And the hits just keep on coming! World Vision, a ministry that I would have considered to be more of a mainline, social gospel relief agency than any genuine evangelistic outreach, has decided to hire “Christians in same-sex marriages.” (Click on this link for the article Major Evangelical Charity to Hire Married Gay Christians – NBC News.com) Why? Because they are trying to
“prevent this divisive issue from tearing World Vision apart and potentially crippling our ability to accomplish our vital kingdom mission of living and serving the poorest of the poor in the name of Christ.”
Two very interesting pieces of logic come with this report: First, the motivation for this move is to keep World Vision from being torn apart so that it can keep doing what it is doing in the name of Christ. Once again, a subjective need or concern (which amounts to a financial issue) trumps integrity. I would suggest that what we do in the name of Christ cannot be separated from what we choose to ignore. I would also suggest that World Vision is hiring same-sex Christians (a term that is actually an oxymoron) in the name of Christ.
Second, Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, tries to thread the needle by saying they are not endorsing same-sex marriage “but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue.” So, following this logic, you can do whatever you want or abstain from operating with integrity just so long as you are not a local church. I suppose pro-abortion Christians are ok as well.
But, finally, a word of encouragement comes! Stearns assures us that World Vision is “not sliding down some slippery slope of compromise, nor are we diminishing the authority of Scripture in our work. . . . We are the same World Vision you have always believed in.” Whew! Thank goodness! In reality, this is yet another attempt to demonstrate how we can try to claim allegiance to Scripture while at the same time not following its instruction.
An important article (with links to other sources) that give insight into what is happening at one of the premiere Christian colleges in America. I am encouraged by Wheaton’s stated policy. Also, Rosaria Butterfield’s story and insights constitute a significant perspective that needs to be considered.
David Yonggi Cho (also known as Paul Yonggi Cho) was found guilty this week of the embezzlement 12 million dollars in church funds. It seems he allowed his son to sell the church stocks at a grossly inflated price. There are a number of other accusations being leveled at Cho for corruption stemming back decades.
Cho, who founded the Yoido Gospel Fellowship in 1958 which is the world’s largest church with a million members, has been a highly influential figure in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles for the last thirty years. Many in those circles will be greatly disturbed by this scandal, and for those in South Korea where the church is located, it may well be a bigger scandal than that of Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart! But the influence of Cho on American Pentecostal/Charismatic pastors and congregations should not be underestimated. Since the tendency of those pastors and congregations is to emulate other successful pastors and congregations, many of them have followed and exalted Cho and his congregation over the years.
Cho has been sentenced to three years in prison (although at least one source claims that sentence was suspended) and ordered to pay over four million dollars in fines. Unfortunately, this was a father and son operation and so Cho’s son, Hee-jun, was also sentenced to three years but not suspended.
Of course, this will be yet another example used as evidence by the cultured despisers of the Church to demonstrate why the Church should be rejected. Any mature assessment of this subject will arrive at the conclusion that just because a man or even a congregation falters is no reason to discount all churches and Christians and certainly no grounds for discounting Christ or the Bible. Still, though I know nothing of what the Christian atmosphere is like in South Korea, in America, as long as we value money more than people, things more than God, and image more than integrity, there will always be scandals.
(The following articles were sources for this article)
On Tuesday night Ken Ham, prominent creationist (CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum), engaged in public debate with Bill Nye (of “Bill Nye the Science Guy” fame) on the topic of the validity of creationism as an explanation for the origin of the universe. There were not many surprises in the debate– Bill Nye did not “convert” to a belief in creationism, nor did Ken Ham capitulate on his strong stance against evolution.
But really, public debates of this nature are not for the purpose of changing the mindset of the debaters. Rather, debates offer the public the opportunity to listen to two (or more) thoughtful individuals engage in a disciplined, well-reasoned dialogue about an important issue. Observers should come away with a greater understanding of the overall issue and of the opposing viewpoints. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people think of debates only in terms of the angry exchanges on talk radio and television news shows. These spectacles are not true debates. By contrast, last night’s debate was a thoughtful public discourse, and we can applaud both Nye and Ham for being respectful (for the most part) and being willing to debate in the first place. To look for a winner is to miss the point of such a debate (and if we are honest, most people’s opinions on who “won” will most likely be derived from their starting view of evolution versus creation).
So what was the point of the debate, especially if we cannot objectively and decisively declare a winner? We think there are three points.
The first point is that despite what we may have heard or read, the question of origins is still alive and kicking. The debate put this issue smack dab on the front page of CNN.com (which summarized the debate as “Nobody knows” vs. “It’s in the Bible”) and other national media outlets. The debate even received decent international coverage. Both sides may label the other position absurd, outlandish, and/or offensive, but the matter is far from “decided” culturally — according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, about two-thirds of Americans believe in evolution, and one-third believe that humans have always existed in their present form. Despite this reality, public science education accepts and teaches evolution as the only viable (and “established”) way to view origins. The debate brought to the forefront that not only is evolution rejected by a sizeable percentage of the American public, but also that the evolutionary stance of public science education is nothing less than “cultural hegemony.” Ironically, that term comes from the secular humanist playbook: a ruling group in a diverse society manipulates the culture — imposing their worldview until it is regarded as the cultural norm, accepted as natural and positive for everyone in that society — in order to preserve the power and status of the ruling group. So it goes with the evolution steamroller in American education, but for one evening the debate forced our society to be honest about the cultural relevance of the question of origins. The debate reminded us that people not only have the right to ask where humans came from, but also the right to open dialogue on that question.
The second point is that the debate underscored the importance of “worldview.” If you watched the debate, it couldn’t be clearer that what we believe about origins is central to our understanding or “view” of the world, and our place as human beings in it. The debaters themselves recognized this, often using the term “worldview” to describe the opposing position. The Bible itself, in Hebrews 11:3, acknowledges the role of worldview as it relates to origins: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” Likewise Paul, when preaching in Acts 17 to Greek philosophers, used creation as his starting point to explain the “Unknown God” of the Athenians; he began by saying that God, “who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth…” (v. 24) is the One who “gives to all life breath, and all things” (v. 25) and “has made from one blood every nation of men” (v. 26). Without this understanding of origins, little else in the Bible (including salvation) makes sense or can be claimed as true — a point upon which both Bill Nye and Ken Ham agreed and demonstrated. Everything hinges on worldview.
A third point of the debate – and another point of agreement among the debaters – is that education is a primary agent of worldview development in children’s lives (we witnessed Ham asserting that public school textbooks deprive children the chance to consider creationism and thereby push a secular worldview, and Nye begging that science education be kept “pure” and “free” from the influence of “religion”). Make no mistake about it — the debate was as much about what our children should be taught about origins as it was about what we believe individually. As educators and parents ourselves, we need to take the cue from Ham and Nye and ask the important question of how our children’s worldviews are developing. We need to scrutinize carefully the primary, educational shapers of that worldview. Specifically, we need to think critically about the type of schooling our children receive, the worldview of the adults who provide the schooling, and the curriculum and materials used in that schooling. The implications for our children’s worldviews — and thereby what they believe, who they are, and what they do — are profound.
Given these three points, here’s our final opinion on the debate last night: We think it was wonderful. Even though a number of the answers were not fully satisfying and seemed rushed, we loved every minute of it — and delightfully, there were over 150 of those minutes. We were with a group of over fifty people who stayed engaged for the full debate, and in this age of sound-bite sermons that must be wrapped up in a half hour lest “you lose the congregation,” it was refreshing to see so many people, young and old, listening to sometimes heady dialogue for that long. We cannot all agree on a decisive winner, but the debate helped us understand the strengths and weaknesses of our own arguments, and assess the strengths and weaknesses of others. It also keeps those issues that matter most — our beliefs about where we come from, which in turn influence who we are and what we do with our lives, and the way we shape those beliefs through education — on the front burner of our culture.
For those reasons, Ken Ham and Bill Nye are to be commended for engaging in this critical conversation, and allowing us to listen in. They have helped to educate all of us.
Roger Erdvig is the Superintendent and Lynn Swaner is the Assistant to the Superintendent for Academics at Smithtown Christian School.
This is the best article I’ve read to date concerning the dilemma of gay Christianity, the possibility of change from homosexual to heterosexual, the beliefs and attitudes the Christian with same-sex attractions should have, and the kind of approach the Church should take to people struggling with same-sex attraction, or as this author says, those who are struggling from the place of a “broken sexuality.” The article is long but a must-read for pastors and I would think a great help to those who are struggling and looking for hope.
Here is the link to a timely post by my friend and colleague, Roger Erdvig. In an interview, Schaefer (the pastor who is due to be “defrocked” by the United Methodist Church in less than thirty days if he does not denounce same sex marriage) said,
“I cannot fathom how I would change my mind in that time or in any time. To me this is discrimination. It’s not right. So many people have been hurt. Not just my son — my children — but thousands of gay, lesbian bisexual, transgender people have been hurt by the church and by society. It has to stop. We’ve got to realize what we’re doing here with our theology, our doctrine, and really, our hate speech.”1
If I follow the logic, we should adjust our doctrine so that it does not hurt people’s feelings.
Even the dullest American barely able to think due to the drunken stupor of postmodernistic relativism can understand that we don’t adjust truth to suit feelings (if he or she is intellectually honest). Should we act toward homosexuals from a heart of love and compassion? Yes! Should we stand for people’s rights? Of course! But no one has the “right” to force others to validate his or her behavior and no one has the right to change the truths of Christianity for the purpose of stroking the fragile ego of insecure Americans who not only want to choose but also want to force others to approve of their choices. Like atheists who cannot stop talking about the God they say doesn’t exist, the gay community is so comfortable with their choices that they can’t stop trying to prove it by forcing others to agree with them. They would say it is a call for tolerance, but its not. It’s a call for blanket acceptance and a renunciation of any and every moral value that disagrees with their own.
I recently discovered this quote from Tozer that I think is priceless. What do you think he is saying?
“It will cost something to walk slow in the parade of the ages, while excited men of time rush about confusing motion with progress. But it will pay in the long run and the true Christian is not much interested in anything short of that.”
In a recent interview with La Civilta Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit magazine, Pope Francis expresses his concern that the Catholic Church, at least as it pertains to its moral credibility, might “fall like a house of cards” unless the church finds a balance between its dogmatic declaration of truth and its love for people. That sounds like the voice of wisdom and maturity. I would say that it reflects a naiveté, but I really think it more reflects bad doctrine.
For one thing, the Pope’s idea that we have to “heal” the wounds of a person before we can speak to him is fine unless the wounds are the sin. There is no healing the wounds of homosexuality while at the same time accepting the homosexuality. There is no healing of the sin of abortion unless the acceptance of abortion is dealt with.
Now, I am not Catholic, nor am I reformed. I am a Pentecostal evangelical. So, I reject any idea of compromising with sin for the sake of relationship. That’s not the same as saying that there can be no relationship with a sinner. It just means that relationship must be grounded in truth and transparency. You can always find someone who decries the sermon against sin in favor of a kinder, gentler, more embracing Christianity. And I am all for that unless the kindness and gentleness requires one to look the other way and compromise Scripture.
Third, the reason we have to talk about abortion and homosexuality is because that there are massive special interest groups pressing for them to be normative. The church should address all sins and preach the balanced word of God but there are no special interest groups trying to legislate the acceptance of lying or adultery.
Finally, the church and the culture must come to grips with the truth that while the church is against homosexuality it can be so and still love the homosexual. But we will not be showing love by winking at the sin. When Lou Giglio was “uninvited” to participate in the Inaugural festivities earlier this year, I felt like he missed an opportunity to say to the nation, “It is possible to be against homosexuality and not hate the homosexual.”
I am now a veteran of two Socrates in the City events. (I was there for John Lennox—Oxford scholar and professor and former student of C. S. Lewis!—earlier this year, and last Thursday night for Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, founder of the Discovery Institute and who some are calling the father of the modern Intelligent Design movement.) If you have never heard of Socrates in the City,don’t panic. I will tell you enough here to aide you in getting your Socrates on for the next go round.
What is it?
Socrates in the City (which could be shortened to SITC but won’t be here because I like saying Socrates in the City) is at the very least a forum where important authors dealing with important subjects can come and promote (and sell) their important books, or “move product” as Eric Metaxas, the founder, jokingly says. But lest I hack the description, let me give it to you as it is found on the Socrates in the City website:
The Greek philosopher Socrates famously said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Taking this as a starting point, Eric Metaxas thought it would be valuable to create a forum that might encourage busy and successful professionals in thinking about the bigger questions in life. Thus Socrates In The City: Conversations on the Examined Life was born.
Every month or so Socrates In The City sponsors an event in which people can begin a dialogue on “Life, God, and other small topics” by hearing a notable thinker and writer such as Dr. Francis Collins, Sir John Polkinghorne, Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, N.T. Wright, Os Guinness, Peter Kreeft, or George Weigel. Topics have included “Making Sense Out of Suffering,” “The Concept of Evil after 9-11,” and “Can a Scientist Pray?” No question is too big—in fact, the bigger the better. These events are meant to be both thought-provoking and entertaining, because nowhere is it written that finding answers to life’s biggest questions shouldn’t be exciting and even, perhaps, fun.1
And fun it is! Metaxas sees to that. If you have had no exposure to him, you are in for a treat. He is funny and hilariously so, particularly in moments when he is not supposed to be. He was so witty last Thursday that, at one point, Dr. Meyer lost his train of thought! At the end of the evening Meyer was heard to say “I enjoyed playing the straight man!” At one point, Metaxas, whose delivery is normally dry and dead pan, said something (I forget the line) that even he couldn’t help but laugh about after the moment had passed! But lest I leave the impression that it is all fun and games at Socrates in the City, rest assured it is not.
Though the night is certainly fun, enjoyable, classy, and sophisticated, an important agenda is being put forward. Metaxas is serious about what he is doing. I get the sense that he runs a tight ship and that he is as passionate about worldview as “the next Chuck Colson” (as some are calling him) should be! He is a man of Christian faith and values which, as far as I can tell, he makes no effort to hide. (The reader should note that I have never had a conversation with Mr. Metaxas, nor have I studied him in any great detail. I am simply sharing the impressions I have gained through two Socrates in the City events, his Bonhoeffer Tour, and some research). Yet, he is no “Falwell-style” Evangelical either. In fact, many average Evangelicals would be uncomfortable with some of the people Metaxas has conversations with, not because he is in some way compromising his faith or that the names of those whom he is in contact with would suggest compromise (except maybe for Woody Allen), but because he is willing to have conversations that require an open mind and the ability to critically reflect on information, and because Evangelicals aren’t necessarily known for wanting to have conversations. (The two events I attended would raise eyebrows for Creationists, at least ones who have closed up shop and are no longer willing to consider other hermeneutical approaches.) Frequently, Christians who are broad minded, interdenominational, and intellectual get branded by Evangelicals as liberal. I think that description would miss its mark here. Metaxas is conservative in his beliefs, though he does not appear to operate within typical evangelical boundary lines.
The Socrates in the City (New York) event itself is delightful. Held at theUnion League Club of New York, at 38 E 37th Street, the atmosphere is appropriately intimidating. The evening places a common person like me in an atmosphere surrounded by people whose collective social status is far different than his or her own. There are plenty of big hairdos and strings of pearls to gawk at (and that’s just the men!), and people who are comfortable in a high society kind of atmosphere. But as I sit there, I do not feel out of place. I feel perfectly comfortable knowing that I “belong” there because one does not have to be wealthy or socially elite to think, read, and appreciate the value of what is shared by Mr. Metaxas and his guests.
When you arrive (in business attire) you can check your hats and bags, (and perhaps your baggage) at the door, enjoy wine and hors d’oeuvres (not an event designed for the Bible Belt obviously), in a historic venue, peruse and purchase the important books pertaining to the evening at the resource table, and then settle in for an evening rich in content, and humor, all for the low, low price of $35!
All joking aside, the event is particularly well done, the Socrates in the City personnel are friendly and helpful (my only contact with them has been at check in and around the resource tables). Now That I have discovered it, Socrates in the City is a priority for me.
The Next Event
The only legitimate complaint someone could have about Socrates in the City, other than that the evening does not last long enough, is that there is no real calendar to speak of on the website; no way to tell what is coming next. You have to watch the website, get on the email list in order to stay abreast of what is going on. (The website is a great resource though, for video, etc. of past events!) So, while I can’t tell you when the next event will be or who will be the guest, I can guarantee that, if you are interested in the next guest, it will be well worth your while to attend! And I will very likely see you there!