Last Build Date: Mon, 24 Oct 2016 02:31:28 PDTCopyright: Copyright 2016, Christianity Today
Information gets us only so far on the road to health.(image)
As stores fill up with pink products, we know it must be Breast Cancer Awareness Month again. Never mind the fact that these products generate only miniscule donations to breast cancer research, screening, or treatment. The pink ribbon is more of an advertisement for these “pinkwashed” companies than a genuine social good. And forget the crude advertising that suggests women’s body parts are worth saving because of their sexual value. Better to ask, is knowledge about health really as useful as awareness campaigns seem to suggest?
While good information is necessary to make appropriate decisions, overemphasizing “awareness” undercuts the role that other factors play in our health. At this point, public awareness of breast cancer is not going to increase no matter what we slap a pink ribbon on. Nearly every woman knows that breast cancer is a problem. Far more women need insurance, a primary care provider, or a ride to their nearest available mammogram appointment.
Further, too much information can be harmful. Do enough tests, and eventually false positives start to pile up. Too-frequent mammograms or blood tests for prostate cancer have been shown to increase anxiety-provoking and painful biopsies without preventing deaths. (This is why, for example, we don’t scan the brains of every person who has a headache—too many false positives for cancer.) Patients ask me to “get tested for everything,” not realizing that our symptoms, age, family history, and environment have to guide the testing we perform. Awareness without the right context does no good.
We don’t become healthy by passively receiving information about health and submitting to medical procedures. This is ...
A sociologist reveals her research about “ring by spring” culture on a Christian college campus.(image)
At Whitworth University, a Christian liberal arts college in Spokane, Washington, one hears faint echoes of a social expectation that’s common to Christian campuses: “ring by spring.” It’s the idea that college students should have given or received an engagement ring by the spring of their senior year. “Ring by spring” is not encouraged in any official way, and it’s generally invoked with a heavy dose of derision. But as sociology professor Dr. Stacy Keogh George has observed in a recent study, this dismissive humor belies a very real pressure felt by some students to measure success by finding a marriageable partner. According to George, this “not-so-hidden culture” emphasizes engagement instead of “encouraging men and women of faith to live out their individual vocations, which may or may not include marriage.”
In the fall of 2014, George gathered some initial data on students’ attitudes about “ring by spring.” The results of her study are forthcoming in Christian Reflection. I had the chance to talk with George about her research, the surprising sticking power of “ring by spring” culture—especially at a time when the age of first marriage in the US keeps climbing —and its implications for Christian college students.
How did you get interested in studying ring by spring culture in the first place?
I am a graduate of a Christian college in the US, and when I was a student, I heard this “ring by spring” thing was happening on campus and I had no idea what it was. I realized very quickly that Christian colleges are seen as a place for women to find their spouse. And I say that very intentionally—for ...
Missiologist, missionary, writer, teacher, and Church Growth specialist(image)
I was sad to hear Peter Wagner died yesterday. He was always a fascinating and brilliant man... and he loved the Church.
For those of you who don’t know who he was, I first knew him as a professor at the School of World Missions at Fuller Seminary. His Wikipedia article has more.
I remember when I first met him. He was lecturing at the Billy Graham School at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. If I recall correctly, he said that Thom Rainer and the Billy Graham School now had the “mantle” of the Church Growth Movement. (Peter was a key leader, if not THE key leader, in the Church Growth Movement before he moved on to other emphases.)
We started corresponding after that meeting. He once sent me a long email, walking through a book I wrote few years before his email, and being so encouraging. He contrasted my thoughts with his own (and others), always encouraging, and making me think. And it came out of the blue on a book I published many years earlier.
I mostly knew him as a Missiologist and an academic. And yes, he (and Donald McGarvan) partly inspired me that a missiologist needs odd facial hair (true story).
Peter would later change his views and focus on things other than missiology and the Church Growth Movement and, yes, we disagreed. Interestingly, the book I co-wrote on spiritual warfare is, in some ways, a very different view than his and a response to some of the ideas he helped popularize.
But he was always a kind man and a friend.
For example, when I wrote a critique of some of his views, he reached out and said he was thankful for my interaction. Even when you disagreed (and we did), he was kind and open to different views.
If you ...
Revenge fantasies were darkening my heart before I trusted in Jesus.(image)
We had heard the distant gunshots for a few weeks. But that morning they were close and seemed to ring out with purpose. I looked to my older brother and the other adults for reassurance. Their eyes were full of anguish and frustration. All we could do was wait.
The “freedom fighters” arrived. By mid-morning we were all lying face down in the house, listening as bullets whizzed through the air. Between bursts of gunfire, our typically bustling neighborhood was eerily silent. In the lull we could hear voices shouting instructions. If they found out my name, they would kill me.
I was born in Liberia, West Africa, where my father served in the Special Security Service of President Samuel Doe (no relation), who had come to power through a violent military coup ten years earlier. His regime suppressed political opposition and rigged elections to stay in power. The “freedom fighters” had come to remove him, starting a war and killing anyone who worked in Doe’s government and anyone from his tribe. This was the situation in Liberia in August 1990. While the world was focused on Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, millions of Liberians were in the middle of a bloodbath.
I was 11. A year earlier I had lost my mother to illness. Now my father’s life was in danger. A few weeks before the rebel soldiers arrived, he had instructed me to go live with my brother, Roosevelt, and his wife. Bewildered and filled with questions, I packed a small bag with a few sets of clothes.
We lived behind rebel lines for three months, the hardest season of my life. The rebels were ruthless, murdering innocent people on the barest of suspicions.
While we hid, we ate one small meal a day, mostly ...
How the New Testament offers a better, higher calling than the Declaration of Independence.(image)
An Anglican man rang me out of the blue the other day to ask if the New Testament teaches “equality.” “Not really,” I replied. “The New Testament mentions equality once or twice, but when it comes to social relationships, it is far more interested in concepts like oneness, commonness, partnership, union, and joint-inheritance. If you make all those passages about equality, you flatten their meaning. And in any case, it’s become a blunderbuss word that means everything and nothing.”
Considering the history of the past 50 years, let alone the last 2,000, it might seem unwise to dismiss “equality” so casually. Thankfully, the New Testament presents a better, higher vision.
Two New Testament texts explicitly mention isotēs, the Greek word for equality, proportionality, or fairness. In 2 Corinthians 8:13–14, Paul urges the church in Corinth to give generously to the Jerusalem church, “that there might be equality.” And in Colossians 4:1, he tells masters to grant their slaves “what is right and fair.”
Most of the famous “equality” passages use quite different language. Galatians 3:28 doesn’t say that there is no Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female because we are all equal, but because we “are all one in Christ Jesus.” Colossians 3:11 doesn’t talk about equality between barbarians and Scythians, but rather asserts that “Christ is all, and is in all.” Ephesians 3:6 doesn’t say that Gentiles are now equal with Jews, but rather that we are now “heirs together.” Ephesians 6:9 doesn’t talk about equality between slaves and masters, but rather that both have the same Master ...
An excerpt from 'Paul Behaving Badly.'(image)
There’s no way around it. Paul thought he was special. In his defense, Christ did knock him off a horse with a blinding light and an audible word from heaven. Peter saw Christ transfigured, but Paul also saw the glorified Christ. This put Paul in an elite category.
The remarkable thing, really, is how maturely Paul handled his status. Yes, he boasted of his apostleship, but he did so defending his gospel, not his pride. It was essential that the Gentiles he ministered to trusted his pedigree, because the gospel was their only hope and he was the only person preaching it to them. Before they met Paul, the Gentiles were spiritual orphans. They were trapped in a fruitless way of life, far from God and wandering further. Paul understood that “in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15), and he took that role of spiritual father seriously. That’s why he urged the Corinthians to “imitate me” (1 Cor. 4:16). They couldn’t read a gospel; those hadn’t been written yet. The only way they could see Jesus was to look at Paul.
Today, Paul is often critiqued for paternalism, an unattractive quality in a culture increasingly sensitive to privileged and overbearing (white) men telling everyone else how they ought to behave. Although to us, Paul may sound paternalistic—authoritative and bossy—his audience would have heard him as paternal—offering the instruction and guidance of a loving father. Paul really and truly considered his converts his spiritual children. His frustration with the “Judaizers” wasn’t simply a theological debate. Like any good parent, Paul was angry at those he viewed as a threat to the spiritual health of his ...
How to share the gospel without making other people—or ourselves—so uncomfortable.(image)
Mark Teasdale began life in a “maverick” United Methodist church that emphasized evangelism more than most mainline brethren. When he grew up and moved away, he was shocked to find that many fellow Methodists thought of verbally sharing their faith as a foreign experience. Now, as a professor at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (a Methodist school on the campus of Northwestern University), Teasdale teaches a required evangelism course to students who are often wary, if not opposed outright, to the very idea that evangelism is valuable. Pastor and author Joshua Ryan Butler spoke with Teasdale about his book Evangelism for Non-Evangelists: Sharing the Gospel Authentically (IVP Academic).
What are some key stereotypes about evangelism that make some Christians uncomfortable sharing their faith?
Stephen Gunter, who teaches at Duke Divinity School, likes to joke that “for most Methodists, evangelism is that which we did not like having done unto us, which we feel obliged to do unto others.”
I start all my classes asking, “What was your worst experience with evangelism?” I’ve never had anyone say, “It’s always been great!” The negative experience has almost always been somebody preaching at them with a set of propositions, causing an awkward situation where they have to accept or reject the message. We give the impression that evangelism is only about verbal proclamation in monologue form.
You write that evangelism “trades in stories more than propositions.” What do you mean?
I’m not against truth propositions. But stories are important for a couple reasons. First, Christian faith is a story: the work of God through creation, the fall of humanity, ...
Or to recover its riches? Two Protestant luminaries look at the legacy of the Reformation, 500 years later.(image)
Now and then, Protestants are stirred to ask whether the Reformation might be bad for the church and the world. Five centuries downstream from 1517, old objections come with the burden of knowing where things occasionally went wrong.
As Reformation heirs prepare to celebrate our 500th anniversary, we do so with a remarkable capacity for self-criticism. At its worst, Protestant self-critique can be a tiresome self-flagellation, a dreary round of virtue-signaling and posturing over the sins of others. But at its best, it can be a time for soul-searching, a source of insight, and a promise of revival.
Two new books show the range covered by the best Protestant self-critique. Peter Leithart’s The End of Protestantism: Pursuing Unity in a Fragmented Church (Brazos) and Kevin Vanhoozer’s Biblical Authority after Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity (Brazos) come to the task from very different angles. Vanhoozer comes to the conversation from a deep dive into the depths of the gospel. Leithart comes back to it from the future.
The End of Protestantism is the long-awaited expansion of the provocative shorter remarks Leithart has made in this vein over the past few years. He hasn’t exactly softened his tone. Here, he announces, “Jesus bids Protestantism to come and die.” But there is more: “He calls us to exhibit the unity that the Father has with the Son in the Spirit.” That is, “we are called by our crucified Lord to die to what we are now so that we may become what we will be.” What draws all of Leithart’s arguments forward is essentially a syllogism: Jesus prays for the church’s unity, and Jesus will get what he prays ...
Why it’s the best and worst of times for India’s burgeoning churches.(image)
The world’s most unexpected megachurch pastor might be an illiterate, barefoot father of five.
Bhagwana Lal grows maize and raises goats on a hilltop in Rajasthan, India’s largest state, famous for its supply of marble that graces the Taj Mahal. He belongs to the tribals: the cultural group below the Dalits, whose members are literally outcasts from India’s caste system (and often called “thumb signers” because of how they vote).
Yet every Sunday, his one-room church, with cheerful blue windows and ceiling fans barely six feet off the ground, pulls in 2,000 people. His indigenous congregation draws from local farmers, whose families’ members take turns attending so that someone is tending the family’s animals. The cracks in the church’s white outer walls are a source of pride: They mark the three times the building has been expanded.
Thousands of colorful flags stream down the sanctuary along the blue beams that support the corrugated metal roof. Their rustling approaches a roar.
When asked the reason for the flags, Lal responds, “For joy!” laughing heartily. The decorations are normally used at weddings. “The same feeling should be inside the church. People should feel this is God’s place.”
Yet consider a contrasting megachurch in southern India. A taxi drives under the shadow of Hyderabad’s four-story elevated train, whose massive support beams are marked with alternating colorful gods and goddesses. The roadside, lined with movie posters and squatter tents, gives way to clusters of large stone elephant-headed gods waiting to be painted with customary bright colors. The taxi turns into a dense traffic jam: a mile-long jumble of buses, motorcycles, ...
After 160 years of suppression, Egypt makes room for new churches.(image)
“Long live the crescent and the cross!” shouted Egypt’s parliament in joy. All 39 Christian members joined the two-thirds majority to vote to end a 160-year practice instituted by the Ottomans requiring Christians to get permission from the country’s leader before building churches. The long-awaited reform was promised by the 2014 constitution after the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi.
The new law shifts authority into the hands of the governor, who must issue a decision within four months of an application and give detailed reasons for refusals. The law also established a process to retroactively license hundreds of churches erected without a presidential permit.
“It is a good step,” said Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, who helped negotiate the draft law with government officials. “If we wanted an agreement to include everything and please everyone, it would have taken 100 years.
“This is the best we can get right now.”
But even as they celebrated, Christians debated if they failed to fully seize a unique opportunity to pursue equal citizenship. Some wanted a unified law for both churches and mosques. Others noted the presence of loopholes that may impede church construction. For example, the “need” for a new church is tied to population growth. And local officials or police may be able to encumber the process if Muslims object.
“The law is a legalized perpetuation of the status quo,” said Ishak Ibrahim, religion officer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). “It does not address the roots of sectarian tension and shows [that] the state prefers adherents of one religion over ...