Ravi Zacharias on the Way, the Truth, and the Life


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The World Wide (Religious) Web for Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Psychologists discover “a statistically significant trend toward narcissism and hostility in popular music. As they hypothesized, the words ‘I’ and ‘me’ appear more frequently along with anger-related words, while there’s been a corresponding decline in ‘we’ and ‘us’ and the expression of positive emotions.” I am personally outraged at popular music’s narcissism and anger. Just kidding! Although I wonder what level of narcissism is present in contemporary worship songs.

Al Mohler offers insights about why conservative churches are growing. Sure, evangelical churches are growing and the mainline churches aren’t. But what if the country as a whole is growing at a faster rate than evangelical churches are? That’s the relevant missional problem, it seems to me. I don’t particularly care if evangelical churches are growing because of transfer growth from mainline churches.

How do you contextualize Christianity in majority Muslim countries? One answer is the so-called “insider movement,” which encourages converts to continue to self-identify as Muslims and to attend prayer meetings at the mosque. Is that a good idea?

“What is the key spiritual issue of our time?” Jesus offered a two-fold answer: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Eboo Patel gets the second half right.

Joe Carter asks, “What Would Jesus Drink?” I get the feeling this one’s going to be controversial.

Francis Chan asks, “What would the church look like today if we really stopped taking control of it and let the Holy Spirit lead?” That’s a good question, especially for Pentecostals.

Over at AGTV, my dad explores “Life’s Greatest Question” from Mark 8:29–30.

The Welcome Rise of the Pastor-Scholar. Well, I certainly welcome its rise.

Christ Alone is the first book-length response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins. Extensive excerpts are available online. (My own review of Bell’s book is here.)

The 20th Annual Wheaton Theology Conference looked at the topic, “Global Theology in Evangelical Perspective.” You watch or listen to each of the lectures at the link.

Timothy Dalrymple begins a series on abortion over at Patheos.com. Part 1 looks at Kermit Gosnell and the climate of disregard for life created by the abortion industry.

If you’re into this kind of thing: the religious aspects of the upcoming royal wedding in the United Kingdom.

P.S. This is not really a religious story, but the White House has released President Obama’s certificate of live birth. This should put to rest all conspiracy theories about the president’s birth. Now if someone would just get Andrew Sullivan to shut up about Trig Palin.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Rod Dreher writes, “This poor old world, weary of words and endless strife, religious and otherwise, doesn’t need more theological books, sermons, doctrinal discourses and debates. It needs more saints. And more storytellers.”

Defending the Constitution, and the Right to Be a Jerk. It’s about Terry Jones, natch.

Why conservative Christians shouldn’t give Ayn Rand a pass.

How should we talk about God online. Advice from James. (And contrary to this op-ed writer’s uncertainty, James wrote James.)

James Nuechterlein: “It is the assurance of the gospel that should free Christians from the compulsion to grasp for the illusory assurances that ideologies put on offer. It is not wrong for us to attempt to discern, according to our best lights, that set of beliefs about human flourishing that most adequately approximates, however provisionally and imperfectly, the God-given ends of justice in a fallen world. That is what in any case people do by nature. But even as we are well advised to put not our faith in princes, so also does it make equivalent sense not to place on our schemes of human betterment more moral weight than they can bear.”

Evidently, it’s okay to defend accused terrorists but not to defend the law of the land. For the record, I disagree with Jennifer Rubin’s assessment of the Defense of Marriage Act.)

In case you were wondering (which I’m not): Why (Evangelicals) Love Amish Romances.

This past Sunday, my wife and I watched this very interesting 60 Minutes report on Mount Athos, the heart of Greek Orthodox monasticism. As a Protestant, though, I think these guys might become more like Christ if they left Mount Athos and got involved with the hurly-burly of life.

Do Christianity and capitalism clash? A plurality of Americans thinks they do. My guess is that we’d see different answers if the economy were doing better.

Marshall Shelley reflects on the medium and message of worship: “When entertainment is perhaps the most prevalent form of communication, what does that mean for preachers, disciplers, worship leaders, and others in positions of Christian influence? Do we become entertainers ourselves? Do we refuse to become entertainers? Or do we land somewhere in between?”

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Monday, April 25, 2011


In response to Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, Time magazine asks, “What If Hell Doesn’t Exist?” If it doesn’t, Jesus has some explaining to do. Plus, a financial angle on the question…because evangelicals must preach an unpopular doctrine because of the loads of cash it brings in to churches, right? Sheesh! When will Time run an Easter cover story that actually supports a Christian doctrine, rather than question it? FWIW, here’s my review of Bell’s book: “Is Rob Bell a Hell-Believing Universalist?”

Over at the New York Times, Ross Douthat asks, “Is Tony Soprano really in heaven?” He goes on to say, “a doctrine of universal salvation turns out to be as deterministic as the more strident forms of scientific materialism. Instead of making us prisoners of our glands and genes, it makes us prisoners of God himself. We can check out any time we want, but we can never really leave.”

“Franklin Graham on Donald Trump: ‘Maybe the guy’s right’” Uh, Billy, you really need to talk to Frankie about meddling in politics. I mean, Donald Trump…seriously?

Phillip Jenkins comments on “Europe’s Supposed Islamic Crisis,” saying: “Certainly, no one should underestimate the real dangers from subversion and terrorism on European soil, but the demographic issue is quite separate. If we look at the size of Europe’s Muslim population today — and how it is projected to grow over time — then the Eurabian nightmares look ludicrous.”

A First Amendment case that really matters: “To be sure, not every employee of a religious institution is a “ministerial employee,” and religious institutions — like all employers — have many legal obligations to their employees. Although there are difficult questions to be asked, and many fine lines to be drawn, when it comes to interpreting and applying the First Amendment’s religious-freedom guarantees, it cannot be the role of secular government to second-guess the decisions of religious communities and institutions about who should be their ministers, leaders and teachers, any more than they should review their decisions about the content of religious doctrines.”

Tiger Moms vs. Luther Moms: It boils down to law vs. gospel, as everything in Lutheran theology tends to do.

A state funded sex-ed website for teens propagandizes for abortion. Why is this site run by the AIDS Action Committee?

Love cheats? Students who believe in a loving God cheat more. Well, they were going to pass eventually…

Easter Googling. Evidently, a lot of people search for “church,” more so than at Christmas. Interesting!

When French Fundamentalists Attack. Wait, there are fundamentalists in France?

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Here are ten religious posts that caught my eye today:

Lee Strobel discusses how Easter killed his faith in atheism. If you’re interested in the topic, check out N. T. Wright’s exhaustive study, The Resurrection of the Son of God, which—at 740 pages is not merely exhaustive but exhausting…to hold, anyway. Or read Michael Licona’s The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, which is 22 pages shorter.

President Obama hosted an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House, and a reporter can’t help but note a political angle (in the penultimate paragraph). Personally, I cheer the president’s statement of faith. Raspberries on his politics, though.

Did the Last Supper occur on Thursday or Wednesday? I wouldn’t mind a few New Testament scholars weighing in with their evaluations…

Walter Russell Mead on how Christian faith matters in a world where the pace and intensity of change is so unsettling.

If capital punishment is a sin, is God a sinner (Genesis 9:6)?

Edward O. Wilson and other evolutionary biologists are having a fight about the origin of altruism, specifically, whether group selection or kin selection best explains its origin. Interestingly, forty years ago, Wilson promoted kin selection as the best explanation. For me, this argument demonstrates how difficult it is to overturn scholarly consensus.

The Barna Group reports on what Americans believe about universalism and pluralism.

Historian John Fea is halfway through a four part series on “the Civil War as a battle between two ‘Christian’ nations”: Part 1 is “One Nation, Under God, Indivisible.” Part 2 is “God’s Judgment Upon the South.” Fea is author of Was American Founded as a Christian Nation? Mark Noll has an excellent book on the Civil War you might want to read if you like Fea’s series: The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.

Ben Witherington posting a chapter-by-chapter critique of Bart Ehrman’s book, Forged: Writings in the Name of God—Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are: Introduction, Chapter 1, Chapter2 , Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, and Chapters 7 and 8.  I’m reading the book too and hope to have a (much shorter) review up in the next few weeks.

James Hannam argues that science and Christianity can get on better than you think. I always thought they can get along just fine, but evidently there are some atheists who think otherwise. Hannam is author of The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution, which I’m also reading and hoping to review in the near future.

President Obama’s Remarks at the 2nd Annual Easter Prayer Breakfast


This morning, President Obama delivered the following remarks at the 2nd Annual Easter Prayer Breakfast. I’ve bolded my favorites.

_____

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

April 19, 2011

Remarks by the President at Easter Prayer Breakfast

East Room

8:39 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Please, please have a seat.

Well, it is absolutely wonderful to be here with all of you today.  I see so many good friends all around the room.

Before I begin, I want to acknowledge one particular member of my administration who I’m extraordinarily proud of and does not get much credit, and that is USAID Administrator, Dr. Raj Shah, who is doing great work with faith leaders.  (Applause.)  Where’s Raj?  Where is he?  There he is right there.  Raj is doing great work with faith leaders on our Feed the Future global hunger program, as well as on a host of other issues.  We could not be prouder of the work that he’s doing.  I also want to acknowledge Congressman Mike McIntyre and his wife, Dee.  (Applause.)  Mike — as some of you know, obviously, North Carolina was ravaged by storms this past weekend, and our thoughts and prayers are with all the families who have been affected down there.  I know that Mike will be helping those communities rebuild after the devastation.

To all the faith leaders and the distinguished guests that are here today, welcome to our second annual — I’m going to make it annual, why not?  (Laughter and applause.)  Our second Easter Prayer Breakfast.  The Easter Egg Roll, that’s well established.  (Laughter.)  The Prayer Breakfast we started last year, in part because it gave me a good excuse to bring together people who have been such extraordinary influences in my life and such great friends.  And it gives me a chance to meet and make some new friends here in the White House.

I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason -– because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there’s something about the resurrection — something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective. 

We all live in the hustle and bustle of our work.  And everybody in this room has weighty responsibilities, from leading churches and denominations, to helping to administer important government programs, to shaping our culture in various ways.  And I admit that my plate has been full as well.  (Laughter.)  The inbox keeps on accumulating.  (Laughter.)

But then comes Holy Week.  The triumph of Palm Sunday.  The humility of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.  His slow march up that hill, and the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross.

And we’re reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world — past, present and future — and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection.

In the words of the book Isaiah:  “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:  the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this “Amazing Grace” calls me to reflect.  And it calls me to pray.  It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short.  It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son — his Son and our Savior.

And that’s why we have this breakfast.  Because in the middle of critical national debates, in the middle of our busy lives, we must always make sure that we are keeping things in perspective.  Children help do that.  (Laughter.)  A strong spouse helps do that.  But nothing beats scripture and the reminder of the eternal.

So I’m honored that all of you have come here this Holy Week to join me in a spirit of prayer, and I pray that our time here this morning will strengthen us, both individually as believers and as Americans.  And with that, let me introduce my good friend, Bishop Vashti McKenzie, for our opening prayer.  (Applause.)

END
8:45 A.M. EDT

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