Month Archives: April 2021

Thinking Biblically About the Resurrection and the Social Gospel

by David Closson

April 7, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on Unity, Safety“Christian Nationalism”LoveCourage, and Forgiveness.

Around the world, Christians celebrate Easter as the most important day in history because it is the day Jesus conquered sin and death on our behalf by rising from the dead.

The resurrection is central to the gospel because without it, Christianity is nothing more than a social club. As the apostle Paul explained to the Corinthian church, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14).

However, on the day when Jesus’ resurrection normally takes center stage, Raphael Warnock, the Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and Georgia’s junior Senator, took to Twitter to share a very different message. On Sunday, he tweeted: “The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.”

It is well-known that Raphael Warnock is a liberal politician. He ran on a progressive platform, and in his short tenure in the U.S. Senate, he has voted to confirm President Biden’s most radical nominees and expressed support for policies that would expand abortion and restrict religious freedom. But more than a voting record, Warnock’s since-deleted Easter tweet provides insight into how the reverend’s faith informs his politics, i.e., his political theology.

To be clear, there is nothing “more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ” as Warnock believes. The message of Easter, the very center of Christianity, is that God took the initiative to save sinners because sinners cannot save themselves. As Paul explains in Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” However, because of God’s love, verse four says, “when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ.” As Paul explains elsewhere, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). In other words, Christ died as a sacrifice for sin. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus reconciled us with God (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

Jesus is not simply the foundation of Christianity; He is the foundation of reality. Paul, in the book of Colossians, summarizes the centrality of Christ, writing: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17). Concerning salvation, Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Scripture is clear that we cannot save ourselves by helping others. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Of course, Christians are called to do good works. A verse later, Paul writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” However, the suggestion that “through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves” is contrary to everything the Bible teaches about salvation and strips the empty tomb of its power.

As an American, Raphael Warnock is free to believe and teach whatever he wants. However, as someone who serves as a minister of the gospel, he is not free to say whatever he wants about Jesus, the resurrection, and salvation. Like all who profess to be Christian, he is bound by Scripture. His message of salvation through good works directly contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ which promises salvation on the basis of Christ’s completed work. Faith in Jesus, not works, is the only way to be saved (Acts 4:12).

While Senator Warnock’s assessment of Easter is not biblical, it is nevertheless consistent with competing belief systems like liberation theology and critical race theory. In fact, his tweet is an outworking of theological systems (liberation theology and the social gospel) which prioritize social justice over orthodox doctrine. These systems teach that the greatest problem in the world is injustice and that the solution is political revolution. For example, liberation theology, which reconstructs Christian theology through the lens of “oppressor and oppressed,” identifies different problems and different solutions than the gospel does. In that world, it is possible to “save ourselves” by “helping others” because once we have eliminated injustice we have been saved.

But Scripture has a very different understanding of what our greatest problem is and the solution to that problem. While God hates injustice, injustice is simply the fruit of a sinful, rebellious heart. The real solution is a changed heart, and that is something no political revolution can accomplish. Only Jesus can convert and change sinful hearts. As bad as Senator Warnock’s policy preferences may be, his theology is even worse and likely the source of his confused policies. Simply put, we cannot save ourselves. Therefore, for the sake of your eternal destiny, trust Scripture which says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).

For more on this topic, don’t miss the author’s interview on Washington Watch.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of March 28)

by Family Research Council

April 1, 2021

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: Biden Cracks under Presser

If Americans were concerned that Joe Biden hadn’t held a press conference, imagine how concerned they must be now that he has. Most people assumed that the 78-year-old president would be prepared to meet the press. What they got instead was a painful, hour-long confirmation that the man leading our country has none of our crises—the border, China, COVID, or fair and free elections—in hand.

2. Update: Protecting Girls: On a Need to Noem Basis

The people of South Dakota just recently had to watch everything that their legislature worked for on girls’ sports vanish with one wave of Governor Noem’s hand. Despite a week and a half of outcry from her constituents, Noem dug in and did not, as some people hoped, reconsider vetoing a bill that would protect girls’ sports.

3. Blog: You Can’t Twist Scripture to Force Women to Compete Against Men in Sports

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) recently vetoed House Bill 1217, legislation that would protect women from being forced to compete against biological men in sporting events. While most conservatives were frustrated by Noem’s capitulation on the bill, one faith group actually encouraged Noem to veto it.

4. Blog: Thinking Biblically About Courage

What is courage? C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters that “courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” In other words, the courageous person has poise and the fortitude to do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time. Despite potential blowback, the courageous person stays the course and pursues what they know is right.

5. Washington Watch: Kristen Waggoner Debunks Gov. Noem’s Flimsy Legal Rationale for Vetoing the Girls’ Sports Bill

Kristen Waggoner serves as the General Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom. She joined Washington Watch guest host Joseph Backholm to dissect the Conservative uproar over Governor Noem’s “style and form” veto.

6. Washington Watch: Gov. Brian Kemp Pushes Back Against the Left’s Absurd Objections to GA’s New Election Reform Law

Does Georgia’s new election law deny water to voters standing in line, as President Biden claims? Georgia Governor Brian Kemp joined Tony Perkins to set the record straight and discuss the Left’s objections to the state’s new election integrity law.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Join Franklin Graham in Prayer for our Children

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins was joined by Rev. Franklin Graham and Arkansas State Rep. Robin Lundstrum to pray for Gov. Hutchinson to make the right decision and sign the common-sense bill, the SAFE Act, that would protect children from sterilization and harmful surgeries.

Thinking Biblically About Forgiveness

by Joseph Backholm

April 1, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on Unity, Safety“Christian Nationalism”Love, and Courage.

There’s a tension, it seems, between justice and forgiveness. A world without justice devolves into lawlessness, but a world without forgiveness is cruel and harsh.  

Does justice demand that the perpetrators of particularly heinous crimes, such as the man who bombed the Boston Marathon, receive the death penalty, or is capital punishment a form of vengeance that God forbids? More broadly, our culture’s on-going conversation about race, and the growing popularity of critical race theory, forces us to consider whether forgiveness for past wrongs is required by Christian charity or a way to minimize the significance of past injustice so that current injustice can endure.

In this cultural moment, there is a hesitancy if not outright hostility to the concept of personal forgiveness. The very logic of “cancel culture” is that some ideas and opinions are so repugnant that the offending ideas need to be removed from public discourse and that anyone who holds them must “canceled,” i.e. deplatformed and silenced. Forgiveness is often seen as a sign of weakness or even a threat to true justice.

So, how should Christians think about forgiveness?

We begin with the awareness that since God is both just and forgiving, justice and forgiveness are not in conflict. Forgiveness should matter to Christians because it is part of God’s character. King David proclaimed, “You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you” (Ps. 86:5, NIV). Since our goal as Christians is to emulate God’s character (Eph. 5:1), that means we must be forgiving.

God is forgiving, but He is also just. His justice requires punishment for sin. It is not cruel or unforgiving to hold someone accountable for their actions. This is what true justice demands. Loving parents forgive their misbehaving children but also discipline them because permissiveness is not loving.

But it is important not to confuse punishment and discipline with revenge. Done well, punishment and discipline are for the benefit of the offender, or possibly, those who need to be protected from the offender. Revenge has a different goal. Revenge is done to gratify the person giving the punishment.

God is pro-punishment, but He does not want us seeking revenge. The apostle Paul wrote, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). It should also be noted that capital punishment is a power given only to the governing authorities and not to individuals (Rom. 13:4).

Discerning whether we are acting out of a godly desire for justice or a sinful desire for revenge starts with checking our hearts. Are we seeking this person’s good or their demise?

After Paul reminds us that revenge is for God alone, he suggests that forgiveness is evidenced by a genuine desire for their good: “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:20-21). In these verses, Paul assures us that we don’t need to take revenge because God will right all wrongs in the end. Since God guarantees justice in the end, we are free to pursue forgiveness.

Forgiveness is essential to the Christian life because forgiveness is what made the Christian life possible in the first place (Col. 1:13-14, Eph. 1:7-8). At the heart of the gospel is the idea that we have been forgiven a debt we could never have paid ourselves (Rom. 6:23, Eph. 2:8-9). Christ extended the ultimate gift of forgiveness and we are commanded to extend forgiveness to others:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph. 4:32)

Also:

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Col. 3:13)

If we who claim to be Christians find ourselves unable to forgive others, this calls into question our awareness of how much we have been forgiven:

But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Mt. 6:15)

Also:

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)

This does not mean that God’s forgiveness is conditional or dependent on something we must do. After all, we cannot earn our salvation (Eph. 2:8-9). However, our unwillingness to extend forgiveness may imply that we do not fully understand our own need for forgiveness—or the heart of the gospel.

God’s promise of future justice and our personal experience with His forgiveness informs how Christians think about both justice and forgiveness. God is just, and even if justice escapes us in this life, we know He will one day right all wrongs. Whether we are debating capital punishment, racism, or cancel culture, forgiveness is not merely a way to improve human relationships but a means to show others what Jesus has done for us. For Christians, a life marked by forgiveness is a sign of God’s grace and a testimony to the world of the gospel’s power.

Burma: More Dangerous Than Ever for Religious Minorities

by Lela Gilbert

April 1, 2021

 

Once upon a time, Burma was a land of romantic mystique. Rudyard Kipling’s 19th century poem “Mandalay” conveys that vision,

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me…

Sadly, Kipling’s reverie is light-years removed from today’s bitterly divided and dangerous Burma—also known as Myanmar. In an ever-worsening conflict that has recently seized the country, the Burmese Army is shooting protestors with live ammunition, innocent families are bombed by government aircraft, and more than a million refugees have fled abuses of unimaginable brutality.

Since February 1, 2021, Burma has been featured in near-daily international news reports decrying a violent military junta’s coup, which overthrew the government of Nobel Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League of Democracy (NLD). From that day until now, bloodshed has increasingly spread across the country.

Today’s Burma is a perilous war zone in which terrified ethnic and religious minorities are facing life-or-death dangers, and chaos reigns supreme. But even before the February 1 coup, Burma was a land of many dangers, and freedom of religion was virtually non-existent.

Although most westerners imagine that a Buddhist nation like Burma/Myanmar would be peaceful and gracious, the country’s military has long been ruthless. Christians, who live as an at-risk minority in several Burmese states, have faced ongoing mistreatment at the hand of a notoriously brutal army for decades. And Christians aren’t alone in their suffering. Rohingya Muslims have also experienced unimaginable cruelties.

These abuses have not gone unnoticed. In 2019, the U.S. government imposed punitive actions for the Burmese government’s human rights and religious freedom violations, including travel bans against military leaders for “gross human rights violations.” In December, the U.S. Department of State redesignated Burma as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC). In fact, since 1999 the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has declared Myanmar a CPC in its annual reports. This has been due to violent practices, lawless abuses, and discriminatory treatment of non-Buddhists. The regime has used fines, imprisonment, forced conversions, starvation, gang rape, and child abuse as its array of weaponry.

Rohingya Muslims have been particularly targeted since 2016. That October, more than a hundred Rohingya men, armed with various weapons, including knives, slingshots, and rifles, attacked police and killed nine officers. Those insurgents attacked again in 2017. The Rohingya had been stateless for decades, but due to these acts of violence against the Burmese government, they immediately found themselves facing deadly retribution. More than a million have since fled.

In recent days, the Rohingya’s ongoing tragedy was horrifically amplified thanks to a fire in the refugee camp in Bangladesh where hundreds of thousands had taken shelter. On March 23, the New York Times reported that local authorities “searched for survivors…”

amid the smoldering ruins of a sprawling Rohingya refugee camp, one day after a fire killed at least 15 people, injured hundreds and left tens of thousands homeless once again. The carnage at the camp in Cox’s Bazaar, near the border with Myanmar, was the latest tragedy for residents, who have lived for years in its squalid shanties since fleeing their homes in Myanmar in the aftermath of a military-perpetrated massacre.

While that tragedy unfolded, the beleaguered Christians in Myanmar continue to face greater risks than ever. World Magazine reports,

In the ethnic Karen region in eastern Myanmar, villagers in Day Pu Noh Valley in Papun District noticed a military fighter jet flying overhead in the afternoon. That night, the military dropped bombs on the village—the first airstrikes in the region in 20 years—killing three people and wounding eight.

The gloves are off now,” Free Burma Ranger’s Dave Eubank said of the military’s escalation. “There’s no need to have a façade of democracy anymore, [the military] felt the cease-fires were not working in controlling the ethnic groups, so now they are doing what they were going to do all along.”

Dangers for Christians abound as protestors across the country rise up in defiance against the regime. And some believers remain terrified by the upheaval. Open Doors quoted one Christian: “I couldn’t sleep and I cried out to God more than three times that night. Our dreams, hopes, vision and freedom are taken away. Our lifetime has been full of grief, fear and trouble under the military regime. People are suffering because of the war. Job opportunities are also difficult now, and we are depressed by the military coup because we had hoped for a ceasefire.”

However, Christianity Today offered a different perspective. An evangelical leader described the civil disobedience in which some Christians are participating: “On the ground, our brothers and sisters [believers] will continue their movement…the drumming of pots and pans, peaceful mass marching demonstrations, and the chants of condemnation to the military. Abroad, we will let the world know that we are fighting back.” He went on to say, “Christians in Myanmar are not timid…Christians might fight with [their] greatest weapon, prayer and Jesus himself.”

This leader then offered a plea—one with which we can all respond with urgency. He said, “We also request all of you who sympathize [with] us, pray for us in this fight to overcome sin and Satan’s schemes.”

Yes. Let’s remember to pray that our Lord will extend mercy to the Rohingya and to all others who suffer under the iron fist of Burma’s military regime. And may He provide increased blessings, encouragement, and safety to Burma’s beleaguered Christians.

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