How ancient churches sounded

Church buildings are acoustic spaces, in which music is performed.  Researchers are studying the acoustics of ancient and medieval churches.  They are finding that certain design elements were intended to adjust sounds, “trying to tune the space.”

Moreover, the acoustic data they are uncovering enables the researchers to reproduce the effects electronically.  Once a digital signature is discovered, it is possible to play recorded music–say, Gregorian chants–and filter it so that we can hear what it sounded like in that particular building.  “It’s like time travel,” says a musicologist.  We can make “a museum of lost sound.”

[Read more…]

How Inner Mission evangelizes

As I’ve explained with my first trip to Scandinavia, Christianity in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland has two tracks:  the state churches (which are confessionally Lutheran, have a liberal hierarchy, but many conservative pastors) and the Mission organizations (which carry out evangelism, conduct Bible studies, and sponsor ministries to specific groups, such as children, youth, and the elderly).  Inner Mission works within the country, and Outer Mission works overseas.

These mission groups were founded back in the 19th century and grew out of the Pietist movement.  With their Mission Houses in nearly every city and town, they have become a fixture of Scandinavian culture.  Today, they represent conservative Christianity–indeed, conservative Lutheranism–in supposedly secularist Scandinavia.

I have been invited twice now to speak at various Inner Mission activities–to lecture at a Danish university, sponsored by the conservative theological faculty endowed by Inner Mission; speaking at a Bible school, where Christian young people are trained before going off to university; and giving a series of addresses to an all-Scandinavia Inner Mission youth ministry leaders’ conference in Norway.  I just came back from giving a series of lectures on vocation to a conference of all Inner Mission staff members in Denmark.

They tend to think this two-pronged Christianity is just the way it is.  “Don’t you have anything like Inner Mission,” I was asked, “in the United States?”  But I’ve gotten very interested in how these folks conduct their work, particularly in the very difficult context of European secularism.  And yet, they have some impressive success stories, such as their work in converting Muslims to Christianity.  I was curious how Inner Mission does evangelism. [Read more…]

Muslims turning to Christ in Denmark

As we’ve blogged about, large numbers of Muslim refugees are converting to Christianity.  (Read Uwe Siemon-Netto’s compelling article on the phenomenon.)  I knew this was happening in Germany and in France, though it is not happening everywhere.  But it is also happening in Denmark, as I learned last week while I was there.

The organization Inner Mission, whose conference I spoke at, does much of the evangelism work in that supposedly secularist country.  Staffers told me about how they are being overwhelmed by Muslim immigrants and refugees who come to them wanting to learn about Jesus and asking to be baptized.

I was told about a Muslim couple who showed up at a Mission House for the weekly Bible study.  The next week, 14 Muslims attended.  The next week, 50 crowded into the facility. This is happening in Mission Houses across the country.

The inquirers are told up front that their becoming Christians would in no way make a difference to the Danish government considering their applications.  “We don’t care.  Tell us about Jesus.”  And if you get sent back, you would be in severe danger as apostates to Islam.  “We know.  Baptize us!”

Inner Mission staff encourage them to continue with the Bible studies.  In the meantime, they are taken to a conservative Lutheran pastor for catechesis and eventual baptism. [Read more…]

Has the word “evangelical” become meaningless?

Southern Baptist spokesman Russell Moore said that he is no longer referring to himself as an “evangelical.”  He says that today’s political opportunism and theological heresies have made the term meaningless, though he hopes it might come back.

Back in the Reformation times and still in Europe, “evangelical” referred to Lutherans, for whom the Gospel was central to all of their teachings, a term distinguished from the “reformed.”  Later in England, “evangelical” was used to refer to low church Anglicans, and later in America as a term for culturally-open fundamentalists, then for conservative Protestants generally, and then for Christians who emphasize “evangelism.”

It is still a slippery term.  Pollsters categorize Lutherans of the Missouri Synod as “evangelicals” because they emphasize the Gospel and the inerrancy of Scripture, while many Lutherans distance themselves from the term because it connotes non-sacramental, non-liturgical Christianity.

Moore approaches the terminology question differently, tying it in to Donald Trump’s candidacy, of all things.  What do you think of his analysis?  Should the term be retired?  Can you think of alternatives?

[Read more…]

Back to Denmark

Last Fall, as some of you will remember, I spent a couple of weeks on a speaking tour of Scandinavia. (See the series of posts including this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one.)  I was invited back.  Tomorrow I catch a plane to Denmark, where I will be giving a series of lectures at a big Inner Mission conference.  So I’m excited about that.

What about the blog while I’m gone?  I’m not sure of my access to the internet all of the time, and the time difference will be crazy.  But I should be able to give dispatches from time to time.

In addition, I have written a number of posts ahead of time, and they’ll be scheduled to come up during the week that I’ll be gone.  In fact, I have a series of posts on this blog’s great theme of VOCATION (what else?) that I think will interest you.

So stay tuned and say a prayer for me from time to time.   So Farvel og Gud velsigne dig!

The end of the religious right?

Nearly all evangelical leaders are opposing Donald Trump.  And yet evangelicals are voting for him in droves.  Jonathan Merritt of the Atlantic is hailing this phenomenon as the end of the religious right.  Read what he says after the jump, read my response, and offer your opinion.

[Read more…]


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