Archive | Christianity

Can the mainline be saved? Not in the way Douthat suggests.

I’m a big fan of New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, and I am really grateful for his voice at the old “gray lady.” So it is unusual that I would take issue with one of his columns. But over the weekend I read his column “Save the Mainline,” and I thought this one might be worth a little push-back.

I should stipulate, however, that I agree with much of his analysis about the decline of mainline churches and about the ideological rootlessness of modern liberalism. Without some unifying principle, liberalism really has descended into a kind of “illiberal cult of victimologies that burns heretics with vigor.” Douthat is right that “The wider experience of American politics suggests that as liberalism de-churches it struggles to find a nontransactional organizing principle, a persuasive language of the common good.”

So we are agreed on the decline of mainline churches and the ideological listlessness of liberalism. I disagree, however, that a return to the mainlines would be a good thing. Here are three reasons why I think it would be a bad thing.

(1) Liberal “Christianity” does not have the theological ballast to right the ship of political liberalism. Or to put it another way, it is not at all clear that mainline liberal churches are any less prone to becoming an “illiberal cult of victimologies” than their secular counterparts. Can you think of any recent mainline examples of intolerance? I can. I don’t think this spirit will offer anything to counteract the intolerance emerging on college campuses across this country. In many ways, the mainlines have already capitulated to the very errors that Douthat thinks they are prepared to correct. If history is any guide, secular liberals are more likely to influence mainline churches than mainline churches are to influence secular liberals.

(2) Mainline churches tend to be theologically liberal, and theological liberalism is not Christianity. Theological liberalism in 2017 looks a lot different than it did in 1923 when J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism was published. But what Machen said of theological liberalism then is no less true of theological liberalism now. It is a different religion that is completely incompatible with the faith once for delivered to the saints (Jude 3). In that sense, it is a kind of apostasy—which is an old timey word for “falling away” from Christianity. Mainline congregations tend to deny the authority of scripture, supernatural elements of the biblical storyline, and the sexual norms of scripture. Some of them even deny the incarnation and the bodily resurrection of Christ. These are not theological sidebars. They are at the essence of the faith. Any congregation that denies them is at best Christian in name only. I am grateful for individual congregations within mainline denominations that are holding the line on these issues. May their tribe increase. But they seem to be the exception rather than the norm, and an influx of unbelieving secular liberals is not going to help them in the struggle they are engaged in.

(3) Christianity teaches that apostate religion is bad for people, and as a Christian I cannot recommend something I know to be harmful to people. Moreover, I cannot recommend something that scripture explicitly tells me to warn people against. I just finished preaching a series on the pastoral epistles at my church. One of the key themes that Paul hammers home time and again is how dangerous false teaching is. It doesn’t lead to “good deeds”; it leads to judgement. Here is a sample of the kinds of things Paul says about false teachers and those who listen to them:

“They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:16).

“…keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:19-20).

“If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions…” (1 Tim. 6:3-4).

“O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge “– which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith” (1 Tim. 6:20-21).

“But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13).

As a Christian, I can’t see any reason for commending churches that are Christian in name only. Such churches lead people away from Jesus and not to him. How could we possibly commend them to anyone?

I would love for mainline churches to be “saved.” But that salvation will not come from an influx of secular liberals. Moreover, “salvation” should not be cast in terms of institutional viability but in terms of faithfulness to Christ and his gospel. In the latter sense, the only way for the mainline to be saved is for congregations and leaders to repent of essential departures from the Christian faith. Anything short of that would be window-dressing at best.

An Easter Hymn

O Jesus, Savior of my life,
My hope, my joy, my sacrifice,
I’ve searched and found no other one
Who loves me more than you have done.

So I denounce my lingering sin
Whose power You have broke within
My ever weak and faithless frame.
Its vigor’s crushed in Jesus name.

For your death did at once proclaim,
The Father’s glory and my shame.
And you did seize my cup of guilt
And drank all that the chalice spilled.

No condemnation now I dread
Because you went for me instead
To bear the curse and wrath and rage,
To pay the debt I would have paid.

Yet your work finished not with death,
Nor with your final murdered breath.
For death’s blows could not ever quell
The One whose life is in Himself.

Your passion broke forth full with life,
And foiled the adversary’s wiles.
You broke the chains, destroyed the sting
With which death had afflicted me.

O Savior, who died in my stead,
You firstborn from among the dead,
O Savior, you who saved my life,
Will take me whole to paradise.

So on this resurrection day
I lift my voice with all the saints
And sing with all my ransomed might
Of You, the Savior of my life!

Death, Be Not Proud

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

———-
Poem: “Death, Be Not Proud” (Holy Sonnet 10), by John Donne

The Miracle of Mercy

Some songs age like milk. And other songs age like wine. In the latter category is Steve Curtis Chapman’s 1994 tune titled “Miracle of Mercy.” It felt like a personal testimony when I first heard it in 1994, and it only feels more so today some 23 years later. And it was on my mind due to a sermon I preached this morning at my church—the last message in a series on the Pastoral Epistles.

Titus 3:1-15 is a text that—among other things—tells Christians how they are supposed to relate to their unbelieving neighbor. Paul commands us “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 1:2). But Paul is very realistic. He knows that loving our neighbors is often difficult when neighbors are unlovable.

Sometimes they make stupid decisions. Sometimes they pridefully defy what the boss told them to do. Sometimes they are off into all kinds of false religions and spiritualities. Sometimes they are so carried away by their lusts that you can hardly stand to be around them. And some of them are just plain cussed. They have bad attitudes and are selfish. And sometimes they even treat us shabbily.

Paul anticipates this difficulty and says this:

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another (Titus 3:3).

That means that when you look at your neighbor and you begin to feel a distance from them or heaven forbid perhaps some disdain, Paul is saying that you need to remember that you are not so different from them. Your sin predicament was not different from theirs. You and your neighbor are both descended from your Father Adam and are in deep need of grace. That means that you need to be humble. You don’t have any room to be looking down on or despising anyone.  We should be humiliated when we contemplate our own Christless fallenness.

God saved us and gave us all of his own goodness—not because we were good (because we weren’t), not because we deserved it (because we didn’t), not because we were lovable (we were not lovable, in fact verse 3 says that we were hatable!)—God saved us and graced us not because of anything worthy in us. He saved us because of “his own mercy” toward us. God loved us and cared for us because of his own character and virtue, not because of ours.

And that’s why I shared “Miracle of Mercy” with the congregation this morning and why I am sharing it with you now. It’s a statement that acknowledges the humiliation that we should all feel about our own sin. And with that, it’s a statement of awe and wonder that God has been so merciful to us in spite of ourselves. And that mercy is something we should never get over.


“Miracle Of Mercy”

If the truth was known and a light was shown
On every hidden part of my soul
Most would turn away, shake their head and say
he still has such a long way to go
If the truth was know you’d see that the only good in me
Is Jesus, oh it’s Jesus

If the walls could speak of the times I’ve been weak
When everybody thought I was strong
Could I show my face if it weren’t for the grace
Of the one who’s known the truth all along
If the walls could speak they’d say that my only hope is the grace
Of Jesus, the grace of Jesus

But, oh the goodness and the grace in Him
He takes it all and makes it mine and causes his light in me to shine
And he loves me with a love that never ends
Just as I am not as I do
Could this be real, could this be true
This could only be a miracle
This could only be the miracle of mercy


Sermon: “How Grace Changes Us” (Titus 3:1–15)

Ten thoughts about the “Billy Graham Rule”

This is by no means everything that can or should be said about the so-called “Billy Graham Rule.” (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this.) Nevertheless, here are ten brief reflections on this particular discipline:

1. We must take sexual holiness seriously because God takes sexual holiness seriously. To reject God’s purpose of holiness in our lives is to reject God altogether. For this reason, we must be blood-earnest about holiness.

  • “Without holiness, no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
  • “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality… Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thess. 4:3).
  • “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints… For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph. 5:3-5).

2. The Bible commands us not only to avoid sexual immorality but to avoid situations in which we know that we are vulnerable to temptation.

  • “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).
  • “Flee youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22).
  • “Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14).

3. Jesus commands us to consider radical (even countercultural) measures in our pursuit of sexual holiness. Failure to do so could lead to judgment.

  • “And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).

4. It is good and wise to adopt habits and behaviors that promote good character and a good reputation.

5. It is good and wise to devise strategies for avoiding sexual immorality. Biblical wisdom teaches us to identify temptations to sexual sin and to make plans to avoid them.

  • “Keep your way far from her, And do not go near the door of her house” (Proverbs 5:8).
  • “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, Do not stray into her paths” (Proverbs 7:25).

    Please note that these texts from Proverbs are not teaching that all women are temptresses. Obviously, all of them are not (see Proverbs 31). These texts are simply a warning about women who are. Even so, the text is not singling out such temptresses as the sole instigators of sexual immorality in the world. The key thing to remember is that the Proverbs are written from a father to a Son. So the exhortations are the kinds of things that a father would say to a son about sexual purity. And this includes warnings about the kinds of women to avoid. If it were written from a mother to a daughter, it would include warnings about the kinds of men to avoid. By implication, the text does tell women about the kind of men they need to avoid. In that sense, the principles apply to all of us, male or female. All of us—male and female—need to strategize to avoid enticements to sexual immorality.

6. We must never confuse our wise strategies for holiness with actual holiness.

  • “But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15:9).

7. Nevertheless, these strategies (such as “The Billy Graham Rule”) are only useful if they are pursued with some amount of consistency and rigor.

  • “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27).

8. When practicing the “Billy Graham Rule,” strategize arrangements and meetings to avoid awkward demurrals. Perhaps they cannot always be avoided, but it is worth trying. Otherwise, you risk unnecessary offense against well-meaning, unsuspecting friends and colleagues.

  • “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people” (Romans 12:18).

9. Beware of broadcasting your invocation of “The Billy Graham Rule.” If you do broadcast it, you risk the unnecessary offense mentioned above. You may also run afoul of Jesus’ admonition:

  • “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).

    Remember that the rigor of your strategies is a reflection mainly of the sinfulness of your own heart, not of the hearts of each and every person affected by your rule. Therefore you should have some humility (and perhaps even some healthy embarrassment) about the measures you have to take to rein your own problems in.

10. Forebear with your brothers and sisters who are making a good-faith effort to pursue holiness and to protect their marriages. You may not agree with the rigor with which some pursue their strategies for holiness. And we all need to be open to wise correction as we pursue these things. In any case, try to see the best in the good-faith efforts of those who are trying to pursue holiness.

  • “Forebear one another, and forgive each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” (Colossians 3:13).
  • “Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5).

Why our churches need more gray hair

In Titus 2:2, Paul writes to Titus about the older men in his congregation:

“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.” –Titus 2:2

These older men are not to be confused with those who hold the office of elder (cf. 1:5). The “older men” are those who literally have advanced age. Paul says that these men must have several exemplary characteristics.

“Sober-minded” translates a term that means “very moderate in the drinking of an alcoholic beverage” (BDAG). Its figurative extension here means “be free fr. every form of mental and spiritual ‘drunkenness’, fr. excess, passion, rashness, confusion” (BDAG). It is a call to be “restrained in conduct, self-controlled, level-headed” (BDAG).

“Dignified” means “worthy of respect/honor, noble, dignified, serious” (BDAG). The dignified person is so self-possessed and in control of his temper and fears that he elicits admiration from those who know him.

“Self-controlled” indicates someone who is “thoughtful, self-controlled” (BDAG). In Aristotle’s ethics, the term indicates “avoidance of extremes and careful consideration for responsible action” (Aristot., EN 3, 15; BDAG). For Aristotle, the “self-controlled” person “is intent on the what, the how, and the when of doing what should be done.”

“Sound” means to be “healthy” or free from sickness. The figurative extension of that meaning here is “correct” or free from error. So “sound” in faith, love, and endurance means that older men have to believe in the right way, love in the right way, and endure in the right way.

In sum, Paul says that older men must be those who do not panic in the face of a challenge. They do not get angry when provoked. They do not fear in the face of a threat. The older men are to be as solid as an oak. They are to be the kind of men to whom people look when something is broken and no one knows how to fix it. They are the kind of men who are sought out for their wisdom and ability to speak truth into very difficult situations.

They are exemplary in faith and in love for wife and children and church and neighbor. They face trials with perseverance and courage. They are the kind of men that you want your son to grow up and be like.

Churches desperately need their older men to exemplify being sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Churches need an army of laymen who believe well, love well, and suffer well. And churches need them because these older men are the pace-setters for the rest of the church. It is not an accident that Paul begins with the older men. He begins with them because he intends for the old guys to be leading out in these things in the church and in their homes.

Proverbs 20:29 says that “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.” This verse means that young men are not noted for their great and profound wisdom into life. The main contribution of young men is their ability to serve others with their physical strength and vigor. That means that the young men ought to be trying to out-serve one another in ways that involve their physical ability. When someone needs help moving, they show up. When there is a workday at the church, the young men need to be there with their able-bodied eagerness.

But as the years accumulate strength diminishes. And as strength diminishes, guess what begins to accumulate? Experience and wisdom. And gray hair represents the accumulation of wisdom and sensibleness about life and about what needs to be done. And this is an old man’s splendor and contribution to his neighbor. And it is supposed to be his contribution to the body of Christ. The church needs her older men to be what God has called them to be. They should live life in such a way that evokes admiration and respect. They do not need to be great orators. They do not need to write books on theology. They simply need to be godly. They need to be able to pour themselves out to their family and others who need their steadiness and wisdom.

The world’s point of view on the relationship between gray hair and wisdom is upside down. The world absolutely idolizes youth. So much so, that the order of the day is to suppress the appearance of age—to try to stay and look as young as you can for as long as you can because the essence of the good life is for those who are youthful, vigorous, and beautiful. And the world caters to the tastes and opinions of the young because they are the most coveted consumer demographic.

The world puts the old people on the shelf and the young people on the podium. But it really should be the other way around. Every believer should aspire to the crown of splendor—to the honor that is due to those who have learned to live well and faithfully to what God has called them. So this word to the old, therefore, is a word to all of us.

Did Jesus ever experience doubt?

Pete Wehner wrote a moving meditation on suffering and the Christian life for The New York Times on Saturday titled “After Great Pain, Where Is God?” After sharing some gut-wrenching stories of suffering in the lives of his friends and loved ones, he asks the question: “So what, then, does Christianity have to offer in the midst of hardships and heartache?”

Wehner says that while Christianity doesn’t offer answers in the moment of suffering, it does offer consolation. Wehner points to C. S. Lewis and to Jesus himself as examples of sufferers who wrestled with doubt and uncertainty. Their examples offer consolation to all sufferers who find themselves plagued with doubt and uncertainty about God and his goodness. Wehner writes:

Perhaps because my own faith journey has at times been characterized by questions and uncertainty, I found the fact that the 20th-century’s greatest Christian apologist would give voice to his doubts reassuring. And Lewis was hardly alone in expressing doubts. Jesus himself, crucified and near death, gave voice to the question many people overwhelmed by pain ask: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus’ question, like ours, was not answered in the moment. Even he was forced to confront doubt. But his agonized uncertainty was not evidence of faithlessness; it was a sign of his humanity.

There is much good in what Wehner writes, and I appreciate his call for compassion and consolation for those who suffer. Certainly, the Christian faith offers comfort to those who despair and grieve. Nevertheless, offering Jesus as an example of “doubt” and “uncertainty” actually distorts the biblical depiction of Christ’s suffering. It also diminishes the consolation that Christ offers to sufferers. Christ’s suffering is a consolation to us not because he partakes of our same sinful humanity but because he remained steadfast so that he could redeem our sinful humanity. His faithfulness is our hope, not his faltering (which he never in fact did).

In the Bible, doubt and fear are sins. In fact, Jesus Himself describes doubt as the opposite of faith (Matt. 14:31; 21:21; Mark 11:23). Jesus’ half brother James agrees:

James 1:6-8 The one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

To say that Jesus had doubts is to make him into a transgressor. But that is not at all the biblical depiction of Jesus. Yes, Jesus can sympathize with all of our weaknesses and, yes, he was tempted in all things as we are. But He did it without sin! (Heb. 4:15)

The human condition is weak and faltering. Sometimes even the best of us experience doubt and waver in our faith. And the Bible tells us to have mercy on brothers and sisters who experience such doubt: “Be merciful to those who doubt” (Jude 1:22). But this does not mean that doubt is a virtue. It means that doubt is an evidence of our sinful brokenness from which we need redemption.

What was amazing and spectacular about Jesus’ suffering is that he never doubted His Father, and he never feared man. “When he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23). Not only that, the Bible says that Jesus was motivated by joy to endure the cross:

Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus knew how awful the crucifixion would be before it happened (Matt. 16:21). There’s a reason that He prayed, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matt. 26:39). The anguish of the cross was real, and He knew it. Nevertheless, the Bible teaches that Jesus’ vision never stalled-out on death. Jesus saw right through the cross to the resurrection on the other side. You and I may fear death, but Jesus never did. You and I may doubt God’s purposes in suffering, but Jesus never did. Ever! What was definitive for Jesus was the joy set before Him, not death. Not doubt.

Imagine that. Jesus knew that they would tear His skin from His body, that they would nail Him to a post, and that He would asphyxiate while enduring cruel pain. He knew that He would be betrayed and forsaken by His best friends. He even knew that the cup of God’s wrath would be poured out on Him in full (Isaiah 53:10; Matt. 27:46). Yet “for the joy set before him, he endured the cross.” He never feared man or doubted God. He was all courage and all love all the time. If you worship the Jesus of the Bible, that is the Savior that you worship.

The model that Jesus gives us is not one of doubts and fears like our own. The model that He gives us is perfection. For that reason, we should give no quarter to the doubts and fears that we experience. We should in no way valorize them. Rather, we should pray for mercy and trust in the God who raises the dead. That is what Jesus modelled for us. And that is what Jesus died to enable us to do (Titus 2:14).

So let’s be jealous for what Jesus accomplished for us. He was tempted in every way as we are, yet He was without sin! He was obedient to His Father, even to the point of death on a bloody cross (Phil. 2:8). He never gave up, never lost heart, never flagged in zeal. And neither must we. We can take heart. Where you and I have failed, Jesus has overcome. Indeed Jesus has overcome the world—even our doubts (John 16:33).



POSTSCRIPT: The main Greek verb translated as “doubt” in the New Testament is diakrino. According to the standard lexicon of New Testament Greek, the word means “to be uncertain, be at odds w. oneself, doubt, waver” (BDAG). The term has this meaning in a number of different texts including Matthew 21:21; Mark 11:23; Luke 11:38; Acts 10:20; Romans 4:20; 14:23; James 1:6; 2:4; Jude 22. It is often rendered in English translation as “doubt.”

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the verb “doubt” as follows:

v.
doubt·ed, doubt·ing, doubtsv.tr.
    1. To be undecided or skeptical about: began to doubt some accepted doctrines.
    2. To tend to disbelieve; distrust: doubts politicians when they make sweeping statements.
    3. To regard as unlikely: I doubt that we’ll arrive on time.
    4. Archaic To suspect; fear.

v.intr.
To be undecided or skeptical.

Was Jesus ever “undecided” or “skeptical” about his Father? Did Jesus ever “disbelieve” or “distrust” his Father? Did Jesus ever regard his Father’s promises as “unlikely”? To answer any one of these questions with a “yes” is to make Jesus out to be a transgressor. That is why it is very important to get this terminology correct.

When it comes to the morality of doubt, the key issue is doubt’s object. It is one thing to doubt oneself or to doubt another human being. It is quite another thing to doubt God. And it is the latter that the New Testament treats as sinful and that Jesus never experienced.

Is the religious left really a “political force”?

Reuters has a report out today about how President Trump has activated the religious left. Here’s the gist of it:

“The election of Trump has been a clarion call to progressives in the Protestant and Catholic churches in America to move out of a place of primarily professing progressive policies to really taking action,” [Reverend Serene Jones] said.

Although not as powerful as the religious right, which has been credited with helping elect Republican presidents and boasts well-known leaders such as Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson, the “religious left” is now slowly coming together as a force in U.S. politics.

This disparate group, traditionally seen as lacking clout, has been propelled into political activism by Trump’s policies on immigration, healthcare and social welfare, according to clergy members, activists and academics. A key test will be how well it will be able to translate its mobilization into votes in the 2018 midterm congressional elections.

“It’s one of the dirty little secrets of American politics that there has been a religious left all along and it just hasn’t done a good job of organizing,” said J. Patrick Hornbeck II, chairman of the theology department at Fordham University, a Jesuit school in New York.

“It has taken a crisis, or perceived crisis, like Trump’s election to cause folks on the religious left to really own their religion in the public square,” Hornbeck said.

A couple comments here:

1. Reverend Jones says that the religious left needs to move from merely “professing” progressivism to “really taking action.” But nowhere does she or any other person in the article talk about a need for the religious left to “profess” the faith once for all given to the saints nor to act on the dictates of that faith. Nowhere in this article is Jesus, the cross, the gospel, or God even mentioned. If all I knew about the religious left were this article I’d have to ask in what sense it is “religious” at all. This article describes a very secular movement, if it even is that. And that brings me to my next point.

2. The article contends that the religious left—although not as influential as the religious right—really is beginning to gain some steam. It has been catalyzed, the article claims, by the presidency of Donald Trump. The religious left has been here all along, it just needed better organization. It is this latter point that is highly disputable. The mainline denominations are the cradle of the religious left, and the mainlines have been in a membership freefall for decades. They are declining in influence because they are declining in members. Theological liberalism eviscerates biblical Christianity. It is a form of godliness without its power (1 Timothy 3:5). Of course they are declining. Baptized secularism offers nothing more than unbaptized secularism. It is no surprise that secular people have decided that they don’t need to give up their Sunday mornings in order to have the baptized version. More “organization” is not going to fix the problem at the heart of the religious left—the fact that it is no longer Christian in any meaningful sense.

Princeton Seminary rescinds award to Tim Keller: What does it mean?

Princeton Theological Seminary was recently embroiled in controversy over its decision to give the Kuyper Award to Pastor Tim Keller. The award is supposed to go to a “scholar or community leader whose outstanding contribution to their chosen sphere reflects the ideas and values characteristic of the Neo-Calvinist vision of religious engagement in matters of social, political and cultural significance” (source).

As an accomplished pastor and missiologist, Keller certainly meets that description. So why the controversy? Members of the Princeton Seminary community and constituency believe that Keller has disqualified himself from receiving this award. So earlier today under pressure from these groups, the President of Princeton Seminary rescinded the award. Here’s how the president explained his decision: Continue Reading →

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