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-Is It Persecution or ‘Christianophobia’?

by Dr. D ~ June 16th, 2015

cross-50 PERSECUTION  CHRISTIANOPHOBIA

The ‘P’ word (persecution) is being thrown around a lot lately in the Christian community in America. Particularly in response to the growing disconnect most Christians experience in academia, with the main stream media, and in the increasingly secular American culture. It is serious, uncomfortable, and our rights are being threatened but it doesn’t really rise to the level of real persecution. At least not yet.

What we are facing here is far less than what can historically be referred to as ‘persecution.’ In the past the church has had to go underground, worship in secret, or immigrate to new locations. Real persecution is what is happening to Christians in the Middle East and in North Africa where believers are being beheaded, churches are being burned, families are losing their homes, and women and children are being kidnapped and enslaved all in the name of religion. The two should not be confused.

We recently suggested using the word- ‘Christianophobia’ as a label for what conservative Christians are now facing in the West. It was originally coined by George Yancey. The following is a link to an interview of Yancey about where we now stand in America. He also talks about how important it is for pastors and Christian leaders to prepare and train the America church on how to respond to what we are now facing and for what the future may might soon have in store for our community. Here’s a quote (actually the conclusion) from the article:

…Today there are powerful individuals who seek to supplant that morality with one that devalues Christianity and depersonalizes Christians. Historically, Christians know what it is like to have minority power in a society. Unless something drastic happens that is likely to be the case again.

To this end, it is important that Christians do what is necessary to protect our culture and our voice as a religious community. Thus, pastors and church leaders should help Christians overcome racial and denominational barriers. In the coming times, a blessing that may arise is that we can see steps towards real Christian unity in the body of Christ, but such unity will not come without great effort and humility.

<Read the whole article>             

I really do believe that what we are facing in America can be called ‘Christianophobia’ and that it could ultimately be a unifying force in the Christian community. It could hopefully bridge the racial and denominational divide. But before that can happen, a major split will take place between Christian churches and leaders who want to be more culturally acceptable and those who want to continue to follow the Bible.                *Top

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-Evangelicals Still Growing but Denominations in Decline?

by Dr. D ~ June 15th, 2015

250px-WashingtonNationalCathedralHighsmith15393v

‘Lies, Darned Lies and Church Statistics’

We recently wrote about a poll that showed Baptists to be among the most favored denominations in America. Now comes this latest information that shows a decline in the the largest Baptist and evangelical denomination-Southern Baptist Convention by 200,000 or so last year. Meanwhile that latest data also shows that evangelicals in general continue to increase and most of that is happening in non-denominational churches. From CNN:

So, if evangelicals are growing and many denominations are shrinking, then where are they going?

Looking at the General Social Survey, using denomination of those whose religious preference is "Protestant," you can see where the growth is: it’s nondenominational. In fact, over the last four decades, there has been a 400% increase in Protestants who identify as nondenominational.

The sky still isn’t falling on American Christianity or evangelicalism. Rather, there is a stunning growth in nondenominational evangelicalism that is reshaping the religious landscape today. More and more churchgoing Christians, when asked about denomination, are saying, "none."

American Christianity is becoming more nondenominational and more evangelical at the same time. And those are stats you can believe in.

<Read the whole article>

Response: This article really does reflect all of the experiences that I have had with the American church and church membership in the last 25 years or so. What I have observed, at least in Southern California, is an exponential growth among non-denominational evangelical churches both in number and actual participating membership.

Anyone who has been involved with church administration, like a pastor,  an elder, or board member knows how approximate the numbers can be when it comes to church members. Like Ed Stetzer says in the CNN article there are- ‘lies, darned lies and church statistics.’

Fact is, there is a wide variety of methods used to arrive at an ‘official’ membership count. Some denominations count baptized members only while most non-denominational churches approximate their membership based upon a factor of church attendance and some kind of loose commitment or involvement.

Denominations that count baptized members on their rolls more than likely have inflated membership numbers that have no real relationship to attendance or participation. Any attempt to clean up the rolls a bit can result in a considerable decline in membership even if it is not reflected in the reality of attendance and/or  participation which may have actually increased.

I can remember years ago as an assistant pastor being involved with trying to find all of the baptized members on our denominational rolls and clean up our lists for better congregational communication in a ‘growing’ church only to find that nearly 25% of the folks had moved out of the area. The last 25 years our family has been involved with a ‘non-denominational’ church but you can bet that we are still on the rolls of our old denomination since you have to file an ‘official’ request for removal which we haven’t done. 

Fact is, the only good way to guage real church membership is through actual attendance and real church participation. Most pastors are more concerned about who is actually showing up and less with any dead denominational roll which may list someone who was baptized 50 years ago but has been among the ‘missing and non-active’ ever since.               *Top

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-UC Berkeley: Student’s Article ‘On Leaving Islam’ Pulled For ‘Safety’ Concerns

by Dr. D ~ June 13th, 2015

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A student at the University of California- Berkeley wrote an opinion piece listing the reasons she left Islam for the student paper but it was taken down from the paper’s website quickly over ‘safety’ concerns. The coed had been raised as a Muslim in Pakistan before immigrating to the USA. Here’s the story from the Libertarian Republic:

The opinion piece, titled “On Leaving Islam,” recounted the personal story of the narrator (whose name we will withold) growing up a devout (though moderate) Muslim in Pakistan, but later abandoning the faith as she learned more about the world.

“If someone had told me six years ago that I would leave Islam and end up an atheist, I would never have believed him,” the author writes to open the piece. “But now, as a Muslim apostate and atheist, my journey couldn’t have led me any further from what I once knew to be true.”

According to the author, her departure from the faith was driven substantially by her inability to reconcile it with her increasingly liberal personal beliefs.  …

While the author’s rejection of Islam is in far less harsh terms than those used by other apostates, such as Ayaan Hirsh Ali, her willingness to state her beliefs has apparently still exposed her to a backlash. A few days after the article was posted, it was taken down and replaced by a note from Californian editor-in-chief Kimberly Veklerov that reads “This opinion blog has been retracted because of personal safety concerns.”

<Read the whole article>

Response: Ironically, Berkeley was the school which initiated the ‘free speech’ movement on college campuses in the 60’s. During that era, student protestors continued to voice their opinions even when facing the National Guard and arrest. But when it comes to Islam that is a whole different story.

Free speech is under assault by proponents of Islam on college campuses today in the USA. Those who stand up for Israel are shouted down, those who reveal inconvenient truths about Muhammad are not allowed to speak, and those who oppose Islam are silenced and threatened.

Students papers all across America have featured articles in the last 10 years or so from students explaining why they left the Christian faith they were raised in. This piece was really no different except the student was listing reasons why she left Islam.

The article was supposedly taken down over concerns for the safety of the writer. However, you can bet the farm that the paper and the editors themselves (like Charlie Hebdo in Paris) were also threatened by adherents of the PC designated ‘religion of peace.’               *Top

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-PC Run Amok: US Embassy Celebrates ‘Independence Day’ on June 4th So Muslims Aren’t Offended?

by Dr. D ~ June 11th, 2015

american-flag-atop-flagpole

July 4th  June 4th

The US embassy in Indonesia celebrated Independence Day one month early so that Muslims would not be offended? From the Blaze:

…the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia celebrated American Independence Day on June 4 rather than July 4 in an intentional effort not to offend Muslims in the region. ..

Ramadan, which goes from June 17 through July 17 of this year, involves both fasting and prayer. …

“We are celebrating a month early to respect the holy month of Ramadan, but today we remember the revolutionary Congress meeting on July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia that issued America’s ‘Declaration of Independence’ that changed the course of modern history,” Blake said in the speech.

“The theme of tonight’s celebration is Go Green to highlight the importance of clean energy and sustainable development,” he said. ” I encourage you to hop on the electric motorcycle, look at the model of the new green embassy we are building, and see the other displays of our green cooperation here, including biodegradable balloons and local, low carbon, sustainable food.”

<Read the whole article>

Response: This is PC ‘political correctness’ run amok. Not only did they change the Independence Day date to accommodate the Muslim’s Ramadan but the celebration itself emphasized environmentalism rather than freedom and democracy. After all, freedom of speech and freedom of religion might also be offensive to Muslims?

Must everything we do now accommodate Islam and Muslim sensibilities? Maybe we should call off Christmas and Easter celebrations this year and hold them only in private like Christians do in the Middle East since some might be offended by the Christian holidays?

Couldn’t the celebration have been held on the traditional day at night when all could have participated even during Ramadan? One wonders who comes up with this stuff?             *Top

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-Evangelicals: A Parting of the Ways Over Same-Sex Marriage?

by Dr. D ~ June 10th, 2015

Just a year ago we predicted that evangelical leaders and churches would soon be forced to choose which way they were going to go when it comes to same-sex marriage and homosexuality. This week Tony Campolo, professor emeritus at American Baptist-affiliated Eastern University and David Neff, former editor of Christianity Today came out in support of same–sex marriage.

Meanwhile, the current editor of CT, Mark Galli, upheld the traditional evangelical view along with Albert Mohler and Franklin Graham. A Washington Post article today called attention to this developing split  among evangelical leaders over same-sex marriage.  

Tony Campolo made the following statement concerning his change of heart over the issue:

“It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the church.”

David Neff responded in support of Campolo with the following:

“I think the ethically responsible thing for gay and lesbian Christians to do is to form lasting, covenanted partnerships. I also believe that the church should help them in those partnerships in the same way the church should fortify traditional marriages.”

Albert Mohler had the following response to these latest developments:

This is a moment of decision, and every evangelical believer, congregation, denomination, and institution will have to answer. There will be no place to hide. …Every pastor, every church, and every Christian organization will soon be forced to declare an allegiance to the Scriptures and to the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexual morality, or to affirm loyalty to the sexual revolution.  …

In this season of testing, Christians committed to the gospel of Christ are called upon to muster the greatest display of compassion and conviction of our lives. But true compassion will never lead to an abandonment of biblical authority or a redefinition of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

<Read all of Dr. Mohler’s article>

Response: We totally agree with Dr. Mohler’s assessment.  It really is a choice between the Bible and the culture. It is a parting of the ways but this is not really a division among evangelicals. We will explain what we mean by this later.

From what we can determine, all of those choosing to accept same-sex marriage are doing so as an anecdotal compassionate response to people that they know and care about. One of the problems in the evangelical community is the fact that so many of us have taken to rating certain sins as worse than others. Among most evangelicals, homosexuality has always been considered among the worse and from what I have seen in the past, murderers have been treated better in many cases. We really need to do a better job reaching out to people in love and compassion regardless.

That being said, compassion and love cannot be a reason for abandoning Biblical teaching. God’s truth, not the current culture, must prevail or one ceases to be an evangelical. The one thing that defines the otherwise diverse group of Christians called ‘evangelicals’ is a continuing respect for the authority and the primacy of the Bible in teaching and practice.

What we are seeing is a parting of the ways but this is not really a division among evangelicals. Those who are rejecting the clear teaching of scripture on homosexuality are leaving the evangelical camp altogether.            *Top

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-DHS Naturalization Tests Support ‘Freedom of Worship’ Over Freedom of Religion

by Dr. D ~ June 9th, 2015

Freedom of Religion     Freedom of Worship

Apparently the Department of Homeland Security has substituted ‘freedom of worship’ in place of freedom of religion in their naturalization materials and tests.  The references are given in regard to the rights guaranteed in First Amendment of the Constitution. Sen. James Lankford recently wrote to the DHS complaining about that substitution. Here’s the story from the Christian Post:

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., is urging the Department of Homeland Security to change the wording on naturalization tests and study materials to promote "freedom of religion" instead of "freedom of worship,"  …

"The freedom of religion is much more than just the freedom of worship. Worship confines you to a location," the senator explained. "Freedom of religion is the right to exercise your religious beliefs — it is the ability for Americans to live out their faith or to choose to have no faith."

… the Department of Homeland Security does not… have "immediate plans" to revise its naturalization test and study materials.

<Read the whole article>

Response: We have written a number of times about the effort President Obama is making to re-interpret the First Amendment rights of freedom of religion to ‘freedom to worship’ within the confines and the four walls of an official properly zoned place of worship.  The policies and practices of this administration consistently support the downgrading of the First Amendment so this revelation is not surprising at all. It is outrageous but not surprising.

What is surprising, according to the article, is the fact this particular change in the naturalization materials and tests actually took place in 2008 before President Obama began his term. But you can bet the farm that it will not be changed back by this administration.

In fact, ‘freedom of worship’ could easily become the dominant interpretation of the First Amendment in the near future. The following are the reasons:

-President Obama supports it.

-It is a popular view in the major law schools around the country.

-Also popular is the idea that the Constitution is a ‘living document’ that can be re-interpreted to reflect modern ideals and not limited to just the original meaning and understanding.

-Already there is minority support for both of these ideas among the current justices in the Supreme Court. There are also many Circuit Court judges supporting them.

-There is a concerted effort by activists supporting same-sex marriage and LGBT rights to override religious liberty to further their agenda along with the proponents of a number of other social issues.

-Re-interpreting and downgrading the First Amendment rights of religious liberty could help those efforts.  Especially issues being blocked by religious social conservatives.

-There is considerable international support for the more limited understanding of ‘freedom of worship.’ The UN and the European Community support it and even many of the communist countries and those in the Middle East.

The current Supreme Court still supports the traditional understanding of Freedom of religion as defined by the founders. However if another progressive is elected in 2016 that could all change.             *Top

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-Does God Have a Gender?

by Dr. D ~ June 8th, 2015

50px-Mars_symbol.svg50px-Venus_symbol.svg

Recently a number of priests in the Church of England publically called for changes in the church’s liturgies to include references to God as a female and mother alongside the traditional male designations. From Christian Today:

Proclaiming "Jesa Christa, crucified" is among the liturgical changes that could help lessen abuse of power in the Church, according to a leading woman priest.

While there is support at the highest levels for the liturgies to be rewritten to represent the female as well as the male side of God, any change would need to go through the General Synod of the Church of England.

Many priests and bishops already substitute "she" for "he" in parish services around the country. At a recent Westminster Faith Debate on women bishops, a woman rabbi sang ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’ with female instead of male pronouns.

<Read the whole article>

Does God have a gender?

No.

Gender is a physical characteristic and God is not a created physical being with flesh and blood but a spirit outside of time and space (John 4:24, Luke 24:39).

Nevertheless, even though God does not have a gender as such the conversation continues as a factor of human language and a description of relationship.  …

<Read the whole article on my Apologetica page>               *Top

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