Why Christians Support Abortion (And How We Can Change That)

Almost 50 years after Roe v. Wade, a new Marist poll shows that When asked to align with one side of the abortion debate, a majority of Americans describe themselves as pro-choice. The disturbing implication is that this means that a large number of those who claim to be faithful Christians are not pro-life. Currently, about 71 percent of Americans self-identify as Christians, though if we exclude Mormons and Jehovah’s Witness, that figure drops to 68 percent. Based on the Marist poll, we can conclude that about 29 percent of self-identified Christians—almost one in three—do not consider themselves to be pro-life on the issue of abortion. How is it possible for such a large swath of believers to support such evil? Is it even possible to be a faithful Christian and support abortion? I don’t think it is. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). That’s not a suggestion—it’s framed as an imperative. Those who love Jesus keep his commandments. The corollary is that those who do not keep his commandments do not truly love Jesus. Loving Jesus is the de minimis standard for identifying as a Christian. If you do not truly love Jesus—if you do not even attempt to keep his commandments—you should not call yourself a Christian. This should not be a controversial assertion. Abortion and the Sixth Commandment And yet it will be, for many people think they can identify as orthodox believers and reject Jesus’s commandment prohibiting the taking of innocent life. The command was first given by God to Moses as one of the Ten Commandments on two separate occasions (Ex. 20:13 and Deut. 5:17). In the New Testament, we also find the commandment reconfirmed by Jesus (Matt. 5:21), and reiterated by his apostle, Paul (Rom. 13:9).  But… Read More

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‘We must take Revelation literally!’ they say. ‘Except when I don’t do so!’

I have written several papers on how the church of the 2nd and 3rd centuries reported that they experienced the gift of prophecy. Only in the early 3rd century did Origen observe that “since [the time of Christ and the apostles] these signs have diminished, although there are still traces of His presence in a few who have had their souls purified by the Gospel, and their actions regulated by its influence.” [Origen Against Celsus 7.8 (ANF 4.614)]. For him, prophecy was a supernatural message directly from God, not preaching or exhortation in general. The dispensationalist and Reformed Christians typically state that the gift of prophecy by definition must have ended with the death of the last apostle or the close of the NT canon, that is, around the year AD 100. This despite the many, widespread reports of Christian prophecy in the 2nd century. I was looking at Revelation 11, and it hit me that a dispensationalist must have serious difficulty with the description of the two end-time witnesses. They interpret this passage as eschatological, and yet it says that people prophesy centuries after the close of the canon! And also perform miracles, which according to some, are not possible after AD 100. I quote the passage at length, so show how clear is the language of “prophet”, “prophesy”: 3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying… 10 and those… Read More

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Lessons from the Earliest Christians for Our Secular Age

In Resilient Faith: How the Early Christian ‘Third Way’ Changed the World, Gerald Sittser—professor of theology at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington—shows how the early church emerged in the Roman world with a distinctive identity in Christ. The phrase “new race” or “third race” comes from a second-century letter written to a Roman official named Diognetus. Christians became the “Third Way” after “First Way” Rome and “Second Way” Judaism. Christ’s followers blended into Roman society seamlessly when it came to language, clothing, food, and commerce. But when life involved worship, sexuality, family life, caring for the poor, and proclaiming the gospel, they “functioned as if they were a nation within a nation, culturally assimilated yet distinct at the same time.”   The Roman way was an all-encompassing civil religion, tolerant, pluralistic, and syncretistic. As Sittser observes, “Rome’s religion was Rome itself.” It absorbed new religions into its pantheon, while maintaining absolute subservience to Rome and strict allegiance to the divine status of the emperor. Rome “had the most trouble with the religions that demanded exclusive commitment to one God and to one way of life. Most religions of this kind, especially Christianity, were considered by definition anti-Roman.”  Sittser recounts a conversation he had with a Kenyan pastor in Nairobi. The pastor asked why Christians in America refer to themselves as “American Christians,” suspecting more to the identification than a person who happened to be an American. The title “American Christian” seemed “heretical to him because it tempted Americans to confuse the two identities, and thus to import American culture (e.g., wealth) to other parts of the world, always ‘in the name of Christ.’” The conversation highlights an explicit connection between first-century Rome and post-Christendom America. Indeed, Sittser’s description of ancient Rome fits America today. I believe the scholar-historian is the best… Read More

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Finding the Sources of Historic Quotes, Biblical or Otherwise

I have written regularly about avoiding bogus quotes on the internet, but there’s a related challenge: discovering the actual origins of phrases and quotes you’re researching. Especially when you’re dealing with material in the English language before the 1960s, you are likely to encounter intriguing-sounding quotes that may have much older sources. The most likely source is the Bible. In contemporary America, our Bible literacy has plummeted, even among many regular churchgoers. For those who don’t attend church or grow up in devout homes, the ignorance of the Bible can be near-total. I was reminded of this problem recently when I read a scholarly article (identifying it is unnecessary to make my point) where the epigraph referred to Catholic converts potentially “reverting to the vomit.” The author discussed the quote at length, but she seemed unaware that this was referring to Proverbs 26:11. Instead of being a neologism that told us something interesting about the rhetoric and culture of early modern Catholicism, that phrase was widely known to Christians and Jews for millennia. Seemingly no one involved in the publication of this article picked up on the source of the reference. This omission speaks to a lost world of biblical literacy that is not easy to recapture. Exacerbating the situation is that we no longer even have a standard English translation of the Bible, a role that the King James Version played from at least the mid-1600s to the mid-1900s. Scholars must be more inquisitive about the source of quotes than the author above was, or else they can end up in embarrassing situations where a key quote is read out of context. The problem is, how do you know when to look into the origins of a quote? Obviously you can’t do it for every phrase, or you’d get… Read More

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David Murray on Teaching Hosea

Hosea tells a heartbreaking—and for many, a perplexing—story about a prophet told to marry a prostitute. This book is filled with cycle after cycle of promises of judgment. But according to David Murray, professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Hosea gives teachers the opportunity to present people with vivid pictures of God as a faithful husband intent on loving his unfaithful wife, a parent whose heart is twisted up inside him over the effect of his child’s sin, and so much more. In context of all of God’s uncomfortable promises to judge his people in heartbreaking ways, Murray points out God’s repeated promises throughout the book to live, to save, to redeem, and to restore his people to himself after they’ve wandered away from him. Listen to this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible. Mentioned in this episode Transcript The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.  David Murray: As long as people think of God as a fallacy, as a holier than thou, detached, looking down on, just condemning, criticizing and judging, there’s no pull, there’s no attraction, there’s no desire. But if we can show people the God of Hosea, the God of Gomer actually, then I think we begin to break down barriers and begin to give people hope that this God could be my God. Nancy Guthrie: Welcome to “Help Me Teach the Bible,” I’m Nancy Guthrie. Help Me Teach the Bible is a production of the gospel coalition sponsored by Crossway, a not for profit publisher of the ESV Bible, Christian books and tracks. Learn more at crossway.org. My guest today on Help Me Teach the Bible is one of my favorite Bible teachers,… Read More

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Matthew’s Gospel as Discipleship Curriculum

Editors’ note:  Take part in TGC’s Read the Bible initiative, where we’re encouraging Christians and churches to read together through God’s Word in a year (PDF reading plan). Subscribe to our daily newsletter and podcast (Apple | RSS | Stitcher), and join our Facebook group (only for those doing the reading plan). You can also listen to the daily Bible readings on Crossway’s podcast. The four Gospels have been caricatured as everything from a disconnected patchwork of history to an esoteric smorgasbord of fables. So when a serious work of scholarship committed to academic integrity appears, one that evidences a depth of familiarity beyond the barricades of inchoate speculation, it’s always a welcome addition to already overstocked bookshelves. What Patrick Schreiner—assistant professor of New Testament language and literature at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon—does so well is step back and set the scope of reading the Gospels in ways that conform to what philosopher Mortimer Adler coined as “the reading of reading.” One of the keys to reading the Gospels well is to read them within the literary framework of narrative. The Gospels tell a story that’s coherent and connected to earlier theological understandings revealed in the Old Testament. This characteristic is particularly evident when reading Matthew’s Gospel. Schreiner’s Matthew, Disciple and Scribe: The First Gospel and Its Portrait of Jesus teaches Matthew’s readers how to read the gospel-narrative in its context in light of the beginning of divine revelation and the eschatological end. The result is a self-conscious understanding of Jesus through the lens of Old Testament narratives.  “The method Matthew employs to communicate this conviction is ‘gospel-narration’ through the use of shadow stories” (38). Shadow stories are, for Schreiner, short-hand for how one ought to read Matthew. Shadow stories “connect large swaths of narrative rather than just points or… Read More

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Celebrating Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition

One of my most vivid memories growing up in church was the annual summer Sunday our congregation would gather with a local African American church for a joint worship service, followed by a potluck lunch (“dinner on the grounds,” we called it). We handled it like a home-and-home football series—each church played host in alternating years. The visiting preacher delivered the sermon; the visiting choir handled the music. I certainly remember the incredible food and the robust singing. But what stands out in my mind was the preaching. When the black church’s pastor preached, I would sit with my family on the second row (Baptists typically eschew the front row), mesmerized by his handling of God’s Word and the passionate pathos that was part and parcel of his delivery. He and our pastor were close friends, and I remember our pastor saying many times, “I’m glad I don’t have to follow my dear brother into the pulpit.” Indeed, there was a unique power in his style. It was clear to me that this church’s pastor knew God, and he knew his people. Thus it’s with great interest that we should welcome the appearance of a new book, Say It! Celebrating Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition (Moody), a multi-author work edited by Eric C. Redmond, associate professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. In this interview, we discuss the book as well as the unique style that marks expository preaching in the African American tradition. Tell us about the new book and what inspired it. Say It! intends to both explain and also exalt the relationship between the African American preaching tradition and biblical exposition. For some readers, the book’s significance will be that several African American preachers promote exposition as a powerful means of communicating the… Read More

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Be Faithful to Christ at the Funeral of a Lost Person

As ambassadors of Christ, we need to be balanced; we must not dare compromise the message, but we must also be respectful and compassionate to those we are sent to. In this excerpt, Mark shares how he sought to be faithful to Christ while sharing at the funeral of a lost person. This excerpt was taken from the full sermon, “Transformation For Proclamation (Part 4)“.

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of TGC’s New President

For someone who never really fit in, Julius Kim is remarkably confident. Born in Los Angeles to Korean parents, Julius was 2 when his father moved the family back to Korea to restart a defunct electronics manufacturing company. Julius spent elementary school balancing between Korean culture and his English-speaking, private school on a U.S. Army base. When he was 12, the Kims moved back to California, where he continued to tip between a Korean home and an American school. “The not-belonging feeling started then,” Julius said of middle school. “In Korea, switching between my English-speaking friends at school and Korean friends at home, I learned how to code-switch [behave differently in various settings to meet cultural expectations].” Julius Kim will become TGC’s new president February 1. He was code-switching, but his was the dominant culture. Once he moved back to the United States, however, he began to experience racial discrimination. Worse yet, when he went back to visit Korea, he no longer fit. Both his language and cultural skills were off. “I’m in this liminal experience of being in-between,” Julius said. “I’m in both cultures, but I don’t belong to either.” That’s never changed, though the feeling was worse when he was younger. “A lot of people in their teen years try to find their identity,” he said. “I struggled tremendously, wanting to have blond hair and blue eyes. I went through self-hatred, not seeing the wonderful gifts and strengths and opportunities I had.” It felt like being an exile—infuriating and depressing and scary. But Julius had two enormous advantages. The first was a passel of Korean American friends living the same strange homeless experience. When they encountered one another, at church, summer retreats, or schools, they connected quickly and deeply. The second was his father, who had wrestled with… Read More

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How Can I Know If I’m Working Too Much?

My husband works a demanding sales job in which he is compensated only with commission, and I stay at home with three small children. He misses dinner most weeknights, and if he isn’t gone on appointments on Saturday, he’s sometimes working from home “finishing up” for the week. Once or twice a week, he stays up until 3 a.m. to get everything done. While we practice a Sunday sabbath, it involves my husband collapsing on the couch after church. We’d both love to hit the brakes and have him be home and more present, but it has proven challenging. We also want to glorify God and thrive in the circumstances he’s given us. How do we know, then, how much work is too much? Work is a gift, but the toil of the stressful demands and long hours of post-fall work is a curse. When God placed Adam in the garden so that he might work and keep it (Gen. 2:15), there were no thorns or thistles. Work was a joy and a blessing. Yet the ground Adam was called to cultivate revolted against him as a result of the curse given in Genesis 3:17–19. He would work by the sweat of his brow; it would be difficult and exhausting. Though agriculture may not be our trade, frustrated sweat is the norm this side of eternity. So how can we find our way forward? Placing Fences Where God Has Placed Freedom Although Scripture doesn’t set a hard-and-fast rule of mandated work hours, or specify which particular vocations Christians should have, it is sufficient to guide us. The Holy Spirit works to illumine his Word and moves us to walk in a manner worthy of Christ’s calling. What we do—and how much we do of it—must account for the attitudes, motives,… Read More

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An Annotated Guide to Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail

On April 12, 1963—Good Friday—a 428-word open letter appeared in the Birmingham, Alabama, newspaper calling for unity and protesting the recent Civil Rights demonstrations in Birmingham. We the undersigned clergymen are among those who, in January, issued “an appeal for law and order and common sense,” in dealing with racial problems in Alabama. We expressed understanding that honest convictions in racial matters could properly be pursued in the courts, but urged that decisions of those courts should in the meantime be peacefully obeyed. Since that time there had been some evidence of increased forbearance and a willingness to face facts. Responsible citizens have undertaken to work on various problems which cause racial friction and unrest. In Birmingham, recent public events have given indication that we all have opportunity for a new constructive and realistic approach to racial problems. However, we are now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders. We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely. We agree rather with certain local Negro leadership which has called for honest and open negotiation of racial issues in our area. And we believe this kind of facing of issues can best be accomplished by citizens of our own metropolitan area, white and Negro, meeting with their knowledge and experience of the local situation. All of us need to face that responsibility and find proper channels for its accomplishment. Just as we formerly pointed out that “hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions,” we also point out that such actions as incite to hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be, have not… Read More

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The Countries Where It’s Most Dangerous to Be a Christian in 2020

Around the world, more than 260 million Christians—one of every eight believers—experience high levels of persecution, just for following Jesus. For the past 28 years, the Open Doors World Watch List has offered a global indicator of countries where human and religious rights are being violated, and those countries most vulnerable to societal unrest and destabilization. During the 2020 World Watch List reporting period, in the top 50 countries, a total of 9,488 churches or Christian buildings were attacked; 3,711 Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned; and 2,983 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons. On average, that’s eight Christians killed every day for their faith. 1. North Korea Persecution type: Communist and post-communist oppression Estimated number of Christians: 300,000 How Christians are suffering: “If North Korean Christians are discovered, they are deported to labor camps as political criminals or even killed on the spot. Driven by the state, Christian persecution in North Korea is extreme and meeting other Christians to worship is nearly impossible unless it’s done in complete secrecy.” Prayer point: “Pray for endurance and courage for Christians who are suffering right now in labor camps across North Korea.” 2. Afghanistan Persecution type: Clan and ethnic antagonism Estimated number of Christians: Thousands How Christians are suffering: “Afghanistan is a tribal society, and loyalty to one’s family, clan and tribe are extremely important. In an Islamic society, it is illegal for an Afghan person to leave Islam. The country is increasingly challenged by Islamic militants, the Taliban controls or contests more and more areas, and an ISIS-affiliated group also targets minorities. Those who decide to follow Jesus do so in secret.” Prayer Point: “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan does not allow conversion from Islam. Please pray for a softening of the country’s leadership and local rulers.” 3. Somalia Persecution type: Islamic… Read More

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