ONE to ANOTHER ~ February - March 2017 ~ Volume III ~ Issue 2
In This Issue
Our Eternal Job Description | The Bible is Not Detached | Spirit Controlled | Book Review | Christlike in A Broken World
DNA Nightmare | Eyewitnesses and Past Events | A Little Rest | What the World Needs | The Devil's Deadly Ds
lent | and by His stripes we are healed Isaiah 53:5
March 5 - April 9, 2017
As a Christian, you expect to go to heaven when you die, but what do you expect to be doing after you arrive? Will you just hang out with loved ones, make appointments to meet the great saints of the ages, or take a long rest? Have you thought about working in heaven, and if so, for what job might you be qualified?
Is it possible that we will be employed in
and are currently working on our job description?
We have heard it said of some persons that "They are so heavenly minded that they
are of no earthly good." Is that really possible?
Peter was heavenly minded. He said, "looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise, we are looking for a new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (II Peter 3:12-13). He also said, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (II Peter 3:11).
Paul was heavenly minded. He said, "I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:7). He also said, “since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6-8).
Jesus was heavenly minded. He said, "In My Father's house are man dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). He also said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
In my own experience I have yet to meet the person who was genuinely heavenly minded who was not also a blessing on earth, and one whom you might hope to meet again someday in heaven. On the other hand, I have known many who were so earthly-minded that they would be of no heavenly good, and were not the kind of folk you’d expect to meet in heaven anyway.
But this does not answer the question “Does what we do on earth have any bearing
on what we will be doing in heaven?” Is it possible that what we are doing with our life on earth determines our job description in heaven (perhaps for eternity)? Let’s
consider the proposition from a Biblical perspective.
ARE WE NOT WORKING OUT OUR ETERNAL JOB DESCRIPTIONS EVEN AT THIS VERY MOMENT? AND IF IT BE SO, WHAT ARE WE TO BE DOING WITH THIS FLEET FOOTED PHAMTOM WE CALL EARTH LIFE?
possible that we will be employed in heaven,
and are currently working on our job description?
"Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness" (II Peter 3:11 KJV)?
David M. Tyler, Th.B., Ph.D.,
Dean, Biblical Counseling
In the entire world there is nothing that more fully deserves to be abhorred and condemned than sin. Sin is the most abominable thing. It is the most shameful thing in the entire universe. Of all things that exist or have existed this thing called sin most of all deserves to be loathed and spurned. Sin is a monstrosity, an aberration, a malformation that plucked a host of angels from heaven, drove our first parents out of paradise and brought unnumbered miseries upon the whole human race.
We are all aware of problems in the world. There is war, bloodshed, cruelties of all descriptions. Turmoil is everywhere. There are rivalries, sects and parties. Nations and peoples are working against one another. You cannot read the morning paper or watch the evening news without being reminded of the trials, wretchedness and unhappiness in the world. The worldwide problems are on a grand scale what all men individually experience in their personal lives. Our personal lives are full of difficulties and we are often overwhelmed by them. There are misunderstandings, jealousies and discord. There is always some problem, disappointment and illness. Life is full of perplexities. People struggle within themselves for some way out of their predicament. There is no such thing as complete and perfect happiness.
The Bible is a very practical book. Unfortunately, many people even Christians, believe that the Bible, far from being practical, is in fact remote from life. This is especially true in “Christian” counseling which believes the Scriptures are insufficient and must be supplemented by secularists and their atheistic models. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The whole purpose of God’s Word is to instruct and enlighten us concerning the very situation in which we find ourselves.
The Bible is a problem-oriented book. In Genesis 3 we find the first recorded problem in the Bible. In Genesis 4 there is the problem between Cain and his brother Able. The problems continue. There was the problem between Joseph and his brothers, Jacob and Esau, David and Saul. Every person Jesus encountered had a problem. The New Testament epistles were written because of problems that confronted the early church. Men and women with problems are on every page of Scripture. What happened to Adam, Eve, Cain, Able, David, Paul and so on? It is the most human book in the world. It puts forth its truths in terms of people and their words, actions and experiences.
The Bible talks to us about why we are unhappy. What is the cause of our unhappiness and difficulties? Why do things go wrong? Why are there adulteries, fornication, murders, deceit, jealousies and disease? Why is there death? The Bible is not detached and theoretical. The Bible comes to us and says, “I want to talk to you about you. Why are you having difficulties? Why are you anxious and depressed? Why is life not a perpetual holiday?” The truths found in the Bible are indispensable to understanding ourselves and the world in which we live.
In this article we approach the question, “How can I be a Spirit controlled individual?” The Apostle Paul challenges Christians to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). This is a command for all who have faith in Christ. There are certain things we must understand and apply for this to become a reality. First we must understand that:
I. The Basic Composition of Man is Trinity: Body, Soul, and Spirit (see I Thess. 5:23)
We noted this Biblical truth in a previous article. The body is the living physical existence of man within a physical world. As a living physical entity, the body feels, desires, and responds. The body, as a living physical entity under the curse of sin (Rom. 3:23), deals with physical weakness and failures. The body can hurt, be diseased, grow old, and die.
The soul or mind is that part of man which thinks, reasons, feels, contemplates, learns, and decides. Here reside our emotions, will, and mind. From our soul we have a world consciousness.
The third part of man’s trinity is his spirit. This is that part of man where God consciousness dwells. The spirit comprehends the essential nature of God. The spirit decides right and wrong. The spirit comprehends the basic meaning of life.
Now a most interesting reality is...
II. There are six basic ways that man’s trilogy can be arranged.
1. It is possible for one to approach life and eternity as body, soul, and spirit.
In this arrangement body is first and thus controls the mind and the spirit. "Eat, drink and be merry" is the dogma of this arrangement. This arrangement promotes a permissive society and initiates situation ethics which imply that all of life is basically a grey area where each must decide his own right and wrong; there are no absolutes
2. It is possible for one to approach life and eternity as body, spirit, and soul.
In this scenario the spirit controls the soul or mind, but the body controls the spirit. The religious inclinations of this person are fleshly or worldly. This is what the Apostle Paul found in the Corinthian church. He said to them, “You are not spiritual but carnal” (I Cor. 3:1-4). What are the results of being a carnal or fleshly believer? Paul said that in the midst of carnal Christians you would find envying, strife, and divisions.
3. It is possible for one to approach life and eternity as soul, body, and spirit
In this arrangement the mind is over the body; this person usually has character and lives a disciplined life. He is often successful. He is a decent citizen. He works hard. He pays his debts. He cares for his body. He may be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher or a successful businessman. Many good things can be said of this one; however, he is not saved. His spirit is last; he may be moral and disciplined, but he has never accepted Christ as Lord and Savior.
4. It is possible for one to approach life and eternity as soul, spirit, and body.
Here is the super intellectual crowd; the educated upper crust of society. Their reasoning and intellect control their decision making and beliefs. Their religious considerations are under the power of intellect rather than the possibilities of faith. The mind is over the spirit. This arrangement produces religious liberalism and cultism.
This arrangement says, “I cannot explain creation so I will believe in evolution.” “I cannot explain the virgin birth and so I will not believe in the virgin birth. The mind is over the spirit.
5. It is possible for one to approach life and eternity as spirit, body, and soul.
The spirit is first but the body controls the soul or the mind. This is a saved person who is spiritual and perhaps sincere, but he is unproductive. He has no schedule. He is not self-disciplined. He has no set prayer time or Bible study time.
6. It is possible for one to approach life and eternity as spirit, soul, and body.
This is the arrangement for the believer who is spiritual or Spirit controlled. The Holy Spirit resides in the believer’s spirit. From that dwelling place the Holy Spirit gives direction for the totality of man’s being.
His spirit tells his mind what to think and his mind tells his body what to do. When the mind is controlled by the spirit and the body is controlled by the mind, then the body is controlled by the spirit. When a person's spirit controls his mind and his mind controls his body, he has learned something about the priorities in life. This is the Spirit-controlled life!
by David Mishkin, Wipf & Stock Pub, 2008, 210 pages, ISBN-10: 155635939X
Cheryl A. Durham, M.Min., Ph.D., Dean of Students
I reviewed this book because I wanted more background information on one of the classical writers of Judeo-Christian history. David Mishkin’s book helped to illuminate the personality behind the extensive works. Edersheim was himself Jewish, and although he converted to Christianity, he still had a love for his people to the extent that he wanted people, especially Christians, to know that the Bible was indeed a thoroughly Jewish book.
Mishkin arranges his work into 5 Chapters with 4 Appendices. The Chapters include an Introduction which gives the reader a brief biography of Edersheim including a description of his calling as a servant of God. An annotated bibliography of Edersheim’s work gives a brief description of each of his known works as well as, information on his Magnum Opus: The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.
Finally, Mishkin writes a chapter on Edersheim’s legacy to the world and includes a section on Edersheim’s quotable quotes. In the Appendices, Mishkin gives us some of Edersheim’s unpublished work which contain some of Edersheim’s works of fiction. The Appendices add even more insight into the life of the seemingly tireless scholar. It is a good read to understand the background, the man, and the mission of a scholar who dedicated his life to a more authentic view of the Bible.
Being Christlike in A Broken World -
David W. Anderson, Ed.D., D.B.S.; Program Developer and Director for the Master of Arts Certificate in Disabilities Ministry
Dr. Anderson's book, Reaching Out & Bringing People In : Ministry to and with Persons with Disabilities, ISBN 978-1-4497-9095-0, Westbow Press, 2013 can be purchased through Master's Bookstore or Click here to purchase.
PART 2 OF 4
In the last issue of ONE-TO-ANOTHER, I began discussing the transformation in character required in order to be like Christ in a broken world, a transformation which began when we became a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17) and continues as an ongoing process of spiritual renewal and growth as we daily offer ourselves to God and are molded more to the image of Christ (Romans 12:1–2). Part of this transformation is our participation in Jesus’ mission as outlined in Luke 4:18 as we carry the message of good news to the whole world. Following Jesus’ lead in ministry means sharing his focus and interest, and conforming to Jesus’ model of how we are to “be” in the world.
Four aspects of Christlikeness in ministry were suggested: incarnation, vulnerability, servanthood, and justice. Although these aspects apply to all forms of Christian ministry, my focus is on the need for churches (and individual Christians) to engage in ministry to and with individuals and families affected by disability – an important area of ministry too often overlooked in today’s churches. The first essay focused on incarnational ministry: entering the “world” of those we serve, living and walking alongside them as Christ did, and modeling Jesus’ love as we perform acts of kindness to others. Having an incarnational presence requires being open to ministering to and with individuals and families dealing with disability. But do these individuals and families see in us, or in the church, the embodiment of Jesus and the healing that his kingdom represents? Often, the answer to that question is that they do not.
Vulnerability, the second aspect of Christlikeness in ministry, follows directly from incarnation. Jesus willingly submitted to the vulnerability associated with human life by laying aside His right to experience the glory and majesty of the Godhead by becoming incarnate. Philippians 2:6–8 illustrate the extent of Jesus’ vulnerability: Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. (NLT).
The Gospel accounts attest to Jesus’ vulnerability: born into a poor family, to a mother whose reputation may have been questioned in the community because of becoming pregnant before marriage; subjected to excessive time and energy demands of the people to whom he ministered; misunderstood even by His closest associates; opposed by religious and political leaders of the Jewish and Roman authorities; subjected to physical torture from the Roman soldiers resulting in an ignominious death on a cross. Rather than being a sign of weakness, however, the vulnerability of Jesus was evidence of the strength of his love (John 3:16–17).
Jesus told His disciples that whatever the Father does, the Son also does (John 5:19). Accordingly Jesus, by becoming vulnerable, modeled His Father’s example: having created Adam and Eve with a free will, God made Himself vulnerable to being rejected, cursed, and even hated by humankind. But as with Jesus, God’s becoming vulnerable was done willingly, knowing beforehand how Adam and Eve would respond to the serpent’s temptation. The vulnerability of all humans can therefore be understood as part of our being created in the image of God. Following the free choice made by our first parents, the potential of human vulnerability became actual.
Culture and our desire for self-preservation generally lead us to deny or hide limitations or weaknesses. Antipathy toward weakness leads us to reject the Bible’s declaration that physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual brokenness is common to all people. Weakness, whether permanent, temporary, or intermittent in state, is part of the human experience. Regardless of how “powerful” or able-bodied we may appear, we all excel at some things and do other things less well, and we all are vulnerable to disease, disability, and death. We frequently move in and out of “vulnerability” in various situations and different stages of our lifetime. And, as we strive to live a Christlike life and speak God’s truth into the world, we are vulnerable to being misunderstood, questioned, rejected, or even martyred.
Weakness and vulnerability are not necessarily negative or without purpose. Rather, they encourage interdependence with others, as illustrated by Paul in comparing the human body with the church in 1 Corinthians 12. Vulnerability, being encoded into the human gene pool, is a means of bringing us into community with others (Browne, 1997). And weakness and vulnerability remind us of our dependence upon God, who values these characteristics because His power can be displayed through them. Paul asserted that “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 2:7), and related his own struggle with a disabling condition and his desire that God would remove his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7–10). Rather than removing the “thorn,” God declared that his power is made perfect or complete through Paul’s weakness. Giving Paul grace in his weakness enabled Paul to regard it as a gift from God to forestall boasting in his own strength or accomplishment. The Greek word Paul used to describe his weakness is astheneia, which can be translated as “infirmity”, leading Yong (2011) to wonder whether Paul had a disability. But Paul’s weakness or disability allowed God’s strength to be more fully displayed. In the same way, it is in our weakness, limitation, or vulnerability, that we most clearly experience God’s strength.
The contrast between human weakness and God’s strength runs throughout the Scriptures: Joseph, a young and presumptuous youth was raised by God to the position of prime minister of Egypt (Genesis 37, 39–50); Moses argued ineloquence and slowness of speech but served as God’s spokesman before Pharaoh (Exodus 4:10); Gideon regarded himself as the weakest of the weak, but God called him a “mighty warrior” (Judges 6:11–16); David, the youngest of Jesse’s children, was the one God used to defeat Goliath and to become king of Israel (1 Samuel 17:40–50); Mary, a young unwed maiden was God’s choice to be the mother of our Savior (Luke 1:26–38); and Jesus’s disciples were ordinary men but in God’s hands, “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
Though as created beings we are vulnerable, God is pleased to use that vulnerability — our weaknesses, limitations, disability — to accomplish much. Any “power” we have in ourselves comes to an end so that God alone receives honor by acting through us. He is a jealous God and will not share his glory with others (Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24). “The weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25), said Paul. Weakness, vulnerability, or even disability, our own or that of someone we know, bankrupts us and causes us to recognize our dependence upon God as our source of strength, joy, and purpose. It releases us to God, and to the realization that he is our sufficiency.
To be like Christ calls us to accept our vulnerability to being misunderstood, rejected, or challenged by others, and to acknowledge our reliance on God. Whatever is accomplished through our ministry is really God’s working through our weakness and vulnerability. In fact, God wants our weakness more than our strength, which can become an obstacle to ministry.
How does this apply to disability ministry? When the world sees someone who is disabled, it sees the weakness and vulnerability of the person and consciously or unconsciously devalues the person, perceiving only “need” and missing the potential “gift” of the individual. But when God looks upon someone who is disabled, He does not see someone of limited value or marginal possibility; He sees someone made in His image and through whom He can display His greatness. The gift and power of vulnerability is visible in persons with disabilities, a vulnerability which helps build relationships by reversing the notion of total personal independence (Browne, 1997).
Our becoming incarnate in the world to individuals and families who deal with disability requires breaking through attitudinal and theological barriers and identifying with them. By this, we personally enact God’s love as we leave our comfort zone in order to establish relationships with others. This calls us to be vulnerable and humble as we strive to show the characteristics of agape love.
Since all persons — disabled and able-bodied — are the image of God we must have transformed attitudes toward people, characterized by greater dignity and respect for all, and transformed behaviors, characterized by greater appreciation for the diversity of the people we encounter and coupled with authentic love and humble vulnerability. Vulnerability, said Browne (1997), is encoded into our gene pool. When viewed without fear or embarrassment but as a gift from a loving God, vulnerability brings us into community with Christ and with one another. Calvary assures us that even the weakest, most vulnerable persons are valued by God. Being Christ in a broken world calls us to recognize our vulnerability and acknowledge our dependence on God and on one another. Vulnerability is not our enemy. It moves us to rely on God’s strength, to place ourselves in the hands of the Master trusting that He is able to use us, even in our weakness and limitation, to bring glory to Himself and to accomplish a purpose greater than we can imagine.
To be continued in the next issue of ONE-to-ANOTHER.
Browne, E. J. (1997). The disabled disciple: Ministering in a church without barriers. Ligouri, MO: Ligouri Publications.
Lane, B. C. (1990). Grace and the grotesque. Christian Century. 107, 1067–1069.
Moltmann, J. (1998). Liberate yourselves by accepting one another. In N.L. Eiesland, & D. E. Saliers (Eds.), Human disability and the service of God: Reassessing religious practice (pp. 105–122). Nashville: Abingdon.
Yong, A. (2011). The Bible, disability, and the church: A new vision of the people of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Bradley Mattes, M.B.S. Adjunct Faculty; President and CEO of Life Issues Institute, Inc.
It sounds too bizarre to be true. Someone gets in close physical proximity to a successful billionaire, handsome movie star or brilliant Ivy League professor. Sluffed skin cells are clandestinely collected and coaxed into induced pluripotent stem cells in a laboratory culture dish. Then they’re transformed into functional sperm.
The sperm is combined with an egg, and a human embryo is conceived and implanted into a woman. The individual is then hit with a paternity suit for child support. A DNA test seals his fate.
Set aside your first inclination to dismiss this as the stuff of science fiction. It’s already real. At least in animals.
Researchers in Japan have successfully achieved in vitro gametogenesis (IVG) with mice and it’s expected that human triumphs will soon follow. Women could be at equal risk of IVG exploitation because the same technology can transform skin cells into eggs.
Emily Mullin, writing for MIT Technology Review, sounded the alarm that this seemingly brilliant development could have profound implications for society. Ms. Mullin’s concerns are backed up by a scientific editorial on the subject whose authors possess impressive credentials, including the dean of Harvard Medical School.
The claimed “benefits” of IVG would be to overcome the limited availability of human embryos for experimentation, plus the potential reproductive and regenerative therapies. But as society well knows, technology in the past has barreled forward at breakneck speed while ethical guidelines lag far behind, usually at the expense of the sanctity of human life.
The pitfalls of IVG are many.
While the example of “unauthorized” parenthood may be the most suited for TV drama, it’s not the only concern.
Advocates tout IVG would eliminate the need for retrieval of donor eggs that sometimes result in serious complications, including death. However, the unmistakable reality is that it would elevate “embryo farming” to a level never before imagined.
The creation of human embryos on such a massive, wide scale for the sole purpose of killing them for experimentation would justifiably generate unprecedented controversy. But thanks to the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, current law would make these embryos ineligible for federal funding.
Under the US Food and Drug Administration resultant sperm and eggs from IVG would be considered “cellular and gene therapy product.” Yes, human life would be relegated to something merely to be bought and sold. Continue Reading...
James J.S. Johnson, Th.D., J.D.
Chief Academic Officer, The Institute for Creation Research
How was the German battleship Tirpitz sunk, during World War II?(1) Also, how to explain fossils, in relation to the early history of the world? To know the certainty of historic facts, about non-repeating events, no longer observable to us (or anyone else), must we have an eye-witness report? In a word, yes.
After the fact, historic causes routinely leave behind physical effects, often with observable characteristics (such as fingerprints, tire tread impressions, blood spatter, DNA, etc.) that can provide reliable inferences about what had to have occurred, earlier, at a specific location.
What is the bread and butter of forensic science? Carefully examining physical effects in the present (perhaps with a magnifying glass, like Sherlock Holmes, or with more advanced technology), produced by physical causes of the past. However, for complete accuracy, there is nothing quite like a reliable eye-witness.
Eye-witness reliability relies upon honesty, opportunity to observe, accurate memory, and accuracy in reporting observations. These forensic evidence principles apply to the challenging tasks of reconstructing unique events of the past, because past events (unless recorded) can’t be seen in the present.
In a chapter titled “The Formidable Tirpitz Succumbs,” of her WWII history book SILENT PATRIOT, historian Astrid Karlsen Scott summarizes Tirpitz’s sinking, with emphasis on the role of Norwegian resistance fighters (i.e., spies and saboteurs). This history was reviewed by a Norwegian immigrant friend, Tromsø native Mimi Fossum, who served in the Norwegian resistance as a teen-aged spy during WWII. Concurring with the book’s overall accuracy, Mrs. Fossum recalled how the “ammunition storage” was bombed by British Lancasters [on Sunday, November 12, 1944] that “snuck thru a gap in the mountains,” after a prior attack by Lancasters had braved a “wall” of anti-aircraft fire, without a “good hit.”
Mrs. Fossum ended her handwritten memoir with: “I know. I was there.” Of course, some of what happened then (fall of 1944), to the Tirpitz and nearby, could be inferred from physical effects (e.g., Tallboy bomb craters on land) of the repeated bombings there.
However, as in all forensic investigations, there is nothing quite like a reliable eye-witness. But what about the mixture of oceanic/tidewater animals found in fossiliferous rock layers that also contain dinosaur remains? Why are land-based reptiles sometimes found buried in mud together with the likes of squid, shrimp, mussels, lobsters, scallops, oysters, clams, sturgeon, flounder, herring, and orange roughy fish?
Can we know what caused such physical effects, observable today in sedimentary rock layers? In a word, yes—but only if we rely on Genesis 6-9, the inerrant report given by the global Flood’s perfectly reliable eye-witness, God Himself. (See John 5:44-47 & 17:17; 2nd Peter 3:1-7; regarding the importance of eye-witness testimony, see Acts 1:3; 1st Corinthians chapter 15; 2nd Peter 1:16-21; 1st John 1:1-3.)
Today, a song I had not heard in a very long time was played on a Christian radio station. The song is We'll Soon Be Done With Troubles & Trials. One of the lines in the lyrics says, “I’m going to sit down with my Jesus and rest a little while.”
As I listened to the song I thought about that physical rest and how vital it is to our bodies. But what the rest the song speaks of is not physical rest. A fifteen minute period of rest or napping will refresh our bodies for a few hours, then we need recharged again.
The quality of the rest meant here is like that referred to in Genesis 47:29 where Jacob (Israel) knows his death is near. He calls his son, Joseph, to him with instructions for his burial, when he is resting with his fathers.
When Moses’ death was imminent God called him to Himself to instruct him concerning Joshua, who would don the mantle of leadership. God said to Moses, in Deuteronomy 31:16, “You are going to rest with your fathers." This rest indicates a reunion with those who have gone before and are resting in the presence of God.
Jacob’s and Moses’ rests are permanent rests; one which continually, eternally refresh, even to this day, and beyond.
When we compare our physical rest to the eternal rest we will enjoy as we sit down with Jesus and rest a little while, it is somewhat daunting to imagine the magnitude of that rest which is awaiting us when we lay down our trouble and trials, and finally sit down with Jesus and rest a little while. A little while will actually never end. That little while will last through eternity.
The author of the lyrics of the song, Cleavant Derricks, penned these words in the third verse:
I shall behold his blessed face,
I shall feel his matchless grace,
We'll soon be done with troubles and trials;
O what peace and joy sublime
In that home of love divine,
And I’m going to
Sit down beside my Jesus,
Lord, I'm gonna
Sit down and rest a little while.
James B. Solberg, M.Div., D.D.,
Adjunct Faculty; U.S.A. National Director, Bridges for Peace International
Christianity Declining in the West
Although Christianity remains the largest of the major world religions––with over 2.1 billion professed adherents––and the fastest growing in worldwide total adherents, the statistics for Europe and North America are depressing. Christianity in the West may be dying. Many once mighty cathedrals in Europe sit empty. According to Dr. Todd M. Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, “Whereas in 1900, over 80% of all Christians lived in Europe and Northern America, by 2005, this proportion had fallen to under 40% and will likely fall below 30% before 2050.” A recent USA Today article contains the following quote from George Weigel, a Catholic columnist and the U.S. biographer of Pope John Paul II: “Western Europe, the cradle of modern Christianity, has become a ‘post-Christian society’ in which the ruling class and cultural leaders are anti-religious or ‘Christophobic.’” According to the 2005 European Spiritual Estimate, only 4.2% of Europeans would identify themselves as “born again” or personally committed, faith-based Christians.
The situation in North America is somewhat better, but still depressing. According to Canada’s General Social Survey 2001 data, attendance at religious services has fallen dramatically across the country over the past 15 years. Nationally, only one-fifth (20%) of individuals aged 15 and over attended religious services on a weekly basis in 2001, compared with 28% in 1986. In 2001, 4 in 10 adults (43%) reported that they had not attended religious services during the 12 months prior to the survey, compared with only 26% in 1986.
Further, the American Religious Identification Survey by The Graduate Center of the City University of New York has this to say about the United States: “The proportion of the [American] population that can be classified as Christian has declined from 86% in 1990 to 77% in 2001. 76.5% (159 million) of Americans identify themselves as Christian.” This is a major slide from 86.2% in 1990. Identification with Christianity has suffered a loss of 9.7 percentage points in 11 years––about 0.9 percentage points per year. This decline is identical to that observed in Canada between 1981 and 2002. By about the year 2042, non-Christians will outnumber Christians in the United States.
So what is happening? The overall emphasis on “spirituality” has not declined in the West; in fact, it has arguably increased. Eastern religions, New Age Spirituality, Scientology, and Islam, to name only a few, are growing rapidly.
In part one of his wonderful book Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr. Viktor Frankl records his observations and reflections on survival during his imprisonment in Auschwitz and other concentration camps for five years. Dr. Frankl comes to the conclusion that a purpose beyond one’s current condition is necessary for personal survival. The purpose doesn’t need to be noble, spiritual, or altruistic, but it does need to provide focus for living that transcends immediate circumstance. I would suggest that the growth in overall spirituality, matched with the decline of “faith-based Christianity” in the West simply indicates that Dr. Frankl is correct; people are searching for meaning.
The decline in Christianity in the West must indicate that the Church is seen as having lost its relevance to modern reality. At the same time, Christianity is exploding in Africa and Asia. Is the message different? Or, are there certain underlying fundamental assumptions that the West has forgotten that remain valid in the East, and thus allow Christianity to remain valid? These lost societal assumptions and how to revive them in a postmodern society are the heart of this article.
To be continued...
The Devil's Deadly Ds
The front cover of Rev. W.S. Harris’ 1904 classic book Sermons by the Devil is decorated with a drawing of a devil-like man gesturing from behind a pulpit. Harris selected the image because he knew that with the exception of our Lord Jesus Christ, earth has known no more effective preacher than the Devil.
Most of us who attended Bible College or Seminary in the 60s and 70s were taught the art of the three-point sermon. A common technique is to use a memory aid (a mnemonic), such as three words that rhyme or start with the same letter. These kinds of three-point sermons are useful for keeping preachers on track, and helping listeners retain the main points of the message.
So, if the Devil is the prince and power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), then he must also be a prince among preachers, and employs well the power of the three-point sermon. In fact, one of his best three-point sermons is actually his three-point strategy for blunting the effectiveness of otherwise well-intentioned Christian leaders.
MY DEADLY Ds: A Three-Point Sermon
Designed to Help You Defeat Christian Leaders.
INTRODUCTION: My fellow rascals, if you are to be successful in blunting the good works of Christian leaders, you must be subtle in your approach. You are not dealing with babes. These are men and women who have gone on past the milk of the Bible, and have become known for their peculiar gifts and calling.
Therefore, I would like to preach to you on the subject of my highly effective three deadly d’s. The plan is a model of simplicity, and the one with which I have had the most success. I believe this success is rooted in the fact that I have taken it directly from the Bible. You will do well to listen carefully, and then go and do likewise – that is, fight fire with fire!
SUMMARY: Do you not see how easy and ordinary is this plan? All you need is three little ds! Deception distracts, and distraction delays. Delays distract, and distractions create fertile ground for deception. What a wonderfully vicious cycle! Oh, how I love it!
WARNING: By all means, do your dead level best to keep Christian leaders from digging deeply into the Bible through extended study and personal sacrifice. The ones who do are the types most likely to take seriously the verses before and after those in my three point sermon. They make a mess of things. We must do our best to keep them from serious study through deception, distraction, or delay. If deception and distraction seem to be failing, work hard on delay – that’s the BIG D I use the most, but by all means do your dead level dirty best to follow my three point sermon!
A ONE-POINT ANTIDOTE TO THIS SERMON BY THE DEVIL
“For the gifts and calling
of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).
a. When we know what God has called us to do, we can be sure that He will not change His mind. Therefore, no form of deception and no kind of distraction is an acceptable excuse if we have said yes, but we delay. Or, to state it in the words of the Apostle Paul, “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you” (Galatians 57, 8).
All Scripture is quoted from the New American Standard Version.