Wednesday, 28 February 2018

How Evangelical Biblical Scholars Treat Scripture

We agree on the “divine inspiration, integrity, and authority of the Bible.” But there's much more to our hermeneutic.

Wheaton College hosted a colloquium on the book of Deuteronomy at in 2015, and we recently published those papers as a book. As we put it together, we hit a problem that has come up in other contexts: Do we call the contributors evangelicals?

Continental Europeans (of which we had several) distinguish evangelisch, which means “Protestant,” from evangelical, which connotes hard-right fundamentalist. The latter may correlate with the way the North American media and politicos view “evangelicals,” but few, if any, at the table, are comfortable with that position—including the North Americans.

The contributors reflect a broad spectrum of theological and hermeneutical perspectives within evangelicalism, and all subscribe to the statement on Scripture that unites the fellows of the Institute for Biblical Research: belief in “the unique divine inspiration, integrity, and authority of the Bible.” But this statement is very general, neither declaring this to be a distinctly evangelical stance, nor prescribing or delimiting what sorts of hermeneutical approaches are deemed to fall within the label.

The search for a new label to replace evangelical is difficult. So we contented ourselves with describing our hermeneutic, rather than labeling it. Still, identifying the marks of a distinctly evangelical hermeneutic is precarious business, because few represent the paradigm described completely. However, we must begin somewhere.

First, evangelical biblical scholars treat the object of their study as Scripture, not merely as a literary artifact in a museum that may be dispassionately analyzed. Among other entailments, this means that we stand before the text with reverence and awe, and seek to draw ...

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Network Leaders & Hero Makers

Network leaders are distinct from other leaders in their motives, methods, and measurement of success.

The ‘Shalane Effect’

For the first time in 40 years, an American woman won the 2017 New York City Marathon! Shalane Flanagan crossed the finish line of the 26.2-mile race in a blistering time of 2 hours 26 minutes. Running experts are now calling her, “The greatest American distance runner.” But the New York Times explains that Flanagan has an achievement that’s even greater than winning the New York City Marathon:

“…perhaps Flanagan’s bigger accomplishment lies in nurturing and promoting the rising talent around her, a rare quality in the cutthroat world of elite sports. Every single one of her training partners — 11 women in total — has made it to the Olympics while training with her, an extraordinary feat. Call it the ‘Shalane Effect’: You serve as a rocket booster for the careers of the women who work alongside you, while catapulting forward yourself. Shalane has pioneered a new brand of ‘team mom’ to these young up-and-comers, with the confidence not to tear others down to protect her place in the hierarchy.”

Shalane is not just a great runner; she is a great runner that makes other runners around her great! In a similar fashion, a network leader is a unique leader amongst all kinds of leaders. A network leader is not just a great leader, but also a great leader that makes other leaders around them great.

The ‘Network Effect’

Network leaders are a new and important kind of leader in the church today. They lead their local church to grow and multiply, but they also lead other church leaders across a region or affinity to grow also and multiply. Jon Ferguson is perfect example of a network leader.

Over the years, Jon has proven ...

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Evangelicals Still Want to Evangelize Jews, But Not for the Same Reasons

Survey finds sharing the gospel with God’s “chosen people” is less tied to the end times.

The overwhelming majority of evangelical believers in the US today still see the importance of sharing the gospel with the Jewish community. But they’re less likely to agree on the relationship between Jewish evangelism and the end times, which once was a significant motivator of such outreach.

In a survey released today at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, LifeWay Research found that 87 percent of Americans with evangelical beliefs agree that “sharing the gospel with Jewish people is important,” with just 3 percent disagreeing and 11 percent unsure [infographic below].

“According to the Great Commission, Jews need the gospel as much as everybody else and therefore should not be excluded from evangelism,” said Tuvya Zaretsky, president of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE) and a longtime leader with Jews for Jesus.

As CT previously examined, the Lausanne Movement and the World Evangelical Alliance in 1989 endorsed the call to evangelize to Jewish people, rather than supporting a “two covenant” theology that views God as having his own covenant with the Jews, who therefore do not need to claim Christ. Many denominations agree, including the Southern Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

“The gospel is the only hope of salvation for all people, first proclaimed among the Jewish people, and nothing’s changed about that,” said Zaretsky, a Messanic Jew who came to faith in 1970.

“When Jesus spoke the words recorded in John 14:6—‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’—he was speaking ...

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Preparing for Rev. Billy Graham’s Memorial Service, and Reflecting on His Love for Our Hurting World

Truly effective evangelism is a matter of friendship, mentorship, and unconditional love.

Nearly a week after Rev. Billy Graham’s death, so many around our world are still mourning. Closed-casket viewings will take place in Graham’s childhood home on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library where the Billy Graham Association is expecting long lines and many visitors. These public viewings will be followed by a funeral service this Friday in Washington, D.C.

Before the invitation-only service, though, Rev. Graham’s body will lie in repose in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday and Thursday. It’s important to note that this privilege is regularly given to U.S. presidents, members of Congress, Supreme Court judges, and elite military personnel; rarely, though, are citizens outside these particular realms of public service given such an honor.

Looking at the size and scale of these proceedings, it becomes clear that Rev. Billy Graham wasn’t just beloved by some small ground of fundamentalist followers. You don’t have to be a Bible-thumper, church-goer, or even call yourself a Christian to love and respect this man.

Former President George H.W. Bush, reflecting on Graham’s legacy, said:

His [Graham’s] faith in Christ and his totally honest evangelical spirit inspired people across the country and around the world. I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man.

President Bush is right. Rev. Graham was a man who appealed to all people—believers and unbelievers—because of his exemplary character. There is much that we, the church, can learn from his leadership and legacy of outreach even today in our 21st century context.

Cultural Trends

Newsflash: we live in a broken world. The realities of human ...

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‘Queen Esther Inspired Me to Speak Up,’ Says Nassar Victim

A biblical role model prompted Larissa Boyce to stand against her abuser. Her church supports her story.

Two decades before the public learned of Larry Nassar’s abuse against several hundred gymnasts, 16-year-old Larissa Boyce made the first attempt to report him. Her coach at Michigan State University (MSU), who was also a friend of Nassar, quashed her claims. The unsympathetic coach interrogated Boyce, leading her to think she misunderstood proper medical treatment for her back injury.

“I told somebody. I told an adult,” Boyce said. “I told Michigan State University back in 1997. Instead of being protected, I was humiliated. I was in trouble and brainwashed into believing I was the problem.”

Boyce said Nassar’s abuse began after the first two treatment visits, once her parents stopped coming with her, and lasted four years. During the appointment following her effort to report him, she received harsher abuse than before. “I didn’t know what to do. I was in shock,” Boyce said.

She sat in her car after the visit, crumpled up her checkout sheet, threw it in the back of the car, and asked herself, “What the heck just happened?” As a teen, Boyce learned to ignore it, cope, and eventually suppress what happened during those visits, since she had been told that it was okay.

Once Rachael Denhollander spoke out against Nassar in 2016, Boyce was still conditioned to defend him. She thought Denhollander was mistaken. Encouraged to contact lawyers but unable to evoke most details of her “treatments,” Boyce resolved to return to her gymnastics training arena, Jenison Fieldhouse at MSU. She walked around trying to remember specifics, which flooded back into her mind after seeing her former coach’s office.

That visit was the turning point for Boyce to go public ...

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Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Holy Sepulchre Will Reopen After Jerusalem Suspends Church Tax Grab

Leader of Christian-Jewish reconciliation ministry explains the standoff.

Israel suspended a controversial tax plan and property legislation today in response to the unprecedented Christian decision on Sunday to close the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat agreed to form a government committee to “formulate a solution” and negotiate with church officials.

In response, the leaders of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian clergy will reopen the church on Wednesday, reports the Associated Press.

Barkat had stated that Jerusalem’s churches owed more than $180 million in taxes on church-owned commercial properties, and the municipality had frozen church accounts.

Meanwhile, legislation advancing in the Knesset had threatened to complicate the churches’ ability to sell their properties.

Now suspended, these actions were contrary to the historic agreement between churches and the various civil authorities which ruled Jerusalem, said Bishop Sani Azar.

His Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land closed its Church of the Redeemer for one day in solidarity, pending consultations with sister churches in Jerusalem.

“All the churches are united, so this shows something is very wrong,” said Salim Munayer, head of the Musalaha reconciliation ministry in Jerusalem.

“It is an unbelievable step, though Christians in the West have a hard time understanding.”

Christian denominations have long competed for control of religious property in the Holy Land.

One particular example rests in the “immovable ladder” outside a window in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Present since the 18th century, an agreement between the churches states that no property may be rearranged without ...

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Why Gen Z’s Call for ‘Safe Spaces’ Is Good News for Churches

New expectations may shift youth group conversations, but Christ still provides the answer.

One of the defining characteristics for today’s teens—who have grown up in a constantly connected, socially evolving world—is their desire for “safe spaces,” settings where they can expect inclusivity without fear of judgment.

In recent weeks, in the wake of the latest school shooting, we’ve also seen this generation speaking out for literal safe spaces.

The youth movement against gun violence reflects broader desires for safety and risk aversion among Generation Z—some of the characteristics making them distinct from even the millennials of the previous decade.

This aspect of the Gen Z worldview often gets maligned by older generations, who sometimes dismiss safe spaces and trigger warnings as a result of an oversensitive “snowflake mentality.” However, youth leaders increasingly see the motivations beneath these values—care for others and compassion to understand others’ experiences—as significant for Christian ministry.

News coverage around the Parkland, Florida, shooting has shown us a new dimension to America’s youngest generation. Instead of viewing students through the lens of their social media dependency or pop culture proclivities, we saw them making headlines for challenging lawmakers on gun policy, speaking out on issues that matter to them, and rallying peers to their cause. (True to their stereotypes, Snapchat and other social media have played a significant role in this wave of activism.)

The current attention drawn to America’s youth gives church leaders an opportunity to better understand their motivations, fear, and convictions and prepare to address relevant issues in youth ministry settings as well.

“Generation Z values ...

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