Moralism of the right & moralism of the left

United Methodists are considering whether or not to have an amicable split, so as to accommodate both sides of the moral debates that the denomination is struggling with.  As I know from personal and family experience, Methodists have always had a strong emphasis on morality.  It certainly has an evangelistic strain, with its roots in the Wesleyan revivals, but its moral focus can tend to moralism, an emphasis on moral rectitude that overshadows the forgiveness of Christ.

The prospect of a Methodist split shows what is happening across many denominations.  There is a moralism of the right, fixating on traditional sexual morality, personal vices, and family values.  And there is a moralism of the left, fixating on “social justice,” care for the poor, and political liberalism.  (Note that it is possible to uphold what is “moral” without succumbing to “moralism.”)

But what–or, rather, Who–is often missing in moralistic churches of both the right and the left is Christ.  The right often relegates Him to the moment of conversion, whereupon Christians can then get to the real business of regulating their behavior.  The left reduces Him to a political liberal like themselves.  Both treat Him mainly as an example, rather than as Savior, Redeemer, and Sacrifice. [Read more…]

Sudan denies the release of condemned Christian

This weekend there were reports that Sudan would release the woman who was condemned to be hanged because she would not repudiate her Christianity.  But now Sudan is denying those reports, saying that only a court ruling could release her.  The woman, Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, whose husband is an American, had her baby in prison, where she is also caring for her 20-month-year-old son.  She had her baby baptized. [Read more…]

Tullian Tchividjian expelled for crypto-Lutheranism?

Tullian Tchividjian, the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian and the grandson of Billy Graham, was kicked out of the Gospel Coalition blogging community for what the GC folks are calling a doctrinal issue over sanctification.  Others claim other reasons, including Rev. Tchividijian’s criticism of how other GC members handled a sexual abuse scandal.  But I take the official statement from the Reformed organization seriously.

As we have posted, Rev. Tchividijian discovered the distinction between Law and Gospel in some Lutheran writers who helped him through a personal crisis in his ministry.  The complaints about “anti-nominanism,” being weak on sanctification,  and downplaying the role of moral improvement in salvation sound like common Calvinist misunderstandings of Lutheranism. [Read more…]

“The hardest place on earth to be a Christian”

That would be Pakistan, according to Jesse Johnson.  It isn’t just that Christian are persecuted by the government.  The entire culture systematically excludes, punishes, and torments Christians.  Christians may not attend schools or universities, so most of them are illiterate.  This keeps them from getting decent jobs. Their testimony is not accepted in a court of law, so they lack legal protection.  Their daughters are routinely kidnapped.  Christians are often accused of blasphemy and murdered. [Read more…]

Natural law vs. nominalism

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, an Orthodox priest, gives a lucid explanation of the difference between “natural law” and “nominalism” when it comes to moral philosophy.  He does so in a way that makes it nearly impossible to believe that Luther was a nominalist, as he is often accused of being.  Fr. Reardon also goes on to criticize his fellow Orthodox who believe that since church weddings are sacramental, the world outside may conduct marriage any way it pleases. [Read more…]

What the LCMS believes about the Bible

We blogged about the Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the LCMS.  President Harrison has now posted an excerpt from the Statement of Biblical and Confessional Principles, passed by convention in 1973, in response to the church schism over the inerrancy of Scripture.  But that’s not all the statement affirms, setting off the Lutheran view also from that of some other theologies, including those that also affirm inerrancy. [Read more…]