Letting churches endorse candidates?

A commission is recommending to Congress that churches and other  501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations be allowed to endorse political candidates without losing their tax-extemptions.  Here is the report.  Details after the jump.

I decry the politicization of churches.  And yet I also decry the federal government using the tax code to squelch political speech, which seems to me to deserve particular protection under the 1st Amendment.  Which also protects religious liberty, and some religions do emphasize political action, whether from the right or from the left.

What do you think about this? [Read more…]

And now, the worship DJ

Trying to be “contemporary,” as in contemporary worship, requires hitting a moving target, since, by definition, what is up to the minute changes every minute.  This is especially true when it comes to pop culture, which depends for its commercial success on spinning out fashions that rapidly go in and out of style.  And what is “out” becomes looked down upon even more than it was considered cool a few months ago.  (In contrast, what is “classic” never goes out of style.)

So what are churches that want to feature contemporary music supposed to do? Michelle Boorstein of The Washington Post writes about a congregation that has gotten rid of its praise band and brought in a DJ.  Read about it after the jump, but here is the killer quote:

And to people younger than 30, the drums and electric guitars of the contemporary rock that dominates much of American Christianity are not only not edgy, “but for them, it’s like singing hymns,” [DJ Hans] Daniels said. “Why does the music you worship to and jam out to have to be completely separate?”

How would you answer that question?

And let’s test the premise:  Those of you who go to dance clubs, do you really want that same kind of music in church?  Wouldn’t you find that embarrassing? [Read more…]

Is God different than we are?: The ontological controversy

Consider this quote from Timothy George, in our recent Christianity without the Atonement post:

The problem comes when we use an anthropopathic term like “wrath” and apply it univocally to the God of eternity. Before long, we have constructed “a god who looks like me,” to use the title of a recent book of feminist theology.  Then caricatures of divine wrath proliferate:  God having a temper tantrum or acting like a big bully who needs to be “appeased” before he can forgive or, as is often alleged with reference to the atonement, practicing cosmic child abuse.

Note the word “univocally.”  This alludes to a historically important theological issue having to do with ontology, or the nature of being, as it applies to God.  The “univocal” position is that God is a being in the same way we are beings.  The “analogy of being” position is that only God has being in its fullness, while we and the whole creation exist in a related but qualitatively lesser way than He does.

Now this may seem like an arcane issue, but–as I will try to explain,with some help, after the jump–it is extraordinarily important, having to do with the Catholic critique of Protestantism, the nature of the Sacraments, the relationship between Christianity and science, the rise of secularism, and the very way we think about God.  [Read more…]

Christianity without the Atonement

The committee preparing a new hymnal for the Presbyterian Church (USA) has thrown out a popular praise song, “In Christ Alone,” not just because it refers to the “wrath” of God, as originally reported, but because of the word “satisfied.”  That is, because it says the wrath of God was satisfied in the Cross of Jesus Christ.  What was objectionable is the doctrine of the atonement.  (See Abby Stocker, writing for Christianity Today, and follow her links, which show how this bedrock teaching of the Christian faith has become controversial lately, even among many ostensible “evangelicals.”)

What is the point of Christianity without the atonement?  It becomes turned into another religion.  I suppose the attraction is that it gives us another religion of law, which people somehow prefer to a religion that says they are sinners in need of forgiveness and, yes, atonement.  Jesus becomes the example we have to emulate, though surely those who are honest will have to admit that this is an even higher standard that they fail to live up to.

At any rate, after the jump I quote Timothy George on the controversy, who, though he focuses on “wrath” rather than “satisfaction,” makes some excellent points as he puts the controversy in the context of church history.  I also appreciate his account of how hymns have been tinkered with.  See, for example, the Mormon Tabernacle choir version of “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and what the Unitarians have done to “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” [Read more…]

How church growth strategies keep missing the point

Rachel Held Evans tells about how churches that want to reach young people keep missing the point, trying to be cooler and hipper and more contemporary instead of attending to the far greater issues of substance.  Yes, she is calling for a measure of liberalism, but notice what else she is calling for.  Read what she says after the jump and then consider my comments. [Read more…]

The Salvation of Unborn Children

What is the eternal destiny of children who die in the womb or who are aborted?  Some have said that their original sin merits eternal condemnation.  Most such a horrible conclusion hasn’t rung true for most Christians.  Roman Catholics have posited the existence of “Limbo,” a place of natural–though not supernatural–happiness for the unbaptized.  The Orthodox see the Fall as giving only the predisposition to sin and not sin itself, so children who die before they are baptized go to Heaven.  Calvinists have recourse to their doctrine of election.  Arminians see no problem for those who never had the opportunity for a decision.  Baptists say no one can be lost before the “age of accountability.”  Lutherans leave it to the Grace of God.

But Martin Chemnitz, the second greatest Lutheran theologian and the man most responsible for the Book of Concord has actually addressed this question in his classic treatment of Christology, The Two Natures in Christ:

“This teaching [the doctrine of the hypostatic union] is not idle sophistry, for it is an article of faith that Mary did not beget a man in whom God dwelt. Rather she bore the only Son of God by receiving His flesh, as Augustine says, “He was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary who for this reason and in this sense is correctly called the God-bearer (Theotochos).” If reverently considered, this act produces the most comforting thoughts. For the Son of God embraced the human race with such great love that He did not shrink from descending to such a humble state that He not only did not assume a man who was already formed and born, but rather He united to Himself personally an individual human body in the very moment of its conception and made it His own. Thus the Son of God in assuming His own flesh, but without sin, also endured those things which commonly befall man in conception, pregnancy, and birth (as the fathers of the Council of Ephesus said), so that from His very beginning, rise, and, as it were, root, He might first restore in Himself our depraved nature and so cleanse and sanctify our contaminated conception and birth that we might know that Christ’s salvation applies even to man’s fetus in conception, gestation, and birth.”  

Chemnitz’s Works: The Two Natures in Christ, (St. Louis:  CPH, 2007), p. 102. [Read more…]


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