The World Wide Religious Web for Monday, January 30, 2012

THE EVANGELICALIZATION OF PENTECOSTALISM: The Pentecostal Paradox: As the Global Church Grows, American Tongues Fall Silent.

But while more mainstream evangelical churches have borrowed charismatic styles of worship and thus become more “pentecostalized,” Pentecostal churches in North America are moving away in public worship gatherings from the more demonstrative expressions of spiritual gifts, such as messages in tongues with interpretation, prayers for healing and prophecy. In many cases, churches and megachurches have chosen to relegate glossolalia and other charisms to Sunday night services or small groups and, in some cases and settings, according to church historian Dr. Stanley Burgess, “it has virtually disappeared.”

ON THE INCARNATION: Jesus and the Goodness of Everything Human.

The great Swiss theologian Karl Barth, fittingly called the “church father” of the 20th century, put it this way: “As the man Jesus is himself the revealing Word of God, he is the source of our knowledge of the nature of man as created by God.”

The logic of this simple statement is compelling: If men and women can know who they are only on the basis of the Word of God, then it is only by looking at the One who indeed is himself the Word of God, Jesus Christ, that we can know our identity and nature. Barth put it succinctly: All study and knowledge of human beings is “grounded in the fact that one man among all others is the man Jesus.”


But there are trade-offs as well, which liberal communitarians don’t always like to acknowledge. When government expands, it’s often at the expense of alternative expressions of community, alternative groups that seek to serve the common good. Unlike most communal organizations, the government has coercive power — the power to regulate, to mandate and to tax. These advantages make it all too easy for the state to gradually crowd out its rivals. The more things we “do together” as a government, in many cases, the fewer things we’re allowed to do together in other spheres.

Sometimes this crowding out happens gradually, subtly, indirectly. Every tax dollar the government takes is a dollar that can’t go to charities and churches. Every program the government runs, from education to health care to the welfare office, can easily become a kind of taxpayer-backed monopoly.

But sometimes the state goes further. Not content with crowding out alternative forms of common effort, it presents its rivals an impossible choice: Play by our rules, even if it means violating the moral ideals that inspired your efforts in the first place, or get out of the community-building business entirely.

FAITH & THE FOUNDING: God of Liberty: An Interview with Thomas Kidd.

[Paul Harvey]: Your previous book, published in 2010, God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution outlines 5 broad tendencies, or “religious principles,” about religion and American society, that you believe united the revolutionaries and founders who otherwise disagreed with each other wildly on specific points of Christian doctrine. Can you say something about those principles?

[Thomas Kidd]: So much of the popular discussion of faith and the American Founding revolves around the personal faith of the major Founders. This is an interesting topic, but I don’t actually think it tells us much about the role that religion played in the larger process of creating the American republic. So I sought to broaden the focus to the level of the public religious principles that helped unite the Patriots. These included religious liberty, the importance of virtue, the dangers of vice, the principle of equality by creation, and the role of Providence in human affairs. When you look at these principles, it is easier to understand why people of such sharply differing personal beliefs as Thomas Jefferson and the Baptist evangelist John Leland could cooperate so enthusiastically during the Revolution.

WHICH JESUS? No Country for Evangelicals.

It is not coincidental that the 2012 Republican presidential primaries are bringing this truth to light. A precursory scan of the contemporary landscape of evangelicalism reveals a splintered, disconnected culture in which any interpretation is up for grabs. Even looking at some of the presumed figureheads of evangelicalism reveals just how many different versions there are. Are you an evangelical like Mark Driscoll, who believes in an overly hip, tough-guy Jesus? Or like Benny Hinn, who, with Zionist John Hagee, recently prayed that God would lead the United States into war on behalf of Israel? Or perhaps you identify more with John Piper, whose extreme reformed theology says that some are chosen and others, unfortunately, are just not. I could go on; there’s the prosperity gospel of Joel Osteen, the socially conscious evangelicalism of Jim Wallis, or the libertarian faith of Marvin Olasky. When Rick Santorum recently said that “we always need a Jesus candidate,” which Jesus did he have in mind?

EVANGELICALS FOR RON PAUL? The Rise of Christian Libertarians.

Probably one of the biggest disgraces of this “one nation under God” is that the government has had to step in to help those the Church should’ve been helping, to do what the Church was called to do. The Church failed—and government stepped in. Perhaps the reason many now lean Libertarian is because they’d like the Church to take back—and take seriously—its calling to transform this world. It’s Jesus—not Uncle Sam—that people should see and know whenever blessings flow and mercy, justice and love roll.


Just three years after George W. Bush left the White House, compassionate conservatives are an endangered species. In the new Tea Party era, they’ve all but disappeared from Congress, and their philosophy is reviled within the GOP as big-government conservatism. Is this just a case of the Republican Party wanting to distance itself from the Bush years — or is compassionate conservatism gone for good?

TURNING THE TABLES: The Same-Sex “Marriage” Proposal Is Unjust Discrimination.

If marriage is not a bodily, emotional, and spiritual union of a man and a woman, of the kind that would be fulfilled by procreation, then what makes a union marriage and why should the state support it? It is not simply a union that is formed by a wedding ceremony: that would be a circular definition. Nor is every romantic and sexual relationship a marriage, and certainly there is no point in the state promoting all such relationships. Perhaps one will say that it is a stable, committed, and exclusive romantic-sexual relationship. But how stable would a romantic-sexual relationship need to be in order to be a marriage? Suppose John and Mary have a romantic-sexual relationship while college students but plan to go their separate ways after graduation: is that stable enough to be a marriage? If not, why not?

Or suppose Joe, Jim, and Steve have a committed, stable, romantic-sexual relationship among themselves—a polyamorous relationship. On what ground can the state promote the relationship between couples, but not the relationship among Joe, Jim, and Steve? The argument here is not a slippery slope one. Rather, the point is: There must be some non-arbitrary features shared by relationships that the state promotes which make them apt for public promotion, and make it fair for the state not to promote in the same way other relationships lacking those features. Without this the distinction is invidious discrimination. The conjugal understanding of marriage has a clear answer: (a) marriage is a distinct basic human good, that needs social support and that uniquely provides important social functions; (b) marriage’s organic bodily union and inherent orientation to procreation distinguish it from other relationships similar in superficial respects to it. But the same-sex marriage proposal’s conception of marriage has no answer. In fact, its conception of marriage is actually an arbitrarily selected class, and so the enactment of this proposal would be unjust.


What Real Marriage has going for it, in the end, is the only thing it doesn’t share with scores of other marriage books: Mark Driscoll. Driscoll has preached the book’s content, he tells us, in “England, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Australia, India, and Turkey” and has talked personally to “hundreds of thousands of couples.” The author’s bio reminds us that he is “one of the world’s most downloaded and quoted pastors.” He pastors the “2nd most-innovative church in America.” The hype in the press release isn’t, ultimately, about Real Marriage; it’s about Mark Driscoll.

The book may be ordinary, but Driscoll is an evangelical celebrity; and celebrities are standouts. As Christopher Bell puts it in American Idolatry, celebrities must be present in our lives, yet remain unattainable. The more like us a celebrity is, the less useful he becomes as a celebrity. The Mark Driscoll of the Thomas Nelson press release—one of the “25 Most Influential Pastors of the Past 25 Years,” the man who has “taken biblical Christianity into cultural corners previously unexplored by evangelicals”—is a lot more marketable than Mark Driscoll, the husband who spent the first decades of his marriage screwing up. Mark and Grace Driscoll do a fine job, in Real Marriage, of acknowledging that they struggle just as much as any other couple. But no publicist is going to send out a press release that begins, “Two perfectly ordinary people have some hard-earned wisdom to share with you!”

NO HONOR IN MURDER: Family convicted in Canada ‘honor murders.’

A Canadian jury Sunday convicted three members of a family of Afghan immigrants of the “honor” murders of four female relatives whose bodies were found in an Ontario canal.

3–5%: How Many Americans are Atheists? Fewer than You Might Think.

The first misinterpreted approach is to ask people if they think of themselves as an atheist. For example, the 2008 Pew Landscape Study found that 1.6% of Americans define themselves as Atheist. Likewise, the 2008 American Religious Identification Study found less than 1% of Americans describe themselves as atheists.

This type of question gets at social identification rather than people’s actual beliefs, and some people who believe that God does not exist do not think of themselves as atheists. There’s nothing wrong with asking this type of question as long as we understand what it’s measuring: a self-identity rather than actual beliefs.

The second misinterpreted approach is to ask people simply if they believe in God, with no other clarifying information. For example, a 2011 Gallup Poll found that 7% of Americans did not believe in God. A 2011 PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey found that 8% did not believe. A 2009 Harris Poll found 9%.

Here’s the problem this this approach: It’s not a measure of atheism. Yes, atheists will say that they don’t believe in God. But so too will agnostics, who do not believe in God because they don’t think it can be known.  In addition, there are people in the world who may believe that God exists, but they don’t “believe” in God in the sense of having faith and following Him. They too will answer “no” to this question.  That’s the problem: This question is ambiguous as to whether it’s getting at belief of God’s existence or acceptance of God as a guiding force.

ASSEMBLIES OF GOD NEWS: Paul Finkenbinder, “Hermano Pablo,” passes away; Young Evangel graduate killed in Afghanistan; and Valley Forge Christian College alumna, Jessica Buchanan, rescued by Navy SEALs.

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