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What You Can Do About the Kenya Massacre: Choose to Love

Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe

IMG_9498Once again the senseless massacre of almost 150 students in Kenya has demonstrated the fallenness and depravity of humanity. It is impossible to comprehend the depth of brutality that human beings can perpetrate against others, particularly children and young people. Lives filled with so much hope and potential were snuffed out by the barbarity of those who seemingly will stop at nothing to promote their twisted ideology and beliefs.

What should be responses to such acts of cruelty? We have already seen swift military action by the Kenyan government in retaliation for the atrocities committed. Yet what should your response be, and the response of every individual Christian before God? The natural inclination is anger, to lash back, to punish the perpetrators. Yes, justice demands we respond and hold accountable the killers. But is that all we can do and will it bring an end to these senseless attacks?

It is a primary responsibility of governments to protect its citizens. However, given the fact the growing threat of terrorists is not contained within a specific geographic border,

The Problem of Separatism for Christian Unity

UnknownChristian Separatism is historically rooted in Congregationalism. It is an outgrowth of historical developments in the English Church in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The fundamental belief of English Separatists can be seen in their idea of the gathered church. They believed that such a church should exist in contrast to the territorial basis of the Church of England. The Church of England, through an anomaly rooted in its origin, was established upon a parish church model. In the parish each person in a certain area (geographically) was assigned to the parish church. Historically, a parish referred not only to the territorial unit but also to the people of its community as well as to church property within it. English Separatists believed that the foundation of the church should be the Scriptures and the work of God’s Spirit, not man or the state. These Separatists further believed that Christians should seek out other Christians and gather together to make up a particular (local) church. This belief was the basis for an autonomous local church, creating an ecclesiology

Same-Sex Marriage Redux (1)

imagesGay marriage is clearly “the great debate” of the hour. People on both sides, and all sides in between, debate the meaning of Scripture’s witness to the covenant of marriage and the role of the state in making civil law. On one side, Christians argue that “gay marriage” is not clearly envisioned in Scripture but the idea itself is acceptable because of how obscure the “proof texts” are regarding same-sex relationships. They argue the idea itself is grace-filled because accepting the sexual practice of a whole group of people who are differently oriented from the majority of us is what grace always does. (Honesty requires that we admit that the Bible does not say a lot about this issue, as advocates of same-sex practice often argue. Yet it seems that what it does say seems fairly clear to most Christians.) So proponents of gay marriage appeal to (virtual) textual silence and to grace. They then argue that marriage is a bond of love between two adults who commit themselves to one another. It is increasingly hard to

Voluntarist Protestantism and the Dangers of Secular Modernity

Voluntarist/Biblicist Churches

During the same period that I referred to yesterday, and especially since the decade of 1960s, churches deeply centered in teaching the Bible have grown numerically. Only recently has this growth begun to significantly slow down, a fact that very few are willing to openly face at this juncture in history. Was the success of these more conservative churches a result of turning against the subjective tendencies of their more liberal brothers and sisters? This seems to me to be the $64,000 question among modern religious sociologists. The early evidence appeared to support such a conclusion but now that conservative churches are also beginning to decline the data, and thus this debate, needs to be revisited. I believe the answer is that this simplistic analysis, namely that liberal churches in the mainline are in decline because they turned away from strong biblical teaching, is only a half truth.

religion-secularismThe compelling idea employed by conservative churches is that each person is directly responsible for their own religious commitment. This is what is meant by voluntarism. This idea has

The Real Threat to Personal Faith Commitment to Christ

imagesI would argue that in America the impact of personal and social secularization is different than in virtually all other Western nations. The reason for this is because religion was never formally established in America as a function in which the state had a compelling role. From every angle you can look at this question it now seems that state support for Christianity harms long term personal faith commitment. For this reason the “free market” of faith communities has led to a competitive context in which churches can, and do, appeal for people’s support and, in some ways at least, flourish accordingly. This shift to voluntarism means that churches must work to gain the personal commitment of their people. This has proven to be a very healthy thing, at least in one sense. But recent developments have begun to erode the impact of the church in this culture for what appear to be other compelling social reasons that are new to our history. Let me explain.

0226805328Within a democracy

Why Politics Matters and How We Got the Wrong End of the Stick (1)

imagesTwo weeks ago I sought to show how the church in America has become subject to a condition of moral, cultural and spiritual exile. Like Israel of old, we are now living away from our true home, separated from our real calling–to live out the life of Christ with one another (cf. John 13:34–35). We have forgotten who we really are, through the cozy relationship that we enjoyed between culture and church, and now we have collectively lost our distinctively Christian way. Because of this loss I suggested that we are now living in a time I referred to as the “Babylonian Captivity of the Church.”

Last week I wrote about our “alien” status and what this means for us in 2013. Fundamentally, living as “aliens” in the world means that we have been called to a new way of living, not simply to a new way of thinking and understanding. Most of Christianity is content to live the Christ-life in the mind, in the area of a few beliefs. We can accomplish this with no

Living as Aliens in Post-Christendom Culture (4)

Since the time of Constantine (4th century) the church has been enabled, in various forms and expressions, to “share” power with the state. This was not all bad. As a result of Constantine the church was allowed the protection of law and the opportunity to create new institutions of learning and charity, to give but one grand example of a positive outcome. The church could also prosper in ways early Christians could never have understood. This may indeed be a double-edged sword but it has an edge that has done great good in the world in which we live. The result of this process was Western culture, a culture blessed with all of its art, education and growing prosperity. Personally, I think the anti-Constantinian argument is much too simple to conclude that this shift was an entirely bad one. Yet the Constantinian change allowed the church to share power without the church becoming a serious problem to those who used power, whether it was in the church or in the state. It wasn’t long until this great victory brought with it a host of deep and

The Spiritual State of the Nation (3)

Last week I began a review of the exit-polling data from our recent national election that has been crunched an analyzed since November 7. It provides some intriguing story lines that are clearly emerging. It also reveals something to us about the spiritual state of our nation. For example, the National Catholic Reporter says, “We live in a new America.” It is an America in which a black man wins a second term as president, an America in which a large majority of white votes can no longer assure a victory and in which Latinos played the most crucial role of all. President Obama’s victory was accomplished by a broad coalition of minorities, including Hispanics, Asians, women and younger voters. Obama captured all but two of the states he won four years ago even though the total vote was much closer this time.

Christianity Today, the flagship publication of evangelical Christianity in America, notes that in defeat the evangelicals’ political unity was at an all time high. The so-called “born-again” vote went 4-1 to Romney. Though there

Evaluating the Spiritual State of the Nation (2)

Yesterday I blogged on the post-election discussion about where America is spiritually in 2012. Where do we seem to be going as a nation? For people on the political right this is a time of outright despair. For people on the political left there is hope and joy. I find both positions lacking in perspective. One reason I say this is because elections have rarely produced the hopes and dreams of the people who were elected or who voted. Why? Such a perspective relies too heavily on the outcome of elections as the true test of what is happening in the wider culture. The true test of our character is in our people, in our communities and in our public life, not in elections or the media.

I’ll give one illustration of this point. The young voters who voted overwhelmingly for Obama are more likely to be pro-life than many “Boomers” who voted for Romney. This may shock you but it is true. But for these younger voters their pro-life stance is not about politics. In time their view could impact their politics but I do not

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.