Ligonier ministries has sponsored another LifeWay Research study, surveying where Americans land on certain theological beliefs. (I encourage you to check out the article reporting the findings, posted here at LifeWay.)
The results indicate that there's plenty of job security out there for teachers of theology, and need for churches to continue to champion theological formation. As someone who commented on the findings remarked, "although Americans still overwhelmingly identify as 'Christian,' startling percentages of the nation embrace ancient errors condemned by all major Christian traditions. These are not minor points of doctrine, but core ideas that define Christianity itself."
As I said in response to a similar survey done a couple of years ago, findings like this reinforce the responsibility churches have to champion evangelical theology and they remind us of the opportunity we have to draw people back to the life-giving fountain that is rich Christian theology.
Let's keep at it, Church. :)
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(This is an updated version of a post I initially composed on July 22, 2014.)
I've recently gotten a few questions from people asking very specifically how they can get emails with updated posts from the Brookside Institute blog, without having to remember to check in periodically on their own. They want to stay in the loop, but they won't always remember to go looking for new content. And when they do remember, they may not be near a computer or it may not be a convenient time.
I love this question. I love it that people want to stay in the loop, and that we're providing valuable enough content that people want to stay engaged.
Here's how I respond to this question:
There's no way that I know of to get emails specifically from the Brookside Institute, providing updated content as new posts are published. (If I'm missing something on this, someone please let me know!) However that doesn't mean there's no way to conveniently stay in the loop. The solution is to subscribe to something called a "feed reader" that will collect the content (the "RSS Feed") you want from sites you subscribe to. Then, you simply monitor your feed reader and can conveniently stay up to date on the content you've chosen to subscribe to.
Below I've included some detailed steps on how to subscribe to an RSS Feed and have it collected into a feed reader. Before I get into that, though, let me briefly share WHAT an RSS Feed is and WHY subscribing to the RSS Feed can be helpful.
This last Sunday I preached on "The 'Why?' Question" of Suffering from Job 1:1-2:10. (To find the message, click here and scroll down to the sermon preached on July 31, 2016.) The point I kept making from Job is this: "As you wrestle through the WHY question of suffering, focus on WHO God is and trust in Him."
In my opinion, there was no better song to end this message with than with the old hymn, "It Is Well," written by Horatio Spafford in the late 1800s. Not only do the lyrics of "It Is Well" reinforce the point I was trying to make, but the story behind the song is powerful. Spafford was a successful man who experienced deep suffering himself - losing much of his wealth and 5 children. His song is an example of someone who - in the midst of suffering - focused on God and trusted in Him.
I encourage you to check out this brief video I found that tells the story behind this famous hymn. It's less than 5 min and will be worth the time spent watching it.
As of yesterday, it's officially summer. I laughed when I saw this tweet from @ChrchCurmudgeon:
And since it's summer, I figured I'd post a few books I'm wanting to read and spend time in this summer. No guarantees, but here's to hope! :)
If you've got some extra time over the next couple of months - maybe you're traveling a bit, or your summer schedule allows you more time to read for other reasons, or you just want some book recommendations as you maintain a habit of reading - here are a few books you may want to consider. I encourage you to explore these books a bit (each is looked to their Amazon page where you can learn more) and jump in - the water's fine!
What Did the Early Church Include in their Training of Believers? 9 Categories of Catechetical Content
From the earliest days of the church in the centuries following the death of the apostles, an intentional "training program" (or catechesis) was developed to form and shape believers in the Christian community. Why was this track of catechesis important? Alan Kreider points out a key reason in his The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire: "...believers knew that their practices [i.e., their noticeable, distinctive Christian lifestyles] were not acquired genetically or absorbed from pagan society. As Tertullian puts it around AD 200, 'Christians are made, not born'" (p. 134).
Those following Jesus took intentional steps to be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2); they took intentional steps to be made new in the attitude of their minds and to put on the new self (Ephesians 4:22-24); they took intentional steps to make sure they were strengthened and encouraged in their Christian faith (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:2). A key part of these "intentional steps" was a value placed on catechizing (i.e., intentionally training) those in the Christian faith.
It's important to note that a number of different components were included in catechesis. Catechetical practices developed over time in the first few centuries. And no single approach seems to be have been adopted everywhere as the early church grew. We need to acknowledge the numerous layers and the diversity that characterized catechesis.
Nevertheless, catechesis was valued. As Kreider points out in The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, by the fourth century we have enough samples of catechetical priorities that we can present a composite picture of what the early church included in their catechetical content.
So (more simply), what did the early church teach?
One of the (many) things that I love doing as a pastor is fielding some of the various theological questions I get. As someone who cares a lot about helping build and reinforce foundations of the Christian faith, and helping form people theologically, these sorts of interactions provide a fun - and important - opportunity.
Last week, a question about one part of the recent Young Messiah movie came through my inbox. I've not seen the movie myself and so I don't first-hand experience with the scene that was described (there's my disclaimer!). Nevertheless, let me paraphrase/summarize the question that came my way, and then include the way I responded.
Here's the question I got: I understand that the Young Messiah is fictional, and that there's no scriptural support for much of Jesus' life before His public ministry. Nevertheless, I have a question about one of the scenes. The movie portrays Jesus as unaware (or at least unsure) of his divinity when he's young - about age 7. In fact, the climactic moment of the movie portrays Mary telling Jesus the story of his conception and birth after having withheld the information for his own protection up to that point. A few questions came to mind after watching that scene. How could Jesus have ever been unaware of his deity if he was "wholly God?" On the other hand, how could he have possessed such sophisticated self-awareness from birth if he was "wholly human?" One movie is not a big deal but I am curious as to whether there is a reliable answer to this question?
Here's my response (in a very-slightly-edited form):
Late last week, I was able to present at a Teacher In-Service for Cornerstone Christian School. The topic I was asked to teach on was "The Importance of the Christian Worldview." After studying for the talk and interacting with the teachers, I'm as convinced as ever that Christians need to understand what worldview is, why a Christian worldview is so important, and how we grow in our understanding (and embodiment!) of the Christian worldview.
This topic breathes purpose and perspective into how we think about the different "arenas" of our lives (e.g. jobs, entertainment, family, etc), and it prompts us to think well about God and His Word, the Bible.
Keep reading to see the talk I gave (in a somewhat modified, abbreviated form) on Christian worldview. At the very end of this post, I've included an "answer key" version of the handout I made available to the teachers.
This upcoming weekend I'm teaching on Christianity and culture in the Brookside Institute "Walking Wisely" class on Christian Ethics. I found this video (length: 14:22) and think it has some worthwhile stuff to say on this topic. Listen especially to how what's said relates to issues of culture, Christian identity, and hope.
Fall 2015 classes are posted! This semester, we're offering classes on Christian Ethics and Church History. Check out what's coming and get signed up soon! (To make sure you've got all the materials you'll in time for the first session, be sure and get signed up on or before September 15!)
Still on the fence about taking a class? Check out these links that will help you get to know us a bit better and that can help you make your decision :
Don't forget to check out our Fall 2015 classes, and help spread the word!
It's important for Christians to think about church. The church is important. And as Christians, we're saved out of our sin and its consequences into (among other things) the church. But I wonder how many believers have stopped to really think about what being part of the church means? Does it just mean we lose the chance to sleep in on Sunday mornings? Or is being part of the Church that Jesus is building even better than we often think?
As I've studied the church - what she is, why she exists, and what "marks" should characterize her - I've found the answer is the latter: being part of the Church that Jesus is building is AWESOME. It's awesome because of the PEOPLE that make up the church, the PURPOSES that propel her, and the PRIORITIES that shape her.
This "awesomeness" invites further study, so we can better appreciate all that God is doing in and through the church. With this in mind, I want to encourage you to read one book on Ecclesiology (that's the fancy word for the doctrine of the church) this year. If you're looking for suggestions, here's a starter list of 6 to choose from, listed alphabetically by author. (Each is linked to its page at Amazon where you can explore a bit further.) Oh yeah, and don't forget to keep current with Brookside's current sermon series (Aug 16-Sept 6, 2015), "I Love My Church"!
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.