Monthly Archives: November 2011


Africa and the Free Market

I’ve engaged more than a few Christians in public forums on the problem of poverty in Africa. No continent has more problems with true poverty and caring for the desperately poor than Africa. It has, up to now, resisted almost every effort to change this situation. But the times are changing, slowly but surely.

Africa A new report from the African Development Bank says that Africa’s middle class will triple to more than one billion people in the next half century. This will not close the huge gap between Africa and Asia but it will bring good news for huge numbers of Africans who presently face a very grim future.

This same report provides a bright outlook on African growth—it predicts the gross national product of Africa will expand by more than 5% per year.

Understand that Africa has never experienced such economic optimism. It has been no more than an afterthought in the global economy until recently. This is now clearly, slowly changing. If the leaders of African nations, and

By |November 30th, 2011|Categories: Economy/Economics, Poverty|

The Dangerous Poison of Sectarianism

031032114X_yourchurch_frontIn my book, Your Church Is Too Small, I argue that sectarianism is almost always found where disunity abounds among Christians. This is not a novel argument but one that Christians in general, and conservative Christians in particular, do not see clearly enough. We are far more sectarian than we generally think when we consider our own views and actions.

The word sectarianism comes from the Latin word secta, which means a faction or party. It comes from the word sequi, which meant “to follow.” Generally sectarians follow a sect leader, or leaders, of some type. The word sect generally referred, in church history, to a group that broke away from a larger group, often in protest over distinct views. If used this broadly the term can refer to almost any religious disagreement. In this absolute sense the earliest Christians were a sect of the Jews.

As I use the term sectarianism it more generally refers to a doctrinaire commitment to one’s own version or views about the

A New Form of Excommunication

The Episcopal Church in the U.S. has been embroiled in deep controversy for many years. It reached the breaking point for thousands of devout Anglicans in 2003 when an openly partnered gay bishop, Gene Robinson (born 1947), was consecrated as Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson is widely known for being the first openly gay, non-celibate priest to be ordained as a bishop in a major Christian denomination that believes in the historic episcopate. Now, eight years later, the church is even more deeply split.

Even before the consecration of Bishop Robinson numbers of Episcopalians had begun to leave, forming several different Anglican church communions. Most of these early churches and priests submitted to the oversight of African Anglican bishops. I have several friends who followed this course and I’ve had the joy of speaking to a national gathering of these Anglicans.

Since Robinson’s consecration many, many more lifelong Episcopalians have left their church. Among these are even more of my friends. And numbered among those who have not left the Episcopal Church are other good friends. The sad fact is that to openly admit this creates tensions

First in Our Household

Neo in silly winter hat 003 A home without children is quiet, sometimes too quiet. Most of the time my home is very quiet. But sometimes it is filled with the laughter of my grandchildren, who are a delight. But it is always filled by the presence of our “third” child, Neo. Neo is ten and half years old but doing pretty well for a senior dachshund. She has actually become more active the last three years because of her cousin, Latte. Latte spends a lot of time with Neo. When Latter and Neo are together they teach each other various new social responses. The worst such social behavior is what I call a dachshund “bark off.” Latte usually begins it though Neo has learned well and clearly is no angel. The “two girls” sit on top of our living room sofa and “guard” the house from anything that moves. When I am trying to think, read or write they can drive me to

By |November 22nd, 2011|Categories: Humor, Personal|

Hymns of Thanksgiving: A Special Podcast from Beeson Divinity School

Hymns of Thanksgiving-Beeson PodcastA special  Beeson Divinity School podcast on the great hymns of Thanksgiving will surely prove encouraging and inspiring to many of you. You can find it here. This podcast is a discussion between Timothy George and Paul Richardson (past president of the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada), and includes choral recordings of the hymns that are included in the podcast. Dr. George and all my friends at Beeson who worked on this project envisioned this as something that families could listen to together on their Thanksgiving road trips. It is a way to turn your hearts toward God’s goodness to his beloved people. Among other things you will learn in this podcast is the historical fact that many of our most loved Thanksgiving hymns came out of times of extreme suffering.

By |November 21st, 2011|Categories: Church History, Music|

College Football’s Most Compelling Weekend

Readers know I love college football. I watch an NFL game now and then but almost never see an entire game, including the over-hyped, much ballyhooed Super Bowl. One reason for my love has to be that I matriculated as a freshman at the University of Alabama in 1967. I enjoyed two seasons of football with Bear Bryant on the sidelines. The two seasons were mediocre by the Bear’s standards.(Yes, I did meet the greatest coach ever and yes football dominates the fall semester on campus in the minds of most students!) I later finished two degrees at Wheaton College, where I now teach as an adjunct professor in evangelism and leadership.)

DSCF0056 This weekend college football had the most momentous and exciting group of games in decades. The BCS, which is the formula used to determine the top two teams who will play for the championship, is maligned in many quarters. Most people clamor for a playoff system. (The argument is always about “what’s fair.” Personally, I did

By |November 20th, 2011|Categories: College Football|

Does Money Directly Impact Marriage?

Married couples that care a great deal about money are much more likely to suffer from less peace and harmony in their marriage. This conclusion, from a Brigham Young University Provo, Utah, and William Patterson University, Wayne, New Jersey, study of 1,700 couples comes as no surprise to anyone who has counseled married couples for as many years as I have. A couple’s attitude toward money has always been one of the big three problems that destroys a marriage. (The other two common problems are sex and in-laws!)

Marriage images In this recent survey couples who said money was not important to them scored 10% to 15% better on measures of relationship quality, such as marriage stability, than couples in which one or both partners were materialistic. Also, couples in which both partners said they valued a lot of money—about 20% of the total in the survey—fared worse than couples who were mismatched and just had one materialist in the marriage.

Jason Carroll, a BYU professor of family life

“Say It Ain’t So Joe!”

This famous line in my title comes from the infamous Black Sox baseball scandal that occurred early in the twentieth century. As the story goes a young lad, who loved “Shoeless Joe” Jackson of the Chicago White Sox, could not believe his hero has cheated. In the movie version of “Eight Men Out” the boy plaintively said, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”

Joe Pa That’s about how I felt last week as we watched the Joe Paterno story unfold through every news medium possible. In this case even a sports story became a national tragedy. Not only did the actions of a famous coach (or his non-action in this sad case) make global news but it galvanized a whole new conversation about sex abuse. And well it should. But how could Joe Paterno, a decent and good man by every account, have failed to deal with this tragedy and thus allowed children to be molested by a predator? How could he not report this crime when he had

Doing Reformed Theology

I am sometimes asked, “Are you a Reformed theologian?” This post is a brief attempt to give an honest (and simple) answer to this question.

First, this question infers that I am a theologian. The answer to this part of the question is both yes and no. Every Christian is a theologian in some sense, either a good one or a bad one. If you think about your faith, in this case the Christian faith, then you are a Christian theologian. There are trained and untrained theologians. There are lay theologians, teaching theologians, writing theologians, etc. I do formally teach theology but I am not a professional writing theologian who has been highly trained an academic doctoral context for this noble purpose. I have limitations and freely admit it.

The great danger I see here is twofold. Untrained theologians can become rather self-confident because they have read a few “old” books, listened to their favorite teachers, and then strongly adopted what they believe to be true Christian theology. When they do this to the exclusion of all other Christian thought it then divides and creates real harm inside

By |November 14th, 2011|Categories: Personal, Reformed Christianity, Theology|

Women, Ministry and the Paradox of Faith

Very few issues divide biblically-informed Christians from one another quite like the debate over the role of men and women in Scripture and the church. Over sixty-plus years of life I have discovered a wide-range of responses and views. From almost every view I have heard I have discovered a new way to read a particular text and to understand what the commentator believes this means for the modern church. Many of these claims to precise certitude were quite common on the side I once held. This prompted me to rethink how I read Scripture and what conclusions I should draw from my reading.

Within evangelical Protestant circles the two most common stances  are called egalitarianism and complementarianism. I move in churches and among people on both sides of this debate. Broadly speaking, I do not generally advocate one position over the other because my mission is to promote unity among all churches and Christians. But I can’t avoid the debate since I do hold a view. I try to express that view in a way that respects those I disagree with. But at times some will


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