Weekly Roundup 9/24-9/29/2012

Posted by on Sep 30, 2012 in Resources

This is our weekly roundup of posts for 9/24-9/29/2012. If you have any feedback on how we can serve you our readers better, I would appreciate it.  Thank you for reading and allowing us to minister to you throughout this past week through these posts.

Monday 9/24- Book Reviewed Pastoring the Pastor Reviewed by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/24/book-review-pastoring-the-pastor/

Tuesday 9/25- Outreach: Does The Inerrancy of the bible matter evangelistically? a guest post by Dave Jenkins over at New Leaf Press http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/25/guest-post-over-at-new-leaf-press-outreach-does-the-inerrancy-of-the-bible-matter-evangelistically/

Wed 9/26-  The Decline of Christianity in Europe by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/26/the-decline-of-christianity-in-europe/

Thursday 9/27- The Growth of Christianity in Uganda by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/27/the-growth-of-christianity-in-uganda/

Friday 9/28- Subersive kingdom by Ed Stetzer Critiqued by Jared Moore http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/28/subversive-kingdom-by-ed-stetzer-book-critique/

Saturday 9/22- 5 Things Love Isn’t by Dan Darling http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/29/5-things-love-isnt/

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5 Things Love Isn’t

Posted by on Sep 29, 2012 in The Gospel and the Christian Life

Perhaps there is nothing the human heart craves more than true love. We are wired to love and be loved. The problem is that we don’t actually understand what love really is. We get all kinds of definitions from the culture and from our own feelings.

In fact, I think it’s helpful to think a little bit, not about what love is but what love isn’t. So here are five things love isn’t:

1) Love Isn’t Having Someone Fulfill All My Fanciful Dreams  

When we think about the love between a husband and wife, we often think of that “soulmate”, that person who just magically fits into all the areas I need and will make my life better. These expectations, which we carry into marriage, do more to derail relationships than anything else.But this is really humanistic thinking. It views the other person as a benefactor that must meet all of my needs. But God didn’t purpose marriage for my own fulfillment, but as an opportunity for me to a) display His glory b) grow in character and grace by adjusting, sacrificing, and loving another and c) fulfill the mandate by establishing another generation of godly offspring. And here’s a secret of marriage that I’m still figuring out after ten years: my dreams are petty compared to God’s dreams for me. When I hold them loosely and allow God to shape them (by giving me a spouse who bumps up against my desires), I discover a joy and fulfillment I would not have found on my own.

2) Love is Loving the Person I Expect Someone to Be 

This follows closely on the lie of expectations, that I only experience love when someone is everything I expect them to be. A wife gets married, not to a fallen sinner who needs grace, but to an idea of what she thinks this man might be to her. He’s the composite of all the princess movies, romance novels, and stored up dreams. But after the honeymoon is over, she meets another man, the sloppy guy who leaves his underwear on the floor, stays up too late playing video games, and sometimes buys boats without asking her. A husband gets married to a perfectly shaped beautiful goddess, whose every word is inspiring and motivates him to greater heights, who will satisfy his basic needs in every way. Then he gets home from the honeymoon and finds another woman in his home. This girl has occasional mood swings, yells at him for the smallest things like leaving his underwear on the floor, and she often burns the meatloaf. So then the husband and the wife have a choice. They can manipulate their mates into being what they need them to be, spark a lot of useless arguments and friction, and ultimately choose divorce. Or, they can confess their idolatry, realize their own brokeness, and recognize that love is about loving all the parts of those we are supposed to love, even the areas we really don’t like. It’s loving on those days when you don’t want to and loving the person you see before you, not the person who wish or hope they can be.

3) Love is always saying nice, but meaningless things, to each other. 

Love is action as we’ve said. Love is a committment. Which means sometimes we must speak the truth in love. This is not to be confused with tearing down, hurting, destroying someone’s soul for the sake of our own selfish gratification (see 1 and 2 above). This is the love that has the courage to tell someone when they are seriously going down a wrong path. The is the kind of love Jesus demonstrated with his disciples, when he repeatedly corrected their wrong ideas. We have this idea of love that it overlooks sin and that just sort of winks at poor life choices. Ahh, but love is not this way. If you truly love someone, especially someone you are married to your called to care for, you will gently, in the right timing, powered by the Spirit of God, communicate the loving truth. And you will receive correction as an act of love from another. In marriage this means you sometimes hear the hard, but true words of a spouse and take them as God’s loving act of discipline on your soul, shaping you into the character of Christ. I will tell you that this is never my first response to rebuke from Angela. But it should be. And often later the Spirit whispers to my soul, “You know, she’s right and if she didn’t love you, she wouldn’t have said what she said.” Then I have to go back to her and say, “I’m sorry. You’re right. Forgive me. I’ll work on that.” I have to say that after ten years, the person I credit with most of my spiritual growth is my wife. Marriage can and should be a discipleship relationship, provided both are committed to following Christ. As one of my favorite authors, Gary Thomas, says ,”God’s desire in marriage isn’t to make us happy, but to make us holy.”

4) Love Isn’t Conditional On Good Times

Bad times actually test your love, especially in marriage. They reveal our hidden idols. So, for instance, when money gets tight, this is usually a trigger for an epic argument. It’s easy to blame the other person. If she didn’t spend all that money on shoes, we’d be able to pay the electric bill. or If he had a better-paying job, we wouldn’t be in this mess. or If only he’d step up and do the budget, it wouldn’t be so hard on me. or, If she would just be happy with what we have. Or perhaps its trouble with a child. Again, we blame: If he’d get off the iPhone and pay attention, our kid wouldn’t act out so much. or If she’d just loosen up, maybe the kid would respond better. or, If he’d get home at a decent hour. or If she’d stop worrying so much about the house. 

You see what happens. Hard times bring all of our hidden anxieties and insecurities to the surface. The idolatry of financial security. To be financially secure is a good and worthy and biblical goal. But hard times come and threaten that. So if financial security is your idol, when it’s ripped away, you’ll kick and scream and do damage to your relationship. The idolatry of a well-adjusted family. Again, well-behaving kids in a safe, harmonious house is a good and worthy and biblical goal. But it’s a poor idol. And when this is ripped away for a season, if this is the altar at which we worship, we’ll kick, scream, and do damage to our relationships.

The point of all this is this: we think love would flourish if only our circumstances were better. If we had a bit more money, if the kids wouldn’t misbehave so much. But the truth is that real love, lasting, deep, abiding love grows during times of duress. But this only happens if you put Christ at your center and give up on the small, petty dreams and realize God is active in the midst of your hardship, to bring about His glory. Trials can be a catalyst for deeper marital love. They have for Angela and I. We wouldn’t want to repeat any of the terrible things we’ve faced, but we can both look back and say this cemented our love and commitment to each other.

 5) Love Isn’t Found Elsewhere

When you’re in a bad season of marriage, brought on by strife, difficulty, tragedy, it’s temping to think you’d be happier elsewhere. But real love is only found in renewing your commitment to each other in marriage. Love says, “I’m here for the duration. I’m committed. I’m going no where else.” Love is actually living out what we stood and said on our wedding day: “In sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, as long as we both shall live.” Love is not saying, “As long as he has a job. As long as we have a house. As long as she our kids our healthy. As long as she doesn’t get sick.”

And here’s the secret: when you are absolutely, 100% committed to each other, it makes it easier to work out your differences. Why? Because you’re forced to. You’ve got no other option. And so each of you must give, bend, sacrifice. You must commit to grow, change, and serve. Now, to be clear: your willpower and commitment to stay alone won’t give you a great marriage. You need gospel of Christ which initiates the cycle of confession, repentance, and forgiveness. But I would argue that the gospel is the very catalyst that keeps you committed, because you realize you are in marriage for way more than your own expectations and self-fulfillment.

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Subversive Kingdom by Ed Stetzer: Book Critique

Posted by on Sep 28, 2012 in Academic Work, Reviews

Subversive Kingdom by Ed Stetzer: Book Critique

Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation 

Review

SubversiveKingdom 2 Subversive Kingdom by Ed Stetzer: Book Critique

Summary

Chapter 1: “Rebelling Against the Rebellion”

Humans are in rebellion against God, against the New Jerusalem, but Christians are citizens of the New Jerusalem.  We must rebel against the rebellion through subverting their world by showing Christ’s love where they live.  Just as Christ subverted the Devil’s kingdom through serving, Christians must serve others to draw people to the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ into a genuine saving relationship with Him.

Chapter 2: “Secrets of the Kingdom”

Christ came preaching the Kingdom, identifying the Word of God as the Seed of the Kingdom.  The Word of God produces growth in us and through us as well.  Unfortunately, there are weeds that seek to squelch the growth of this seed, but God’s sovereignty will usher in His final and completed Kingdom, nevertheless.  Until He comes, we must subvert the communities God has placed us in with the gospel of Christ and acts of mercy.  The joy of Christ is found in this subversive activity.

Chapter 3: “Already, but Not Yet”

While living between the time of the King’s departure and arrival, Christians are considered subversive agents of the Kingdom.  We have three objectives: 1) We must share Jesus with a broken world. 2) We must alleviate the needs of our neighbors. 3) We must reach our communities, even to the ends of the Earth. As we wait for God’s inaugurated Kingdom to become God’s consummated Kingdom, we must renovate this Kingdom toward the likeness of the coming Kingdom.

Chapter 4: “Becoming Your Kingdom Self”

If we’re going to be useful agents of gospel change, there are three things we must strive to embrace: 1) Belong to Jesus. He possesses the talents, and gives them to us as stewards. 2) Be different. Use the talents you’ve been given with contentment instead of desiring the talents of others. 3) Be faithful.  God expects us to be faithful. The God who entrusts is also the God who expects. Furthermore, Kingdom agents of gospel change need to deploy with an awareness of three critical perspectives: 1) At one point, they were like the unbelievers to whom they’re ministering. 2) Unbelievers are self-aware of their own depravity. Christians, though depraved, have been reconciled to God; thus, they are living hope for the hopeless.  3) There are good reasons why unbelievers feel irreconcilable to God.  The truth of Christ, however, will set them free.  Kingdom agents must tell the truth in love.

Chapter 5: “Uncommonly Good”

Subversive Kingdom agents must compare themselves to Scripture and to Christ, not to the status quo of “good people” as defined by the world.  Furthermore, these kingdom agents must be as radical in their holiness as they are in their subversiveness.  Our holiness must be more than a persona; it must be our core, who we are when no one is watching.  It’s not something we do on our own—trying harder to be a good person.  Our holiness’ source and expression is found in the finished work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Through Him we can be uncommonly good, and point a lost and dying world to Him for salvation.

Chapter 6: “Rules of Engagement”

Another important step in constructing our Kingdom selves is relationships.  Jesus tells us to respond to mistreatment in a manner that is counter-cultural: 1) Turn the other cheek.  This doesn’t mean Christians should never defend themselves. Striking someone on the cheek was an insult in Jesus’ time. We need to learn to diffuse insults, to diffuse insulting situations, instead of escalating them.  2) Give what’s asked for . . . and more.  We must be willing to give more if it reconciles us to others.  3) Walk a little father.  We should be willing to place the needs of others above our own needs.  4) Show generosity.  Christ cared for the poor, so we should care for the poor as well.  Furthermore, Christ loves His enemies and commands us to do the same.

Chapter 7: “Idol Elimination”

We either worship God or some other form of ourselves. If Christians are to be subversive agents of the Kingdom, then our idols must be destroyed.  We can neither tolerate our own idols nor the idols of others.  Whether these idols are sinful in and of themselves or we’re worshiping the blessings of God in place of Him, the result is the same: embracing the rebellion instead of rebelling against the rebellion.  In order to choke out the idols, the answer is to fill our hearts with Jesus.  As we yield ourselves wholeheartedly to God in worship, our idols will fall away. The overflowing result will be the subversion of the various idols present in our communities as we unite with other Christians as an army of the Kingdom.

Chapter 8: “The King’s Mission”

The church must be on mission for God’s glory.  The goal of Christianity is God’s glory.  The local church is God’s plan to see that the nations glorify God as well.  We display God’s glory to the nations through subversion.  God’s plan for overthrowing the Devil’s kingdom is for the church to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in both word and deed.

Chapter 9: “A Sign of Things to Come”

The church’s Kingdom subversion is not merely meant to be encompassed in an occasional gospel presentation and local church ministries. Gospel subversion is a way of life, a 24/7 endeavor.  As the world observes God’s Kingdom being displayed in the local church, they see a preview of God’s coming Kingdom. This is extremely attractive!  The danger, however, in being attractive is portraying that churches are peddlers of Christian goods and services: good music, funny preaching, children’s programs, etc.  On the contrary, the local church is a cell of subversion and transformation.  We’re not just a light in the darkness or a candle in the wind, we’re blinding lights in the deepest darkness.  Through how we live, we display to a watching world concerning our citizenship of the New Jerusalem.

Chapter 10: “Instrumentality”

God wants His people to be instruments of subversion in His hand.  We are not just like a body, we are the body of Christ, united in a kingdom adventure.  This adventure is one of disciple-making, since as disciples go out to subvert their communities, they will transform them through further disciple-making.  Changes may not occur overnight, and fruit may be scarce, but we can labor with absolute certainty that Christ is working wisely and skillfully to make all things right in the end, according to His good pleasure.  “He calls.  We go.  We declare Him.  We display Him.”

Epilogue

Jesus is Lord, and this changes everything.  Christian must live for this Lord: 1) We must live in rebellion against the rebellion.  The world is in rebellion against God, and we’re in rebellion against the world.  2) We must deconstruct our false view of the kingdom.  The Kingdom is more than sitting in a church pew week after week. No more! We must stand and subversively fight.  3) We live as agents and ambassadors of God’s kingdom in small, subversive ways.  The point is that we’re involved in subversion, and this begins with the opportunities present in our daily lives, among our neighbors, co-workers, etc.  4) We show and share the love of Christ.  These are not two-sides of the same coin, but parts of one mission.  5) We live our lives in a manner directed by (and empowered by) our King.  Our ethics are other than the world’s, and must be lived out.  6) We wait for this lost, broken world to be completely fixed and reconciled to God.  Even through our best efforts, the Kingdom will not be restored until Christ returns. We subvert, waiting in hope for Christ’s return.

Positives

Subversive Kingdom is convicting, in that it points hearers to a genuine Christianity that is all-encompassing.  In many ways, evangelical Christianity has two-extremes: we are the church gathered or we are the church scattered.  Stetzer says “Yes” to both!  He tries to mediate these two extremes by suggesting we are to be subversive Kingdom agents twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week.  We must seek to subvert the Devil’s kingdom in whatever area of culture we exist, even unto the ends of the Earth. This subversion takes place through the sharing of the gospel and through showing others how we’ve been changed by the gospel.  In other words, Christians rebel against this world’s rebellion against God by living like Jesus lived, and taking His name to the ends of the earth.

Negatives

Some of the illustrations used would have served the author’s specific point(s) better, had they been a one-to-one illustration.  For example, after previously arguing the Sermon on the Mount doesn’t prevent Christians from protecting themselves or others, Stetzer uses an illustration of a local church who did not seek the prosecution or arrest of a thief as an example of obedience to Christ’s command, “If anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well” (124-127; Matt. 5:40).  Granted, this illustration may be an optional example of obedience to this command, but this doesn’t mean if this church chose justice they would have been disobedient to this command. The government exists for administering justice in the “not yet” according to Romans 13:1-7.  Also, the thief wasn’t this church’s only neighbor. What about past victims or other potential victims?

Furthermore, I was admittedly uncomfortable the first half of the book due to Stetzer placing sharing the gospel and acts of mercy virtually side-by-side concerning importance.  Granted, Stetzer does say God’s Kingdom is a spiritual one (pg.35), but he makes statements about Jesus serving others as if His service was side-by-side or equal to His identification as God the Son, the Messiah, the Savior of sinners.  There were times when Jesus didn’t help the poor, sick, hurting, etc. For example, at the pool of Bethesda, out of a multitude of hurting people, Jesus only helped one, even though He had the power and ability to help all of them (John 5:1-12).  He must have had a concern that was greater than helping the poor.  I’m also reminded of the time Jesus told the disciples they always have the poor with them, but they don’t always have Him (John 12:8).  This was said in response to one of them questioning Mary’s act of love in pouring expensive perfume on His feet. Jesus’ work and identification as God the Son, the Messiah, was more important than feeding the poor. The church must follow suit.  Our identification of Jesus as God the Son, the only Answer for the Sin problem, is more important than feeding the poor.  The best case for this argument is in how the disciples interpreted Jesus’ life example in the rest of Scripture.  They didn’t always show acts of kindness and acts of mercy as they preached the gospel, but they always preached the gospel.  The two don’t always go hand in hand. 

To Stetzer’s credit, he rejects the social gospel and identifies the church’s primary responsibility near the end of the book by arguing, “the kingdom of God will not arise from the social advances of efforts such as these.  Jesus will finalize His kingdom whenever he deems the time eternally appropriate, and our chief job in this hour as instruments of his grace is to see that people are saved and disciples are made” (215).  However, on pages 57-58 Stetzer argues that alleviating the needs of others is almost inseparable from sharing the gospel. I think he places sharing the gospel and meeting people’s physical needs too close together.  If Christ’s Kingdom is primarily a spiritual one, then the primary task of the church is a spiritual one as well: sharing the message of the gospel. We cannot “display the gospel” to others, although we can display the transforming results of the gospel. Yes, Displaying the results of the gospel is important, but it is secondary.  The gospel is primarily a message, not a way of life.  I think the two should be separated and distinguished more than Stetzer has in this work.

Conclusion

Finally, I gladly recommend this book to all readers.  Go buy it now!  Stetzer is correct; we evangelical Christians have grown too accustomed to our churchly comforts.  We must go outside the walls of our local churches, taking the name of Jesus with us as we go, in both Word of deed, albeit with the Word being primary!  Are you ready to be a subversive soldier of the Kingdom?  If you’re a Christian, you’re already enlisted!  The question is if you’re an obedient solder or a disobedient one.  This book will encourage you to bleed and suffer for the sake of your neighbor (the world), just as Christ suffered and bled for His.  As we live lives that have been transformed by the gospel, and we share this transforming gospel with others, Christ will subvert through saving the lost!

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The Growth of Christianity in Uganda

Posted by on Sep 27, 2012 in Academic Work, Church History

Biblical Christianity is a living organism that breathes life into the areas where it’s effects are felt. When Biblical Christianity is taught souls are converted, sin is exposed and people who were held in bondage to darkness are brought into the light of God’s presence. When this occurs Churches are birthed and communities are changed as the Word of God is proclaimed and entire societies once bound by sin are changed by God’s grace. While many Western commentators have declared that Christianity is in decline and that it must modernize its beliefs or risk being abandoned by its followers or, even worse, becoming irrelevant altogether; Professor [Philip] Jenkins contends that just the opposite is true: Christianity is on the rise again and leading to a very different religion that barely resembles the Western perception of it. It is a variation of Christianity that most Westerners are not accustomed to seeing.[1]

It was European expansion and conquest in modern times that brought Christianity back to most of the continent of Africa, beginning with the explorers of the 15th century who sailed down the western coast in an attempt to reach the Orient. Today African Christianity coexists to varying degrees with Islam.[2] The first Christian missionaries came from the Anglican Church Missionary Society and arrived in Buganda in 1877. Roman Catholic priests from the Society of Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers), a French religious order, arrived two years later. Catholic and Protestant missions competed for converts in southern Uganda and became embroiled in local politics. Christianity grew quickly in Uganda in the nineteenth century by both Protestant and Catholic missionaries. This was due in large part because the missionaries used the native culture to raise up indigenous leaders to lead the churches.

Nearly 200 years after the first wave of missionaries arrived in Africa, Christianity is growing faster here than anywhere else in the world. There are more than 390 million Christians in sub- Saharan Africa today, up from 117 million in 1970, a trend due mostly to evangelism, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity in South Hamilton, Mass. There’s a lot in Africans’ circumstances that makes Christianity really resonate with them,” said Jonathan Bonk, the editor of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research in New Haven, Conn. “It’s a faith of hope for poor people.”[3]

“Christianity is at its lowest ebb in Germany,” says Fritz Stenger, who teaches at the Catholic University of East Africa in Nairobi. “In Africa it is on the march.” Stenger has lived on the continent for 30 years. He has already resided in Ethiopia and Zambia, and has lived in Kenya for three years now. And in each country he has made the same discovery: “The incidence of faith increases in direct proportion to the level of poverty. The permanent threat of war, sickness, criminality and political corruption means that the people seek consolation in the church. “No one goes to a political party meeting, but the churches are packed,” says Stenger.[4]

Today, Africans, Asians and Latin Americans are more typical representatives of Christianity than Americans or Europeans. What might it mean for the future of Christianity that its center of gravity continues to move south and east? Three key factors bear watching: (1) whether Southern Christians will challenge Northern Christianity’s 1,000-year dominance in theology and ecclesiology by producing their own reflections and practices, hearkening back to the earliest Christian centuries when they were in the majority; (2) whether the dominant languages of Christianity will continue to shift south (already by 1980, Spanish was the leading language of church membership in the world, and Chinese, Hindi, and Swahili are increasingly important languages of Christianity); and (3) whether the closer geographic proximity between Christians and Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists will on balance result in greater conflict or dialogue. With all three factors, the central question remains: “How well will the new global Christianity navigate its increasingly diverse composition and southern majority?”[5]

Professor Jenkins notes that the character of Global South Christianity is much more “conservative” than its Western counterparts in terms of belief in the supernatural and in the authority of the Bible. At the same time, the Church is more “radical” in being a Spirit movement and a people-movement more than an institutional. I agree with Philip Jenkins that social and religious trends in the Global South are more encouraging than many Christians in the West might have thought. But I would warn against any sense of inevitability about the Next Christendom. There is a battle being fought out here, and we need the prayers, the interest and the support of brothers and sisters in the stable and affluent North. In particular, I am pleased to announce the formation of the Global South Institute for Mission, Leadership and Public Policy at Uganda Christian University, which will be officially launched in mid-2003. It is our hope that this Institute will provide a venue for Christian leaders of Church and society to meet, consult and prepare for their role in the development of the African continent. In particular, the Global South Institute will feature an Anglican Identity and Mission track, which will assist Anglicans from Africa to plot their own course in the new millennium.[6]

Ugandan evangelicals have forged close ties with the powerful evangelical movement in the United States. Backed by American contributions, Ugandan churches play a growing humanitarian role, building schools, health clinics and orphanages, including in the impoverished northern half of the country, which has been wracked by civil war for the past two decades. In the 1990s, Uganda had one of the world’s highest rates of HIV infection, about 15 percent. Churches, backed by the government, launched an innovative program to educate Ugandans about the disease. By 2002 the HIV rate was down to 6 percent.  Evangelicals helped shape Uganda’s controversial, U.S.-backed anti-AIDS strategy, which emphasizes abstinence over condom use. As a result, Uganda is one of the biggest recipients of money under President Bush’s global AIDS-relief program — $239 million in the past two years — which earmarks money for abstinence programs. There’s a definite sense that the movement has grown in Uganda,” said Martin Ssempa, the 38-year-old pastor of Makerere Community Church, on the campus of Makerere University.  Now, thanks largely to Ssempa’s 8-year-old church, Uganda’s leading university has become a hotbed of Christianity, with more than 50 established prayer groups. My direction is to raise leaders for Christianity,” Ssempa said, “and the best leaders are found on college campuses. The aggressive push by evangelists such as Ssempa to recruit believers doesn’t sit well with leaders of the country’s other major religions — chiefly Islam, which claimed 12 percent of the population in a 2002 census.[7]

Christianity in Uganda is growing not only in numbers but in influence throughout Africa and the world. The characteristic of Ugandan Christianity are a high view of Scripture, Jesus and an emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. In the Book of Acts the early Christians were driven by a model of ministry which emphasized the Word and the Spirit. For example in Acts 2 Peter preached and three thousand people were saved. It was not Peter who saved those people but the Holy Spirit used Peter’s preaching to prick the heart of his hearers, and lead them to repentance. It is such preaching that God uses even in this day and age. When the Word of God is honored with integrity God will use the preacher to bring revival to any nation of people.

When the Word of God is preached with clarity and boldness then it will pierce the dark cloud of man’s sin which results in revival both individually and corporately. Anyone who has served as a missionary can appreciate the efforts by local and international ministries to reach out to fellow brothers and sisters in foreign lands. The Lord is at work in Uganda raising up leaders for the fame of Jesus and for the usefulness of His kingdom. The Body of Christ should pray for the Churches in Uganda that they will continue to ground themselves in the Word of God and the mission of Jesus. The American Church has not learned the lesson of falling away from its first love, unlike the in Ugandan counterparts which have not had to learn the lesson of moral failures and corruption that churches in America have today. Christianity is growing in Uganda because the Churches there keep to the first love and are proactively on the mission of Jesus.

Bibliography

Hill, Jonathan, History of Christian Thought. Downer Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006.

Johnson, Todd M, “Christianity in Global Context: Trends and Statistics, 23 October 2008, accessed 1 December 2008. http://pewforum.org/events/051805/global-christianity.pdf.

Jenkins, Phillip & Myers, Joanne J. “The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, 17 April 2002, accessed 1 Decemmber 2008. http://www.cceia.org/resources/transcripts/136.html

Noll, Stephen. “Global South Christendom: Is it Inevitable?, 23 October 2008, accessed 1 December 2008. http://pewforum.org/events/051805/global-christianity.pdf.

Shashank Bengali Knight Ridder Newspapers “Uganda is leading Africa’s boom in Christianity“. Deseret News (Salt Lake City). . FindArticles.com. 11 Dec. 2008. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20060326/ai_n16174855

Thielke, Thilo. “The Growing Continent of Christians: Part 2: Part Two: Will Pentecostals win out in Africa?, 4 April 2005, accessed 1 December 2008. http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,351292-2,00.html


[1]Phillip Jenkins & Joanne J. Myers. “The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, 17 April 2002, accessed 1 December 2008. http://www.cceia.org/resources/transcripts/136.html

[2] Jonathan Hill, History of Christian Thought. Downer Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006, 324-325.

[3] Shashank Bengali Knight Ridder Newspapers “Uganda is leading Africa’s boom in Christianity“. Deseret News (Salt Lake City). . FindArticles.com. 11 Dec. 2008. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20060326/ai_n16174855

[4] Thilo Thielke. “The Growing Continent of Christians: Part 2: Part Two: Will Pentecostals win out in Africa?, 4 April 2005, accessed 1 December 2008. http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,351292-2,00.html

[5] Todd M Johnson. “Christianity in Global Context: Trends and Statistics”, 23 October 2008, accessed 1 December 2008. http://pewforum.org/events/051805/global-christianity.pdf.

[6] Stephen Noll. “Global South Christendom: Is it Inevitable?, 23 October 2008, accessed 1 December 2008. http://pewforum.org/events/051805/global-christianity.pdf.

[7] Shashank Bengali Knight Ridder Newspapers “Uganda is leading Africa’s boom in Christianity“. Deseret News (Salt Lake City). . FindArticles.com. 11 Dec. 2008. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20060326/ai_n16174855

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The Decline of Christianity in Europe

Posted by on Sep 26, 2012 in Academic Work, Church History

The twentieth century was a time of great flux and anxiety in Europe as the supremacy of Christianity in Europe was being challenged by the fronts of biblical criticism, and evolution. When people raise the question of the decline of Christianity among nations or a people group one question that normally arises is, “How is this occurring?” The number one reason this occurs is the local church devalues the role of the Bible. This leads to an unhealthy church that doesn’t reach its surrounding area with the Gospel. Understanding, “What is Truth?” is of great importance for by understanding Truth as coming from God’s Word lays the foundation for understanding justice, morality, ethics, and religion.

Dr. Harold J. Berman, professor of law at Harvard University wrote The Interaction of Law and Religion in which he discusses how Western culture has had a massive loss of confidence in law and religion. This has caused a double loss of confidence and a radical separation between the two. Berman concludes that you cannot have workable rules for behavior without religion, because only religion provides an absolute base on which morality and law can be based. He fears that western society is doomed to relativism in law because of the loss of an absolute.
How can moral principles be grounded and social organizations legitimized in the absence of a religiously based culture? Cultures that break away from the idea of an authoritative religion, and even from the concept of God break away from the possibility of absolute truth. The result is that the only remaining resources are existential relativism a slippery, unstable, and every-changing base on which no authoritative system of law or morals can be built. Religonless law can never command authority.

Rationalism of the Enlightenment and idealistic philosophy of the Romanitc era were thus the parents of a criticism that tries to destroy the supernatural nature of the Bible as a revelation that makes the Bible the record of subjective evolution of religion in human consciousness. Higher or historical and literary, criticism has come to be associated with the destructive views of liberalism and is the careful study of the historical background of each book of the Bible; and lower, or textual criticism is the study of the text of the Bible in an attempt to ascertain whether the text that we have is one that came from the hands of the writers. Lower criticism has result in the granting to the text of the Bible a high degree of accuracy so that we can be sure that we have the writings of the original authors of the Bible. Thus no doctrine or ethical teaching of Scripture can be called into question by the most radical criticism. It has been radical higher criticism rather than lower criticism that has destroyed the faith of many persons in the divine revelation in the Bible.

Higher criticism was popularized by Jean Astruct who divided the book of Genesis into two parts. Johann G Eichorn laid down the dictum that the Bible was to be read as a human book and tested by human means. Karl Graf and Julius Wellhausen developed an elaborate system known as the Graf-Wellhausen theory which stated that sections in which the name Jehovah is used constitute the early document, another part by another author is known as E, still another in Deuteronomy as D, and P. In this fashion the unity of the Pentateuch and its Mosaic authorship are denied. Hermann S Reismarus denied the possibility of biblical miracles and advanced that the New Testament writers were frauds. Gotthold Lessing argued that the Scriptures served man as a guide during the primitive phase of his religious development but that reason and duty were sufficient guides in more advanced state of religion. Ferdinand Baur argued that the early church had emphasized the law and Messiah. In the twentieth century men like David Strauss denied both the miracles and integrity of the New Testament as well as the deity of Christ, whom he saw as a man who thought He was the Messiah.

Charles Darwin wrote Origin of Species in 1859. What was new about his theory was his powerful and persuasive explanation of how the process of evolution works the theory of “natural selection.” He pointed out that creatures are similar to their parents but not identical; there is apparently random minor variations in each generation. And he argued that those individuals that happen to be well suited to their environment will survive, prosper and give birth to new individuals sharing their characteristics, while those less suited will die out. So any new characteristic with which an individual is born is likely to be passed on if it is useful. In this way species evolve and develop in a process that is not random, or determined by God, but follows natural laws. At another level, the theory of evolution contradicted fundamental Christian notions about humanity and sin. In 1871 he expanded on his ideas in the Descent of Man, in which he argued that human beings evolved naturally from lower creatures. So not only does life itself follow natural laws but the human mind and soul are not some supernatural element breathed into the body by God. They evolved from nothing. Even more fundamentally, however, Darwin’s theories left a shrinking place for God. In the Enlightenment scientists had described a world that functioned according to laws laid down by God: God had set everything up and then left it to its own devices. This was deism. But now it seemed that the world in its present state was not directly created by God.

The theory of evolution denied the direct creation of man by God and the greatest damage came from the application of that theory to the development of religion. God and the Bible were looked upon as the evolutionary products of man’s religious consciousness, and the books of the Bible were dated accordingly. The biblical eschatology in which perfection would come into this world only by the direct intervention of God through the return of Christ, was replaced by the evolutionary view of a world that was being increasingly improved on by human effort. Because man was not guilty through original sin there was no need of Christ as Savior. Evolution was also used to justify the idea of race superiority because the idea seemed to fit in with Darwin’s concept of the survival of the fittest. It has also been used to justify having no absolute foundation or norm for ethics. Good conduct is merely those actions deemed suitable by each generation for the proper conduct of society. The doctrine of evolution has also been used to glorify war as the survival of the fittest. All these conclusions have been reached by the application of a biological theory to other fields through an unwarranted use of the argument from analogy.

Germany during Hitler’s reign illustrates the lengths to which people will go when they deny God’s revelation in the Bible, and when they replace revelation with reason and science as the authority for thought and action.

In Europe the Roman Catholic Church emerged from World War I with an enhanced prestige and vigor that carried it through the troubled period when much of mankind was despairingly hoping that there would be an introduction to permanent peace but which proved to be a prelude to an even more gigantic war. During and after World War I Benedict XV again and again addressed the world calling to its attention principles for establishing peace and urging the belligerents to compose their differences. He used the facilities of his church to alleviate the sufferings from the war through negotiating the exchange of prisoners and civilians in occupied countries, aiding the sick, furthering the repatriation of prisoners of war and the correspondence of prisoners with their families, and promoting the relief of devastated areas.

The upheavals of the first half of the twentieth century were felt most strongly in Europe. That continent had been the cradle of much of the optimistic philosophy and theology of the nineteenth century. It had dreamt that under its leadership humankind would see a new day. It had convinced itself that its colonial ventures were a vast altruistic enterprise for the good of the world. European Protestantism had been far more involved in this illusion than its Catholic counterpart, for Catholicism during the nineteenth century had reacted to this modern world with wholesale condemnation, while Protestant liberalism had practically capitulated before the new age. Therefore when the two world wars and the events surrounding them gave the lie to the dreams of the nineteenth century, Protestant liberalism was shaken to its very foundation. During the nineteenth century, partially as a result of the failure of Catholicism to respond creatively to the challenges of the modern world, skepticism and secularism had become common in France. In the twentieth century, partially as a result of the failure of Liberalism and its optimistic hopes, those areas where Protestantism had been traditionally strong-Germany, Scandinavia, and Great Britain also witnessed a decided increase in skepticism and secularism. By the middle of the century, it was clear that northern Europe was no longer a stronghold of Protestantism and that other areas of the world had taken the position of leadership in Protestantism that had once belonged to it.

Protestantism was sorely lacking in a theology that could help it understand the events of the times, and respond to them. Liberalism with its optimistic view of human nature and capabilities had no word for the situation. During the previous century, German liberal scholarship had depicted Luther as both the forerunner of liberalism and the embodiment of the German soul. Now other scholars, first in Scandinavia and also in Germany, took a second look at Luther’s theology, and discovered there was much that was not in agreement with the interpretations of the previous century.

Bill Bennett, director of communications for Greater Europe Mission commented in the Christian Post that, “The church to Europeans is seen as an economic and political power representing the religion of the rich world. Europeans have a more formal, ritualistic view of Christianity partially because in its history, a person’s landlord decided whether he would be Catholic or Protestant rather than any personal conviction.”

By understanding the primary objective of missions we can begin to prescribe the change that is necessary to the missionary enterprise in Europe. Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory. Missions begins and ends in worship. Breaking the code requires a belief that there is a code to be broken. Breaking the code means that we have to recognize that there are cultural barriers (in addition to spiritual ones) that blind people from understanding the gospel. Our task is to find the right way to break through those cultural barriers while addressing the spiritual and theological ones a well.

The issue of contextualization focuses on the methods used to reach people for the Gospel while remaining faithful to the Word of God. Before the Apostle Paul began preaching to the Athenians in Acts 17 he went around looking for a starting point from which to preach the Gospel to them. What he found was they were worshipping an unknown god.

When going into a culture to minister to people understanding the values and beliefs of the culture in order to effectively communicate the Gospel to them is vital. This highlights the fact that all people need the message spoken in a way they understand while staying faithful to the text of Scripture. The only way for a culture to be reached is to raise up church leaders who are grounded in the Scriptures but who will love the culture by understanding its values but lovingly confront the culture with the Word of God. By doing this missions will be focused on challenging the cultural values of the people while being faithful to the Word of God. In this way the European people can be faithfully reached for the Gospel and become worshipers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bibliography

Gonzalez, Justo L, The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to the Present Day, no. 2 (New York: HarperCollins, 1985).

Hill, Jonathan, History of Christian Thought. Downer Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006.

LaTourette, Kenneth Scott, A History of Christianity Reformation to Present, no. 2 (Peabody: Prince Press, 2000).

Piper, John, Let The Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 17.

Stetzer, Ed & Putman, David, Breaking the missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006), 4.

Vu, Michelle. “U.S. Christians Ignorant of Europe’s Spiritual State”, 8 April 2007, accessed 22 November 2008. http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070408/u-s-christians-ignorant-of-europe-s-spiritual-state-says-mission-group-spokesman.htm

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