The World Wide (Religious) Web for Thursday, October 13, 2011


WHERE IN THE WORLD IS GEORGE O. WOOD? “Obama hosts first evangelical summit at White House.”

President Obama formally extended his ear to evangelicals ahead of the 2012 election, meeting with top leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals in the White House for about 30 minutes on Wednesday (Oct. 12).

International religious freedom was a top priority for the group as they thanked Obama for condemning the charges against Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor facing execution for his conversion to Christianity.

George Wood, the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, cited other cases of people who been persecuted in cases around the world.

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YOUCEF NADARKHANI WATCH: “Reports: Iran Pastor’s Case Sent to Khamenei.”

The convoluted apostasy case against Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor facing execution for his conversion to Christianity, has been referred to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for his opinion

Nadarkhani’s lawyer, Mohammad Dadkhah, told CNN that Nadarkhani is still alive while the court asks the highest religious leader in Iran for input. Khamenei, whose position gives him the ultimate authority in Iranian affairs, has spoken out against Christianity over the past year, said Todd Nettleton, director of media development at Voice of the Martyrs.

“This either gives [Khamenei] a chance to put some action behind his words or it gives him a chance to backpedal a little bit and perhaps make some friends in the international community,” Nettleton said.

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SAFE SEX? “The Condom Conspiracy.”

A few weeks ago, the promoters and supporters of World Contraceptive Use Day received the latest news of their continued failure. Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals released results of a survey that questioned more than 6,000 young people from 26 countries on their attitudes toward sex and contraception. The report revealed, among other findings, that over the past three years the number of young people having sex without a condom with a new partner increased by 111 percent in France, 39 percent in the U.S., and 19 percent in Britain.

In response to the report Jennifer Woodside, spokeswoman for the International Planned Parenthood Federation, replied, “What young people are telling us is that they are not receiving enough sex education or the wrong type of information about sex and sexuality.” She’s absolutely right. Many teens have been receiving the wrong type of information about sex and sexuality because groups like Planned Parenthood have conspired to withhold the truth from them.

For over twenty years the pattern has been the same: Whenever surveys and studies reveal a rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies, the advocates of “comprehensive sex education” feign surprise and stammer that the results prove that we need to double down on an approach that has consistently proven to be a failure. Any evidence presented to show that pro-condom sex-ed is failing is seen by them as evidence that condoms need to be promoted even more.

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POLITICS AND THE WORD OF GOD: “Survey: Frequent Bible Reading Can Turn You Liberal.”

Frequent Bible reading has some predictable effects on the reader. It increases opposition to abortion as well as homosexual marriage and unions. It boosts a belief that science helps reveal God’s glory. It diminishes hopes that science will eventually solve humanity’s problems. But unlike some other religious practices, reading the Bible more often has some liberalizing effects—or at least makes the reader more prone to agree with liberals on certain issues. This is true even when accounting for factors such as political beliefs, education level, income level, gender, race, and religious measures (like which religious tradition one affiliates with, and one’s views of biblical literalism).

A better title would be: “Frequent Bible Reading Makes People More Conservative on Some Issues, More Liberal on Other Issues.” But that’s not quite as catchy a title, is it?

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THEOLOGICAL QUESTION OF THE DAY: “What makes someone ‘evangelical’?”

Thus, this speaker is arguing that ALL evangelicals (well, there may be a few exceptions) recognize AT LEAST ONE BOUNDARY around evangelicalism: the necessity of a born again experience.  Anything that threatens that is anathema.

This blog is dedicated PARTLY, at least, to exploring the reality of evangelicalism and evangelical faith.  This is an interesting proposal from an astute scholar of evangelicalism who has taught in two evangelical institutions for twenty-some years.  My own thought is that while evangelicals do want to preserve and promote the born again experience (however exactly conceived–whether instantaneous or a process) many, especially when pushed, admit that such an experience may not be necessary for reconciliation with God (salvation as forgiveness).  I know many evangelicals who, when pushed on the matter, admit that Old Testament “saints” were and are saved without anything resembling evangelicals’ born again experience.  Then, when asked to reflect on that, many are willing to admit that God may have ways of saving the lost we know little or nothing about and that may include imputing righteousness to them without an explicit born again experience such as we have and promote.

This raises many questions.  Are only evangelicals saved?  Is salvation limited to those with a born again experience?  If so, how are the Old Testament people of God saved?  What about the Jew or God fearer with Abrahamic faith who died one month or one year after Jesus’ death and resurrection without ever hearing of him?  Are all the unevangelized automatically hell bound?  Can an unevangelized person have a born again experience?  Must he or she?  These are crucial questions for evangelicals to consider.  They’re not new questions, but I doubt there are many, if any, new questions.

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UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: “Urban Activist And Author Relates Problems with Charity Work.”

Food pantries, clothes closets and mission trips have become unquestioned bastions of America’s charitable landscape. But do these well-intended services — many of them run by religious organizations — really help the poor?

According to Robert Lupton, not really. His new book, “Toxic Charity,” draws on his 40 years’ experience as an urban activist in Atlanta, and he argues that most charitable work is ineffective or actually harmful to those it is supposed to help.

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FAITH IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE I: “Perry’s pastor pal Jeffress called ‘a poster boy for hatred.’”

DO YOU THINK… judging religions is our job or God’s? Does it have a place in the presidential race?

Yes and no. Yes: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:21). No: If America were electing a Theologian-in-Chief, it might make sense to investigate a candidate’s theology. But we’re not, so we shouldn’t.

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FAITH IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE II: “The Church and OccupyWallStreet.”

I’m waiting to see what the religious response will be to OccupyWallStreet, which is a true revolution of the people. It is a cry from people who have been abused far too long by those who hold economic and political power. It is a cry for justice and compassion. It is a demand for responsibility from our elected leaders. What will the established churches say in response?

Two things: (1) OWS is a “true revolution”? Isn’t it a bit premature to call OWS a true revolution? Does it have candidates that have won elections? Have its policy preferences been transformed into legislation? Does it even have candidates or consistent policy preferences? (2) Does the “established church”—what’s that, by the way?—have to develop a response to political movements that address policy issues outside the competence of its pastors?

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RELATED: “A Shining City: The Occupy Movement and the American Soul.” I think some Religious Left authors are reading wwwaaayyyy too much into a movement that’s barely a month old.

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FAITH IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE III: “Remebering America’s First Published African American Writer.”

October 17 is the 300th birthday of America’s first published African American writer, Jupiter Hammon. Hammon is little known today, his reputation far exceeded by later African American antislavery writers such as Frederick Douglass. But Hammon deserves to be remembered as a pioneer for generations of African Americans who used Christian principles to assert the dignity of slaves.

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DEATH PENALTY, PRO AND CON: Christopher Tollefsen argues against it, then Edward Feser replies in favor. Tollefsen offers a rejoinder; Feser a surrejoinder.

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RELATED: “Death penalty poll: Are we heading back to the 1960s?”

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MISUSED, ABUSED, AND OVERSUED: “Is Christianese Always Bad?”

We’ve all seen how Christianese can be misused, abused and overused. Let’s strive to use it properly and passionately, in a way that communicates the heart of God like no other words can.

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FROM VIRTUE TO GREED: “Occupy Boardwalk: How Games Got Greedy.” An awesome history of board games from “Goose” to “Monopoly.”

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BREAKING NEWS FROM 1492: “Columbus Was Not a Flat-Earther.”

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BREAKING NEWS FROM AT LEAST 10 YEARS AGO: “The Church Should Embrace Social Media, for Dialogue’s Sake.”

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