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What I Read Online – 02/12/2013 (a.m.)

12 Feb
    • In 2006 Joseph “Skip” Ryan resigned from the pastorate of Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas. It was then revealed that he was an opiate addict, in bondage to prescription pain medicines. His marriage was also falling apart as he and his wife became little more than roommates.

       

      You can watch below their painful but hopeful story of forgiveness and humbling and repentance and restoration:

    • From the Christian point of view, the true center of world history is not money or political power but Jesus Christ, and the totalizing narrative of world history is the glory of God through the salvation of his people.
    • Among the most striking examples of how Christianity is sweeping across the global South and East, tens of millions of Chinese citizens now profess faith in Jesus Christ. The staggering growth rate of Christianity in China over the last three decades has stretched Western imaginations (9). Yet the impression sometimes cast in reports on this growth – that Christianity is new to the Chinese scene – is not true.
    • Rome, he argued, could accommodate traditional ceremonies like ancestor veneration and offerings to the emperor and Confucius as mere social or civil practices and not actual pagan rites or idolatry. This stance, however, resulted in a syncretistic version of Roman Catholicism that scandalized Dominicans, and later Franciscans, who eventually saw to it that some of Ricci’s compromises condemned by Pope Clement XI (11).
    • Protestantism is commonly called Jidujiao which means the religion (jiao) of Christ (Jidu) or simply Christianity; Roman Catholicism, however, is called Tianzhujiao, which means the religion of the Lord of Heaven (Tianzhu).
    • Morrison was a studious man. Steeped in Scottish Presbyterianism he trained diligently, as best he could while still in England for his life’s work as a pioneering missionary. Raised in a working class family, Morrison was neither as highly educated, nor as accomplished as were John of Montecorvino or Matteo Ricci when they set out for China. Nevertheless, ordained as a Presbyterian minister in a London congregation of the Church of Scotland just before departing, Morrison more than rose to the occasion. In the twenty-seven year span of his ministry – the rest of his life spent mostly in the vicinity of Guangzhou and Macauohe – he translated and published the Bible in Chinese, wrote a catechism, produced a Chinese grammar and massive Chinese-English dictionary, started a newspaper, helped found a college, served as the official translator for the British government and the otherwise anti-missionary British East India Company, and along the way “became a major, if not the foremost, Sinologist of his day, and the leading interpreter of China to Western nations.” (14) And yet he only knew of ten Chinese converts to Christianity through his labors. Still, he laid the foundation upon which other successful Protestant missionaries would build.
    • Yet, not all was well. By the turn of the twentieth century, theological liberalism was sweeping mainline Protestant denominations in the West and the mission to China suffered the effects.  Bays notes that “the world-wide ‘Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy’ began in China in the summer of 1920, with acrimonious disputes over Biblical authority, higher criticism, evolution, and the like breaking outî between missionaries in various places.” (21) By the 1930s, the situation had so deteriorated that “all but the most firm fundamentalists among American Christians . . . [had] second thoughts about the legitimacy of foreign missions.” (22) Meanwhile, Pentecostals began flooding in and several deviant indigenous movements emerged from within.(23)
    • The Protestant mission to China collapsed with Mao’s ascent.  The few institutions that survived were re-organized under the bureaucratic umbrella of the TSPM.
    • For what it is worth, let us adopt an estimate of roughly 105 million professing Christians in China today. If this figure is anywhere close to accurate, then about 8% of the Chinese population now professes faith in Jesus Christ, meaning there are more Christians in China today than there are atheists (the officially endorsed and publicly taught religious position) or Buddhists (the best known traditional religious alternative). Even the low estimate of 70 million preferred by Stark, Johnson, and Mencken, means the Christian population is as large as the Communist Party, despite the clear political and economic advantages of belonging to the latter, and disadvantages sometimes attending the former.(34)
    • Whatever the number comes to, this much is clear: “more people go to church on Sunday in China than in the whole of Europe.”
    • Dr. Carson writes of Dr. Megan Best’s new book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: Ethics and the Beginning of Human Life (Matthias Media, 2012): “At last—a single volume examining beginning-of-life issues that is equally competent in biology, theology, philosophy, and pastoral care. This is now the ‘must read’ book in the field, a necessary resource not only for pastors, ethicists, and laypersons who share her Christian convictions, but also for anyone who wants to participate knowledgeably in current bioethical debates.”
    • Dr. Carson writes of Dr. Megan Best’s new book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: Ethics and the Beginning of Human Life (Matthias Media, 2012): “At last—a single volume examining beginning-of-life issues that is equally competent in biology, theology, philosophy, and pastoral care. This is now the ‘must read’ book in the field, a necessary resource not only for pastors, ethicists, and laypersons who share her Christian convictions, but also for anyone who wants to participate knowledgeably in current bioethical debates.”
    • I am not sure why physicists (and mathematicians) seem to be more likely to believe in God than other scientists, but I find it to be interesting.

       

      Now even though the astronomers, mathematicians, and physicists were more likely to believe in God than the biologists and chemists, the most definitive statements about the existence of God came from chemists. For example, Dr. Christian B. Anfinsen (who won the 1972 Nobel Prize in Chemistry)

    • “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is assurance.”
    • For then, theologically, final justification is contingent and uncertain, and it is impossible for anyone (apart from special revelation, Rome conceded) to be sure of salvation. But if Christ has done everything, if justification is by grace, without contributory works; it is received by faith’s empty hands — then assurance, even “full assurance” is possible for every believer.
    • Ah,” retorted Cardinal Bellarmine’s Rome, “teach this and those who believe it will live in license and antinomianism.” But listen instead to the logic of Hebrews. Enjoying this assurance leads to four things: First, an unwavering faithfulness to our confession of faith in Jesus Christ alone as our hope (v.23); second, a careful consideration of how we can encourage each other to “love and good works” (v.24); third, an ongoing communion with other Christians in worship and every aspect of our fellowship (v.25a); fourth, a life in which we exhort one another to keep looking to Christ and to be faithful to him, as the time of his return draws ever nearer (25b).
    • A second important use, however, is the way in which they bind elders and people together by setting the terms of their relationship and provide the necessary foundation of a relationship built on transparency and accountability.
    • we often tend to think of confessions as weapons wielded by the powerful; in fact, they can be the best line of defence of those who do not hold office in the church against those who seek to use their official positions for ill.
    • In short, confessions serve to curb the power of the elders by making the limits of their powerDelboy.jpg clear to the congregation and thus making them publicly accountable.  This is vital, as even the church leader with the most cheerful Celtic smile and avuncular sexagenarian demeanour can fall prey to the temptations of exerting too much power and tend towards tyranny if left unchecked.
    • A public confession makes it very clear what the church represents, what the people can expect from their elders and what obligations the elders have relative to the congregation.  A church which has no confession, or none of any reasonably comprehensive specificity, is always going to be at a disadvantage on these points. 
    • It has always interested me that, in general, institutions do not by and  large shift their public positions in a slow, incremental manner but tend to transform very rapidly.  From the death of Warfield to the reorganisation of Princeton was a space of a mere eight years.  It was one generation from the victory over Briggs to the general collapse of confessionalism in the mainline Presbyterian church in the US.   And the great grand-daddy of them all, the Reformation, changed the landscape of Europe in a mere 13 years, from the Ninety-Five Theses to the Diet of Augsburg.
    • Despite all hope to the contrary, however, the white smoke is likely to rise again from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. When it does, we would do well to remember the futility of all competing alternatives to the supreme and sufficient priesthood of Christ. He is a Priest who has been raised in imperishability, glory, and power (cf. 1 Cor 15:42-43). He will never die again (Heb 9:27-28), much less decline in health or renounce His office. He has dealt with our sins once and for all (Heb 9:26), has poured out His own Spirit upon His Bride (1 Cor 15:45; Acts 2:33) and, even now, sustains our eternal salvation in the heavenly sanctuary (Heb 9:12). And it is through Him, and not any other mediator on earth or in heaven, that we can confidently approach the throne of grace (Heb 4:16), since it is He who has learned what it means to obey sinlessly through suffering (Heb 5:8). 

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Posted by on 12/02/2013 in Current Issues

 

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