DEMOGRAPHICS & The Proportion Of White Christians In The U.S. Has Stopped Shrinking, New Study Finds

by Becky Sullivan, NPR, 7/8/21.

Two dramatic trends that for years have defined the shifting landscape of religion in America — a shrinking white Christian majority, alongside the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans — have stabilized, according to a new, massive survey of American religious practice. 

What was once a supermajority of white Christians — more than 80% of Americans identified as such in 1976, and two-thirds in 1996 — has now plateaued at about 44%, according to the new survey, which was conducted by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute. That number first dipped below 50% in 2012. 

They have largely been replaced by Americans who do not list any religious affiliation, a group that has tripled in proportion since the 1990s. Today, the unaffiliated make up roughly a quarter of Americans. Young adults are most likely to identify this way with more than a third saying they are atheist, agnostic or otherwise secular, the study found.

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2021/07/08/1014047885/americas-white-christian-plurality-has-stopped-shrinking-a-new-study-finds?

CHURCH HISTORY & Why Were the Pharisees the ‘Bad Guys’ in the New Testament?

by David Roos, 5/27/21.

We spoke with Bruce Chilton, a religion professor at Bard College and co-editor of “In Quest of the Historical Pharisees,” to better understand what the Pharisees really believed and why they clashed with the early Christians.

Who Were the Pharisees — and the Sadducees?

During the first century C.E., when Jesus lived, the Pharisees emerged as a religious movement within Judaism, not a separate sect. The Temple still stood in Jerusalem and it was the center of Jewish life. One of the greatest concerns of Temple rites was purity — that both the people who entered the Temple and the animals sacrificed there, were “pure” enough to satisfy God. The Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible starting with Genesis) contains written commandments that explain the proper way to conduct Temple sacrifices, but the Pharisees claimed they had additional divine instructions that had been passed down through centuries of oral tradition.

“The Pharisees believed that they had a special reserve of knowledge for determining purity,” says Chilton. “They taught that their oral tradition went all the way back to Moses at Sinai, so not only was there a written Torah, which anyone could have access to, but there was also an oral Torah which was inside the Pharisaic movement.”

What was distinctive about the oral tradition of the Pharisees was that it expanded the question of purity to life outside of the Temple. Even if a Jewish person lived far away from Jerusalem (in Galilee, for example) and wasn’t planning to make a pilgrimage to the Temple, they could conduct their lives in such a way as to be pure enough to enter the Temple.

“In that sense, the Pharisees became a movement for the purity of the Jewish people,” says Chilton.

The Pharisees were not, however, the powerful elite of first-century Judaism. Those were the Sadducees, the priestly class that controlled Temple worship and held the most political influence with the Roman Empire, which ruled over Palestine. The Sadducees rejected the oral tradition in favor of the written law (Torah).

The Pharisees were a working-class movement concerned with establishing a clear and consistent Jewish identity in everyday life. Interestingly, it was the Pharisees who believed in an afterlife and resurrection of the dead, both of which were rejected by the Sadducees as they were not mentioned in the Torah. Pharisees also believed a messiah would come who would bring peace to the world, though most of them did not think that messiah was Jesus.

Jesus Had Friends (and Followers) Who Were Pharisees

The Pharisees are portrayed as a monolithic block in the New Testament, but Chilton says that while all Pharisees were concerned with purity, there was fierce debate among the Pharisees about how best to achieve it. There were certainly Pharisees who believed that purity was obtained from the outside in, and who taught that ritual baths (mikvahs) and the ritual purification of cups and cooking implements was the only way to achieve purity.

In Matthew 23, Jesus lambastes the pharisaic practice of purifying the outside of cups and dishes while “inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”

“Because Jesus himself was engaged in the issue of purity — but wasn’t a Pharisee — his conflict with some Pharisees of his time was inevitable,” says Chilton. “If you accuse somebody as impure, you’re not saying purity doesn’t matter; you’re saying the opposite — there’s a better way to achieve it.”

But Chilton says there were other Pharisees who would have agreed with Jesus, that the true work of purification starts with a pure heart and faith in God. If you read the New Testament closely, in fact, you’ll see that Jesus won sympathetic supporters and even followers from the ranks of the supposedly hated Pharisees. Nicodemus, who visited Jesus at night to ask him questions, and then provided money and spices to give Jesus a proper Jewish burial after the crucifixion, was a Pharisee (see John 3). And in Luke 13:31, a Pharisee comes to warn Jesus that Herod wanted him killed…

The Meeting That Doomed the Pharisees

In Acts 15, there is a meeting or “council” in Jerusalem attended by Paul, Peter, James, Barnabas and other apostles and followers of Jesus. The agenda of the meeting was to settle an important question among the early church: did non-Jewish men need to be circumcised in order to be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit? The Pharisees in attendance were the first to chime in. In Acts 15:5, it says: “Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.'”

Notice that it says the Pharisees were among the “believers,” further proof some Pharisees, too, were early followers of Jesus. But here’s where things go south. The apostles are in stark disagreement with the Pharisees and say that everyone, circumcised or uncircumcised, can have their hearts purified through faith in Christ. Peter, acknowledging the physical pain and danger of circumcising an adult, rebukes the Pharisees in verses 10 and 11:

“Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

“By the time you get to this meeting in 46 C.E., now the Pharisees are on the other side of this extraordinarily consequential decision,” says Chilton.

Read more at … https://people.howstuffworks.com/pharisees.htm

CULTURAL HISTORIES & How “hush harbors” carved out black sacred spaces where God could be worshipped in the majesty (and safety) of His creation.

“The Message of the Hush Harbor: History and Theology of African Descent Traditions” by the Rev. Angela Ford Nelson, South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, 3/1/19.

Today, I serve as the second female pastor of Good Hope Wesley Chapel UMC in its 147-year history, a history that began in the secrecy of a hush harbor and continues amid changing times.

But what was the hush harbor? Who were some of those who risked it all to worship the God of their ancestors and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? What was worship like in these sacred spaces?

And what is the message of the hush harbor for us today?

What was the Hush Harbor?

The hush harbor, also known as a brush harbor or a bush arbor, was “a secluded informal structure, often built with tree branches, set in places away from masters so that slaves could meet to worship in private,” according to Paul Harvey’s “Through the Storm, Through the Night: A History of African American Christianity.” During the Antebellum period, and subsequent to the Great Awakenings, Christianity grew rapidly in America. This growth included a number of African Americans who assumed the Christianity of their masters and shaped it into what author Albert J. Raboteau and others call the “Invisible Institution.” This institution, which was characterized in large part by the hush harbor, enabled slaves to worship in spirit and in truth in thickly forested areas which were hidden from their masters, wrote Raboteau. In parallel to the invisible institution of worship, there was a visible one.

To this end, Harvey explains there were actually three ways in which African-American worship took shape during this period: Firstly, in segregated biracial churches where white ministers preached. Secondly, in African-American churches such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church founded in 1816. And thirdly, in hidden hush harbors where slaves were free to combine both African and Christian worship practices.

It was in the hush harbor, buried deep within the untended woods on the plantation that slaves remembered the forests of their homeland. As Noel Leo Erskine wrote in “Plantation Church: How African American Religion Was Born in Caribbean Slavery,” it was there that they escaped the confining worship of segregated chapels and were able to practice African rituals and to rest in knowing that the spirits of their ancestors followed them—even into slavery:

“It was primarily through religious rituals and the carving out of black sacred spaces that enslaved persons were able to affirm self and create a world over against the world proffered by the master for their families.”

The hush harbor would eventually serve as not only a place for worship, but also as a place where unrelated slaves would become a sustaining family of faith.

Hush Harbor worshippers

Leaders within the slave community announced hush harbor gatherings or “meetin’s” with the use of coded language or songs, which traveled from one slave to another until the appointed time of the gathering.

Singer and preacher Melody Bennett Gayle explains that on the day of the meeting, slaves would work all day in the hot sun, gather at night in the hush harbor to worship until the sun came back up, and then return to the fields in the morning renewed to begin work again. These worshippers risked being severely beaten, sold off from their families and even killed if they were caught; however, the risk was worth it because of the liberating power of the unfettered Gospel that was preached in the woods.

To this end, former slave Lucretia Alexander explained that in the white church, the preacher would tell slaves to obey their masters and they had to sing softly. Further, per Raboteau’s “African American Religion,” escaped slave Henry Atkins lamented that “white clergymen don’t preach the whole Gospel there.” It was in the hush harbor that slaves could hear stories of the children of Israel and their exodus from the slavery of Egypt and envision their own freedom in this world and the world to come.

Read more at … https://advocatesc.org/2019/03/the-message-of-the-hush-harbor-history-and-theology-of-african-descent-traditions/

CHURCH HISTORY & Lessons/Warnings From the Church Growth of Willow Creek Community Church. #ScotMcKnight

by Scot McKnight, Christianity Today, 10/4/20.

…In the middle of this story about the 20th Century evangelicalism will be Willow Creek Community Church [WCCC] and its innovative seeker-friendly church services. At the heart of Willow Creek’s innovation was Bill Hybels. That story will be told in its fullness, which means readers of that day will hear of a Saul-like crisis. …

Seeker Friendly Services

WCCC created a world-wide interest in “seeker-friendly services,” a type of church service easy on ”unchurched Harry and Sally.” What Hybels and his innovative, courageous team of leaders formed was a style of worship that was friendly to the unchurched as well as to the formerly churched.

Relevancy to contemporary concerns – from politics to marriage to family to finances to moral challenges – would be the door to evangelism, while it would also, ironically, turn the platformed speakers into authentic humans with real struggles and pains and depressions and doubt. Authenticity has always been cultivated by WCCC as an image. When most churches were still traditional in all ways – sermons, job descriptions, architecture, a cross behind the pulpit, choirs in robes – WCCC courageously found other ways: sermons were more casual, job descriptions creative, architecture that looked like a movie theater with theater seating, no cross, no baptismal, no choirs in robes. Instead, we found platform singers that were physically shaped and dressed like rock stars. Instead of preaching through books of the Bible, which was the custom of many evangelical churches and the heart of seminary-trained preaching classes, Hybels went after crowd-attracting hot topics.

The audience was no longer sinners or saints but seekers, people wondering about God. So what was attractive and inoffensive to the seeker, instead of the churchgoer, determined the content of the talks from the platform.

One of the most courageous elements of early WCCC was an egalitarian approach to male-female relations and of the affirmation of women preachers, teachers, and elders. Nancy Beach’s well-known and much-loved sermons at Willow are but one example of the support of women in ministry. The decision to hold up women as preachers influenced churches throughout the world, but was just as much – if not more – a step in the direction of relevancy. It made a statement at the right time in American history: women’s equality in the church corresponded to the Equal Rights Amendment.

This must be said: since Nancy Beach resigned WCCC has chosen not to hire a woman teaching pastor. The new leaders at WCCC now seem to this observer uncommitted to women teaching pastors. What was once a courageous conviction has become a bygone era at WCCC.

Church after church and preacher after preacher followed Willow’s attractional model and began teaching about hot topics. Pastors stopped dressing the part – no clerical collars, no suit-and-tie – and the physically attractive became the future images of the megachurch. Heads and bodies became godlike as Willow began to project images onto stadium-sized screens. Speakers were taught how to look into the camera so they would appear to be looking at the doubting, skeptical seeker sitting in the nosebleeds.

Everything was designed to be culturally relevant and as inoffensive as the gospel can be (and still be called the gospel). Bill Hybel’s easy-to-understand gospel was the Bridge Illustration gospel. Humans in one place, God in another, a huge chasm between, with the cross bridging the gap, and with faith and coming forward as the means of getting unchurched Harry and Sally across and on to God’s team.

Thousands and thousands of believers today are believers because of Willow’s influence on being more seeker-friendly and -sensitive.

The seeker-friendly model, tied as it was into the church growth movement as well as the attractional model of church, has had its day. Many have learned to talk gospel and talk church and talk God in ways that are sensitive to those who did not grow up in churches. For this we can all be grateful.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/scot-mcknight/2020/october/legacy-of-willow-creek-1.html

CHURCH HISTORY & Statistics for each of the largest denominations. #ARDA #AssociationOfReligiousDataArchives

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: If you are coaching churches (or just connecting with leaders of a different denomination) it’s helpful to have one place where you can get reliable statistics on their number of churches, their growth or decline, etc. The American Religious Data Archives (ARDA) is the place scholars go for that data. Here is a link to their webpage which includes up-to-date statistical data on all of the major Christian denominations: http://www.thearda.com/landing/index.asp

DENOMINATIONAL WEB PAGES

The ARDA has integrated all of its information about each of the largest denominations and religious groups in the United States into one webpage.

African Methodist Episcopal Church

American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.

Assemblies of God

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Christian Churches and Churches of Christ

Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee)

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Church of the Nazarene

Churches of Christ

Episcopal Church

Evangelical Free Church of America

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS)

National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.

Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Presbyterian Church in America

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Roman Catholic Church

Seventh-day Adventist Church

Southern Baptist Convention

United Church of Christ

United Methodist Church

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & How an understanding that God is a loving Father (not an angry tyrant) led to Jonathan Edwards’ conversion. #ARDA #WesleyToo

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Those who have read my devotional on the life of John, Charles and Susanna Wesley (www.Enthusiast.life) know that a key to their conversions was when they came to the understanding that God was a “loving father” not as a angry master. The same understanding transformed the famed American preacher Jonathan Edwards as pointed out in this article by the ARDA (Association of Religious Data Archives).

… While still at Yale, Edwards had a conversion experience and became convinced of the opposite, that God’s sovereignty “very often appeared exceedingly pleasant, bright and sweet.” Edwards had become convinced of the Calvinist view of God and humanity. Human beings were fallen, totally depraved, and deserving of an eternity of punishment in hell. God graciously plucked some, the elect, from that fiery fate. Edwards’s view of God transformed from that of a capricious, uncaring tyrant into a loving, gracious father.

Edwards inherited his grandfather’s church at Northampton, Massachusetts in 1729 and the young minister quickly became involved in a series of local revivals in New England during the 1730s. He believed that many New England Puritans were Christian in name only, that they had been infected by an “Arminian” theology that privileged free, human choice over God’s sovereignty. Rationalists, whom Edwards classed as “Arminians,” proposed a theology derived from reason and nature. They also argued that individuals were fundamentally moral beings with the ability to choose their faith, a belief that cut against the traditional Calvinist doctrine of human depravity. 

By 1738, when celebrity English evangelist George Whitefield conducted his first preaching tour in the American colonies, those local revivals had grown into the mass religious movement that would later become known as the First Great Awakening. Whitefield, Edwards, and other preachers like Gilbert Tennent criticized American churches for their cold theological rationalism while proclaiming a revivified Calvinist gospel. It was in this environment that Edwards preached “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” while filling the pulpit in Enfield, Connecticut on July 8, 1741. Edwards wanted to convince the parishioners that their religious faith was dead, that they were sinners, and thus they faced the righteous judgment of God should they not repent and turn from their false religious security.

Read more at … http://www.thearda.com/timeline/events/event_232.asp

CHURCH HISTORY & Here are “Denominational Family Trees” – visual depictions of the history & relationships of most denominations. Created by the #ARDA, American Religious Data Archives.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. With a plethora of different denominations today, it’s sometimes hard to grasp how they relate to one another. People within a denomination can usually cite their denominational history with ease. But they often don’t know the family tree of other denominations.

Therefore, it can be helpful to have a visual depiction of various denominations’ family trees.

The American Religious Data Archives has created helpful “family trees” for most denominations. Below is the Methodist family tree. You will find more denominational family trees at this link: http://thearda.com/denoms/families/trees/

The Methodist-Pietist family consists of churches that stress the importance of internal faith, spirituality and Christian living over adherence to formal creeds and doctrine. The largest among these churches is the United Methodist Church, which follows the teachings of John Wesley, who in the 18th century broke away from the Church of England because of his emphasis on personal holiness. Other Methodist churches include the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

CHURCH HISTORY & Christianity has been a multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic movement since its inception. #CT #RebeccaMcLaughlin

The Most Diverse Movement in History

Christianity has been a multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic movement since its inception.

by Rebecca McLaughlin, Christianity Today, 6/14/20.

…The Diversity of the Early Church

It is a common misconception that Christianity first came to Africa via white missionaries in the colonial era. In the New Testament, we meet a highly educated African man who became a follower of Jesus centuries before Christianity penetrated Britain or America. In Acts 8, God directs the apostle Philip to the chariot of an Ethiopian eunuch. The man was “a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure” (Acts 8:27, ESV). Philip hears the Ethiopian reading from the Book of Isaiah and explains that Isaiah was prophesying about Jesus. The Ethiopian immediately embraces Christ and asks to be baptized (Acts 8:26–40).

We don’t know how people responded when the Ethiopian eunuch took the gospel home. But we do know that in the fourth century, two slave brothers precipitated the Christianization of Ethiopia and Eritrea, which led to the founding of the second officially Christian state in the world. We also know that Christianity took root in Egypt in the first century and spread by the second century to Tunisia, the Sudan, and other parts of Africa.

Furthermore, Africa spawned several of the early church fathers, including one of the most influential theologians in Christian history: the fourth-century scholar Augustine of Hippo. Likewise, until they were all but decimated by persecution, Iraq was home to one of the oldest continuous Christian communities in the world. And returning to Sengmei’s homeland, far from only being reached in the colonial era, the church in India claims a lineage going back to the first century. While this is impossible to verify, leading scholar Robert Eric Frykenberg concludes, “It seems certain that there were well-established communities of Christians in South India no later than the third and fourth centuries, and perhaps much earlier.” Thus, Christianity likely took root in India centuries before the Christianization of Britain.

Every Tribe, Tongue, and Nation

Many of us associate Christianity with white, Western imperialism. There are reasons for this—some quite ugly, regrettable reasons. But most of the world’s Christians are neither white nor Western, and Christianity is getting less white and less Western by the day.

Today, Christianity is the largest and most diverse belief system in the world, representing the most even racial and cultural spread, with roughly equal numbers of self-identifying Christians living in Europe, North America, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa. Over 60 percent of Christians live in the Global South, and the center of gravity for Christianity in the coming decades will likely be increasingly non-Western.

According to Pew Reseach Center, by 2060, sub-Saharan Africa could be home to 40 percent of the world’s self-identifying Christians. And while China is currently the global center of atheism, Christianity is spreading there so quickly that China could have the largest Christian population in the world by 2025 and could be a majority-Christian country by 2050, according to Purdue University sociologist Fenggang Yang.

To be clear: The fact that Christianity has been a multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic movement since its inception does not excuse the ways in which Westerners have abused Christian identity to crush other cultures. After the conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine in the fourth century, Western Christianity went from being the faith of a persecuted minority to being linked with the political power of an empire—and power is perhaps humanity’s most dangerous drug.

But, ironically, our habit of equating Christianity with Western culture is itself an act of Western bias. The last book of the Bible paints a picture of the end of time, when “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language” will worship Jesus (Rev. 7:9). This was the multicultural vision of Christianity in the beginning. For all the wrong turns made by Western Christians in the last 2,000 years, when we look at church growth globally today, it is not crazy to think that this vision could ultimately be realized. So let’s attend to biblical theology, church history, and contemporary sociology of religion and, as my friend Kanato Chopi put it, let’s abandon this absurd idea that Christianity is a Western religion.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2019/october/most-diverse-movement-history-mclaughlin-confronting.html

CHURCH HISTORY & Historian Marvin Olasky on the very different presidential leadership traditions of Woodrow Wilson & Grover Cleveland.

“Evangelicals engaging American History” an address by Marvin Olasky given to the Jonathan Edwards Institute, July 6, 1999.

…I’ll describe how Biblical history suggested to me some new avenues for exploring the American past.

The Bible has much to say about the relation between personal values and societal events. Noah’s faithfulness preserves mankind. Sodomy and other sins doom a city. So it goes up to the time of David, when his adultery has tragic consequences for the entire nation. Look at the capsule histories of monarchs and consequences found in the second book of Kings. In Chapter 17, King Jehoshaphat is faithful, so the kingdom prospers. In Chapter 24, King Joash and his officials worship the fertility goddess Asherah, which means they followed the church growth strategy of bringing in shrine prostitutes, and the country loses a war. In Chapter 26, as long as King Uzziah “sought the Lord, God gave him success”—but when his pride becomes ascendant, the nation descends. In Chapter 33, when King Manasseh practices sorcery and kills his own children, he and the entire country suffer—but in his distress, he turns to God, and life improves for himself and everyone.

This is not to say that the connection of actions and results is always quickly evident. Sometimes immorality deserves punishment but God holds off. Sometimes a nation is so close to the bottom of the slippery slope that a righteous king like Josiah only delays the crash for a little while. Overall, though, false ideas and actions have terrible consequences in ancient Israel.

It’s possible for some evangelicals to push aside that Biblical, historical evidence. Maybe those connections applied to God’s chosen people—chosen for trouble, most often—but are not universally applicable. Look, however, at the general wisdom of the book of Proverbs. Adultery has consequences in Chapter 6: “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? … So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.” Lies have consequences in Chapter 10: “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” Private sins have public implications in Chapter 11: “Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.”

Let’s look at Woodrow Wilson.

Until 1908, when he was 50, Wilson was known as a Presbyterian preacher’s kid who had grown into an upright professor and a long-married university president. Then he had an adulterous affair that he covered up with financial payoffs that allowed him to be elected governor of New Jersey and then president of the United States in 1912, both times running as a candidate of private and public morality. Because Wilson did not want to see himself as a sinner, he developed a sophisticated public theology in which his adultery was excusable because he was comforting a lonely woman. He also learned to lie in public: He won reelection in 1916 with the slogan, “He kept us out of war,” while privately telling Cabinet members that the United States would go to war. One month after his second inauguration, Wilson led the United States into World War I and enjoyed its successful—for the United States—completion in 1918.

Temporary success bred arrogance. A million Parisians chanted “Wilson, Wilson” as he rode through the city. French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau said there was no greater reception “in the history of the world.” Wilson began claiming direct divine inspiration for the League of Nations agreement he had put together: It came about “by no plan of our conceiving but by the hand of God who had led us into this way.” Wilson, however, was far from omniscient. He stitched together on maps countries like “Czechoslovakia” without having any understanding of ethnic divisions.

Wilson said he was “the personal instrument of God” in Paris, but after the 1918 congressional elections, when many of his supporters were voted out of office, he was barely the personal instrument of the United States. Still, he wanted to produce a newer testament: According to British Prime Minister Lloyd George, Wilson once said that “Jesus Christ so far [has] not succeeded in inducing the world to follow His teaching because He taught the ideal without devising any practical scheme to carry out his aims.” The League of Nations, according to Wilson, was the wise plan Christ had missed. Wilson, who had grown up with the Westminster catechism with its question about man’s chief purpose—“To glorify God and enjoy Him forever”—was working to glorify himself.

The Treaty of Versailles, signed in June 1919, represented the worst of both worlds. It was punitive enough to contribute to the German economic collapse that made possible the rise of Hitler. It was so high-minded that French and English leaders who put their hopes in it became lax about the military preparedness that could have forestalled the dictator’s early success. When the U.S. Senate refused to support the treaty, Wilson refused to examine his own arrogance, but instead traveled the country by train, hoping to rally voters to his side—only to find little trust in a man who had last stumped the country on a no-war pledge. Then came the crushing blow: Wilson suffered a paralyzing stroke, and his presidency effectively ended. Even then, the lying did not end. He refused to step down, and Wilson’s second wife was the real president during his last year and a half in office.

It’s a sad story of one who could have been great, brought low…

The personal history of a third Presbyterian president, Grover Cleveland, is different.

The knock on Biblical evangelicals is that we are looking for perfect people to become presidential candidates. Actually, however, we know that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and Cleveland shows the process of sin and redemption. In 1874, 10 years before he ran for president, Cleveland fathered a son out of wedlock. He made some restitution, giving the child his last name, financially supporting the mother, and then arranging for adoption. But his past practice became an issue after he received the Democratic presidential nomination in 1884. Republicans chanted, “Ma, ma, where’s my pa? Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha.”

Cleveland made sure the facts got out, but he never attacked his critics as President Clinton did. Perhaps he showed awareness of a good journalistic rule, “Never spit when on a roller coaster.” Cleveland won the election, and during his presidency you see him minimizing his own importance. One journalist, Frank Carpenter, noted that “The hall and the stairs that brought us to the President’s office are covered with an old piece of carpet which was good once, but which has been patched, sewed, and resewed. It would not bring fifty cents at an auction.”

Cleveland worked hard to glorify the country by sticking by the Constitution and vetoing special interest bills. You also see him glorifying God in many ways. He showed his need to listen with his choice of churches. Washington residents expected Cleveland to attend the famed and fashionable New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Instead, he attended the First Presbyterian Church even though—no, because—its fiery old Pastor Sunderland had opposed Cleveland’s election, saying he was morally unfit for the White House. Cleveland knew that he needed to hear not preaching that would tickle his ears, but that would discipline him when he needed it.

Read more at … https://world.wng.org/content/evangelicals_engaging_american_history

RESURRECTION & ‪“Easter—Myth, Hallucination, or History?” A powerful & classic article by #EdwinYamuchi via @CTmagazine

‪Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. This is an insightful article by a renowned scholar on the reality of the resurrection, via @CTmagazine archives.

Read the article (with a subscription) here … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1974/march-15/eastermyth-hallucination-or-history.html?visit_source=twitter‬

CHURCH HISTORY & Christian Smith explains what happened in the 1990s that led to a surge in the “nones” – the religiously unaffiliated.

by

In the early 1990s, the historical tether between American identity and faith snapped. Religious non-affiliation in the U.S. started to rise—and rise, and rise. By the early 2000s, the share of Americans who said they didn’t associate with any established religion (also known as “nones”) had doubled. By the 2010s, this grab bag of atheists, agnostics, and spiritual dabblers had tripled in size.

Christian Smith, a sociology and religion professor at the University of Notre Dame, America’s nonreligious lurch has mostly been the result of three historical events: the association of the Republican Party with the Christian right, the end of the Cold War, and 9/11.

This story begins with the rise of the religious right in the 1970s. Alarmed by the spread of secular culture—including but not limited to the sexual revolution, the Roe v. Wade decision, the nationalization of no-fault divorce laws, and Bob Jones University losing its tax-exempt status over its ban on interracial dating—Christians became more politically active. The GOP welcomed them with open arms…

The marriage between the religious and political right delivered Reagan, Bush, and countless state and local victories. But it disgusted liberal Democrats, especially those with weak connections to the Church. It also shocked the conscience of moderates, who preferred a wide berth between their faith and their politics. Smith said it’s possible that young liberals and loosely affiliated Christians first registered their aversion to the Christian right in the early 1990s, after a decade of observing its powerful role in conservative politics.

Second, it may have felt unpatriotic to confess one’s ambivalence toward God while the U.S. was locked in a geopolitical showdown with a godless Evil Empire. In 1991, however, the Cold War ended. As the U.S.S.R. dissolved, so did atheism’s association with America’s nemesis. After that, “nones” could be forthright about their religious indifference, without worrying that it made them sound like Soviet apologists.

Third, America’s next geopolitical foe wasn’t a godless state. It was a God-fearing, stateless movement: radical Islamic terrorism. A series of bombings and attempted bombings in the 1990s by fundamentalist organizations such as al-Qaeda culminated in the 9/11 attacks. It would be a terrible oversimplification to suggest that the fall of the Twin Towers encouraged millions to leave their church, Smith said. But over time, al-Qaeda became a useful referent for atheists who wanted to argue that all religions were inherently destructive.

Read more at … https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/atheism-fastest-growing-religion-us/598843/

CHURCH HISTORY & Fundamentalism turns 100: What it is and why it is a landmark for the Christian Right

by  Professor of History, University of Dayton, The Conversation, 10/8/19.

These days, the term “fundamentalism” is often associated with a militant form of Islam.

But the original fundamentalist movement was actually Christian. And it was born in the United States a century ago this year.

Protestant fundamentalism is still very much alive. And, as Susan Trollinger and I discuss in our 2016 book, it has fueled today’s culture war over gender, sexual orientation, science and American religious identity.

Roots of Fundamentalism

Christian fundamentalism has roots in the 19th century, when Protestants were confronted by two challenges to traditional understandings of the Bible.

Throughout the century, scholars increasingly evaluated the Bible as a historical text. In the process they raised questions about its divine origins, given its seeming inconsistencies and errors.

In addition, Charles Darwin’s 1859 book “On the Origin of Species” – which laid out the theory of evolution by natural selection – raised profound questions about the Genesis account of creation.

Many American Protestants easily squared their Christian faith with these ideas. Others were horrified.

Conservative theologians responded by developing the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Inerrancy asserts that the Bible is errorless and factually accurate in everything it says – including about science.

This doctrine became the theological touchstone of fundamentalism. Alongside inerrancy emerged a system of ideas, called apocalyptic or “dispensational premillennialism.”

Adherents of these ideas hold that reading the Bible literally – particularly the Book of Revelation – reveals that history will end soon with a ghastly apocalypse.

All those who are not true Christians will be slaughtered. In the wake of this violence, Christ will establish God’s millennial kingdom on Earth.

Setting the stage

A series of Bible and prophecy conferences spread these ideas to thousands of Protestants across the United States in the late 19th century.

But two early 20th-century publications were particularly key to their dissemination.

The first was author Cyrus Scofield’s 1909 Reference Bible. Scofield’s Bible included an overwhelming set of footnotes emphasizing that the errorless Bible predicts a violent end of history which only true Christians will survive.

The second was “The Fundamentals,” 12 volumes published between 1910 and 1915 which made the case for biblical inerrancy while simultaneously attacking socialism and affirming capitalism.

“The Fundamentals” provided the name of the future religious movement. But there was not yet a fundamentalist movement.

That came after World War I.

The birth of the Fundamentalist Movement

After Woodrow Wilson’s April 1917 declaration of war on Germany, the government mobilized a huge propaganda campaign designed to demonize the Germans as barbarous Huns who threatened Western civilization. Many conservative Protestants traced Germany’s devolution into depravity to its embrace of Darwinism and de-emphasis of the Bible’s divine origins.

Six months after the war’s end, William Bell Riley – pastor of Minneapolis’ First Baptist Church and a well-known speaker on the Bible’s prophecies regarding the end of history – organized and presided over the World’s Conference on Christian Fundamentals in Philadelphia.

This five-day May 1919 meeting attracted over 6,000 people and an all-star lineup of conservative Protestant speakers. It produced the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association, which birthed a movement that influences American political and social life today.

In summer and fall of 1919 Riley sent teams of speakers to spread the fundamentalist word across the U.S. In addition to promoting biblical inerrancy and apocalyptic premillennialism, they attacked socialism and Darwinism.

Soon, Riley and his newly minted fundamentalists began trying to capture control of major Protestant denominations and eliminate the teaching of Darwinian evolution from American public schools…

Understanding Christian America to be under deadly assault, in the late 1970s these politically conservative fundamentalists began to organize.

The emergent Christian Right attached itself to the Republican Party, which was more aligned with its members’ central commitments than the Democrats.

In the vanguard was Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell Sr. His “Moral Majority” sought to make America Christian again by electing “pro-family, pro-life, pro-Bible morality” candidates.

…Since the 1980s, the movement has become increasingly sophisticated. Christian Right organizations like Focus on the Family and Concerned Women of America push for laws that reflect the fundamentalist views on everything from abortion to sexual orientation.
By the time Falwell died, in 2007, the Christian Right had become the most important constituency in the Republican Party. It played a crucial role in electing Donald Trump in 2016.

After one century, Protestant fundamentalism is still very much alive in America. William Bell Riley, I wager, would be pleased.

Read more at … https://theconversation.com/fundamentalism-turns-100-a-landmark-for-the-christian-right-123651

 

EVANGELICALISM & where the term came from and why politics is now fracturing it.

by Alan Jacobs PhD, Baylor Univeristy, The Atlantic, 9/22/19.

The Scopes Trial—especially as reported by H. L. Mencken’s outraged mockery of William Jennings Bryan’s insistence that Darwinian theory and Christianity are incompatible—established evangelicals in the American public mind as ignorant yahoos who could safely be ignored. (That Mencken had great respect for more thoughtful evangelicals, including the conservative Presbyterian J. Gresham Machen, went unnoticed. It’s instructive to contrast Mencken’s obituary of Bryan with his obituary of Machen.) This general dismissal by journalists and intellectuals lasted until the rise of self-declared evangelical Jimmy Carter, which led to Time magazine declaring 1976 The Year of the Evangelical.

But this is where the strangest, and perhaps the most consequential, chapter in the history of American evangelicalism began. For in the 1980 election the newly confident evangelical movement, in their self-understanding as the Moral Majority, supported not their coreligionist Jimmy Carter but the divorced former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan. And that inaugurated the affiliation of white American evangelicals with the Republican Party that has lasted to this day. As Kidd explains,

Forming the Moral Majority freed [Falwell] from tax regulations against direct political advocacy by churches. Unlike [Billy] Graham, Falwell did not begin by seeking access to the top levels of power. Instead, he sought to mobilize fundamentalists and evangelicals to change the occupants of political offices. He told Christians that it was sinful not to vote. Asking pastors to hold voter registration drives, Falwell told them that they needed to get people “saved, baptized, and registered” to vote. The agenda of the Republican evangelical insiders was born.

The precise contours of what happened to evangelicals during the Carter administration are still hotly debated by historians. Certainly abortion rights—which Carter supported and Reagan did not—played a major role, even though that was a recent priority for evangelicals. More generally, the social conservatism of many evangelicals, especially in the South, made them feel less and less at home with the comparatively progressive sexual and racial politics of the Democratic Party. And the fact that Reagan could speak openly of God—in the Sixties, well after his divorce and remarriage, he had had some kind of religious awakening, and became a regular attender of Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles—sweetened the pill.

But, it seems to me that, of all the traits that attracted evangelicals to Reagan, perhaps the most important was Reagan’s sunny and fervent patriotism. Already white American evangelicals had a tendency to associate Christianity closely with the American experiment, and to think of their country as a “Christian nation,” or at the very least actuated by “Judeo-Christian values.” But as the decades passed and American church leaders in almost all denominations became less interested in traditional Christian doctrines and more interested in what some scholars have come to call Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, a larger and larger proportion of white evangelicals became what Pew Research calls “God-and-Country Believers.” These folks, almost all of whom are white, may not attend church often or at all, and they may not be interested in, or even aware of, the beliefs that have typically characterized evangelical Christians, but they know this much: they believe in God, and they believe in America, they love Donald Trump because he speaks blunt Truth to culturally elite Power, and when asked by pollsters whether they are evangelicals they say Yes.

… there are many millions of non-white evangelicals in America, and not very many of them voted for Donald Trump. So we now have a peculiar situation in which people who don’t know what the term “evangelical” historically connotes and who massively distrust one another—God-and-Country Moralistic Therapeutic Deists on the one hand, and a press that simply doesn’t get religion on the other—have combined to take the term away from those of us who know and care about its history.

Read more of Evangelical Has Lost Its Meaning at …https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/the-end-of-evangelical/598423/

SYMBOLS & St. Augustine’s evangelistic rationale for depicting Christ on the crucifix

by Phil Kozlowski, Aleteia, 3/22/19.

St. Augustine in the 4th century offered a perfect summary of why Catholics use a crucifix.

The death of the Lord our God should not be a cause of shame for us; rather, it should be our greatest hope, our greatest glory. In taking upon himself the death that he found in us, he has most faithfully promised to give us life in him, such as we cannot have of ourselves.

He loved us so much that, sinless himself, he suffered for us sinners the punishment we deserved for our sins. How then can he fail to give us the reward we deserve for our righteousness, for he is the source of righteousness? How can he, whose promises are true, fail to reward the saints when he bore the punishment of sinners, though without sin himself?

Brethren, let us then fearlessly acknowledge, and even openly proclaim, that Christ was crucified for us; let us confess it, not in fear but in joy, not in shame but in glory.

Read more at … https://aleteia.org/2019/03/22/why-do-catholics-use-crucifixes-that-show-jesus-on-the-cross/

CHURCH HISTORY & A Video Introduction to Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, CA and the Beginnings of the Calvary Chapel denomination.

(produced by Calvary Productions 2013)

Watch more at … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSy6UpiAtXw

CHURCH HISTORY & A Timeline of the Jesus Movement

by Larry Eskridge, World Religions & Spirituality Project, Virginia Commonwealth University, 10/15/16.

JESUS PEOPLE MOVEMENT TIMELINE (See a more detailed timeline here)

1965-1966:  The counterculture emerged within bohemian districts in several American cities, particularly in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco.

1967:  The Evangelical Concerns non-profit was established in the Bay Area to promote work among hippies; opening of Living Room mission center in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury and “House of Acts” commune in Novato, California, the first recognized appearance of “hippie Christians.”

1968:  Evangelical outreaches to the countercultural and drug culture youth emerged in Southern California. These included David Berg’s “Teens for Christ” (Huntington Beach), Arthur Blessitt’s Sunset Strip mission His Place (Los Angeles), Don Williams’ Salt Company coffeehouse (Los Angeles).

1968:  Chuck Smith, pastor of the Calvary Chapel, a middling-sized church in Costa Mesa, CA connected with the Living Room’s Lonnie and Connie Frisbee. Along with John Higgins, they open the House of Miracles, the first of numerous communal homes in Orange County.

1969:  The Christian World Liberation Front (CWLF) was established in Berkeley, California by former Campus Crusade for Christ staffers.

1969:  John Higgins moved to Oregon and began the Shiloh Youth Revival Center commune near Eugene.

1969:  David Berg’s group abandoned Huntington Beach and took to the road, picking up the name “Children of God.”

1970:  A distinct Jesus People “scene” took root in Southern California with well over one hundred churches, coffeehouses, centers, and communal homes identifying with the movement.

1970:  Significant Jesus People centers emerged in Atlanta, Kansas City, Wichita, Buffalo, Norfolk, Akron, Fort Wayne, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, suburban Chicago, suburban New York City, and other scattered cities across the country.

1971:  Evangelist Billy Graham publicized the Jesus People presence at the Tournament of Roses parade; a flood of national coverage ensues and the movement becomes strong in the Midwest.

1971:  The Oregon-based Shiloh Youth Revival Centers had over 1,000 full-time members in its communal homes across the country.

1971:  The Associated Press named the Jesus People one of its “Top Ten Stories of 1971.”

1972 (June):  Campus Crusade for Christ held a youth evangelism conference in Dallas that featured Jesus People themes and musical artists. EXPLO ‘72 attracted 85,000 and a culminated music rally draws an estimated 180,000.

1973:  By the end of 1972, over fifty books on, by, or connected with, the Jesus People movement have been published.

1973:  Jesus People USA arrived on Chicago’s North Side and set up a permanent base of operations.

1976:  Jesus Music festivals proliferated across the country during the summer of 1975.

1976:  The Bay Area’s Evangelical Concerns, Inc., underwriter of the Living Room mission back in 1967, decided to close down.

1979:  The Hollywood Free Paper ceased publication.

1980:  Shiloh closed its doors.

FOUNDER/MOVEMENT HISTORY 

The Jesus People was an amorphous, youth-centered, Pentecostal and fundamentalist-leaning religious movement that sprang up all around North America in the late 1960s as the result of interactions between members of the hippie counterculture and evangelical pastors and youth workers. The movement spread across the country in the early 1970s, but by the end of the decade it had largely disappeared. While the movement’s enduring institutional footprint was minimal (and in such cases as the Calvary Chapel network, often overlooked), its ongoing impact upon the evangelical subculture in terms of music, worship, and the relationship to youth and popular culture were pervasive.

With the development of the counterculture and the attendant rise of a new drug culture in the mid-1960s, contact between hippies and evangelical “straights” was inevitable. Tracing its precise beginnings is difficult, but ongoing evangelistic outreach to bohemian youth and drug users, greatly stimulated by the publication of David Wilkerson’s 1963 book The Cross and the Switchblade (Bustraan 2014:68-70), resulted in relatively unpublicized local ministries in Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Norfolk, and other cities with bohemian youth populations that resembled what later came to be labeled “Jesus People.”

Read more here … https://wrldrels.org/2016/10/24/jesus-people-movement/

CHURCH HISTORY & A Timeline of the Association of Vineyard Churches via Virginia Commonwealth University

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: While earning my first doctorate, a Doctor of Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary, one of my professors was the renowned practical theologian (and co-founder of the singing group “The Righteous Brothers“): John Wimber.

He gave me the opportunity to analyze the growth of a new denomination he was leading: The Association of Vineyard Churches. During my research, I noticed how the movement eventually lost some of the innovation and momentum from which it was born.

In an effort to avoid such missteps in church planting, venue launches and start-up ministries, I conducted Doctor of Ministry research. Here is a helpful introduction to the Vineyard denomination researched by the scholars at Virginia Commonwealth University.

ASSOCIATION OF VINEYARD CHURCHES TIMELINE  

by John C. Peterson, World Religions and Spirituality Project, 9/4/16.

1934 (February 25):  John Wimber was born in Kirksville, Missouri or Peoria, Illinois.

c1940:  Wimber received his first saxophone.

c1946:  Wimber and his mother moved to California.

1949:  Wimber made his first professional appearance.

1955:  Wimber met his future wife, Carol, a member of The Paramours, her prom band. The couple was married seven months later. The Paramours would work the Las Vegas circuit for the next five years. Wimber (as Johnny Wimber) played keyboards.

1960:  The Wimbers faced a marriage crisis and separated. The separation ended when each cried out to God for help. The couple remarried in the Roman Catholic Church. They also attended a Friends Meeting and Bible studies. Carol began Bible studies in their home.

1962:  The Wimbers recruited Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley for The Paramours. The group later became The Righteous Brothers, originally with Wimber on keyboards.

1962:  Through Paramours‘ drummer Dick Heyling, the Wimbers met Quaker lay evangelist Gunner Payne and began attending Payne’s Bible studies at Heyling’s home.

1963:  John and Carol Wimber had near-simultaneous conversion experiences at one of Payne’s Bible studies. The Wimbers continued leadership involvement with Bible study groups through the Friends Meeting, with Gunner Payne at the Heylings, and in their own home, beginning a period of intense evangelism.

c1967:  John Wimber felt called to leave the music business and enrolled in Azusa Pacific University to study the Bible for three years.

1970:  Upon graduation, Wimber was “registered” (ordained) by Society of Friends. He became assistant pastor of Yorba Linda Friends meeting and continued to lead a number of Bible studies which became increasingly intense and well attended. They came to the attention of the Southern California religious community.

1974:  John and Carol Wimber and forty of their Bible study students were asked to leave the Friends Meeting. John was invited by C. Peter Wagner to help found the new Fuller Institute for Church Growth.

1975-1978:  Wimber taught church growth and planting as an adjunct faculty at Fuller while continuing to lead growing Bible studies.

1977:  Bible studies grew and were incorporated as a congregation of Calvary Chapel.

1979:  Wimber met Ken Gullicksen, another member of the Calvary Chapel movement, at a retreat.

1980:  Lonnie Frisbee preached to Wimber’s congregation on Mother’s Day, triggering an outpouring of charismatic phenomena.

1982-1986:  Wimber and Wagner taught a Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth course at Fuller.

1982:  Wimber broke with Calvary Chapel over Wimber’s increasing emphasis on charismatic phenomena, and, with several other Calvary Chapel groups, joined with Gullicksen’s group of Vineyard churches. Gullicksen asked Wimber to take the lead.

1982:  Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Anaheim was incorporated.

1984:  Vineyard Ministries International was established.

1985:  The Association of Vineyard Churches incorporated. Mercy Music (later Vineyard Music) was established.

1986:  Wimber published his book Power Evangelism. 

1986:  Wimber suffered a heart attack.

1988:  Wimber established close relationships with prophetic figures of the Kansas City Fellowship (which was renamed The Kansas City Vineyard).

1991:  Wimber became disillusioned with the Kansas City “prophets” and broke off the relationship.

1994:  The “Toronto Blessing” revival broke out at Toronto Airport Vineyard Church. It drew international attention to extreme charismatic phenomena.

1993-1995:  Wimber received cancer diagnosis and suffered a stroke.

1995:  Wimber observed the “Toronto Blessing” revival and cuts ties with it.

1997 (July):  Wimber installed Todd Hunter as National Coordinator of The Association of Vineyard Churches.

1997 (November):  Wimber died of massive brain hemorrhage.

2000:  Hunter resigned his position. The board named Bert Waggoner of Sugarland, Texas, to succeed him.

2011:  Waggoner retired and was replaced by Phil Strout of Maine.

FOUNDER/GROUP HISTORY 

The Association of Vineyard Churches (or the Vineyard movement) grew out of the Jesus movement that developed within the “hippie” culture of Southern California in the 1960s. This movement was built more around gifted evangelists working mostly through home-based Bible study groups rather than through established churches. Many of these groups involved music scene figures, some of whom were fairly prominent.

Three of those evangelists who were exceptionally successful ended up involved in the creation of two new denominations: Chuck Smith turned his Bible study groups into the Calvary Chapel movement (Chapel on the Vine 2015), and Ken Gullicksen turned his groups into what would become the Vineyard Churches. The third, the very gifted Lonnie Frisbee, was a key figure in both movements, but he is rarely mentioned today because of his struggle with homosexuality (Randles n.d.). A fourth key figure in the Bible study phenomenon was John Wimber.

Read more at … https://wrldrels.org/2016/10/08/association-of-vineyard-churches/

SLAVERY & Comparing the Wesleys’ experiences w/ slavery (resulting in them being against slavery) to George Whitefield’s experiences (resulting in his owning slaves to support [sic] ministry).

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: As a Wesley scholar I have appreciated the differences between John and Charles Wesley and their colleague George Whitfield. One of these differences is their attitudes towards slavery.

Here’s a story about on how John and Charles Wesley came to feel so strongly against slavery. Read this short daily devotional from my recent book Enthusiast.life – Finding a Faith That Fills.

Historian Peter Choi argues that the Wesleys looked on the spiritual (Choi would say utopian) side of an issue, while Whitefield looked on the pragmatic side.  This can be a warning for leaders today.

  1. First, read this excerpt (immediately below or click here > BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – ENTHUSIAST Day 26 Human Trafficking ) on the Wesleys’ view of slavery.
  2. Then read the second article (further below) that reviews Whitefield’s perspective.

Week 6, Day 1 – Christians Have a Duty to Stand Up Against Human Trafficking

by Bob Whitesel, 2017, excerpted from Enthusiast.life – Finding a Faith That Fills, pp. 189-194.

Charles watched in horror as a child was given “a slave of its own age to tyrannize over, to beat and abuse out of sport… a common practice.” The youth’s haughtiness and condescension to his human gift sickened Charles. “One Colonel Lynch is universally know to have cut off a poor Negro’s legs,” wrote Charles, “and to kill several of them every year by his barbarities.” Charles described how another slave owner boasted of whipping a female slave until she appeared dead. Then after summoning a doctor who revived her, the slave owner whipped her again and concluded by pouring hot sealing wax upon her.

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Read more at Enthusiast.life

 

Such were the experiences the Wesleys encountered while on their church planting expedition to Georgia (Week 2, Day 1). Charles summarized their abhorrence: “It were endless to recount all the shocking instances of diabolical cruelty which these men (as they called themselves) daily produce upon their fellow-creatures; and that on the most trivial occasions.” 

In response, John infused into the emerging method a process to address, not ignore, such controversial topics.

 

Lesson 1: Begin by examining a controversial topic through a Biblical lens.

John concluded that the Bible did not condone slavery and neither should Christians who follow the Scriptures. He cited Paul’s writings to a similar era (Eph. 6:9, Col. 4:1) as well as Paul’s declaration that, “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28). John then wrote powerful books decrying the practice, including: “Thoughts About Slavery” and “A Serious Address to the People of England with Regard to the State of the Nation.”

Lesson 2: Love of money, and not the love of God, is behind many heinous sins

While the Wesleys were in Georgia, the colony did not permit slavery. Soon Georgia permitted slavery because of perceived economic gain. John never stopped pointing out that the worship of money was behind this, writing: “But at length (in Georgia) the voice of those villains prevailed who sell their country and their God for gold, who laugh that human nature and compassion, and who defy all religion, but that getting money. It is certainly our duty to do all in our power to check this growing evil.”

Lesson 3: Abused and molested people are every Christian’s brothers and sisters

The “faith of a son/daughter” meant these abused and molested people were God’s children too … and every Christian’s brothers and sisters.  Not only would John work to see slavery ended, but at the same time he would work to get the Good News to them. It was a two-pronged approach: a political effort to end slavery and a spiritual effort to provide slaves with Biblical teaching.  

Lesson 4: Take your message to where those who need it assemble

Slaves were captured in Africa and resold to American shippers in the English city of Bristol. Bristol was one of the centers of Methodism. The city’s first preaching house was positioned in the market area, nearby to where slaves would be bought and sold. The presence of this preaching house allowed the message to be heard among both the oppressors and those oppressed.

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Exhibit from The New Room, Bristol UK (first Wesleyan preaching house built adjacent to the slave market)

Lesson 5: Do all in your power to check a growing evil

John ensured that the emerging method had rules against such abhorrent behavior, such as owning slaves. John declared the owning of slaves was cause for expulsion from the method. However, in America where slavery was often legal, some in the Methodist movement distanced themselves from Wesley and his stance. In his book, “Calm Address to our American Colonies,” John argued that the wild nature of America’s frontier did not allow Christians to bend or break God’s laws.

One week before John died, he wrote his last letter. It was addressed to anti-slavery crusader William Wilberforce, whom Wesley encouraged to fight on, saying, “O be not weary in well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery the vilest that ever saw the sun shall vanish before it.” Today, human trafficking in the form of sexual exploitation, forced labor, etc. continues, but we must not grow weary in opposing it.

Application of the Lessons

For personal devotion, read the questions, meditate upon each and write down your responses. For group discussion, share as appropriate your answers with your group and then discuss the application.

(Lessons 1-5) Ask yourself, “Are there any moral issues which intimidate me and on which I remain silent, though the Word of God calls me to address it?”  Write a paragraph about what you will do to address it with each of these steps:

  • Begin by examining a controversial topic through a Biblical lens
  • Love of money, and not the love of God, is behind the sin
  • Needy people are my brothers and sisters
  • Take your message to where those who need it assemble
  • We should “do all in our power to check this growing evil”

Now, compare the faith that filled John and Charles Wesley to that of their colleague George Whitfield as reflected in this article below.

Did George Whitefield Serve Two Masters?

by Rick Kennedy, Christianity Today, 2/22/19.

… Peter Choi’s biography, George Whitefield: Evangelist for God and Empire, explores various ways that Whitefield’s zeal for good works not only put him on a pedestal but also entangled him in a war against Catholicism and the promotion of race-based slavery. By exposing less-than-uplifting facts about Whitefield, the book illuminates unhealthy aspects of 18th-century evangelicalism’s intimate relationship with the British Empire.

… Choi describes how missionary zeal, Christian philanthropy, utopian social engineering, and bold military strategy came together in the creation of Georgia. In England, he observes, the founding trustees of Georgia “fanned the flames of euphoria in the early 1730s by hiring publicists to write about their cause across the empire.” Freedom, racial equality before God, respect for Native American rights, and all the rights and privileges of republican government were to flourish in a new colony named for King George II, leader of the Protestant world. As young men, the Wesley brothers and George Whitefield were swept up in the euphoria and traveled to Georgia as celebrity missionaries.

John Wesley went there unprepared, inspired by ideals too high to achieve. He then allowed himself to be distracted by romantic love before devoting time to evangelism among Native Americans. In Wesley’s failure, Choi sees the heights of British utopianism (a perspective he shares with the historian Geordan Hammond, author of John Wesley in America: Restoring Primitive Christianity).

Whitefield, on the other hand, arrived in Georgia well prepared and without utopian delusions. Choi points out that the Georgia frontier offered Whitefield the freedom to experiment with his calling to preach about the “new birth.” It “represented a strategic location where he was free to nurture a form of religion that was experimental and entrepreneurial.” In Whitefield’s pragmatism, Choi sees the seeds of both his success and his failure. The evangelist established a philanthropic institution (the Bethesda orphanage), but he was not committed to upholding Georgia’s anti-slavery ideals, and he neglected the Georgia Trustees’ call for evangelistic work among Native Americans.

Bethesda-Orphanage-Georgia-founded-by-George-Whitefield-Internet-ArchiveThe orphanage was key to Whitefield’s role as “evangelist for God and Empire.” Established near Savannah, Georgia, it began as a hybrid of a trade school and a plantation. As Choi explains, “It mixed moral and religious goals with imperial and mercantile aims.” The orphans served as both laborers and students. Money was needed, which prompted Whitefield to become a traveling revivalist and fundraiser all at once. In this role, he sparked and gave direction to a transatlantic Great Awakening.

Fundraising for the orphanage was highly successful, but the flow of money eventually slowed when the revivals began to wane. Unwanted orphans were numerous when Georgia was growing fast, but their numbers also went into decline. At a time when Whitefield should have downsized his orphanage, he aspired to grow it into a university along the lines of the pietist institution that flourished at the time in Halle, Germany. Choi carefully follows Whitfield into Dickensian situations in which the preacher forcibly removed “prospective orphans” from their siblings and/or guardians.

Never an abolitionist, Whitefield bought a plantation in North Carolina and became a slave owner as a means to help fund his plans for Bethesda. Economic exigencies spurred his increasingly ardent calls for the Georgia Trustees to lift their ban on slavery. The economy of Georgia, he declared, would be strengthened by abandoning the colony’s anti-slavery ideals. “If any one person can be credited with responsibility for the introduction of black slavery in Georgia,” Choi writes, it should be Whitefield.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/february-web-only/george-whitefield-peter-choi-evangelist-god-empire.html

TEMPTATION & how to remove anything in your life that you are in doubt or feel unsure about #JayMorgan #AppalachianPrayerCenter

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Reverend Jay Morgan shadowed me for year in my consulting practice to become a Missional Coach. He now heads up the Appalachian Prayer Center and is writing a great historical analysis/application from the widespread influence of the Welsh revivals. Read the insights he applies from them for today.

“The Message of the Welsh Revival Part 2: If in doubt, remove it.” by Jay Morgan, Appalachian Prayer Center, 3/15/19.

This post is the second in a four part series exploring the message that fueled the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905.  During this short period of time, revival swept through nearly every town on the Island of Wales and over 100,000 people came to faith in Christ.

A young preacher, Evan Roberts, stressed the following four tenets to his companions.  As they began to personally do these, God used this group to help spread revival all over Wales.  There is much to be learned from these tenets as we prepare for revival today.

  • Confess all known sin, receiving forgiveness through Jesus Christ

  • Remove anything in your life that you are in doubt or feel unsure about

  • Be ready to obey the Holy Spirit instantly

  • Publicly confess the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the last post we focused on confessing all known sin to God.  Today let’s focus on the second tenet:

Remove anything in your life that you are in doubt or feel unsure about

This is a step beyond confessing known sin.  This is a decision to step as far away from sin as you can.  

Many people defend their “right” to do something as a Christian. They try to get to the edge of sin without falling in.  This is a dangerous way to live, yet many think they can “flirt” around with sin and not get into trouble.

Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Proverbs 6:27

Jesus taught us to be pray that we would not be “lead” into temptation.  The behavior itself might not be sin, but will it lead you into a tempting, sinful situation?  If so, get rid of it.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  Matthew 6:13

 

Paul taught us that there are things that we may we feel have a right to do, but are not beneficial to us.  Some of these things can actually sabotage you and your mission in the world.

 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial. Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

Ask your self the following three questions:

  • Will this behavior lead me to sin?

  • Will this behavior lead a weaker Christian to sin if they copy me?

  • Will this behavior limit or harm my ability to influence people for Jesus?

If so, remove it!

This can include:

  • Relationships that pull you back to your old life

  • A “border-line” sinful book, song or TV program that makes you vulnerable to sin.

  • Videos you watch on your phone.  

  • Conversations you have.  

  • Certain places you drive by.  

  • Certain clothing.  

  • Unnecessary debt for things you don’t need that will overwork you and pull you away from God’s purposes.

  • Flirty conversations.  

  • Using alcohol or other drugs.  

  • Health Damaging habits.

The list goes on.

Read more at … https://www.apcwv.com/single-post/2019/03/15/The-Message-of-the-Welsh-Revival-Part-2-If-in-doubt-remove-it?utm_campaign=99758eab-5cf9-4b27-abd1-6ee84ae4fa4a&utm_source=so

CHURCH HISTORY & 3 pieces of historical evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ

by Paul Ratner, Big Think, 12/24/18.

…Here are 3 kinds of evidence we have for the existence of Jesus Christ as at the very least a real person…

1. THE WRITINGS

…writes Dr. Simon Gathercole, a New Testament scholar from the University of Cambridge, in the Guardian.

The letters of the apostle Paul from about AD 50-60 are the earliest texts mentioning Jesus and the doctrines of Christianity. They also contained practical instructions for the growing number of Christians on how to live according to their faith.

The first non-Christian writer to talk about Jesus was the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (born Yosef ben Matityahu),who lived around AD 47-100. He referred to Christ in his history of Judaism “Jewish Antiquities” from AD 93. In the book, Jesus comes up twice – once in a curious passage about Jesus’s supposed brother James and in another paragraph that has since been questioned in its authenticity. Historians think it has been altered by Christians several centuries later who wanted to portray Jesus in a better light. Here is that passage coming from Antiquities 18:3:3:

“There was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

Roman historians Pliny and Tacitus also wrote about Jesus Christ about 20 years after Josephus’s book. The “Annals” by Tacitus from AD 115 mentioned the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate executing Jesus, alluding to crucifixion, and placed that event within the timeframe that agrees with Christian gospels. As you can also see in this excerpt, Tacitus was not a big fan of the Christians:

“Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called “Chrestians” by the populace,” wrote Tacitus.” Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.”

Pliny the Younger, who was also governor in Asia Minor, wrote letters to Emperor Trajan around AD 112 describing Christians worshipping Jesus as a God:

“They (Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food, but of an ordinary and innocent kind ,” wrote Pliny in Epistles 10.96.

2. THE EYEWITNESSES

According to Dr. Gathercole, the earliest Christian writings on Jesus come from the epistles of Paul. The first of these date to no later than within 25 years of Jesus’s death (AD 50-60). On the other hand, biographical accounts of Jesus in the New Testament date from around 40 years after Jesus’s death. Still, these time spans mean that accounts of Jesus’s life were written down by people who would have been alive to know him or the people who knew him personally.

The accounts of the witnesses also correspond quite well to what other sources of information tell us about the life in the Palestine of the first century. For example, having large crowds coming to a healer like Jesus is confirmed through archaeology, which tells us that residents of the area had to contend with diseases like leprosy and tuberculosis. A study of burials in Roman Palestine by archaeologist Byron McCane revealed that between two-thirds and three-quarters of the graves they looked at had remains of children and adolescents. McCane underscored the prevalence of childhood mortality at the time, explaining that “during Jesus’ time, getting past 15 was apparently the trick.”

Of course, just having the details of the environment right doesn’t prove that Jesus Christ existed. Dr. Gathercole, thinks it just wouldn’t make sense for the writers of the time to create such an elaborate character, stating: “It is also difficult to imagine why Christian writers would invent such a thoroughly Jewish saviour figure in a time and place – under the aegis of the Roman empire – where there was strong suspicion of Judaism.”

This sentiment is supported by Byron McCane, an archaeologist and history professor at Florida Atlantic University who said in an interview with National Geographic that he “can think of no other example who fits into their time and place so well but people say doesn’t exist.” In other words, it would be rather unprecedented for such a person to be made up.

3. THE ARTIFACTS

Read more at … https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/3-pieces-of-historical-evidence-jesus-christ-existed