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Mormons and Christians: So Close, Yet So Far Away

By Gerald McDermott What should we make of claims that the two faiths are on a path to reconciling? For nearly 200 years, Mormons have both enraged and intrigued evangelicals. The rage has come from Mormon claims that the Book of Mormon contains new revelation superseding and correcting the Bible, and that Christians are apostates from the apostolic church. The intrigue has come from the fact that Latter-day Saints (LDS) are so similar and yet so different. TheBook of Mormon is remarkably Christ-focused, and presents a Godhead resembling the Trinity. Yet later teachings by Joseph Smith deny the Trinity and claim that God the Father has both a physical body and his own father. Evangelicals have always been fascinated by Mormon beliefs that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, that the New Jerusalem will be located nearby, and that American Indians are descended from the ancient Israelites. Now the Internet buzzes with new debate over (emeritus president of Fuller Seminary) Richard Mouw’s pronouncement at First Things that Mormons are moving closer to historic Christian orthodoxy. LDS leaders, he proposes, are downplaying the Mormon teaching that God was once a man. A participant in Mormon-evangelical dialogue responded that, on the contrary, this teaching remains on the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Phyllis Schlafly Defended Women Like Me

By Jen Pollock Michel Even with her flaws, the “first lady of the conservative movement” understood a fundamental human desire. Phyllis Schlafly, who labeled herself a housewife, called 1964 one of the most productive years of her life: “I was running the Illinois Federation of Republican Women; I wrote A Choice, Not an Echo; I self-published it; I went to the Republican convention; wrote a second book, The Gravediggers—now we’re in September—I was giving speeches for Barry Goldwater, and in November I had a baby.” When Steve Inskeep, host of NPR’s Morning Edition, announced the news of Schlafly’s death, I assumed he would interview an academic happy to expose (with feminist animus) the hypocrisy of a woman who benefited from women’s rights and also opposed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Instead, Inskeep talked with Penny Young Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America. Nance described the legacy Schlafly has left for conservative women and, in her closing elegiac remarks, called Schlafly “kind and strong.” Somewhat ruefully, I admire the woman who championed the role of homemakers. In the current culture, however, it’s a lot easier to be embarrassed by her. Her grassroots activism prevented adoption of the ERA, which passed both houses of Congress and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Russia's Newest Law: No Evangelizing Outside of Church

By Kate Shellnutt (UPDATE) Putin signs new restrictions that limit where and how Christians share the gospel. Update (July 8): This week, Russian president Vladimir Putin approved a package of anti-terrorism laws that usher in tighter restrictions on missionary activity and evangelism. Despite prayers and protests from religious leaders and human rights advocates, the Kremlin announced Putin’s approval yesterday. The amendments, including laws against sharing faith in homes, online, or anywhere but recognized church buildings, go into effect July 20. Though opponents to the new measures hope to eventually appeal in court or elect legislators to amend them, they have begun to prepare their communities for life under the new rules, reported Forum 18 News Service, a Christian outlet reporting on the region. Protestants and religious minorities small enough to gather in homes fear they will be most affected. Last month, “the local police officer came to a home where a group of Pentecostals meet each Sunday,” Konstantin Bendas, deputy bishop of the Pentecostal Union, told Forum 18. “With a contented expression he told them: ‘Now they’re adopting the law I’ll drive you all out of here.’ I reckon we should now fear such zealous enforcement.” “There are potentially very wide-sweeping ramifications to this law,” Joel Griffith …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The 5 Truths Stay-at-Home and Working Moms Can Agree On

By Katelyn Beaty After interviewing 120 women, I saw glimmers of a truce in the Mommy Wars. It was the first of ten small group conversations I hosted as research for my book. Within the first hour, over finger foods and wine served in a lovely home in north Austin, there were tears. One of the women, Chelsea, had landed a prestigious job working for a state senator. But she shyly admitted to the group that she was more drawn to the work her friend is doing: raising and homeschooling children. “This is an area where I could bring my intelligence, my care, my desire to become a mom spiritually,” said Chelsea, then single. Yet, “if I do that, it’s not enough. It’s this crazy Proverbs 31 pressure, that I’m not an accomplished professional woman.” Shortly after, another woman started tearing up. An Anglican priest and the mother of two children, Tish admitted that working outside the home was something she couldn’t not do. “I so wish I were content with just being at home, in terms of simply being at home,” she said. “There are people who have these preternatural spiritual gifts of mothering, and I don’t have them.” Her wiring and passions drew …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The State of The Church in America: When Numbers Point To A New Reality

By Ed Stetzer Before you dismiss research as unimportant, read this. If facts are our friends, then it’s time we listen to them for the good of the Church in America. The polls are in and the news is bad for the Church in America. Christianity is on the decline, Americans have given up on God, and the “Nones”—those who have no religious ties—are on the rise. It is indeed true that parts of the Christian Church in America are struggling, while a growing number of Americans are far from God. As the former head of a research firm that studies the church and culture, I often tell pastors and other Christian leaders that “facts are our friends.” Surveys and other polls are a bit like running a series of tests during an annual physical. The scale, stethoscope, and blood tests don’t lie. There is no positive spin on your increased weight, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Research data gives us a realistic picture of our health—rather than the overly optimistic view we’d prefer. What the Numbers Tell Us (If We Will Listen) So what do the numbers tell us about the Church in America? Overall, the Church’s influence on Americans is beginning to fade. A growing number …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Three Practices For Third Space Churches

By Matt Busby How do we seek the flourishing of our city in such a way that contributes to the urban renewal happening all around us? “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” – Jeremiah 29:7 Jeremiah 29 paints an incredible picture of a people called to love God in the context of a culture that is not their own. It is a passage that I point to regularly, read regularly, and find solace in regularly. In a post-Christian context it is perhaps the most apt resource for the church realizing it is in the midst of a shifting culture. We are called to be a people marked by service and charity, generosity and faithfulness. But now we are in the midst of a cultural environment where we are no longer the most powerful voice, rather just one among many. So how do we engage not so much the world around us, but the community right outside our front doors? That was the burning question for us as we planted The Mission Chattanooga. We felt called to plant in the thriving …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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When Prolonging Life Means Prolonging Suffering

By Kathryn L. Butler A trauma surgeon on when letting go of our loved ones is the most God-honoring thing we can do. His wife found him in the garden. He did not awaken to her touch. When paramedics arrived, they jammed a tube into his windpipe and supported his breathing with a bellows, shoving air into lungs already taut with scars from cigarette smoke and Allied gunpowder. Most people require sedation to tolerate such tubes, however, he neither coughed, nor flinched, nor gagged. His peacefulness was ominous. Although his heart still beat, his brain had receded into stillness. In the emergency room, a CT scan confirmed a ruptured aneurysm. Blood crowded out his brain and thrust it downward, through the narrow aperture at the base of his skull. The pressure was strangling his brain. I met his son in the conference room of the intensive care unit (ICU). Through the window behind him, the Boston skyline weaved a starlit backdrop. He faced me with his arms braced across his chest, his jaw set. Only his thumb and forefinger, grimed from the grease of machinery, worried the weave of his sweatshirt and betrayed his heartache. I explained that his father was dying. We could not save him. “The best we …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Coffee: The Beverage That Fuels the Church

By Martyn Wendell Jones How the church has transformed a cup of joe into a universal display of hospitality. My addiction to it compelled me to drink a pot and a half of it a day. I have abstained from it for weeks with the help of a steady intake of strong tea. I have dressed it up with foamed milk, beaten cream, and thick drizzles of caramel; I have dressed it down to draw near to its scalding essence. I have drunk it spiced with pepper, made succulent with butter, and soured with chicory root. I have a cousin who powdered his family’s fishbowl with instant brew because their fish “had a headache.” Like that manic fish, I have grimaced through many headaches of my own. Among non-alcoholic drinks, only water has a greater claim to ubiquity than coffee. The National Coffee Association USA claims, “After crude oil, coffee is the most sought commodity in the world.” Americans import their beans, raw or pre-roasted, from nations all over the earth, and prepare drinks from those beans using all manner of devices: from humble coffee pots to systems festooned with dials and knobs, capable of manufacturing multiple atmospheres of pressure in order for the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Stop Snacking on ‘Scripture McNuggets’

By Interview by Drew Dyck A Bible expert diagnoses the bad habits that keep us from feasting on God’s Word. We use the Bible as a manual or answer book. We look to it as a talisman or horoscope. We proof-text, cherry-pick, and impose our own biases. The sins against Scripture are numerous and, according to Biblica vice president Glenn R. Paauw, endemic. And don’t get him started on what the Good Book has suffered at the hand of translators and publishers. Saving the Bible From Ourselves: Learning to Read & Live the Bible Well is Paauw’s jeremiad against our tendency to distort, misuse, and misrepresent the Bible. All this mistreatment, Paauw argues, has left us with stunted Scriptures. CTPastors.com senior editor Drew Dyck spoke with Paauw about his quest for a bigger Bible. Why does the Bible need saving? God took a risk with the Bible—he gave it to us. It’s in our hands, and we’re free to do with it what we will. We shape it culturally. We shape the actual look and feel of it as an artifact, and we form practices around it. We are capable of imprisoning the Bible, of diminishing its impact. And if we don’t do right by the Bible, the Bible …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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88 Minutes of Film That Could Save a Life

By Jeffrey Overstreet That’s the power of ‘The Station Agent.’ You try walking across Seattle alone. At night. Barefoot. My college roommate did all the time. I didn’t understand it, just as I didn’t understand his quiet demeanor, his watchfulness from the edges, or his aversion to typical college-life distractions. His after-dark disappearances intrigued me. So I took to walking with him. I wore hiking boots, and still I struggled to match his incredible stride. As I did, my own pace—in walking and in living—permanently changed. I came to value the rewards of adventures off the beaten path, of being quiet in good company. And I found a compassionate friend. I think of Michael when I watch Tom McCarthy’s large-hearted 2003 comedy The Station Agent. And I watch it frequently. I see myself in Joe: the talkative food-truck barista (Bobby Cannavale) who sets up shop next to an obsolete train depot in Middle-of-Nowhere, New Jersey. I think of Michael when I watch Fin (Peter Dinklage): a soft-spoken loner who moves into that depot for the solitude, and who eventually surrenders, accepting Joe’s gregarious, uninvited companionship. It’s remarkable: Watch how Joe and Fin, like an oversized puppy playing with Grumpy Cat, become complementary. Watch how they transform one …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Evangelical Views of the 2016 Election: "Jill Stein is my imperfect candidate."

By Stephen Waldron Evangelical millenial minority chooses the Green Party My political viewpoint is shaped by both my Evangelical faith and my personal experiences. My faith has been shaped mainly by the Pentecostal and Anabaptist traditions. From my Pentecostal heritage, I draw the belief that the Holy Spirit is actively working among lowly and marginalized people. From the Anabaptist tradition, I have learned that peacemakers who follow the teachings and example of Jesus will be ignored at best and martyred at worst. Coming from that perspective, I am going to vote for Jill Stein, not because she is any sort of savior or perfect politician. I only hope to send a small signal that things are not going well at the far corners of the empire. The other major candidates do not have policies that cohere with a biblical approach to justice, as I understand it. Immigration The Jesus I know is one who immigrated to our planet and was rejected by its citizens. The last thing Christians should support is the rejection of human beings who are made in God’s image simply because they are not light-skinned and English-speaking. Evangelicals sometimes talk about “welcoming the stranger,” citing Bible verses like Leviticus 19:33-34. For many Evangelicals, this issue directly …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Azerbaijan's Ambiguous Bible Breakthrough

By World Watch Monitor After 20-year struggle, will new Bible society even be allowed to print Bibles? A restrictive majority-Muslim country is getting good news—or rather, the Good News. The recent registration of a Bible Society in Azerbaijan, after a 20-year fight, has brought fresh optimism to the country’s minority Christians. But there remains some confusion about the types of books it will be allowed to print, with even Bibles potentially falling foul of the country’s strict regulations. Terje Hartberg from United Bible Societies called it “a great development, which will start a new chapter in Bible ministry for all Christians in Azerbaijan.” However, all literature either printed or imported by the Bible Society will remain subject to approval by the government. Every publication is labeled with an official sticker, and distribution is only allowed at state-approved venues. Those who distribute any religious literature outside these strict limitations face administrative or criminal punishment, reports Forum 18, a news agency focused on religious freedom in Central Asia. The Old Testament and Hebrew Bible, meanwhile, remain on the list of banned books. Texts from these parts of the Bible have been confiscated in police raids, according to Forum 18. Asked whether the prohibition of the Old Testament in effect bans the Bible …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Evangelical Campus Ministry (InterVarsityUSA) Decides Employees Should Hold Evangelical Beliefs on Marriage-- Internet Explodes

By Ed Stetzer InterVarsityUSA’s policy on marriage provokes Internet outrage. InterVarsity is an evangelical Christian organization, and people who work at InterVarsity are, not surprisingly, expected to hold Evangelical beliefs. Or, as Elisabeth Dias of TIME Magazine put it: In other words, InterVarsity now has the same policy of Evangelical churches. So, why is this news? Well, the Internet is abuzz with outrage and, I imagine the story will spill into other news outlets tomorrow. But why is it news that Evangelicals think their staff should hold Evangelical beliefs? It’s becuase there is a new orthodoxy, and the old one just won’t do for many. The New Orthdoxy The new orthodoxy says that you have to bend your beliefs to fit it. But InterVarsity has a different view—the Evangelical view. And, such views do cost today. And, ultimately, every organization with the beliefs of old orthodoxy will face a moment like this. This might sound similar to the World Vision moment, where President Richard Stearns made it clear that biblical marriage was not a negotiable: “Certain beliefs are so core to our Trinitarian faith that we must take a strong stand on those beliefs.” But, are these new policies and beliefs really new? New Beliefs? To say that this is a new …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Despite Mike Pence, Most Evangelical Pastors Are Not Ready to Vote Trump

By Bob Smietana – Facts and Trends A plurality remain undecided, with pastors split over which candidate characteristic is most important. Political endorsements by pastors have been few and far between this election season. That may be because the most popular candidate among pastors is “I don’t know.” Despite vice presidential candidate Mike Pence’s mission to assuage evangelical doubts about Donald Trump, a plurality of evangelical senior pastors (44%) remained undecided last month about which candidate to vote for, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research. Meanwhile, almost 4 in 10 plan to vote for Trump (38%), while about 1 in 10 plans to vote for Hillary Clinton (9%). Four percent support Gary Johnson. Two percent do not plan to vote. In addition, most evangelical pastors see no need for Christians to vote only for a candidate who has a reasonable chance of winning. A majority also believe that Christians can vote their conscience and end up supporting different candidates. And only 3 evangelical pastors in 100 have endorsed a candidate from the pulpit. These are among the findings of a new survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors conducted August 22 to September 16. (Evangelical and mainline pastors were categorized based on self-identification.) Most pastors are ambivalent about the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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100 Episodes on Church Planting and Multisite

By Daniel Im Ed Stetzer, Todd Adkins, and Daniel Im have answered over a hundred listener-submitted church planting questions. Ed Stetzer, Todd Adkins, and I recently celebrated our 100th episode on the NewChurches.com Q&A Podcast. It’s been such a joy to dream up and implement this idea of a podcast that answered real life church planting, multisite, and pastoral leadership questions. Our heart is to serve the church in her mission of making disciples by helping her multiply. That’s what this podcast is all about. As a result, twice a week, we answer listener submitted questions. Here are the questions from our top 5 most downloaded episodes: Episode 1:As a young church planter, what are some blind spots that I need to be aware of? Episode 3:In a context with so few believers, what strategies would you recommend for church planters to expand their network in order to raise financial support? Episode 11:The growth is slow in my church. What are the growth barriers in church planting? Episode 59:On launch day, what would you recommend to preach on? What would be your first series? Episode 61:What are the differences in gifts …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Evangelical Views of the 2016 Election: "There are No "Must" Candidates!" -Darrell Bock

By Darrell L. Bock Professor of New Testament Studies articulates the dilemma many Christians face in this election cycle Many Christians have it right. There is a real dilemma for their vote in this election. The choice we have before us is no real option. It is like choosing between facing a tornado rolling through your home or a hurricane. Both will do real damage in different ways. The only possible check on this regrettable situation involves the considered selection of legislators put around the poor choice the nation faces. Our votes for other offices now count for more. The dilemma we face is one we have given ourselves. Our votes created our choices. We have opted for decades to step back from reflection on character, teaching our children the skills and economics of life but not judgment, discernment, and wisdom. A soulless child rearing produces what we face today. T.S. Eliot spoke of hollow men, people without chests, without souls. So we get what we pay for at the ballot box. We will not get a mulligan on our choice now, but we can prepare to do better next time. Some will argue that one choice now is a must because of future Supreme Court justices, choices …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Evangelical Views of the 2016 Election: Ethics and Theology Professor on Why Trump is the Best Candidate for President

By Norman L. Geisler, Ph.D. Ethics & Religion professor endorses Mr. Trump Basically, there are only two realistic alternatives in the coming presidential election: stay on the same liberal path we have been on for years or else try something new. But why Trump? A Prolegomena to Any Future Politics Trump is a Flawed Candidate A common charge against Trump is that he is a flawed candidate. But in a Two Party system, such as we have, our choices are limited. We do not have perfect candidates with whom to replace imperfect ones. In fact, there are no perfect candidates. Jesus is not running! We have only imperfect candidates from which to choose. However, some are more imperfect than others. “The Lesser of Two Evils” In politics, as in life, sometimes we must choose the so-called “lesser of two evils.” So when both presidential candidates have high negatives, we must choose the one with fewer. A friend once described his dilemma to me as a choice between “a known devil and a suspected witch.” If so, then we should choose the suspected witch! A More Excellent Way Actually, we never really faced with a situation where all the alternatives are evil. One alternative is always the greater good. The doctor who amputates …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Evangelical Views of the 2016 Election: Evangelicals, We Need to Start Looking Beyond the Candidates

By Ronnie Floyd Pastor and Immediate Past President of the Southern Baptist Convention prioritizes issues over candidates For the past nine presidential elections – intentionally or unintentionally – I have stuck with one clear principle when I go to the voting booth: I do not vote for candidates but for policies. From our 39th to our 44th commander in chief, I have not voted for men or, even, for parties – I have voted for issues. And in my life, I have never seen so many crucial issues, with such vast consequences, hanging in the balance as they are in the 2016 Presidential Election. The issues, to anyone – especially a Christian – who has been following the course of our nation, should be fairly clear by now: the appointment of Supreme Court justices, the defense of religious liberty, the fight to protect the life of the unborn, our friendship with and support of Israel, the need for resolving racial tension, our national security, and the preservation of limited government and a free market. These are the issues that matter to me this election, and I believe we should filter every voting decision we make through them. Yet the problem with this presidential election is that we …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Evangelical Views of the 2016 Election: Not the Lesser of Two Evils, Choose Candidate Evan McMullin Instead

By Dr. O. Alan Noble Editor-in-Chief of Christ and Pop Culture wants to lay a foundation for a future conservative party I support Evan McMullin’s campaign for President. For the first time in my life, I even donated to a political campaign, and I did so knowing that McMullin would almost certainly not win, or even come close to it. I have been informed by many concerned citizens that I am throwing my vote away, or voting for Trump by not voting for Clinton, or voting for Clinton by not voting for Trump. Others have accused me of being too elitist to vote for Trump, as if voting for McMullin were merely a way to ease my conscience or feel morally superior. The truth is I support McMullin for president because I believe that doing so is the best chance we have for cultivating an influential, vibrant conservative party that promotes human flourishing and defends life into the future. I’ve come to this position begrudgingly, but driven by a few principles. One is that it is possible for a candidate to be so unacceptable that they do not deserve our vote regardless of how bad the other major candidate is. The minimum standard is opposed to the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Evangelical Views of the 2016 Election: Why I Resigned My Evangelical Leadership Roles to Support Hillary Clinton

By Deborah Fikes Former National Association of Evangelicals board member endorses Mrs. Clinton. My support of Hillary Clinton in this election is a direct result of my life’s unexpected journey that put me in unique situations in WDC government circles for the past 15 years. This provided me with what I believe to be “providential” opportunities and experiences to observe Hillary professionally in her career as a senator and as the Secretary of State. Also on a more personal level, because Hillary and I shared close mutual friends, I have had opportunities and insights that contradict accusations of her “lacking character and strong values.” I also had opportunities to witness just how deep and personal her faith really is. Knowing what I know and believing that “to whom much is given, much is required,” as much as I wanted to continue to stay away from “politics,” I knew that I needed to contribute in the unique way I was capable of doing. So for the first time in my life, I publicly endorsed a political candidate. The path that led to my initial introduction and volunteer work with the White House, State Department, and Congressional offices in WDC surprisingly was the election of President G.W. Bush. As …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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