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News: New Poll Finds Evangelicals Favorite Heresies

Survey finds many American evangelicals hold unorthodox views on the Trinity, salvation, and other doctrines.

Most American evangelicals hold views condemned as heretical by some of the most important councils of the early church.

A survey released today by LifeWay Research for Ligonier Ministries “reveals a significant level of theological confusion,” said Stephen Nichols, Ligonier’s chief academic officer. Many evangelicals do not have orthodox views about either God or humans, especially on questions of salvation and the Holy Spirit, he said.

Evangelicals did score high on several points. Nearly all believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead (96%), and that salvation is found through Jesus alone (92%). Strong majorities said that God is sovereign over all people (89%) and that the Bible is the Word of God (88%).

And in some cases the problem seems to be uncertainty rather than heresy. For example, only 6 percent of evangelicals think the Book of Mormon is a revelation from God, but an additional 18 percent aren’t sure and think it might be.

Jesus, Almost as Good as His Father?

Almost all evangelicals say they believe in the Trinity (96%) and that Jesus is fully human and fully divine (88%).

But nearly a quarter (22%) said God the Father is more divine than Jesus, and 9 percent weren’t sure. Further, 16 percent say Jesus was the first creature created by God, while 11 percent were unsure.

No doubt, phrases like “only begotten Son” (John 3:16) and “firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15) have led others in history to hold these views, too. In the fourth century, a priest from Libya named Arius (c.250–336) announced, “If the Father begat the Son, then he who was begotten had a beginning. … There was a time when the Son was not.” The ...

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Day of the Dead Gets New Life

What does it mean for this Hispanic celebration to go mainstream?

A local store near my home in Ohio carries an assortment of handcrafted items for El Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. There are dressed-up skeleton dolls called Catrinas, candles, and colorful paper cutouts, all traditional decorations for altars built to honor loved ones on this holiday. The owner explains that each item is made by Mexican artists, like her, who dedicate their work to the importance of this holiday.

Now, shoppers can find cheap, mass-produced versions of these items sold everywhere from World Market to Oriental Trading Company. With festivities held October 31 to November 2 each year, El Día de los Muertos has become commercialized and marketed along with Halloween. Catrinas printed on paper plates, cups and napkins—basically a fiesta kit—removes the intended meaning of the celebration.

The over-commercialization is disappointing for traditional observers, who hold on to the holiday as a sacred time of remembrance for the dead. Those of us who care about the cultural integrity of the many diverse groups who have found a home in the U.S. can mourn its over-commercialization too. (A similar thing has happened around Christmas—where retailers’ emphasis on Santa, gifts, and decorations distracts from its real meaning.)

But perhaps such hybridization of Halloween and El Día de Los Muertos is not all bad. The new movie The Book of Life, which also celebrates this Mexican holiday, can be used as an example of the way Hispanic culture is being shaped by and is shaping mainstream American society.

In the U.S., El Día de los Muertos has been widely celebrated for decades in the Southwest and other areas with a large Mexican American population. ...

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Top 10 Books on the Protestant Reformation

A Reformation Day list, picked by historians and theologians.

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Chapel door (or mailed them) and thus sparked the Reformation. Today, Reformation Day, commemorates that event and the work of Reformers. CT asked scholars what books they recommended for better understanding the Reformation. Here’s what they suggested.

The Reformation, Diarmaid McCulloch (Penguin)
“McCulloch is one of the foremost Reformation historians in our day. His works are expansive and thorough. While this book is large, it’s definitely worth the time to invest in reading it.”
~ J. V. Fesko, professor of systematic and historical, Theology Westminster Seminary California

Reformers in the Wings, David Steinmetz (Oxford)
“In this book, Steinmetz covers a number of Reformers largely unknown in the present day, who stood in the massive shadows of figures like Calvin and Luther. They were giants in their own day, however, so it behooves us to learn about their contributions to the Reformation.”
~ Fesko

The Unquenchable Flame, Michael Reeves (B&H)
“Michael Reeves' book is a thoughtful, concise, and clear account of the major events, people, and ideas that shaped the Reformation. With theological sensitivity and historical acumen, Reeves explains why the Reformation happened. And at a time when many are declaring that the Reformation is over and that its concerns no longer apply, Reeves gives a charitable and thoughtful explanation of why it is still important for Christians today and what difference it should make.”
~ Carl Trueman, professor of church history, Westminster Theological Seminary, Phildelphia

Getting the Reformation Wrong by James R. Payton, Jr. (InterVarsity Press) “Many ...

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Commentary: The Rapture Keeps Coming Back

Why are movies about the last days still so popular?

Are Americans more enraptured with the Rapture than ever? Seth Rogen's 2013 apocalypse comedy, This Is the End, poked fun at the concept, while the cinematic "reboot" of Left Behind, starring Nicolas Cage, takes it seriously. The bleak HBO drama The Leftovers, developed by Damon Lindelof (co-creator of Lost), explores what life would be like for those left behind after a Rapture-esque event.

The Rapture is a relatively recent idea in church history, as well as a minor theme in Scripture: Many Bible scholars argue that it's not there at all, while descendants of 19th-century dispensationalists see it in passages like 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17; 1 Corinthians 15:51–55; and John 14:2–3. But it has become a fixture in U.S. pop culture, showing up unexpectedly like a thief in the night.

Big-Budget Destruction

Pop apocalyptic—the larger genre of disaster movies and end-of-the-world scenarios—has been a big business for a long time. It flourished after World War II and during the cold war. Just as Amish romances have provided an evangelical-friendly niche within the larger genre of romance novels, Rapture media allowed Christians to carve out a space within the larger (and quite profitable) genre of apocalyptic. Whereas Amish romance provides a "safer alternative" to bodice-rippers, however, Christian Rapture fare often seems more intent on upping the terror factor than providing toned-down, family-friendly fun.

Take the 1941 evangelistic film The Rapture, produced by Charles Octavia Baptista. In 11 minutes, the film chillingly depicts the chaos to be wrought on earth when the Rapture occurs. The narrator predicts that "speeding trains will plunge unsuspecting ...

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News: Why Nigerian Health Officials Turned to a Megachurch Pastor When Ebola Struck

Outbreak highlights African views about Gods healing power.

When the deadly Ebola virus appeared in Africa’s most populous country this summer, one of the first people Nigerian health officials turned to was a megachurch pastor.

Temitope Balogun (T. B.) Joshua and his Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), which boasts 50,000 weekly worshipers, are a continent-wide phenomenon. Zimbabwe’s tourism minister recently cited statistics that 60 percent of Nigeria’s tourists visit SCOAN to explain why the struggling nation was betting big on church tourism. One tragic piece of evidence: When a SCOAN guesthouse collapsed in September and killed 115 people, 84 of the victims were from South Africa.

Many are drawn by Joshua’s bold claims of healing powers, spread by his Emmanuel tv empire. People have died in stampedes seeking his “anointing water,” including four in Ghana last year.

So the Lagos State health minister visited SCOAN and asked Joshua to publicly discourage Ebola victims in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone—where the highly contagious virus has killed more than 3,000 people—from seeking his healing.

Joshua obliged and issued a warning: “What makes you a good citizen makes you a good Christian. … Obey the law of your land by not crossing the borders of your nation with Ebola virus.”

He then airlifted more than 4,000 bottles of anointing water to Sierra Leone, explaining that it contained the power of God and could heal Ebola. (Meanwhile, 60 Zimbabweans who visited SCOAN were under observation by health officials, who asked other citizens to suspend such trips.)

Spiritual and medical ailments are inextricably linked in Africa, says J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, professor of African Christianity at Trinity ...

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