Was the War on Poverty Too Ambitious?

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Can the War on Poverty be won in America? That depends on how you define what victory looks like. If you are the eternal optimist who presumes that somehow our government, or the free-market, or church and private organizations will eliminate poverty during our lifetime and one day relegate it to a history museum, then you may be sorely disappointed. That does not mean that we should wave the white flag and surrender the fight against poverty. Nevertheless, we need to step back and gain a wide-angle view of the interwoven web of multiple moral, social, and economic issues that perpetuate poverty.

Poverty is a much more complex enemy than “pundits” compel us to believe. It is much more than “a lack of money, period” as left-wing social commentators Cornel West and Tavis Smily have passionately declared in their poverty manifesto. And it is so much more than a series of bad choices and habits by the poor, as Christian financial guru Dave Ramsey recently insinuated in his article, “20 Things the Rich Do Every Day.” Such sweeping generalizations and simplistic solutions do not paint a realistic portrait of 21st century poverty in America, but rather reinforce the tired old stereotypes within political debates between the left and right that dominate traditional and social media. Read more about Was the War on Poverty Too Ambitious?

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What's So Important About the Local Church? (Part 2)

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From Voice, May/June 2014. Used by permission. Read Part 1.

Biblically independent churches strive to be loyal to Christ and His Word rather than to any organization. However, the First Century apostles of Christ also encouraged cooperative interdependence between local churches.

  • Greetings were extended throughout all the New Testament between independent churches, indicating a relationship with other churches in other regions (example in Romans 16:23).
  • Paul instructed the church at Rome to assist Phoebe in her visit from Corinth (Romans 16:1-2).
  • Paul instructed the churches of Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia to collect offerings for the poor believers in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8:1; 9:1-2; Romans 15:25).
  • Barnabas was sent by the Jews of the church of Jerusalem to be an encouragement to the Gentiles of the church at Antioch (Acts 11:22-24).
  • The Gentiles in Antioch sent an offering to help the Jewish believers in Jerusalem during a famine (Acts 11:28-30).
  • An inter-church conference was held in Jerusalem in order to clarify doctrinal teaching regarding what is to be the true understanding of salvation (Acts 15:1-21).
  • After the inter-church conference in Jerusalem, Paul and others were sent to inform the new churches in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of the resultant teaching (Acts 15:22-23).
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What's So Important About the Local Church? (Part 1)

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From Voice, May/June 2014. Used by permission.

Let’s face it: American pastors are constantly being asked questions about whether the local church is important and why church attendance is necessary. There are those who advocate that the modern American church is broken: why not fix it with a Starbucks-style makeover?

Some people are saying “the typical Sunday morning service of half lecture and half sing-along isn’t a useful way for me to connect with God. What if, instead of the church being like a theater, a police station, or a seminary, it was more like a coffeehouse?”1

Those are definitely questions that need to be answered, especially when asked sincerely. But those are really questions about form and methodology when there’s an even more basic question that needs to be asked first: what’s so important about the local church? Can we ditch it altogether? With technology offering Bible teaching through the Internet on your laptop or iPad or iPhone, what’s wrong with virtual, web-based Christian communities? Can your iPad serve as your pastor and your friends serve as the source of your fellowship and accountability?

What’s so important about the local church? Read more about What's So Important About the Local Church? (Part 1)

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God and the "Gay Christian"? A Biblical Response - Chapter 2

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God and the Gay Christian addresses the morality of homosexual conduct, specifically within “committed, monogamous same-sex relationships” (41). In the introduction and first chapter, most of Vines’ energy went into framing the debate as a matter of personal suffering (i.e., here’s what happened to me and is happening to homosexual Christians everywhere) and as a matter of progress (i.e., the church should improve its understanding of homosexual morality just as it has improved its understanding of other matters in Scripture).

Chapter 2 continues Vines’ efforts to frame the debate in these terms. (Kindle location numbers appear here rather than page numbers.)

The importance of progress

The section “New Information, New Viewpoints” sets the stage for the chapter by recounting Galileo Galilei’s famous 17th century conflict with the Roman Catholic church. To Vines, it’s a classic example of a traditional interpretation of Scripture that Christians, with the aid of science, eventually discovered to be in error. Read more about God and the "Gay Christian"? A Biblical Response - Chapter 2

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The Inaugural Speech of John Adams, 1797

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When it was first perceived, in early times, that no middle course for America remained between unlimited submission to a foreign legislature and a total independence of its claims, men of reflection were less apprehensive of danger from the formidable power of fleets and armies they must determine to resist than from those contests and dissensions which would certainly arise concerning the forms of government to be instituted over the whole and over the parts of this extensive country. Relying, however, on the purity of their intentions, the justice of their cause, and the integrity and intelligence of the people, under an overruling Providence which had so signally protected this country from the first, the representatives of this nation, then consisting of little more than half its present number, not only broke to pieces the chains which were forging and the rod of iron that was lifted up, but frankly cut asunder the ties which had bound them, and launched into an ocean of uncertainty.

The zeal and ardor of the people during the Revolutionary war, supplying the place of government, commanded a degree of order sufficient at least for the temporary preservation of society. The Confederation which was early felt to be necessary was prepared from the models of the Batavian and Helvetic confederacies, the only examples which remain with any detail and precision in history, and certainly the only ones which the people at large had ever considered. But reflecting on the striking difference in so many particulars between this country and those where a courier may go from the seat of government to the frontier in a single day, it was then certainly foreseen by some who assisted in Congress at the formation of it that it could not be durable. Read more about The Inaugural Speech of John Adams, 1797

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Book Review - Basil of Caesarea: His Life and Impact

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If you grew up in American evangelicalism, like I did, your grasp of church history, especially of the church fathers, may be relatively weak. Like a good fundamentalist, I grew up knowing all about D.L. Moody, George Whitfield, and Billy Sunday. I also had heard of Martin Luther and John Calvin, although I had more suspicion of them. But the church fathers were Roman Catholics from who knows when, and they didn’t have anything to teach me.

This idea, mind you, was “caught,” not “taught.” Church history has much to teach us, and the church fathers wouldn’t so easily fit into the mold of Catholicism as we know it. The early church fathers, especially, are worthy of study, and to them we owe thanks for an orthodox understanding and articulation of such important doctrines as the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and the deity of the Holy Spirit.

Overview

Basil of Caesarea (329-379 AD), a Greek-speaking Bishop in what is now Turkey, was so important a figure in the fight for biblical orthodoxy, that he is remembered as Basil the Great. He may be the most significant church father that most people haven’t heard of. Athanasius gets more notoriety for defending the Trinity contra mundum (against the world), but Basil was right there with him. Basil’s writings against the Arians, and his work On the Holy Spirit, helped to provide the church with some of the terminology that would eventually make up the orthodox definition of the Trinity: “one essence, but three persons.” Read more about Book Review - Basil of Caesarea: His Life and Impact

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God and the "Gay Christian"? A Biblical Response - Chapter 1

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The traditional Christian understanding of homosexuality is wrong. Dead wrong. Cruel, even. Why, you ask? Simple. It’s wrong, Matthew Vines argues, because it makes homosexuals feel bad about themselves.

Vines’ argument

Vines argues that experience has a critical role to play in interpreting Scripture. “While Scripture tells us not to rely solely on our experience, it also cautions us not to ignore our experience altogether.”1 Vines points to Matthew 7:15-20, which is his anchor for all of Chapter 1:

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matt 7:15-20)

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Grace Toward the Godly of the Past — Aphorisms for Thinking About Separation

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Aphorism 7: Our patterns of application of separation today must include the grace we allow the godly of the past.

Gurnall’s work is peerless and priceless; every line is full of wisdom; every sentence suggestive. This “Complete Armour” is beyond all others a preacher’s book: I should think that more discourses have been suggested by it than by any other uninspired volume. I have often resorted to it when my own fire has been burning low, and I have seldom failed to find a glowing coal upon Gurnall’s hearth. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1834-1892, quoted in The Christian in Complete Armour abridgment and modernization printed by The Banner of Truth Trust)

I am in full agreement with Spurgeon. The Christian in Complete Armour is a spiritual delight and treasure trove. Much of my preaching and illustrating from Scripture relies heavily on Grunall’s example and even remembering his sermons warms my heart to Christ.

Let’s consider a little background on William Gurnall (1616-1679). He signed the Act of Uniformity in 1662, which imposed The Book of Common Prayer, required episcopal ordination, and made the crypto-Catholic Charles II the “only supreme governor” of the Anglican Church. At least 2,000 ministers refused to sign the act and lost their churches. Men like Bunyan, Owen, Howe, and Baxter were persecuted because of the act.

So if we understand the commands to separate to go beyond disbelief and apostasy, when did it stop being a sin to obey these commands in the case of Gurnall?  Does anyone believe Paul would have signed off on the Book of Common Prayer as a burden to the conscience of pastors and congregations or accepted Charles II as the “supreme governor” of the church? Read more about Grace Toward the Godly of the Past — Aphorisms for Thinking About Separation

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