What Does God Think of Women?

“In the middle of our relentless digging into God’s Word together, we absolutely do need to stop regularly and talk about gender-related issues. We need to understand and be able to articulate clearly what we believe about these things and why, according to God’s Word—not as a system of rules that we ascribe to, not as a grid through which we see everything else, but as a fundamental affirmation of God’s goodness to the human beings he created. As the culture around us changes rapidly—so rapidly, in fact, it’s hard to keep track of—we believers have a huge opportunity not only to teach well the young ones growing up among us, but also to bear witness before a world that desperately needs to know the goodness of our Redeemer. And that goodness shines forth powerfully from his good creation of his image-bearers as male and female.” — Kathleen Nielson Date: June 15, 2018 Event: TGC 2019 National Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana Listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition Podcast. Find more audio and video from the 2018 Women’s Conference on the conference media page. Related: Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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Apatheism: Stronger Challenge to Evangelism Than Atheism Is

I’m sure you’ve experienced it before—that passionless, detached “meh” you receive in response after asking someone questions about their belief in God. Those crucial questions to philosophy, faith, and the meaning of life, which you ponder and return to over and again, are dismissed with the kind of disinterest typically experienced by a policy specialist at the IRS when they explain what they do for a living. As a committed believer, you happily engage someone with the kind of dialogue that stirs your mind to explore the most significant questions human beings can ask. But, to your surprise, the person is wholly indifferent to the topic. You ask, “Do you believe in God?” And they respond with a deflating grin and shrug-of-the-shoulders reminiscent of The Office’s Jim Halpert deadpanning Camera 2 after his buffoon manager, Michael Scott, asked him a ridiculous question. Sometimes, the disinterest comes from the kind of person you would expect—an agnostic who, after years of oscillating between religious and areligious beliefs, has finally thrown their hands in the air and given up. Other times, the disinterest comes from the kind of person you would least expect—a self-described religious person who, for one reason or another, is utterly indifferent to the very foundations upon which their worldview was constructed. Either way, the result is the same. In our culture, there seems to be a growing apathy toward theism. In conjunction with declining religious service attendance and the rising of the religiously unaffiliated has come a new challenge to evangelism. It is no longer the pugnacious New Atheism at center stage, but something far less passionate—apatheism. This nonchalant attitude toward God is more challenging to evangelism than religious pluralism, agnosticism, and atheism. For this reason, the phenomenon should be taken seriously. Evangelicals ought to examine and understand it… Read More

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The 7 Most Important Religious Liberty Cases of the Decade

Religious freedom is a right, given by God and guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, that allows individual people or groups to practice a religion—or to practice no religion at all—both in private and also in public with a minimal amount of interference from the local, state, or federal government. The Constitution and other federal and state laws protect this right to determine both what we believe and, in a more limited sense, how we act on those beliefs. Despite this being our first freedom, challenges to the right of individuals and organizations to practice this liberty arose frequently over the past decade. Here are seven of the most important cases involving religious freedom from 2010 to 2019: The Case: Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (2010) What It Was About: The Christian Legal Society filed a lawsuit after the University of California’s Hastings College of Law denied official recognition to the organization. The school refused to recognize the Christian group because it requires its voting members and officers to abide by an extensive, faith-based pledge that includes a prohibition on all premarital and extramarital sex. The Supreme Court ruled that a public college does not abridge the First Amendment by declining to acknowledge a student group that refuses to permit all students to join the group, in accordance with state law. Why It Matters: In a dissenting opinion, four conservative justices called the decision “deeply disappointing” and a “serious setback for freedom of expression in this country.” In his dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “Brushing aside inconvenient precedent, the Court arms public educational institutions with a handy weapon for suppressing the speech of unpopular groups. . . . I can only hope that this decision will turn out to be an aberration.” The Case:  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby… Read More

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Protestant Relics and the Graves of Whitefield and Edwards

Evangelicals have always had a complicated relationship with the graves and relics of their heroes. On one hand, the heritage of the Reformation made them wary of Catholic excesses regarding religious devotions and relics. On the other, evangelical heroes including George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards have drawn a steady stream of visitors to their graves and other historical sites. Merely knowing about these evangelical “icons” was not enough for some; physical proximity to the places they preached, or even to their buried bodies, was even better. I was recently reading a chapter from Keith Beutler‘s forthcoming University of Virginia Press book on Americans’ memory of the Founders in the early republic, and he was noting evangelicals’ attraction to relics associated with the major Founders, especially George Washington. He discussed evangelicals’ regular pilgrimages to George Whitefield’s tomb in Newburyport, Massachusetts, which I also discuss at length in my biography of Whitefield. I write: For evangelicals Whitefield’s grave became a place of pilgrimage for thousands of admirers in the centuries after his death. The prominent Methodist itinerant Jesse Lee visited the tomb in 1790 . . . Lee opened the coffin, offering a clinical account of the body’s condition: “They discovered his ears, hair, and a part of his nose had fallen off. His face was nearly in the common shape, though much contracted, and appeared quite destitute of moisture, and very hard. His teeth were white, and fast in their sockets. His breast bone had parted, and his bowels disrobed. His wig and clothes, in which he was buried, still remained; and were quite hard to tear. His flesh was black; and, as might be supposed, destitute of comeliness.” Lee took “a small relic of the gown in which he was buried; and prayed that he might be endued with the… Read More

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Appoint Elders—But Not Too Quickly

Since helping plant our church in 2011, I’ve been continually amazed at the beauty of the biblical eldership process. In the beginning, our “leadership team” was a gaggle of inexperienced dudes with more passion than experience. I praise God that our lead pastor chose to wait to install us as elders. An elder board of imperfect but Christ-loving men is dangerous (in a good way) as they seek to take new ground for God’s kingdom. God’s design for church polity is a hedge of protection and a catalyst to promote flourishing. It’s a lot of work to appoint and maintain a healthy elder board, but it’s worth it. It isn’t mere accountability that makes biblical eldership so helpful. It’s the passion in diversity of perspectives, the potency of prayer for the church, and the power of God’s Spirit working through imperfect men to glorify the perfect Christ. Unsurprisingly, God’s plan for church governance is effective and powerful. And yet, we must be careful. Planting a church without healthy elders is like stepping on the gas pedal while throwing the steering wheel out the window. High Stakes Appointing elders is not like appointing board members. A church is not less than an organization, but it is more. Elders lead the blood-bought bride of Jesus Christ. While businesses play an important role in culture-making and providing for people, churches are primarily concerned with eternal destinies. “Hire slowly, fire quickly” is a fine adage in the business world, but it’s unfit for church governance. Once an elder is installed, he is spiritually tied to the church. Removing him quickly will strain the body and violate trust. Planting a church without healthy elders is like stepping on the gas pedal while throwing the steering wheel out the window. The downfall of a leader is always… Read More

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Christianity and Politics: If A=B and B=C, then A=C. Or does it?

If I remember 8th-grade math correctly, and if I am hearing some of my fellow evangelicals clearly, either they or I have transgressed a basic principle of math. I’m pretty sure they are the ones who goofed about a basic issue, our worldview. What I mean is that, as a people, we are a priori committed to one worldview that we attempt to draw out from the Bible. Other faith groups in the world have other sources of truth, some authoritative (the Koran), some not so much (Hindu Scriptures), some in-between (Oprah); they develop their worldview from these sources. What happens when a Christian unconsciously synthesizes worldviews? Let’s start with one case and move on to that math issue. Case 1: Ayn Rand I will pick on Rand first. It may be because of some lingering bitterness in my heart, because I made myself finish The Fountainhead, and later on that novel about the train, a book that drove me to distraction. I also read some of her many essays. Ayn Rand called herself a capitalist and has been a huge influence on American libertarians and conservatives in the 21st century. She is also on record as saying: “I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.”[1] And she was an atheist and anti-Christian, since she believed that belief in God was irrational. This is why I was surprised when, a few years back, it seemed like a lot of evangelical Christians were walking around with dogeared copies of her Atlas Shrugged. At that time, some went on record saying, “It’s either Ayn Rand or Jesus Christ, but you can’t have both.” Others countered that… Read More

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Early High Christology and the Legacy of Larry Hurtado (1943–2019)

His first blog post—before academic blogging was a thing—featured 18 humble words: “As time permits, I hope to offer some worthwhile comments on early Christianity and perhaps other subjects too” (July 5, 2010). As of today, his blog has more than 2 million pageviews. His name is Larry Hurtado, and on November 26 he went to be with the Lord. He’s one of the most influential New Testament scholars you’ve probably never heard of. Hurtado wrote mainly for an academic audience, expressing his views on early Christianity through monographs, articles, and scholarly conferences. (Only in 2018 did he write his first truly popular-level book, Honoring the Son.) I remember the frustration I felt when, long after masters-level studies, I was just discovering his writings. I wondered, Why hadn’t anyone mentioned this guy before? While it’s unfortunate that Hurtado wasn’t more widely accessible to lay audiences, his ideas have still made their way from the academy to the pew through hundreds—if not thousands—of students, scholars, professors, and pastors deeply influenced by his work. Profound Influence Despite being born and educated in the Midwest, Hurtado’s academic career began in Canada (1975–1996, Regent College and University of Manitoba) and ended in Scotland (1996–2011, University of Edinburgh). He helped make New College at Edinburgh a powerhouse of biblical studies. He published around a dozen books (as author or editor) and was particularly prolific in shorter, technical writings. Upon his retirement he was named emeritus professor of New Testament language, literature, and theology. In October 2018, Hurtado announced he’d been diagnosed with AML, a form of leukemia. Initially the treatments seemed effective, but this past summer it returned aggressively. I was one of likely several people whom Hurtado informed that he wouldn’t be able to fulfill some writing-project commitment—for he only had weeks, at most months,… Read More

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9 Things You Should Know About the Christian Calendar

Today marks the first Sunday in Advent, the first day of the Christian calendar. Here are nine things should know about the cycle of liturgical seasons observed within many Christian churches: 1. The Christian calendar (also known as the liturgical calendar or ecclesiastical calendar) is an annual schedule that commemorates certain days and seasons related to the history of salvation. Some denominations—including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians—observe most of the traditional calendar, while other denominations—including Baptists and most nondenominational evangelical congregations—tend to focus on only a few dates, such as Christmas and Easter. During the Reformation, many of the Reformers retained only what they called the “evangelical feast days.” “Instead of viewing these days as a part of the Christian’s accomplishment of his or her salvation,” says Daniel Hyde, “they viewed celebrating these days as a celebration of the salvation which Christ had already accomplished for them in his Incarnation (Christmas), death (Good Friday), resurrection (Easter), ascending to the Father (Ascension), and giving of his Spirit (Pentecost). They were seen as invaluable times to celebrate Christ and his Gospel.” 2. Advent, which marks the start of the new liturgical year, always begins on Advent Sunday, which is the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The term Advent is taken from the Latin word adventus, which means “arrival” or “coming,” and was from the translation of the Greek Parousia—a word used for both the coming of Christ in human flesh and his Second Coming. The season of Advent is a time when Christians reflect on the comings of Christ to Earth. The first two weeks of the season focus on the future return of Christ at the Second Coming, while the last two weeks focus on the coming celebration of Christmas. As Ryan Reeves notes, the first written evidence of Advent is found in… Read More

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Men: Do You Get Angry at Your Wives?

Married men: don’t pretend to have a glowing testimony in the church when you have wicked outbursts of anger against your wife. Don’t try to hide it or justify it, but rather confess it and put it to death. You know the thing about this bad anger? It’s especially a problem for men. Men, you explode, you shout, you scream. You profess to be a Christian, but just let your wife do something that doesn’t sit right with you: burn the toast. She doesn’t agree with you. Her conduct isn’t just exactly what you want. A lot of men ready to fly off the handle; verbally abuse their poor wife. If you’re a man who’s angry, hot-tempered, you bark at your wife, you lash her with your tongue, but then you walk into this building. You put on a smile like the holy aura is around you. And your wife knows you were just talking to her on the way here in a certain way, or you dealt with her last night in a certain way. Not only do your wife and children know you’re a fake, all the more the Lord knows. And Paul is saying put it off. It doesn’t work to say, “well, you know, I’m just that way.” “I’m naturally hot-headed.” Paul’s saying quit that. Quit acting that way. What you are at home is what you are for real. What you are when you walk in here, that’s not the test. What you are at home, that’s where the real you is. You come into the church and you have this glowing testimony, but you know your wife walks on pins and needles never knowing what’s going to set you off. And there you are out there and you’re sitting there next to the very… Read More

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10 Best Advent Albums of the 2010s

I don’t blame those who dislike Christmas music. Much of what you hear on the radio in December, or over the speakers at the mall, is terrible. But within the vast and diverse genre, there are treasures to be found.  I’ve been encouraged, for example, that in the last few decades there has been a renaissance of Advent–focused Christmas music: music that is theologically rich and, while still joyful, somewhat more somber and serious than pop Christmas radio. This music helps listeners enter into the Advent story in a way that focuses on spiritual contemplation more than tinsel-drenched merriment.  In the last few decades there has been a renaissance of Advent-focused Christmas music that helps listeners enter into the Advent story in a way that focuses on spiritual contemplation more than tinsel-drenched merriment. As a way to celebrate the abundance of such music released in the 2010s, I’ve listed my 10 favorite Advent albums released in the last 10 years. I also created a 100-song playlist (find it on Spotify or Apple Music) that includes selected songs from each album, as well as a bunch of other great Advent songs released by various artists in the 2010s.  In compiling the list below, I focused on albums that contained both excellent original Advent songs and beautiful covers of familiar carols. Another criteria I considered was richness of lyrical content and appropriate musical mood. Advent of all the Christian seasons has a particular mood, and the albums below capture it well. They beautifully contemplate the key themes of Advent—hope, peace, joy, love, waiting, longing, tension—and do so by engaging Scripture in meaningful ways.  I pray these albums, and the accompanying playlist, will meet you this season in a place of quiet reverence and awestruck worship, as together we pause to ponder the… Read More

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The Original Black Friday

At the center of a biblical worldview is a radical recognition: the most horrible thing that ever happened was the most beautiful thing that ever happened.  Consider the cross of Jesus Christ. Could it be possible for something to happen more terrible than this? Could any injustice be greater? Any loss more painful? Any suffering worse? The only man who ever lived a life that was perfect in every way possible, who gave his life for the sake of many, and who willingly suffered from birth to death in loyalty to his calling, was cruelly and publicly murdered in the most vicious of ways.  How could the Son of Man die? How could men capture and torture the Messiah? In his sermon at Pentecost, Peter provides an explanation filled with both horror and beauty: Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:22–24) The cross was not the end of the story! In God’s righteous and wise plan, this horrible moment was ordained to be the moment that would fix all the dark and disastrous things that sin had done to the world. This moment of death was, simultaneously, a moment of life. This moment of horror was the moment when the beauty of eternal hope was given. This moment of lawless injustice was at the same time a moment of amazing grace. The extreme physical and emotional pain… Read More

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