturgical works (Prayer of Azariah, Song of the Three, Prayer of Manasseh), historical fiction (Tobit, Judith, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon), prophetic literature (Baruch), apologetics (Letter of Jeremiah), and a much more “religious” version of Esther. While these are all Jewish texts, it was the reading practices and canonical debates of Christians that resulted in these representative texts becoming identifiable as a “collection” at all, because they are drawn from a much larger body of Jewish literature from the period.

Catholic and Orthodox Christians read the books of the Apocrypha as part of their Old Testament. They sometimes refer to these as the “Deuterocanonical” books—a ...

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Weekend Edition - January 20, 2017
Rural churches, same-sex marriage, ICYMI, and church signs How Can Members of Rural Churches Engage Culture? – Jay Sanders What’s Really Going On with Evangelicals and Same-Sex Marriage – Trevin Wax The Winnowing of Christianity – Rod Dreher The Grace of Church Discipline – Mark Galli Previously on The Exchange Retraining Our Minds on the Things of Christ: Thoughts as We Draw Closer to Inauguration DayFour Questions to Ask Ourselves as We Adjust to a New Political Reality November 8th Is Long Gone, So Where do Christians Find Themselves?God doesn’t love countries. He loves people. Repealing Obamacare without a Replacement: How It May Hurt Small Church Pastors and Church Planters Near YouACA repeal/replace has a lot of implications. Rebuilding Our WitnessA Christian worldview embraces two things: the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. 1. Why It's Time to Take a Second Look at Our Christian Worldview in Light of Our New Political Climate 2. Developing an Understanding of the Connection of Love & Evangelism in Light of Our New Political Climate Towards Missional Effectiveness 1. An Introduction 2. The Message of God’s Mission 3. The Movements of God’s Mission 4. The Mark of Missional Community 5. The Mark of Sentness 6. The Mark of Multiplication 7. Analogizing and Applying Missional Effectiveness Church Signs but fist bumps are preferred by germaphobes 4 to 1 #ExchangeCaptionContest Thanks to friends of the blog, including Mitch and Todd, for this week’s church signs. As always, you can tweet your church signs to @EdStetzer.Continue reading... [...]

3 Priorities for Evangelicals in the Trump Years

Actually, they’re worth pursuing no matter who occupies the White House.


With a new president, Donald Trump, entering the White House, there has rightfully been a lot of discussion about our outgoing president’s legacy—not least when it comes to matters of faith. To be sure, Barack Obama’s legacy in this area is both complex and important to understand for the future of our nation’s politics.

However, as a Christian, I believe we must not only think of how politicians interact with religious issues, but also how we ourselves interact with politicians and the work they do. What is the legacy of Christian witness in the Obama years, and what lessons can we learn to apply in the Trump era?

Here are three recommendations, based on my personal experience in the Obama White House.

When it comes to faith and policy, take politicians’ words seriously.

A certain kind of cynic tends to think that political wisdom consists of discrediting everything a politician says. On this way of thinking, realism demands that we understand that politicians have a motive for everything they suggest, and therefore nothing should be taken at face value. This approach was a major hindrance to the efforts of conservative Christians during the Obama years.

Partisanship played a major role in hardening this posture. A deep antagonism toward Democrats from Religious Right groups filtered down to the average Christian as a general distrust of Democrats, including Obama. When you consider the eagerness of some Christians to take even the slightest Trump utterance on judges or family values as a sacred promise, the partisan nature of (at least some) distrust toward Obama becomes clearer still.

A better approach would have been to take the President’s words seriously, to make clear that Christians ...

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How Trump’s Inauguration Will Catalyze Christian Witness

Now is the time for the church to embrace the radical, ordinary influence of faith.


Today, on the steps of the United States Capitol, Donald John Trump will place his left hand on a Bible and swear to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States for the next four years.” Most incoming presidents in US history have done the same, although each has chosen his own passage to swear by. 1 Corinthians 13 was the choice of Franklin D. Roosevelt at all four of his inaugural ceremonies. Jimmy Carter chose to swear on the exhortations of Micah 6:8. At his second inauguration, Abraham Lincoln, keenly aware of the disgrace of brothers and neighbors turning their weapons on each other, chose not one but three passages concerning the judgments of God.

That the Bible appears at such a momentous national ceremony testifies to the United States’ broad Judeo-Christian heritage. It also serves to remind those with eyes to see that no ruler rises or falls except by the hand of God, who judges the nations and will continue to judge ours over the next four years. Watching the televised ceremony with its pomp and circumstance, we might begin to believe that political leaders hold the keys to the future and to our fate, as Americans and as Christians. But the ceremony belies the reality that all power of earthly rulers is fleeting. They and their campaigns can be laid to waste by a mere word from the Lord (Isa. 40:23; Isa. 34:12; Ps. 107:40; Luke 1:52).

Inauguration Day comes for many Americans with hope that our political leaders will redirect the country in the right direction. For many other Americans, the day seems a harbinger of violent ideologies that will pose a real threat to their livelihood in the next four years. But for Christians of all political stripes, the day is simply a new ...

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Trump Stacks Prayer Service Lineup with Evangelicals
Southern Baptists, Graham granddaughter to pray at Saturday’s National Cathedral event. Donald Trump has tapped a record number of evangelical leaders to participate in the interfaith prayer service held at the Washington National Cathedral the day after his inauguration. The National Prayer Service, hosted at the Episcopal cathedral Saturday morning, will feature two former presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, the granddaughter of Billy Graham, and Greg Laurie, the evangelist behind the popular Harvest America crusades, among a total of 26 faith leaders. Representatives from Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, and Bahá’í traditions are also participating in the event [full list below]. Jack Graham, Ronnie Floyd, and David Jeremiah are all Southern Baptists and members of the president-elect’s evangelical advisory board, and Cissie Graham Lynch stated during the election that she would be “unapologetically voting for Trump.” Her father, Franklin Graham, is among the clergy praying at the inauguration ceremony held at the National Mall on Friday. Trump opted to include a half-dozen religious leaders in the official Capitol lawn ceremony, instead of the customary one or two. The century-old National Cathedral has served as the go-to site for presidential funerals, prayer services at times of national tragedy, and public inauguration prayer services. Billy Graham gave a sermon at Ronald Reagan’s inaugural service there in 1985. In the years since, presidents George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama expanded the scope of the customary National Prayer Service to feature well over a dozen faith leaders representing various traditions. Such events included a few evangelical pastors and organization leaders, including the Grahams, ...Continue reading... [...]

The Story Behind Trump’s Controversial Prayer Partner
What Paula White’s Washington moment implies for the prosperity gospel’s future. Donald Trump discovered Paula White the same way legions of fans and followers did: on television. Fifteen years of prayer, visits, and friendship later, the Florida preacher now serves as the top spiritual adviser for America’s president-elect and, essentially, his guide to the country’s religious conservatives. Her behind-the-scenes counsel became news as Trump prepared for the presidency. It was White who arranged a meeting at the Trump Tower for fellow televangelists (including Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, David Jeremiah, and Jan Crouch) to anoint him in prayer back in 2015. She defended the sincerity of his faith to fellow Christians, and continues to network Trump with members of his evangelical advisory board to discuss appointments and policy going into office. “I’m the bridge-builder,” said White, pastor of New Destiny Christian Center near Orlando, in an interview with Christianity Today. “It really, truly is the board and the wisdom of so many great men and women of God.” But White’s involvement carries major baggage, especially for evangelical leaders who have for years lamented the endlessly positive health and wealth theology associated with her ministry (even doing so in rap). Critical voices within the church worry that White’s political prominence will push the prosperity gospel mainstream—or prove that it’s already there. “The massive congregations and television and Internet audiences that people like Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, T. D. Jakes, and others enjoy show us that this theology is already mainstream,” said Leah Payne, who directs the Center for Pentecostal-Charismatic Theology Practice at George Fox University. ...Continue reading... [...]

Women’s March Sets Out to Exclude 40 Percent of American Women
What pro-life feminists actually have in common with their pro-choice counterparts. Ahead of the Women’s March on Washington scheduled the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, Emma Green at The Atlantic asked, “Is there room in the movement for people who morally object to abortion?” Her article portrayed some of the hundreds of pro-life women planning to attend either in solidarity with fellow feminists or in protest. Meanwhile, the event organizers came up with their own response: No. Hours after Green’s article published on Monday, the Women’s March—promising to be “one of the most intersectional marches in US history” with more than 200,000 attendees expected—stated that New Wave Feminists, the pro-life group featured, would be removed from its 450-plus sponsor organizations. (A pro-life pregnancy crisis center in Idaho, Stanton Healthcare, remains listed as a partner. [Update: The group was also removed from the list on Wednesday.]) “We look forward to marching on behalf of women who share the view that women deserve the right to make their own reproductive decisions,” the group said. Access to abortion and birth control were included among 1 of 16 values and principles guiding the grassroots rally. Though the pro-life New Wave Feminists still plan to attend, many women of faith were disappointed in the decision to remove their official designation. Christians spanning from Life Action founder Lila Rose to LGBT advocate Julie Rodgers spoke out on Twitter on behalf of pro-life feminists. “Progressives have a chance to build a broader coalition here, and they are blowing it,” tweeted author Rachel Held Evans. “Painful irony of pro-choice stance of Women's March is that abortion was likely THE issue to tip scales ...Continue reading... [...]

Retraining Our Minds on the Things of Christ: Thoughts as We Draw Closer to Inauguration Day
Four Questions to Ask Ourselves as We Adjust to a New Political Reality I have recently posted a number of articles on politics, in particular about where Evangelicals find themselves as the new President of the United States is inaugurated and how our witness has been damaged as a result of this election (Rebuilding Our Witness: Part 1, Part 2). Regardless of how you voted, it’s just obvious that this has had a negative impact on the reputation of Evangelicals. Of course, this topic is front and center for me with the inauguration of President-elect Trump later this week. I am even co-hosting a panel discussion on Tuesday, January 24, at 7:00 pm CST that you can attend in person or via livestream (Fractured). I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Christianity has taken a blow for the worse in this election, and likely antagonism toward Christians will continue to rise in our nation, because the fundamental pattern remains unchanged. (Of course, not in the form of martyrdom and death as in many other countries of the world, but in other real and tangible ways.) When I say Christian reputation has taken a blow for the worse, it’s not because of who won or lost. It’s because of how the Church acted before, during, and after the process. It was, in fact, quite far from the shining moment of the Christian faith in America. And yet we must move forward. The gospel, and the Person the gospel speaks of, compels us to move forward and once again shine brightly in the world. Let me share a few questions for us to consider over the next year as we adjust to a new political reality and how we can best respond. 1. How do I interpret my candidate's loss in light of scripture? There were a lot of candidates in this election— and yours probably lost, either in the primary or in the ...Continue reading... [...]