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Should Unaccredited Bible Colleges Be Allowed to Grant Degrees?

Some Christian schools challenge an Illinois requirement. Experts weigh in.

College students strive for one goal: a degree. Dayspring Bible College and Seminary wants to give them one after they complete its programs. But the suburban Chicago school only issues certificates and diplomas. The Illinois Board of Higher Education forbids Dayspring from offering a “degree” because it doesn’t meet accreditation standards.

Earlier this year, Dayspring and a handful of other Illinois-based Bible colleges filed a federal lawsuit accusing the state board of overstepping the First Amendment and infringing on their rights to free religious exercise and free speech.

The lawsuit argues that the current ban financially hurts unaccredited Bible colleges because it communicates that their education is inferior and thus dissuades prospective students. And if the schools pursued accreditation, which is costly, they would become unaffordable. (According to the lawsuit, Bible colleges generally run 25 to 30 percent of the cost of a liberal arts school.)

Twenty-eight states currently exempt Bible colleges from regulation. One of the most recent states to deregulate was Texas.

In 2007, the state supreme court ruled that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board could not forbid the unaccredited Tyndale Theological Seminary and Bible Institute from calling itself a “seminary” or using words such as degree, bachelor, master, and doctor. Such terms belonged to the church before the government claimed them.

Nearly 30 Bible colleges were established in the decision’s wake. Yet not all similar schools in Texas liked the ruling. B. H. Carroll Theological Institute continued pursuing accreditation in spite of the outcome. Its spokesperson said, “Accountability is a biblical ...

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The Best Way to Become Like Jesus? Let Jesus Fill Your Vision

An excerpt from 'Rejoicing in Christ.'

Since Christ is our life, the one we are brought to enjoy and the one in whom we live and move and have our being, he must be the secret or mystery of godliness. Only through knowing and relying on him can we become like the living God and share his vitality.

This means that before anything else it matters where we look. Before anything else it matters what fills our vision. For whatever it is that occupies our attention (or, to use Jesus’ words, whatever it is that “remains” in us), that will steer and shape our every thought, motive, and action. You are what you see.

Life, righteousness, holiness, and redemption are found in Jesus, and found by those—and only those!—who look to him. Perhaps I should be clearer: It is not that we look, get some sense of what Christ is like, and then go away and strain to make ourselves similar; we become like him through the very looking. The very sight of him is a transforming thing. For now, contemplating him by faith, we begin to be transformed into his likeness (2 Cor. 3:18), but so potent is his glory that when we clap our eyes upon him physically at his second coming, then “when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

That full, unveiled, physical sight of the glorified Jesus will be so majestically effacing it will transform our very bodies around us. The sight of him now by the Spirit makes us more like him spiritually; the sight of him, then, face to face, will finally make us—body and soul—as he is. Contemplating Christ now is thus rather like seeing the morning star at the break of day: both enchanting and full of hope. It is light for now with the promise of so much more to ...

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Beth Moore: When a Big God Escapes Us

We sometimes fail to see Jesus for who he really is, even when he stands right before us.

I was the second-youngest child in a family that took up the better part of an entire pew at our Baptist church. My maternal grandmother lived with us, which meant that every Sunday I heard three generations of my own flesh and blood sing from The Broadman Hymnal. We lived in a college town in the green hills of Arkansas, whose denominations in those days were as distinct as the seasons.

Everyone I knew headed somewhere to church on Sunday morning. Whether we were people of faith was not the question. We were people of church. Still, true faith could be found down the heel-scuffed halls of my church.

All who filled the pews had secrets. Though my family’s could have qualified for daytime television, I know now that no one there was what he or she seemed. We all needed Jesus worse than we pretended. We all had wounds that Sunday mornings had not mended. We needed a Savior willing to stuff himself into the crowded car with us after church and venture behind the dark drapes of our homes. Some of us needed a wonder-worker who could wring honest-to-God miracles out of a house doused in madness, a proper Savior for improper people.

The order of our service usually mirrored that of the previous Sunday. After all, people like order, and my people liked bulletins. We liked to know in advance what hymns we’d sing, who’d bring the special music, and whether we were baptizing anyone that day. We could usually tell the latter by the curtain over the baptistery. (If it was open, somebody was going under.)

The church bulletin also served as a checklist through which one could work toward the goal: the benediction. At our church, it always came in the form of a song, and sometimes we would join hands. The lyrics ...

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Why We're Hooked on Heaven and Hell

What pop culture's afterlife obsession tells us about ourselves.

Ever since humans started telling stories about life, they have also told stories about life after life. We show an unquenchable obsession with the world beyond the grave, and today’s pop-culture narratives offer ample testimony to that fact.

In his workmanlike study Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination (Oxford University Press), Austin, Texas–based writer and scholar Greg Garrett explores this obsession. He looks not only at our tales of heaven and hell, but at tales of the undead (vampires and zombies), of death’s denizens (angels, demons, and the Devil), and of purgatory. For a relatively short book, Entertaining Judgment is a strikingly thorough inventory of these topics, as they appear in such movies and TV shows as The Hunger Games, Doctor Who, Lost, Field of Dreams, Twilight, and even, somehow, professional football. Garrett—a lay Episcopal preacher who teaches fiction, screenwriting, literature, film, and popular culture at Baylor University—manages to namecheck Dante, Milton, Barth, Augustine, and various mythological traditions.

Items of pop culture, Garrett says, can function as “alternative wisdom traditions of a sort, helping readers and viewers to find comfort and make meaning about ethical and spiritual questions.” They help us make sense of challenging concepts, and “along the way, they offer us some peace of mind.”

As a scholar and experienced writer—his previous books include The Gospel Reloaded: Exploring Spirituality and Faith in ‘The Matrix’ and The Gospel According to Hollywood, plus some works of fiction—Garrett writes rigorous, readable prose. It is clear he has spent plenty of time with the ...

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Chen Guangcheng, the Voice of China's Voiceless

The 'Blind Lawyer' recounts his fight against Communism's corruptions.

Chen Guangcheng seemed an unlikely hero. Born in 1971 to a poor family in rural China, blind since infancy, and illiterate until his late teens, Chen became his country’s most prominent human-rights activist. His story made international headlines in 2012 when, under house arrest, he made a dramatic escape and sought refuge in the US embassy in Beijing. The Chinese government eventually allowed him to go to the United States.

The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man’s Fight for Justice and Freedom in China (Henry Holt) is Chen’s autobiography. It offers both an absorbing story of how a determined, courageous individual can make a difference in the lives of millions and an eye-opening portrait of the desperate conditions endured by China’s rural poor. Chen advised his countrymen about their legal rights, and the book’s title refers to the nickname by which they know him.

Chen’s activism began with a seemingly trivial incident: A ticket collector on a bus refused to let him ride free, as mandated under China’s law regarding those with disabilities. His outrage at this mistreatment propelled him into advocacy for people with disabilities, first at his school in Shandong Province and then on a national level. He educated himself on disability law, petitioned the government in Beijing for better enforcement, and used the media to call attention to violations.

He employed similar tactics to help other victims of official misconduct. When people began to sicken or die from drinking water polluted by a paper mill upriver from his village, he exposed the corrupt officials whom the mill owners had bribed to ignore environmental regulations.

Chen also turned his attention to the plight of women ...

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Interview: The Lost World of Adam and Eve

Old Testament scholar John Walton affirms a historical Adam—but says there are far more important dimensions to Genesis.

In recent years, John Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, has been both lauded and criticized for his interpretation of Genesis 1–2. In his 2009 landmark book, The Lost World of Genesis One (InterVarsity Press), he argued that to rightly understand Genesis 1—an ancient document—we need to read it within the context of the ancient world. Read alongside other ancient texts, he says, Genesis 1 is not about how God made the world, but about God assigning functions to every aspect of it. In 2013, Walton contributed a chapter in Four Views on the Historical Adam (Zondervan). There he argued that Adam was a historical person, but also that Adam’s primary function in Scripture is to represent all of humanity. For Walton, Genesis 1–2 is not concerned about human material origins, but rather about our God-given function and purpose: to be in relationship with God and work alongside him, as his image bearers, in bringing continued order to our world.

Walton spoke recently with CT assistant editor Kevin P. Emmert about his newest book, The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate (IVP Academic).

By arguing that the Genesis creation account is not about material origins, you run against 2,000 years of interpretive history. Does that give you pause?

I respect interpreters and theologians of the past. Many of my ideas can be found in the church fathers, and I try to bring out some of that in my research. But we also have information today that most historical interpreters didn’t have, like ancient Near Eastern documents.

Throughout history, theologians responded to the challenges of their day. Today we have different issues on the table. ...

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Lyle Schaller, Preeminent Church Consultant, Dies at 91

No one may have advised more churches in the 20th century. Mine was one.

Because he was born April 19, 1923, and reached retirement age in the last century, he is best known to America’s senior church leaders. Schaller outlived many of those whom he most influenced, dying on March 18, 2015, at the age of 91.

Lyle certainly was a major influence in my life and ministry. And a long time personal friend. When he was at the peak of his career we led conferences together, co-authored an audiobook for Abingdon Press (The Best Is Yet to Come: For Churches Ready To Change) and made the dedication pages of each others’ books. After his retirement, we exchanged letters (he wasn’t much into computers) and every year Charleen and I went to visit Lyle and Agnes in their Naperville, Illinois, and Oklahoma City homes. We wanted them to know that they were important to us long after the spotlight of fame moved to others on different stages.

The road to national influence started in Lime Ridge, Wisconsin, where Lyle was the youngest child of dairy farmers. He married Agnes Woods Peterson in 1946—she became his lifelong partner, typist, editor, and stay-at-home wife while he consulted with thousands of churches across the nation. His journey to church consulting and writing began in the planning office of the City of Madison, Wisconsin’s capital. His understanding of demographics and analysis of urban structures gave him a sociologist’s view of human interaction that he brought to churches and denominations.

The switch from urban planning to parish ministry came in his decision to enroll at Garrett Theological Seminary on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. In keeping with his Methodist roots and education, he was ordained and became the pastor ...

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The Best Worship Music You Won't Hear on Christian Radio

It's like finding needles in a hymnstack.

Studying the cultural history of contemporary worship music means I listen to a lot of albums. Arriving at the dissertation stage of my doctoral studies has required listening to 40 years’ worth of music from one of the most significant movements in modern church life—the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. It’s a lot of music. And trust me, there’s a lot of ugly.

But because I also serve as a worship director at a local church, listening to contemporary worship music is not just a scholarly exercise—it is also serious pastoral business. My people need solid spiritual food from their church music. They need songs that will sculpt their theological imagination and give voice to their praises, prayers, and confessions. The good news is that both as a researcher and as a worship leader, I have found many artists worth hearing.

To find these artists, I had to go beyond the Top 25 song list from the ubiquitous Christian Copyright Licensing International (ccli). Today hundreds of talented songwriters are crafting excellent music that will never land on the ccli charts. Their craft is just as good as that of the heavyweights, and their songs are more musically and theologically diverse. Consider three that represent the breadth and range you’ll find beyond the charts: Liz Vice, Miranda Dodson, and Cardiphonia.

Vice’s There’s a Light is a breath of fresh gospel air. If Grammy-winning artist Israel Houghton fuses gospel with Michael Jackson pop and worship arena rock, then Vice lands on the other side of the gospel coin. She fuses 1970s funk and soul with indie rock layerings, and tops it off with a smoky—even gritty at times—vocal performance. Imagine if Al ...

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Gleanings: April 2015

Important developments in the church and the world (as they appeared in our April issue).

Who Makes the Bible Go Viral

Last year, 2.6 million Twitter users shared Bible verses 43 million times. After filtering out spambots, OpenBible.info calculated the top sharers and how many verses circulated thanks to them:

InterVarsity firing bolsters parachurch rights

Good news for parachurch organizations: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that ministries can hire or fire employees based on religious criteria, just like churches can. A divorcing employee sued InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) for sex discrimination after she was fired for “failing to reconcile her marriage.” But the court ruled that since IVCF is a religious group, its “ministerial employees” can’t challenge their termination under federal or state employment discrimination laws. It didn’t matter that the employee was a “spiritual director” and not a “minister,” since the title conveys a religious meaning, the court said.

Bible society (ironically) moves to Philadelphia

Two centuries ago, the Philadelphia Bible Society was the leading opponent when America’s dozens of societies merged into a national group. The American Bible Society (ABS) formed in 1816 and was headquartered in Manhattan. This year, ABS made the “heart-wrenching” decision to leave its 12-story building on Broadway in favor of the lower cost of living in the City of Brotherly Love. abs will help displaced ministries—including Young Life and the Museum of Biblical Art—relocate, and hopes to move in before Pope Francis visits Philadelphia in September.

United Kingdom: Barnabas Fund founder resigns after conviction

The founder and director of one of the world’s largest advocates ...

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Why the Time Is Ripe for Pro-Life Reform

Despite what you may have heard, more Americans than ever want abortion access restricted.

“The test of a democracy is not whether the people vote, but whether the people rule,” G. K. Chesterton once wrote. In other words: Does the average citizen see her values and concerns reflected in public policy?

Charles C. Camosy, a Catholic ethicist at Fordham University, argues that a moral consensus has emerged in the United States around the issue of abortion. Yet neither the major political parties nor the federal government reflects that consensus. Citing poll after poll, from sources across the political spectrum, Camosy demonstrates that the vast majority of Americans would prefer much more limited access to abortion.

In Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation (Eerdmans), Camosy takes stock of the polling data and concludes that abortion policy could comfortably shift in a restrictive direction. Under his preferred settlement, national public policy would allow abortion only in cases of imminent danger to the life of the mother, conception by rape or incest, and a few other extraordinary instances. To this end, Camosy outlines an actual legislative proposal, what he calls the Mother and Prenatal Child Protection Act (MPCPA).

State of the Debate

The abortion debate has long been framed as a deadlock between two extremes. Camosy—who has written elsewhere on animal compassion and health care—argues persuasively that this framing persists because it serves the interests of major news media, political parties, and advocacy groups. Polarization and demonization attract viewers and listeners, galvanize supporters, and mobilize volunteers. Binary categories harden edges, stiffen spines, and arouse passions.

Polls show, however, that two-thirds of Americans identify ...

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Oxford's Unapologetic Female Apologist

Amy Orr-Ewing proclaims the faith, once the bedrock of Britain, to an audience wanting more than rationalism.

Amy Orr-Ewing, among the most prominent apologists in the UK today, found her voice in a place where she wasn’t allowed to speak at all.

It was 1996, and Amy and Francis “Frog” Orr-Ewing were 19-year-old students in love and planning their second mission trip together. Having met at St. Aldate’s, a lively charismatic church in the heart of Oxford, England, the couple chose to spend Easter break in Afghanistan. By that spring, the Taliban controlled three-fourths of the country. The fundamentalist Islamic group would go on to capture the capital, Kabul, shooting or kidnapping many who failed to follow their harsh enforcement of Shari‘ah.

Not quite the backdrop for a wild spring break, but nonetheless the place Amy, Frog, and a ministry friend, Miles, believed God was telling them to go. The editor of a University of Oxford student newspaper wrote a letter explaining that they were journalists, one of the few groups granted visas into Afghanistan at the time. Then they filled their rucksacks full of Bibles and flew to Herat.

What followed was a series of highly improbable events. And since Amy isn’t a real journalist, she’s fine calling them miracles: being transported by a woman named Angela and a taxi driver named Aslan to a hidden apartment; passing through 12 gunned checkpoints without a hitch; and, finally, being invited to interview Taliban leaders at a secret military headquarters.

Upon arrival, the Taliban’s education minister turned to Frog. “Does she have to come in?” he asked, nodding at Amy, her uncovered blonde hair no doubt offending his propriety.

“Yes, she does. I fear for her safety.”

The three students were escorted into ...

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Getting Brutally Honest with God

The psalms of lament invite us to voice our frustrations—and provide a reason to hope.

I remember hitting my forehead over and over on the glass door of the shower. My mentor and dear friend, Ray Dillard, had just died at age 49. He had trained me in seminary, encouraged me to go to graduate school, and eventually hired me to teach Old Testament alongside him. Besides the loss, his death meant that my already heavy workload would double, as I would need to teach his classes in addition to my own. This increased responsibility came at a bad time: my teenage sons were acting up at school and needed my attention. To say I felt sad and stressed was not even half of it.

That year, my friend Dan Allender and I were writing a book on psalms of lament. What a mistake, I thought. When we started our work, we both were in good places with few troubles in our lives. Apparently God thought that anyone writing on lament psalms should have something to lament. Sure enough, I thought as I continued to bang my head on the shower door. God was starting to come through in spades. I realized he was going to show me what lament really is.

I already understood that the lament psalms gave me permission to complain to God. God invites us to speak to him with utter honesty and boldness. This is different from grumbling against him, as the Israelites did when they journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land (Num. 11).
The Israelites spoke about God behind his back—or so they thought. Conversely, the complaints of the psalmists are spoken directly to God. And whereas the wilderness generation had given up on God, the psalmists had not. Even though they often addressed God in anger, they spoke to him, asking for help and hoping that he would answer them in their distress.

I was not ready to turn my back on God. But the laments, ...

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Unplanned Pregnancy, Unplanned Grace

Wayward teenage years had me fearing I had lost my salvation.

Kneeling at her bedside after three years of family strife, my mother surrendered me in prayer to Jesus. While she was still there, the phone rang. I had just been arrested for smoking hash in the drive-through of a bank while the driver was trying to cash a stolen check. I was getting high while committing bank fraud. That’s how out-of-my-mind stupid I was at age 16.

My mother was relieved—not because of the arrest, but because she finally knew where I was. I hadn’t called home in days. It was 1980 and the off-season in my seaside hometown of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. Some friends and I were at a deserted motel on a drug binge. When it was time to rustle up funds to keep the party going, I’d followed a guy through the window of a senior citizen’s house. There was nothing else worth stealing, so we took the checkbook.

After being arrested I moved back home, but other drama followed until I landed in a juvenile shelter. Free of the drugs and relationships that had clouded my thinking, I realized my life was going nowhere fast. After a month at the shelter, I went to stay with a family who offered transitional housing to wayward teenagers through a 4-H program.

Pat and Carl were born-again Christians. In court, I had complained that my mother and stepfather were trying to “shove Christianity down my throat.” Now it seemed like I couldn’t get away from Christians. But there was no tension with my hosts. Compared to the faith that had transformed my home life after my father died and my mother married into a Baptist family, Pat and Carl’s piety was laid-back.

They didn’t go to church much, but were so moved by the ministry of televangelists Jim and ...

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Cloud of Witnesses

A snapshot of Christian witness in the world (as it appeared in our April issue).

EGYPT: Islamist terrorists in Libya sought attention in filming the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians. And they got it—for the martyrs, honored with an icon (above) and a day in the Coptic church calendar. The Bible Society of Egypt transformed the ISIS propaganda video’s “two rows by the sea” into its largest outreach in 130 years. In 1.65 million tracts on God’s promise of blessing amid suffering, it asked: “Who fears the other? The row in orange, watching paradise open? Or the row in black, with minds evil and broken?”

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Messianic Judaism Flourishes in Holocaust Towns

Ukrainian Jews who follow Yeshua also plant congregations worldwide.

Nearly one year after Jews for Jesus launched one of its most successful and controversial evangelism campaigns, more than 1.3 million people worldwide have watched That Jew Died for You.

The three-minute YouTube video depicts Jesus carrying the cross to a gas chamber. The film’s goal was to “reshape views of Jesus and his relationship to the Holocaust.” Pegged to Yom HaShoah, a day when Israel remembers the Holocaust (held the evening of April 15 this year), many Jews called it the “most tasteless YouTube video ever.”

In Ukraine, where nearly 1 million Jews were murdered during World War II, Holocaust references are usually used to make political points. During January’s 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Russian and Ukrainian leaders compared each other to Nazis and publicly fought over which country should get the credit for freeing the Polish concentration camp.

But Ukraine’s Messianic Jewish community is talking about the Holocaust in its evangelistic efforts. And now Messianic congregations are thriving in many of the same communities that suffered the deepest Holocaust wounds.

Remembrance and education

The Soviet Union suppressed information about the Holocaust in its effort to create a “common Soviet people,” said Igor Rusniak, director of the Bible college at Kiev Jewish Messianic Congregation (kjmc). Thus, many Ukrainian Christians still don’t grasp that the Holocaust targeted Jews in particular. Rusniak says, “Practically every Jewish family in Ukraine has relatives who were murdered by Nazis during the war.” For these Jews, the Holocaust only proved that Christians with power are not to be trusted.

One way Messianic ...

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