Run it like a business?

business-1137397_640President Trump is reported to be understandably frustrated that the government can’t be run like a business.  In his company, Trump could simply given an order and his underlings would do it.  But as president, he gives an order but he has to contend with the courts, Congress, semi-independent agencies such as the Pentagon, a vast bureaucracy, and state governments, each with its own complicated workings.

I’ve listened to a pastor explain how he is trying to run his church like a business.  He is the CEO, he explained.  His members are his employees.  He said he doesn’t do hospital visitations or evangelism calls.  That is the work of his members/employees.

I do think the government and churches can learn some things from businesses.  For example, you need to balance the budget, be efficient, give good service, etc.  But the very nature of these institutions prevents them from being interchangeable in the way they operate.  [Read more…]

The formal and the material principles of theology

The “formal principle” of a particular theology is its source and authority.  The “material principle” of a theology is its central teaching, the characteristic “content” of the theology that shapes its other teachings and practices.

In the course of some research for a project I am working on, I learned that this distinction emerged out of Lutheran scholarship.  But it’s a helpful way to understand any theological tradition.

Wikipedia has an entry on the subject that lists the formal and material principles of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, Zwinglianism, Calvinism, and Methodism.

These are taken from F. E. Mayer’s classic study The Religious Bodies of America.  I give them after the jump.

These are theologies, not church bodies, and it’s evident that various evangelicals might be “Zwinglians,” “Calvinists,” or “Methodists” (a.k.a. Arminians).  But there are still Baptist, Pentecostal, and other theologies, including popular expressions such as “the prosperity gospel.”  How would you break down their formal and material principles?

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Should tax-exempt churches be allowed to preach politics?

37_Lyndon_Johnson_3x4In 1954, President Lyndon Baines Johnson pushed through a law that would revoke the tax-exempt status of churches and other non-profit organizations if they get involved with politics.  President Donald Trump wants to get rid of that law.

What do you think?  Granted that an overtly political focus can make a church this-worldly instead of attending to the Kingdom of Heaven.  But shouldn’t churches have the right to teach whatever they please as a matter of religious liberty?  And doesn’t political speech deserve special protection from the Constitution?  But can you foresee problems if the Johnson amendment were to be thrown out (such as churches being used to launder political contributions)?


Photo of Lyndon Baines Johnson by Arnold Newman, White House Press Office (WHPO) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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A rite for changing to a new gender?

30108554503_82b923c684_zAt Baptism, among other things, a child is named.  So what about those who later get a new name along with a new gender?  Some LGBT activists in churches are urging the adoption of a new service “akin to baptism” to mark and to formally bless transgender transitions.

Officials of the Church of England have tabled a proposal to that effect.  The General Synod meeting next week will NOT change church teachings about sexuality, it has been announced, and will NOT change the definition of marriage to allow for same-sex weddings.

But transgender re-baptisms, naming ceremonies, or the equivalent, are on the agenda of progressive church activists in many denominations.  They are already happening, as a Google search will show.

How does this show a misunderstanding of Baptism? [Read more…]

How “strange” it was that Rome became Christian

Good_shepherd_01_smallThat a religion like Christianity converted Rome and its empire is a “historical anomaly,” a “strange” fact of history.  Classicist and historian Michael Kulikowski tells the tale.

His perspective is secular, his evidence is objective, and he does not consider the truth or the supernatural realities behind what Christians taught.  So what he says and the way he describes the early church are all the more telling for those of us from a Christian persuasion.


Photo:  Good Shepherd fresco, Catacomb of Priscilla, Italy, Rome.  Public Domain.


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Pastors have happier marriages, stronger families than usual

Luther_im_Kreise_seiner_Familie_musizierendBarna Research has published a new study on the problems, challenges, and personal life of pastors.  (You can buy the study here.)  Among many other findings is that, on the whole, pastors have much happier marriages and much better relationships with their children than typical Americans.

And yet, despite their strong families, pastors report that their ministries have sometimes put a strain on their marriages and children.

[Read more…]