Friday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • Chris Railey writes about the Influence Conference on August 7-8 in Anaheim, California: “The challenges ahead for the church are real, but we have an unprecedented opportunity to reach people with the gospel and expand the kingdom of God. We recognize the unique moment in history we find ourselves in as leaders — and the need to hear a fresh word from God for this moment. With that in mind, we are looking forward to gathering with thousands of leaders this summer in Anaheim for the Influence Conference.” To register, follow the link at the bottom of Chris’s article.
  • America continues to experience a crisis of fatherlessness. As Father’s Day approaches this weekend, I look to Joseph, adoptive father of Jesus, for help in how a dad can be “a righteous man.” I conclude the article this way: “I hope to be a righteous man who does the right thing kindly and who remains always open to God, assuming whatever responsibilities He sends my way. My children need me to be that man. And, men — whether you’re fathers or not — our nation needs you to be a righteous man as well.”
  • We note a Gallup poll indicating that Americans’ opinions on abortion remain steady. “Overall, 49 percent of all U.S. adults identify as pro-choice, and 46 percent say they are pro-life. Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to consider themselves pro-life (61 percent vs. 26 percent) and say abortion is morally wrong (65 percent vs. 32 percent).”

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Review of ‘Faith in the Voting Booth’ by Leith Anderson and Galen Carey


Voting_Booth_350Leith Anderson and Galen Carey, Faith in the Voting Booth: Practical Wisdom for Voting Well (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016).

Today (March 15), voters from Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio cast ballots in the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries. Since I am a Missourian, I performed my civic duty and cast a ballot along with them. Voting is so routine in American life that we Americans often take it for granted. We shouldn’t, however. It is a great privilege and an awesome responsibility.

It also can be hard work. Choosing a candidate or supporting a referendum requires informed decision-making. What principles should guide us? What should our priorities be? Thoughtful citizens try to answer these questions as they enter the voting booth.

Faith in the Voting Booth is a primer on biblical principles and priorities for the thoughtful evangelical voter. Leith Anderson and Galen Carey are, respectively, president and vice president of governmental relations for the National Association of Evangelicals. The NAE is the largest organization of evangelicals in America, whose mission is “to honor God by connecting and representing evangelical Christians.”

Evangelical is “often portrayed as a political identity by the national press,” which Anderson and Carey note is fundamentally wrong. Evangelicalism is first and foremost a spiritual identity. The authors cite with approval historian David Bebbington’s list of “four convictions that identify evangelicals”: (1) conversion—having a “born again experience, (2) action—consisting of evangelism and social action, (3) Bible—Scripture is the top authority, and (4) cross—Jesus died to save people from sin. These four convictions unite evangelicals spiritually across partisan political lines.

Of course, it would be next to impossible for a person’s spiritual identity not to affect their political identity in some way. “The ultimate political statement is ‘Jesus is Lord,” Anderson and Carey point out. But American evangelicals do not always let their core convictions shape their political principles and priorities. For example, Lifeway Research conducted a survey of evangelical opinions on immigration. That study found, in part, that evangelicals were as likely to be influenced on that issue by “The media” as by “The Bible” and “Your local church” combined (slide 16). For people whose core convictions include the Bible’s supreme authority, that’s an alarming statistic.

The core of Faith in the Voting Booth is an examination of hot button issues from a biblically informed perspective. Anderson and Carey cite four broad areas “where most evangelicals agree most of the time.” These are biblical authority, life, religious freedom, and marriage. They then examine eight issues in more depth: poverty, racial and ethnic minorities, marriage and family, immigration, taxes, justice and jails, foreign policy, and environmentalism. The goal is to bring biblical principles and priorities to bear on public policies.

Faith in the Voting Booth is difficult to peg, ideologically. For those looking for a lawyer’s brief for their side of the political aisle, this is not your book. But it’s important to remember that the Bible is not captive to modern ideologies or political parties. It stands outside of them, critiquing them for what they get wrong and affirming what they get right. If we follow the Bible, then, our political principles and priorities won’t be easy to peg as merely partisan ideology. Personally, I found the book refreshing. In a few places, it caused me to reexamine whether my political convictions are as biblically rooted as I think they are. In a few places, I disagreed with it. That kind of critical self-examination is a good habit to develop, it seems to me.

Anderson and Carey close the book by making a case for civility in the public square. Given the taunting, name-calling, and isolated acts of violence that have marred this election cycle, the authors’ plea for civility is especially appropriate. I’ll close with this quotation from the book:

The practice of Christian civility brings the fruit of the Spirit into the public square: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23). We please God, display the love of Jesus, and bless our nation all at the same time.

Amen to that!

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P.S. This review first appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com.

P.P.S. Check out my Influence Podcast with Leith Anderson about the book.

P.P.P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Review of ‘Abuse of Discretion’ by Clarke D. Forsythe


Unknown-1 Clarke D. Forsythe, Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade (New York: Encounter Books, 2013). Hardback / Kindle

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down decisions in two abortion-related cases, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. The effect of those decisions was immediate and radical. State laws prohibiting or restricting abortion were struck down, and a right to abortion at any time for any reason was established. The United States is now one of only ten nations (out of 195) that permit abortion after 14 weeks, and one of only four that permit it for any reason after viability.

Clarke D. Forsythe argues that the Supreme Court reached the wrong decision in both cases in his new book, Abuse of Discretion. Forsythe is Senior Counsel at Americans United for Life, and this book is the culmination of over 25 years of research into the legal, medical, and political aspects of America’s abortion debate. A unique feature of this book is the extensive use of archival material from the papers of eight of the nine justices who decided the case, some of which has only recently become available to researchers.

Forsythe argues that the Supreme Court’s hearing of Roe and Doe was mistaken from the start. On February 23, 1971, the Court handed down its decision in Younger v. Harris, which limited the power of federal courts to interfere with pending state criminal investigations. The Justices voted to hear Roe and Doe on April 22 in order to determine whether, as a matter of procedure, Younger could be applied to state criminal prosecutions for abortion. The first round of oral arguments took place on December 13, when the Court had two vacancies. A second round occurred on October 11, 1972, after those vacancies had been filled.

Because the question before the Court was procedural, rather than substantive—that is, whether a federal court had the jurisdiction to intervene in state prosecutions for abortion rather than whether abortion was a fundamental right—the cases came before the Justices with no trial or factual records. And most of the oral arguments dealt with jurisdiction rather than rights. Consequently, in deciding the cases, the Justices were flying blind.

This is evident in the majority’s reliance on Cyril Means’ arguments—long since refuted—that abortion was a liberty under English common law, and that growing American restrictions on abortion in the 19th century were meant to protect the mother, not the child in the womb. It is evident in their misconstrual of the common law’s use of “born alive” as a gestational rather than evidentiary term. It is evident in their taking “judicial notice” of factual assertions—questionable even then—about the high death rates involved with illegal “back alley” abortions, and the comparative safety of legal induced abortion to natural childbirth. And it is evident in importance Roe placed on “viability,” even though the concept was absent from the Texas and Georgia laws under consideration, not to mention its absence from any state law at the time.

To put the matter simply, the majority decisions in both cases invented a right to abortion that misconstrued American legal history, rested on unfactual “facts,” and bulldozed the right of the people through their legislative representatives to craft laws according to their fundamental values. The combined decisions of Roe and Doe were more radical than any state laws that had been acted in the late 60s, even the “liberal” ones. It is sometimes thought, on the basis of Roe, that states can limit access to abortion after viability. But the “maternal health” exemption outlined in Doe makes the right to abortion so absolute that even public health requirements for abortion facilities were invalidated by federal courts after 1973. Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton created a constitutionally guaranteed right to a surgical procedure largely free of regulatory oversight. Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic—abattoir, really—demonstrates that absent common-sense regulations, “back alley” abortions can move inside otherwise legal clinics.

American society now faces an ongoing “culture war” over abortion that is incapable of legislative resolution, precisely because the Supreme Court has taken the matter out of citizens’ hands. Where the Court has left power in citizens’ hands on other issues, the people have crafted pragmatic, moderating solutions that, while not necessarily satisfying partisans on either side, at least reflect the “vital center” of American opinion. The center does not hold in America because the Supreme Court will not let it.

For exposing the hollow legal reasoning and perverse effects of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, Clarke D. Forsythe should be congratulated, and his book widely read.

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.P.S. The Oyez website has the text of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions, transcripts of oral decisions, and other interesting stuff.

Happy 40th Anniversary, Baby?


Yesterday, January 22, was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision which invented a Constitutional right to have an abortion, striking down many state laws in the process.

In celebration of that anniversary, the folks at the Center for Reproductive Rights commissioned this incredibly creepy video with Mehcad Brooks.

Abortion is often linked to women’s rights, though early feminists thought it was a degradation of womanhood. (See Serrin M. Foster’s speech, “The Feminist Case Against Abortion,” beginning on p. 28 of this PDF). Ironically, this ad–to my mind, at any rate–shows the link of legalized abortion to the “playboy philosophy,” by which women are judged by whether men think they’re sexy.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Wednesday, June 22, 2011


In “The Dangerous Mind of Peter Singer,” Joe Carter wonders whether there’s an ethical minimum that scholars need to meet before being treated seriously by others:

While it is necessary to consider and debate unpopular views, there should be a minimum standard for ethical discourse whether on the elementary playground or in the lecture halls of Princeton. There are certain moral issues that are all but universally recognized as self-evidently wrong by those in possession of rational faculties. Rape is wrong, torturing babies for fun is objectively morally bad, and the Holocaust was not just a violation of utilitarian ethic, but an event of grave moral evil. If someone cannot meet this basic requirement, they can safely be ignored, regardless of where they received a paycheck.
For far too many years, Singer’s ill-conceived sophistry has been considered and debated by some of our country’s best minds. It’s time to end such silliness. Let’s assign a sophomore philosophy student to rebut his arguments and the rest of academia can move on to squashing the bad ideas being championed by morally and intellectually serious people.

In case you’re wondering why Carter goes so hard after Singer, check out “The Wit and Wisdom of Peter Singer,” in which Carter reveals some of the Princeton ethicist’s very disturbing beliefs:

To give a representative taste of Singer’s thoughts, I’ve selected a few choice quotes from some of his most popular works. There is always the danger that taken out of context the quotes could be misconstrued, which is why I recommend that whenever possible the passages be read in their original. Taken in context only makes his positions appear even more disturbing and absolutely chilling in their banality.

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“The War Against Girls: Since the late 1970s, 163 million female babies have been aborted by parents seeking sons.” In this article, Jonathan V. Last reviews Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl. Last highlights a fundamental contradiction in Hvistendahl’s perspective:

Despite the author’s intentions, “Unnatural Selection” might be one of the most consequential books ever written in the campaign against abortion. It is aimed, like a heat-seeking missile, against the entire intellectual framework of “choice.” For if “choice” is the moral imperative guiding abortion, then there is no way to take a stand against “gendercide.” Aborting a baby because she is a girl is no different from aborting a baby because she has Down syndrome or because the mother’s “mental health” requires it. Choice is choice. One Indian abortionist tells Ms. Hvistendahl: “I have patients who come and say ‘I want to abort because if this baby is born it will be a Gemini, but I want a Libra.’”

This is where choice leads. This is where choice has already led. Ms. Hvistendahl may wish the matter otherwise, but there are only two alternatives: Restrict abortion or accept the slaughter of millions of baby girls and the calamities that are likely to come with it.

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Check out June’s “Ask the Superintendent,” a monthly live webcast in which Dr. George O. Wood—the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God and my dad—fields questions from ministers about issues relevant to the fellowship.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

June 21 “Ask the Superintendent” with George O…., posted with vodpod

“The Heart Has Reasons” is a review of Existential Reasons for Belief in God by Clifford Williams. I agree with the reviwer’s assessment of the book, which I have read, and which I hope to review myself at some point in the near future.

As the New Atheism becomes old news, debates about how to best justify faith have been rekindled. Certainly, Existential Reasons can be read as a volley against those who place confidence in reason alone. In Williams’s work, one finds echoes of “postconservative” theologians, who remind us that Christianity is about transformation, not just information. But the genius of this book is that it doesn’t swing the pendulum too far. Or perhaps more appropriately, Williams shows that reason and emotion are not opposing poles on a single continuum at all; each has its place in the cultivation, strengthening, and defense of Christian belief. For those of us who need a faith at once meaningful and reasonable, that is good news.

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“Polling Prejudice Against Mormons: Democrats Worse than GOP”:

…in an era when religious pluralism is an unquestioned element of American culture, it is somewhat baffling that Mormons remain the object of hate. Some may put it down to the rigid beliefs of conservative evangelicals who think Mormons are not Christians, but considering the rude treatment the Mormons have gotten on both Broadway and HBO, it must be considered that some sophisticated liberals may be among the prejudiced 22 percent Gallup has discovered. Indeed, the survey says 27 percent of Democrats said they would not vote for a Mormon as opposed to only 18 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of Independents. All of which goes to show when it comes to religious bias, so-called liberals may turn out to be less tolerant than conservatives.

The challenge facing Southern Baptists is whether or not the internal political polity of the denomination can embrace a “blue state” reality without fracturing along the dividing lines of conservative political issues. Advancing the gospel, not proving conservatism, must be the goal.

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“One SBC: Slightly Divided”:

The challenge facing Southern Baptists [and other evangelical denominations] is whether or not the internal political polity of the denomination can embrace a “blue state” reality without fracturing along the dividing lines of conservative political issues. Advancing the gospel, not proving conservatism, must be the goal.

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“Pawlenty’s prominent pastor not a political pawn.” A good article about Leith Anderson’s studied non-partisanship, but what editor approved the alliteration of the title?

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“Until Adultery Do Us Part?”: in which an Episcopal priest argues that questions about adultery need to be asked in pre-marital counseling.

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“Is Revivalist Spirituality Still Relevant Today?” Given that nineteenth-century revivals were also hotbeds of social reform, I should think so.

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“The Geography of the Gospel”:

The gospel also frees us geographically: no longer needing to be in a certain place, known by certain people, on the social mountaintop, we are free to be anonymous, unknown, in the valley. Grace renders a verdict of acquittal not only over our identity but also over our location. A deep rest, a settled “okayness,” lands not only on who we are but also on where we are.

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.

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