Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Interview: My Larry Nassar Testimony Went Viral. But There’s More to the Gospel Than Forgiveness.

Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander spent years discovering God's perspective on sexual abuse. Then her advocacy for survivors cost her her church.

Sixteen years after Larry Nassar first sexually abused her, Rachael Denhollander decided to publicly reveal that she had been one of the many victims of the USA Gymnastics team doctor. The former gymnast, who was a 15-year-old homeschooler when she says Nassar started abusing her, became the first to publicly make allegations against the respected Michigan State University faculty member.

Last week, Denhollander became the last of more than 150 survivors—all women and almost entirely former gymnasts—to share her impact statement in court with Nassar, who was convicted of seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual contact last fall and sentenced to up to 175 years in prison last week.

“I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me—though I extend that to you as well,” she said. (Read her whole impact statement.)

Denhollander’s decision to invoke her faith at Nassar’s sentencing drew widespread attention in national and Christian media. But in her statement, the lawyer and mother of three also told the courtroom that speaking out for sexual assault victims “cost me my church and our closest friends.”

“Three weeks before my police report I was left alone and isolated,” she said.

In an interview with Christianity Today, Denhollander shared more details about her break with her church community, how poor theology causes many churches to poorly care for sex abuse victims, how she found God’s perspective on sexual abuse in Scripture, and about her convictions that forgiveness and justice are both biblical and must go hand in hand. ...

Continue reading...


Dear 'Whole-Life' Progressive Evangelicals, Did You Forget 'Pro-Life’ and the Unborn?

Progressive evangelicals must speak into the abortion debate.

On Monday, the Senate voted on a bill—the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act—that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The ballots were cast and counted and ended in a vote of 51-46—an insufficient tally to end the Democratic filibuster for which 60 votes are required.

Pro-lifers across the country watched as their elected officials failed to acknowledge the reality that what grows inside a mother’s womb is life. At 20 weeks it should be obvious to all, the infant is no unrecognizable jumble of tissue; it is a baby. It has fingers, toes, ears, and all the normal features. It wakes, sleeps, and, as this bill tried to tell us, it also feels pain.

Those key receptors are often developed as early as eight weeks after conception.

Here’s the thing, though: if our nation really cared about the sanctity of life, we wouldn’t need to know that these infants have nerve development in order to offer them the most basic protections. From a Christian perspective, life matters not because of what it can do or accomplish at a particular stage, but because of an individual’s personhood—his or her status as a being created in the image of God.

What Is ‘Pro-Life’ Anyways?

In recent years, conversations in the evangelical community surrounding the meaning of the term ‘pro-life’ have significantly broadened. This, in most cases, is done at the hands of more progressive evangelical Christians who find the original motivations of the pro-life agenda to be ‘cliché’ or, rather, too overtly conservative.

Most mainline protestants would be pro-choice, so this ‘broadening’ was more of an evangelical (and perhaps Catholic) experience. ...

Continue reading...


Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Understanding Korean-U.S. Relations through a Faith Lens [Theology for Life]

Dr. Kim teaches history at Wheaton College.

Understanding Korean-U.S. Relations through a Faith Lens

In this episode of Theology for Life, Ed and Lynn talk to Dr. Hanmee Kim about North and South Korea—the history and current reality. What does this mean for Christians today? As we look at history, what do nation-states relationships and diplomatic relations teach us about what’s going in our world today? What is the role of our Christian faith in light of today’s realities? How do we respond to the conflict in the Korean Peninsula today?

Dr. Hanmee Kim is Assistant Professor of History at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL.

Dr. Lynn Cohick is professor of New Testament at Wheaton College.

Dr. Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.

Continue reading...


Three European Alliances Warn Evangelical-Catholic Unity Is Going Too Far

World Evangelical Alliance explains why Italy, Spain, and Malta leaders shouldn’t fear that global group has fallen for the ‘Francis effect.’

During last year’s 500th anniversary of the Reformation, many groups examined or asked: Is it over?

The loudest “no” has come from the conservative Protestants closest to Rome.

Last month, the national evangelical alliances of Italy, Spain, and Malta—all members of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA)—wrote an 8-page open letter charging their parent organization with “moving away from its historic position” of holding the line against Catholic and liberal Protestant theology.

“In recent years we have sensed that the leadership of WEA has moved away from the outlined historic position of the Alliance on unity by endorsing a more ‘ecumenical’ attitude,” the three alliances stated in December. “Unity has become a blurred term to refer to any relationship even beyond the principles that have always characterized evangelicals. Leaders have become less cautious in talking about unity with the Catholic Church as such and have tended to bypass the historic boundaries.”

The alliances stated the result has been “undiscerning, wrong-headed, and emotionally-driven statements on Popes and ecumenical activities” that have “caused embarrassment in our constituencies.”

In fact, the national evangelical alliances of Italy, Spain, France, and Poland threw up a red flag to the WEA as early as October 2013, several months after Pope Francis’ election excited many evangelicals worldwide.

“We are concerned with some totally uncritical assessments that we are reading and that are coming from some provinces of the evangelical world,” the four alliances stated (excerpted in the December 2017 open letter). Francis uses language like “personal ...

Continue reading...


Reviewing Reviews

Being an author, reviews are really important to me. I hate bad reviews for obvious reasons. However, you can’t really argue with justified opinions and if someone really thinks something I’ve done is bad, and they justify their opinion, then fair cop. As you know, I have recently released and edited an anthology of Patheos […]


The Enneagram for Pastors

9 different ways pastors look at the world, and what it might mean for your ministry.

My husband, Joe, is a pastor. In other words, he is teacher, public speaker, counselor, children’s story teller, youth leader, HR director, master of ceremonies, facilities coordinator, volunteer coordinator, mission trip coordinator, hospital chaplain, creative designer, office equipment technician, mediator, fundraiser, finance officer, funeral director, father, and grandfather.

Does he excel at every one of those tasks? How could anyone? He thrives in some parts of the ministry, and in other areas he merely gets by. For 2,000 years, men and women have tried to discern a call and find their way in the ministry, only to find a world of expectations that cannot be met.

Through his 40-plus years of pastoral ministry, Joe has found a number of tools to manage the range of expectations that come with ministry. None have been as helpful to him as the Enneagram. The Enneagram is a tool that helps us identify ourselves as belonging to one of nine personality types. Those types aren’t so much about what we do, as they are about our motivation for doing the things we do.

The Enneagram explains the differences in those who have filled the pews in the churches we were appointed to serve. It has helped us become aware of how we all see the world differently, how we respond differently to what we see, and the specific steps we can take to become more like Christ.

Of course, like any self-assessment tool or personality test, there is a danger in making the Enneagram more than it is. It is simply one helpful tool as we journey toward understanding who we are, who God is, and who we are in relation to God. By itself, the Enneagram doesn’t have much to offer, but when combined with prayer, Bible study, and other spiritual ...

Continue reading...


How Cecile Richards Strengthened the Pro-Life Movement

The outgoing Planned Parenthood president’s legacy can be felt on the other side of the abortion debate.

After leading Planned Parenthood for over a decade, Cecile Richards has built a legacy as one of the organization’s most effective leaders after rallying millions of new supporters to the issue of “reproductive rights.”

In doing so, she also intensified the pro-life cause among those who oppose her organization—and the broader pro-choice movement—for providing and endorsing abortion.

As evangelical sociologist (and CT board member) Michael Lindsay once wrote in 2008, “Political movements like the Religious Right don't need a ‘god’ to succeed, but they do need a devil. Nothing builds allegiances among a coalition like a common enemy.”

Richards has proven divisive; a line in a New York Times article about her retirement states that, “Depending on whom you ask, the elegant 60-year-old is a national ‘hero’ or a ‘deeply evil woman’ and ‘mass murderer.’”

The announcement of her retirement came days after the annual March for Life and the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, two of the most popular occasions for pro-life demonstrations.

“Planned Parenthood has never been as slick and as politically savvy as it has been under the reign of Cecile Richards. That has served Planned Parenthood well, but in some ways it has served the pro-life movement well, too,” said Karen Swallow Prior, a Liberty University professor of English who has written about her own history of abortion activism.

“Richards helped turn what might once have been seen as a beleaguered public service agency into an easy target for the anti-institutional idealism of a younger generation of pro-lifers.”

As Richards led Planned Parenthood through unprecedented ...

Continue reading...


I Sent My Kids to a ‘Better School.’ But Was It the Right Choice?

As a parent, I feel caught between the needs of my children and the needs of my neighbors.

My three kids attend a public school we love. Its year-round calendar is a working parent’s dream. Our oldest is hooked by coding club. Mrs. Brown wows my middle child twice a week when she pulls out the paint and sing-along songs in the arts room. Preschoolers from a range of income levels and backgrounds hang up their coats every morning with my youngest.

We selected this school by applying for open slots through the area’s Schools of Choice program. We chose it over the elementary school a five-minute walk away from our front door. We chose it over magnet schools in our resident school district. And we chose to drive our kids to their school in the suburbs every day.

“School choice” is a generic term for a range of options, from open-enrollment or voucher programs to charter schools, virtual schools, magnet schools, or some hybrid of any of these. School choice season has already begun around the country. Already, I’m seeing Facebook ads for schools as well as billboards, postcards, and open house invitations.

It’s in the news, too. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has advocated for choice for decades— especially in our home state of Michigan—and now choice advocates have won a victory with the tax bill. A provision allows parents to use a 529 savings account to pay for private K–12 schools, tax-free.

School choice promises to deliver freedom and opportunity. DeVos’s goal, as stated on her website, is to see families “being released from their zip codes.” Our family is one of those. And yet: School choice has not given our family freedom.

Every few months my husband and I wonder: Did we give Lansing public schools a fair try before we applied for the suburban ...

Continue reading...