Monthly Archives: May 2012

Is There a Comprehensive Theory of America's Decline ?

Ross Douthat, in his engaging book, Bad Religion, addresses the perennial “ongoing search for more comprehensive theories” about the decline of America. Both the left and right offer a prevailing, and widely accepted, narrative. But most of these theories involve religion, at least in some way.

Professor Alan Jacobs of Wheaton College calls Bad Religion “an indispensable book.” I completely concur with this praise. Rarely have I read a more engaging treatment of our current religious and political scene which explains not only how we got here but why the future, without a recovery of deeply Christian orthodoxy, will be more bleak than we can know at the present time.

On the right we are continually told that America has lost its way because we’ve fallen away from the faith of our founding fathers. Or, in another version of this message, we hear that we’ve been attacked by secular elites who wish to do our faith end. Douthat believes that the most “simplistic version” of this view, which is only sometimes clearly named, argues that America was founded

Why is Christianity in America in Decline?

Ross Douthat’s new book, Bad Religion, suggests that there are five reasons for the decline of religion’s influence in America. I believe he is correct. There could well be more reasons but these five are right on target so far as I am concerned.

1. Political polarization (both on the left and the right) has brought churches into the storms of deeply partisan division. This will be seen with as much evidence as ever in the remainder of 2012.

2. The sexual revolution has powerfully undermined the classical claims of Christianity about morality. Furthermore, the practice of Christians has directly impacted an entire generation. (There is little evidence that anything we are doing inside the church is altering this even though there are some glimmers of hope that Christians are more aware of the problem!)

3. Globalization has made the truth claims of Christianity seem oppressive to many who see the doctrinal claims of the faith as repulsive.

4. Materialism and consumerism have undermined vibrant, sacrificial and community-oriented faith leaving many Christian churches with nothing more than a message about

New Blog Site Soon

978-1-4391-7830-0Over the course of the next 24-72 hours a mentor/coach is finishing the design for my new blog site. It will be on a WordPress platform hosted by a different server than the one I have used for over seven years. Please check back in a few days and let me know what you think when this site is launched. I will be doing a series of blog posts on the extremely important new book, Bad Relgion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Ross Douthat (Free Press: New York, 2012) over the next several weeks. I really hope that you will read these posts and interact with me as you do. I believe this is one of the most important books for missional-ecumenists I have read. 

Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics

Each Monday I send a weekly article to subscribers who request it at ACT 3. I have been writing and archiving these 1,200 to 2,000 word articles for about eight years. Before blogging became popular, and before I stopped writing for print publication through ACT 3's quarterly journal and bi-monthly magazine, which were published until 2006, I write a more reflective and carefully edited article. Some of these have/will become more permanent in the form of books we intend to publish in the next few years. This weekly article is less personal, and more heavily footnoted and arranged, that my blogs. Further, most blogs are 300-1,000 words. Beginning today I am trying something that I've never done–I am publishing two articles (May 21 and May 28) and composing blogs that correspond to these articles at the same time. Thus I am syncing my articles and my blogs for several weeks. The reason is twofold. First, I would like readers of this blog to subscribe to the articles at ACT 3. Second, I would like readers of the articles to visit this blog

By |May 20th, 2012|Categories: Uncategorized|

A Strange Encounter with Evil in Phoenix

Last Sunday evening in Phoenix I was enjoying a lovely dinner with Jeff and Patti Gokee, along with their two sons, Ben (11) and Cooper (8). A man unexpectedly came up to our table to verbally assault Jeff and me for what we had been conversing about with Ben and Cooper. It was surreal, shocking. I confess that I have never had a total stranger approach me in a restaurant with curses and insults during dinner. The place grew silent as people watched in amazement. Jeff and I both thought it was a joke until the man began to call us names and assault us angrily with everything he had but his fists. 

To understand this verbal assault you must know that Ben (11) wanted to discuss some pressing theological concerns with me and his dad has encouraged him to ask at dinner. His questions were about his brother Cooper (8), who has been in a battle with leukemia for several months now. (You could easily tell that Cooper has been undergoing some serious medical issues by

By |May 18th, 2012|Categories: Personal, Spiritual Warfare|

"Take Me Out to the Ball Game"

My passion for baseball is almost legendary. I enjoy a relaxing day at the ballpark about as much as anything I can do for pure fun. I miss baseball after the World Series in October every year, just like clockwork. I long for Spring and the crack of the bat around March 1. Sometimes we even plan a five-day Florida trip just to see Spring Training. Photo

Since 1957 I have been a Braves fan, first in Milwaukee and now in Atlanta. I live and die with my Boys of Summer and thus I love the Braves! I have seen them win two World Series Championships in my lifetime (1957 and 2005). They should have won two more, in 1958 and 2006 but both times the Yankees rallied to beat them in seven games. I stuck with them when they were perennial losers and since I came to Chicago in 1969 I have tried to see them play

By |May 17th, 2012|Categories: ACT 3, Baseball|

Reasons That This Is a Great Time to Be Alive: Should We Be Optimistic?

OB-IY398_Trevor_DV_20100618180240I am frankly amazed, and sometimes amused, at the pervasive pessimism of so many. Christians, of all people, have an abundance of reasons to be hopeful, even optimistic. I refer, of course, to the biblical reasons that are at the core of our faith.

But there are other reasons as well. These reasons are not religious in nature but just pure common sense. I am so wearied of the pessimism and constant refrain that "America is so bad now and things have never been worse." Really? Are you kidding me?

The April issue of Reader's Digest included an adapted article by Matt Ridley with the title, "Cheer Up: 17 Reasons It's a Great Time to Be Alive." Though the world is gripped by a global economic crisis and afflicted with poverty, disease and war Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, believes that there has never been a better time in history to be alive. Is

By |May 16th, 2012|Categories: Uncategorized|

Why It's Important to Oppose Anti-Sharia Movements in America

Images-3Since 9-11 many Americans have reacted strongly against Muslims and Islamic laws. Some see the presence of Muslims as a threat to our nation. Others are more open but are still guided by a great deal of fear when it comes to Muslim practice. Many conservative commentators stir up a general, and often ill-defined, negative reaction to Islamic culture. The truth is that this is a culture they neither understand nor care to understand with any degree of empathy. Christians can, and should, do much better. If for no other reason we have clear statements from our Lord about loving our neighbors, even our enemies. Though this does not mean that we should be anything less than vigilant with regard to radical Islamic movements and people (for reasons of security) it also does not mean that we should oppose Islamic movements, people or their laws. It is this last idea (Muslim laws) that I write about today.

The Will of the Majority, the Rights of the Minority and the Bill of Rights

In my college days I took one of the toughest undergraduate classes offered at Wheaton College. It was a course on constitutional law taught by a rigorous and demanding professor who knew the history of the debates very well. The class was a challenge and getting a decent grade was really hard work. But I believe that course may have done as much to shape my view of America as any single college course I ever took. More than forty years later I remain grateful for this class. It has helped me understand America in a way that I think far too few Christians get, especially in the heat of modern debates over political opinions, left or right. 

ImagesI learned then, and have seen since, that debates about the interpretation of the Bill of Rights are common in modern American political and social debate. Ever since I can remember we have debated judicial activism. Whether from the political left

The Stain That Stays: How Should We Respond to the Sexual Misconduct of Pastors/Leaders?

9781857925838What should happen to pastors who fall into sexual misconduct? Should they return, repentant, to their pulpits/leadership within weeks or months – or should they return at all?

Around the world sexual misconduct is defeating ministers and destroying ministries. As the numbers of fallen leaders grow it is crucial to know what should happen to them – for their good and for the good of the Church. Does the Bible and church history give us any help with these kinds of questions?

In the 1990s, when sexual misconduct among some rather well-known evangelical pastors in America reached major proportions, I began to question the practices of various churches and organizations in how they handled a major moral problem. I also studied abundant evidence that suggested this problem was massive in scale and scope. Very few were interested then but the evidence I gave then has only grown more obvious over time. We have a crisis

By |May 11th, 2012|Categories: Ethics, Sexuality|

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