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This MLK Day Feels Different

A reflection on recent tensions and a renewed sense of hope.

Driving home in the early evening darkness, we were talking about how much hadn’t changed with race relations in this country, following the exoneration of police officers accused of killing unarmed black men in Ferguson and Staten Island.

Suddenly, I had the sensation of falling through a wrinkle in time. I have lived in a small town in upstate New York for nearly 30 years and have loved the old-fashioned civility of the people and the quiet country pace. I have never felt unwelcome here, despite being one of only a handful of African Americans.

But my fiancé, who grew up in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, is less sanguine. He waits to pick up mail after pickup trucks with gun racks pass. I felt like we’re a black couple during the height of the civil rights movement, with little corners of fear curling in on a once-peaceful existence. America’s racism has spent decades in the dark, but in the years since the election of our first black president, more of its systemic disparities have come to light (Luke 12:2-3). It feels like falling through time.

That’s what I thought when I saw the movie Selma last week, watching David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. I was in second grade when the events depicted in the movie took place. I can remember writing a big 7 on the chalkboard for my birthday in September. Months later, and hundreds of miles away, civil rights leaders led thousands to march for voting rights.

For many years, African Americans have felt that those events were part of a painful but thankfully receding history. However, recent events have made many of us feel differently. My sister put it this way: “We feel stripped of our illusions.”

The ...

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The 'Boy Who Came Back from Heaven' Retracts Story

(UPDATED) Alex Malarkey's mother, grandmother, and publisher weigh in on retraction of best-selling book; John MacArthur first raised concerns two years ago.

Update (Jan. 21): Tyndale House Publishers revealed more details today about the publishing and retraction of its bestselling The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, stating it was "saddened to hear that Alex [Malarkey] is now saying that he made up the story of dying and going to heaven."

"This was the first time Tyndale had been told that Alex fabricated the story," said the publisher in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon. "We were alerted to his public statement on January 14, 2015, and have since confirmed Alex’s retraction with his father, Kevin Malarkey."

In response, Tyndale "immediately put the book and all ancillary products into out-of-print status," and informed retailers that they "could return their remaining inventory if they chose to do so."

"While it was only this past week that Alex Malarkey retracted his story, leading to Tyndale’s immediate decision to take the book out of print, our editors had tried on multiple occasions to meet with the family to correct any perceived inaccuracies," stated Tyndale. "On several occasions in 2012, Tyndale reached out to Beth Malarkey to schedule a meeting to respond to a list of alleged inaccuracies in the book. After originally agreeing to a meeting, Mrs. Malarkey sent us an email on May 22, 2012, saying that, out of concern for her son, she no longer wished to meet."

Tyndale disputed the assertion that no royalties had been paid on the book, stating it "has paid every penny that is due under the terms of the author contract."

The publisher also acknowledged the "varying theological positions" among evangelicals on heaven and other matters.

"Tyndale ...

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The Good News Hiding Beneath the Headlines

As we begin another year, Philip Yancey reminds us: Grace hasnt vanished.

After listening to several dark reviews of 2014—recapped news of the beheadings in Iraq, the Ebola epidemic, racial strife, airplanes crashed or missing, ongoing violence in Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and several African countries—it’s no wonder we’re glad to put last year behind us. Amid all the fear and anxiety, where can we find some good news?

After a steady diet of cable news, you may be surprised to learn the following:

  • Abortions in the US are at their lowest rate since 1976.
  • Violent crime has hit a 20-year low, with overall crime falling for fifteen straight years.
  • Globally, absolute poverty (what’s necessary to afford minimal standards of food, clothing, health care and shelter) has reached the lowest level in recorded history.
  • Deaths from wars in this century are fewer than at any comparable period in the twentieth century.
  • Life expectancy continues to rise, reaching 78 in the US and 71 worldwide (up from 59 in 1970).
  • Child mortality rates have dropped dramatically in the last forty years while education and literacy rates have soared.

Statistics don’t always dispel doubt, I realize. Yet over the past year, I’ve also witnessed the good news firsthand, through my own travels and ministry.

At a conference of Prison Fellowship International (PFI), which ministers to prisoners in more than 125 countries, I met African Christians who bring soup and bread to prisoners and establish schools for children incarcerated with their mothers. In places like Brazil and Belize the government has turned over the administration of entire prisons to PFI with remarkable results.

The most prestigious medical college in the India, Christian Medical College Vellore, ...

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How I Almost Lost the Bible

Had it not been for the first editor of CT, I likely would have gone the way of liberal scholar Bart Ehrman.

I was born at the Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania—a fact that once prompted a friend of mine to say, “You’re evangelical born, evangelical bred, and when you die, you’ll be evangelical dead.” My father, John Forrest Thornbury, was the model of a country parson, serving as the pastor of Winfield Baptist Church, a historic congregation in the American Baptist tradition, for 44 years.

My childhood environs prefigured what has become my life’s passion: the relationship of Christian faith to higher education. Lewisburg is home to Bucknell University, an elite private college whose alumni include two evangelical luminaries: Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and Makoto Fujimura, acclaimed contemporary painter. Several years ago, Tim told me that he had occasionally attended my father’s church while at Bucknell.

Founded by a Baptist association, Bucknell originally existed to further the cause of Christ. Writing to fellow churches across Pennsylvania, the association’s leaders explained that through Bucknell, they sought “to see . . . the cause of God, the honor and glory of the Redeemer’s kingdom promoted in all our bounds, and spreading far and wide until the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ.” Bucknell held its first classes in the basement of the First Baptist Church in the fall of 1846.

The school’s reputation loomed large in our community, but like so many other premier US colleges and universities, it slowly abandoned orthodoxy. Today, you would be hard-pressed to find anything on Bucknell’s website about its origins as a Christian institution. ...

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Obama to Imprisoned Pastor's Wife: Saving Saeed Abedini in Iran Is 'a Top Priority'

Abedini's 6-year-old son asks President of the United States: 'Please bring daddy home' by March birthday.

Hours after giving his seventh State of the Union address, President Barack Obama met in person with Naghmeh Abedini, an Idaho mother who has spent more than two years advocating for the freedom of her husband, Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini, jailed in Iran.

More than 100,000 people had signed a petition, sponsored by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), asking the President to let Naghmeh make a “personal appeal for her husband” during his visit today to Boise, Idaho. Obama met privately with her and her two children for about 10 minutes.

“I am extremely thankful the President took the time to meet with our family and told us that securing the release of my husband is a top priority,” said Naghmeh Abedini, according to an ACLJ statement. “The President was focused and gracious—showing concern to me and my children. I know that this meeting could not have occurred without prayer, and I am grateful to the many people around the country and world who continue to pray for Saeed’s release.

"The President repeated his desire to do all that he can to bring Saeed home. That means the world to me and my children and has given me a renewed sense of hope,” she said.

According to the ACLJ [full statement below]:

Naghmeh told the President that her son, Jacob, had something to ask him. Jacob asked: "Mr. President, can you please bring daddy home for my birthday?" The President responded, "When is your birthday?" Jacob told him March 17th, when he will turn seven. The President said he will try very hard to bring his father home.

After hearing last Friday that Obama would be traveling to Boise, where Naghmeh lives with the couple’s ...

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