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Last Build Date: Sun, 23 Jul 2017 21:44:15 PDT

Copyright: Copyright 2017, Christianity Today
 



Can Josh Harris Kiss His Book Goodbye?
Twenty years after his dating bestseller, he reconsiders its controversial arguments. We’ve hit the 20-year anniversary of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a book that’s provoked a reaction through the decades for its take on young romantic relationships. Back in 2001, one author wrote for CT, “Joshua Harris hasn't made my life any easier. In fact, thanks to him, my future wife—wherever she is— may very well have given up the idea of ever dating.” This author wasn’t the only one questioning the book’s advice on dating, sex, and love—over the next two decades, a number of people influenced by the book began to push back. Today, Harris is a former megachurch pastor enrolled in seminary and is currently reconsidering some of the book’s arguments and perspectives. Harris has begun engaging his critics and is trying to raise money to film a documentary about the book’s negative feedback. “I’ve wanted to move on from this book for some time, but I’m trying to talk to people who are sharing stories with me about ways the book really hurt them and damaged them. It’s partly for my own sense of closure to come back and reevaluate it and even to admit ways that I have now changed in my thinking,” Harris said. Harris joined assistant editor Morgan Lee and editorial director Ted Olsen to discuss the consequences of ideas, the arguments in I Kissed Dating Goodbye that he still finds appealing, and whether he’d recommend the book today. What is “Quick to Listen”? Read more. Subscribe to “Quick to Listen” on iTunes Follow the podcast on Facebook and Twitter Follow our guest on Twitter: Josh Harris Learn more about Harris’ documentary Follow our host on Twitter: Morgan Lee Follow our guest host on Twitter: ...Continue reading... [...]



Why Christians Should Stop Caring About So Many Causes
True transformation takes focus, not capricious compassion. “Many people come here and take pictures,” the elder told me as he leaned on his walking stick, his slender frame swathed in heavy cloth despite the heat. “Then they go away and never help.” This is the moment that haunts me from my recent visit to Turkana, a region in northwestern Kenya crippled by drought and sliding inexorably into widespread hunger. I’d stepped out of a small plane into a sweltering landscape of dry riverbeds and desiccated animal bones jutting out of the earth—a place so quiet without traffic and technology that a child’s plaintive wail seemed to carry for miles. A month later, as I recall this sobering scene, the elder’s words play over it like a soundtrack, telegraphing doubt that my visit would mean anything more than a photo op. It’s not surprising that Westerners have a reputation here for capricious compassion. But it pains me that Christians would. If anyone should be known for not just showing up to help but for following through with real hope for suffering people, it should be followers of Christ. We are the ones commissioned by Jesus to go into the hard places, the hostile places, the ragged edges of our world, not just to proclaim the good news but to be the good news of God’s love in action. The hunger crisis spreading across East Africa, affecting more than 20 million people, is yet another opportunity to show who we are and whom we love. American Christians are generous when confronted with dire need. But is our goal merely to pull people back from the brink of catastrophe? That’s not enough. We should strive for nothing less than God’s vision for his people described in Isaiah 65: “No more shall there be in it an ...Continue reading... [...]



Meteora
Melodic nü-metal "I want to heal/I want to feel what I thought was never real/I want to let go of the pain I've held so long/(Erase all the pain 'til it's gone)/I want to heal/I want to feel like I'm close to something real/I want to find something I've wanted all along/Somewhere I belong" — from "Somewhere I Belong" Though the nü–metal sound is quickly becoming passé and tired with its blend of powerhouse guitars, catchy melodies, hip–hop rap, and passionate singing/screaming, Linkin Park is still packing a punch with their audience. They certainly didn't pioneer the genre, yet their debut, The Hybrid Theory, became the best–selling album of 2001. Most people expected the band's long–awaited follow–up to do well, but no one expected Meteora to sell more than 800,000 copies in its first week, topping the Billboard album sales chart en route to going platinum. Linkin Park's popularity stems not only from their solid, hook–filled sound, but also because of their passion, optimism, and search for spiritual truths. The band has toured with P.O.D. and Project 86, prompting many to wonder if Linkin Park has some tie to Christianity. In an interview with Shoutweb, lead emcee and vocalist Mike Shinoda revealed that he "was raised in a really, really liberal Protestant church. Two of the guys are Jewish. [Sample master] Joe [Hahn] was raised in a little more conservative Christian church and [lead vocalist] Chester Bennington has his own really unique views on religion. In general, we are all over the place." Since Mike writes most of the lyrics with Chester, it's not surprising then that spiritual themes show up. Like their debut, ...Continue reading... [...]



'The Big Sick' Is a Rom-Com about a Broader Kind of Love
Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s fresh take on the genre is a love poem, a laugh fest—and a refreshing ode to the beauty of family. This is the year of the second-generation immigrant story, and I am here for it. Between Aziz Ansari’s Master of None season 2, Hasan Minhaj’s Netflix comedy special Homecoming King, and the new romantic comedy The Big Sick (starring and co-written by Kumail Nanjiani), we are seeing a trend that I fervently hope turns into a proper movement. For too long, my favorite genres—including romantic comedies—have been narrowly centered around the lives of mainly white middle-class individuals dealing with (what seems to me) very minor problems as they stumble towards bliss. In the hands of writers and creators like Ansari, Minhaj, and Nanjiani, however, lived experiences serve to bring out the complexities hiding beneath simple narratives. While all three writers and comedians tackle common topics like romance, coming-of-age, and immigrant experiences, they subvert the norms by focusing on communities instead of individuals in their art—something Christian viewers will no doubt resonate with. Currently, we are facing a real need to see the world through a variety of perspectives—especially from religious and ethnic minorities. In a uniquely polarizing moment in time, having Muslim communities tell their own coming-of-age-in-America stories can be both cathartic and thought-provoking. The common threads of humor, poignancy, and a subtle subversion of familiar territory (especially in the realm of romantic comedies) are what make these projects so thoroughly engaging—especially in the recently released The Big Sick. Let me start by putting my cards out on the table: The Big Sick is the romantic comedy I have been waiting for my entire life. Real-life married couple Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon ...Continue reading... [...]



How God Sent His Word to An Iraqi Interpreter

I saw an American soldier reading his Bible, and I wanted to know more.

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I grew up in Iraq as the third oldest of eight siblings. My family was untraditional. My mom was Muslim, and my dad was Catholic. They didn’t force any religion on their children, in part because they didn’t take religion very seriously themselves. My father was a wealthy businessman, so we lived comfortably in a large house, blessed with several vehicles, a housekeeper, and more than 250 sheep.

When I was around eight years old, my father’s business began to struggle. The stress from his work made it unpleasant to be around him. He started drinking and hanging out with people who were a bad influence. About a year later, he was getting into trouble with the police on a regular basis. He would end up going to jail roughly 20 times.

His final stint in prison came after the government found out he hadn’t completed his three years of required service in the Iraqi army. He had joined the army for a year during the Iran-Iraq War, but then he ran away.

As punishment, he was sentenced to one year in an underground prison, where he endured complete darkness, except for two minutes above ground each day. There was no shower, and food and water were scarce. Broken from suffering, he grew desperate and cried out to God.

And sure enough, God began profoundly changing my father’s heart. My family noticed a huge difference when he returned from prison. He became a hard worker, less selfish and an overall happier man who always had a smile on his face. As an example, one week after his release, my father and I went shopping for clothes. We ran into a man wearing tattered clothing who was obviously homeless. My father had compassion for this man and, stripping down to his underwear, gave away the clothes he was ...

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Cover Story: Inside the Popular, Controversial Bethel Church
Some visitors claim to be healed. Others claim to receive direct words from God. Is it 'real'--or dangerous? I have seen a man dance holding a translucent scarf, the fabric billowing around his spinning form like a garment made of stars. I have prayed for strangers’ healing from high-blood pressure and unspecified neurological disorders. I have wept with salt-faced abandon as four women prayed over me; I have walked through a “fire tunnel”; I have seen a woman bob in Hasidic fashion over the Bible app on her smartphone. I experienced all this at the increasingly famous (and, to some, infamous) Bethel Church, and I did so as an evangelical Christian of Reformed persuasion. My parents named me for the Welsh pastor-theologian Martyn Lloyd-Jones. My father is a pastor in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Jonathan Edwards is one of my guiding lights, Wheaton College is my alma mater, and I attend a Presbyterian church in Toronto where I have never heard anyone speak or pray in tongues. Yet Bethel has been on my mind since a friend prayed for my healing at a campground in Wisconsin in 2010. She introduced me to the teachings of Bethel’s senior pastor, Bill Johnson, and gave me a few of his books. As Bethel grows, you might very well hear from a few people in your congregation who have traveled to Redding to find out if Bethel is “real”—and who come back proclaiming that revival is under way. When I set out for Bethel Church—a hub of a global revival movement—I half-expected to discover a rogue organization of hucksters intent on subverting the faith. And I half-expected to discover a community of believers more earnest and devoted to God than anyone I’d ever met. In the end, what I discovered in Redding, California, didn’t fit either narrative neatly. Bethel Church sits ...Continue reading... [...]



Is Suicide Unforgivable?
Question: What is the biblical hope and comfort we can offer a suicide victim's family and friends? —name withheld People who ask this question seek biblical grounds for giving hope to the kin of believers who take their own lives. The burden of proof, I should think, lies not with those who offer the solace of grace but with those who deny it. Will Jesus welcome home a believer who died at her own hands? I believe he will, tenderly and lovingly. My biblical basis? It is the hope-giving promise of Romans 8:32, that neither life nor death can separate the believer from the love of God in Christ Jesus. How can I trust in this promise and then deny its comfort to people who doubly grieve for brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers who in horrible moments of despair decided to end their lives? I believe that Jesus died not only for the sins of us all but for all of our sins, including the forgotten ones, including suicide--if indeed he reckons it always as sin. The Bible does not seem to condemn suicide. There are, I think, six accounts of suicide in the Bible, the most notorious being those of King Saul (1 Samuel 31:2-5) and Judas (Matthew 27:3-5). Others are Abimelech (Judges 9:50-54), Samson (Judges 16:23-31), Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23), and Zimri (1 Kings 16:15-20). As far as I can tell, none of the six is explicitly condemned for taking his life. Some say that suicide cannot be forgiven because the person who did it could not have repented of doing it. But all of us commit sins that we are too spiritually cloddish to recognize for the sins they are. And we all die with sins not named and repented of. When I was a child, I heard compassionate people comfort the loved ones of a suicide victim with the assurance that anyone who commits suicide is insane at that moment. So, being mad, a suicide victim would not be held accountable by God, despite ...Continue reading... [...]



Eugene Peterson Shrugs
Why theological indifference is worse than progressivism. Shortly after this article was published, Eugene Peterson retracted his statement and affirmed a biblical view of marriage instead. More information can be found here. *** In an interview published yesterday with Jonathan Merritt at Religion News Service, Eugene Peterson announced his willingness to perform same-sex weddings and his general support for same-sex couples in churches. While the headline says Peterson has “changed his mind” on the issue, it would be more accurate to say that he simply has become willing to speak about the issue and his relative indifference to it. Multiple times he clarifies it isn’t a big deal to him. The churches where he served have always had gay members. “People who disapprove of it, they’ll probably just go to another church,” Peterson concludes. “So we’re in a transition and I think it’s a transition for the best, for the good. I don’t think it’s something that you can parade, but it’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned.” Peterson’s response is not quite what you have in others who really have changed their mind about the issue of same-sex relationships, such as David Gushee, Rob Bell, or Julie Rodgers. Gushee argues that supporting same-sex couples is in keeping with the biblical command to love one’s neighbor, and Rodgers argues that marriage itself is a school of virtue and same-sex couples should be allowed to marry so they too can have access to that resource. They are making arguments about which we can disagree—we can talk about the end toward which Christian love is directed or the meaning of marriage and have fruitful or at least clarifying debate. It’s much ...Continue reading... [...]



Spiritual Longing on the Silver Screen
How the makers (and watchers) of movies are engaged in a kind of prayer. We had been married only a month the first time I showed my wife Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock’s psycho-drama about a man so obsessed with a dead woman that he remakes another woman in the dead woman’s image. This was perhaps the wrong film to show my new bride. “That’s one of your favorite movies?” she asked as the movie ended. “That’s very disturbing.” I figured she was talking about the movie itself—which is disturbing—but she might also have been thinking of my esteem for it. I had loved Vertigo since I first saw it at age 11. My parents, huge Hitchcock fans, showed it to me and my siblings one Sunday afternoon after church. Though I had watched it many times since then, I had never given much thought to why I liked it. Marriage has a way of prompting you to reconsider things you once took for granted. Over the next two years, I continued watching Vertigo regularly. I read every bit of critical scholarship I could find. I used all my powers as a film scholar to better understand how it works. I appealed to my seminary training to plumb my own heart and fathom why it makes such an impression on me. What I discovered about myself is complicated. But what I discovered about Vertigo I can state simply: Vertigo is a film about a man’s obsession with achieving his ideal and his willingness to take advantage of others to achieve it. It is also—thanks to its clever twist and Kim Novak’s pathos-filled performance—a film about how, in pursuing our ideals, we allow others to take advantage of us. Vertigo is about the horrors wrought by selfishness on the individual and the community. It is disturbing because it is so candid about how selfish we can be. ...Continue reading... [...]



Wait Upon the Drop
Why churches are turning to club music to elevate praise. The house lights are dark as bright beams of electric blue scan the crowd. White strobes pulsate to the uhn tiss uhn tiss beat. A pre-chorus of snare-drum 16th notes gradually builds into a turbo-spooled climax of drum machine rapid fire. Everything is wound in anticipation. The bass drops. People in the crowd dance, clap, and sing. Others stand statuesque, as if wondering what’s happening. The Crossing, a non-denominational church in Tampa with a weekly attendance of roughly 3,500 people, is one of many congregations now incorporating electronic dance music (EDM) into its regular worship repertoire. It’s not a full-on rave, and you’ll see more “traditional” instruments like drums, electric guitars, and keyboards. But infused with more familiar modern worship stylings are characteristics of the EDM aesthetic: layers of computer-programmed electronic backing tracks, quarter-note bass thumps, and cycles of musical “builds” and “drops,” much of it set to a tempo around 130 beats per minute. EDM, once the underpinning of the all-night rave scene, has now become one of the most popular mainstream musical styles, and it is influencing both studio-recorded Christian worship music and live congregational performances. The Energy Builds Russ Jones, pastor of worship arts at The Crossing, said EDM has brought a youthful edge to its services and is helping the church reach a younger generation. In an era when secular EDM mega-artists like David Guetta, Diplo, Skrillex, and Calvin Harris are topping a $7 billion music industry and drawing hundreds of thousands of fans to a single festival, the church has taken notice. But it’s the effect the music has on congregants, not its marketplace ...Continue reading... [...]



How We Read the Bible Rightly and Get It Wrong
Let's show mercy to those who 'misinterpret' Jeremiah 29:11 and other favorite verses. Imagine yourself as a seminary student. Now imagine yourself as a young, male seminary student with a semi-educated, somewhat emotional, faithful churchgoing but biblically untrained mother-in-law. You like her well enough, but as your own seminary training has increased your exegetical skills, knowledge of church history, and theological acumen, you have found a corresponding increase in discomfort when talking to her about God and the Bible. She is very passionate about the latest devotional book she is reading and the new insights she has gained into passages of Scripture from looking up Greek words in Vine’s Expository Dictionary. Every time you see her, you sense with increasing intensity that she could be on the cover of the next edition of Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies. On your better days you just nod and smile politely. In your grouchy moments you daydream about ripping the books out of her hands, mocking them, stomping on them a few times, and throwing them into the fireplace while quoting Greek paradigms. But then when you arrive at her house one Thanksgiving, you see something that pushes you over the edge. On the refrigerator, holding up her unrealistic diet plan, is a magnet with a nice flowing script of Jeremiah 29:11—“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” It is obvious that this verse and this diet plan are organically related in her mind. She is taking this verse to heart every day as a promise from God for her success in shedding a few pounds. How will you respond? Your exegetically and theologically trained mind immediately populates a list of problems with her use of this ...Continue reading... [...]



Directions: You're Divorced—Can You Remarry?

Q: The New Testament seems to support divorce for a narrow range of reasons, but does it support remarriage?
—K.A.Miller, Wheaton, Illinois

A: There are three New Testament passages that bear most directly on the subject of divorce and remarriage. I suggest that when they are carefully considered, they prove to be both more demanding and less restrictive on the question of divorce and remarriage than evangelicals have often acknowledged.

Luke 16:18 is a very bold, straightforward saying that seems to settle the issue quickly: "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery" (all quotations from the NRSV). Both divorce and remarriage are just plain wrong—right?

Almost all New Testament scholars agree that this saying is an abbreviation of a saying of Jesus that appears in its fuller form in Matthew 5:31–32 in the Sermon on the Mount. After discussing his views contrasted with those in Judaism, Jesus remarks, "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

It is noteworthy that Jesus clearly sees some circumstances that legitimize divorce. A marriage continues to be valid until one party dissolves the marriage through unfaithfulness. This so-called exception clause appears here in Matthew 5 and again in Matthew 19 but does not occur in either Mark or Luke.

In a similar passage in Mark 10:11–12, Jesus widens the scope of the teaching to show that such dissolution may apply to the behavior ...

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Do Pets Go to Heaven?
An author, a professor, and an animal advocate weigh in. Many of Us Hope So Wesley Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism and author of A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement (Encounter, 2010). We have come a long way since Descartes claimed that animals are mere automatons without the capacity for pleasure or pain. We now know the contrary is true: They experience. They suffer. They grieve. They love. When it comes to our relationships with pets, we not only take them into our homes: We welcome them deep within our hearts. In fact, some become so attached that they yearn to be with their pets throughout eternity. C. S. Lewis speculated on the eternal fate of animals in The Problem of Pain, suggesting that at least tame animals might enter heaven through their relationship with humans, in the same way that humans do through their relationship with Christ. But I worry that the question of pets in heaven could distort our understanding of eternal life as described in Scripture and Christian tradition. If we are not careful, we could cross the line into a sentimentality that shrinks our eschatological expectation. Our human idea of heaven might be walking an adored dog in the forest, but there is no indication that is anything like God's plan. The question of whether our pets go to heaven requires an examination of the natures of animals, of humans, and of God. Animals have their lives in God. In Psalm 104 we read that animals look to God for their food and that when he withdraws his spirit, they return to the dust. God marks the dropping of every sparrow. But John 3:16 makes no mention of animals. Only humans are made in the divine likeness. Unlike animals, we are moral agents capable of sinning by ...Continue reading... [...]



Christianity Today’s 2017 Book Awards
Our picks for the books most likely to shape evangelical life, thought, and culture. Make a list of all the blessings the Protestant Reformation has brought, and eventually—long after jotting down iconic phrases like “salvation by grace alone through faith alone”—you’ll get around to the CT Book Awards. Books, of course, had existed long before Luther posted his 95 Theses. But there’s no denying that reading and the Reformation, with a vital assist from Gutenberg’s printing press, soared together. “The Reformation could not have occurred as it did without print,” writes historian Andrew Pettegree in his book, Brand Luther. “Print propelled Martin Luther, a man who had published nothing in the first 30 years of his life, to instant celebrity. It was his genius to grasp an opportunity that had scarcely existed before he invented a new way to converse through books. In the process he changed Western religion and European society forever.” Reading helped fuel the Reformation, and in turn, the Reformation helped fuel the spread of reading. Pettegree again: “Wittenberg, a town that had no printing at all before 1500, would become a powerhouse of the new industry, trading exclusively on the fame of its celebrity professor. And Wittenberg was not an isolated case. In many medium-sized and small German towns, the Reformation galvanized an industry that had withered after the first flush of over-exuberant experimentation.” As we mark the anniversary of the 95 Theses next year (make sure to see CT’s Reformation-themed January/February issue), our spiritual and theological debts to Luther are obvious. But it’s worth remembering, too, how Luther’s prolific pen and publishing genius helped mold evangelicals into a “people ...Continue reading... [...]



Should We All Speak in Tongues?
Some say speaking in tongues is proof of 'baptism in the Holy Spirit.' Are those who haven't spoken in tongues without the Holy Spirit?—Renea Chastain, Phoenix, Arizona One of the most influential and controversial events in the twentieth-century American church was the emergence of the charismatic movement. With its emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, the movement brought elements of Pentecostalism to non-Pentecostal churches. By the early 1960s, Catholics, mainline churches, and many non-Pentecostal evangelicals were experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit through prophecies, divine healings, speaking in tongues, and various physical phenomena. The movement generated much debate about the purpose of these gifts and experiences in the Christian life. Were they legitimate expressions of worship, or just frenzied spiritual emotionalism? Today, evangelicals seem to have made peace with the charismatic movement, embracing many of its practices and agreeing to disagree on others. Indeed, it's not strange these days to find people lifting their hands in the most conservative of evangelical functions. Despite this evolution, many questions remain about the meaning of speaking in tongues. The phenomenon of tongues (or glossolalia) is identified by many as the supernatural utterance of foreign human languages (Acts 2:4,6); others contend that it includes speaking an angelic language (1 Corinthians 13:1) or some other verbal expression requiring interpretation (1 Corinthians 14). For many years, speaking in tongues was seen as the distinguishing characteristic of the Pentecostal and charismatic traditions within the church. Some Pentecostal Christians, in particular, laid heavy emphasis on speaking in tongues as "initial evidence" of baptism in the Spirit. That there was some connection in the scriptural record between baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues is apparent from at least ...Continue reading... [...]