Archive | June 2014

POPE: Vatican makes history – Pope allows Islamic prayers, Koran readings

(198) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY

Vatican makes history: Pope allows Islamic prayers, Koran readings

For the first time in Vatican history, the pope allowed for the reading of Islamic prayers and Koran readings from the Catholic facility.

The readings and prayer came as Pope Francis met with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Vatican City, a gathering designed to pray for Middle Eastern peace.

A Holy See spokesman said the prayers were supposed to be a “pause in politics,” Breitbart reported. The pope said, too, that he hoped the INTERFAITH prayers would foster peace specifically between Israelis and Palestinians, the news outlet said.

Advertisements

Ravi Zacharias on Eastern Thought Invading the Church

Like most other denominations today, the steady increased influence of “Emerging Church” and Eastern Mystical practices has affected my church, the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church (C&MA).  What is interesting is that one of our most well known participant is the apologist Ravi Zacharias who has written several books related to apologetics as well as writing some material dealing with Eastern religions.  He was born in India and in many ways he may be an important person to be speaking about Eastern beliefs and practices.  At times, like most Christians today, he has made references to early church mystics and other favorites of Emerging Church authors, but it is refreshing to hear his comments now as he shares his concern for the church today –

Ravi Zacharias as he addresses the EASTERN thought that has been invading the Church.

“Who would have thought that at this time in western history you’d be listening to terms such as karma, mantra, and chakra? These eastern esoteric-sounding words have become common fare, and individuals such as Deepak Chopra have become self-proclaimed authorities on spirituality leaving many unanswered questions.

But even more troubling, how many of our CHURCHES have sounded forth ideas that are not based in spiritual reality? Join Ravi Zacharias as he explains how the West must be on guard against the infiltration of eastern thought which threatens to redefine language and morality and undermine truth, meaning, and certainty.”

Let My People Think: The East & The West, Part 1

MILLENIALS: You’ll never believe what’s drawing Millenials to church…

Meredith Flynn —  June 19, 2014

Young people fill the pews at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., pastored by Mark Dever.


COMMENTARY | Meredith Flynn

Mark_Dever_blogA 16-page church bulletin leaves little to the imagination. At Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., worship attenders know exactly what they’re getting into from the time they walk into the split-level, high-ceilinged sanctuary, less than a mile from the U.S. Capitol.

The order of service, printed neatly on the inside cover page, lists every hymn, prayer, and Scripture reading. Every song is there in entirety – not just lyrics, but actual music.

Even the Nicene Creed gets its own page, with three paragraphs of explanation about where it came from and why we recite it. (“I said this in church for 28 years,” said one visitor, “and nobody ever explained it to me.”)

Your first impression is that this church is good at welcoming new people. They remember well that not everyone who walks in the door has been here before, and maybe they’ve never been in any church before. But it’s more than that. There’s a shrewdness here (in the nicest sense of the word), and an attention to detail that may be best matched just down the street under the Capitol Dome.

Capitol Hill Baptist Church is a church for its very unique city.

Capitol_Hill_exterior_blogWhat’s most interesting is that there are Millenials here – that elusive generation that’s giving churches fits around the country. A variety of ages are represented at Capitol Hill, but the congregation skews young. A few families sat in “bulkhead” seating at the back of the sanctuary, with a little extra leg room to accommodate a fidgety toddler. The rest of us were packed into crowded pews – between 900 and 1,000 are here for worship on Sunday mornings.

Capitol Hill isn’t doing what most churches do to try to reach Millenials. Lately, the normal prescription is a relaxed dress code, coffee bar in the lobby, and maybe a violinist in the worship band. But here in Washington, what’s reaching Millenials is orderliness. And 5-minute prayers (four of them). And a 55-minute sermon based on one chapter of Psalms.

Capitol_Hill_bulletin_blogYou will be bored if you don’t open your Bible and leave it open,” Pastor Mark Dever said before his message on Psalm 143. “All I’m gonna do is talk about what’s in the Bible.”

The service lasted more than two hours, but people still stuck around to chat afterward. Some milled around the small bookstore tucked into a corner of the overflow room just off the main sanctuary. Coffee and cookies and conversation were had downstairs.

There are few surprises at Capitol Hill, besides the fact that this church on a quiet tree-lined street is ministering effectively in a difficult place, using methods that you never would have thought would work. Combined with age-old truth.

“You may have come in here as an adversary of God’s, an enemy,” Dever said at the end of his sermon. “But there’s no reason you have to leave that way.”

Meredith Flynn is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

BORG: Resistance is Futile

(189) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY

MARCUS BORG

“Resistance is futile” – famous line from Star Trek Next Generation cybernetic organism called the Borg.  If you were a fan, you remember that the Borg force other species into their collective and connect them to “the hive mind”;  the act is called assimilation and entails violence, abductions, and injections of microscopic machines called nanoprobes. The Borg’s ultimate goal is “achieving perfection”.

Patrick Stewart as Locutus, the assimilated Jean-Luc Picard

But, I digress.  Today’s blog is about one of the leading proponent of theological Liberalism and Progressive Christianity – Marcus Borg.

Tim Challies
He went to Concordia College in Minnesota determined to become an astrophysicist but soon changed his major to math and physics, and then again to political science and philosophy. As a young man he experienced great doubts about his Christian faith and decided to pursue postgraduate studies at Union Seminary in New York City and here he was heavily influenced by W.D. Davies, a man who laid the groundwork for what has become known as the New Perspective on Paul. After graduating from Union he moved overseas to Mansfield College, Oxford University, where he earned his Doctorate of Philosophy.

In 1979 Borg became a member of the faculty at Oregon State University, a position he would hold until he retired in 2007 as Distinguished Professor in Religion and Culture and the Hundere Endowed Chair in Religious Studies. However, his career as a professor would be overshadowed by his career as a writer and public figure, and his leadership in what has become known as Progressive Christianity, an updated form of theological Liberalism.

Borg is a gifted writer who is adept at popularizing difficult concepts and his prose is attractive for its lively and meditative style. One person he has influenced writes, “Almost single-handedly among progressives, Borg has opened up new avenues of experience and thought for lapsed Christians or nonbelievers interested in re-visioning the Christianity of their childhood. He writes clearly and concisely about the meaning of wisdom, compassion, justice, the kingdom of God, and life as a journey of transformation. His books boldly take us into fresh fields of wonder, mystery, and passion in regard to Jesus, God, the Bible, and the Christian way.”1

His most significant contributions have been as a scholar whose focus has been on the person and work of Jesus Christ. He has written or edited more than twenty-five books, and the great majority of them have been focused on Jesus. He also led two nationally-televised symposia—one focused on Jesus and the other on God—, served as national chair of the Historical Jesus Section of the Society of Biblical Literature, and has made regular appearances on PBS and other television networks. His bestselling book is Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, and it is in this book that he most clearly lays out his convictions. He draws on his own journey, from a childhood, childish faith in Christ to the development of what he considers a deeper, richer, and more plausible set of beliefs based on a historical rather than fabled Jesus. He teaches here that the Christian life is not meant to be rooted in dogma or creed, but in compassion and community.

In 1985 Robert Funk founded the Jesus Seminar, a group of 150 critical scholars who were tasked with re-examining the traditions surrounding the historicity of Jesus, and in particular, his deeds and his sayings. Among these scholars was Marcus Borg. The scholars employed social anthropology, history and textual analysis to attempt to reconstruct Jesus’ life and to separate the historical Jesus from what they take as myth. They famously used a voting system that relied on colored beads to represent whether one of Jesus’ deeds or sayings was authentic. Of the over five hundred sayings of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, they determined that only thirty-one were authentic with the rest being possibly authentic, doubtful or completely inauthentic. Over their many meetings and through much dialog they eventually determined that Jesus was a mortal man who, like the rest of us, had been born of two parents, that he did not perform miracles, that any healings attributed to him were merely psychosomatic, that he did not die a substitutionary death, that he was not physically resurrected, and that the post-resurrection sightings of Jesus were merely visions.

Marcus Borg became and remains one of the foremost leaders in what has become known as which Progressive Christianity differs from Evangelical Christianity in a number of important ways. Where Evangelical Christianity emphasizes life after death, sin and forgiveness, the substitutionary atoning work of Jesus Christ, and grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as the only way of salvation, Progressive Christianity takes a historical and metaphorical (rather than literal) approach to the Bible, affirms that God can be known through every religion, is far more concerned with good behavior than orthodox beliefs, and pursues progressive social and political views.

Today Marcus Borg has retired from Oregon State University but continues to serve as Canon Theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland. He also remains an active writer and blogs often at Patheos.

False Teaching
As a Progressive Christian, Borg denies important tenets of the historical Christian faith while affirming what Christians have long held as unorthodox or outright heretical positions. He has long denied the inspiration and authority of the Bible, saying, “I let go of the notion that the Bible is a divine product. I learned that it is a human cultural product, the product of two ancient communities, biblical Israel and early Christianity. As such, it contained their understandings and affirmations, not statements coming directly or somewhat directly from God.” He explicitly denies Jesus’ virgin birth: “Jesus almost certainly was not born of a virgin, did not think of himself as the Son of God, and did not see his purpose as dying for the sins of the world.” He also denies the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ: “I do not think that the gospel stories of Easter require us to think of the resurrection in material physical terms. I see them as parables of the resurrection. Parables are about meaning. They are truth-filled and truthful stories, even as they may not be literally factual.” In fact, he denies so much of the core beliefs of the Christian faith that it becomes nearly absurd to consider him a Christian at all.

Followers & Modern Adherents
As one of the foremost Progressive Christians, Borg has been an influence on many of today’s Liberal and Progressives Christians. These would include Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren, Karen Armstrong, Shane Claiborne, Anne Lamott, Jim Wallis and many others. He has lent the weight of his scholarship to their attempts to renegotiate the place of Scripture in the Christian life and faith, and to rethink many of its most sacred doctrines. He is often quoted favorably by those who want to consider themselves Christians but without holding to inerrancy, the virgin birth, the resurrection, and others beliefs most Christians have long held sacred.

What the Bible Says

One hardly knows where to begin when countering Borg with Scripture. Not only does he deny many fundamental Christian beliefs, but he also denies the very qualities of Scripture that would allow the Bible to correct him. So perhaps this is the heart of his error: the denial of the place the Bible demands for itself: its inspiration, its inerrancy, its authority, its sufficiency, its finality.

2 Timothy 3:16 assures us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Peter speaks of Scripture as God’s inerrant and inspired revelation of himself saying, “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). The writer to the Hebrews says that, because Scripture is God’s Word, it is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). If any or all of these things are true, then we do not read and judge Scripture—it reads and judges us. We have no right to stand over Scripture; instead, we have the privilege of sitting under it as it does its work in and through us.