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Christians, Think Twice About Eradicating Mosquitoes to Defeat Malaria

When disease vectors are also victims.

I was warned there would be a lot of mosquitoes when I traveled to the northern coast of Alaska to collect soil samples, but nothing could prepare me for the swarms of bugs that darkened the sky above me as I worked. The pages of our field books were littered with insect corpses crushed whenever we closed them. Even though they couldn’t bite through my head net and spray, they still managed to make life pretty miserable. It’s no wonder they can drive caribou seeking relief, like billions of little sheep dogs, into new landscapes.

Relatively speaking, the Arctic gets off easy compared to other parts of the world. Since Arctic mosquitoes do not transmit any known diseases, the worst I could expect from a bite is a minor itch. For half of the world’s population, avoiding mosquito bites is a matter of life and death.

It is the mosquito’s ability to transmit diseases that has earned it the reputation of deadliest animal on earth—a statistic popularized by Bill Gates. Malaria alone infects more than 200 million people a year. Nearly half a million die. Besides malaria, mosquitoes are responsible for spreading dengue and yellow fever, encephalitis, filariasis, West Nile, and increasingly, Zika virus.

To make matters worse, human populations are increasing near mosquito habitats. Combine this with the ease of international travel, and we can expect rare and obscure diseases will continue to make news as they spread around the world.

It’s tempting to ask the extreme questions. BBC asked, “Would it be wrong to eradicate mosquitoes?” In June 2016, Smithsonian reported on new research considering gene editing technology that could, in theory, wipe out mosquitoes. “Should they use it?” ...

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Open Your Home to the Homeless, Even When It Makes You Uncomfortable

Welcoming the stranger carries real risks. But hospitality is a New Testament expectation.

During our first five years as newlyweds, my husband, Tom, and I watched every episode of The X-Files. I was convinced that demented serial killers worked the late shift everywhere that my small town of 7,000 could possibly employ them.

Granted, as a pastor’s kid I had grown up without television, so my imagination was maybe making up for lost time. Or maybe I’m just uniquely susceptible to calculated suspense. But even the smallest clunk from our ancient apartment building meant, in my hyper-vigilance, that the socially awkward single guy down the hall probably was installing some kind of spy camera behind our bathroom mirror. Or that something mutant and drooling stalked us in the ductwork, biding its diabolical time.

It took months after the final X-Files episode before the buzz of fight-or-flight adrenaline wore off. But when it did, I was genuinely surprised at how kind and warm and helpful most people seemed to have become. And was there way more daylight and sunshine that year—or was it me?

It was me. I had succumbed to what one researcher called “mean world syndrome.” As Scott Bader-Saye describes in his book Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear, research on television violence has found “not so much a direct link between TV violence and real-world violence as a link between TV violence and exaggerated fearfulness.” In fact, “people who watch a lot of TV are more likely than others to believe that their neighborhoods are unsafe, to assume that crime rates are rising, and to overestimate their own odds of being a victim.” Evangelicals, presumably, included.

Though I had grown up without television, regular screen time during that season of my young adult life had convinced ...

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Templeton Prize Winner: Alvin Plantinga, Who Proved Gods Not Dead in Academia

Christian philosopher honored with $1.4 million award for reshaping theism.

The man who brought belief in God back into the study of philosophy, Alvin Plantinga, has received the 2017 Templeton Prize.

The 84-year-old Christian philosopher is the latest in a line of dozens of laureates honored for their spiritual contributions to the world, including Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, Bill Bright, and Mother Teresa.

Plantinga made a name for himself as a philosophy professor at Calvin College and the University of Notre Dame. He reshaped the spiritual side of his discipline by insisting that Christian philosophers allow their convictions to drive their academic work.

“Plantinga recognized that not only did religious belief not conflict with serious philosophical work, but that it could make crucial contributions to addressing perennial problems in philosophy,” said Heather Templeton Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation, which awarded the $1.4 million prize that has helped expand the evangelical mind.

Starting in the late 1950s, Plantinga countered the academic assumption that faith didn’t have a place in the field. Over decades of scholarship, he revolutionized how people view the relationship between religion and philosophy. Plantinga’s 1984 paper, “Advice to Christian Philosophers,” has shaped three generations of believers as well as religious philosophers across traditions.

Plantinga has received accolades “for his work in the philosophy of religion, epistemology, metaphysics, and Christian apologetics.” Since 2000, he focused his study on the compatibility between religious belief and science—the subject of a 2011 interview with CT.

Among his seminal works were God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God (1967), ...

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The E Word: Why Many Avoid It, and How We Can Reimagine It

Part One in a new series.

If we are honest, we must say that in many senses, we've lost our imagination, passion, and direction for evangelism. We need to put evangelism back into our imagination. To some, I may sound like a broken record (if you are old enough to remember records!). But I honestly believe there is nothing more worthy of pushing into and prodding the Church towards as making evangelism part of our daily lives. After all, it was the last command of Jesus before His ascension!

But why do I use the phrase “back into our imagination”? A quick definition from Merriam-Webster tells us that ‘imagination’ means “the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.”

Evangelism has fallen on hard times and this definition is apropos. When it comes to evangelism, our imagination has become dim and marred in many ways. Most of us know someone whose heart beats for telling people about Jesus, and when we are near them, we are reminded of how we are not them.

Truth be told, people are more likely to make fun of evangelistic methods than actually engage in evangelistic practices. Churches love discipleship and they love social justice, but if the Church is going to fulfill its mission of showing and sharing the love of Jesus in our world today, both of these need to link arms with evangelism. We have to tell people about Jesus.

Last year, I wrote an article for the Washington Post, which they titled "Call yourself a Christian? Start talking about Jesus Christ." In that article, I reminded Christians that Jesus’ last words should be our first priority. The idea here is simple: Christianity is a missionary faith. As a missionary ...

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One-on-One with Dave Choi of Church of the Beloved in Chicago

Dave started the church in 2011 with no people, no resources, no building, nothing.

Ed: Dave, you came here and started Church of the Beloved in Chicago, but give me a little backstory. How did you come to start this church?

Dave: I was getting some offers from churches that were established with senior leaders who are highly respected and seasoned. I was really excited about the possibility of getting mentored by a few of them, so I went to a little chapel in the Billy Graham Center Museum at Wheaton College to fast, pray, and seek the Lord.

During that time, I felt the Lord saying, “Open up Exodus 33.” It’s the chapter right after Israel had worshiped the golden calf. God was angry with them and said, “You guys can go to the Promised Land, but I won’t go with you,” and Moses basically pleads with God that if His presence doesn’t go with them, what will separate them from all the other people on the earth?

I got the impression from the Lord that He wanted me to plant a church in Chicago and that His presence would go with me. I decided to say yes to the Lord and started the church on June 21, 2011, with no people, no resources, no denomination, no building, nothing. I knew God wanted me to plant in Chicago somewhere, so I drove around the city. Eventually, through God’s grace, I happened upon a guy who was a Wheaton grad who had a space at his church that was not used on Saturday afternoon. He said he would let us use it for free, and that’s how we started the church.

Ed: Why did you call it Church of the Beloved?

Dave: A couple of reasons. First, the name actually comes from the vision, which is that we want people to come to know they’re beloved of God because of Christ, so we are very big on gospel identity. At that time, we were planted in the ...

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Interview: How a Disney Ballerina Ended Up Fighting Modern Slavery

A director of church mobilization for International Justice Mission says women cant have it all, but they can have something better.

Today, forced labor and sexual servitude traps 45 million people—more than at any time in history. To respond to the modern slavery crisis, Jocelyn White, a mother and classically trained ballerina, retired from her thriving dance career and started volunteering with International Justice Mission (IJM). She now serves as a director of church mobilization for IJM and connects congregations and church leaders with the organization’s efforts to free victims of injustice. She and her husband, Peter, also started a nonprofit organization in the Los Angeles area, Slavery No More, which helps resource local agencies fighting human trafficking.

White spoke recently with CT about her journey from professional dancing to anti-slavery advocacy and how she sees God’s hand in her work with IJM.

You achieved your dream of having a successful dancing career. Why did you retire?

I worked for Disney in Los Angeles, and the Holy Spirit prodded me through the story of Abraham to sacrifice my Isaac. I felt like my identity as a dancer was my Isaac. It sounds insane, but I took a step of faith and retired from dancing with no real option lined up. I spent eight months working temp jobs and eating oatmeal for every meal. All the while I enjoyed full days sitting with Jesus and asking trusted friends to pray for me as I waited for God to show me what was next.

Then one of the pastors at my church asked me to be his assistant. He took a risk on me. I had never sat behind a computer or done office things, but God used my creativity, collaboration, and organization skills from dancing, choreographing, and producing in a new way for ministry.

How did you first hear about justice ministry, and how did it affect you?

I heard Gary Haugen, ...

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Cease Squirming and Know That I Am God: Why Dont We Share the Gospel?

We share the gospel because men and women need to know they are loved by God.

I’ve seen people squirm and fidget whenever the topic of evangelism is mentioned. Of course, the reasons vary from person to person.

Awkwardness

I wonder if some feel awkward engaging in an activity they’ve never, or seldom, done. They are awkward when it comes to sharing their faith.

But I’m convinced that none of us is very life-skilled, even about significant features of life. For instance, nobody is ready to get married; if we waited until we were, we would miss those joys of life. Nobody is ready to have children; if we waited until we were, the whole human race would end in this generation.

And nobody is ready to share their faith; if we waited until we were, the mission of God, mediated through His people, would come to a halt.

We cannot wait until we are ready. We function awkwardly throughout life. A toddler learning to walk falls down and gets bruised. A six-year-old taking the training wheels off the bicycle falls down and gets scratched. In fact, every new endeavor in life reveals that we are awkward. One could say if we are not awkward someplace in our lives, then we are just not growing.

Historical Baggage

For others, the squirming about evangelism may be a result of watching those who shared the gospel abusively. There are those who use the Bible as if it were a club to coerce and bludgeon people to God. Such insensitivity seldom bears kingdom fruit. Nevertheless, those who are turned off by abuse fail to realize that silence in matters of the gospel also contributes to the failure of the Church; it does not correct the abuse.

In fact, Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Summa Theologica that “an abuse does not nullify a proper use.” If we judged any segment of society by its worst examples, ...

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Blasphemy Blocks Re-Election of Indonesia's Only Christian Governor

But after losing Jakarta race, Ahok finds some favor in court.

The blasphemy charges that cost Indonesia’s top Christian politician his re-election race won’t send him to jail.

Just a day after Basuki Purnama—popularly known as Ahok—conceded the runoff for governor of Jakarta, prosecutors recommended a light sentence of two years probation instead of the maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Ahok, a double minority in the archipelago as a Christian and as an Indonesian citizen who is ethnically Chinese, secured approval ratings as high as 70 percent in the capital region during his campaign. But when the anti-corruption crusader was accused of distorting a Qur‘an teaching to convince the nation’s overwhelming Muslim majority to vote for a Christian, public opinion shifted dramatically.

Ahok repeatedly denied the claims as a translation error, and accused Indonesia’s hardline Muslim groups of coordinating an attack against him. He ultimately conceded Wednesday’s election, trailing in the polls by less than 10 percentage points.

But Christians’ prayers were answered the following day, when government prosecutors decided to end the trial against him, CBN reported. The official sentencing ruling will come in early May.

“Ahok is very positive. He says that everything is in God’s hands and that everything has a purpose,” said Lucille Talusan, CBN’s Indonesia correspondent. “Even if he is under trial for what is happening in his life, he believes that one day God is going to bring him back to his calling. The first thing in his heart is to serve his people in Indonesia.”

The 50-year-old still sees a future for himself in Indonesian politics and hopes to be president. Indonesia still hasn’t ever directly ...

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The Lost City of Z Points to the City That Is to Come

The thrilling story of British explorer Percy Fawcett dramatizes our search for a transcendent home.

James Gray’s The Lost City of Z opens with a rousing sequence of sport: British army officers on horseback, galloping through the picturesque Irish country on a stag hunt. Complete with a bagpipe score, sweeping vistas, and shots of adoring wives and children cheering on their men, the scene embodies masculine attraction to danger, adventure, exploration and competition. When Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) wins the hunt and shoots the stag, he raises a toast with his fellow hunters, with words that should resonate with those of us who just celebrated Easter: “To death, the best source of life.”

The scene is important for character development, positioning Fawcett as an ambitious, genteel, but insecure man seeking to prove his manly mettle and bolster his soldierly reputation. But the scene also introduces some of the film’s questions about the nature of man: What are we really after when we seek to hunt a stag—especially when it’s an animal we don’t need to eat? When we aren’t fighting for survival (as in war or wilderness exploration), why must men seek to fight in sport, game, politics, and more? Need there be a concrete mission or prize, or is the point simply in the struggle itself, the test of strength? In what sense is death the best source of life?

Based on David Grann’s 2009 book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon—and, before that, Grann’s 2005 New Yorker story—the film follows the adventures of Fawcett, who pioneered multiple explorations into the Bolivian jungle between 1906 and 1925. At first commissioned by the Royal Geographic Society to survey the land for mapmaking purposes (and to act as a third party between ...

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The March for Science Is Willing to Get Political. But Will It Welcome Religion?

How evangelical scientists square their place in the global movement.

Hundreds of thousands of researchers, educators, and doctors will take to the streets tomorrow, holding nerdy signs and sporting pins with slogans like “I Believe in Science.”

For many of them, that’s not all they believe in. Evangelicals’ involvement in the upcoming March for Science reflects their unique place in the sector. Despite all the motivations and concerns they share with their secular counterparts, there’s still some tension over how their faith fits in a field built on empirical facts—especially as the movement employs those facts toward political ends.

The event was initially inspired by fear over anticipated “gag orders” on government scientists following President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The march ballooned from Washington, DC, to more than 500 locations worldwide. Over the past three months, organizers pushed for the scientific community to find common ground to celebrate the role of scientific discovery in society and policy.

“I would hope that the presence of Christians in the march can show that theists and non-theists can look through the microscope together and come to the exact same conclusions,” said Mike Beidler, the president of the Washington, DC, chapter of the American Scientific Affiliation, a network for Christians in science. “The only difference is that the theist then moves beyond the awe of discovery to an attitude of worship of the Creator.”

More than 2 million of the 12 million scientists in the United States identify as evangelical, according to research by Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund. March organizers nodded to faith’s place at the march when their diversity committee stated a ...

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How to End Sibling Rivalry Like a Christian

No teasing, no favorites, and hours and hours of time with one other.

Sibling friendship is a countercultural notion. TV shows, movies, and books rarely portray siblings as allies. Sibling rivalry has been elevated from an occasional challenge to the cultural norm.

Under this norm, parents function as referees and judges—breaking up fights, assigning blame, and steering siblings to leave each other alone. But the Bible indicates that siblinghood (both spiritual and physical) consists of more than simply tolerating each other.

I’ve been pondering Proverbs 18:24: “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” True friendship is a gift of the rarest kind. When the writer of Proverbs wants us to conceive of the deepest form of friendship, he says, in essence, “Imagine a depth of friendship that exceeds even that between siblings.” He points to siblinghood as the gold standard.

I came to parenthood with no vision for my children to be friends. I grew up the only girl among four brothers, and “adversarial” does not come close to capturing the dynamic among us. Our fights explored the full range of verbal, physical, and psychological aggression. We loved each other, but we didn’t really learn to like each other until later in life.

By contrast, my husband has called his sister, Emily, his best friend for his whole life. At first, I thought he must be lying. But there was evidence—pictures of them holding hands (holding hands!) on a trip to Disney as teenagers, full-body hugging at a family gathering, and heading to a dance together her senior year when she didn’t have a date.

I wanted to scoff, to say they were a statistical anomaly. But I also wanted to hope: What if Jeff and ...

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