Did you know that since the horrific school shootings at Newtown in the USA in December last year, more than 4000 people have died from gunshots in the US? Let’s try to put this statistic into context.
A few weeks back, influential New York minister Tim Keller spoke at a forum run by the US Ethics and Public Policy Centre, during which he made some comments on the issue of gay marriage. What he said attracted a lot of discussion, but was apparently misunderstood by some, and he subsequently issued an explanation.
His comments merit further thought.
I recently wrote about how academics in christian universities and colleges in the USA are finding their professional conclusions coming into conflict with the faith statements of their colleges. But this is an issue that to some degree affects all christians.
How should we respond when secular learning seems to contradict traditional christian belief?
It seems inevitable that there will be a tension for christians between academic knowledge and faith. But sometimes the tension becomes very personal in its impacts, and feelings are high on both sides. These issues have come to a head a number of times in recent years at universities and colleges in the USA.
It is a circular argument, but it has been made often, from David Hume down to present day sceptics. There is no believable evidence for genuine miraculous healings, they say. But what about all the stories of people being healed? We know they can’t be true, they say, because no-one has ever shown scientifically that healing can occur.
So New Testament scholar Craig Keener decided to break the circle.
There are a number of things about our world, and about the christian faith, that seem hard to explain if God is loving – for example, the pain and suffering people experience, hell, the commands in the Old Testament to kill and even wipe out whole tribes and God’s disapproval of homosexuality.
What should christians say about these things?
But this is only one side of the story. At the same time, a significant number of people from a non-religious background are choosing to believe. I have taken an interest in finding some of their stories.
Christians have probably argued more about the Bible, and how to interpret it, than almost anything else. Many churches say they believe the “Bible alone”, echoing the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura. Yet I believe there is always a gap between the claim and the actual belief.
I am a christian who believes the Bible reveals God to us, but I want to try to show you that everyone disbelieves some parts of the Bible.
And I want to show you why this matters.
Many people have commented these past few weeks on gun ownership in the US. As an Australian, I hesitate to enter into the debate, so I won’t discuss either of the key questions – whether a high level of gun ownership reduces or increases gun deaths, and whether the laws in the US should be changed.
But I think there are other questions that christians, at least, should ponder.
I saw this story a while back but only got around to posting about it now – a study has shown how abortion rates can apparently be more than halved.
Completing my examination of things we can all learn from the Anabaptists, with the core conviction on peace and non-violence.
Another core Anabaptist conviction to challenge us all.
Jesus told a very striking story. You probably know it. A man owed a large amount of money but couldn’t pay, so he asked his banker for extra time to make the repayment. And he was given time. But then he called in a small debt he was owed, and refused the poor man’s entreaties for extra time.
When the banker heard about what had happened, he was angry that the grace he had extended was not passed on.
Jesus drew the devastating conclusion: we who have received great grace from God will be judged by whether we pass that grace on to others.
But are we listening?
If you were an aspiring christian missionary, would you take your wife and three young children deep into the jungles of West Papua to a headhunting, cannibalistic tribe who valued treachery as a virtue? Nope, I don’t think I’d have the guts either.
But Don Richardson did. And God blessed his sacrificial ministry.
Or, to be more accurate, I soon will be.
It is a phenomenon reported by pollster George Barna, observed by many of us and experienced by some – feeling dissatisfied with church. Not just complaining that something isn’t perfectly the way we like it, or disliking the people, but feeling deeply alienated from the church system and knowing deep down that Jesus never meant it to be like this.
The question is, what to do about it? Tell yourself everyone else can’t be wrong so it must be you, and just grin and bear it? Quit church altogether? Join another church (often only to find it’s different, but still the same)? Give all your energies to making change? Or start a new church?
So Obama has won, more convincingly than many expected. Many christians will be worried by this, yet there seems to be a number of christians taking a different line.
Another emphasis and core conviction of the Anabaptists that I believe we can all learn from ….
I’ve just come back from a weekend away at the Black Stump christian music and arts festival near Sydney. It’s the 14th time we’ve been, and as usual, we return tired but satisfied. I won’t bore you with too many details, but one or two interesting thoughts are worth reporting.
Christians disagree, and sometimes argue, about many things. Current hot topics include: homosexuality, divorce, hell, evolution and Genesis, the place of women in the church, Biblical inerrancy, war, climate change, and the importance of ‘good works’ like social justice and social welfare.
Some christians get very worried about the failure of many of their fellow believers to keep to the traditional positions on these, and other matters, and the discussion can get quite heated.
But I think change may be upon us sooner than we think, whether we like it or not.