YOUCEF NADARKHANI WATCH: “U.S. condemns Iranian pastor’s conviction.”
The White House Thursday condemned the conviction of an Iranian pastor, who may be executed in Tehran for refusing to recant his religious beliefs and convert from Christianity to Islam.
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani “has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for people,” a White House spokesman said in a statement. “That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency and breaches Iran’s own international obligations.”
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent advisory group appointed by the president and Congress to monitor religious freedom around the world, Wednesday expressed “deep concern” for Nadarkhani, the head of a network of Christian house churches in Iran.
After four days of an appeals trial for apostasy, Nadarkhani refused to recant his beliefs, the commission said. Chairman Leonard Leo said the pastor “is being asked to recant a faith he has always had. Once again, the Iranian regime has demonstrated that it practices hypocritical barbarian practices.”
“A MENACE TO THE BODY POLITIC”: “‘Hate’ is too big a word to be used with such little restraint.”
In many ways the environment we find ourselves in is not unlike that surrounding Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. Certainly at that point in our history, the threat of communism to our nation was real.
It was right and proper, as most on the left and right agree, that those who did seek to subvert the laws and security of the United States be exposed and brought to justice. But the way McCarthy pursued his anti-communism campaign was, as the Times said in a 1998 editorial, “a menace to the body politic.”
He leveled very loud charges very publicly, often with no evidence to support his accusations. Still, the smears stuck even to those he targeted unfairly, who for the rest of their lives bore a stain not caused by their actions, but by his words.
We were a better country than that then, and we’re a better country than that now. Ours is a long tradition of turning disagreements into debates, not denigration. Let’s keep that tradition going by putting out a real fire – the one caused by overheated, overreaching rhetoric.
GRACE AND CHAOS: “Good News: Jesus Is Not Nice.”
What are we to make of this New Testament picture of God in our own lives?
For one we can stop pretending God is nice, as if it’s his job to make our lives well-adjusted or religious or even spiritual. Jesus did not say he came to give us happiness, only blessedness. He did not promise an easy life, only an abundant one. He doesn’t call us to be religious or spiritual, but to love God and love others. We can save ourselves a lot of grief if we recognize that up front.
This means at least two things: (1) He’s not going to spare us from heartache, suffering, and chaos. (2) He’s actually going to bring heartache, suffering, and chaos into our lives sometimes.
GOOD NEWS & GOOD WORKS: “What Does Justification Have to Do with Justice?”
Those who are all about justification by faith alone are usually not about justice. And those who are all about justice, usually are not about justification by faith alone. I think that is a big mistake.
FOR BETTER OR WORSE? “5 ways tablets will change church & ministry.”
- Face to face conversations.
- Easier access to text resources.
- Owning your church’s app.
- No more guest cards?
- Your pastor may not need an office.
AMERICANISM: “The Ten Commandments of The American Religion.”
- Thou Shalt Own a Home.
- Thou Shalt Go to College.
- Thou Shalt Recognize that Some Wars Are Holy.
- Thou Shalt Obey the Constitution.
- Thou Shalt Give to Charity.
- Thou Shalt Obey the Food & Drug Administration.
- Thou Shalt Always Vote.
- Thou Shalt Choose Between Two Political Parties.
- Thou Shalt Recognize the Media as the “Fourth Estate.”
- Thou Shalt Forever Progress Toward the Frontier.
DEFENDING THE FAITH: “Interview: Douglas Groothuis on Good Apologetics.”
What is our greatest challenge today in Christian apologetics?
The greatest challenge is just doing it. Often, for various reasons, apologetics doesn’t get into the pulpit. Part of it is fideism, the idea that faith requires no evidence. In fact, some people even pit faith against reason. That’s simply bad theology, and bad anthropology.
Many Christian colleges do not require apologetics courses. Many seminaries do not require their divinity students to study apologetics. I think that’s deeply wrong. But it is not merely for the professors, the philosophers, and the writers. We are called to love God with all our hearts, souls, strength, and minds; to love our neighbors as ourselves, have a reason for the hope within us, and contend earnestly for the faith. Apologetics is not a peripheral discipline for Christian eggheads. It’s right at the center of the kingdom of God.
FLANNEL GRAPH WATCH: “The sociology of Sunday school.”
When it began, Sunday school was a creative response to a particular societal need and setting, confronting the massive illiteracy present among British and American youth. Later, enhanced by denominational networks and the sociology of the Protestant Sunday it offered opportunity for extended biblical instruction and Christian community.
As the sociology of Sunday changes can Sunday school remain an effective vehicle for addressing the escalating biblical illiteracy evident among American Protestants? If not, then we’d better do something fast. Otherwise we’re nothing but a bunch of prodigals!
WASHINGTON ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: “A letter’s journey, from founding father to religious question.”
FROM MY MAGAZINE: “The Trinity: Why We Should Teach It” by Frank D. Macchia.