Archive for September, 2012

Brian McLaren leads commitment ceremony at son’s same-sex wedding

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

McLaren family wedding ceremony included “traditional Christian elements.”

Melissa Steffan  Christianity Today.

Brian McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christian and a prominent Christian speaker, led a non-traditional marriage commitment ceremony this weekend, according to The New York Times.

Held at the Audubon Naturalist Society in Chevy Chase, Maryland, this ceremony included “traditional Christian elements,” but no bride. And the groom—one of them—was McLaren’s son, Trevor McLaren. The Times reports that Trevor McLaren wed Owen Ryan Saturday in Washington, D.C., followed by the afternoon commitment ceremony.

Brian McLaren, who formerly was chair of the board for Sojourners, is among a minority of evangelical progressives who advocate that the church should abandon heterosexism and move toward reconciliation with homosexuals.

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They Will Hate You

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Bill Meuhlenberg

As one who gets a regular – even daily – share of abuse and hatred, and I can certainly relate to what we are told in Scripture and what we read about in church history. Whenever the gospel of Jesus Christ is boldly proclaimed, there will always be violent opposition and persecution. Yet many believers seem to deny this altogether.

One of the more annoying things of living in these PC days is how many believers who should know better have simply drunk deep from the surrounding ungodly culture. They have imbibed big time of all the completely non-Christian foolishness around them. They have soaked in all the silly notions of tolerance and acceptance which are rampant in a morally relativistic culture, and embraced them wholeheartedly.

The worldlings say we should never judge, or be too sure of anything, or claim that there are absolutes. These gullible and lukewarm Christians simply buy all this without thinking, without lining it up with the word of God. Thus I get Christians attacking me on a regular basis, saying I am being too forthright, too assured, too black and white with my faith.

They think I am unnecessarily offending people and alienating people because I speak truth unflinchingly. They want me to tone down, to ease up, to back-peddle, and to lighten up. They think I should never be causing any offence, and that if I am getting all this angry opposition, I must be doing something wrong.

Sorry, but I am just not buying it – not for one moment. It is impossible to read the New Testament without seeing warnings and examples of how the world will hate a true follower of Jesus Christ. It is guaranteed to happen, no matter how nice or loving or gracious we seek to be. Consider just a few such passages – without any commentary – about the warnings and promises made by Jesus about this:

-Matt 10:22-23 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.
-Mark 13:12-13 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
-Luke 6:22-23 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
-Luke 21:16-17 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  Everyone will hate you because of me.
-John 15:18-20 If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.

The disciples also made such warnings. Here are just two of them:
-2 Corinthians 4:8-10  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
-2 Timothy 3:12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

And the early church knew full well about the world’s hatred and opposition. The book of Acts tells one story after another of persecution, hatred and worldly rage as the disciples preached the gospel. Indeed, in my daily reading in Acts I have come upon many such examples. Consider just one, found in Acts 23:12-15:

“The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. More than forty men were involved in this plot. They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, ‘We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here’.”

Wow, that is real hatred and opposition. And the book of Acts is full of such satanic persecution and enmity. No matter how Christlike or loving or gracious you may be, Satan hates the gospel and he will inspire his own to attack with demonic rage anyone who dares to preach it.

And of course church history is replete with examples of this same truth. Whenever the gospel has been proclaimed in power and with authority, the world has hated it, and sought to stop it. There are countless examples of this happening during the past 2000 years.

Let me offer just one. I am just now reading a bunch of biographies on William and Catherine Booth, the founders of the Salvation Army. Boy, talk about persecution, talk about the world hating you. They got it big time. Because they bravely proclaimed an undiluted gospel with Holy Ghost boldness, they were met with real hatred and opposition.

They experienced persecution as a regular part of their work, yet kept on going. Indeed, just as always has been the case, they experienced demonic rage and bloody persecution coming straight out of the pit of hell. How else does one explain such horrible vitriol, scurrilous abuse, and ugly hatred?

Consider a few snippets from one such volume (Trevor Yaxley, William & Catherine. Bethany House, 2003):

“The Booths’ message of total surrender and radical obedience to God attracted great criticism, especially in the early days. To many in the established churches, the call for no compromise, no holding anything back, no denying God in the small things, was too serious and too difficult to obtain.” (p. 121)

“William and his helpers soon got used to the disruptions caused by drunken roughs during their open-air meetings…. They did not always come away from their open-air work unharmed. Anything opponents could find was thrown their way, and often they hit the mark. On many evenings, William would trudge the eight miles to his Hammersmith home, arriving weary and battle-scarred, his clothes stained with blood or rotten fruit and his body bruised. This was the price they had to pay as they sought to save the worst of sinners – a price they never considered too high.” (p. 125)

“‘Make your will, pack your box, kiss your girl, be ready in a week.’ The general’s orders were clear. The level of commitment required of his workers was unmistakable – radical obedience was essential. Nothing more and certainly nothing less. Only godly go-ahead daredevils were equal to the call.” (p. 150)

Of course they got just as much flack from the comfortable, carnal and compromised church of the day as they did from the non-Christians. Both were hard to take:

“Just as they were willing to weather the storms of unfavorable public opinion, the early Salvationists were prepared to bear any cost to see salvation come to ordinary men and women like themselves. However, as the work of the Army expanded, the disruptions and attacks against them began to take on a more serious and sinister form. Their willingness to pay the price was regularly tested to the limit….

“Preaching on the streets was at times like preaching in hell. Teams of Salvationists faced ridicule, scorn, and hatred as they proclaimed the gospel in the degraded slums. Many of the poor and destitute were strongly atheistic, hating the name of God and fiercely opposing those who spoke of any form of religion.”

And just as in the book of Acts, whenever the preaching of the gospel affected any money-making schemes (see for example Acts 16:16-40; 19:23-41), all hell broke loose:

“By 1880 this holy Army was attracting severe opposition. Those who stood to lose the most from their success became their greatest enemies. Hotel and brothel owners faced falling profits as their previously thriving businesses began to suffer. The escalating conversion rate of many of their most loyal customers was plainly evident.” (pp. 177-178)

So these pub and brothel owners regularly recruited and organised violent gangs to assault and stop the Salvos from marching in the streets or holding their meetings. It was an all-out war, and there were many real casualties.

“Tragically greater injuries were also to follow. In Guildford that same year the wife of the corps officer was kicked to death. A fellow woman soldier was so severely beaten during the same parade that she also died some days later from the wounds she sustained. It is difficult to imagine this degree of persecution of Christians occurring in a ‘Christian’ nation such as Britain in the nineteenth century.

“In Whitechapel, East London, Salvation Army lasses were tied together with rope and pelted with live coals. It was not uncommon for parades heading for the evening meetings to be showered with tar and burning sulphur. ‘Blood and Fire’ became a reality for this army of God, unfortunately not only in the way originally foreseen.” (p. 183)

A couple of things clearly stand out here. One, just what sort of Christian life are we living? Are we friends with everybody and does everyone just love us to pieces? If we are not getting any opposition or rebukes, then we just might need to ask ourselves if we are really living the genuine Christian life.

Two, no matter how loving and gracious one might be as a believer, the world will always hate us. Jesus promised it and experienced it, as did the early church and all true believers throughout the ages. It is simply part of our job description.

Three, modern-day believers need to repent of their cowardice, apathy and worldliness. They especially need to repent for their armchair criticisms and unbiblical attacks on those who are daring to stand up and be counted for Christ and the Kingdom.

The religious establishment attacked Jesus and the early believers. The worldly, compromised church attacked the Booths and the Salvos. And they still attack anyone who stands up boldly proclaiming Christian truth today. They will one day stand before their Judge to give an account for this.

In the meantime we must press on and be willing to suffer gladly for Christ’s sake. As Catherine Booth said in Aggressive Christianity: “Opposition! It is a bad sign for the Christianity of this day that it provokes so little opposition. If there were no other evidence of it being wrong, I should know from that. When the Church and the world can jog along together comfortably, you may be sure there is something wrong. The world has not altered. Its spirit is exactly the same as it ever was, and if Christians were equally faithful and devoted to the Lord, and separated from the world, living so that their lives were a reproof to all ungodliness, the world would hate them as much as it ever did. It is the Church that has altered, not the world.”

The evidence is coming in. As the CDF predicted, allowing children to be adopted by ‘parents’ in gay unions is not in their best interests

Monday, September 24th, 2012

By William Oddie, Catholic Herald

[…]  Why is the Catholic Church against, not only gay marriage but all gay unions? It is worthwhile to remind ourselves why. It was spelled out by the CDF, in a document turgidly entitled “Consideration regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons”: the title indicates that the document was published (2003) before most countries had actually done it. “Legal recognition of homosexual unions,” it said, “would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage”. And one of the main effects of this devaluation would, said the CDF, be in its effects on the children adopted by those contracting such unions. The reasons for this are simple enough:

“As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons. They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. This is gravely immoral and in open contradiction to the principle, recognized also in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that the best interests of the child, as the weaker and more vulnerable party, are to be the paramount consideration in every case.”
Pretty bigoted stuff, Nick Clegg would undoubtedly say: but what, Mr Clegg, if the CDF has got it right? The trouble, as I have already suggested, with waiting for history to prove us right is that there have to be so many casualties first. But already, the evidence that the CDF has indeed got it right is beginning to come in, from the USA: though those registering the evidence are of course going though the fires of calumny from gay activists, including accusations of academic dishonesty (why is it we can’t call them bigots?). As the Baptist Press reports: “The University of Texas at Austin has cleared sociology professor Mark Regnerus of academic misconduct after he was excoriated by some in the media over a study showing that parents’ homosexual relationships can have negative effects on children.

Marriage: “This antiquated relic that still reeks of misogyny and bigotry”

Monday, September 24th, 2012

By Michael Cook, MercatorNet

Deeply personal stories emerged in the Australian debate over same-sex marriage this week. One of the most interesting involves West Australian Senator Louise Pratt, an author of one of the bills which failed. Her partner, Aram Hosie, is a transsexual who identifies as a man. “This is a bill that personally affects me, because marriage discrimination affects same-sex couples and also affects people with intersex and transgender partners,” she told the Senate on Monday.
A report in The Australian brought to light a speech made by Aram Hosie in 2010 at a gay festival in Western Australia. Ms Hosie opposed gay marriage because it was a patronising concession to an already rotten institution. It is hard to know whether the speech was made tongue-in-cheek or seriously. She told The Australian that she believed in gay marriage then and that she does now. Nonetheless, the arguments resonated with her audience, judging from the crowd’s reaction on this YouTube video.
“I don’t know see why we want to hang onto this antiquated relic that still reeks of misogyny and bigotry…
“At the crux of it marriage is about recognising some relationships as legitimate, and others as less so. On one side of that debate is the nuclear family, we got two monogamous people, children, maybe a dog, a white picket fence if you’re an over-achiever and on the other side is everyone doing everything else. Marriage is this massive apparatus set up to coerce and cajole and fool us all into thinking that the nuclear family is the natural and preferred state of being…

Read here

Brian McLaren: Anti-Evangelical Hysteric

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Brian McLaren took his “thank you, Lord, that I am not like other evangelicals” routine to CNN this week. In a post artfully titled, “It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose,” he writes:

I was raised as an evangelical Christian in America, and any discussion of Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations around the world must include the phenomenon of American Islamophobia, for which large sectors of evangelical Christianity in America serve as a greenhouse.

At a time when U.S. embassies are being attacked and when people are getting killed over an offensive, adolescent and puerile film targeting Islam – beyond pathetic in its tawdriness – we must begin to own up to the reality of evangelical Islamaphobia [sic].

The film in question was made by a Coptic Orthodox Christian, and has been supported by a cultist. I’m not sure what it has to do with evangelicalism, but McLaren will make any leap of logic or evience, no matter how ridiculous, to bash his erstwhile brethren.

Many of my own relatives receive and forward pious-sounding and alarm-bell-ringing e-mails that trumpet (IN LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS!) the evils of Islam, that call their fellow evangelicals and charismatics to prayer and “spiritual warfare” against those alleged evils, and that often – truth be told – contain lots of downright lies.

Many of his own relatives—well, if that’s the case, I can see why he’d want to tar “large sectors” of American evangelicalism with his broad brush, especially in connection with—gasp!—emails. Reminds me that I need to write that post declaring the entire nation of Nigeria an Internet scam.

For example, one recent e-mail claimed “Egyptian Christians in Grave Danger as Muslim Brotherhood Crucifies Opponents.”  Of course, that claim has been thoroughly debunked, but the sender’s website still (as of Friday) claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has “crucified those opposing” Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy “naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.”

The specifics have been debunked, but are Copts persecuted in Egypt? Are they killed? Imprisoned without cause? Have their homes and churches destroyed? Their children forced to convert to Islam under threat of their lives? From McLaren’s post, you’d never know that any of that was happening, but he does reject those fallacious emails, by George.

Janet Parshall, for example, a popular talk show host on the Moody Radio Network, frequently hosts Walid Shoebat, a Muslim-evangelical convert whose anti-Muslim claims, along with claims about his own biography, are frequently questioned.  John Hagee, a popular televangelist, also hosts Shoebat as an expert on Islam, as does the 700 Club.

It is true that some of Shoebat’s claims have been questioned. Disproved, I’m not sure about. But in any case, he’s one guy. Does an occasional interview with Walid Shoebat really qualify one as an Islamophobe?

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Christian Values Cannot Save Anyone

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

September 2012

A recent letter to columnist Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post seemed straightforward enough. “I am a stay-at-home mother of four who has tried to raise my family under the same strong Christian values that I grew up with,” the woman writes. “Therefore I was shocked when my oldest daughter, ‘Emily,’ suddenly announced she had ‘given up believing in God’ and decided to ‘come out’ as an atheist.”

The idea of a 16-year-old atheist in the house would be enough to alarm any Christian parent, and rightly so. The thought that a secular advice columnist for The Washington Post might be the source of help seems very odd, but desperation can surely lead a parent to seek help almost anywhere.

You usually get what you expect from an advice columnist like this — therapeutic counsel based in a secular worldview and a deep commitment to personal autonomy. Carolyn Hax responds to this mother with an admonition to respect the integrity of her daughter’s declaration of non-belief. She adds, “Parents can and should teach their beliefs and values, but when a would-be disciple stops believing, it’s not a ‘decision’ or ‘choice’ to ‘reject’ church or family or tradition or virtue or whatever else has hitched a cultural ride with faith.”

That is patent nonsense, of course. Declarations of adolescent unbelief often are exactly what Hax argues they are not: rejections of “church or family or tradition or virtue.” Hax does offer some legitimate insights, suggesting that honesty is to be preferred to dishonesty and that such adolescent statements are often indications of a phase of intellectual questioning or just trying on a personality for style.

Hax then tells this distraught mother that she “didn’t throw out what my childhood, including my church, taught me; I still apply what I believe in. I just apply it to a secular life.” In other words, Hax asserts that she maintains many of the values she learned as a child in church, and simply applies these values now to a secular life.

“How can I help my daughter see that she is making a serious mistake with her life if she chooses to reject her God and her faith?,” the mother asks. Hax tells the mother to accept the daughter’s atheism and get over her “disappointment that she isn’t turning out just as you envisioned.”

What else would you expect a secular columnist who operates from a secular worldview to say?

The real problem does not lie with Carolyn Hax’s answer, however, but with the mother’s question. The problem appears at the onset, when the mother states that she has “tried to raise my family under the same strong Christian values that I grew up with.”

Christian values are the problem. Hell will be filled with people who were avidly committed to Christian values. Christian values cannot save anyone and never will. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a Christian value, and a comfortability with Christian values can blind sinners to their need for the gospel.

This one sentence may not accurately communicate this mother’s understanding, but it appears to be perfectly consistent with the larger context of her question and the source of the advice she sought.

Parents who raise their children with nothing more than Christian values should not be surprised when their children abandon those values. If the child or young person does not have a firm commitment to Christ and to the truth of the Christian faith, values will have no binding authority, and we should not expect that they would. Most of our neighbors have some commitment to Christian values, but what they desperately need is salvation from their sins. This does not come by Christian values, no matter how fervently held. Salvation comes only by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Human beings are natural-born moralists, and moralism is the most potent of all the false gospels. The language of “values” is the language of moralism and cultural Protestantism — what the Germans called Kulturprotestantismus. This is the religion that produces cultural Christians, and cultural Christianity soon dissipates into atheism, agnosticism, and other forms of non-belief. Cultural Christianity is the great denomination of moralism, and far too many church folk fail to recognize that their own religion is only cultural Christianity — not the genuine Christian faith.

The language of values is all that remains when the substance of belief disappears. Tragically, many churches seem to perpetuate their existence by values, long after they abandon the faith.

We should not pray for Christian morality to disappear or for Christian values to evaporate. We should not pray to live in Sodom or in Vanity Fair. But a culture marked even by Christian values is in desperate need of evangelism, and that evangelism requires the knowledge that Christian values and the gospel of Jesus Christ are not the same thing.

I pray that this young woman and her mother find common hope and confidence in the salvation that comes only through Christ — not by Christian values. Otherwise, we are facing far more than a young woman “making a serious mistake with her life.” We are talking about what matters for eternity. Christian values cannot save anyone.

Marriage Wars: No More Cheap Excuses

Thursday, September 20th, 2012
Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day…

Francis Schaeffer once said words to this effect about abortion and the responsibility of the churches: “There should be a sign in front of every abortion clinic that reads: ‘Open by permission of the church’.” There is of course plenty of truth in that statement.

While there are many churches and Christians who are standing against abortion, there certainly are far too many which are not. By failing to be salt and light in this area, we have allowed the abortion holocaust to continue largely unabated. And we will have blood on our hands as a result.

The same is tragically true in the marriage wars. Far too many believers, churches, and church leaders have said and done nothing in this key battle. They have sat back and watched this most fundamental of institutions be ravaged and destroyed by the militants.

The silence of the churches has simply been deafening here. Given that marriage is the key institution made by God, appearing in the opening chapters of Genesis, and still going strong in the closing chapters of Revelation, how in the world can believers be so blasé about it?

How can they not care about something which God cares about so very deeply? How can they not be fully concerned and fully involved in the defence of this most basic and crucial of all God’s gifts to us? How can they just sit by in blatant apathy and indifference?

We have abandoned our responsibilities here as believers big time, and we will one day have to give an account before our Lord as to why we allowed his endearing institution to be lost without a fight. We will then have nothing to say, as we hang our heads in shame, realising how reckless and disobedient we were.

So if marriage is destroyed in Australia and believers did nothing to prevent this from happening, what will they tell God when they stand before him? What lame excuses will they seek to drag up? What lousy justifications will they try to offer? Well, many cheap excuses come to mind here:

-But I was just so busy watching TV and playing games
-Oh, I did not think you cared that much about marriage
-I didn’t want to be seen as judgmental
-But our church was more interested in entertainment and feeling good about ourselves
-I did not want to offend anyone
-You really did not expect me to take my faith seriously did you?
-I thought Christianity was just a private affair
-Jesus did it all, so I just enjoyed the free ride
-Religion and politics don’t mix
-We are just supposed to save souls
-But I did not want to rock the boat
-It did not seem like a loving thing to do to defend marriage
-We are meant to be peacemakers and not cause any trouble
-I was so busy looking after myself and my wants that I just could not get involved
-I really did not think that redefining marriage would be so important
-The church is not supposed to be divisive
-I was in the process of getting a new high score in my Facebook game
-It seemed polishing my new car was more important
-I did not want to upset anyone or lose any friends over this
-Believers should not be involved in worldly issues like politics
-Jesus does not want us to be so unloving and divisive
-The world is going down the tubes anyway, so why waste time trying to reform it?
-But my favourite sporting events were on at the time
-I did not want to appear to be too radical

Please feel free to add your own lousy excuses here. Plenty more could be offered. But not one of them will stand up on that day when we stand before him. We will instead realise in an instant what fools and disobedient rascals we were.

Our heads will hang in shame as we realise what selfish and rebellious Christians we have been. Those outstretched, nail-scarred hands will remind us immediately that Jesus gave everything for us, while we couldn’t even get off the stupid  TV for a few minutes to stand up for his most precious institution.

Well did Bonhoeffer say, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

And well did Leonard Ravenhill say, “Many pastors criticize me for taking the Gospel so seriously. But do they really think that on Judgment Day, Christ will chastise me, saying, ‘Leonard, you took Me too seriously’?”

So let me ask you again: what are you doing right now to save marriage? If you are not doing anything, why not? What lousy excuses will you offer to your Lord when you appear before him?