America’s Tug-of-War Over Children
Lately, education in America has dominated the news cycle in heartbreaking ways. Battles at the schoolhouse gates are portrayed as just another partisan political conflict. In reality, they are an extension of the broader spiritual battle going on in the world, between God’s kingdom agenda, which pursues truth, and the world’s agenda of deception and lies. Both seek to gain the allegiance of the youth in order to ensure that the children grow up to be soldiers of their army.
But it’s a battle that truth must win.
States like Florida and Texas are partnering with parents in this battle to protect children from deceitful indoctrination, by ensuring that families teach their children about morally sensitive issues, not the state. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a law declaring universal school choice in the state, permitting all K-12 students to use state vouchers for private schools. The state also banned instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity before third grade and plans to expand that protection through twelfth grade.
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Natural Law and Scriptural AuthorityBy Brad Littlejohn — 9 months ago
Natural law, then, remains as indispensable for Christians today as it was for the many centuries in which it held a central role in Christian ethics. As Protestants, however, we cannot retrieve natural law without allowing Scripture to remain the final authoritative norm of our teaching.
How should we then live? So Francis Schaeffer famously asked in his 1973 book and subsequent video series. The question has certainly had renewed urgency over the past two years, as Christians around the world have confronted the for-us-unprecedented (although not so much for our ancestors) moral and political challenges of navigating a global pandemic, and accompanying public health measures. How should we love our neighbors? By mask-wearing and vaccinating? By moving worship services and schools online or carrying on as normal? And by what standard should we evaluate the many answers proffered by TV personalities and public authorities?
For many Christians, the answer is quick and easy: “By Scripture, of course.” But a few minutes’ reflection will be enough to leave us scratching our heads in puzzlement. For Scripture, clearly, has very little to say on the subject of public health emergencies, and only the most general principles about how we should conduct ourselves in the face of such complex moral and legal demands. The same, we may soon realize, goes for hundreds of moral and political—and indeed ecclesiastical—decisions that we are called upon to make in the course of carrying out our vocations. If we assume that Scripture has all the answers, we are quickly bound to be disappointed. And if we say, sensibly enough, that we need to “apply Scriptural principles” to particular cases, this simply raises the question of how we identify and apply such principles? How do we engage in moral reasoning?
The answer, for generation after generation of Christian theologians and ethicists, was “natural law.” But the idea of natural law fell on hard times among twentieth-century Protestants, under pressure from Barth, fundamentalism, and modernism. It’s high time we recover it if we’re to navigate the profound moral challenges of our day with integrity.
From one standpoint, the idea that there is such a thing as natural law should be pretty uncontroversial. Everything in nature was created by God, who determined what it was and how it was meant to act. Just as a human inventor can tell you how a tool is meant to work, how to keep it in good working order, and how it’s liable to break if you don’t, so God, being a God of order rather than chaos, impressed upon all of his creatures the way they were meant to work. This is what we still often call “the law of nature” or “the laws of nature.” But man too is a creature, and as such is also subject to the law of his nature, which determines how we are meant to act and how we shouldn’t, what kinds of behaviors will achieve good results and which ones will end in brokenness. At the intersection of human nature and the natures of the rest of the world, we find natural law, the moral principles that distinguish wise and successful living from foolish and disastrous actions: sow and reap in preparation for winter, eat and drink in moderation, marry and remain faithful, honor the aged.
Alopen and the Missionary Monks of the Church of the EastBy Simonetta Carr — 2 years ago
Convinced by Alopen of the validity of the Christian faith, Taitsung ordered the building of a monastery and the translation of some Christian papers the monks had carried with them. By 638, just three years after Alopen’s arrival, at least 21 monks were active in China. In the course of time, Persian monks (who became fluent in the languages of the places where they settled) translated the New Testament and portions of the Old Testament into Chinese. Being highly educated, they also produced Christian literature that appealed to the Chinese nobility. For example, Jesus Messiah Sutra, the main text produced by Alopen on instigation by Emperor Taitsung, described Christ’s incarnation, life, death, and resurrection, endorsed monotheism, and attacked idolatry.
In 635, Emperor Taitsung (598–649) of China found Christianity so impressive that he wrote: “The meaning of the teaching has been carefully examined; it is mysterious, wonderful, calm; it fixes the essentials of life and perfection; it is the salvation of living beings; it is the wealth of man. It is right that it should spread through the empire.”
He had first heard about Christ from a Persian monk, Alopen, who walked all the way to the capital of China (today’s Xi’an) to bring the gospel to the Chinese. He was probably sent by Patriarch Ishoyahb II of Baghdad, who also sent missionaries to Iran, Afghanistan, Ubzekistan, and India. Most likely, Alopen had been ordained a bishop because he was able to appoint men to pastor the churches he founded. What little we know about his arrival in China and the history of the work that followed is recorded on a monument erected in Xi’an in 781 and discovered in 1625.
The Church of the East
Alopen was one of the many missionaries of the so-called Church of the East, a church that flourished well before the Roman Emperor Constantine I recognized Christianity in the west. Like other missionaries to the east, Alopen probably traveled along the Old Silk Road, a route followed by merchants. Carrying only a staff, a satchel, and a copy of the Scriptures, these missionaries stopped in monasteries other monks had built along the way. In fact, Timothy I (727-823), one of the most influential patriarchs of the Church of the East and great promoter of missions, used the simple life of these monks as an example to shame a bishop who wished to retire in comfort in Baghdad.
The Church of the East first blossomed in Edessa (now Urfa, Turkey) and in the renowned theological school of Nisibis (today’s Nusaybin, Turkey), where the famous poet Ephrem served as deacon. It continued to thrive in what is now eastern Turkey and Iraq.
It’s often known as the Nestorian Church, even though its connections with Nestorius are tenuous at best. The name is probably due to the fact that this church refused to recognize the 431 Council of Ephesus where Nestorius was condemned for his views of the two natures of Christ. For the most part, however, the reason for this refusal was cultural rather than theological. It was a way to assert the church’s independence from the Byzantine Empire. (While it’s true that Nestorianism spread to the eastern regions, many scholars agree that defining the Church of the East as Nestorian is unfair).
The Church of the East held its first official council in 410. In 424, it declared its independence from the west. The official language of the Church of the East was Syriac (a form of Aramaic), one of the first languages in which the Scriptures were translated. By the eighth century, this church had spread over much of Asia and Arabia, becoming the most widely spread church in the world.
Christian Writers, Preachers, and Organizations That Promoted Francis Collins Should Break Their SilenceBy Peter Heck — 1 year ago
Many of these men and organizations regularly call the church to repentance. This would be a proper time to perhaps lead by example.
It is now a matter of public record that former National Institute of Health director Francis Collins either presided over, ordered, funded, or indirectly participated in the following during his tenure:
Record-level spending on scientific experimentation performed on fetuses obtained from abortions
University of Pittsburgh experiment that, among other things, grafted infant scalps onto lab rats
Experiments on the harvested organs of aborted, full-term babies
Endorsement of unrestricted funding of embryonic stem cell research
Policies that exchanged merit-based grants for those partially determined by left-wing “diversity, equity, and inclusion” exams
Millions of dollars in taxpayer grants spent on transgender research on minors
Opposite-sex hormone treatments given to children as young as 8-years-old
Mastectomies performed on girls as young as 13-years-old
Millions of dollars in grants to an app program that tracked teenage boys’ homosexual activities including anal sex, all without parental knowledge
It is also known that Collins personally attended former President Barack Obama’s celebratory signing of an Executive Order to undo a George W. Bush-era ban on scientific experiments done on human embryos, and acquiesced to the reality that the kind of genetic testing he promoted led to increased killing of Down Syndrome babies.
Yet despite this horrific ethical track record that would preclude any rational mind from concluding that these are the life fruits produced by one who possessed the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the last two years have seen some of the most recognizable, trustworthy names and organizations in American Christianity laud Collins as a trustworthy Christian brother.
Given their prominence and influence, it’s important to name names.
I admire greatly the wisdom, expertise, and, most of all, the Christian humility and grace of Francis Collins.Former ERLC-head Russell Moore
Francis Collins is a national treasure. Thank you for your faithful service.Evangelical writer David French
In Collins, restless genius is other-centered…a life so relentlessly committed to the human good.Evangelical Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson
And a cadre of other well-respected Christian ministers, professors, and teachers happily platformed and promoted Collins as he carried the Biden administration’s COVID messaging uncritically. They directly or indirectly questioned the Christian conscience and love of any believer who didn’t follow a slew of now-factually-suspect-or-debunked guidance, all on the authority of “brother Collins.” This who’s who of evangelicalism included Ed Stetzer, Rick Warren, Tim Keller, NT Wright, and notable Christian publications like The Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, and the Billy Graham Center.