Thursday, 31 May 2018

American Bible Society Requires Employees to Follow Its Evangelical Shift

Brand-new covenant mandates biblical beliefs and behaviors.

Plenty of Christian organizations require employees to sign a statement of faith. For over 200 years, the American Bible Society (ABS) wasn’t one of them.

But now the Philadelphia-based ministry plans to implement an “affirmation of biblical community” next year, requiring all employees to uphold basic Christian beliefs and the authority of Scripture, as well as committing to activities such as church involvement and refraining from sex outside of traditional marriage.

“This is a newsworthy story because the society, since its founding in 1816, has never had a doctrinal statement for employees. In fact, the American Bible Society was built on the idea that the Bible should be distributed ‘without note or comment,’” wrote historian John Fea.

The new affirmation doesn’t signal a brand-new direction for ABS, but reflects a decades-long shift from ecumenical to evangelical, which dates back to changes in the ’90s, chronicled in Fea’s bookThe Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society.

“The organization now feels comfortable enough in its evangelical identity to make such a formal statement of its beliefs,” which includes some evangelical parlance but would easily be embraced by orthodox Christians across traditions, Fea told CT. “The gay employees and the more ecumenical Christians who worked for the ABS should have seen this coming.”

Roy Peterson, a Bible translation expert who took over as ABS president in 2014, stated the covenant may change its staff makeup—Religion News Service reports that already 9 of 200 staff members have quit ahead of the January 2019 transition—but won’t change the nature of their work.

“To ...

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Preacher Clarification: Execute Gays “Humanely”

Well, that’s okay, then… Why am I not surprised? Dead State reports: Matt Powell is a young Christian preacher with a little over 350 YouTube subscribers who is trying to create a following for himself. The problem is that whenever his videos get any sort of attention, it’s because he’s saying incredibly stupid or reprehensible things. Earlier this month, […]


Arguments Against (Christian) Heaven

I have written a number of posts recently on the issues concerning creating heaven from scratch and will now try to sum up my many thoughts as succinctly as possible here. The issue is that the idea of heaven is so ingrained in popular culture that it seems so plausible, and more powerfully, attractive. But […]


Fleming Rutledge: Why Being ‘Spiritual’ Is Never Enough

Americans increasingly identify as “spiritual but not religious.” Radical faith goes beyond both.

We hear a good deal today about “the triumph of the human spirit.” Books and movies about disasters are frequently marketed as triumphs of the human spirit, even though they often portray examples of human depravity. This emphasis on the human spirit first impressed itself upon me when, 32 years ago, our family was undergoing a crisis. I received a long, compassionate letter from a friend on the West Coast. Although the letter was wonderful, one line bothered me. My friend wrote, “Your spirituality will get you through this.”

When I read it, I recoiled. Whatever “spirituality” meant, I was keenly aware that I didn’t have any of it. In and of myself, I had nothing adequate for what was facing us at the time. I had only the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.

As Barna and other research institutions have reported, there is a fast-growing category of so-called “Nones”—those who, like my friend, identify as “spiritual but not religious.” Generally speaking, people use this self-definition to mean that they want no part of the “institutional church” but seek a connection to some sort of transcendent dimension. Many millennials define themselves in these terms, so it is important to address these conceptions with warm pastoral sensitivity as well as audacious theological imagination.

Nonetheless, I would argue that the biblical witness is neither “spiritual” nor “religious.” Both of these categories present us with serious problems concerning the proclamation and teaching of the gospel.

When I use the word religion, I am using it the way Freud used it in The Future of an Illusion. He argues that religion is the projection of human ...

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College Board CEO: How Christian Values Could Solve the College Admissions Craze

The “soulcraft” found in religious education is just what higher ed needs right now.

High school graduation is a season of joy as we witness a sea of smiling young graduates, ready for anything. However, those smiles far too often mask the years of anxiety over getting into the right college that led up to that point.

The stress doesn’t go away once they have entered college; too many of these young people struggle to cope with challenges they encounter on campus.

Our culture pushes young people to excel in the college admissions process so much that many families and their children end up trading away happiness for a terrible bargain. We need to chart a different course. Religious education can provide valuable wisdom for how to help students not just set their sights on applying to college but thriving in life.

Parents often tell me their kids are too busy. Their schedules are filled ferrying their children from one activity to another. As college applications loom, the hustle turns into a frenzy. Students juggle mounting commitments. The all-important college application has begun to haunt too many childhoods, whispering premature anxiety into questions of what to learn and how to spend time, even where to live.

Admission counselors admit that too many of those students who make it to their campuses languish when they arrive. They possess a fragile excellence. Faced with a significant challenge—such as living away from home for the first time, a difficult course, or other demands that come with college life—these students flounder. The skills of getting into college undermine the confidence to thrive once there.

While it may sound strange coming from the CEO of the College Board, I believe it’s time to stop the competitive madness that’s hurting our students. We must find a healthier ...

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The Least of These: Ministry with and to the Incarcerated

It is time for the church to be more engaged in criminal justice reform

As we think about criminal justice reform, I am reminded of something Jesus said in Matthew 25:40: "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Did what? What exactly was he referring to?

Indeed, he was talking about taking care of those who could not take care of themselves.

And who are the least of these?

Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”

For those of us who work in correctional ministry, our mission is to care for those who are incarcerated and released from incarceration.

Of the 27 books in the New Testament, 14 were written from a prison cell.

We rarely hear about that.

Many people in the Bible experienced imprisonment: Joseph, Samson, Jeremiah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Silas, Paul, and even Jesus himself, who was held in custody before his death.

How do we care for the formerly incarcerated?

Jesus cares about those who are incarcerated, and we should too. But the reality is that nearly 90 percent of the people in our state prisons will be released. Do we want previously incarcerated individuals released with no resources so that they may reoffend? Our call instead is to invest in those behind bars so that they can be productive citizens once they are released.

You may say, “I don’t know what to do.” First, pray and ask God what you should do. Next, partner with your local church or non-profit ministry to assist those who are transitioning back into society by giving them a place to live, job training and placement, ...

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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Quotes of the Day on Heaven

The Heaven posts have inspired some interesting comments. Here are a couple from the first article: From fellow Patheoser, Bob Seidensticker: Here’s a version of heaven that’s a lot more sane than Yahweh’s version. Everyone gets in–yes, even Hitler. But when you get in, you get the wisdom to use free will that God seems […]


Evangelist wants $54M jet: ‘Jesus wouldn’t be riding donkey’

Oh dear. This is pretty commonplace in the evangelist megachurch world. But, man, it’s a sad indictment of the Ameican Dream as pertaining to belief in that socialist revolutionary, Jesus. The Prosperity Gospel really is a complete bastardisation of who Jesus supposedly was. As the Washington Post reports: A prosperity gospel televangelist is asking disciples […]


A Woman’s Guide to Seminary

Ministry is serious business. These 9 steps are key to pursuing your training.

Shortly after making my calling public to my local church at age 15, I told my parents I wanted to go to seminary eventually. That’s what my father, a pastor, had done after college, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Once I started college, however, I wasn’t as zealous anymore for seminary. I didn’t think I could “do” seminary; I was timid and unsure if I were smart enough. Moreover, I was a Christian studies major at a liberal arts school who thought what I was learning there was sufficient training for ministry. But then my perspective changed.

As I was praying and thinking through whether or not I should go to seminary, my Bible reading led me to 2 Timothy 3:14–15:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become
convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned
it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures,
which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith
in Christ Jesus.

This command—“continue in what you have learned”—propelled me into seminary those years ago, but it has also served me well in the intervening years. Learning is a prerequisite for those who want to be teachers and communicators of God’s Word, but it is also a lifestyle and an attitude that all of God’s children should adopt.

For women who feel called to communicate God’s Word to the people of God, theological training is necessary to prepare you for the work. As a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, you will bear the responsibility of speaking on behalf of God by expounding his Word, and also the responsibility of shepherding and protecting his sheep (even if those sheep are exclusively women and children). James’s ...

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Reaching and Revitalizing Rural America: Overcoming Misconceptions, and Answering the Call (Part 2)

In reality, rural America is in a perilous position — perhaps in greater danger of decay and decline than many cities.

Misconception #2: Idyllic Life

The second misconception is that rural America is doing fine, while the inner cities alone are in decline. Though the general population of rural communities is diverse, there are challenges that are increasingly pervasive and common among many of these people groups. This is due in part to national trends in population migration.

Over the past century, the U.S. has seen ongoing urbanization. In 1900, roughly 35 percent of the population lived in metropolitan areas. Today, that number is 86 percent. Urban sprawl has overtaken many formerly rural counties, transforming and reclassifying them. Fewer than 50 million people currently live in the 1,976 counties that remain classified as non-metro today, and the collective population within those counties is shrinking.

The result is a smaller American countryside comprised of slower-growing counties with a reduced and stagnant economic potential. Despite a resurgence of jobs and rising wages since the economic downturn of 2008, recovery in rural America is slower. In fact, rural employment rates remain below pre-recession levels.

A 25 percent decline in rural manufacturing caused 700,000 jobs to disappear between 2001 and 2015, with many of these jobs moving overseas. The jobs that do exist offer significantly lower salary rates than those in urban places.

Rural areas are also lagging in education and healthcare. Even as national education levels increase, there is a widening gap between the number of urban and rural dwellers with college degrees.

The Demographics Research Group at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia reports that since 1990, college graduates living at the center of the nation’s 50 largest metro ...

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Despite Disappointing Some, New Mark Manuscript Is Earliest Yet

Bible scholars have been waiting for the Gospel fragment’s publication for years.

The Egypt Exploration Society has recently published a Greek papyrus that is likely the earliest fragment of the Gospel of Mark, dating it from between A.D. 150–250. One might expect happiness at such a publication, but this important fragment actually disappointed many observers. The reason stems from the unusual way that this manuscript became famous before it became available.

Second (or Third) Things First

In late 2011, manuscript scholar Scott Carroll—then working for what would become the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C.—tweeted the tantalizing announcement that the earliest-known manuscript of the New Testament was no longer the second-century John Rylands papyrus (P52). In early 2012, Daniel B. Wallace, senior research professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, seemed to confirm Carroll’s statement. In a debate with Bart D. Ehrman, Wallace reported that a fragment of Mark’s gospel, dated to the first century, had been discovered.

As unlikely as a first-century Gospel manuscript is, the fragment was allegedly dated by a world-class specialist. This preeminent authority was not an evangelical Christian, either. He had no apologetic motive for assigning the early date. The manuscript, Wallace claimed, was to be published later that year in a book from Brill, an academic publisher that has since begun publishing items in the Museum of the Bible collection. When pressed for more information, Wallace refrained from saying anything new. He later signed a non-disclosure agreement and was bound to silence until the Mark fragment was published.

As a general rule, earlier manuscripts get us closer to the original text than later manuscripts because there are assumed to be fewer ...

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