He calls the church to keep alive the spark: “I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent, and do the things you did at first” (Rev 2:4-5). Be quiet enough that you can hear God’s loving words to you in his Word. Take time to admire God’s greatness and to glorify Christ as Saviour. Then He will surely quiet you, and you will enjoy his peace.
Written by Reuben M. Bredenhof |
Thursday, July 7, 2022
Have you ever needed to quiet someone? That’s not yelling at your kids to shut up for a while or telling someone to get over their problems already.
To quiet someone is to hear them out, then gently respond to their concerns. Picture a loving husband doing this for his wife. She’s bothered by something, worried and stressed, and she’s crying. So a husband will quiet her and speak to her in her trouble.
That’s a good image for the hope God gives to Judah in the time of Zephaniah. The people had suffered many deprivations and indignities from the nations. This was God’s just judgment on their sin, and more judgment was looming, even a lifetime in Babylonian exile.
But despite everything, the LORD embraces his people and declares his unfading affection. God says in 3:17,
He will quiet you with his love.
What a relief to hear these words of calm after all the noise of Zephaniah’s earlier chapters. Judah has been hearing the warning sirens of destruction, and her peace had been shattered by violence: “The noise on the day of the LORD is bitter; there the mighty men shall cry out” (Zeph 1:16). There was no peace.
This is always the nature of sin and its effects: it is a cacophony of alarm and restlessness. For instance, all around us and every day we hear the shouting of temptation: “Try this! You deserve it! Click here. Buy me. Drink to the fullest. Don’t hold back! Because I promise you’ll be happier.”
Or you hear your conscience yelling its shrill accusations: “You’re guilty. You’re worthless. You’re hopeless. Why would God even bother with you?”
Or voices of doubt ring in our heads, “Did God really say that He loved you? Did God really give his Word? Is it actually worth it to follow Christ?”
The godless world just adds to the uproar with its distractions and diversions. So much information, so many conflicting opinions, so much noise and commotion—we can get overwhelmed by everything that’s going on, all the time.
But if you’re listening, God quiets you with his love.
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By Matthew S. Miller — 8 months ago
Written by Matthew S. Miller |
Tuesday, May 31, 2022
We have not yet deprived liberalism of one of its most effective criticisms—namely, that conservative Christianity tends to focus on personal salvation and doctrinal precision to the unnecessary exclusion of concern for the poor and the problems of the world.
As a formal movement embedded in mainline seminaries and denominations, American Protestant liberalism has been on the retreat for the better part of two generations now. Outflanked by more progressive strands of liberation and postmodern theologies on the one side and a resurging conservative Christian orthodoxy on the other, liberalism’s once commanding public voice has been reduced to a pleading whimper. Protestant mainline denominations, once the mainstay of American religion, have seen their numbers steadily plummet. As of 2017, “self-described mainline Protestants composed just 10% of the American public,” a statistic further diminished by the fact that of these, “barely a quarter actually attended church.” By such measures, liberalism appears to be dead, or nearly so. But is it?
If we equate liberalism with its institutional form – the kind that took up residence at Harvard in the nineteenth-century, put forward nationally renowned theologians who labored to make Christianity credible to the modern world, published leading journals and Sunday School curricula shaping the thought life of a generation, and was heralded by celebrated pastors like Fosdick – then the bell tolled for liberalism long ago. In his massive trilogy tracing the history of American liberal theology, Gary Dorrien relays the accepted narrative: “In the nineteenth century it took root and flowered; in the early twentieth century it became the founding idea of a new theological establishment; in the 1930s it was marginalized by neo-orthodox theology; in the 1960s it was rejected by liberation theology; by the 1970s it was often taken for dead.”
We would be mistaken, however, to equate liberalism exclusively with its established, institutional form, just as we would be mistaken to equate Gnosticism singularly with the official movement of self-styled Gnostics that early Christianity defeated. Though the published works of gnostic theologians were entirely lost long ago, the impulse of their thought has persisted to the present day (as Phillip Lee and others have demonstrated). In the same way, liberalism in its institutional form has suffered an outward defeat, but that does not mean liberalism itself has been vanquished.
The heart of liberalism has proven to be not its institutions, but its ideological core. That core was clearly identified by J. Gresham Machen in Christianity and Liberalism, in which Machen pointed to liberalism’s (1) naturalistic approach to religion, (2) appeal to human experience (and ultimately individual experience) as a final authority, and (3) exclusively imperatival message. On this last count, liberalism jettisons the grand “indicative” of the Gospel – that is, the announcement of the great things God has done in Christ for sinners (think Romans 1-8 or Ephesians 1-3) – and is thus left to traffic exclusively in commands and aspirations (imperatives). In one of his most profound statements, Machen announces, “Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity—liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; liberalism appeals to man’s will, while Christianity announces, first, a gracious act of God.”
What happens when we look for liberalism’s ideological core of naturalism, the authority of experience, and the imperatival mood? We find that liberalism has outlived the decline of its institutional citadels. Notre Dame sociologists Christian Smith and Patricia Snell write, “[A] historical nemesis of evangelicalism, liberal Protestantism can afford to be losing its organizational battles now precisely because long ago it effectively won the bigger, more important struggle over culture.” Put another way, if institutional liberalism is effectively dead, ideological liberalism is more alive than it has ever been. Where do we find it?
The Ideological Core of Liberalism in Liberation Theologies
As a formal school of thought, liberal theology took a back seat to a host of liberation theologies arising with Latin American and black liberation theologies in the 1960s and, in the decades that followed, with feminist and gay rights liberation theologies, among others. In one sense, the projects of liberal theology and liberation theology are quite different. Liberal theology privileges the voices of the scientific and cultural elite in its aim of making the Christian faith more credible to the modern world. Liberation theology, on the other hand, privileges the voices of the marginalized and oppressed (it often maintains that “the cry of the oppressed is the voice of God”) with the aim of raising select themes of the Christian faith in protest against the modern world. That is why liberation theologies position themselves as a rejection of liberalism.
But beneath these above-ground differences, liberation theologies borrow and build upon liberalism’s substructure. Both liberalism and liberation theology see men and societies as facing their problems without the help of heaven—everything is interpreted and remedied naturalistically, within what philosopher Charles Taylors would call the “immanent frame.” Moreover, both place the seat of authority in human experience. Harold O. J. Brown, former professor at RTS-Charlotte, emphasized the underlying connection: “Because this standard [of liberation theology] is drawn from human feelings and experience—although limited to those of a particular group or class—liberation theology also resembles classic Protestant liberalism after Schleiermacher: it has made human feelings and human sensitivity a source of divine revelation that can be placed alongside Scripture.” Finally, both sound their messages entirely in the imperative mood, whether that is the call of liberalism to “end war and poverty,” or the call of liberation theology to “resist oppressive power structures.” If Machen had lived to critique liberation theology, he would only have needed to add an appendix to Christianity and Liberalism rather than write a new book.
The Ideological Core of Liberalism in Progressive Christianity
Second, the core features of liberalism abide in the many leading voices of self-styled “progressive Christianity.” Granted, the term “progressive Christianity” is quite vague. Some define it as liberal Christianity that adopts certain insights and accents of liberation theology. Others find that progressive Christianity is a large umbrella term under which self-identified Christians who prefer egalitarian approaches to marriage and ministry and who support the LGBTQ+ movement can publicly identify (often without having to do the hard work of examining whether these commitments are actually compatible with their other theological positions). Progressive Christianity lacks the established tradition and formidable theological giants that liberal theology in the first half of the twentieth century boasted—liberal theology was a disciplined school of thought, while progressive Christianity consists mostly of a patchwork of blogs, social media influencers, and authors of easy-read books (think Rob Bell). Roger Olson’s observation that progressive Christianity is a kind of “halfway house” between fundamentalism and liberalism seems apt: “Some get stuck there, but some move on to the ‘left’ into liberal Christianity without understanding that tradition.”
By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra — 5 months ago
Strangely enough, the fire has recentered people on the hope of the gospel. God’s timing is infinitely kind. I think this could be a severe mercy from the Lord and may open up tremendous opportunities. When we were sitting on folding chairs in the fellowship hall on Sunday, I thought, This feels like a church plant to me.
The 911 call came in just before 11:00 p.m. last Saturday.
Someone driving by the historic College Hill Presbyterian Church in Oxford, Mississippi—the one founded nearly 180 years ago, the one that served as a Civil War hospital, the one where William Faulkner got married—had spotted smoke.
Firefighters arrived within a few minutes, but the building—including the original pulpit and pews—was already aflame.
“The fire was in full blaze by midnight,” said Clint Wilcke, who works as catalyst for the Mid-South Church Planting Network of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Since College Hill Presbyterian is between pastors, he also preaches there a few times a month, organizes their pulpit supply, and shepherds the elders and staff. “It seems there was an electrical fire in the back of the church, but it’s still under investigation.”
Wilcke’s phone was set to silent, so he didn’t hear the news until he saw a morning text from a friend. “So sorry to hear about College Hill,” it said.
Uh-oh, Wilcke thought. What’s he talking about?
“I reached out to some folks, and we drove straight there,” he said.
He remembers pulling in. “I thought there would be more of a structure left,” he said. “It was hard to look at—just devastating. It was a complete ruin.”
The brick walls, which had been reinforced in the 1940s, were still standing. But the interior walls and roof and original wood pews were ashes. The communion table and hymnals and stained glass windows were gone. The pulpit was a charred stump.
But not all was lost. No one was hurt. One of the firefighters grabbed the Bible from the pulpit—the Bible pastors had been marking up and preaching from since the 1860s. And the fellowship hall, which had been built much later, was untouched in a separate building 200 yards away.
That’s where College Hill Presbyterian Church met on Sunday, seven hours after the fire was extinguished.
The Gospel Coalition asked Wilcke about that service, the reaction of the congregation, and how he’s seen God’s faithfulness over the past week.
What was the church service like on Sunday?
A lot of people were flat-out weeping and really struggling, because they were married in that church, and baptized there, and came to Christ there. Place matters.
But there was also tons of hope and encouragement. The elders have done a good job of listening and praying and coming alongside the members. The longest-standing ruling elder, Bill, was preaching that morning. He never even went out to the fire; when he heard about it, he knew he had to work on the sermon instead. I really appreciated his focus.
Some of the other elders went out to the fire and then put together emails in the middle of the night. Sunday morning, everyone jumped in—moving chairs and hymnals over to the fellowship hall. There was some crying and hugging and looking at the ruins in disbelief, but then everyone was focused on worship.
Bill’s texts were Romans 8:28, Ephesians 1:15–22, and 1 Peter 2:4–10. He did a great job celebrating the history of God’s work and reminding us that we are the church, the building, the body, the bride of Christ.
By Denny Burk — 10 months ago
The problem here is that this basic structure of reality is at odds with ascendant transgender ideology, which says that being a man or a woman is entirely disconnected from biological realities but rather is rooted in what a person thinks themselves to be at any given moment. If a biological male thinks he’s a woman, then he is a woman. If a biological female thinks she’s a man, then she’s a man. Thinking makes it so!
The video at the bottom of this post is queued up to an extraordinary exchange that occurred at yesterday’s [03/22/22] Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Senator Marsha Blackburn asks Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson if she can define what a woman is. Here’s a transcript of what they said, and you’re not going to believe it.
Blackburn: Do you agree with Justice Ginsburg that there are physical differences between men and women that are enduring?
Jackson: Um, Senator. Respectfully, I’m not familiar with that particular quote or case, so it’s hard for me to comment as to whether…
Blackburn: Okay… Do you interpret Justice Ginsburg’s meaning of “men” and “women” as male and female?
Jackson: Again, because I don’t know the case, I don’t know how I’d interpret it. I need to read the whole…
Blackburn: Okay. Can you provide a definition for the word woman?
Jackson: Can I provide a definition? No.
Jackson: I can’t.
Blackburn: You can’t?
Jackson: Mm. Not in this context. I’m not a biologist.
If there is a better exemplar of our times, I don’t know what it is. Here we have a Supreme Court nominee who either can’t or won’t offer a definition of what a woman is. Why? Because she claims that she’s not a biologist. Really? I guess that explains why I couldn’t make a sandwich today. I gave up when I realized that I wasn’t a baker and couldn’t confirm the identity of the bread in my pantry.
Okay, okay. I know I’m descending into the absurd here, but you get my point. Do you have to be a vet to recognize a dog? Do you have to be a butcher to recognize ground beef? This line of reasoning is indeed absurd, but here we are. And it’s probably a good time for us to take the full measure of the moment we are living in.
Have we really come to the point that a sitting judge and nominee for the highest court in the land cannot define what a woman is? Think how fast transgender propaganda has taken root in our culture that this very basic question would produce a blank stare and an “I don’t know” from a sitting judge.