Archives For Al Mohler

January 22, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion. Doe v. Bolton was another law also passed that day –  lesser known but not of lesser importance – which made abortion legal after viability based upon the “‘health’ of the mother”.

Since this date, more than 55 million unborn babies have been murdered/killed/aborted. Today one of the most common surgical procedures performed on adults in our country is abortion. And every one of these “procedures” performed on women results in a death of an unborn child, the weakest and most vulnerable that ought to receive the greatest support and protection.

America has often been a world leader in upholding the dignity of fellow human beings (there have certainly been grave and tragic exceptions, e.g. slavery). Tragically, in this instance the law has gone contrary to the very fabric of what has made the U.S. a great and good nation (consisting of power and resources, and doing good to others, generally speaking): no legal protection is given to the unborn at any stage of development.

Lawrence H. Tribe, professor at Harvard Law School, an abortion-rights defender, accurately stated that the abortion question is a black and white issue because it consists of a “clash of absolutes.” Tribe’s attempted solution to ameliorate the differences or avoid pitting one absolute against another failed. Though he failed in his attempted solution, he understands the heart of this issue, which is why it will not go away for Evangelicals.

In a recent sermon (7 minute excerpt), David Platt gets to the heart of the abortion debate by focusing on the “most important question in the abortion debate”: is what is in the womb from conception a person? Platt states that this brings every other question into perspective.

Platt answers the question in the affirmative:

The womb contains a person formed in the image of God.

He follows this with two important implications regarding one’s answer:

  • If the unborn is not human, no justification for abortion is necessary.
  • If the unborn is human, no justification for abortion is adequate.

Al Mohler explains why the abortion issue will not go away for those committed to the sanctity of life (“Forty Years After Roe, Human Dignity Hangs in the Balance”).

  1. First, the radical character of Roe – overthrowing abortion laws in 49 states – galvanized pro-life forces. The judicial imposition of abortion on demand, virtually without restriction until the third trimester, produced both shock and outrage among those who believe that the unborn child has an inalienable right to life.
  2. Second, Roe also had the effect, surely unforeseen by the Supreme Court, of bringing millions of evangelical Christians into the fight on behalf of the unborn. Prior to Roe, even many evangelicals believed that abortion was a Roman Catholic issue.
  3. Third, the death spiral of abortion simply defies adequate calculation. Over a million abortions are performed in America each year. Reports last year indicated that over 40% of all pregnancies in New York end in abortion, a rate that increases to almost 60% of pregnancies among African-American women.
  4. Fourth, abortion has proved to be exactly what pro-life activists warned it would be: a deadly threat to human dignity that would target specific populations. Prenatal testing has produced a deadly reality for unborn babies considered less than acceptable by their parents.
  5. Fifth, powerful imaging technologies now allow a look inside the womb, a privilege unknown to previous generations. That window has transformed the equation, as millions of parents have seen their unborn children and witnessed the miracle of life.

Many of the young of this generation are pro-life, which we celebrate. They are the ones who look around and see only images of the 55 million with whom they would have lived life, shaped culture and made history. Mohler notes this, and then concludes by emphasizing the importance of affirming that every human being is created in the image of God, from conception to death.

The greatest advances made by the pro-life movement have been made among the young, the generation that has known the death toll from Roe v. Wade all their lives. More evidence that the abortion issue will not simply go away.

Nevertheless, Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land and abortion on demand remains a constant. Since Roe more than 55 million unborn Americans have been aborted, and the nation is more concerned about economics than the sanctity of human life. We have much ground to recover, but the only foundation for a recovery of human dignity is an affirmation of the fact that every single human being is made in God’s image and is of sacred worth from the moment of fertilization until natural death.

Lord, have mercy.

What Do We Know About the Historical Jesus?

Greg Strand – December 17, 2012 2 Comments

As I have stated a number of times, most every major celebration of the Christian year, there are articles in major publications about some aspect of the Christian faith that is being questioned or denied. We can add this year to the list. Newsweek included an article by Bart D. Ehrman, “What Do We Really Know About Jesus?,” (December 17, 2012).

Most will already know what to expect from Ehrman. At one time a number of years ago he professed a Christian (Evangelical) faith. Now he claims to be agnostic, and much of what he writes he attempts to deny the Christian faith and to undermine the truth of it.

Ehrman begins by addressing the controversy over the so-called translation and claims made regarding the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” He acknowledges that many consider this document a forgery. But that was his entry point into calling the New Testament into question as well. Appropriately and rightly, he debunks some of the myths surrounding Christmas and the historicity of Jesus and His birth. But sadly, and yet expectedly, he ends up throwing the baby out with the bathwater, at least Jesus Christ, the incarnate God-man.

The New Testament documents “are not historically reliable descriptions of what really happened when Jesus was born,” Ehrman claims. He continues by claiming there are many scholars who recognize that Matthew and Luke simply cannot be trusted to convey accurate historical information. He notes:

there are problems with the traditional stories as they are recounted for us in Matthew and Luke, the only two Gospels that contain infancy narratives. However valuable these writings may be for theological reflection on the meaning and importance of Jesus—and why should anyone deny that they are tremendously valuable for that?—they are not the sorts of historical sources that we might hope for if we are seriously engaged in trying to reconstruct the events of history.

Ehrman does believe that Jesus was a historical person, who did actually exist. But he does not believe that Jesus was God incarnate in human flesh, the God-man born of the virgin Mary through the miraculous conception of the Holy Spirit.

It simply will not do to claim a Jesus of history, from whom we can gain much useful theological knowledge and information, from the Christ of faith. The Jesus of history is the Christ of faith! This is the amazing truth we celebrate at Christmas, and the truth we believe, embrace and celebrate not just for the Christmas season, but for now and eternity.

In an interesting irony, at the end of this year Newsweek will cease a print edition. As noted by Al Mohler, “Readers should note carefully that it is Newsweek, and not the New Testament, that is going out of print.”

Election Day Prayer

Greg Strand – November 6, 2012 Leave a comment

As Christians, we approach this day with prayer. Al Mohler wrote “A Prayer for America on Election Day” that was posted yesterday. It was actually a post done on November 4, 2008, the day of the last presidential election.

This updated post is an excellent reminder to us to pray along with guidance of what we ought to pray. Christians have a responsibility to vote, acknowledging our earthly citizenship, and to pray, acknowledging our heavenly citizenship.

Here is an abbreviated list of Mohler’s 10 recommended prayer requests:

First, we should pray that God will bless America with leaders better than we deserve.

Second, we should pray that Americans will be motivated to fulfill the responsibilities of citizenship, yet also that we will be stripped of an unhealthy and idolatrous confidence in the power of government to save us.

Third, we must pray that Americans will vote by conscience, not merely on the basis of celebrity or emotion.

Fourth, we must pray that Americans will vote to defend the least among us — and especially those who have no vote.

Fifth, we should pray that God will prick the conscience of the nation on issues of morality, righteousness, and respect for marriage as the central institution of human civilization.

Sixth, we should pray that God will protect these candidates and their families.

Seventh, we should pray that the election is conducted with honor, civility, respect, and justice.

Eighth, we must pray that Americans will be prepared to accept the results of the election with respect and kindness.

Ninth, we should pray that this election would lead to even greater opportunities to preach the Gospel, and that the freedom of the church will be respected, honored, and protected.

Tenth, we must pray for the church, praying that the church of the Lord Jesus Christ would be strengthened in the truth, grounded in the faith, and empowered for witness and ministry.

May God grant us mercy and grace as we seek to fulfill our responsibilities as citizens — and our responsibilities as Christians.  This world is not our home, but we do bear responsibilities as followers of Christ as we are living here.

 

 

As predicted, many continue to interact and respond to the news about Karen King’s translation of this newly released manuscript

King’s paper may be found here to read, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’”: A New Coptic Gospel Papyrus,” (Forthcoming Harvard Theological Review 106:1, January 2013).

I am also including a couple of additional reports below. The first, the Smithsonian, is sympathetic; the second, Al Mohler, raises significant concerns and concludes that this is “sensationalism masquerading as scholarship. . . . an effort to replace biblical Christianity with an entirely new faith.”

Ariel Sabar, “The Inside Story of a Controversial New Text About Jesus,” Smithsonian (September 18, 2012)

Sabar, the author of this article, describes the presuppositions of Dr. Karen King, who translated this text in question about Jesus referring to “his wife.”

Her scholarship has been a kind of sustained critique of what she calls the “master story” of Christianity: a narrative that casts the canonical texts of the New Testament as divine revelation that passed through Jesus in “an unbroken chain” to the apostles and their successors—church fathers, ministers, priests and bishops who carried these truths into the present day.

According to this “myth of origins,” as she has called it, followers of Jesus who accepted the New Testament—chiefly the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, written roughly between A.D. 65 and A.D. 95, or at least 35 years after Jesus’ death—were true Christians. Followers of Jesus inspired by noncanonical gospels were heretics hornswoggled by the devil.

 Here are the questions raised by Sabar, which are good questions but asked with a revisionist tenor:

As 20th-century scholars began translating the texts from Coptic, early Christians whose views had fallen out of favor—or were silenced—began speaking again, across the ages, in their own voices. A picture began to take shape of early Christians, scattered across the Eastern Mediterranean, who derived a multiplicity of sometimes contradictory teachings from the life of Jesus Christ. Was it possible that Judas was not a turncoat but a favored disciple? Did Christ’s body really rise, or just his soul? Was the crucifixion—and human suffering, more broadly—a prerequisite for salvation? Did one really have to accept Jesus to be saved, or did the Holy Spirit already reside within as part of one’s basic humanity?

Al Mohler, “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife? When Sensationalism Masquerades as Scholarship,” Albert Mohler Blog (September 20, 2012)

Mohler explains what King has stated about this document in this way:

This is sensationalism masquerading as scholarship. One British newspaper notes that the claims about a married Jesus seem more worthy of fans of Dan Brown’s fictional work, The Da Vinci Code, than “real-life Harvard professors.” If the fragment is authenticated, the existence of this little document will be of interest to historians of the era, but it is insanity to make the claims now running through the media.

Professor King claims that these few words and phrases present a different story of Jesus, a different gospel. She then argues that the words should be read as claiming that Jesus was married, that Mary Magdalene was likely his wife. She argues further that this is evidence that the question of Jesus’s marital status, even as she asserts that this does not mean that Jesus was actually married. More than anything else, she is arguing against the claim that Christianity is a unified body of commonly-held truths.

Those familiar with Karen King’s research and writings will recognize the argument. Her 2003 book, The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle, argued that another text from the era presented Mary Magdalene as the very model for apostleship.

Like my reference above to a revisionist understanding of history and texts, Mohler points to King’s presupposition in her interpreting/translation texts.

The thread that ties all these texts and arguments together is the 1945 discovery of some 52 ancient texts near the town of Nag Hammadi in Egypt. These texts are known to scholars as Gnostic literature. The texts present heretical narratives and claims about Jesus and his message, and they have been a treasure trove for those seeking to replace orthodox Christianity with something very different. . . . Karen King, along with Princeton’s Elaine Pagels, has argued that the politically powerful leaders who established what became orthodox Christianity silenced other voices, but that these voices now speak through the Nag Hammadi texts and other Gnostic writings. Writing together, King and Pagels argue that “the traditional history of Christianity is written almost solely from the viewpoint of the side that won, which was remarkably successful in silencing or distorting other voices, destroying their writings, and suppressing any who disagreed with them as dangerous and obstinate ‘heretics.’”

And here is Mohler’s conclusion:

The energy behind all this is directed to the replacement of orthodox Christianity, its truth claims, its doctrines, its moral convictions, and its vision of both history and eternity with a secularized — indeed, Gnosticized — new version.

Just look at the attention this tiny fragment of papyrus has garnered. Its few words and broken phrases are supposed to cast doubt on the New Testament and the doctrines of orthodox Christianity. A tiny little fragment which, even if authentic, dates from the fourth century, is placed over against the four New Testament gospels, all written within decades of Jesus’s earthy ministry.

“The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife?” Not hardly. This is sensationalism masquerading as scholarship. Nevertheless, do not miss what all this really represents — an effort to replace biblical Christianity with an entirely new faith.

 

 

Denominational Structure

Greg Strand – June 24, 2012 Leave a comment

To the question about denominations changing, one could respond “much and in every way.” There is a decreasing denominational loyalty. There is an increasing post-denominationalism, probably related to our post-everything sort of impulse. There is a strong attraction based on affinity, e.g. theological affinity, church planting affinity, etc., more so than on denomination. This is not really news to anyone. All realize that denominations are changing and sentiments towards denominations are also changing.

This does not mean denominations are not important or that their usefulness is past. I know all would not agree with me. That will be a discussion at some future point. What is important in this discussion is to keep the main mission of denominations at the center, i.e. serving local churches, and then ask the question of how that can best be done. What is necessary is that a denomination does not simply do things because that is the way they were always done. That will not be helpful to serve churches.

One of the discussion questions is about geography. For us in the EFCA, the question about geography pertains to our district structure. To broaden this question, Christianity Today 56/6 (June 2012), 12, asked the following about denominational structure: “Should denominations be organized geographically?” A spectrum of responses is included between “yes” and “no.”  

Carl Trueman, professor of historical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), answers in the affirmative.

Geographical proximity allows for more spiritual, emotional, pastoral support. When you cannot coexist spiritually with another church in the same denomination, functionally you probably have two denominations and it might be better simply to separate.

Al Molher, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and ordained in the SBC, is in the middle.

Ideally, churches of one denomination would share so much theological commonality that it would be quite natural for them to group themselves geographically. With the theological diversity and tension in many denominations today, that’s just no longer possible.

Paul Detterman, executive director of Presbyterians for Renewal, responds in the negative.

As theological diversity broadens among many denominations, theological affinity trumps geographic proximity as a catalyst for vision and ministry. Structures need to conform to this reality. Geographical organization belongs to a bygone era. We need to let it go.

 Here are a few questions to ponder.

  1. Where would you fall in this spectrum? Why?
  2. What do you see as strengths and weaknesses of denominations today?
  3. What other questions would you raise about denominations?
  4. What is required for denominations to serve their local churches most effectively and fruitfully today?
  5. Are there ways denominations can/should partner with other denominations and/or affinity gatherings? How would this happen and what would be the intended outcome?
  6. What other questions need to be raised?