What the Resurrection says about the nature of the cosmos, and how it might impact the science vs. faith debate.
by Skye Jethani
Did God create the universe in six 24hr days, or was it a gradual process over eons? Were humans made from the dust of the ground, or did we evolve from earlier species of primates? Was there a literal Adam and Eve? What about the fossil record, dinosaurs, and genetic evidence?
Since I was a kid I've loved discovering how our universe works. Despite my layman's appreciation for science, I have stayed far, far away from the faith versus science controversies that our society and media seem eager to engage.
It isn't that I think these questions are unimportant, or that I don't sympathize with those who struggle to reconcile their faith with science. And I am grateful for those seeking to thoughtfully and graciously bridge the divide between the scientific and faith communities. Some members of my own church have done wonderful work in this area. And lately I've been intrigued by the work of BioLogos. The group was started in 2007 by Francis Collins, the brilliant scientist who led the Human Genome Project. BioLogos' mission is to show the compatibility of science and religion. The group's website includes endorsements by many theologians, scientists, and pastors, and it includes articles on many of the questions I list above.
Like those behind BioLogos, I share the belief that science is an indispensable, legitimate, and God-ordained vehicle for truth. It can tell us how our universe works, and these answer become the basis for solutions to many of humanity's most vexing problems. So why do I remain hesitant to allow externally verifiable logic to always trump faith when controversies arise between science and religion? Here's why: While science can tell us how our universe works, it cannot prove the universe has always worked, or will forever work, the same way.
Few aspects of our public witness on ethical and political questions are as contentious and difficult as the questions of gay marriage and gay rights. The watershed announcement by President Obama that he too now supports full marriage equality for gays and lesbians (though he incoherently wants to leave that “right” to the states) has ignited introspection among many conservatives over whether it would be better to no longer defend traditional marriage in the public square. The danger is that articulating this particular social good has the byproduct of creating resentment and hostility from those who disagree, thereby corrupting Christianity’s attractiveness by unnecessarily aligning it with a political stance.
It’s worth noting, I think, that the legal developments around marriage have the appearance of being victories for conservatives but are essentially nothing more than rearguard actions. The moment a position has to be codified into law it has ceased to be the law of the land.
And yet, as someone with broadly conservative instincts I’m not yet ready to give up articulating a traditional view of marriage in public and working to support it theologically, socially, and by even by law. After all, gay marriage may not be the “foregone conclusion” that many folks think it is.
Gallup finds our attitude toward sin is shifting. More evidence the church's influence is declining?
by Url Scaramanga
Birth control has reentered the public conversation since the Obama administration attempted to force non-church religious organizations to include the pill in employee health insurance plans. As a result, Gallup has included birth control in a new survey of American's attitudes about sin.
The findings show that 89 percent believe birth control is acceptable. Not surprising perhaps, but what may surprise you are where different behaviors rank on the acceptable-not acceptable scale. For example, Americans believe premarital sex is more acceptable than viewing pornography. (Does anyone else find that odd?) And medical testing on human embryos was seen as more morally acceptable than medical testing on animals.
Divorce and gambling, two things denounced by old time religion, now rank among the most acceptable behaviors on the list, and a majority (54 percent) now accept gay and lesbian relationships as morally acceptable.
How the church can thrive by focusing on the battles that really matter.
by Chad Hall
In this post, we present reasons churches should NOT oppose gay marriage. For our post presenting a case for churches to oppose same-sex marriage legislation, click here.
NOTE: Before you skip ahead to the comment section and start disagreeing with me based on the title of this post, please read the post in its entirety. Then you can post disagreements!
I live in the state of Washington, which recently passed a law legalizing gay marriage. Meanwhile, my native state of North Carolina voted to ban same-sex marriages. It’s a topic many states are dealing with in a variety of ways.
As states debate the issue and election year rhetoric heats up, many church leaders I know have denounced the legalization of same-sex marriages while backing measures such as North Carolina’s that ban the practice. I have other Christian friends who support the legalization of same-sex marriage based on their belief that homosexual practice should be permitted in society and the church. I think this fiercely debated issue can serve to help us clarify our understanding of how Christians should engage society and government.
Personally (and please note that this is my personal position and not that of any ministry or organization I work with), I doubt the legalization of same-sex marriage is a threat to the church. In fact, I think it could very well be a blessing, but not for the reasons you might guess.
The president's spiritual adviser disagrees with him on gay marriage, but calls the church to a wiser response.
Skye Jethani interviews Dr. Joel Hunter
Last week President Obama publicly acknowledged his support for same sex marriage in an interview with ABC News. Shortly before the interview, the president called Dr. Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland Church near Orlando and a spiritual adviser to the president, to tell him about his decision. Hunter told the president that he disagreed with his view on marriage, but the decision would not fracture their friendship. When asked about his relationship with the president by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Hunter replied, “I love him and he’s a friend.”
Earlier this week Skye Jethani spoke with Joel Hunter about President Obama’s endorsement of same sex marriage, what it means for the church, and how church leaders ought to talk with their congregations about it. The full interview with Dr. Hunter will be in the upcoming summer issue of Leadership Journal.
Skye Jethani: What are you telling people in your church about the President’s announcement last week that he supports same sex marriage?
Joel Hunter: First, it gives us a wonderful platform to reemphasize the definition of marriage as God has laid it out in Scripture. We are not free to redefine it once God has defined it.
Second, I am saying we have to be careful not to fight the wrong culture war. We have gay people in our congregation. They are people made in the image of God, and we want them to come close to him in Christ and follow God. So we have to remember that this is a hurtful issue for many, many people, and we have to be very respectful as we talk about it.
Third, we have to remember that this is a leadership issue. The church should not try to manage society. 1 Corinthians 5:12 says, “What have we to do with judging outsiders?” Our business is the Church. We cannot expect everyone to follow the same values that Christians follow. Even though marriage is sacred and defined a certain way for us, that doesn’t mean it is to everybody. So as this conversation continues, we need to differentiate what is expected from a biblical, obedient Christian and what’s expected from someone who is acting from another worldview.
While 80 percent of Americans still claim to be Christians, the devil is in the details.
by Url Scaramanga
The 2012 Religious Congregations and Membership Study was released earlier this month. The data was captured by the 2010 census, and it reveals some dramatic changes in the religious landscape of the United States over the last 10 years. Key findings include:
-The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has 2 million new adherents and new congregations in 295 counties. It is the fastest-growing religious group in the U.S.
-Muslims grew by 1 million adherents and Muslim congregations now exist in 197 more counties than a decade ago. There are now about 2.6 million Muslims in the US.
-Overall, non-Christian religious groups grew by 32 percent over the last ten years.
-Over 80 percent of Americans claim to be Christians, but lest than half (49 percent) are attached to a congregation.
How many theological and cultural taboos can one billboard violate?
by Url Scaramanga
This one comes from New Zealand (a.k.a. Middle Earth). A church wanted to start a conversation about the Christmas story, but it created a controversy with a billboard featuring Joseph and Mary in bed together. It read: "Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow." Listen to the vicar's explanation for the billboard. Yeah, it makes no sense to me either. I would have loved to have been in the church meeting where this idea was approved.
3 reasons he did, and where Christians should focus their attention.
by Skye Jethani
Everyone thought he would wait until after the election. After all, same-sex marriage is still a wedge issue in most of the country. With just over half of Americans now supporting gay marriage, and with many religious conservatives already distrustful of the president, most did not think his administration would rock the boat on such a volatile issue.
But yesterday President Obama rocked it anyway, telling ABC News:
"I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."
So, what are we to make of this sudden turn of events? Over the last few years President Obama has said that his views on same-sex marriage were "evolving" along with the rest of the country's. But why has he chosen this moment to offer an all-out endorsement? Here are three things to consider:
Stanley gives a sermon about tension, and Mohler refuses to live in it.
By Andrew Marin
Recently North Point Community Church's senior pastor Andy Stanley preached a sermon about the theological tension that is needed to live in the Way of the Christian faith. (Listen at North Point's website. The controversial section begins about 24 minutes in.) Well known conservative commentator and president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Al Mohler, took offense to Stanley's non-mention of the sin of homosexuality in the sermon. Stanley illustrated a story of a wife, husband and daughter in his church—where the husband cheated with another man who eventually became his partner—and the journey for each of the participants. The reality of this family's new tension-filled dynamic illustrated for Stanley the tension between grace and truth in the Christian faith.
Stanley spent the majority of the sermon fleshing out his understanding of this tension by highlighting Jesus' changing response to sin through his words and deeds in the Gospel stories. Should sin be forgiven, or should a person be held accountable? Should we act harshly or be kind? Point a finger or ignore? As Stanley stated:
"We're all tempted to want to resolve that tension. But if you resolve it, you give up something important. It's what drove people crazy about Jesus. But he was comfortable with it. He was able to minister through it. And we dare not walk away from it."
It should not be a surprise that Mohler took a hardline stand against Stanley's nuanced message of tension.
Richard Land "overestimates" the church's progress on race relations.
by David Swanson
On an unseasonably warm Saturday in late March, my 3-year-old son and I took the train from our Chicago neighborhood to a rally downtown for Trayvon Martin, the unarmed African American teenager who was killed in Florida a month earlier. The protest itself was predictable: calls for an investigation into the shooting mixed with intense frustrations. I was, however, surprised by one moment. Standing with my son on my shoulders, straining to hear the one of the speakers, I overheard one woman respond to a reporter’s question. “Why is no one paying attention to this,” she asked. “Where are Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? Why aren’t they speaking out?”
Two weeks later, in glaring contrast to this woman’s frustrations, Dr. Richard Land, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, weighed in with his own opinion about Trayvon Martin’s death. “[T]his situation is getting out of hand,” Dr. Land opined on his radio program. “And it’s going to be violent. And when there is violence it’s going to be Jesse Jackson’s fault. It’s going to be Al Sharpton’s fault.” In these few sentences, and the many that followed, Dr. Land carelessly exposed the ways race continues to divide our country--and our churches.
I mean no disrespect to Dr. Land. In recent years I’ve been encouraged by his compassionate and theologically nuanced stance on immigration reform, making majority-culture churches aware of the struggles of immigrant Christians in our midst. His has been a cool, refreshing voice after so much partisan hot air. Yet at the very moment when Dr. Land could have used his influence to unite, he resorted instead to clichés and stereotypes, confirming to many the priority of race over creed.
At Easter, this church believes there's no such thing as bad press.
by Url Scaramanga
To promote its Easter services last month, The Rock Community Church in South Carolina sent out postcards with a photograph of a dead rabbit. It read "Bunnies Stay Dead. Jesus Didn't." (Profound theological commentary, I know.)
Residents offended by the mailer called the church to complain and have their names removed from the mailing list. The stunt also made the local news. Kevin Childs, lead pastor of The Rock, said, "Some of it is a calculated risk, are we willing to offend some to get the attention of some other folks."