Monthly Archives: March 2006

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You Can't Trust the Government to Solve the Poverty Problem

If you wish to get a heated discussion going among serious Christians suggest that it is our divinely given responsibility to care for the poor. Then suggest that we ought to do something, anything is better than nothing, in the name of Christ to direclty alleviate hunger and to address poverty with real Christian solutions. Few will disagree with you a this point and all will agree that something ought to be done. But no two people are likely to come up the same solution for the problem at the end of the day. Conservatives will appeal to private charity as the best approach to the problem and liberals will suggest that government must get even more involved. And both will appeal to the prophetic writings of the Old Testament, the kingdom sayings of Jesus, and the need to demonstrate that the gospel we preach must show itself in tangible ways that really care for people in both body and soul.

Father Robert Sirico, president of Acton Institute, recently suggested in an editorial (Acton Notes, March 2006) that appeared originally in the

By |March 31st, 2006|Categories: Poverty|

Why You Can't Count on the GOP to Be Truly Family Friendly

Social conservatism, and the Republican Party, have an interesting history according to Allan Carlson, the president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society in Rockford, Illinois. Writing in The Weekly Standard (March 27, 2006) Carlson notes that historically the Republican Party has favored Wall Street interests and big business, and done very little to protect the family, at least in terms of tax codes and family positive lawmaking. In fact, the GOP not only tilted toward banks and industry historically, it was the party of radical feminism prior to 1980. Only with the Reagan Revolution of 1980 did this substantially change. Carlson shows that since 1990 the GOP has been anything but consistently helpful with regard to important family promoting policies. He offers as a major illustration of his salient point the average income of single-income families. When the wife chooses to be a stay-at-home mother the average income for such a family in 1970 was $40,785. By 2002 it had actually declined, in inflation adjusted dollars, to $40,100. Two-income families rose in average income, during the same time period, by 35%.

By |March 30th, 2006|Categories: Marriage & Family|

What Kind of Freedom Are We Promoting in the Middle East?

Afghanistan’s parliament demanded Wednesday that the government prevent a man, who faced the death penalty for abandoning Islam for Christianity, from being able to flee the country after his release from prison on Monday. The charges against him are simple: “apostasy from Islam.” His whereabouts are unknown but he is likely still within the country. The Italian government has granted asylum after Muslim clerics had openly and strongly called for his death.

It seems someone always forgets to tell the Afghans, in their rush toward democracy, that freedom of religion is a basic human right in normal democracies. I doubt that any of these new Muslim governments will allow such real freedom any time soon, thus making me less than impressed with all that we have done to spread “freedom” to that part of the world. We so easily forget that our form of freedom is rooted in both Enlightenment political thought and modern Christian advance and that this approach took Europe centuries to develop. The leaders in these Middle East “democracies” are oblivious to this part of freedom. Christians who believe

By |March 29th, 2006|Categories: Politics|

WWJD, Hillary Clinton and Immigration

“What Would Jesus Do” has increasingly become more than an evangelical movement, equipped with wrist bands, urging young people to exercise better ethical choices. Some conservative Republicans have previously suggested that they know Jesus would be a card-carrying Republican and thus support things like opposition to labor unions and certain liberal government programs designed to assist the poor. (I also oppose some of these same programs but not because I know what Jesus would do in this case. My views are rooted in a political philosophy that I believe is the best one; thus I believe my views are the ones that best offer a reasonable opportunity for the poor to actually succeed.) Many on the political left have justly criticized this iconic use of the name Jesus by the Republican right. I strongly agree with this criticism.

I wonder, however, what these same folks on the left will now do since Hillary Clinton has made it clear that Jesus would favor illegal immigrants flooding into America as a demonstration of real compassion. She told a press gathering today that she thinks

By |March 23rd, 2006|Categories: Politics|

What is the Future of the Church in the City?

Because I have just enjoyed several wonderful days (March 19-21) with the pastors and pastoral interns of City Church San Francisco I have been thinking a great deal about the future of the church in the city. Is the only model for a growing church in North America the suburban maga-church model? I think not.

City Church began ten years ago last month when Fred Harell moved to San Francisco from a ministry to collegians (RUF) he led at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Fred is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary and an impressive teacher, evangelist and apologist. One would normally, however, not have imagined a guy with Fred’s ministry background coming to San Francisco to plant a church right in the heart of this bustling post-Christian city.

I met Fred Harrell only a few months ago through the friendship of teaching pastor Scot Sherman, who previously served as senior pastor of a church in Atlanta where I have also ministered in the past. Scot and I met several years ago through the mutual friendship of Timothy George.  Scot’s

By |March 21st, 2006|Categories: The Church|

How Important is Propositional Truth?

Yesterday I gave a lecture and led a discussion at a seminar that was part of Imagine, a renewal conference event at Arcade Church in Sacramento, California. My session was on the emerging generation and missional church thinking. I made reference to the notion that "propositional truth" was an unhelpful category distinction for expressing what we mean by biblical truth. A very bright, genuinely helpful and fair minded participant agreed with everything I taught except for my observations about "propositional truth." He was quite concerned that I was denying the very essence of how we know, or can be certain, about what is true and false biblically. Our disagreement came down to the word "proposition." Since the setting was not a philosophy class I chose not to explore this too aggressively but pondered this question for the past day or so.

I also heard, since arriving in Sacramento, that a well-known minister recently made reference to me, by name, in a large public setting by expressing his concerns that I was denying "propositional truth." This whole debate rather amuses me. And it also

By |March 18th, 2006|Categories: Biblical Theology|

War and Peace: The Present Confusion Regarding Real Evil

I have noted, several times in my recent posts, that peace between nations and states does not come because “Christian peace activists” intervene to lead warriors, whether dictators or religious militants, to lay down their swords. I have been reflecting for the past three days on the tragic death this week of activist American Tom Fox, a Quaker. Cal Thomas has also been thinking about this death and makes the same point in his syndicated column today. Thomas writes that Fox’s death is actually “doubly tragic.” Not only was an innocent person, who was sincerely seeking to do good, murdered by Muslim terrorists but “the likelihood that the presence of Fox and his colleagues would change the attitude or behavior of their captors was zero to none.” It is to this second tragedy that I speak.

These American and European peace activists should be credited for their fervent desire to do good. They believe in their cause very sincerely. Their motives are not in question, at least to my mind. However, their understanding of the nature of human evil and of sin

By |March 15th, 2006|Categories: Current Affairs|

Martin Marty on the Evangelical Moment

Martin E. Marty is a mainline church historian and theological analyst who faithfully tracks major trends and ethical issues. I have interviewed Marty and spent some time with him in private conversations. I often disagree with him on a number of social and political issues but always find him an engaging and useful dialogical voice.

The Martin E. Marty Center at the University of Chicago produces a regular publication “Sightings.” You can subscribe to for free by writing Jeremy Biles at jbiles@midway.uchicago.edu. Marty’s post for March 13 is immensely important for evangelicals. He interacts with Jason Byassee’s guest column in the March issue of Christianity Today. Byassee is a youngish editor of the Christian Century, which Marty correctly refers to as “moderate to liberal.” Byassee, who I find personally a probing and insightful voice in the Christian Century, warns evangelicals to be careful about exercising their present public power, reminding us that mainline Christian groups had such power in an earlier era and did not use it well in many cases. He sees important parallels between his

By |March 14th, 2006|Categories: American Evangelicalism|

The Seeds of Evil and Destruction

Slobodan Milosevic was found dead in his cell in the Netherlands today. I can’t say I am profoundly saddened by this news. The former president of Yugoslavia, sometimes called “the butcher of the Balkans,” was one of the most brutal killers in the 20th century. He was on international trial for genocide, facing 66 counts of crime against the people, for the decade of bloodshed that he unleashed during the breakup of his country in the 1990s.

When one thinks of “ethnic cleansing,” a politically correct term if there ever was one, this man’s name will always come to mind. Sadly, the completion of his trial would have brought some historical closure and consensus that will not take place now that he is gone.

Milosevic once called himself the “Ayatollah Khomeini of Serbia," assuring his prime minister, Milan Panic, that the “Serbs will follow me no matter what.” Milosevic was clearly full of himself and of his warped view of the world. What made him so dangerous was that he had the power and the will to follow his distorted dreams.

By |March 11th, 2006|Categories: Politics|

A Healthy & Growing Church

It is a great joy to see how congregations grow and mature in the grace of God.  I have ministered as an itinerant speaker and encourager (since 1992) in churches of all sizes, types and styles, all across North America. There are strengths and weaknesses in every type of congregation that I encounter. Some are better at one aspect of life and ministry than others. All need of them need improvement. Some need major spiritual renewal if they are to recover their witness to the grace of Christ. Others are vibrant and alive.

I find that Reformed evangelicals too easily judge the local church by its doctrinal standards alone. This causes them to often feel very good about themselves if they “believe” the right doctrines and strongly teach them. Non-Reformed evangelicals tend to judge themselves by outward, less obviously doctrinal, appearances; e.g., music, style, excitement among their leadership, numerical growth, etc. Quite honestly all evangelicals struggle to keep a truly healthy ecclesiology before their people, since both the leaders and the people generally reflect the culture’s preoccupation with self.

This past

By |March 9th, 2006|Categories: The Church|
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