Tuesday, February 28, 2006
A largely supportive crowd greeted Dr. Dale Salico, PSW exec, at the First Baptist Church of Alhambra, CA tonight, as he held one of a series of around the region meetings for church leaders to inform them on the background and meaning of the upcoming vote to consider separation from the ABCUSA.
The parking lot was 80% filled when I arrived ten minutes before the 7 PM meeting. The sanctuary (see above) was also well stocked with pastors, lay leaders and a few PSW staffers.
In his presentation, Salico's main thrust was that there is an wide gap between the highest values held by the region and those held by ABCUSA. He recounted the history of the controversy in the ABC and the advice of three consultants telling the ABC General Board that the presenting issue of homosexuality spoke of a deep divide in the ABC, so critical that forward progress (in mission and finance) is an unreasonable expectation.
The failure of the Valley Forge leadership to entertain any enforcement mechanism following the adoption of the General Board resolution on homosexuality led, for example, to the elevation of a homosexual woman to a role on the Ministers' Council Senate, an action which PSW Senators objected to. This occured in tandem with the ostrich-like unwillingness of the General Executive Committee to deal with the issue.
PSW began to move toward separation, but extended an olive branch in the form of three items they believed could avert a separation from ABC: to treat the policy seriously, to ensure that the people on ABCUSA boards and commissions lived by it and to appoint a commission to see that this happens. The PSW suggestion was turned down cold.
The region board, in December, agreed to press on. Much of the rest of Salico's presentation will be familiar to readers of DD.
Most questions were supportive; my guess is that 80% of those present were supportive, and that those who had questions came away believing that 95% of their questions were answered.
A few observations, though. The few (mildly) hostile questions to Salico were generally either about concerns about autonomy (which I think he handled skillfully) or about homosexuality in general (also handled skillfully, as he is adept both on the theological as well as psychological aspects).
Dale Salico came across as his usual clear, humble, logical and compassionate self. I've known the man for over twenty years, and this Dale is the man I have always known. He says what he means and he means what he says--an Israelite in whom their is no guile.
An associate from Evergreen Baptist Church in nearby Rosemead, a large, very evangelical church in ABC of LA (and a predomiently Asian church) was present and rose to say, "We want you to know--we are supportive of the what PSW is doing"--and asked about the admission of churches to PSW, an item that Salico indicated that was just not on the radar at this time for PSW.
One last thing: Dr. Salico went to lengths to depict the potential action of the PSW not as a "split" but more as "establishing distance [between PSW and ABCUSA], not a complete break." Although this was no said in so many words, it seems fair to say that in some sense, Salico sees himself not as leaving the ABC, but being a kind of "American Baptist, one step removed."
The meeting close with a moving time of prayer--in all, almost three hours, almost of of which was dedicated to taking questions.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Egypt announces discovery of Ramses II statues
Sun Feb 26, 11:34 AM ET
CAIRO (Reuters) - Statues weighing up to five tonnes and thought to be of one of ancient Egypt's greatest pharaohs, Ramses II, have been found northeast of Cairo, Egypt's Supreme Antiquities Council said in a statement on Sunday.
Ramses II ruled Egypt from 1304 to 1237 BC, and presided over an era of great military expansion, erecting statues and temples to himself all over Egypt. He is traditionally believed to be the pharaoh mentioned in the biblical story of Moses.
"Many parts of red granite statues were found, the most important of which had features close to Ramses II ... The statue needs some restoration and weighs between four and five tonnes," the statement quoted the Council's Zahi Hawass as saying.
A royal head weighing two to three tonnes and a seated 5.1 meter (16.7 foot) statue were also found, with cartouches, or royal name signs, of Ramses II on the side of the seated statue.
The discoveries were made at a sun temple northeast of Cairo in ancient Heliopolis, a region known in ancient times for sun worship and where the Council says a calendar based on the solar year was invented.
My only question: how do you lose something this big?
Rev. John Mazarella (here pictured in Argentina last May), who describes himself as "One of the Baptist Remnant in Red State Babylon," in Westborough, MA is the "Jesuit Spy" behind The Dead Theologians Club. "I blog about once or twice a week on whatever strikes my fancy," he writes. For example, right now his home page discusses the passing of Don Knotts. He explains his odd name this way:
Take some Episcopal church, a quantity of Roman Catholic, a bit of Salvation Army, 4 years with the Jesuits, marinated with the Holy Spirit, sloshed in a whole bunch of Baptists and what do you get? Me - A Paleo-Orthodox, Theological Dinosaur. So why is my screen name "Jesuit Spy"? Its an old conspiratiorial joke from an old friend of mine who used to tease me about my "questionable" Heinz 57 ecclessiastical background.
Be sure to say "cheese" (his church's kids have nicknamed him "Rev Cheese") and have a look at John's blog.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
I'm issuing a call to all American Baptist evangelical bloggers to contact me--especially if you specialize in renewal efforts in your area. Region by region--those staying, those going, those in the balance--let's stay connected.
Here's how: either use the comment feature below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The blogosphere is effecting a communications revolution. I've actually heard that a certain regional exec tells his staff, "If you want to know what's happening, read Durable Data and His Barking Dog." (Man, does that make me feel responsible!) I could use a little help here! We need informed bloggers from all over the country to rise up and link up to keep Baptist Blogistan informed!
I will feature each and every blog that's sent my way. It would help if you offered a brief description of your blog focus and blogging style.
Blog on, dude!
Christianity Today, March 2006
The Lessons of Jabez: There are no shortcuts for missionaries—even famous ones.
A Christianity Today editorial posted 02/21/2006 09:00 a.m.
Given that Africa has often been a graveyard for missionaries, Bruce Wilkinson's sad and sudden departure probably shouldn't surprise us. In 2002, flush with celebrity, the Prayer of Jabez author determined to use his newfound wealth and influence to address Africa's tremendous social and spiritual problems. Eventually, his territory-enlarging vision narrowed to Swaziland, a tiny, impoverished kingdom abutting South Africa. Swaziland, with a population of 1.1 million people, has 70,000 orphans, mostly because of AIDS.
Wilkinson announced plans to start Dream for Africa (DFA), a $190 million project that would house 10,000 orphans on a 32,500-acre complex by the end of this year. The plan included a golf course, a dude ranch, abstinence training, and the planting of 500,000 small vegetable gardens. But facing hostile, misinformed accounts in the Swazi press and resistance from government officials, Wilkinson, 58, announced last fall he was leaving Africa and taking an early retirement from active ministry. The dream would continue, but in other hands and on a much smaller scale.
"Bruce was quite broken at this time," a source who requested anonymity told CT. "[DFA] had physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially taken a serious toll."
Like many missionaries, he burned out. Wilkinson, who admits that his Jabez-like prayer for the audacious project did not work, told The Wall Street Journal, "I'll put it down as one of the disappointments of my career."
And a disappointment to his followers. A Swazi pastor told the Journal, "I don't know how to handle this. People won't understand—to them Bruce is everything."
What went wrong? From a missions perspective, a lot.
Wilkinson mistook his vision for God's plan. In a letter to King Mswati demanding quick action, Wilkinson wrote, "Given the fact that Swaziland has been placed on the heart of DFA by God through devoted prayer, we believe the country has reached a major juncture in its quest to take ownership of its problems and to embrace God's divine will for Swaziland."
Like many Americans, Wilkinson exhibited a profound distrust of established institutions and believed he could start de novo. Wilkinson thought village elders and existing aid agencies had (in the words of the Journal) "fallen down on the job." He told the press, "Because I don't come out of this arena of humanitarian aid, I have a fresh pair of eyes."
U.S. Ambassador Lewis Lucke warned Wilkinson, without effect, that the plan to take orphans off their land conflicted with the local culture, and that the government would never provide the prime tract he wanted.
Wilkinson misread the people he was trying to help. A Wilkinson associate believed Swaziland's king had given his approval for the project. The chief of staff, however, said the king had merely agreed in principle on the need to help orphans, but not on the particulars.
Still, as we critique Wilkinson's efforts, we should remember the admonition of Teddy Roosevelt:
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, great devotions; … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Considering the world's suffering, the church needs more saints like Wilkinson, who dare greatly. But that daring must give due consideration to missions basics.
We also must remember that Americans in general—and Wilkinson in particular—have no corner on missionary missteps. As the cross-cultural missions force increasingly internationalizes in places such as Nagaland, Northeast India, and South Korea, we must be prepared to support—and humbly correct—one another, no matter what nation we come from, the color of our skin, or the spiritual gifts we exhibit.
We are not calling for missionary timidity, however. William Carey, the presumed father of modern missions, had his own Jabez-like philosophy: "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God." And, over decades of ministry, he did—overseeing the translation of the Scriptures into dozens of Indian languages, organizing a network of schools, founding a college, and fighting the brutal practice of widow-burning.
Carey was part of a team and not a missionary lone ranger. Unlike Wilkinson, he spent long years studying, and coming to appreciate, the culture of those he sought to win for Christ.
Like Wilkinson, though, Carey became discouraged. His first wife, Dorothy, did not hear the same call and succumbed to mental illness. There were also persistent struggles with finances, illness, and a lack of converts. At a similar point in life, a humble Carey wrote in a note to his son (ironically, named Jabez), "I am this day 58, but how little I have done for God."
As Christ's frail followers enter the arena, we must humbly study the culture, persist in spite of painful setbacks, and heed others' hard-earned ministry lessons. Those who seek to serve as missionaries—whether in the 1st century or the 21st—invariably must take up their crosses. There are no shortcuts.
I'm writing a monthly column for the local paper. Here's the first entry. Regular DD readers will see some overlap from earlier entries. Also, Las Tunas is the major East/West street in Temple City. Here goes:
With Glenn Layne
I was in Israel the last week of January and saw first hand the “wall”, or as Israelis call it, “The Security Fence.” For most of its length, the Fence is just that—a fence with a security perimeter. Under Israeli law, the fence cannot be electrified. (I sure didn’t know that, did you?) The reason is that they believe that would be cruel, and too much like the sufferings suffered by Jewish people during the Holocaust. The same principle is applied to the fence that has for years separated Israel and Syria (the Golan Heights area). Instead, the fence is designed to be an intimidating barrier, physically and psychologically.
In some areas, it is a real wall. For example, there are stretches of the N-5 freeway that run parallel to the wall, so it is a real wall so prevent weapons fire into the very modern highway (it reminded me of the new section of the 210 opened a few years ago).
Only once did our group come up close and personal to the Fence/Wall: that was at the Jerusalem/Bethlehem crossing. To cross over, our bus parked on the Israeli side and we went through a serpentine maze, designed to slow down and thwart a potential attacker. All our items were x-rayed, much as at an airport.
The Israeli side was immaculate; the Arab side of the wall was plastered with make-shift protest murals. “To exist is to resist,” said one, in English. Another depicted an Israeli lion attacking an Arabic dove. His motive? In Hebrew, it said shekelim: money. (For a photo of the Arab side of the wall, see http://durabledata.blogspot.com/2006/02/dd-is-back.html.) The anti-Jewish nature of the signs were all the more striking since we’d spent a good portion of the morning at Yad Vashem, the Israeli memorial to the Holocaust.
On that side, we were met by an Arab guide. Our group was small, so he’d arraigned for two vans to meet us. He was a chatty fellow, and our group was bold enough to ask political questions. What did he think of the recent Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections? “No good, no good,” he said. He was from the dwindling Palestinian Arab Christian minority of Bethlehem.
Life had been hard for everyone in the “Territories” (the term preferred by the Israelis). When the latest round of the Intifada brook out in 2000, tourism practically died in Israel. Tourist dependant towns like Bethlehem were hit hard. Add to that the fact that radicals actually seized control of the Church of the Nativity and held it for several weeks and the increased strife between Christian and Muslim Arabs, the last five and a half years had been hard. Many Christian Arabs were giving up: leaving for America and Europe.
I was in Israel last in 1999, and I can testify to the fact that overall, Bethlehem looked worn down and beaten up compared to the bustling town I recalled. The wall had imposed hardship on all Palestinians. The economy all over the territories is suffering; the security fence meant that thousands of Palestinians who used to work in Israel proper can no longer get clearances to get in. The electoral victory of Hamas will not make matters better. Life is very hard for the average Palestinian family.
But I have to ask myself, if it was my kid whose life was threatened when they went to a pizza place, how would I think? The reality is we would put a wall up the middle of Las Tunas Avenue if it meant saving lives of our kids.
The Israelis are glad for the wall. Terrorist attacks are down 95% since the bulk of the fence went up. (It is still not quite complete, and locations can be moved based on appeals to the Israeli Supreme Court.)
Now what does this all have to do with thinks locally? One member of our group mused aloud, “We need one of these along the Mexican border.”
It’s clear the border enforcement American style is rather porous. If we had to deal with Latin America suicide bombers hitting San Diego and El Paso, we might as well build a wall.
Here in Temple City, we are undergoing an ethnic transformation of tidal proportions. In the 1940s, Temple City was populated by Los Angeles commuters and newcomers to the area, including (sometime I’ll write about the fact that Star Trek was invented by Temple City newcomer from Texas named Gene Roddenberry). This wave of settlement was overwhelmingly white.
Whatever you think about a security fence along the Mexican border, the reality is that the greater San Gabriel Valley has become the destination of choice for thousands of Asian immigrants. Thank God, it doesn’t have the menace of radicals with suicide bombs.
In one sense, it doesn’t matter what you or I think. The future’s coming whether we’re ready for it or not. No wall can or will be built. The only question is whether we deal wisely with the transformation or not. I know this is a high priority at the church I serve. It needs to be priority one all across the community. Walls will not do. Bridges are our priority.
Written February 25, 2006.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Tip o' the hat to Dennis McFadden for scooping me on new developments in WV and in the Cornerstone Church Network. (Hey, I work for a living; who knows what Dennis was doing?)
First, an except from his WV update:
This month's report from the WVBC "Working Group on Denominational Relationships" not only updates the rest of us on the progress being made but offers its own scoop for some of us in non WV locales. While many of us were expecting a final recommendation from the commission, they profess that was never part of their charter. Instead, they only see their task as exploring and explaining denominational relationships so that congregations and decision makers will have all of the necessary information available to them. Interesting.
From the report:
Some are anticipating a recommendation from the group. That will not happen. It is imperative that we all understand the Working Group is not responsible for making any recommendations. The group exists for the purpose of helping all of us to understand how we are related. What each individual, each church, each association and each region does with the provided information will be determined by the action of those bodies. Our aim is to help each make informed decisions.
But as all fleeing mammoths know, the Ice Age is coming and it looks like WV Baptists intend not be covered in glaciers (originating from near Philadelphia). Be patient!
On Cornerstone, we have this (edited) update:
What’s happening with the Cornerstone Church Network? Rumors have been flying. Frustrations at the silence have been voiced, and in some instances seemed nearly deafening. But where are we and what is coming?
First, the Lombard conferees commissioned Bill Nicoson to assemble a diverse group of leaders, dubbed “vision architects,” charged with working out the inchoate wishes of hundreds of evangelical Baptist leaders. A more ethnically, geographically, and gender diverse team one could hardly find. Hailing from every part of the ABC, representing most ethnic constituencies, and agreeing on the need to put actionable steps to the largely incomplete dreams expressed in Lombard, they have been hard at work.
Second, the effort has been much slower than anyone anticipated due to the complications of legalities, and the technicalities of birthing such an ambitious network. Bill freely admits that he should have communicated more and sooner. However, since so many of the details were in flux, he did not feel free to share much of anything for fear that rapid change would make it obsolete before it was even disseminated.What should we expect to come out soon?
* Bill and the Vision Architects are putting dates on calendars for several gatherings around the country to discuss what the team has done pursuant to the charge they received at Lombard.
* The overarching structure being proposed will center around themes of being Relational, Missional, and Global.
* The intention is NOT to invent another top-down or bureaucratic organization. Rather, they are proposing a nimble and lithe network, very similar to the pattern of computer networks. In order to keep it non-institutional and avoid top-heavy patterns of “governance,” the Vision Architects plan to create avenues of involvement that depend upon person-to-person contacts and resourcing, rather than running everything through a centralized office or power center.
* The resulting network will stress high commitment on the part of congregations. They are proposing annual membership so that a measure of accountability attaches to fidelity to doctrinal commitments shared by ALL members of the network. Congregations will function either as “mentoring” churches helping others or as churches receiving mentoring from another congregation. In some cases, a fellowship may elect to stand in both relationships.
Yes, this gestation has taken a long time. But, like the development of a human child, the time cannot safely be shortened. We do stand on the precipice of an exciting time, brimming with possibilities and potential. Those who have been privileged to catch glimpses of the new reality, even now moving from dream state into focus, are excited. I heard of one African American pastor who had tears in his eyes when he beheld what was being proposed. “At last, this is what I’ve been looking for in the ABC all of these years,” he said.
Comment: first, I'm happy that Cornerstone is making progress, but this cake is still in the oven. If I'd been there, I would have asked about the role of local associations--I think that's still the #1 venue of multichurch fellowship among Baptists.
Keep Bill Nicoson, the Architects and the Cornerstone Movement in your prayers, OK?
Thanks again to www.hisbarkingdog.blogspot.com.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
The following email was sent today, February 22 from the PSW office:
A Special Meeting of delegates from the churches of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest has been called for April 29, 2006. Delegates will vote on the following question:
Should the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships and its Agreements with the American Baptist Churches, USA, as recommended by the Board of Directors of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest?
In preparation for the Special Meeting on April 29 each church is asked to do the following:
I. As a church body, make a decision on the recommendation for ABCPSW to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships. Each church is requested to have a church meeting to discuss the recommendation and, in accordance with their bylaws, decide their position on the recommendation.
II. Select delegates to represent their church and vote at the Special Meeting. Letters were mailed to each church on February 1. Questions about the number of authorized delegates for your church must be raised with Debbie Gentry at the Church Resource Center by MARCH 1.
III. Provide instruction or guidance to the delegates on how to vote in order to represent the will of the church on the recommendation to withdraw.
IV. Register the delegates with the Church Resource Center not later than April 13, 2006. Each church is requested to send a list of those selected to be their delegates on the church letterhead signed by the Senior Pastor, the Moderator, or the Church clerk. Only registered delegates will be given ballots at the Special Meeting.
If you did not receive your letter please respond to this email and we will be happy to re-send to you!
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Give me a break...since when did the WCC care about theology? When they found themselves sidelined, that's when. A report from Australia about a meeting in Brazil, now to be read by Americans...such is the nature of the blogosphere.
Megachurches 'shallow in theology'
From correspondents in Porto Alegre, Brazil
THE head of the World Council of Churches has expressed concern about the spread of megachurches around the world, such as Hillsong in Sydney, saying they could lead to a Christianity that is "two miles long and one inch deep".
The WCC General Secretary Samuel Kobia said megachurches - huge Protestant churches with charismatic pastors, lively music and other services - mostly ran on a business model to make worshippers feel good and were shallow in their theology.
Megachurches, which pack in thousands for rousing Sunday worship services, are popular in suburbs in the United States. Most are evangelical or Pentecostal, with few or no ties to mainline churches such as the Lutherans or Episcopalians.
Mr Kobia said the megachurch movement, which is not represented in the mostly mainline Protestant or Orthodox World Council of Churches, broke down borders among denominations with a populist message.
"It has no depth, in most cases, theologically speaking, and has no appeal for any commitment," the Kenyan Methodist said at the WCC world assembly in this Brazilian city.
The megachurches simply wanted individuals to feel good about themselves, he said.
"It's a church being organised on corporate logic. That can be quite dangerous if we are not very careful, because this may become a Christianity which I describe as 'two miles long and one inch deep'."
Reverend Geoff Tunnicliffe, international director of the 400 million member World Evangelical Alliance, said at the assembly that "historical and deeply-felt issues" separated them from other branches of Christianity.
The largest US megachurches attract some 20,000 worshippers every Sunday. Abroad, megachurches have also sprouted up in Australia, South Korea, Britain, Canada, and other countries.
According to a report by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, there were 1210 US churches drawing more than 2000 worshipers, the official minimum for a megachurch. That was double the number in 2000.
The WCC groups nearly 350 Protestant and Orthodox churches that mostly broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in the Great Schism of 1054 or in the 16th century Reformation.
This was received from a friend today:
After your chat with Dane [Aaker] in the hall at Colton First Baptist, I could tell you have had a strong position on abortion, so when I read this article I thought it may touch you and you may like to share it with those that have liked concerns about abortion. This is the kind of comment it needs to be passed around the world.
I was reading a article today about the current status of the man condemned to die last night by lethal injection. That the courts wanted aanesthesiologist present so that it was not "Cruel or Unusual punishment"so that the prisoner wouldn't suffer. So here is the comment in the article that just sickened me when you compare what we think is an OK standard for killing babies. In a statement last week, Dr. Priscilla Ray, chairwoman of the American Medical Association Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, condemned the ruling that required the anesthesiologists present. "The use of a physician's clinical skill and judgment for purposes other than promoting an individual's health and welfare undermines a basic ethical foundation of medicine--first do no harm," she said. "Requiring physicians to be involved in executions violates their oath to protect lives." How convenient to use this statement here for a death row person that has been tried by his peers for the murder and rape of someone that we see his life has all this value. But a unborn baby has no value to use the same Oath that protects lives. This should outrage the Christian community. By the way, the doctors walked out not performing their task and it stayed the execution.
Here's the story:
Doctor walk-out delays execution - Ruetershttp://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060221/ts_nm/crime_execution_delay_dc
FYI: I served on the General Board of the ABC when abortion was the BIG ISSUE, and served on the task force that rewrote the ABC resolution in a way that at least respected the pro-life position.
I wonder if really lousy theology has anything to do with it...
Posted on Tue, Feb. 21, 2006
Baptist seminary planning to move
By BILL TAMMEUS
The Kansas City Star
To save money, Central Baptist Theological Seminary plans to move — probably this summer — from the campus it has occupied since 1923 at 31st Street and Minnesota Avenue in Kansas City, Kan.
The seminary will relocate in smaller facilities somewhere in the metropolitan area, though an exact location has yet to be announced.
“We must put our resources into quality educational instruction rather than deferred maintenance,” said Molly T. Marshall, president of the 105-year-old American Baptist seminary. She called the current 90-acre campus “a draining burden for us.”
The seminary is facing nearly $5 million in deferred maintenance costs, she said. The move, she said, should save the seminary about $400,000 a year.
“While we hate to depart our home for 82 years, we want the mission of Central to continue,” Marshall said. Central is marketing the campus, and Marshall said church groups and schools have expressed interest, though no sale agreement has been reached.
In recent years the seminary has been seeking to confront financial problems by expanding its online course offerings and cutting several staff positions. It has also closed some buildings on campus and now uses just four of its 11 structures.
Central has created course offerings in Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Neb., and Murfreesboro, Tenn. When students at those locations are counted, the seminary now serves 130 students.
Those moves, said Marshall, are “an expeditious way to serve adult learners whose life commitments make the old delivery systems for theological education somewhat obsolete.”
The seminary offers three theological degrees and is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the U.S. and Canada and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. To accommodate its many students who work full time, it has moved many of its classes to evenings and weekends.
The future of Central seminary “has been at risk for several years,” Marshall said. “In the summer of 2003 we were very near having to close.”
Now, however, Marshall said: “I believe we have a sustainable future, but not if we carry the encumbrance of this campus. I love the place. I love the people, and I’m willing to do some heavy lifting for the sake of the school.”
Originally named the Kansas City Baptist Theological Seminary, Central was the first Baptist seminary west of the Mississippi River. Today it draws students from many Protestant traditions. The American Baptist denomination has about 1.5 million members in 5,800 churches. By comparison, the Southern Baptist Convention has about 16 million members in 48,000 churches.
Molly Marshall is the darling of the theo-left in the ABC: a feminist, an ex-pat from the SBC and a theology prof. She is also a champion of a theology that is bizarre in its density and complexity, but rejects the Trinity, the uniqueness of Christ and the authority of Scriptures.
What someone should really ask is why Central is going down the tubes while Northern, with its clear evangelical renewal, is thriving?
Monday, February 20, 2006
Mighty Bill Herzog, darling of the Roger Williams set, is still out with Albert Schweitzer and the Jesus Seminar gang looking for Jesus with Marxist glasses...a review, from http://www.bookreviews.org/pdf/4868_5072.pdf. If you're in a rush, scroll down to the numbered objections to Mighty Bill's method...
Herzog, William R., II
Prophet and Teacher: An Introduction to the Historical Jesus
Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005. Pp. xii + 243.
Paper. $24.95. ISBN 0664225284.
Caronport, SK, Canada S0H 0S0
This is the third monograph by William R. Herzog II to apply models drawn from the social sciences to the study of the historical Jesus. Readers familiar with Parables as Subversive Speech (1994) and Jesus, Justice, and the Reign of God (2000) will notice the integration of parts of Herzog.s previous work into this more general introduction that focuses on the .political, social, and economic dimensions of Jesus. teaching and public activity.. In addition to the roles of prophet and teacher, Herzog proposes also to treat Jesus as a healer and exorcist who granted forgiveness and purity, as a reputational leader. who embodied the values of poor villagers from Galilee, and as a broker of the reign of God.
The first two chapters are concerned with the task and methods required for the study of the historical Jesus. Herzog insists on the need for imaginative reconstruction and the testing and evaluation of interpretive models. He regards the standard criteria for authenticity as helpful tools because .they encourage us to ask questions about these materials and subject them to scrutiny. However, Herzog's approach is most indebted to the triadic method of John Dominic Crossan. Like Crossan, Herzog draws on models from cultural anthropology and macrosociology, as well as more specific historical studies. in his reconstruction of first-century Palestine before turning to the analysis of
specific passages from the Gospels. Herzog affirms that conclusions about the historical Jesus are necessarily tentative and incomplete.admitting that his own study will succumb from time to time to the ever-present temptation to claim too much on the basis of too little evidence. Nevertheless, he maintains that the attempt to get a portion of it adequately right for today. is worth the effort.
The interpretation of Jesus' public activity in the remainder of the book depends on the sketch of the political, social, and economic context of first-century Palestine in chapter 3. Herzog argues that, as members of an .advanced agrarian society, the majority of peasants suffered under an oppressive tax burden imposed by Rome and the local citydwelling ruling elites. Apart from the toll collectors who came from the cities to collect taxes, peasants had little contact with the outside world and seldom traveled far from home. This isolated environment permitted the development of a little tradition that
regulated daily life and stood in opposition to the Jerusalem-centered great tradition promulgated by the Pharisees and others whose preoccupation with tithing and purity served the priestly and ruling elites. Herzog implies that most of the people in Judea denied the legitimacy of the high priests and concluded that .the sacrifices [the priests] supervised were unacceptable to God.
The high priests, for their part, consistently sided with their Roman overlords rather than with the common people. Although Galilee was under the jurisdiction of the client ruler, Herod Antipas, the priestly demand for temple tithes created a predatory relationship between Jerusalem and Galilee. Galilean peasants were loyal to the temple in Jerusalem,. but most peasants simply could not afford to tithe after paying their required tribute and other taxes. As a result, they were condemned by the temple leaders, who declared them perpetually indebted and unclean. In order to receive forgiveness, the
peasants had to pay their tithes.
Chapter 4 explains how a handyman from Nazareth came to be viewed as a prophet, teacher, healer, and reputational leader. Herzog concludes that the synagogues in which Jesus taught were most likely not buildings but community gatherings that may have taken place in a variety of locations, including the village gate, the market square, or even a private home. Jesus initially gained public recognition by his acts of healing and exorcism and by engaging in public debate with Pharisees, who functioned as rule enforcers of the great tradition. According to Herzog, many of the conflict stories in the
Gospels can be understood as typical first-century .honor challenges.. On Herzog's reading of Mark 2:1.12, for example, Jesus initiated an honor challenge when he announced to the paralytic that his sins were forgiven. The scribes perceived a threat to the official temple system of forgiveness and attempted to shame Jesus by accusing him of blasphemy. By healing the paralytic, Jesus demonstrated that nonpriests like himself had God-given authority to offer forgiveness apart from the temple system. In the same
way, the conflict about the healing of a crippled woman on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10.17) expresses how Jesus loosed the members of the synagogue from a reading of Torah that overlooks the pain of the bent and broken members of the community. As Jesus acquired honor by winning debates about the interpretation of Torah, he emerged as a reputational leader. who embodied the little-tradition values of the peasants around him, offered a means of resistance to the great tradition, and recruited a small group of disciples to share in his liberating work.
In chapter 5 Herzog claims that understanding Jesus as a prophet offers insight into his political message and explains why he attracted a following. Like the sign prophets mentioned in Josephus, Jesus was a popular leader whose message drew on the little tradition and appealed to the majority of disaffected peasants. Unlike the sign prophets, however, Jesus made no attempt to gather a large group of followers, and though he was engaged in political resistance, he generally avoided direct confrontations with Roman authority. Jesus' signs were not predictions of future divine intervention but healings and exorcisms performed by a prophet whose authority was independent of the temple, which
challenged the monopoly on divine power held by the ruling elites. Jesus can also be viewed as a Deuteronomic prophet in the tradition of Moses, for, like Moses, Jesus interpreted Torah in his parabolic teaching, calling for justice and a return to the covenant. Jesus also invited comparison with prophets of the northern kingdom as a miracle-working prophet who gathered a faction of disciples, as Elijah and Elisha had done. Unlike many of the classical prophets, however, Jesus spoke as a peasant on behalf of other peasants like himself.
Fernando Belo's division of Torah into a purity code that served the temple and the priests and a debt code concerned with liberation from slavery and the eradication of poverty forms the theoretical framework for a discussion of Jesus' prophetic teaching of Torah in chapter 6. Herzog argues that Jesus criticized the 'great tradition' because it misrepresented Torah by focusing on the purity code and ignoring the economic implications of the debt code. Thus, responding to a challenge regarding his disciples failure to adhere to purity traditions, Jesus accused his opponents of abusing Torah by encouraging children to serve the needs of the temple at the expense of one's family.
(Mark 7:1.15). According to Herzog, many of Jesus. parables also deal primarily with economic oppression. Although the parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1.8) in its Lukan formulation is concerned with persistent prayer, Jesus originally directed it against judges in Torah courts who undermined the justice of the Torah by means of their actions. The parable of the workers in the vineyard, similarly, exposes the unjust practices of wealthy landowners who misused the debt code to justify their own behavior.
So great was Jesus. concern for social justice that he rejected the temple cult altogether, or so Herzog argues in chapter 7. This is not surprising, for "[i]n agrarian societies, temples play a critical role in separating peasants from the wealth they produce." In addition to serving as their primary source of wealth, the Jerusalem temple reinforced the status of the priestly elites and justified their oppressive practices. When Jesus announced the presence of something greater than the temple, he was referring to his prophetic reading of Torah, which stressed the priority of mercy over sacrifices. In the end, Jesus accused the temple elites of social banditry and acted out a prophetic sign of its
Chapters 8 and 9 explore ways that Jesus, as a representative of the little tradition, expressed resistance to the great tradition imposed on peasants by the ruling elites and constructed an alternate way of viewing the world known as the 'hidden transcript'. Of necessity, this form of resistance is often disguised in such a way that only adherents of the little tradition get the point. For example, Jesus profaned the idea of paying the temple tax by jokingly inviting Peter to fish for it (Matt 17:24.27). Paying tribute to Rome is transformed into an act of defiance: They were returning the denarius to the blasphemer who had minted it yet without acknowledging Rome's claim to rule either
their bodies' or their land. Jesus also profaned the great tradition by eating with those who were ritually unclean. He did this not in anticipation of an eschatological banquet but as a political statement concerning the present renewal of Israel among those whom the great tradition had excluded. Moreover, by encouraging hospitality in such parables as the friend at midnight (Luke 11:5.8), Jesus taught his followers to practice justice in a way that would be condemned by the elites as an extravagant waste of resources.
The concluding chapter is not so much an explanation of why Jesus was crucified as an apologetic against anti-Jewish readings of the crucifixion narrative. Herzog concludes that Jesus was not tried before the Sanhedrin. Instead, the ruling elites set up a 'show trial' designed to shame and discredit one who had already been condemned as guilty.
The crowd calling for Jesus. crucifixion consisted of clients of the high priest rather than Galilean pilgrims to Jerusalem. According to Herzog, the reasons for Jesus' death are simple: Jesus was crucified for standing in solidarity with his fellow peasants and for proclaiming a message of resistance against the temple, the corrupt priestly elites from Jerusalem, and their Pharisaic supporters.
As is fitting for an introduction to the historical Jesus, Herzog assumes little of the reader. Technical terms are defined.sometimes more than once. The book is clearly written, chapter summaries ensure that readers are able to follow the argument, and provocative interpretations of the Gospels stimulate renewed reflection on our primary evidence.
Readers unfamiliar with socioscientific criticism will find here a practical introduction to new concepts and an illustration of some of the positive ways they can illumine our interpretation of historical evidence.
Unfortunately, Prophet and Teacher also illustrates the danger of overreliance on crosscultural and cross-temporal socioscientific models. Herzog's conclusions are too often based upon generalizations derived from what typically happens in advanced agrarian societies instead of on detailed analyses of the primary evidence. Because of the following serious reservations about Herzog's construction of Jesus and his first-century context, I hesitate to recommend it to its target audience.
First, Herzog.s portrait of Jesus as a liberator of the oppressed rests on the assumption that the majority of people in first-century Palestine struggled to survive in the face of an unbearable tax burden exacerbated by additional demands from the Jerusalem temple.
Surprisingly, Herzog never engages criticisms of this view by E. P. Sanders, for example, who argues that the tax burden in Palestine was no greater than in other parts of the Roman empire.
Second, Herzog's acknowledgement that Galilean Jews were loyal to the temple in Jerusalem. stands in tension with his assertion that those who did not pay tithes could not expect to enjoy the benefits of the temple sacrifices. I know of no evidence to support this assertion; Herzog provides none.
Third, when Herzog states that the Pharisees believed impurity could be transmitted by touch, he does not discuss procedures for the restoration of purity within Judaism or mention the widespread evidence for the use of mikwaot in ancient Palestine. Given current scholarly debate concerning purity issues, Herzog's suggestion that the great tradition emphasized purity because it could be used to maximize the social distance between elites and peasants. at least requires further elaboration.
Fourth, the presentation of the Pharisees as members of a retainer class who enforced the traditions of the temple elite fits the class model adopted by Herzog nicely but oversimplifies the evidence in our ancient sources pointing to significant differences between priests and Pharisees.
Finally, Herzog.s portrait of Jesus the liberator allows him to ignore, or exclude as secondary, theological aspects of Jesus. teaching. In this, of course, Herzog is not alone.
Still, it remains that, like Jeremias before him, Herzog's interpretation of Jesus. teaching is in the service of a larger holistic reading of Jesus. ministry.. While all criteria for authenticity involve circular forms of reasoning, it is possible that later readers at some remove from Herzog's work will be more willing to grant Jesus' concern for justice and also to allow for the possibility that Jesus sometimes employed examples from daily economic life in service of other theological ideas.
My, this sounds familiar. Actually, I met Ron Jackson; we had him as a guest to one of our association pastor's meetings. I have often compared the ABCUSA to the Episcopal Church in that they are denominations that stand astride historic gulfs: in the case of the ABC, between the mainlines and evangelicals, in the case of the Episcopal Church, between Protestant and Catholic. However, the old ways are breaking up...all over.
LA CRESCENTA, CA: St. Luke's Flees Diocese and ECUSA.
Aligns with Uganda
Bishop Bruno Vows to fight for Property
February 14, 2006
News from St. Luke's of the Mountains Church
La Crescenta, Calif. - Feb. 14, 2006 - St. Luke's of the Mountains, a biblically orthodox church for over 60 years, affirms its membership in the Anglican Communion and will no longer be affiliated with the Episcopal Church USA or the Diocese of Los Angeles. St. Luke's is now under the jurisdictional oversight of the Anglican Province of Uganda in the Diocese of Luweero, which is a member of the mainstream of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Since its founding, the members of St. Luke's have remained steadfast and loyal in their commitment to the Holy Scripture, the historic teachings of Christianity and the Anglican Communion. However, the Episcopal Church USA has chosen a path that no longer reflects the membership's steadfast faith. "St. Luke's is a biblically orthodox church that accepts Jesus Christ as the Only Lord and Savior, and acknowledges the Bible as the authoritative Word of God," said Dr. Tim Kelly, a congregational leader. "Our loyalty is to God, not a religious hierarchy. Thus, when the hierarchy strays from the historical faith, it is time for change. We are simply remaining faithful to our historic beliefs and values, by aligning ourselves with the orthodox faithful in the Anglican Communion."
The church members and board of directors (called the vestry) of St. Luke's made this decision with the support of their pastor, The Rev. Dr. Ron Jackson, reflecting the desire of the church to stand firm on its religious convictions.
"It is only after much deliberation and fervent prayer that we came to this conclusion, but it is our only recourse if we are to stay true to the historic faith and teachings of the church," said Fr. Jackson, St. Luke's Rector.
"We have worked very hard for many years to reconcile our differences with the Episcopal Church USA and the Diocese of Los Angeles, both in our own hearts and through extensive dialogue. Unfortunately, however, that effort cannot bridge the theological chasm between us or bring the Episcopal Church back into communion with most of the Anglican world that has severed ties with the U.S. church."
"The members of St. Luke's wish to move beyond this issue so we can concentrate on our core mission: To glorify God, and to follow the teachings of Christ in the Holy Scriptures," concluded Fr. Jackson. "This includes reaching out to those in need around us and sharing the Gospel."
The worldwide Anglican Communion has churches in 164 countries with about 77 million members. In the past, the Episcopal Church USA has claimed to represent about 2.5 million members both here and abroad, which is only about three percent of the Anglican Communion.
The Anglican Province of Uganda represents eight million Anglicans, more than three times the membership in the entire Episcopal Church USA. St. Luke's has had a close relationship with the Province of Uganda for many years. For example, numerous St. Luke's parishioners have served as missionaries in Uganda. St. Luke's built a school in a remote rural area of Uganda which feeds and schools 400 children, and built a clean water system for a Ugandan village of 5000 people which has significantly reduced disease and infant mortality. Also, St. Luke's is involved in building a community college in Southwest Uganda to provide training for young people to build the economy of this economically poor area.
St. Luke's has been a separate, California nonprofit religious corporation since 1940, and it will continue to hold worship services in La Crescenta.
LETTER from Bishop Bruno to Clergy and Diocese of Los Angeles
To the clergy and laity of the Diocese of Los Angeles:
A statement from the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles:
I have received word this afternoon that the congregation of St. Luke's-of-the-Mountains Episcopal Church, La Crescenta, voted on February 13 to sever its ties with the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and align itself with the Diocese of Luweero, Uganda.
I am deeply disappointed in the actions taken by the congregation and its clergy. We have worked in the past to resolve differences between the rector and parishioners of St. Luke's and the diocese and the national Church. It is a painful matter to me to know that they have abandoned all attempts at reconciliation, which is at the heart of our Christian witness. We still hope and pray that we may come together again with our brothers and sisters of St. Luke's Church.
The congregation's claim on the property of St. Church is Luke's clearly illegal according to the canons of our diocese and the national Church and to the laws of the State of California. It is my pastoral and fiduciary duty to this diocese to protect its property rights, and we will pursue this matter.
The Episcopal Church is a church of thinking people, and it is inevitable that its members will think differently about many matters of faith and practice. Dissension will not undercut the great work being done by Episcopalians here in the Diocese of Los Angeles, which is a vital and growing branch of Christ's kingdom, bringing abundance to the people of Southern California.
I'm just glad that Baptists own their own property, or the Valley Forge execs would be licking their chops now...by the way, doesn't Bishop Bruno sound a little like Roy Medley, "the keeper of the covenants"? Lord, have mercy...
Saturday, February 18, 2006
And we were agreed that a new organization for Baptists coming out of the ABC needed to be created--a nimble, missional organization focused on (1) strengthening churches to do mission, (2) planting new churches to reach the lost millions of America, (3) supporting and sending missionaries to reach the lost billions of the world and living in accordance with (4) a robust, mature, enforceable, historic statement of faith.
Early on, I stressed the importance of a name that clearly communicated the nature of the new organization--that would come tripping off the lips with clarity.The initial name that "the new organization" announced was quickly panned by friends and foes alike: "Cornerstone Network Group." Friends of the old ABE said it sounded like an insurance company; foes (for example, the reliably wrong Timothy Bonney) said it was a case of bait and switch.
[An aside on Bonney et al.: Have you noticed (I sound like Andy Rooney, the last unbearable five of 60 Minutes) that liberal churches love the names of their denominations? There is a reason for that. See my post on What Happens When the Bible Shrinks? When Scripture takes the backseat, one thing that rushes in to take the role of authority is "our tradition" (be it Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.) That's why theo-left churches would just about rather be caught dead than to have a name like Centerpoint Church (the new name of FBC Colton, CA).]
Cornerstone Network Group quickly regrouped (pun intended) as Cornerstone Church Network. It still lacks the B word, as I quipped to Bill Nicoson. I suspect that if that remains unchanged some churches will actually supply the word: "First Baptist Church of Podunk is affiliated with Cornerstone (Baptist) Church Network."
I am all for giving the "Vision Architects" the space needed to expound their vision. I urge ABE/CCN to get their website up and running (and it needs to have the forum capacity that the old ABE website had) and to have another national gathering along the lines of last September's Lombard meeting to receive feedback from the same ad hoc body which commissioned the New Movement. I urge my fellow revolutionaries both to be patient and bold in this crucial moment in time.
Lord, bless our broken desires to be faithful to Your call to serve as laid forth in Your Word. We long to see the influence of the Lord Jesus expand in our midst and in our world. Go before us and grant us wisdom; in the authority of the Son of God, we pray, Amen.
Friday, February 17, 2006
As one who lives under the Judicial tyrrany of the Ninth Circus Court of Appeals (the spelling error was intentional), I expect nothing but clownish judgments to flow from their oft-reversed pens...
Boy Scouts 'a religion'?
Attorneys for group battle agnostics over lease of public land
Posted: February 16, 2006
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Rees Lloyd© 2006 WorldNetDaily.com
Arguments in a major Boy Scouts case unfolding in Pasadena, Calif., before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – a case that is certain to be headed for the Supreme Court -- centered on the contention that the revered organization is actually a religion and should therefore not be given a lease of public land.
The case was brought by self-declared agnostics Lori and Lynn Barnes-Wallace and Michael and Valerie Breen, along with a son of each, in protest of a lease of parkland in Balboa Park and Fiesta Island by the city of San Diego to the Boy Scouts of America.
The agnostics sued the city on a claim that the lease to the Boy Scouts – out of more than 100 leases, including to the YMCA, a number of Jewish groups, one of which conducts Sabbath services on parkland, and the Girl Scouts – violates the Establishment of Religion Clause of the First Amendment, and that they are suffering "inferior usage" thereby because they don't want to have to apply for permits, or pay usage fees, to the BSA. The case is Barnes-Wallace, et al. v. Boy Scouts of America, Nos. 04-55732, 04-56167.
A federal judge in San Diego granted the summary judgment to the agnostics, finding that the Boy Scouts are a "religion" because of the Boy Scout Oath, which includes doing one's duty to "God and my country," and the Boy Scout Law, which includes "reverence" as one of 12 precepts. Also, the Scouts require a belief in God as a condition of membership.
The city itself is not part of the appeal. It settled with the American Civil Liberties Union to avoid further expense, agreeing to terminate the lease and to give the ACLU $940,000 in attorney fees. The appeal continues since the Boy Scouts, if they prevail, want to be able to contract for a lease with the city again.
The case has drawn national attention because the federal judge's finding that the BSA is "a religion" imperils the future work of not only the Boy Scouts, but all organizations that recognize a transcendent higher authority, including community service organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis, Alcoholics Anonymous, which works directly with the courts and government, and veterans organizations like the American Legion, whose constitutional preamble begins "For God and Country," almost identical to the Boy Scouts Oath.
"If the Boy Scouts are 'a religion,' so are we in the American Legion. Is the ACLU going to sue our 2.7 million wartime veteran members next, claiming we, too, are 'religion'? Are they going to sue to destroy the religious symbols at our veterans' memorials on public property? The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier? Our work in Boys State, Boys Nation, with the government? Our Oratorical Contests with schools?" a Legionnaire asked after Tuesday's court session.
The crucial cultural question of who or what "is a religion" was argued by lawyers for the parties and submitted for decision to three lawyers sitting as Ninth Circuit Justices: William C. Canby, Andrew J. Kleinfeld and Marsha Berzon.
[Comment: don't give them any ideas!]
Mark Danis, lawyer for the agnostics, argued that the Boy Scouts are "a religion," and the lease to the BSA therefore violates the Establishment Clause because the agreement "aids" religion. The Boy Scouts pay only $1 a year, as do, apparently, all the other nonprofit groups that have leases on parklands.
George P. Davidson, BSA lawyer, argued that the Scouts are "not a religion," but an organization dedicated to helping youth build moral and ethical character, which mission the BSA believes needs a belief in God and reverence as a necessary component.
He emphasized that the BSA is "not sectarian;" has no creed, in the sense of a systematic theology or religious doctrine; expressly directs Scouts that any religious instruction should be by their parents and self-chosen religious affiliations; and that the Scouts include boys of many religions, including Christians, Jews, Muslims and others.
Davidson argued that the city isn't aiding the Scouts within the meaning of the law. Rather, the city is benefiting from the deal because it requires the BSA, in lieu of rent, to build, maintain and operate the facilities at its own expense. He stated the Boy Scouts have already spent some $1.7 million on capital improvements to the property and expend over $150,000 annually in operating expenses.
The attorney also referred the court to the friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Thomas Beckett Fund. John C. Eastman, Chapman University law professor, joined Davidson at the counsel table to be available for questions, but did not argue due to the 30-minute time limit allowed for argument.
Eric W. Treene, special counsel for religious discrimination at the U.S. Department of Justice, filed a brief and argued the case as friend of the court in defense of the Boy Scouts.
Treene discussed all the leading cases on the Establishment Clause and judicial tests for what constitutes a "religion" or impermissible "aid" to religion, and argued that the Boy Scouts are not under those precedents "a religion," nor is the organization being "aided" unconstitutionally by the lease.
"This is a value-for-value agreement," he argued. "The city is exchanging use of the land by the BSA in exchange for the capital improvements and the operating expense which the BSA is absorbing at its own, and not the city's, expense."
Justice Berzon asked no questions about how it is that the Scouts are a religion, but sharply questioned the BSA's lawyers on why the lease is not impermissible "aid" under the California Constitution, rather than the federal Establishment Clause. She also asked why the case shouldn't be certified to the California Supreme Court.
Berzon also did a bit of lawyering for the agnostics' attorney, questioning why he hadn't raise a legal theory that Berzon felt would be more effective in attacking the Boy Scouts, but had not been raised in the lower court. Generally, a theory not raised in the lower court cannot be raised in the first instance in the Court of Appeal. Notwithstanding, Berzon pressed the question of her theory, receiving in response a stutter, then acknowledgment the theory hadn't been raised in favor of others that were.
Davidson countered Berzon's observations, arguing that there is no "aid" as the BSA is not receiving any taxpayer funds nor material, and its use of the parkland is conditioned upon its making millions of dollars in improvements and operating expenses, relieving the city of those expenses.
Justices Kleinfeld and Canby, on the issue of "aid," questioned agnostics' counsel Danis if there was any amount of money the BSA could pay to improve the property that would negate the claim of aid.
"If the Scouts paid, say, $100,000,000, far more than the value of the use of the land or its value – would that satisfy your clients?" asked Canby.
"No," answered Danis, arguing that the lease by the city would be "aid" to religion, i.e., the Scouts, no matter how much the BSA paid and how much more value it provided to the city than it received.
Kleinfeld said he was troubled by that response and the issue of legal "standing" of the agnostics to challenge the lease. Noting that there was no evidence that the Scouts had ever excluded anyone who sought a use permit, including "… gays, lesbians, atheists, anyone," and that the agnostic plaintiffs had never sought or been denied a permit to use the facilities, he asked: "How can they claim injury in fact?"
Danis conceded it was true that his clients had never applied for nor been denied use of the facilities. However, he argued their constitutional injury is that they are suffering "inferior use" because they find it offensive to have to submit a permit application, and to pay usage fees, "to the Boy Scouts."
Because of the importance of the case, numerous briefs were filed as amicus curiae (friend of the court). Present in court, although not arguing, were attorneys for organizations that had filed amicus briefs.
Those supporting the agnostics were the Unitarian/Universalist Church Association by attorney Eric Isaacson of San Diego.
Supporting the Boy Scouts were the Thomas Beckett Fund and attorney John C. Eastman, director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence at Chapman University School of Law; the Individual Rights Foundation by attorney Paul A. Hoffman; and the American Legion, by Paul Rosenzweig, Esq., of the Heritage Foundation with National Judge Advocate Philip B. Onderdonk Jr. serving of counsel.
Whatever the Ninth Circuit rules, it appears certain the case will go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
No attorney on either side had an answer to the question put by reporters at a press conference following oral argument: "How will the Ninth Circuit rule?"
On the other hand, no member of the press could answer one attending attorney's question to them:
"Why should the judiciary 'rule' at all, in a democratic republic, on such a core cultural question as to what constitutes 'a religion' in America? That is, why should three unelected lawyers sitting as judges, or perhaps nine unelected lawyers on the Supreme Court, 'rule,' instead of a decision being made by deliberations and vote by elected representatives after procedures in which citizens have an opportunity to be heard?"
"Hmm, that's very interesting. I'll have to think about that," politely responded one reporter as he gathered gear to scurry off to make deadline for the early news television broadcast.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
As is often the case, Durable Data would like to draw your attention to the most recent entry of Dennis McFadden's www.hisbarkingdog.blogspot.com. (We discussed the substance of the entry over a working brunch at Denny's. God bless Denny's; California has a long a bizarre love affair with the place.)
The southern expat concept idea is confirmed in the former W&A pastor of FBC Granville, Ohio, who was also a white southern liberal whose interactive worldview was forged in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. When I pastored in Ohio (1991-1996), I had a long series of correspondances with him (back when had to send real letters!) that bore out the the accuracy of the southern expat experience.
My observation to my friends on the theo-left: with all the dear love of a brother, I say, the world does not turn on race. I say that as preacher of the gospel in a church that's 60% white, 20% Asian, 15% Hispanic and 5% African-American. Last Sunday was a typical new member seminar for me: 2 Asians, 1 Hispanic and 2 whites.
Acts 13:1 refers to the ethnically diverse nature of the early church:
In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.
Barnabas was a Levitcal Jew; Saul was a Benjamite Jew. Manaen (the Greek form of the Hebrew name Menachem) was also a Jew. Simeon is a Jewish name, but is also called, interestingly, Niger (Black). Lucius was a common enough name to be either Greek or Jewish, but he's from Cyrene, in North Africa. And they are all doing ministry in (Syrian) Antioch. (Sounds like life in Los Angeles to me.)
The witness of the New Testament is that race is not and cannot be the central defining element in our worldview. One of the grand themes of the Gospel is the teaching that in Christ the work of God has exploded beyond the confines of one little nation the size of the Big Island of Hawaii to all the nations. In a world in which circumcision was the mark of ethnic inclusion, Paul writes in Galatians 6:12-16:
12 Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.
...and in this context it's clear that the "Israel of God" is not ethnic Israel, but the spiritual Israel.
Pardon the discursus on race and the New Testament, but I think this must be the forge of our thinking in this matter, not the (noble and historic, I grant you) American Civil Rights movement. God bless the memory of Rosa Parks and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; but our roots for dealing with race well precede the American experience. They are found in the Scriptures.
This email came from the PSW office today and addresses the concern about the ethics of separation in view of the Code of Ethics. Dale Salico handles it, as usual, with grace and wisdom.
Questions & Answers About ABCPSW and ABCUSA, #10
Dale V. Salico
Question: If the ABCPSW withdraws from the Covenant of Relationships of the ABCUSA, will its pastors be in violation of The Covenant and the Code of Ethics for Professional Church Leaders of The American Baptist Churches in the U.S. A.?
For many years the ABCPSW has required pastors to sign the Covenant and the Code of Ethics for Professional Church Leaders of The American Baptist Churches in the U.S. A. as a requirement for recognized ordination in our Region. Why? Because the ABCPSW has taken its commitment to the Covenant of Relationships seriously. As long as we remain in covenant, we will faithfully carry out the requirements of the Covenant.
The portion of the Code of Ethics that is in question states:
I Will ... hold in trust the traditions and practices of our American Baptist Churches; I will not accept a position in the American Baptist family unless I am in accord with those traditions and practices; nor will I use my influence to alienate my congregational/constituents or any part thereof from its relationship and support of the denomination. If my convictions change, I will resign my position.
Those who allege that the withdrawal by a Region from the Covenant of Relationships places pastors in the position of violating the Code of Ethics are confusing two very different documents written with different intentions. The Code of Ethics speaks of a pastor’s responsibilities as a leader in a church that, through its Region, is a member of the ABCUSA. It is saying that in becoming a pastor of an American Baptist Church one must not intend to use one’s influence to alienate the church or cause it to withdraw from the denomination. The Code of Ethics is also saying that if the pastor’s convictions change, so that he or she can no longer in good conscience cooperate with the ABC, the pastor should resign rather than try to convince the church to leave the denomination.
The situation in the ABCPSW is NOT addressed in the Code of Ethics. It is addressed by a document entitled, The Covenant of Relationships and Agreements Among the General, National, and Regional Boards of the American Baptist Churches, published in 1984. Article VI, entitled, The Process for Withdrawing from the Covenant states:
Any covenanting party, at a scheduled or duly called board meeting, may withdraw from the corporation and its board from its covenantal relationship with the other parties of the Covenant, as of the time of the next ABC Biennial meeting.
The decision to withdraw from the Covenant shall be communicated to the General Board, with a request that the General Board notify all covenanting parties.
Note that the Covenant of Relationships does not state or imply that withdrawal by a Region would be a violation of the Ministers’ Code of Ethics. If Regions are free at any time to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships, it follows that the churches of that Region are also free to withdraw from the ABCUSA. The Region, it must be remembered, is a mission agency created by its churches.
The Board of Directors of the ABCPSW decided that while they have authority to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships, they would not exercise it without a clear _expression by delegates elected by the churches that withdrawal is indeed the desire of the churches. The fact that each church is entitled to at least five delegates plus its pastor, means that the vote will be an _expression of the churches, not just pastors. Therefore, if the Region withdraws from the covenant of Relationships it will be because the churches of the Region have called on the Board of Directors to do so.
If the ABCPSW withdraws from the Covenant of Relationships, each congregation will need to make a decision about its continued membership in the ABCPSW. Here the question must be asked, Is it possible for a congregation to decide to withdraw from membership in the ABCUSA without undue or unethical influence by the pastor to do so? Obviously the answer is yes. Lay church leadership is capable of such action. Therefore, the fact that a church withdraws from the ABCUSA does not indicate that the pastor violated his or her commitment not to “use [his/her] influence to alienate [his/her] congregational/constituents or any part thereof from its relationship and support of the denomination.” Whether the pastor stepped over that line would need to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Studying, discussing the issues, and seeking God’s guidance together as pastor and people does not constitute undue influence.
The Region Board, by unanimous vote, using secret ballot on December 8, 2005, recommended withdrawal from the Covenant of Relationships. The Board is asking pastors and church leaders to study this recommendation, study the Word of God with members and leaders, and pray for God’s guidance regarding how the Lord would have them vote on this important issue. Churches, following their own bylaws should then instruct their delegates to represent the discernment of each church.
If the ABCPSW withdraws from the Covenant of Relationships it will not be because a local pastor used his or her influence to alienate the congregation. It will be because the delegates from the churches affirmed the recommendation of the Region Board. The process in which we are engaged between now and April 29 is designed to include as many people in our churches as possible, as together we discern what the Lord of the Church is saying to us. On April 29, the vote of the delegates will either confirm or correct the discernment of the Region Board of Directors.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
By ANNE SAUNDERS (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated Press
February 14, 2006 6:25 PM EST
CONCORD, N.H. - The Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson, is being treated for alcoholism, a step that surprised friends and colleagues but seemed unlikely to threaten his position in the church. A key administrative committee said it stood by Robinson, whose 2003 election as bishop of New Hampshire caused a furor in worldwide Anglicanism because he lives with a same-sex partner. "I am writing to you from an alcohol treatment center where on Feb. 1, with the encouragement and support of my partner, daughters and colleagues, I checked myself in to deal with my increasing dependence on alcohol," Robinson wrote in an e-mail to clergy Monday.
Robinson's assistant at the Diocese of New Hampshire, the Rev. Tim Rich, said Tuesday that a growing awareness of his problem - rather than a crisis - led to Robinson's decision. In his letter, Robinson, 58, said he has been dealing with alcoholism for years and had considered it "as a failure of will or discipline on my part, rather than a disease over which my particular body simply has no control, except to stop drinking altogether." The Episcopal Church, based in New York City, lets dioceses handle such matters and referred calls about Robinson to New Hampshire. Between diocesan conventions, an elected "standing committee" of priests and parishioners usually decides administrative questions, including handling a bishop's absence.
The standing committee said it "fully" supports Robinson. "We commend him for his courageous example to us all, as we pray daily for him and for his ministry among us," the committee said in a statement. The Rev. David Jones, rector of Robinson's home church, St. Paul's in Concord, said he had not seen any signs, even in retrospect, that Robinson had a problem with alcohol.
Robinson was Bishop Douglas Theuner's top assistant for years and was elected to replace the retiring Theuner in 2003 by clergy and lay people in the diocese. He was confirmed by the national church, causing an upheaval not only in the Episcopal Church, but the worldwide Anglican Communion of which it is part. U.S. conservatives formed a national network to rally dissenters and many Anglican churches overseas broke normal ties with the American denomination.
"Why now? Why didn't we know this (then)? What happened to the discernment process?" said David Virtue, who fervently opposed Robinson's election. Virtue runs an online news service he describes as a global voice for orthodox Anglicans. Jones, who co-chaired the search committee for bishop in 2003, said thorough background checks were performed on all the candidates for bishop, including criminal checks and interviews with former employers and others. Finalists were asked if there was anything in their past that would embarrass them or the diocese if it came to light. Jones said Robinson did not say he was an alcoholic then. "For all I know, at that point, he didn't have a problem," Jones said. Virtue didn't buy it. "Everything about this man that we learn shows him to be fraudulent," he said.
Not all critics reacted the same way. "I'm glad he's getting help. None of us are perfect," said Lisa Ball, who opposed Robinson's selection and was part of a group in Rochester that broke away from the diocese and started a new church. Rich said Robinson told him his treatment, at an undisclosed location, is going well. "This is hard, hard work but he's in good spirits," Rich said. Robinson's health insurance through the diocese covers treatment for alcoholism, Rich said, though he did not know the details. Robinson indicated he plans to return to work soon. "I eagerly look forward to continuing my recovery in your midst," he wrote. "Once again, God is proving his desire and ability to bring an Easter out of Good Friday." Rich said Robinson knew his decision to seek treatment would draw public attention and "was the first person to say `I want it to be totally public.'"
No comment. I mean, really no comment...
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
This book review places the current breakdown of the ABBUSA in its broader cultural context...
Without a Prayer Just how "mainstream" are mainstream churches?
by Mark D. Tooley 02/13/2006, Volume 011, Issue 21
Exodus: Why Americans Are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity by Dave Shiflett Sentinel HC, 224 pp., $23.95
AMERICANS ARE GIVING UP ON liberal-led mainline Protestant denominations! And they have been doing it for 40 years! This is hardly news. But in Exodus: Why Americans Are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity, Dave Shiflett fleshes out the trend by examining the spiritual journeys of several pilgrims.
Himself a somewhat equivocal Presbyterian, Shiflett anecdotally relates how liberal Protestantism, once America's dominant religious force, is exhausted, spiritually, politically, and demographically. The pilgrims he traces--Weekly Standard writer and senior editor Andrew Ferguson, writer Frederica Matthewes-Green, conservative publisher Al Regnery, Southern Baptist leaders Albert Mohler and Richard Land, former Nixon aide Charles Colson, and an evangelical preacher who was present at the Columbine shootings, respectively found peace in Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Baptist conservativism, and evangelicalism.
All the pilgrims, especially former Episcopalians Ferguson and Matthewes-Green, insist that mainline Protestantism is dead. Still reeling from their denomination's schism since the election of the first openly homosexual bishop two years ago, the Episcopalians are understandably adamant about this.
"There may now be twice as many lesbians in the United States as Episcopalians," Shiflett cracks, mocking what used to be America's most refined and upwardly mobile of religions. Once known as the Republican party at prayer, the Episcopal Church has devolved into a hodgepodge of vegans, sandal-wearers, and Greenpeaceniks. Or at least that's the stereotype.
Those crazy Episcopalians, along with the United Methodist, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), Evangelical Lutheran, United Church of Christ, American Baptist, and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denominations once comprised the "seven sisters" of America's religious mainline. All now are increasingly marginal, Shiflett insists, with good reason. Fewer than 15 percent of American church members now belong to these bodies.
Meanwhile, Baptists and evangelicals and Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, all of whom were once considered to be on the sideline of American society, are now bustling along at a brisk pace. According to one of Shiflett's experts, these successful churches do not strive to be reasonable, tolerant, ecumenical, or relevant. Instead, they steadfastly adhere to their own traditions and peculiar rituals, and are intentionally counter-cultural.
Frederica Matthewes-Green proudly showed Shiflett the slice of a saint's foot bone that she maintains as a relic in her unashamedly Orthodox home. Andrew Ferguson, who realized he was the only believer in God as he was studying for the ministry at a liberal seminary in Berkeley, now finds peace in "submission" to the Roman Catholic Church.
Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist church's agency for social witness, rejoices in the biblical inerrancy championed by the conservatives who took the helm of his denomination nearly 25 years ago. Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Baptist seminary in Louisville, is understandably pleased that his church did not follow mainline patterns, and now counts 15,000 students in its staunchly conservative seminaries.
Bill Oudemolen, a megachurch evangelical pastor in Littleton, Colorado, was on site when two teenagers murdered their classmates at Columbine High School. His funeral sermon for one of the victims was broadcast internationally, and unapologetically faulted Satan for the murderous spree, while inviting grieving listeners to turn to Jesus. Fellow evangelical Chuck Colson turned his Watergate infamy into a vastly successful prison ministry that made him one of America's most prominent religious voices.
"People want the real thing," Colson explained about liberal Protestantism and its vapid emphasis on good works instead of supernatural truth. "They are not interested in a pale substitute, because it can never satisfy. It just doesn't answer the questions people have."
In contrast to the sunny optimism about America that mainline Protestants often exuded throughout the decades of their dominance, the conservative religious converts that Shiflett profiles, though joyful in their own faith, are often pessimists about the country.
"If the atheists conquer, they will marginalize the Christians to the extent of imprisonment and death," warns Father John McCloskey, who has led a host of prominent converts such as Judge Robert Bork and columnist Robert Novak into Roman Catholicism.
All of Shiflett's converts celebrate their faith in what much of mainline Protestantism abandoned: belief in divine revelation, miracles, an afterlife of Heaven or Hell, and unchanging notions of right and wrong. These convictions, so profoundly subversive to the spirit of the age, transform lives. Meanwhile, stodgy old mainline sermons about social justice are preached to mostly empty pews and a dwindling number of gray heads.
In a way, it is a triumph of American consumerism. The mainline churches, whose adherents largely founded America and led it for much of 300 years, became boring and irrelevant. Rather than turn their backs on religion, as has much of Europe and Canada, Americans creatively found solace in new megachurches or in robust versions of ancient churches once considered exotic.
Perhaps missing from Shiflett's overview is a great sense of sadness about the demise of the mainline, which almost singlehandedly created America's notions of civic righteousness and providential destiny. Shiflett also may be overly pessimistic. Liberal theology prevailed in the mainline churches a century ago. But surveys show that millions of mainliners still adhere to traditional Christian beliefs. And unlike their often leftist clerics, these mainliners still mostly vote Republican. Despite their demographic decline, mainliners are still disproportionately represented in Congress, in local political offices, in corporate boardrooms, and in other places of influence. Three centuries of cultural hegemony ensure that even a declining mainline will not die anytime soon.
Meanwhile, there are some limited but hopeful signs of mainline revival. The United Methodist Church, with 8 million members in the United States and the largest of the mainliners, has decidedly turned in a more conservative direction on some bellwether issues such as homosexuality. Lutherans and Presbyterians, with still numerous conservative local synods and presbyteries, have also yet to follow the Episcopalians over the cliff.
Shiflett's thesis, that liberal religion stifles churches, can be proven not just by comparing mainliners to nonmainliners, but also by looking within the mainline. There are now more United Methodists in Georgia alone than in California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada combined. Georgia Methodism is conservative and growing; West Coast Methodism is liberal and collapsing. And as Shiflett notes, global Christianity, like American Christianity, is increasingly dominated by orthodox, conservative beliefs.
But instead of boding ill for mainliners, this may actually save them.
Conservative Methodists and Anglicans in Africa have become important allies for conservatives left in the American churches. The global south progeny of mainline missionaries may yet rescue at least parts of their parent churches.
Shiflett's work is helpful. Neither liberalism nor secularism is necessarily on the rise. In American religion, as in global religion, it is conservative believers who are growing in numbers and in cultural influence. Shiflett concludes by telling of former Pol Pot followers in Cambodia who are converting to evangelicalism. Communism is dead, but the old-time religion, though repackaged, is doing just fine.
Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist project at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
© Copyright 2005, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Below: this is slightly modified from a message I preached in January, 2002:
Is Islam a religion of peace? Do Christians, Jews and Muslims worship the same God? The answers may shock you…
The claim of Muhammad…the "most successful man in history."
The events of September 2001 and the continuing war against terrorism have made books on Islam best sellers. While the US and our allies have emphasized again and again that this is NOT a war against Islam, make no mistake that the terrorists earnestly believe that it is a religious war, and that the actions they take are in the name of Allah, the God is Islam.
The war did not arrive out of the clear blue sky of a September morning in New York. It is the culmination of a revival of 7th century Islam that can be traced back to the Wahabi movement in Saudi Arabia of the late 19th century. But most importantly, it can be traced back to Muhammad and the very nature of Islam.
Browsing a bookstore over 20 years ago, I came across a book entitled "The 100 Most Successful People in History." Intrigued, I pulled the book off the shelf, fully expecting that Jesus Christ would be ranked #1. Nope. Muhammad was #1-and this was from a totally secular publisher. The reason given was that Muhammad had excelled not only as a religious leader, but also as a political leader and as a military leader.
Muhammad's claim is based on his assertion that on the year we call 613 AD, the angel Gabriel came to him. Gabriel is reported to have said, "Recite, recite!" (which in Arabic is "Quran! Quran!"; hence the name of their holy book)
Islam and Mormonism have this in common: they are both post-New Testament faiths which claim to superceded Christianity on the basis of a revelation given through an angel.
It's not as if the Bible had not anticipated this possibility. In the Book of Hebrews, the first two chapters are devoted to the theme that while the Old Testament law was given through angels, the gospel is given through the incarnate Son of God. Paul's warning in Galatians 1:8-9 is even more pointed:
8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
The word of God is insistent that the gospel of Jesus has been delivered in its final form in the person and words of Jesus Himself. If an angel from heaven shows up with a different message, to hell with him! (That's the bare bones meaning of "let him be eternally condemned.") Not once but twice Paul makes the point-that's how important it is. But Islam is founded on the very thing that the Bible says is a hellish offense.
Islam: the Essential Facts
1. The Creed of Islam: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His Rasul (Apostle, Spokesman-not merely Prophet).
2. The role of Muhammad: he received the FINAL revelation of God.
Who was Muhammad?
Born, c. 570 AD. He was orphaned, and raised by his uncle. He married the wealthy widow Khadijah, 595 AD. He became fascinated with the Jews and Christians in the Mecca area; there were also Arab Hanifs, who were monotheistic, but most Arabs at this time were polytheists-who worshipped many gods.
He cClaim that Gabriel appears to him, about 613 AD.
He wins only a few (about 40) converts in Mecca. Flees to Medina in 622 (the Hegira, the beginning of the Muslim calendar). Builds converts in Medina, and returns to conquer Mecca in 631 and dies the following year.
3. The origin of the Quran: given through Gabriel; about the length of the NT; a tangled mishmash of OT stories and the (non-chronological) story of Muhammad's revelations.
4. Six Pillars of Belief
a. One God, Allah
b. Angels (Good and bad; the jinn, "genie")
c. Holy Books
Suhuf: the (lost) scrolls of Abraham
Taurat: corrupted Torah
Zabur: corrupted Psalms
Injil: corrupted Gospels
Quran: the uncorrupted Recitation and revelation of God
d. Prophets: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus (the Nabi Isa) and the Rasul Muhammad
e. Fate: kismet. (A sense of resignation to the will of Allah)
f. A Day of Judgment
5. Six Duties of Muslims
a. The Shahada (Confession: "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Rasul."
b. Prayer-Five Times Daily (The "prayer spot"--a callous--develops on a pious man's head)
c. Fast of Ramadan: the month that commemorates the giving of the Quran.
e. Pilgrimage (Haj) to Mecca (predates Muhammad: the Ka'aba was a center of the worship of many gods prior to Muhammad.)
f. Holy War (Jihad). Two dimensions: inner struggle and outer.
What Muslims Think of Jesus-and of Christianity
1. Denies the deity and finality of Jesus.
Islam condemns the Christian doctrine of the Sonship of Jesus as a blasphemy against Allah.
Surah 30: "The Christians call Christ the Son of God…God's curse be upon them!"
Muhammad was misinformed about what Christians really believed. He thought Christians believed that the Trinity was not God the Father, Son and Spirit, but God, Mary and the Son!
Surah 19 ("Mary"): Mary did indeed conceive Jesus as a virgin, but not as God's son. "Such was Jesus the son of Mary. That is the whole truth, which they [the Christians] are unwilling to accept. Allah forbid that He Himself should beget a son!" Those who deny Muhammad's teaching are described as "unbelievers" who are in "the grossest error."
Jesus is regarded instead as the greatest prophet-until Muhammad. He is Nabi Isa, the Prophet Jesus, but Muhammad alone is regarded as the Rasul, or Spokesman of Allah. All holy books prior to the Quran are to be regarded as corrupted. We are even told that when Nabi Isa ascended to heaven (yes, Muslims believe in the ascension too! As a matter of fact, the shrine of the ascension on the Mount of Olives is a Muslim shrine, not a Christian chapel) he took the only uncorrupted copy of the Injil with Him to heaven (good trick since it wasn't written yet.)
2. Denies the crucifixion.
Surah 4:157-158: "They slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them…but Allah took him unto Himself."
Muslim scholars have long taught (although the Quran itself is unclear on this point) that it was Judas, not Jesus who died on the cross!
3. All other Scriptures are corrupted
4. Jesus foretold coming of Muhammad! (John 14:16)
John 14:16: "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever…"
But then the sentence goes on:
Vs. 17: "…the Spirit of truth." The Holy Spirit-not Muhammad! (But of course our Bible is "corrupted"!)
Aside: Tiring to read of all the supposed "corruption" of the Bible, because the textual history of the Quran is truly a mess. Within a generation of the death of Muhammad there were four rival versions of the Quran. A caliph named Uthman ordered that careful corrections were to be made in his copy-then all others were summarily destroyed. Statements made by early commentators on the Quran confirm that there were significant differences between the Quran they were familiar with and the one revered by millions of Muslims around the world today.
5. Jesus is coming back-to convert Christians to Islam!
A New Testament Evaluation of Islam
1. A corruption of Judaism and Christianity.
Legalistic. The Taliban: they make the Pharisees look good.
Attack on REDEMPTION. No cross.
Corruption of biblical stories-which are supported by historical and archaeological findings-unlike the confused meanderings of the stories you find in the Quran.
2. "An unpaid bill of Christian church", "a failure of Christian missions" (J. Christy Wilson, Jr.)
Sad, but true: even though Mecca is closer to Jerusalem than to Rome, the church in the 7th century had scarcely reached the peoples of the Arabian peninsula. If the church had penetrated Arabia as well as Greece and Italy, there never would have been an Islam!
3. Muhammad's claims are based on his own sheer authority, without supernatural verification
God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
4. Allah is NOT the God of the Bible
Hard to say, because I know fine Muslim people who sincerely believe that the God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam is the same God. I mean no disrespect. But while Allah is often described in terms similar to that of the God we meet in the pages of the Bible, he is not the same being.
First consider where the name Allah comes from. In the time of Muhammad, there was a center for the worship of 360 gods in the area where the great Ka'aba stone stands.
One of those gods was the moon god, the god worshipped by the Hashimite tribe, the Arabic tribe of Muhammad's ancestry. The name of this moon god was-can you guess? Allah. (Muhammad's father's name was Abdullah-servant of Allah, the moon god! That's why to the present day the crescent moon is a symbol of Islam.) Basically, what Muhammad did was to promote the god of his clan-the moon god-to the status of the one and only God.
This god is not the god of the Bible.
5. God is transcendent, but not immanent.
The God of the Bible is both transcendent and immanent. That is, He is high a holy a mighty, but He also comes close in love and care and concern.
Allah is described in terms of transcendence, but never immanence. There are 99 terms for Allah in the Quran, and according to Muslim lore, the camel knows the 100th name-that's why he has such a smug look on his face! And while ever Surah states that Allah is "the compassionate, the merciful," never once does the Quran state that so God loved the world. The idea of a God of love is foreign to the Quran. Instead, Allah is depicted as an all-powerful sheik. He does what he wants; just hope and pray that he shows compassion on you.
6. Muslims do not believe in original sin; therefore a Islamic utopia on earth is possible
This is a key point in understanding the current jihad. The devout Muslim does not believe in original sin. Sin does not come from the corruptions of the heart; it comes from bad influence. The worst influences are those which arise from the non-Muslim world, which by definition are not in submission to Allah. ("Islam" means "submission".)
The Muslim vision of the future is a world in submission to Allah-a totally Muslim world. The application of Quran in all aspects then should create a perfect world. But the true perfect world cannot be until all the earth follows the call of Muhammad.
That sets up inherent conflict. You see, Christians, who believe in original sin, have no illusions that all people will believe and be saved; we do not believe that nations will on their own accord turn to the Lord and be saved. That is NOT the mindset of Islam. Instead, they believe that…
7. All the world is divided into the Dar al-Harb (The Land of War) and the Dar al-Islam (Land of Submission)
That sets up CONFLICT, not just spiritual conflict but political and military conflict in the heart of the theology of Islam.
Which leads to the final point:
8. Warfare is part of the genetic code of Islam
As I speak, there are 40 armed conflicts going on in the world. 38 of the 40 involve Muslim aggression against non-Muslim neighbors. Islam's first century was an explosive crusade of conquest, from India in the east to Spain in the west. 90% of the peoples they conquered were Christians, and 90% of them were forcibly converted. That's why I think it is ridiculous that Muslims should become so angry about the Christian crusades of the Middle ages: they invented the crusade!
This is the key to so understanding so much. The idea that the territory of the Dar al-Islam should be surrendered back to the Dar al-Harb is deeply disturbing to the Muslim vision of the world, and of the ultimate victory of Islam. That is why Israel is hated so much. That is why bin Ladin was so livid about US troops being stationed on Saudi soil.
Muhammad himself was a general, and could be vicious. Once he had hundreds of Jewish men beheaded because they would not assist him in battle. He is quoted as saying, "The sword is the key of heaven and hell; a drop of blood shed in the cause of Allah, a night spent in arms, is of more avail of two months of fasting or prayer: whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven, and at the day of judgment his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of angels and cherubim."
Is Islam a religion of peace? You can find beautiful and noble and lofty ideals in the Quran. The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful people. They repudiate the actions of the terrorists. But it is undeniable: bloodshed is in the genetic code of Islam, the original programming you might say, of Islam. Muslims today who repudiate the sword as the means of extending the reach of Islam do so at the risk of denying the origins of their own faith.
Jesus: the Hope of the Muslim World
Back in October, 2001, we had Irving and Betty Silvia as our guests on a Wednesday evening. Betty is the widow of J. Christy Wilson, my old missions professor. The Wilsons lived many years in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Irving made a wonderful point. "When I saw the Twin Towers fall, my heart broke for the people who were dying," he said. "But at the same time I knew that it was also the beginning of the fall of Islam."
Yes, there were people dancing in the streets in some places in the Mideast when the attack occurred. What has gone unreported is the millions of Muslims who are ashamed. More than ashamed, there are many questioning their faith. They know that what I've said is true: that violence is inseparable from Islam.
The Jesus way is different. He is the one who speaks of a loving Father in heaven, who invites us to follow Him, and who tells us that He's come for the weary and heavy-laden.
Today in India, there are large numbers of lower-caste untouchables who were considering becoming Muslim. Not anymore.
The gospel is quietly being preached to the refugees from Afghanistan along the Pakistan border. And the last 20 years have seen more converts to Christ from the shadows of Islam that the previous 1300 years.
There are millions of Muslims living in non-Muslim countries-such as the US. I believe that the next 10-20 years, hundreds of thousands of these Muslims will find in Jesus the true knowledge of God.
Jesus is the hope-the hope of Afghanistan, of Iran, Iraq, of Egypt and Indonesia.
Jesus died for the millions trapped in the noose of Islam, the great deception.
May I urge you:
To show love toward your Muslim neighbors.
To pray for them and for the Muslim nations around the world.
To trust God for His deeds of redemption and hope. For I tell you, He has not
written off even Saudi Arabia, the land of Muhammad, and therefore neither can we His people.