Archives For Culture

From the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC:

Pope Francis began the Humanum Colloquium on the complementarity of man and woman in marriage by stating that “this complementarity is at the root of marriage and family.” Throughout the message, he was clear about the necessity and value of marriage despite progressive “ideological notions” on the family in our day.

“Pope Francis made clear that male/female complementarity is essential to marriage, and that this cannot be redefined by ideology or by the state,” said Russell Moore. “I am glad to hear such a strong statement on this, and on how an eclipse of marriage hurts the poor and the vulnerable.”

In a brief address to 300 people representing a variety of world religions affirming male-female marriage, Pope Francis reflected on the value of marriage for couples and for society. “I am grateful for the colloquium because of the benefits that marriage can supply to children and society,” he said. Marriage provides “unique, natural, and fundamental good for families, humanity, and societies.”

Pope Francis acknowledged that “marriage and family are in crisis” as the culture is “giving up on marriage as a public commitment.” The “decline of marriage culture is associated with increased poverty and a host of social ills” and has “brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.” He noted it is “women, children, and the elderly” who “suffer the most in crisis.”

Because of the collapse of marriage in culture, it is necessary to foster a “new human ecology” that renews the value of marriage between one man and one woman. This renewal of marriage must include a “permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity and fruitful love” that “responds to the deepest longings of the human heart.”

He reflected on the value of marriage for social and family stability. “The crisis in the family has produced an ecological crisis, for social environments, like natural environments, need protection,” Pope Francis stated. “Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.”

Pope Francis also expressed concern about the state of marriage among younger generations. “I urge you to bear in mind especially the young people, who represent our future,” he said. “Commit yourselves, so that our youth do not give themselves over to the poisonous environment of the temporary, but rather be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern.”

Read the rest.

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From Housewife Theologian:

What are your convictions? Are they true? Does it matter? The writer to the Hebrews emphatically exhorts them to persevere by holding fast to their confession of hope, as a covenant community, and to do it without wavering (Heb. 10:23). What is your confession? Is it the confession of hope based on God’s promises that has been faithfully delivered in his word and proclaimed by the church for over 2,000 years? Do we confess that Jesus is Lord? Who is Jesus and what does it mean that he is Lord?

The office of the pastor is important. He is proclaiming God’s word to his people in an authoritative way. The preached word is a means of grace by which God’s people are sanctified. What is the state of theology of American pastors? What would that survey look like? Probably a lot like this one. That is why it is so important for laypeople to understand their responsibility as theologians as well. Like the title of Dr. Sproul’s book, Everyone’s A Theologian. That survey interviewed 3,000 theologians. Many of them are terribly poor theologians. The results should be informative for pastors.

What is the state of your theology? Every week we are called out from our ordinary work to gather together as a peculiar people: God’s church. By grace, we are receivers of God’s promised blessings in Christ and we are sent back out with a benediction. A Christian without conviction should be an oxymoron. And yet we need to be warned to hold fast to our confession because there are many opposing forces. Our sinful natures are tempted to waver. We need theological stamina! We get that by actively engaging in God’s word, training ourselves by it, and exercising our faith. We are new creations who are given a fighting faith to persevere.

Read the rest.

From Carl Trueman:

We live in a confessional age. Not in the good sense of, say, the Westminster Confession or of principled Presbyterianism. Rather, the grim cult of counterfeit authenticity seems to mean that every scoundrel and charlatan can find absolution for their sins simply by declaring them in public. We have come to expect this from Hollywood stars and politicians but it has started to make inroads into a Christianity which has been subject to the corrosive effects of sentimental emotivism and had its tastes shaped by an age which loves to excuse its excesses. Putting on a hang-dog expression and clearing your throat with a ‘I broke this and that commandment’ are now apparently the only preparation needed before opining on anything as a moral authority.  Even those of more personal integrity are scarcely immune to this plague of humble self-promotion. Some pastors seem to think that the pulpit (or the plexiglass lectern) is transubstantiated every Sunday into Oprah’s couch.
Frankly, the Bible gives little basis for the kind of baring of the soul which has become so popular. Paul is very thin on details when he talks about his own sins. The examples of sermons in the Bible contain little parading of personal peccadilloes. The failings of the preacher when referenced are merely of the order of brief bridges to discussion of issues which transcend the particularities of the preacher’s own existence.
Yet, interestingly enough, confession lay at the heart of Luther’s own personal Reformation Christian life. But it was not the confession of the self-obsessed exhibitionists of our social media age. It was the private confession of one Christian to another. Our confessional age is an age where the baring of souls is seen as an act which makes the confessor vulnerable or ‘authentic’ and thus serves ironically to enhance their authority or invulnerability. That might sound strange, but who in this present age can criticize the person who has told the world that they suffered abuse as a child or has wrestled with some addiction for many years?   The canons of taste offer immediate, and sometimes total, protection.
Luther’s notion of confession was somewhat different. It took place in two contexts.

 

From The Anxious Bench:

Two men, born twenty-six years apart and moving within different circles, followed remarkably similar and typically American paths to the pinnacle of fame and leadership.

The first came from humble origins and endured a challenging childhood.  His father died in an car wreck while his mother was pregnant, leaving her as a single mom.  At the time of his birth, that situation meant social stigma and the stresses of providing for a family as a single parent.  In order to do so, she left him with her parents–with whom she did now always see eye-to-eye–in order to obtain vocational training in a city over a day’s travel away.  Soon, his mother remarried, but rather than bringing increased stability to the family, his stepfather brought further chaos as alcohol-fueled arguments and domestic abuse often defined his home life.  Turmoil characterized his formative years.

In spite of these challenges, during his high school years the young man excelled academically, served in student government, and became an accomplished musician.  In college, he earned a prestigious Rhodes scholarship before returning to the United States to earn a law degree from an Ivy League school.  Along the way, he emerged as a gifted communicator and a charismatic young star in a political party populated with older men.

Decades later, the second young man followed a similar path.  Born into a family where the men were alcoholics and wife-beaters, he grew up in a tough neighborhood full of all sorts of illicit activity.  In high school, he excelled academically, served in student government, and became an accomplished athlete.  His senior year, he was student body president and was voted “most likely to succeed.”  He also worked in politics.  In college, he underwent an evangelical conversion experience, going on to complete several degrees.  Along the way, he emerged as a gifted communicator and a charismatic young star in an religious tradition populated with older men.

Both men excelled due to their charisma and ability to connect with “the people.”

Read the rest.

Around-the-Horn[1]Jimmy Carter On Gay Marriage and Religious Liberty
Jimmy Carter doesn’t think marriage laws should be decided at the federal level.  “I’m kind of inclined to let the states decide individually,” the former president told WFAA, an ABC affiliate, in an interview that aired Sunday.

May Mcllvaine Not Be In Vain: The Cardinal Doctrine of Justification
Charles Pettit McIlvaine, the illustrious Bishop of Ohio (in office 1832-1873), was one of the greatest advocates of Evangelicalism within the [Protestant] Episcopal Church of the United States of America. Able scholar, accomplished theologian, and earnest preacher of the Gospel, McIlvaine served his country in various spheres apart from the parish and the episcopate. He was appointed chaplain of the U.S senate and also of West Point Military Academy. President Lincoln assigned him as a special negotiator with the British authorities to persuade their government not to support the Confederacy in his nation’s tragic civil war.

Forgotten Providence
Providence is so sixteenth century.  We seem to have moved past needing to talk about God’s providence—we’re quite sophisticated these days.

When Jesus Says Stay
He wanted to follow Jesus. He wanted to be close to Jesus. He wanted to live a life of radical obedience. But Jesus told him to stay, not to go. Do not follow me.

America’s Spiritual Founding Father at 300
George Whitefield is the greatest evangelist in American history. He is also perhaps Britain’s greatest evangelist. Indeed, few figures in church history have made such a seismic impact for the gospel as Whitefield.

Two Solutions for the Terminally Ill
Here are two heart-breaking stories of women with terminal brain cancer.  The first is moving to Oregon so she can avail herself of physician-assisted suicide, searching for control of her life and “death with dignity.”  The second says why she is rejecting that option and how she is putting her faith in Jesus Christ.  Read them both.

High Maintenance Christians Are Better Than Nice Ones
From Housewife Theologian: It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things; but to convert rebellious wills costs Him crucifixion.

Reformed Tradition Taking Root in China
China may be emerging as another global center of Reformed faith and practice. If so, East Asia would seem to be well on its way to becoming the heartland of the Reformed tradition in this century. – See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/10/reformed-tradition-taking-root.php#sthash.ZotqdzFd.dpuf

Fascinating.

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From Mollie Hemingway:

If you care about the poor, you need to start caring much more about marriage culture. The growing marriage divide is a major source of social and economic inequality, and is one largely unnoticed force eroding the American Dream. That’s the sobering message of a new report on economic success and marriage decline.

Americans with college degrees are doing pretty well on the marriage front. They get married and stay married. But the picture is very different for Americans with lower education levels. Lower income Americans are being hit hardest by changing social norms, the rise of the post-industrial economy and the retreat from civil society and its institutions. That’s creating a marriage divide among Americans that is leading to serious inequalities, say the Urban Institute’s Robert Lerman and the University of Virginia’s Bradford Wilcox.

Lower-income Americans have been steadily retreating from marriage and that move has played a key role in their declining economic fortunes, the scholars write in “For Richer, For Poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success In America.” The duo estimate that median income growth of families with children would be 44 percent higher if people were marrying at 1980 levels. Further, at least 32 percent of family income inequality and 37 percent of the decline in men’s employment rates since 1979 can be linked to the decreasing number of Americans who form and maintain stable families.

“All the latest evidence confirms the ancient wisdom: the institution of marriage is a key to productive adulthood, the cornerstone of a stable family, and the basic unit of a healthy community,” says American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks of the new study.

Read the rest.

Around-the-Horn[1]Let Your Dim, Sin-Stained Light Shine Before The World
If exhortations to “be an example” have ever fallen on your shoulders with the weight of the world, take heart. There’s a way out from under the burden. Here’s the solution: our message is not about achieving perfection, but about receiving redemption. Do you realize what that means?

But Seriously, Would You Admit You Voted For Obama?
From Mollie Hemingway: Here’s the thing. It wasn’t just Grimes who voted for Obama multiple times. It was literally (literally “literally,” not Joe Biden “literally”) tens of millions of other people in this country. They really did it. For real. They put up bumper stickers. They put up yard signs. They called him a light-worker and an enlightened being. They said “He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair.” He was given a Nobel Freaking Peace Prize. The award citation reads like satire. Seriously, it’s hi-larious. If you’re ever having a bad day, just recall that President Obama once won a Nobel Peace Prize. If you’re having a really bad day, read the citation. I guarantee your mood will improve. The media fawned over him. They got thrills up their legs. By any metric, the mainstream media was obsequious in its coverage of the president, only pulling back marginally, quite recently, and in the tiniest few quarters as the crush of scandal and incompetence has continued and grown. . . Listen, I know the options weren’t great, but that’s still no defense for picking the guy who is bad at everything.

Houston, We Have A Constitution
From Russell Moore: The preaching of sermons in the pulpits of churches is of no concern to any government bureaucrat at all. This country settled, a long time ago, with a First Amendment that the government would not supervise, license, or bully religious institutions. That right wasn’t handed out by the government, as a kind of temporary restraining order. It was recognition of a self-evident truth.

Jitney Messiahs
This is a lie that under-girds all progressive thought, all the time, but it has now come to the forefront again, and some out-maneuvered Christians are helping to propagate it. Progressives are the ones that progressives have been waiting for, but really, nobody else has been. Whenever their jitney messiah arrives — and they find a new one every generation or so — I really see no reason for bowing down.

Only Themselves To Blame
Have you noticed the recent battle over encrypting information?  This article has and it concludes, “Feds only have themselves to blame for Apple and Google’s smartphone encryption efforts.”

Seeing Our Faith Through A Western World Lens
There are so many times in our Christian life when we look at parts of our faith through a blatant Western world lens.

Seduction And The Cost of Saying No
Most American youth don’t face these sorts of threats, but that doesn’t mean their faith comes without cost. America doesn’t kill or incarcerate people for being Christian, but it does foster a social and economic environment that makes following Jesus increasingly costly.

Catholic Family Synod & Liberal Protestantism
Without simply proclaiming Christ’s forgiveness–apparently, those outside the church’s blessing are not even allowed to confess their sins and receive absolution!–the document tries to establish a new “tone.”  My question:  How is this any different from liberal Protestantism?

Getting Back To The Ancient Church
Most of the contemporary discussion about the ancient church attempts to show discrepancies between what is now and what was then. The not-so-subtle implication is that there is something very wrong with the contemporary church. Blame Constantine. Blame the Enlightenment. Blame Capitalism. Blame the Fundamentalists. It doesn’t really matter. The only way to fix the church today is to get back to the ancient church.