The “niceness” handicap

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this article is very much worth your attention:

I have long observed that an alarming swath of public evangelicals seems to be driven by a consuming desire to be liked by the world. ((note: link added to excerpt by me))

Now, that is my characterization, not theirs. To their minds, they are trying to be good representatives of Jesus. They are focusing on “kingdom” issues. They eschew evangelicalism’s past mistakes of tying itself to various moralistic fads such as outlawing alcohol or opposing nylons and lipstick. They want to be sure that unbelievers know that they love them, that the GOP is not the Kingdom of God. They want to be seen as scholarly, cautious, nuanced, careful, measured, and helpful. They shrink from the thought of being seen as dogmatic, triumphalistic, or narrow.

Are those bad motivations? As stated and as far as they go, most of them are not.

However, I’ve come to fear that they mask fatal flaws. For starters,  these sorts are willing to let their motivations be judged and dictated by the reactions of unbelievers…

I can’t say it any better.  Read the whole thing here.

A treasure trove

Truth remains relevant, no matter how much time elapses.

The John Richard Allison Library in Vancouver—which hosts the joint collections of Regent College and Carey Theological College—has now made available their entire rare Puritan collection to be read online for free. What a gift of modern technology to help us recover these gifts from the church of the past.

There are currently 80 Puritan authors in their collection, many of whose works were digitized from J. I. Packer’s private library.

Now I know what I’ll probably be doing with part of my summer break.  Hope all of you get a chance to mine these riches yourselves.  For everyone’s convenience, I’ve added a link to this collection on the sidebar, under the “Reading Room” heading.  It’s referenced as “Puritan Books Online.”

This is my shocked face (not really)

A survey finds most American Christians are actually heretics in their religious views:

A survey of 3,000 people conducted by LifeWay Research and commissioned by Ligonier Ministries found that although Americans still overwhelmingly identify as “Christian,” startling percentages of the nation embrace ancient errors condemned by all major Christian traditions. These are not minor points of doctrine, but core ideas that define Christianity itself. The really sad part? Even when we’re denying the divinity of Christ, we can’t keep our story straight. Americans talking about theology sound about as competent as country singers rapping.

The article notes that today’s mega-churches are a “Bible-less alternative version of Christianity.”  This should not come as a surprise:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

(2 Timothy 4:2-4)

This is not a new development; rather, it’s a rapid acceleration of a long-term trend.  Years ago I had an ongoing discussion with a coworker who claimed to be Christian but also was emphatic that “all people are basically good.”  Pointing out the Scriptural warning that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) didn’t dissuade her from her position (thus indicating what level of authority she attributed to the Bible).  I pointed out this was easily observable, in that babies are the most self-centered creatures on the planet.  If they’re hungry, they scream to be fed.  If they’ve soiled their diaper, they scream for a change.  They don’t care if you just worked a 12-hour shift, or have the flu, or are worried about something else.  Sometimes it seems they scream just because they can.  The point?  Such self-centeredness is our default setting!  Children have to be taught not to snatch toys from another, or to smack another child who said something they didn’t like.  I’ve even joked you can learn everything you need to know about international relations by watching a kindergarten class.

Sadly, nothing I said had any effect.  The same individual, right after 9/11, expressed amazement that Christian missionaries were in Afghanistan (and that several were held by the Taliban for a short while).  She asked why they would go to a place that clearly didn’t want them.  I simply said “maybe because God believes that’s the kind of place where the Word most needs to be heard.”

America needs to hear the Word again, too.  More importantly, it needs to believe the Word again.  Everything else is merely symptoms of this root problem.

What have we become?

After a very busy day, I made the mistake of checking the news before turning in.  Dallas is the latest reminder that our nation is coming unglued, beset by enemies without and within.

Earlier this week I was leading my family in prayer, and found myself breaking down in tears as I confessed to God I don’t recognize my country anymore.  I’m a student of history, so I know full well we don’t live in the roughest of times.  Yet.  As one commenter put it this evening, “1968 wasn’t fun the first time around.”  All the symptoms of another great storm are here, however.  The clouds have been gathering for some time, and only the grace of God can avert what seems to lie ahead for our land.  We don’t need new regulations… we need renewed repentance.  Policy tinkering won’t address the real issues… but prostrating ourselves before the Lord can.

Christians, are you in prayer?  Is your heart breaking?  Not just because of a sense of losing your country, but because it seems the Evil One is poised for another of his days, and his goal is the same as it ever was: to “steal, kill and destroy” — to keep away from God and destroy as many precious lives as he can.  If there is any good that can come out of the lawlessness and terror that is on the increase, it is that people may be jolted from the vanity fair long enough to ask in earnest: what have we become?

Is the Pope Catholic?

As I’ve written before, the Pontiff has made some very unorthodox (and unBiblical) statements.  Here’s the latest, as part of an interview:

– The fear of accepting migrants is partly based on a fear of Islam. In your view, is the fear that this religion sparks in Europe justified?

Pope Francis: Today, I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam. It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.  (emphasis added)

With all due respect, there is simply no such comparison to be made, and any attempt at moral equivalence between the Gospel and Islam is simply a slanderous lie from the deepest pit of hell, no matter who is saying it.  Whereas the founder of Islam clearly taught the temporal spreading of that religion by the sword, Christ had a much different take toward the spreading of the Gospel:

  • Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”  (John 18:36)
  • …Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.  (Luke 22:48-51)

The Gospel of Christ and the message of Mohammed were spread by very different means, and as Christ said, “the tree is known by its fruit.”  In its first century, the Christian Gospel spread in no small part through the martyrdom of its adherents.  By contrast, in the first century after Mohammed’s death, Islam spread rapidly through the violent conquest and forced conversion of its neighbors — including martyring many Christians in North Africa, once a center of Christian intellectual life under great minds like Augustine.

Despite the abuses of the trappings of Christianity by the later Roman emperors and medieval Popes to sanction actions Christ would never have condoned, the essence of the Gospel remains the same: a personal decision to place one’s confidence of salvation in the sacrifice of Christ, and to commit one’s life to honoring that sacrifice through willing obedience and discipleship.  This is not something that can be externally coerced.  Islam, on the other hand, likes to confuse the issue by deceitfully reducing the Koranic concept of jihad to what many would consider a similar inward struggle for holiness.  Yet its history shows it is instead a violent force that compels at least outward obedience, on pain of social sanctions or death.  This is the Islam the Pope obliquely acknowledges as the inspiration of ISIS and al Qaeda.  Whereas the Reformation returned the Christian church to the core, essential doctrines of Christ, Grace, Faith, Scripture and the Glory of God, the modern movements to return Islam to its roots are clearly producing very different results.  Those who closely follow the example of Christ and those who closely follow the example of Mohammed will lead very different lives–and will impact those around them in very different ways.

I get that an atheist might want to simply lump all religions together as troublemaking mythology.  But that the head of the Catholic Church would indulge such lack of discernment is highly disturbing.  Not only is Pope Francis giving his parishioners ample reason to doubt the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility; his very elevation to head of that church shows a substantial portion of its leadership has been ensnared by many of the teachings of this world, from marxist liberation theory to moral equivalency and an overemphasis on ecumenicism.

Nobody–not the West, nor Muslims, nor the Christian brothers and sisters currently persecuted by Islamic fundamentalists–is edified by such careless comparisons.