When Elisabeth Elliott returned to the jungle in 1958, after subsequent missionaries had made successful contact with the Huaorani, the tribe told her they’d speared the five men because they thought they were cannibals. Reading back through the men’s journals after this revelation is like going back to the beginning of the movie and noticing all the signs you can’t believe you missed.
Sixty-eight years ago this month, missionary Jim Elliot and four others were speared to death by Huaorani Indians in the Ecuadorian jungle.
However we understand this story now 70 years on—(was this a martyr’s epic adventure or an object lesson in cultural ignorance?)—I think it’s important to say that should anyone claim to know that God did not, in fact, call those men to that work and to their death, they are lying. Elliot and the others loved Jesus and were doing what they thought He wanted, at great personal cost. Let no cynicism invalidate that.
In my recent reading of Through Gates of Splendor, the book in which Elisabeth Elliot retells the story through the men’s journal entries, what struck me most was not the cultural awkwardness or even the great drama. It was the missionaries’ total confidence in their own intelligence gathering. For weeks leading up to their ground approach of the Huaorani, the men flew their prop plane over the tribe’s settlement, dropping gifts and yelling phrases they believed translated to “friend.”
They then painstakingly analyzed every tiny movement the tribe made in response. Jim wrote one day that he “saw a thing that thrilled me—
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By J. Warner Wallace — 1 year ago
Written by J. Warner Wallace |
Tuesday, February 14, 2023
In spite of intense opposition, the apostles and their disciples entered the temple and preached the truth about Jesus. This courageous stand for the truth often brought them into conflict with the world around them.
The first community of saints reflected the power and nature of God with their lives. The early Church followed their Biblical example (recorded in the Book of Acts) as they emulated the nature and essence of the first disciples. The observations of those who witnessed the early Church should inspire and guide us. If we were to imitate the earliest energized believers, our churches would transform the culture and inspire a new generation. How can we, as Christians today, become more like the Church that changed the world and transformed the Roman Empire? We must learn the truth, strive for unity, live in awe, serve in love, share with courage and overflow with joy. These six important characteristics were held by the earliest congregations:
And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.Acts 2:42-47
Six simple attributes were observed in the earliest believers. These characteristics can serve as a template and guide for those of us who want to restore the passion and impact of the early Church. If we employ them today, we’ll create healthy, vibrant, transformative churches. As grateful Christ followers, our gratitude should motivate us to share the truth with others:
Principle #5: Share with Courage
The Church must live a bold and fearless life surrendered to the cause of Christ:
By Ryan Biese — 8 months ago
God is faithfully raising up new generations of men to shepherd His people and hold the PCA to faithfulness. Let us continue to pray His blessing upon His church for her next 50 years.
One former PCA Moderator characterized the Memphis Assembly as “the most significant in a generation.” The PCA has been at a crossroads (as noted among other places here, here, and here) as she decides whether to be a confessional, Reformed Church committed to walking in the old paths of piety and discipleship or a broadly evangelical, culturally missional, reactionary communion.
In Memphis, the Assembly chose to walk in the old paths of the Reformed faith as evidenced by both the acts of the assembly and the men elected to her permanent committees, agencies, and Standing Judicial Commission (SJC). In addition to the greater manifestation of unity, a return to growth numerically and in terms of giving, increased elder participation, and unity on chastity for officers, there were other, less obvious encouragements not to be overlooked regarding the health of the PCA. God is richly blessing the PCA.
1. Rising Ministerial Standards
Wednesday’s Assembly-Wide Seminar featured reflections and aspirations from four elders from the PCA’s founding generation. In his address, former Moderator TE Charles McGowan noted his recollection that the PCA was founded as a “big tent movement,” yet he remarked how the PCA has grown stronger and more “theologically focused.” He noted how in the early days, the PCA had received pastors who would not be received today, because our communion has become more “clearly and definitely Reformed.”
This is a welcome marker of good health for the PCA. Rather than loosening standards and confessional atrophy, the PCA’s expectations for ministers have become more robust as the denomination insists on a deeper commitment to Reformed Theology.
In his address to the First General Assembly, TE O. Palmer Robertson seemed to predict this very thing as he proclaimed,
By adopting the Westminster Confession of Faith as the basis for its fellowship and ministry, the Continuing Church takes its stand unequivocally for the faith once delivered to the saints…
…No narrowing fundamentalism is to mar the vision of this church as it searches out the implications of Scripture for the totality of human life. It is to the faith of Christianity in its fulness, as it relates to the whole of creation, that the Continuing Church commits itself. In humble dependence on the Holy Spirit to enlighten and empower, the Continuing Church commits itself to the Christian faith in its wholeness…
…Knowing his body to be one, we rejoice in the oneness we now experience, with all who are committed to the same precious faith. May the Lord of his church be pleased to hasten the perfecting of that unity with himself and among us, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.”
TE Robertson’s proclamation those 50 years ago has proven true. The PCA is now more robustly Reformed with both high standards for officers and a zeal for the lost: to know Him and to make Him known. These increasingly high standards manifest a faith in God to sovereignly provide for His Church as we submit to the qualifications and the truths set forth in His word.
2. Commitment to Historic PCA Polity
The Hodge-Thornwell debate on church boards of the 19th Century continues to echo in the assemblies of the PCA. Overture 7 from Southern New England Presbytery proposed a small change to the Rules of Assembly Operation that required the committees and agency boards of the General Assembly to annually give account to the Assembly regarding their faithfulness to the Assembly’s instructions as well as submit any significant policy changes to the Assembly for approval.
This reinforces the PCA’s commitment not to have true “boards” for its agencies, but committees that are subservient to the General Assembly. In the old PCUS, the boards were the strongholds of liberalism and worldliness; the late TE Harry Reeder referred to this phenomenon not as “mission creep,” but mission exchange.
To prevent this, the PCA founding fathers designed a system of government to limit the power of PCA agencies by making them committees and dependent on the Assembly rather than with authority largely independent from the Assembly. You can read more about the development of and tension within the PCA’s polity in David Hall’s new volume surveying the PCA’s first half-century.
Fittingly at our 50th Assembly, the PCA reaffirmed her commitment to her historic ecclesiology as the Assembly adopted stronger language to hold accountable the permanent committees and agencies via the committees of commissioners.
This accountability promotes the health and efficacy of our agencies and committees; the permanent committees are able to develop vision and long-term strategies, while at the same time the General Assembly is able to more fully oversee their work and ensure a robust commitment to that Reformed faith of which TE McGowan spoke in his address. In this way both the permanent committees and committees of commissioners spur one another on to the fulfillment of the Great Commission and their specific missions.
By Chase Davis — 12 months ago
When people try to force their unbiblical political agenda onto the Bible, we should reject this. The Bible should shape society and politics. But woe to us if we try to use the Bible to justify secular beliefs about what is most loving. Attempting to contort “loving your neighbor” to secular ideas of the common good which run contrary to God’s law is in fact “hating your neighbor” and it is the opposite of obedience to God.
For years now, one of the major apologetic verses for Christians has revolved around Jesus’s teaching to “judge not.” This teaching of Jesus, typically ripped out of context from Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37, has been used to thwart any attempts to apply God’s law and standards to the lives of people. If you were to suggest someone was living sinfully, they could respond with “judge not” and neutralize the threat with stunning effectiveness, even though the original context warned against making judgments with a double standard.
While this popular tactic has been employed by non-Christians and also nominal Christians uninterested in walking in obedience, there is a new teaching of Christ which has become a weapon not just of defense but offense: “love your neighbor.”
On July 11, 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris said “I do believe that the act of getting vaccinated is the very essence—the very essence of what the Bible tells us when it says, ‘Love thy neighbor.’” For many government officials, this biblical teaching was used to provide a spiritual reason for getting the vaccine. What is the sinister implication behind these statements? Disobedience to the biomedical security state is disobedience to Jesus. Even evangelical leaders, through Biologos, issued a statement with the title “Love your neighbor, get the shot!”
How did we go from “judge not” being the most common verse used to bludgeon others into tolerance to “love your neighbor?” In what follows, I will answer that question.
“Love Thy Neighbor”: How the Bible Is Being Weaponized Against Christians
As the culture has moved from a place of neutrality and ambivalence towards open hostility to the teachings of Christ, and as Christianity is now seen as a negative social mark, a more active weaponization of the Scriptures against Christians is becoming increasingly common. “Judge not” was very popular within a more libertarian mindset. It was very popular to abuse this phrase when Christianity was more dominant culturally to neutralize the threat of biblical orthodoxy. They just wanted to be “left alone.” If I’m not a Christian, I don’t need to submit to God’s laws, so please leave me alone and stop judging me. But we’ve moved from a neutral “judge not” culture to a hostile “love your neighbor” culture.
Now, with Christian dominance in culture waning, our culture is still using the words of Jesus without being bound by the moral authority of his teachings. Ironically, people actively use the teachings of Christ to enforce the teachings of secularism—apparently, the most effective false teaching uses biblical language. With the rise of expressive individualism and the craving for safety and security today, people are more likely to use “love” and “loving your neighbor” to not only justify their sins and selfishness but to compel others into approving of sin. “Judge not” was more speaking to power. “Love your neighbor” is those in power speaking down to those they are trying to control. If the best way to “love your neighbor” is to make them feel safe, even if what you’re doing does nothing to make them safe, then it is completely justified, so the argument goes. What is important is that others feel safe.
This is done under the biblical language of being “selfless” and “laying down your rights.” “Love your neighbor” has cultural currency even if cultural Christianity is on the decline precisely because our culture is haunted by Christ. “Love your neighbor” is about compliance to certain edicts, while “judge not”’ is used to justify leaving people alone. As one worldview has waned and another ascended, this nascent secularism seeks a transcendent religious text on which to base obedience. What better text than the Holy Bible, which served as the bedrock of our civilization’s construction? Again, the irony is thick: the teachings of Christ become weaponized against Christians themselves!
What Does Love Thy Neighbor Really Mean?
But what is the original context to “love your neighbor”?