Posts Tagged ‘Christian Living’

Social Justice Goes to Church: The New Left in Modern American Evangelicalism | Book Review

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Social Justice Goes to Church:
The New Left in Modern American Evangelicalism

(Ambassador International, Belfast, 2020)

Jonathan Harris

Reviewed by Colin R Reeves

The idea1 of ‘Social Justice’ has been creeping into the evangelical church for some years, although many believers were probably unaware of it. Even many pastors in the UK may not have seen it as a significant threat. But with the rise of ‘Black Lives Matter’ in 2020, we are now saturated with it. Christians are becoming ‘woke’ in the UK2, if not yet as much as in the USA. A narrative based on ‘critical theory’ has taken hold, especially in the area of ‘race’ although feminism, LGBT and transgenderism are coming down the tracks.

How did this happen? Jon Harris has studied this phenomenon3 for several years, having come across it while a student at Southeastern Baptist Seminary. There he found lecturers emphasizing categories taken from critical theory: the fundamental idea being to divide people into two groups based on power relationships; you are either a power-less ‘victim’ or a power-full ‘oppressor.’ These categories do not depend on actual sins of oppression, or actual victimization; rather they are based on group identity—black people, women, homosexuals are victims; white people, men, ‘straight’ people are oppressors. On this basis, terms such as ‘systemic racism’, ‘white privilege’, ‘standpoint epistemology’ have become embedded in our culture, and are now making headway in the church4. Rather than viewing culture through the lens of biblical categories, ‘woke’ leaders now apply secular categories to the Scriptures.

As a historian, Harris knew that a similar emphasis had arisen in evangelicalism in the 1970s, before apparently fading away. I am old enough to remember when books by Ron Sider and Jim Wallis were popular. Harris shows that it did not go away, and he traces the way in which some in the next generation of evangelicals quietly absorbed the message of social concern as defining the gospel. Moreover, the social action promoted was not the older idea defined by the Lausanne Covenant of 1974, but was taken from critical theory—a blend of the cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School with post-modernism. More central social concerns of the 1970s, especially abortion, were largely ignored.

One of the key personalities in this ‘progressive’ evangelicalism, besides Sider and Wallis, whose Sojourners magazine carried the post-1970s torch, was Richard Mouw (Fuller Seminary), who sought to provide their ideas with a theological underpinning. Harris provides a clear analysis of his thought and influences. But the revival of progressivism in the early 2000s owes most to Timothy Keller. His book Generous Justice (Penguin, 2012) was a milestone in the introduction of what are now called ‘woke’ ideas into mainstream evangelicalism.

That book has not been without its critics, both for its re-definition of what the Bible means by justice, and for his misuse of a famous sermon by Jonathan Edwards. But Harris’s Appendix, devoted solely to Dr Keller, discusses his influences, starting from the cultural Marxists of the Frankfurt School, and moving on to progressives like Mouw, Sider, Wallis and John Perkins, and post-modern thinkers like Foucault. He then shows Keller’s development through acceptance of systemic injustice and white privilege, documenting this from his sermons. Keller’s big idea all along has been to ground Marxist solutions on a biblical basis; unfortunately the Marxist house is incompatible with the biblical foundation.

Harris reports all this largely without comment—in fact, the book as a whole is dispassionately written; his aim is to describe the different streams of thought that have brought evangelicalism to a state where (apart from a significant movement of the Holy Spirit) a separation of ‘woke’ and ‘unwoke’ leaders and churches is becoming likelier by the week. Harris’s own views on these developments are clear from his video channel, but here he is content to act as the historical reporter and leave the drawing of conclusions to the reader. As such, it is highly recommended to elders and concerned laypeople alike.

I had several reactions of my own, which could fill pages! I will confine them to a few comments on what is exemplified by Tim Keller, since he is the most well-known of these names. He is also one whose writings have benefitted many people (including myself), and I know of people who have been saved by reading The Reason for God or The Prodigal God. But Harris’s “deep dive” into his works has raised some important issues.

Firstly, his fascination with Marxism: according to Harris, Keller believes that Karl Marx was the only “major thinker,” other than God Himself, with a high view of labour. This is astonishing! Marx was a notorious workshy free-loader; surely Dr Keller is aware of the stress laid by both Luther and Calvin on the dignity of work—a view that goes back at least to St Benedict of Nursia in the 6th century, and, of course, to the apostle Paul.

Then there is Keller’s unsettling view of truth is; not as objective, but (with the post-modern thinkers) as a means to power, while agreeing with the idea that has become known as ‘standpoint epistemology’—the notion that certain ‘oppressed’ groups (e.g., black people, homosexuals) have insights into ‘truth’ that oppressors do not. The black preacher Voddie Baucham calls this “ethnic gnosticism.” In theory, Keller does not hold this view himself, rather he argues for Christianity as a third way: progressives and conservatives both have some things right, so Christians need to carry out a sort of triangulation.

But the Frankfurt ideology he admired as a young man keeps surfacing, particularly in his way of understanding Scripture. Thus the “central story of the Old Testament is liberation of slaves from captivity;” while the “storyline of the whole Bible is God’s repeated identification with the wretched, powerless, and marginalized.” Really? How about “God glorifying His Son by redeeming a people for Himself”?

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of Keller’s adoption of critical theoretic categories is his application of them to the work of Christ. He speaks of the Incarnation in ‘Social Justice’ terms: Jesus laid aside his ‘power and privilege’ to suffer ‘oppression’ at the hands of ‘elites’. Using CRT categories and vocabulary is a problem in itself, but he goes on to apply them to the Cross:

through endurance of violence and human injustice he paid the rightful penalty of humanity’s sin to divine justice.

This should sound alarm bells. What is meant by through endurance…? It could be no more than the fact that Jesus was crucified at the hands of men (Acts 2:23). But it sounds as if the human violence and injustice was the instrument whereby the penalty for sin was paid. That injustice, however, was not the rightful penalty for our sins; rather, it was the wrath of God. As Turretin remarks, the sorrow and agony of soul that Jesus felt in Gethsemane was not caused by the fear of what men would do, but the prospect of being made sin for us, of facing God the Father’s “avenging justice” as our substitute. Why invoke power dynamics rather than the traditional biblical categories of atonement?

It is becoming increasingly clear that ‘Social Justice’ is a different religion, and I commend a thoughtful study of Jon Harris’s book as a means to understanding this religion, and how it differs from Christianity.

Learn more about Social Justice Goes to Church.

Notes:
1 There is nothing unbiblical about social justice, as generally understood in the past: applying the norms of biblical justice within society; see the Dallas Statement at https://statementonsocialjustice.com/. ‘Social Justice’ (in quotes, upper case S and J) is used here to denote the secular version based on critical theory.

2 See the report on the AberLite conference in the October 2020 issue of Evangelical Times.

3 See the extensive archive of podcasts at https://www.socialjusticegoestochurch.com/archives/

4 Ben Lindsay’s book We Need to Talk About Race (SPCK, 2019), highly recommended in some quarters, is a prime example of how these unbiblical ideas are getting into evangelicalism.

Boldly Walking in the Miraculous

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Matthew J. Romano

Devotional from Matthew J. Romano, author of The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation and complementary study guide, The Call: A Study Guide to Revival and Transformation

Have you ever had a miraculous encounter that changed your life? Each of us will have divine appointments in God’s presence that can potentially catapult us into a glorious destiny. Like crossroads along the journey of life they invite us down a path less traveled. They take us from the ordinary to the extraordinary, the commonplace to the miraculous. They beckon us to take action into God’s purpose and shape who we would become.
These divine appointments can come to us through many different ways and forms. To Moses, it came by a burning bush. To the apostle Paul, it came by an open vision of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. One such appointment that God had ordained for me was to speak to Smith Wigglesworth in a dream. Even though I was aware that we spoke the entirety of the night, I was only permitted by the Lord to recall the end of our discussion. I remember complimenting him for being such an awesome man of faith just as the early apostles were. But what he said in reply shocked me. He said, “Not even I lived up to my full potential in the Lord.” In other words, the Lord had greater power and authority available for him to walk in.  The message that God was giving me is that we haven’t even begun to see what God could do through us if we only believed. “…the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action” (Daniel 11:32b) ESV.
The apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers that they would comprehend “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Eph 1:19) ESV. That power resides in us by the Holy Spirit but it can only be released through action! Faith is confidence in God’s promises and goodness. It acts in agreement with His written word, the Bible. Faith takes risks to accept the challenge of our divine appointments to walk boldly in the miraculous.
One way the Lord has challenged me to answer this call is to believe in Him to bring healing to others. One of the signs that accompanies the believer is that they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover (Mark 16:17-18). Often, I’ve been paralyzed by such thoughts as, “What if nothing happens? I may look foolish and discredit the name of the Lord.” What I’ve discovered is that the Lord is looking for those who will act according to His word. Jesus himself made the promise. My only responsibility is to trust in Him enough to place my hands on the sick and pray for their complete healing. He is responsible for the results. But if I don’t act, I will never see the power of the miraculous.
As I’m learning to step out in faith, I’ve seen God heal instantly, and at other times slowly, until months later the person has made a full recovery. Perhaps not all will be healed, but some will be. Let’s not allow thoughts of potential failure deter us from taking action. Wouldn’t it be foolish if we never told anyone the good news that Jesus saves because they may not believe? The fact is many will not, but some will. The gospel is still the power of God to save (Ro 1:16).
God gives miraculous power only to those who boldly act in faith.

Consider this week, how can you walk boldly in the miraculous?

To learn more about Matthew J. Romano and his books, visit HERE.

10 Steps for Fighting Life’s Battles Successfully

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Billy Graham’s Pastor Empowers Readers to Live Life Undefeated

For immediate release: Every day we face numerous battles in life that challenge us financially, emotionally, and spiritually. In Undefeated: God’s Strategy for Successful Living (Ambassador International; September 2015; $10.99, paperback) author and pastor Dr. Don Wilton equips readers with the proper groundwork and training to not just face, but conquer life’s battles through God’s strength.

UndefeatedLiving in an upper-class neighborhood, driving a fast motor-car, and having lots of toys are worthless when faced with a life-threatening illness. In other words, the success you’re chasing won’t help you overcome difficulty and tragedy. Using the same strategy Jehoshaphat used in 2 Chronicles to obtain victory, Wilton provides ten steps for fighting the battles of life successfully. “These steps will help you live a life of integrity, purity, accountability, and humility,” writes Wilton. “The assurance that God has ‘got your back’ will remove any fear you may have in facing these battles head-on.”

Each chapter of Undefeated breaks down one of the ten steps for fighting life’s battles successfully which include:

  • Recognize the enemy
  • Listen to alarms
  • Resolve to fast and pray
  • Assemble a team

At the end of each chapter, a list of study questions guides readers to more intimately and specifically apply these steps to their own lives and battles. Wilton explains, the best way to overcome is to allow God to fight our battles, but there are steps everyone must take in order to summon God’s help.

As the pastor to “America’s Pastor” Rev. Billy Graham, Wilton also shares wisdom gleaned from Graham over the years. On his North Carolina porch Graham told Wilton the four core values that helped Graham’s ministry experience unmatched success. “These principles not only helped them to be successful in their ministries but in their personal lives and families as well,” says Wilton.

About the author: Don Wilton is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, South Carolina and is the founder and president of The Encouraging Word broadcast ministry which is enjoyed by more than a million people through television, radio, and the Internet. In addition, he is passionate about hosting teaching tours to the Holy Land each year including Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Rome. Undefeated: God’s Strategy for Successful Living is Dr. Wilton’s 9th book and the first book in a series on Conquering Life’s Battles.

Dr. Wilton has the privilege of serving as Dr. Billy Graham’s pastor. They have remained close friends for many years, and he is a frequent speaker for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Schools of Evangelism and for The Cove. He is a highly sought after Bible expositor and preaches around the world. Don and his wife, Karyn, have three grown children who serve the Lord around the world in ministry. They have seven grandchildren.

To connect with the author or request a review copy of Undefeated please contact publicist Alison Storm at media@emeraldhouse.com.

-END-

National Autism Awareness Month: An Interview with Author D’Ann Renner

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Dancing From the ShadowsIn celebration of National Autism Awareness Month, Ambassador International spotlights author D’Ann Renner and her book Dancing From the Shadows that discusses her firsthand experience with having her child diagnosed with autism. During National Autism Awareness Month, D’Ann’s book is available on Amazon.com or ChristianBook.com for only $3.99 for your eReader. In the United States alone, an estimated 1 out of 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed with autism according to austismspeaks.org. Renner provides inspiration for parents everywhere who experience similar difficulties and pleasures of having a child with autism.

Ambassador: What were the main signs from your child that ultimately lead to the autism diagnosis?

D’Ann Renner: He didn’t play with toys typically- he’d spin the wheels of a toy truck without doing anything else. He would spend hours spinning a mixing bowl or watching a ceiling fan. He didn’t make much eye contact, was speech-delayed, and didn’t seem to feel pain.

Ambassador: How did you find peace with God after the autism diagnosis?

D’Ann Renner: I was angry and depressed at first, because I knew God could heal him, but wasn’t choosing to do so. I wondered how I had so displeased God that He would choose to punish my son. That’s just plain bad theology! Eventually, I came to the place that I could trust that God loved my son more than I did, and had a good plan for his life. Autism is not a punishment. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a gift. We all have challenges that God can turn into gifts if we allow Him.

Ambassador: Do you still struggle with finding peace? How do you deal with those moments?

D’Ann Renner: Yes, especially at transition times- like entering high school, or when other kids are getting their learner’s permits. At those times, I see a Grand Canyon sized gap D'Ann Rennerbetween reality and what my expectations were. I deal with it by reminding myself: God is Sovereign, God is good. Only He knows how beautifully our lives are being woven into the tapestry of eternity.

Ambassador: After immersing yourself into the special needs world for autism, what information do you wish was more widely known?

D’Ann Renner: Children with autism DO want to have social relationships. They DO have senses of humor. One just has to work harder to discover how to interact with them, and it takes time and patience.  And- kids with autism, even if they are non-verbal, understand a lot more of what is being said and what is happening, and they can be badly hurt by it.

Ambassador: What similarities do you share with the main character in Dancing From the Shadows?

D’Ann Renner: I did have a successful career in marketing, although not nearly as brilliant as Tori’s. We did adopt children from Bulgaria, and I’ve experienced many of the incidents she does in the book, although I fictionalized them and merged them with the experiences of others. THERE IS NO SIMILARITY BETWEEN MY HUSBAND BRUCE AND TORI’S HUSBAND PHILLIP!  Bruce is a wonderful, supportive husband, but that’s not true for many parents with special needs children. The character Phillip was based on the ex-spouses (male and female) of many friends and acquaintances.

Ambassador: Do you have any advice for parents who recently received the autism diagnosis?

D’Ann Renner: I’m going to go against the norm here, so understand this is just my feeling. It’s more important, in my opinion, to concentrate on expanding the child’s ability to think flexibly and communicate than it is to teach rote skills. I feel we concentrated so much in the early years on getting Luke to speak that I neglected working on his desire to communicate, and expanding his ability to think in a flexible way.  If I had it to do over again, I’d embrace more therapies like Floor Time, Relational Development Intervention, Neurodevelopment and programs like the SonRise protocol, rather than ABA. But that is just my opinion and many wonderful parents disagree with me.

Through the month of April, National Autism Awareness Month, pick up a copy of Dancing From the Shadows for your eReader for only $3.99! Shop now at Amazon.com or ChristianBook.com.

 

5 Tips for Daily Living as a Christian

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Living as a Christian is not a simple decision. It’s a constant daily choice that transitions your heart into something more, something that fulfills God’s purpose for you and all of your heart’s desires. Our busy lives are a constant swarm of technology, media, and information that continually test our religious boundaries. At every turn, we are challenged with the latest test. So where do we get our daily motivation to continue to pursue a God-focused life and let Him live in our hearts? Here is a great starter list to begin a daily routine to keep God in your daily life and simultaneously grow closer with him.

  1. Give Him a Few Minutes Every Day. Whether or not it’s during your drive to work with a quick prayer behind the steering wheel, or sitting down in a quiet place and contemplating God’s goodness in your life, give Him time every day. Reflect on the positive things going on in your life, your gratefulness for good health, children, or simply enjoying your dog wagging his tail. Take a minute to appreciate the smaller and more important parts of life and not the stress that typically steals all of our attention.
  2. Read a Devotional. Regardless if this is for you or within a group, stay busy reading. Find a book that speaks to your heart and gives guidance to any area of your life. Are you struggling with forgiveness? (Forgiveness Is Not An Option: A Journey to Freedom and Healing) Do you crave peace and to let go of anxiety? (How to Have a Quiet Heart) Are you curious who God is? (For His Name’s Sake). Struggling with changing the way you think and thinking more positively? (Change the Way You Think: Winning the Everyday Battles of the Mind) Struggling with being single? (Single & Content: A Journey from Despair to Delight) Are you feeling alone or forgotten? (What If)
  3. Keep a Journal. Write down your feelings, emotional, and journey through whatever your heart is going through. Writing can be a great therapeutic release for emotions that we hold in. Answer questions from the devotional and meditate on your own journey through God’s word.
  4. Memorize Verses. The Bible is full of stories of real people who experienced similar heartache as you. Can’t handle something going on in your life? David or Mordecai. Sickness or difficulty? The numerous stories of those Jesus healed. One of my favorite pins on Pinterest is a list of scriptures that are directly related particular pains. Stressed? (Ephesians 4:27)Worried? (Philippians 4:6) Depressed? (Hosea 6:1)
  5. Keep an Accountability Partner. God doesn’t intend for us to experience pain by ourselves. Whether we need guidance and direction or simply a shoulder to cry on, find a close friend who you can trust during your journey. Share your struggle, helpful scripture, positive ideas that will help both of you. Keep each other accountable for reading scripture, devotionals, or simply spending time with God every day.

 

For more helpful tips for Christian Living, check out our pinterest boards for ideas, tips, and a little bit of humor!

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