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When Jesus Got the Bible Wrong

The Messiah made a "mistake" for good reason.

All of us are tempted on occasion to approach biblical tensions—texts that seem to contradict each other—in flippant or offhand ways. At one end of the spectrum are skeptics who reduce tensions to textual incoherence and human invention. On the other are those with more evangelical commitments, who desperately trawl books and websites to harmonize mismatching texts. Once they find one, they sigh and move on as if the tension has nothing to teach us. The “problem” has been “resolved.”

But if we want to take Scripture seriously, we must ask why tensions exist in the first place. Why did the Holy Spirit—who inspired Scripture—cause these discrepant texts to be written? What do they reveal? And what might we lose if we “resolve” the problem? We are, after all, listening for the voice of God, not solving a puzzle.

Some examples are more obvious than others. The paradox of divine sovereignty and human responsibility is not meant to be resolved but rather retained. Scripture indicates that both God and we work in our salvation. Is God three or one? Yes. Should we or should we not answer a fool according to his folly? Yes (Prov. 26:4–5). We recognize these tensions, yet accept them as foundational to Christian faith.

Yet when it comes to historical discrepancies in the biblical text, we enter problem-solving mode. When we find that Jesus has two different genealogies, or that the wedding feast parable has two different endings, we forget that we are listening to a divinely orchestrated symphony. Instead of discerning the different parts of the various musicians, we try to force them to play the same note.

One of my favorite discrepancies is Jesus’ “mistake” ...

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Exploring Evangelicalism: The Southern Baptist Convention

Dr. Frank Page, President and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention explains their distinctives and some misconceptions.

Ed Stetzer: What are some of the distinctives that make you different than other evangelical groups?

Frank Page: Baptists have often used the acrostic BAPTISTS to describe their doctrinal distinctives. This serves as a useful, though obviously incomplete, framework. And, while other evangelical ministries may closely approximate many of our core values, it is the integration of the whole that has marked Baptists as distinctive from other groups.

Biblical Authority. Baptists embrace the full authority of Scripture. In the latter part of the twentieth century, Southern Baptists repeatedly reaffirmed this historical belief that the Bible is true and trustworthy in all matters to which it speaks and is our sole authority for all matters of faith and practice. We typically use the words inerrancy, infallibility, and authority interchangeably.

Autonomy of the Local Church. Baptists believe in local church autonomy. Each local church governs itself under the Lordship of Christ.

Priesthood of the Believers. We believe all followers of Christ are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, gifted by God for service, called to offer to God the sacrifices of praise, and empowered to pray to God through no mediator except Christ Jesus. This core belief underlies our conviction that each member of the Body has an equal voice in discerning God’s will for the gathered local church. How congregational governance works itself out differs from church to church; some are pastor-led, some elder-led, some deacon-led, some committee-led, and, in some, every decision is made by the entire congregation.

Two Ordinances. Baptists by and large practice two ordinances, believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The first symbolizes that we died with Christ ...

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Im a Feminist. How Come My Boys Are Such Boys?

What raising sons taught this egalitarian mom about gender.

When my older son was a toddler, he played with baby dolls, given to him by my mother. He’d push them around in the little stroller I’d found at a thrift store. He fed them toy bottles. When his brother was born, he sometimes wore one in a little sling, mimicking the way my husband and I carried our infant.

I hoped that by making dolls available alongside trucks and Duplo and a toy kitchen, he’d take advantage of the broad options for play and perhaps learn some bigger lessons, like how nurturing isn’t a trait exclusive to women. As an egalitarian mom, I have to admit I beamed with pride during the short times when my sons loved baby dolls or favored the color pink.

Then, when they were big enough to play together, I found my boys tying dolls to stakes, or trapping and jailing them as if they were enemy combatants. I never saw them use a doll as a weapon. But their hobbyhorses and plenty of other objects were turned into rifles and swords for play fighting. There goes my attempt to raise pacifist, nurturing sons, I thought as they grew to embody many boy stereotypes.

I read everything I could find about kids and play, worried about the violence and roughhousing. A psychologist comforted me by saying as long as the boys aren’t actually harming anyone in “real life,” just play, it’s best not to interfere. Play is a child’s work, and their freedom in this area can be crucial for their development and understanding of the world.

Like many moms of boys, I had to make peace with my sons’ thirst for (pretend) war.

The fact that boys can turn anything into a weapon or competition—and girls, on the other hand, can bring any object into their world of mommies ...

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The One Percent: Why So Few Pastors Quit A 'Brutal Job'

How 1,500 ministers feel about their past pulpits and current churches.

Though pastors are stressed by overwhelming ministry demands and low salaries, only one percent abandon the pulpit each year.

In a first-of-its-kind study, LifeWay Research surveyed 1,500 pastors of evangelical and historically black churches and found an estimated 13 percent of senior pastors in 2005 had left the pastorate 10 years later for reasons other than death or retirement.

"Pastors are not leaving the ministry in droves," said vice president Scott McConnell.

Still, pastors say the role can be tough:

  • 84 percent say they're on call 24 hours a day.
  • 80 percent expect conflict in their church.
  • 54 percent find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming.
  • 53 percent are often concerned about their family's financial security.
  • 48 percent often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle.
  • 21 percent say their church has unrealistic expectations of them.

"This is a brutal job," McConnell said. "The problem isn't that pastors are quitting—the problem is that pastors have a challenging work environment.

"Churches ought to be concerned, and they ought to be doing what they can."

The survey, commissioned by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Richard Dockins, an occupational medicine physician in Houston concerned about pastoral attrition, also examined why pastors leave the ministry and what can be done to support pastors.

The last decade of church leadership has been relatively stable, pastors report. Just under half (45 percent) of pastors have the same job they had 10 years ago. Another 12 percent say the pastor who led their church in 2005 now leads another church. Another 10 percent of pastors who were working in ...

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Oklahoma Wesleyan and Union U. Quit CCCU Over Same-Sex Marriage Moves

(UPDATED) In three weeks, council will decide status of Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College.

Update (Aug. 31): Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU) has dropped its membership in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).

In July, two of the council's then 123 member schools in North America decided to permit same-sex marriage for faculty and staff. OKWU believes the CCCU's "deliberate and consultative process" of seeking one-on-one reactions from all member schools is instead harmful "ambivalence."

“We believe in missional clarity and view the defense of the biblical definition of marriage as an issue of critical importance,” said Everett Piper, president of the Bartlesville, Okla., school, in a press release. “The CCCU’s reluctance to make a swift decision sends a message of confusion rather than conviction.”

On Aug. 29, the CCCU issued its own statement, saying that it would convene a special members-only conference call on September 21 to discuss the membership of Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) and Goshen College [see previous reporting below].

"We understand not all schools agree with the process we have chosen to take, as was demonstrated through the Aug. 3 withdrawal of Union University," noted the CCCU, which has finished consulting 90 percent of its member school presidents. "It is our prayer this issue will not further divide the CCCU, but rather result in clarifying our identity as an association and fostering supportive unity of each other in our respective missions and calling from the Lord."

According to a local radio station in Oklahoma:

President Piper [says] the council's ambivalence in deciding the status of two member institutions that have advised CCCU they will permit same-sex ...

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News: Schools Still Out for Summer as Israeli Christians Protest Death Strike

Discriminatory state funding cuts lead 48 schools to stay shut. Leaders pledge: We will not back off until we receive our full rights.

Israel’s Christian schools will go on strike tomorrow, the first official day of the school year, after talks with the Jewish state’s president and Ministry of Education broke down over a steep reduction in state funding.

The strike will keep out of the classroom about 33,000 mostly Arab students at 48 “unofficial but recognized” independent schools across Israel. Primary education will be the most affected. Starting later this week, parents, students, and educators are prepared to demonstrate publicly to protest the funding shortfall.

“The ministry started a systematic campaign against our schools by unilaterally cutting its support from about 45 percent … to 29 percent of the total cost of a primary school,” said the administrators of the 48 schools in a joint statement [full text below]. In past years, this funding gap has been closed with tuition and charitable donations. But new state regulations limit such solutions.

“Recently [the ministry has] even tightened the noose around our necks with regulations limiting the percentage of tuition we can charge,” said the statement. “This is a death strike that will prevent our schools from being able to work!”

A compromise seemed to be in the works after Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of education, and Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s president, met last week with top Christian educators. But in recent days in followup meetings, the sides were unable to resolve their differences over funding.

The Christian school administrators have asked for full funding so that parents would not have to pay tuition. This would put Christian schools on an equal footing with state schools. The cost for such ...

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News: A Christian College President Falls

Video of apparent affair surfaces as Christian higher education leaders are debating sexual ethics standards.

Hope was in short supply when James “Jimmy” Epting became president of North Greenville College in 1991.

Enrollment at the two-year college had dropped to 329 students and the school’s finances were on shaky ground. Trustees for the Tigerville, South Carolina, school feared it might close down for good.

With Epting at the helm, however, the Southern Baptist college triumphed. He raised close to $50 million through a pair of capital campaigns. It became a four-year school and then a university, with more than 2,600 students by 2015.

The chair of the trustee board called Epting’s first 23 years a season of miracles, making Epting a beloved figure—complete with a statue of him at prayer near the campus center.

Then, in the space of two minutes, his career came to an end.

In October 2014, Epting’s son Paul filmed a short cellphone video that apparently exposes an affair between his married father and a female college staff member.

“It’s over, Dad,” Paul Epting says on the video.

By January, school officials announced that Epting would take an immediate sabbatical and retire in May, citing health concerns and unspecified other reasons.

“We are deeply grateful to Dr. Epting for his 23 years of service and thankful for the miracles God has performed at the university under his leadership,” said Beverly Hawkins, chair of the university’s board, in a press release earlier this year.

Hawkins did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did the school's interim president or board chair.

The video did not become public until last week. Still, the sudden nature of Epting’s departure had raised eyebrows, said Camille Lewis, a ...

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The Difficulty (and Beauty) of Vulnerability

Openness in personal relationships can bring pain, but it also offers unrivaled love and support.

If I had known more about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, I probably would not have watched it.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Sundance darling finds its protagonist in Greg (played by Thomas Mann), a teenage loner who spends his free time producing parodies of classic films. Greg is an enigma. Like the layout of his Pennsylvania high school divides into multiple sections, Greg’s life is purposely compartmentalized. He is on a first-name basis with nearly every group in school—he is just as comfortable bumming it with the drama club as he is high-fiving the senior class drug dealer—but his relationships are shallow and superficial. He makes small talk, and there’s little more.

Greg knows everyone, but he doesn’t really know anyone. More importantly, they don’t know him. Greg’s constructed the people around him into cartoon-like caricatures. They have become the sum of their outward ticks. He can’t even bring himself to call his oldest acquaintance, Earl (R. J. Cyler), a friend. Greg prefers the term “coworker” instead. The word “friend” is “way too personal.”

...

No better is his psyche visualized than in a scene where Greg calls Rachel for the first time. During the conversation, the Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver plays on the TV beside Greg. In between Greg’s conversation, the audience catches a peek at one of Scorsese’s most famous shots. Robert De Niro sits in a dirty hallway, he too is talking on the phone to a woman. Insecure, odd, and growing more unstable by the minute, De Niro’s Travis Bickle took a risk by asking the beautiful Betsy out on a date. The evening ended badly, and now the woman in question ...

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My Husband Is on the Ashley Madison List. What Now?

Weve addressed personal and pastoral responses to the Ashley Madison leak. Today, Trisha Davis shares about how she dealt with the adultery of her husband.

I remember hearing those words. Words I’ve heard spoken about other couples’ relationships, but never in a million years would they be uttered to describe mine. You see, I’m a pastor’s wife and somehow I had convinced myself that being married to a pastor would affair-proof my marriage. But I’ll never forget hearing those words spill from husband’s mouth, “I’m having an affair” and the gut-wrenching reality that my marriage was most likely over.

In the wake of the cyberhack on the website Ashley Madison (created to help you have an affair) millions of Americans can now search the data base to see if their spouse used the online service, and find out exactly how they used it. Millions of husbands and wives are painfully exposing the truth about the state of their marriage through this simple search. Maybe you're one of those millions.

You thought you had a great marriage (okay, maybe not great), or a good-enough relationship to protect you from an affair. So what now? How do you move forward? How do you ever trust again? Can you ever trust again with websites all over the Internet that, like Ashley Madison, tempt our husbands to sin?

When my husband confessed to having an affair with my best friend in 2005, I remember asking those same exact questions. I had lost my husband, my best friend, and my church family. But the greatest loss was my identity. My life felt like one big joke and I was the punchline. I was left looking at a future of being a single mom to my three young boys with more unknowns I could handle. I had hit rock bottom. Rock bottom from choices I didn’t make. My life felt like a hopeless mess.

But, the gift of hitting rock bottom is ...

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Persecuted, Abused, Displaced: The Christian Women Who Somehow Still Stand Strong

A religious freedom advocate looks at the factors that keep faith communities resilient in conflict.

If you want to understand international affairs, you have to understand religion. One significant and threatening example: the ongoing campaigns by extremist groups like ISIS to gain power and terrorize their opposition based on religious ideology. In these instances, young Christian girls are raped and abused by ISIS members, who justify it as a “religious” act.

Still, despite the clear role of religion in current and previous international conflicts, our political and diplomatic approaches can downplay and even ignore faith as a factor. In my work for the Institute for Global Engagement, I come across many official documents—such as a State Department action plan on women and security or a United Nations treaty on ending racial discrimination—that barely mention religion, despite the fact that a vast majority of the world’s population (84 percent, according to Pew Research) believes in a higher power.

For us to find pathways to peace and resiliency, we have to acknowledge how individual beliefs and faith communities shape identity. This is especially true for people living in the aftermath of trauma. It’s not a small population; across the globe, women in particular find themselves subjected to systemic violence and abuse: “honor” killings, rape as a weapon of war, domestic violence, kidnappings, female genital mutilation, and trafficking. According to the World Health Organization, nearly a third of all women experience such violence. Faith plays a crucial role for victims: It either sustains them through the suffering or, sadly, leaves them cut off from their community because of stigma.

For people of faith, the stories, practices, rituals, and communities give ...

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