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Gratitude should fill the Christian’s life (1 Thess. 5:18; Acts 2:46-47), especially with Thanksgiving on the horizon. So why am I so prone to ingratitude? Genuine gratitude seems elusive.

We live in maybe the most prosperous country in certainly the most prosperous era yet of all time. And as people bought back into relationship with God by the merit of Jesus Christ, Christians should be even more thankful than anyone else. Besides, gratitude is fun! As G. K. Chesterton says, “Thanks are the highest form of thought, and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." We miss out on so much when we fail to live gratefully.

I think there are three big reasons why gratitude can seem so hard to find.

1. Gratitude requires making more of the good we have than the good we don’t.

If you’re like me, you tend to dwell on what you’d like to have. I’d love to own a house. I’d like to have a permanent job. A book deal, maybe? I’m always looking to the next thing, the bigger or better thing. Wishing isn’t necessarily wrong. But wishing does necessarily preclude gratitude, because by definition I can’t be grateful for something I don’t have. And if wishing is all I do, I’ll never be grateful.

Gratitude requires moving my eyes from the things I don’t have to the things I do have. It means saying there is good, real good, in this car. In this job or this home. I have to say, in one sense, “This is enough.”

Gratitude celebrates blessings received. As long as we’re consumed with blessings we haven’t received, we’ll never possess it.

2. Our society cultivates ingratitude.

As if we couldn’t be ungrateful enough on our own, ingratitude may be the yeast that makes American culture rise. Advertising persuades us that this thing will satisfy that need we didn’t know we had 30 seconds ago. HGTV shows us how beautiful our homes could be if we only had $50,000 and a professional crew. Political radio—doesn’t matter the party—says we cannot rest until this agenda is met and those people are thrown out of Washington.

“If only” is the prayer behind ingratitude, and it’s everywhere.

Let's try a simple thought experiment. Pick an area of your life you talk about with your friends: your job, your salary, your body, your family. Then imagine one of your friends saying something like, “Guys, I want you to know that I’m really happy with the salary at this job.” Or, “I actually love the way my stomach looks right now.”

If you’re like me, you may have thought: Wow, she sounds a little full of herself. Or maybe, Let’s see how long he can whitewash this thing before we hear how he really feels.

Our culture assumes that normal people operate with a consistent level of discontentment. We think that “real” equals “dissatisfied.” We definitely don’t want to live with a Botox spirituality that papers over real problems with a smile. But we don’t want to steer so far from that ditch that we fall into its opposite. Our society’s gravitational pull is already toward ingratitude.

3. Ingratitude elevates desire for a creature over desire for the Creator.

We desire food, shelter, friendship, health, happiness. These appetites may lead us into sin, but God made us with them, and they’re good at root (see Ps. 104:14-15).

However, God also gave us an appetite so unique it has its own category: the desire to see and savor his infinite, eternal presence. Ecclesiastes describes it as God “put[ting] eternity into man’s heart” (3:11); Augustine captures it with the line, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” We all hunger for God.

More often than not, ingratitude comes when we try to satisfy this hunger for God with blatantly sinful desires or too much of our basic needs. Somewhere in our hearts, maybe on a level we’re not consciously aware of, we convince ourselves that whatever created thing we lack—health, popularity, pleasure—will satisfy us if we can get just a little more of it. 

But as Christians, we know that our satisfaction can only be found in God. Our creaturely appetites will be fulfilled in the new creation; but for now, Christ suffices in abundance or need, plenty or want, life or death (Phil. 4:11-13).

Gratitude is elusive because we’re easily duped into thinking that an eternal hunger can be satisfied with temporal things.

Cultivating Gratitude

With these three reasons for ingratitude in mind, here are some thoughts about how to cultivate gratitude this Thanksgiving season.

1. Raise your ingratitude-sensing antennae.

Start sensitizing yourself to ingratitude, in your own heart and around you. Complaints about a job or a spouse or a body part. Fantasies of a bigger house, a bigger bank account, a different political climate. Being aware of ingratitude-messages will help you deal with the root problem.

2. Cultivate contentment in Jesus.

Jesus Christ is the one and only key to human happiness. As God incarnate, he provides our ultimate satisfaction; as our atonement and mediator, he alone makes it possible for us to have the communion with God that brings ultimate satisfaction (Ps. 16:11).

Cultivating that relationship with God through Jesus builds contentment in our hearts. Preaching the gospel to ourselves, meditating on the Word, worshiping God through prayer and song—all these open our hearts to the divine fount where we find satisfaction. Tasting and seeing God’s goodness leads to gratitude.

3. Supplant ingratitude with thanksgiving.

Botox spirituality misses that gratitude grows out from the inside. Ingratitude, like any sin, is a lion that grows when we feed it and shrivels when we don’t.

Once we catch the messages of ingratitude around us and inside us, we can start supplanting ungrateful thoughts with prayers of thanks. Sure, our 2003 Ford Escape isn’t sexy; but it’s given us 150,000 miles of reliable service with barely a repair needed. Yes, my job will end in seven months; but it’s been a wonderful experience and kept our family fed for the last two years.

I don’t practice a Sabbath, but a rhythm of remembrance and worship seems like a great way to cultivate gratitude. Israelite festivals marked major occasions—both yearly rhythms like the harvest and also national turning points—with prayer and the celebration of God’s actions. Building times of identifying and celebrating blessing into our weeks, months, and years could help open our eyes to see and celebrate God’s goodness. Thanksgiving this week is a great time to start.

A few months ago, I led my church in a community evangelism effort. Our outreach was a little old-fashioned: we knocked on doors and talked to people, hoping the Lord would draw some to himself through the gospel.

Executing door-to-door, “cold call” evangelism has many challenges in the modern context. Rejections of the gospel run the gamut from angry to flaky: One man told me that he hated religion, hated religious “zealots” like us, and believed hell was built especially for those of our ilk. Another woman said that she adhered to Jewish religion in which her father taught her that faith in any object, “even a rock,” would punch her ticket to heaven. None of my questions about the monotheism of the Old Testament and the Torah’s prohibition of worshiping idols made a dent in her rejection of Christ. I even told her that the Scripture called Jesus the rock, but she at last politely said goodbye and returned inside the door to her cats.

Still, I am thankful that God’s gospel can subdue the rebellious heart, whether seething or silly. 

Use of Means 

For training purposes, Christian leaders have long sought a good outline to help us recall the gospel when we are witnessing to lost people. Indeed, many thoughtful, careful, and biblical outlines have been used effectively—Two Ways to Live and Evangelism Explosion come immediately to mind, and I know there are others.

But recently, in my regular reading of C. H. Spurgeon’s sermons, I have discovered an excellent and pithy approach to the gospel, one that is fully biblical and establishes both man’s universal dilemma and God’s antidote in Christ: Spurgeon’s “Three R’s”: ruin, redemption, and regeneration. I like Spurgeon's outline for several reasons: it is simple, the alliteration makes it easy to remember, the biblical texts all surround the number three (another aid to memory for the throes of nerve-busting, face-to-face evangelism).

Also, the three R's cover three things a gospel presentation needs to establish: the problem, the solution, and the response. Spurgeon told young students in his pastor's college that these three doctrines must permeate their evangelism and preaching. I agree and thus commend it to modern readers. Spurgeon was a gifted, tireless evangelist whom God used to win untold thousands to Christ. 

Three Core Doctrines of Evangelism 

Spurgeon called them “three doctrines that must be preached above all else,” and he drew as texts for them “three third chapters (of Scripture) which deal with the things in the fullest manner.” Let's consider Spurgeon’s three R’s.

Ruin (Gen. 3:14-15). This is what man has done. “How did man get in this miserable condition?” Spurgeon asks. R. C. Sproul frames it another way, and his question is one I hear often in gospel conversations: “Saved from what?” In our post-postmodern culture, we must begin here with creation and the fall. Biblical illiteracy appears to be spreading, thus many have never considered that there is something desperately wrong in our world. Beginning here establishes the problem into which God has launched his rescue mission: Man has rebelled against his maker, broken his law, and now lives under a curse that will one day incur the white-hot, unmediated wrath of God. But in the second half of verse 15, we hear the faint promise of God’s solution, one that will grow louder as history advances and as the redemption story of the Bible unfolds. The seed of the woman will crush the head of the seed of the serpent. The serpent will bruise the heel of the woman’s offspring, but this promised one will deal the death blow to the snake, killing him as one must a serpent: a smashed head. As Spurgeon pointed out, this background leads quite naturally to the good news of God’s rescue mission.

Redemption (Rom. 3:21-26). This is what God has done. This is the good news that trumps the bad news. In the scope of five verses, Paul articulates what some commentators have called the thesis of Romans or the magna carta of salvation. In these glorious verses, Paul establishes the demands of God’s law, the futility of salvation by works, the law’s definition of sin, the righteousness of God received by faith in Christ, justification by faith through the redemption of Jesus Christ, and his satisfaction of God’s wrath against sin. This paragraph contains the entire matrix of the work of Christ that he accomplished on the cross, work that provided full pardon from the guilt of sin for every sinner who believes. It is perhaps the most glorious paragraph in human history.

Regeneration (John 3:1-8). This is what God must do in sinners to enable them to believe. Spurgeon, along with Reformed evangelicals throughout the ages, taught that regeneration precedes faith. In other words, God changes the sinful human heart, sets it free from bondage to sin, and enables it to believe that Jesus is indeed the way, the truth, and the life. Regeneration, like the entire work of salvation, is a unilateral work of grace. It was a central theme of Spurgeon’s preaching and evangelism, and it must be foundational to ours as well, particularly as we think through issues of “results” in evangelism. The reality of regeneration urges us to call sinners to repentance and faith while resting in the work of God who alone opens blind eyes and unstops deaf ears. It removes the pressure from us and frees us to boldly share the gospel while knowing that the results are in the hands of a sovereign, benevolent God. Out of a biblical understanding of regeneration, we may call on sinners to repent and be reconciled to God while leaving the results to him. Thus, I hold out hope for the lady with the Jewish background and all others whom I have engaged over the years.

Spurgeon’s “Three R’s,” whether you use them or not, should undergird all our evangelism. And like Spurgeon, pastors today should make certain that these three doctrines regularly appear in the diet of biblical exposition they feed to hungry sheep.

Daniel Heimbach. Why Not Same-Sex Marriage: A Manual for Defending Marriage Against Radical Deconstruction. Sisters, OR: Trusted Books, 2014. 504 pp. $19.99.

At this point in the debate over same-sex marriage, those who recognize the authority of Scripture are largely convinced that same-sex marriage (SSM) is immoral. On the other hand, proponents of SSM are convinced marriage is a social convention that can be redefined to match current theories of psychology and the nature of gender. In the middle a large number have likely tired of hearing arguments about the topic and do not believe either position will make much difference in the long run. In many cases, the emotional force behind arguments for the redefinition of marriage and attacks against those who publicly question the morality of SSM lead the otherwise unconvinced to take the path of least resistance and publicly affirm SSM despite any private concerns. Some on both sides of the debate have been convinced by arguments that are untrue, illogical, or both.

In Why Not Same-Sex Marriage: A Manual for Defending Marriage Against Radical Deconstruction, Daniel Heimbach attempts to break through the barriers to communication by carefully examining arguments for SSM and posing reasoned objections to them. His goal is to “convince the undecided of the social necessity of keeping the nature, meaning, and structure of civil marriage from being radically deconstructed” (xv). In other words, he is aiming both to instruct the “mushy middle” and to equip evangelical Christians facing a hostile culture.

Building on Previous Work

Heimbach’s True Sexual Morality: Recovering Biblical Standards for a Culture in Crisis (Crossway, 2004) was a comprehensive look at the philosophical underpinnings of the sexual revolution, explaining how culture developed opinions on sexual morality and comparing those opinions to a biblical model of sexual morality. Why Not Same-Sex Marriage builds on the foundation of his earlier work and focuses on the particular issue of SSM, which is a logical outworking of the sexual revolution.

The bulk of the book consists of two or three page chapters, each summarizing arguments for SSM, providing a gracious but firm rebuttal, and offering bibliography of sources on both sides of the debate. Instead of building straw men, Heimbach, professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, presents opposing arguments fairly and answers them with careful reasoning in terms accessible to lay people. Each of the arguments and responses is indexed according to both the argument and refutation, making this a helpful resource. At the end of the book, Heimbach includes testimonies of formerly active gay people, two reprinted academic articles on normalizing SSM, and a list of resources for those seeking more information on the topic. 

Refreshing Approach

The 500-page book is a refreshing approach to the debate over normalizing SSM. Much (though certainly not all) of the debate thus far has focused on emotional appeals and personal attacks, often in the form of name-calling. It seems that significantly less energy has been directed toward careful evaluation of arguments from either side. Meaningful deliberation about such a significant change in cultural structures has often been thwarted by vitriol from both sides and retreat to largely unchallenged presuppositions.

For some Christians, the template for a healthy marriage that is evident in Scripture––one male husband wedded to one female wife for life––provides a sufficient foundation for rejecting SSM. However, arguing based on the content of Christian and Jewish Scriptures tends to have a limited appeal since most of the world’s population do not acknowledge the Bible as authoritative. Heimbach presents arguments that don’t depend on accepting the authority of Scripture in order to communicate beyond the ranks of those already convinced of the traditional definition of marriage. In other words, this book fulfills the important task of making the argument for marriage as necessary for the common good in terms acceptable beyond the Christian sphere.

Societal Flourishing

Even among those who hold to a traditional definition marriage, some see SSM as a “live and let live” issue that has few negative consequences for society. Although Heimbach does not make apocalyptic predictions about the immediate demise of Western civilization due to the normalization of SSM, he does present reasoning that shows the superiority of traditional marriage for building a stable society.

The definition of marriage, he observes, is foundational to all of human society. Those who seek to alter the foundation must provide a compelling basis for such a radical change. This book shows that the arguments for the redefinition of civil marriage largely depend on individualism and emotional appeals. Such emphases on personal fulfillment undermine the common good over time. Thus, far from being an attempt to impose a theocracy, support for a traditional definition of marriage is support for the common good. According to this reasoning, defending a traditional definition of marriage is not an attempt to assert political power but a pursuit of societal flourishing.

Optimistic Approach

Heimbach’s arguments are built on ethical reasoning that expects to find a moral order in creation. Since God designed the world to function in a manner consistent with his character, the common good will be enhanced through morality that resonates with biblical norms. Dispassionate reasoning from observable facts, then, should lead toward conclusions consistent with Scripture.

This approach to the debate is helpful because it is optimistic. The arguments of this book engage readers graciously, accurately presenting both sides and allowing readers to weigh the evidence to make a decision. Although many will not be convinced by any arguments because of their previous attachment to a position, others will pursue truth for the common good.

Thorough and Unique

This is a thorough book—the most comprehensive evangelical resource on the topic of same-sex marriage available today. It will not settle the public debate over SSM; that is too much to hope for any book. However, Why Not Same-Sex Marriage does make a compelling case for a traditional definition of marriage. It also provides an invaluable reference manual for proponents of traditional marriage to consult when formulating gracious, informed responses to arguments for the redefinition of marriage.

At the very least, the book brings the light of reason to bear on the best arguments from both sides of the debate, which is a precious virtue because of its rarity in this age.

TGC Spotlight highlights TGC articles from earlier in the week, previews articles coming next week, and links to items around the web that you might have missed. 

Around the Web

President Obama to Unveil Plan for Unilateral Action on Immigration

What is President Obama’s immigration plan?

Last night, in a national televised address, the President provided details about his plan to take unilateral executive action on immigration Obama’s decision is an expansion of his 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA, created by executive action after Congress failed in its attempt to pass the similar-themed DREAM Act, allowed 600,000 qualified immigrants ages 5 to 31 to remain and work in this country without fear of deportation.

What will the new plan do?

This new executive action will give temporary visas to undocumented immigrants whose children were born in the U.S. It is expected to protect an additional 4 million and 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation for at least the remainder of Obama’s presidency. Obama will also expand a program that gives work permits for up to 29 months to foreign graduates of U.S. universities with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math. The president is also expanding the pool of young undocumented immigrants eligible for DACA. Currently, only people who can apply are those who have lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.

Will this action provide a path to U.S. citizenship?

Not directly. The action will not grant citizenship or legal permanent residence (i.e., a "green card"). People will be required to register with the federal government and, if they clear a series of background checks and other requirements, will be shielded from deportation proceedings. They will be given work permits and assigned Social Security numbers, so they can legally work and pay taxes.

Can Obama do these things unilaterally?

That’s a key point of contention.

The executive branch, through the Department of Homeland Security, is required to enforce immigration laws and deport people who have violated such laws. However, the Homeland Security has some discretion in determining the best way to implement and enforce the law. The White House's argument is they since they are not stopping deportations completely (they’ll still deport about 400,000 people a year) that they are complying with their requirements.

Critics disagree and say the discretion function of the executive branch was always intended to allow for prudent actions on a case-by-case basis and not used as a blanket policy that circumvents the will of Congress and the American people (a recent poll found that 46 percent of Americans say the president should wait for Congress to take action on the issue). Even some supporters of the administration and its pro-immigration stance say that the action is violating the law and, as the editorial board of the Washington Post said, is equivalent to “tearing up the Constitution.” Many also fear that President Obama, who previously renounced such unilateral acts by previous presidents, is setting a dangerous precedent for future executive action. For example, a future president could say that the IRS is not going to focus on collecting specific taxes on favored interest groups.

For more on TGC's coverage of the immigration issue, see: 

Romans 13 and the Immigration Crisis (July 11, 2014) 

Immigration Policy and Ministry (May 8, 2012) 

Evangelical Leaders Call for Immigration Reform (June 14, 2012) 

The Gospel and Immigration (May 1, 2012) 

 

Quick Takes

• "Gospel-centered" has become a popular buzzword in Reformed evangelical circles. John Piper explains three things it means in this brief video.

• A 100-second animated explanation of Edmund Burke's difference between the beautiful and the sublime.

• Four rabbis were recently murdered while praying in a Jerusalem synagogue. Jewish writer David Goldman explained the Har Nof massacre to his Christian friends by saying, "this is roughly comparable to terrorists invading a cathedral and killing a Cardinal among other clergy. Rabbi Moshe Twersky H"YD . . . was one of our sages. Our grief and outrage are past description." Here is a brief explainer on this most recent terrorist attack.

What is reparative therapy? Heath Lambert explains, and says that "in spite of some positive elements, RT is an unbiblical and ultimately unhelpful approach to change for same-sex attraction."

(For even more links, see the "Remainder Bin" at the end of this post.)

Featured TGC Articles

Mothering In The Internet Age | Betsy Childs

Contrary to what online voices communicate, you’re not really in control of your child’s life—God is. And that is good news.

 

Man, Woman, And The Mystery Of Christ: An Evangelical Protestant Perspective | Russell Moore

The sexual revolution cannot keep its promises. People are looking for a cosmic mystery, for a love that is stronger than death. They cannot articulate it, and perhaps would be horrified to know it, but they are looking for God.

 

Is Open Theism Still A Factor 10 Years After Ets Vote? | Jeff Robinson

Open theism is no longer debated within ETS, but its adherents now spread the openness view of God through more popular channels.

 

Trip Lee Brags On The King | Matt Smethurst

There aren’t many musicians more successful right now than rapper Trip Lee. But the man off the stage might surprise you a bit.

 

Featured TGC Contributor Articles

A New Film on Selma, Alabama (1965), and the Best Thing to Read | Justin Taylor

I am really looking forward to this new film, Selma, coming out in January 2015.

 

Who Do You Say That I Am? | Kevin DeYoung

The greatness of God is most clearly displayed in his Son. And the glory of the gospel is only made evident in his Son. That’s why Jesus’ question to his disciples is so important: “Who do you say that I am?”

 

Overcoming Evangelistic Paralysis with an Unbelievably Good Gospel | Trevin Wax

Earlier this year, I read Jonathan Dodson’s book, The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing (Zondervan), and found it to be a solid resource that gives careful attention to the message we proclaim as well as the person with whom we are speaking.

 

Will Ferguson Be Our Transformative Moment? | Thabiti Anyabwile

We’ve felt this feeling before, that sitting on the edge of your seat, stomach in knots, hoping to win but not hoping to offend feeling. We waited this way in 1992 to see what the jury would do when four officers were caught on tape beating Rodney King.

 

This is that mystery | Ray Ortlund

“This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours."

 

A Prayer for Those of Us with Loved Ones Impacted by Memory Loss | Scotty Smith

Dear heavenly Father, though Isaiah used the image somewhat metaphorically, mothers and fathers do forget the children they have brought into the world. I know this quite well, having lived through the journey of watching my dad forgetting my name, then my face, then everything about me. The process was very painful, yet you met us time and again, with your mercy and grace.

 

Coming Next Week at TGC

How the Normalization of Pornography Fuels the Rape Culture | Jacob and Joseph Phillips

Why does society all too often objectify female bodies while devaluing or ignoring female consciousness and experiences?

 

When Dad Doesn’t Disciple the Kids | Jen Wilkin

Moms dealing with spiritually absent dads rightly feel anxiety for their children and confusion in their role—but what should they do?

 

The Role of Singing in the Life of the Church | Rob Smith

Congregational singing is a gift to treasure dearly, engage in regularly, use wisely, and protect carefully.

 

Upcoming Events

Albuquerque Regional Conference (March 20-22, 2015)

Assembled Under the Word: Preaching and Christ. Speakers include Alistair Begg, D.A. Carson, and David Helm.

2015 National Conference (April 1-15, 2015)

Heading Home: A New Heaven and a New Earth. Speakers include Tim Keller, D.A. Carson, John Piper, Mark Dever, Voddie Baucham, Philip G. Ryken, Ligon Duncan, and many others.

Remainder Bin

Bioethics

India's dark history of sterilisation Soutik Biswas, BBC

The death of 15 women at two state-run sterilisation camps in Chhattisgarh has put a spotlight on India's dark history of botched sterilisations.

Down syndrome mom: the “death with dignity” debate insults my son’s life Anne Penniston Grunsted, Quartz

Earlier this month, Brittany Maynard made the much publicized decision to end her life rather than wait for her Stage IV cancer to inevitably kill her instead. Like many people around the world, I felt great sadness and sympathy for the choice she made, a choice I believe she had the right to make.

J.S. Mill and the Pro-Life Cause Christopher O. Tollefsen, Public Discourse

In spite of its many problematic aspects, the political thought of J.S. Mill provides a low but solid foundation for the essential convictions of the pro-life movement: that the unborn, in virtue of their common humanity, deserve the full protection of the law.


Christianity and Culture

5 Ways Christian Relationships Look Different Corrie Mitchell, OnFaith

Much of what culture teaches us about relationships is pretty off base from a Christian perspective.

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About the Black Church Nicole Symmonds, OnFaith

There’s more to the story than soulful music and whooping preachers. Way more.

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Evangelicals Warren Cole Smith, OnFaith

A reporter offers his insights on a religious movement everyone talks about but few understand.

A Theolgoy of Sport: On the Rebound Lincoln Harvey, First Things

As I argue in my book, sport is a regulated form of physical play that is specifically designed to produce both winners and losers. Of course, some sporting contests do end up in frustrating ties or sterile dead-heats, but this outcome is never the aim of the game.

Church of England Approves Plan Allowing Female Bishops Katrin Benhold, New York Times

The Church of England overturned centuries of tradition on Monday with a final vote allowing women to become bishops, with the first appointments possible by Christmas.

Drugs and Alcohol

How Marijuana Really Affects the Brain Laura Tedesco, Yahoo Health

Clearing the air: New science reveals that toking up may be more addictive than previously thought.

Colorado panel makes no progress on edible marijuana Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press

A Colorado task force wrapped up a final task force meeting on Monday with no consensus on what marijuana-infused foods and drinks should look like.

Hello ladies, goodbye Communion? The Economist

If this week is remembered as an important one by church historians, it may be for a different reason: it was the moment when the archbishop of Canterbury finally acknowledged that the Anglican Communion, the global family of churches numbering about 80m of which he is head, may be impossible to hold together.


Family Issues

Is There a Link between Childhood Homelessness and Single Parenthood? Leslie Ford, The Daily Signal

A new report from The National Center on Family Homelessness concludes that “the challenges of single parenting” is one of the serious causes of homelessness. This conclusion makes sense. Single-parenthood drastically increases the likelihood of poverty and the risks of negative outcomes for children.



Health Issues

Drowning: 'Hidden childhood killer' Smitha Mundasad, BBC

Drowning is one of the 10 leading causes of death for children and young people across the world, a World Health Organization (WHO) report reveals.

Ebola patient Dr. Martin Salia dies in Omaha Mike Dubose, CBS News

A surgeon who contracted Ebola while treating patients in Sierra Leone has passed away in a hospital in Nebraska, where he had been flown for treatment, officials announced Monday.

 

International Issues

Deaths Linked to Terrorism Are Up 60 Percent, Study Finds Alan Cowell, New York Times

As Western governments grapple with heightened apprehension about the spread of Islamic militancy, an independent study on Tuesday offered little solace, saying the number of fatalities related to terrorism soared 60 percent last year.

Israel Shaken by 5 Deaths in Synagogue Assault Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner, New York Times

The Orthodox Jewish men were facing east, to honor the Old City site where the ancient temples once stood, when two Palestinians armed with a gun, knives and axes burst into their synagogue Tuesday morning, shouting “God is great!” in Arabic.


Marriage Issues

Pope Francis stands firm on marriage at Humanum Colloquium Phillip Bethancourt, ERLC

Pope Francis began the Humanum Colloquium on the complementarity of man and woman in marriage by stating that "this complementarity is at the root of marriage and family." Throughout the message, he was clear about the necessity and value of marriage despite progressive "ideological notions" on the family in our day.

Same-Self Marriage Timothy George, First Things

It’s only a trickle, not yet a trend, but it is out there, and it has a name: sologamy. Sologamy is the marriage of someone to one’s own self—the his- or herness of it is not relevant, although it seems to be mostly women who are doing it.

British Rabbi Tells Vatican Conference We Must Defend the Family of "Man, Woman and Child" Aleteia

Rabbi Lord Sacks blames the breakdown of the traditional family for society's ills.

How the War on Poverty Has Hurt American Marriage Rates Robert Rector, The Daily Signal

It is no accident that the collapse of marriage in America largely began with the War on Poverty and the proliferation of means-tested welfare programs that it fostered.

Gay Marriage Could Happen in Mississippi Very Soon David Knowles, Bloomberg

A federal judge appointed by President Obama could decide this week whether to issue an injunction blocking the state's ban on same-sex unions.


Military

Fearing Bombs That Can Pick Whom to Kill John Markoff, New York Times

As these weapons become smarter and nimbler, critics fear they will become increasingly difficult for humans to control — or to defend against. And while pinpoint accuracy could save civilian lives, critics fear weapons without human oversight could make war more likely, as easy as flipping a switch.

Why Air Force Cadets Need to Study Philosophy Alexandra Ossola, The Atlantic

Greater emphasis on humanities means more well-rounded decision making.


Other Faiths

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Sikhism Simran Jeet Singh, OnFaith

Despite being the fifth largest world religion, Sikhism is one of the least understood traditions.



Religious Liberty

Air Force Amends Instruction On Religious Freedom and Accommodation Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

Last week, the U.S. Air Force announced that Air Force Instruction 1-1 on Air Force Culture has been updated as of Nov. 7 to clarify standards on free exercise of religion and religious accommodation. The amended Instruction (full text) strengthens free exercise and religious accommodation rights of military personnel, and weakens restrictions on proselytizing.

Sexuality Issues

First magazine aimed at gay teenagers is launched Theo Merz, The Telegraph

The publishers of one of the UK’s top gay magazines have launched a digital offering for the youth market.

In most cases, historical icons do not develop before our eyes; the simply appear, fully formed, carrying their mythology with them. We do not meet George Washington as a struggling general; we meet him as America’s first President, as a war hero, as a man who could not, from boyhood, tell a lie, and who might have been king had he not chosen a different path for the greater good of the nation.

Like Washington, Lincoln appears as an icon. He’s enshrined in one of our capital's great monuments, appears on two forms of our currency, and occupies a central space in our national sense of identity: Honest Abe, who freed the slaves and held together a fraying Union, all while speaking in a steady stream of folk wisdom.

Many films have attempted to give us a picture of Abe Lincoln, most recently, Steven Spielberg’s epic Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. Lincoln, in Spielberg’s hands, was as most of us have come to know him, navigating wisely between the nation’s tensions, the interests of abolitionists and industrialists, and the pressures and needs of his family. We saw Lincoln making hard decisions and acting in almost every instance as the sage. The film encapsulated the legend, even as it gave us a wonderfully human portrayal of Lincoln from Day-Lewis.

The problem with legends, though, is that they obscure as well as they reveal. They are shorthand for a story that is much more layered and complex. Lincoln became Lincoln after innumerable challenges and errors, after suffering and failing and learning along the way.

Boy Before the Legend

The recently released film The Better Angels explores the unseen corners of this icon’s life. “Wanna know what kinda boy he was?” the narrator asks at the film’s opening, after we see a few images of the Lincoln Monument.

Shot in black and white, The Better Angels explores a narrow window of Lincoln’s boyhood in Indiana, starting in 1817 and extending through sometime after 1819. The film was written and directed by A. J. Edwards, whose other film credits—a handful of writing, editing, and other duties—all belong to Terrence Mallick films. Mallick himself is an executive producer on the project, and one can’t help but make comparisons between the two filmmakers.

Like Tree of Life, The Better Angels hardly traffics in words; it traffics in images. The dialogue is rarely necessary to the storytelling, which happens at a slow, gentle pace, as Edwards’s camera lingers over the mists that form over grassy fields and the sun rising behind trees. We relish the wilderness with Nancy Lincoln (Brit Marling), and we feel its weight and hostility with young Abe (Braydon Denney). The camera rarely shows us Tom Lincoln (Jason Clarke) head-on; we see him looming over us, moving quickly in and out of the shot. Tom is a good man, but a hard man, and young Abe, who is naturally introverted and gentle, can’t help but be intimidated by his father.

His cousin says, “Them were drinkin’, cussin’, quarrelsome days.” The elements are hostile, and so are the wanderers who pass through. Suffering is never far from the Lincolns.

At the opening credits, a quote appears that reads, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. – Abraham Lincoln” (Interestingly, we don’t hear his name again.) Here again, we have—at least in concept—something that might feel familiar to viewers of Tree of Life. We see, in Abe’s life, a contrast between the way of nature and the way of grace, the hostility of the wilderness and the nurture and care of his mother and—especially—his step-mother, Sarah (Diane Kruger). The film’s most compelling scenes take place between Abe and Sarah, as her playfulness and love draw Abe out of his shell. Her arrival in the Lincoln family can only be described as the arrival of civility in the wilderness. She insists on love and gentleness, and Edwards paints her in glowing light, making her appear all the more angelic.

Mother's Virtue

The Better Angels doesn’t handle religious themes directly. There is only occasional mention of anything directly related to Christianity—a mention of the Bible, a hymn sung while working in a field, and occasional images that suggest religious iconography. Many have written on the link between Lincoln's parents' Calvinism and his sense of history. But Edwards’s film seems to intentionally head in a different direction. If anything, you can’t help but sense the frailty of Lincoln’s life and future. He wasn’t born with a chinstrap beard, a stovepipe hat, and an ironclad sense of conviction. His life might have been otherwise. The frontier might have crushed him. Suffering and loss might have turned him inward and made him bitter. But Sarah Lincoln's arrival in the family not only drew him out, it also drew him and his father toward one another, allowing Tom Lincoln to impart hard-earned courage and strength to his son. In this sense, rather than a theological reflection of the origins and meaning of Lincoln’s life or Calvinistic reflections on the meaning of history, Edwards’s film shows how Lincoln’s future came about as the result of his mother’s character and virtue. It is love and grace that shape great men.

The Better Angels may not be a blockbuster, and it’s certainly not (in tone and themes) a Steven Spielberg film, but it is beautiful and compelling. It invites us into a different pace, to reflect along the way, to watch the flow of the river and the swaying grasses. It’s a meditation on suffering, survival, love, and beauty. It takes Lincoln’s quote seriously, imagining how Sarah’s loving presence could not only turn a homestead into a home, but also turn a wounded and introverted young boy into someone with the strength and courage to become one of America’s greatest presidents.

Peter Berger. The Many Altars of Modernity: Toward a Paradigm for Religion in a Pluralist Age. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter Mouton, 2014. 147 pp. $49.95

In his 1967 book The Sacred Canopy, Peter Berger more or less invented sociology of religion as we know it. It revolutionized the field not only because it was profound, but because it was short and did not assume much prior knowledge. It was not beach reading, but laypeople willing to make the effort could grasp the extraordinary vision Berger laid out for how we can understand the central role of religion in the structure of society.

Berger, professor emeritus of sociology at Boston University, has done it again. The Many Altars of Modernity is even shorter (93 pages) and more accessible to the layperson than The Sacred Canopy. Yet it has the potential to re-revolutionize the sociology of religion.

Like The Sacred Canopy, this book speaks to the huge paradox of modern times. We have overcome so many bigotries and unlocked so many doors to human flourishing, yet we find it harder to know the meaning of it all. Even as we grow to new heights and accomplishments, the basic structures of society—from family to economics to democracy to international affairs—seem to be endangered.

The Many Altars of Modernity shows how, to a large degree, all these good and bad things spring from a common source. We have not yet solved the central puzzle of modernity. How can people of diverse beliefs share social space without undermining their own beliefs?

Fate Becomes Choice

The book's first extraordinary service is to make complex phenomena clear. The coexistence of many religious and moral systems in a shared social space—pluralism—irrevocably changes the nature of religion and morality. Things unconsciously taken for granted before pluralism now become things we must consciously choose whether to believe. The character of God, the nature of sin, the permanence of marriage, the occurrence of miracles—one by one, slowly but surely, everything that was once simply "given" becomes a subject of momentous deliberation. Fate becomes choice.

This change has beneficial effects, but also costs. At the individual level, people are more aware of their beliefs and must be intentional about sorting out truth from falsehood. They find it easier to live in peace with neighbors they disagree with. On the other hand, most people have great difficulty shouldering the burden of choice. I don't choose whether to believe 2 + 2 = 4, but in a pluralistic environment I do need to choose whether to believe Jesus is God. For most people, this seems to create a feeling that the latter belief must somehow be less certain than the former. Choice makes it harder to overcome doubt.

At the social level, religious organizations gain greater freedom to act, and learn to live in peace with other religions. It becomes possible to enjoy fully the great blessings—spiritual as well as material—of religious freedom, the rule of law, an entrepreneurial economy, and modern technology. On the other hand, all institutions become socially weaker and less able to play a role in people's formation. And the coexistence of multiple moralities produces an unending stream of political crises.

The existence of a large social space shared by many religions makes it possible for people to construct ways of thinking and living that commit to no religion. Berger points to examples like surgeons and airplane pilots, who must strictly conform to procedures that do not change for Christians, Muslims, and atheists. Religious people seem to have little difficulty participating in these shared ways of life without undermining their own belief. So the decline of religious belief anticipated by so many sociologists (including Berger in The Sacred Canopy) has not occurred. However, because the secular methods are shared by everyone while religion is not, the secular methods inevitably begin to claim supreme authority in the public square. This creates conflict, especially as some people begin to embrace what Berger calls "the secular discourse" as a substitute for religion itself. Once this secularism arises, it inevitably conflicts with religion.

Modern life thus raises two closely related problems, both of which involve finding a "formula of peace" between conflicting modes of belief and practice. How can people of different religious beliefs share a society without being consumed—either by a conflict between religions, or by the persistent sense of doubt that pluralism creates? And how can religion itself share a society with "the secular discourse"?

There are many possible ways of mediating these tensions, Berger argues. Thus, the sociology of religion must abandon the long-held expectation (generated in part by The Sacred Canopy) that modernity will inevitably move in only one direction. Berger reviews five major strategies that various societies have used for dealing with these problems, and argues that religious freedom is the one with by far the best prospects of success.

No Avoiding the Issue

The book's second extraordinary service is to debunk the many tricks we have invented for trying to avoid confronting the challenge of pluralism. Fundamentalists and relativists, who seem so unlike one another, are twins under the skin; both seek to escape the dilemma of doubt instead of confronting it. As Berger shows, both drive their followers toward a tyrannical desire to seize more and more control over their social environment, in order to hold the trauma of doubt at bay.

But Berger's deeper confrontation is with the huge intellectual class of traditionalists and conservatives who hold, in various ways, that the crises of modernity stem from bad ideas. This implies the crises can be avoided or rectified if we replace the bad ideas with better ideas. Berger names Charles Taylor, but in fact this view is almost totally dominant on the Christian intellectual scene in the English-speaking world. As Berger shows, this view is wrong, and dangerously so.

Against Taylor and the dominant traditionalism of the Christian intellectual world, Berger argues that the real origins of modernity—and hence of the crises of modernity—are in the religions themselves, and the sociology of their encounter with one another. Once the world's great civilizations made the transition from primordial mythology to mature religions, capable both of making truth claims and of accommodating economic and technological advances, it was inevitable that we would someday face the challenge of pluralism. We can denounce "modern ideas" until we are blue in the face, but once adherents of the world's religions start interacting with each other on a daily basis, we cannot avoid the trauma of choice and doubt. The great historic encounter cannot be undone.

Berger also opposes those who think we can address the dilemmas of modernity entirely outside of politics. As he shows, modern people find it easier to get along with those of other beliefs at the personal level; but at the political level conflict becomes worse. Yes, we can and must mitigate the political conflict by building stronger bonds of peace at the personal level. But there is no serious way to address the problem without a renewal of religious freedom as the foundation of the political and constitutional order. To avoid politics altogether and work exclusively in the personal realm is like looking for your car keys under the lamppost instead of where you dropped them, because the light is better under the lamppost.

As If God Did Not Exist?

Berger doesn’t get everything right, of course, and one of his errors is critical. He thinks that when we participate in those shared, wholly natural social spaces defined by practices that commit to no religion, we are behaving "as if God did not exist." He would have done better to draw a distinction between "natural" and "supernatural" activities rather than "secular" and "sacred."

Berger gives the game away when he says that even a 16th-century Spanish nun was behaving "as if God did not exist" when she reformed the convent's accounting to bring it into line with sound principles of financial management. If she read Berger’s book, she could easily reply that she was behaving as if God did exist—and was going to hold her responsible to manage the convent's finances well! Berger argues that the same accounting principles work just as well for atheists. But the financially savvy nun could reply that it is really the atheists who are double-minded; they say there is no God, but they manage their finances as if they lived in a stable, logical universe, which the human mind is capable of understanding and within which the human will is capable of acting meaningfully.

The error has practical consequences. In discussing religious freedom as a way of coping with the dilemmas of modernity, Berger notes the American and French models but neglects the critical difference between them. Where Americans want a shared space that neither requires nor resists faith, the French believe a shared space must intentionally push faith away. Berger should not have lumped the American and French models together; in the years ahead, the most important conflict will take place between these two competing ways of understanding religious freedom.

I am disappointed that the publisher of The Many Altars of Modernity has set its price at a high level that would be more suitable to an obscure, scholastic book. This is a profoundly important work, the fruit of a lifetime of scholarship from easily the most important sociologist of religion in the past half-century, if not the past century. It deserves a wide and highly engaged readership. 

Dear Envy, we just can’t quit you.

We all agree envy plagues the soul and harms our relationships, but it’s a common struggle. Our battles with envy range from sporadic scuffles to full-out, crippling war. Where can we find respite and rescue? This three-part reflection on 1 Corinthians 3:21–23 was birthed out of an ongoing conversation among three friends about mortifying envy.


Autoimmune Disease and Christ’s Body (Beverly Chao Berrus)

Autoimmune disorders and diseases are strange things. The immune system confuses some part of the body as an antigen, and makes war on healthy tissue, joints, and organs. The physical effects range from merely annoying to debilitating and deadly.

In 1 Corinthians 3, we see God diagnose the Corinthian Christians with spiritual autoimmunity. The division concerning fellow servants was so bad that Paul begins this way:

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. (3:1)

For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? (3:3)

As our churches are filled with nothing but fully redeemed and rehabilitating sinners, we will inevitably experience jealousy and strife in the church. But Paul’s point is that we must deal with it.

Jealousy is hard to admit. Some sins are easy to paint as more acceptable. But jealousy feels petty and infantile. It can’t be disowned from its root of self-centeredness, especially when we are jealous of others’ spiritual gifts, Christian service, or godly relationships. We inspect others in order to justify our unsubstantiated angst and dislike.

Paul calls those who revert to this self-centered thinking fleshly, infantile, and merely human (3:3). It highlights a failure to live in the reality that we’ve been saved by Christ’s wrath-absorbing death and resurrection. It denies our corporate transformation into the palatial and glorious temple of God, with each individual indwelt by God’s Spirit (3:16–17),

Jealousy and strife in the local church is spiritual autoimmunity because it tears down Christ’s body of which each believer is a member and which Christ himself nourishes (Eph. 5:29; Col. 2:19).

God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose,” gifted and fit together for the purpose of bringing him glory (12:18; cf. vv. 4–11).

There is a heinous grievousness to committing spiritual autoimmunity on Christ’s body. He loves the church and died for her. But we deny Christ’s perfect arrangement of the members of his body when we say to another, out of bitter jealousy, “I have no need of you.” We foolishly presume we know better and would do differently.

Instead, let us take in the immense panorama of beauty found in the body of Christ, fashioned and formed throughout the entire course of human history.

If you struggle, as I do, with making peace toward fellow members of the body in your heart and actions, repent of malice and jealousy by identifying and killing it with the sword of the Spirit. Fulfill the royal law of love and claim this truth:

So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God’s. (3:21–23)

Don’t we usually leave a doctor’s office glad for a good report of health? We’re happy for the parts of our bodies to be working as they should. As it is with Christ’s washed and justified body, let us rejoice that we lack nothing in him. All are ours, and we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s! May this sweet truth eradicate the spiritual autoimmunity among us and cause the healing to begin.


Considering the Silliness of Envy (Gloria Furman)

I hate that I’m envious of others. I know that in God’s kingdom, envy doesn’t make any sense. So why the disconnect? In his book Glorious Freedom, Richard Sibbes shoots straight about envy:

In spiritual things there is no basis for envy, for everyone may partake of everything. In the things of this life there is envy, because the more one has, the less another has. But for more to partake of spiritual things is a matter of glory and excellency.

In other words, envy shows up when what we seek is worldly, so we’re envious when others have what we want. But if what we seek is spiritual, then we glorify God when others have what we, too, desire.

Envy doesn’t become those who’ve been given everything in Christ to enjoy. We don’t boast in who we are or what we can do or buy or wear or eat or birth or whatever. We don’t boast in any of these things because we don’t need to. “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours" (1 Cor. 3:21).

Jesus is both able and right to secure all things for us because he is the Lamb who was slain. The Father has given all things into the Son’s hand (John 3:35), and everything exists for God, and all things are his servants (Ps. 119:89–91). All of these things—the world and everything in it, your inevitable physical death, your present circumstances (good and bad), your future (uncertain as it may seem)—in the hands of almighty God are your midwives, by your side helping to bring forth life and renewal of spirit in this age before the Son returns.

We need to be reminded that no competitors stand in the way of the gospel good that God has for us in Christ. No circumstance or person can rob us of the spiritual blessings God has promised us. Envy has no place. But sin steers our minds into irrational thought patterns, and the world confirms it: we ought to cut off our nose to spite our face. And indeed this is what we’re doing when we envy or diminish a brother or sister in Christ who is our joint member in Christ’s body. God’s gifts to others are his gifts to us. Why wouldn’t we long for our brothers and sisters to flourish more and more? After all, no one ever hated his own body, but nourishes it and cherishes it.

The God whom you love has freely given his grace to others—so look for evidence of this grace and glorify God for it. As Sibbes observed, “For those who can see so far into the life of another man as to love it and honor the grace of God there, it is a sign that some work of glory is begun in them.”


Give Us This Day Our Daily Scorpion? (Lindsey Carlson)

All things are yours, all.

How do we hold this verse in our minds while we also hold a list of things that, here on earth, are not ours? What about when the spouse, the baby, the dream job, the new home, are clearly not ours?

Paul may not have been familiar with the object of our personal jealousy, but he understood the human heart and its tendency to long for what it does not have—or thinks it does not have. Paul recognizes the Corinthians have not yet grasped what’s clearly theirs in Christ.

To understand and embrace the reality that “all things are yours,” begin with the promise Paul offered the Philippians: "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19).

We can trust that our God is a faithful provider. We can rest in the fact that he created us, called us, saved us, and is redeeming us. Will he not also give us all we need? Maybe the problem is our definition of “need.” The Lord knows we don't really a new car or an impressive position, but to be conformed to Christlikeness. He will faithfully provide all we need—the people, the places, the experiences, the things—in order to produce the greatest and most eternally significant fruit in our souls, for his glory.

We can trust that God is a loving provider. In Luke 11:11–12, Jesus asks, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” The point here isn’t that fish tastes better than serpent, or that eggs fry up better than scorpions. The point is, if a child needs to eat, his father doesn’t harm or poison him—he feeds him. If we don’t have something we want, God isn’t withholding—he’s feeding us with what will sustain us. We ask our Father to give us our daily bread, and he is faithful to provide.

We have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Pet. 1:3). We have no need to jealously yearn for the things we do not have because we have been given all we need freely through Christ. All things are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

A physician I know recently returned from Africa after caring for patients with Ebola. One evening his patient of 18 years tearfully told him that her two grown daughters warned her that, if she kept her appointment with him, she would not be able to see her grandchildren for three weeks. The hospital where he delivers babies also barred him from coming for the same time. Elsewhere, a teacher in Kentucky who had traveled to Kenya resigned rather than submit to a three-week ban from her school, even though she was 3,000 miles away from anyone with Ebola. 

Separation of individuals—proven, presumed, or potentially contagious—has been a common response to reduce the spread of disease for centuries. During the epidemics of the Middle Ages, one of which killed 25 percent of the European population, no microbial science yet existed that could identify agents of causation, define incubation periods, or discern modes of transmission. Is it clothes? Skin? Water? An odor in the air? Isolating individuals for 40 days, a quarantina of time, was based less on fact and more on the religious significance of 40 days in Judeo-Christian theology as a time of cleansing and purification.

In the Middle Ages, when so little was known about contagious disease, coupled with high likelihood of death, uninformed fear contributed to whole towns being forcibly walled off. Though the rich could often fled to safer climates, the poor carried the heaviest burden of disease, and were often blamed for its spread because of their “unclean” habits. “Plague doctors” were usually young physicians and surgeons with no established practices of their own. Forced to display a cross that labelled them “unclean,” they were unable to mingle with others and were distrusted by the population.

The current Ebola crisis is the most recent iteration of contagious disease, following SARS in 2003 and swine flu in 2009. It is uncanny how the same themes return as we deal with the largest outbreak of Ebola since it first emerged in 1976. Facing the fear of fatal disease, it is not surprising that our base reactions remain the same. But each time our collective souls are bared by these moments of vulnerability, we have the opportunity to respond with truth and compassion. What are we doing with what we know—which is quite a bit, thanks to the understanding of current science—combined with a significant truth about life revealed to us by God?

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matt. 16:25)

Let me offer three considerations.

Recognize the danger (but at the appropriate level). Ebola is a highly dangerous disease. Although it is not as easily spread as viruses airborne or in food and water, it only requires minimal contact—unlike HIV, which needs intimate contact—and remains alive in body fluids and on inanimate surfaces for a significant period of time. It is also highly virulent, with death rates averaging 70 percent. Though there is no cure, supportive care does increase survival rates. We know its incubation period does not exceed 21 days, and we know people are contagious only when they are symptomatic—and mostly when they have many symptoms, not just a small fever.

So what does this mean practically? That we have ways to identify true danger, especially recognizing that those who have travelled to and from the hot zones of Africa, but do not have symptoms, are not contagious. That the risk of disease in a country like the United States is extremely small, unlike our friends living with plague in the past, and quite unlike our global neighbors living in Africa who have such limited resources for preventing spread. Though Ebola threatens our sense of invulnerability and impenetrability as a modern nation, on the range of scale of what could hurt us, we should not be running scared of it.

Reveal the lie. The basic lie is that we can reduce our risk to zero. There are numerous negative consequences of believing this lie, producing both over-confidence and paralyzing fear. And when cases arise, which they will, we are prone to a harsh and wrong application of blame. The Liberian man who died in Texas was infected in his country, likely at the time when he gave aid to a sick pregnant woman. He came to see his son graduate from high school. Though he was unaware he was ill until five days after arriving in the United States, he was demonized for being the first case of Ebola in our country and falsely accused of having hidden his condition so that he could get on the plane.

Someone who responds compassionately to the pains and perils of another, and dies for his actions, would normally be a hero. But instead we blamed the victim, just like in the 1500s. And we likely will again, whenever we falsely believe we can separate ourselves from the dangers of life and use “quarantine” as a weapon of control, keeping everyone who might be dangerous confined to another space in another place. The approach of some would be to wall off entire countries, as if that were possible. Despite great suffering for the people there, they reason, at least it will be there and not here—and after a defined number of deaths, surely no more than the populations of these countries, the epidemic will end. Until the next one! But then what kind of people will we be, alive and safe in our risk-free world? 

Remember the truth. We were made for caring, but we cannot care without risk. Control comes through separation, but caring love always strives to bring back together the things separated by the efficiency of control. We strive for careful care, between not going near and assuming no risk, and directly touching and assuming great risk. Nurses and doctors in Texas struggled to express love to a dying man through their layers of protection. All followed careful protocols of prevention, yet two nurses became infected. Thankfully both have survived. Five hundred health care workers in Africa have been infected, and more than three hundred have died. Some from this country are considering going to Africa to care. They need all the protections available. So do African health care workers.

We live in a global community. Both for our own safety and for the sake of compassion, we cannot turn away from the problems of poverty and poor health in other parts of the world. If we truly want to stop Ebola here, we must fight it there. Yet after it is all done, the cost must be counted—some will be infected and some may die. May it be so very few, and may this epidemic end so very soon—but never at the cost of losing our humanity. For if we truly want to live, we must be willing to die (Matt. 16:25).

There aren’t many musicians more successful right now than Trip Lee. The Reach Records rapper’s fifth studio album, Rise, hit #1 on the iTunes chart shortly after its October 27 release and has been selling quickly ever since.

Lee [Twitter | blog], who has also completed a forthcoming companion book Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story (Thomas Nelson, January 2015), recently sat down with TGC Arizona leaders Josh Vincent and Vermon Pierre to discuss life, ministry, and the future.

The man off the stage might surprise you a bit.

Though Lee certainly enjoys performing for crowds at concerts, he’s most committed to pastoring the saints in his church. (He is an elder and pastoral assistant at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.) Furthermore, the dynamic hip-hop artist has battled Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since 2007. “It makes it hard to figure out what life as a pastor looks like for me,” Lee admits. “I’ve had to learn that no one must their ministry in exactly the same way as someone else. How do I honor God best with my particular circumstances? That’s the question I have to keep asking.”

What about those who question the legitimacy of hip-hop as a vehicle to communicate majestic doctrines? Anything humans employ is a “weak, handicapped vehicle” to communicate the majesty of God, Lee observes. “The problem is not the medium or culture itself; it’s the sin inside our hearts.” Moreover, he adds, “We should be very careful about implying that entire cultures—musical forms included—cannot glorify God. I think that says something we don’t mean to say about the gospel.”

Watch the full 23-minute video to hear Lee discuss how he started rhyming, the album he listened to daily for six months straight, songs versus sermons, and more. Then register to see Lee speak at our 2015 National Conference, April 13 to 15, in Orlando. 

Trip Lee Interview from The Gospel Coalition AZ on Vimeo.

The following is an excerpt of a letter from John Newton to Mrs. John Thornton in November 1775. Although it was written almost 240 years ago, it is remarkably relevant to our modern experience, especially as we seek to live out our callings to love our neighbors in a pluralistic culture.


Too much of that impatience which you speak of, towards those who differ from us in some religious sentiments, is observable on all sides. I do not consider it as the fault of a few individuals, or of this or that party, so much as the effect of that inherent imperfection which is common to our whole race. Anger and scorn are equally unbecoming in those who profess to be followers of the meek and lowly Jesus, and who acknowledge themselves to be both sinful and fallible; but too often something of this leaven will be found cleaving to the best characters, and mixed with honest endeavors to serve the best cause.

But thus it was from the beginning; and we have reason to confess that we are no better than the apostles were, who, though they meant well, manifested once and again a wrong spirit in their zeal. Luke 9:54. Observation and experience contribute, by the grace of God, gradually to soften and sweeten our spirits; but then there will always be ground for mutual forbearance and mutual forgiveness on this head. However, so far as I may judge myself, I think this hastiness is not my most easily besetting sin.

Those Who Differ from Us

I am not indeed an advocate for that indifference and lukewarmness to the truths of God, which seem to constitute the candor many plead for in the present day. But while I desire to hold fast the sound doctrines of the gospel towards the persons of my fellow-creatures, I wish to exercise all moderation and benevolence: Protestants or Papists, Sicilians or Deists, Jews, Samaritans, or Mohammedans, all are my neighbors, they have all a claim upon me for the common offices of humanity. As to religion, they cannot all be right; nor may I compliment them by allowing that the differences between us are but trivial, when I believe and know they are important; but I am not to expect them to see with my eyes.

I am deeply convinced of the truth of John Baptist’s aphorism, John 3:27, “A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven.” I well know, that the little measure of knowledge I have obtained in the things of God has not been owing to my own wisdom and docility, but to his goodness. Nor did I get it all at once: he has been pleased to exercise much patience and long-suffering towards me, for about 27 years past, since he first gave me a desire of learning from himself. He has graciously accommodated himself to my weakness, borne with my mistakes, and helped me through innumerable prejudices, which, but for his mercy, would have been insuperable hindrances: I have therefore no right to be angry, impatient, or censorious, especially as I have still much to learn, and am so poorly influenced by what I seem to know.

I am weary of controversies and disputes, and desire to choose for myself, and to point out to others Mary’s part, to sit at Jesus’s feet, and to hear his words. And, blessed be his name, so far as I have learned from him, I am favored with a comfortable certainty. I know whom I have believed, and am no longer tossed about by the various winds and tides of opinions, by which I see many are dashed one against the other. But I cannot, I must not, I dare not contend; only, as a witness for God, I am ready to bear my simple testimony to what I have known of his truth whenever I am properly called to it. . . . 

All Is Owing to Grace

Scripture, and even reason, assures me there is but one God, whose name alone is Jehovah. Scripture likewise assures me, that Christ is God, that Jesus is Jehovah. I cannot say that reason assents with equal readiness to this proposition as to the former. But admitting what the Scripture teaches concerning the evil of sin, the depravity of human nature, the method of salvation, and the offices of the Savior; admitting that God has purposed to glorify, not his mercy only, but his justice, in the work of redemption; that the blood shed upon the cross, is a proper, adequate satisfaction for sin; and that the Redeemer is at present the Shepherd of those who believe in him, and will hereafter be the Judge of the world; that, in order to give the effectual help which we need, it is necessary that he be always intimately with those who depend on him, in every age, in every place; must know the thoughts and intents of every heart; must have his eye always upon them, his ear always open to them; his arm ever stretched out for their relief; that they can receive nothing but what he bestows, can do nothing but as he enables them, nor stand a moment but as he upholds them; admitting these and the like promises, with which the word of God abounds, reason must allow, whatever difficulties may attend the thought, that only he who is God over all, blessed for ever, is able or worthy to execute this complicated plan, every part of which requires the exertion of infinite wisdom and almighty power; nor am I able to form any clear, satisfactory, comfortable thoughts of God, suited to awaken my love or engage my trust, but as he has been pleased to reveal himself in the person of Jesus Christ.

I believe, with the apostle, that God was once manifested in the flesh upon earth; and that he is now manifested in the flesh in heaven; and that the worship, not only of redeemed sinners, but of the holy angels, is addressed to the Lamb that was slain, and who, in that nature in which he suffered, now exercises universal dominion, and has the government of heaven, earth, and hell upon his shoulders. This truth is the foundation upon which my hope is built, the fountain whence I derive all my strength and consolation, and my only encouragement for venturing to the throne of grace, for grace to help in time of need. . . . 


This excerpt is adapted from: John Newton, ed., Letters of John Newton (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2007), p. 273. www.banneroftruth.org


Editors' note: TBT (Throwback Thursday) with Every Square Inch: Reading the Classics is a weekly column that publishes some of the best writings on vocation from the past. Our hope is to introduce you to thoughtful literature that you may not have discovered yet and, as always, to encourage you to know and love Christ more in all spheres of your life.

Ed Stetzer - Lifeway 

Pat Hood explains what it is like to pastor a "sending church."

Tell me about some unique things your church is doing in outreach.

I don't know if we do anything that's really "unique." I would describe our outreach as "simple." I think Jesus' was too. He simply told his disciples, to "Go, make disciples." That's what we teach our people. We challenge them to live sent lives in every domain of their life. We tell our people that we have no marketing campaign. We don't blanket the community with fliers. We don't rent billboards. We tell our people they are the outreach plan.

How did LifePoint transition from a traditional First Baptist to an international, multi-ethnic "sending church?"

In 2004, I felt a clear direction from the Lord to lead our church to a time of prayer, fasting and worship. We would fast for three days and then meet together at night for a time of intense worship: no preaching, just fasting and meeting together to pray and worship.

We had already begun to transition some external things like our music style and dress, and, as a result, had seen lots growth. As a result, we were in the middle of a building program to build a new auditorium. We thought this time of prayer and fasting was to prepare us for what God was going to do when we opened our new auditorium. However, during those three days of prayer & fasting, we realized that God had called us together because He wanted to open our eyes to His heart for the nation. So, our focus changed from bringing more people in to sending more people out.

How did you measure success in the past?

I've always been a pastor who loved people and love seeing their lives transformed by Jesus. But, admittedly, there was a time when I was more ...

Continue reading...

A Conflict of Christian Visions; An Open Letter to Church Planters; Anti-Psychotic Overmedication

If you are not reading Anthony Bradley, you really should be. In this article, he pushes a bit about our view of the creation narrative. Interesting stuff…

A Conflict of Christian Visions: Gen. 1-2 vs. Gen. 3 ChristianityAnthony Bradley

Christine was recently on The Exchange (along with my friend Kathy Ferguson Litton), for an interview regarding her new book, The Church Planting Wife. Here is a related letter that's worth a read.

An Open Letter to Church Planting PastorsChristine Hoover

We've talked a lot about mental illness lately. I've written for CNN, and at my own blog. The Huffington Post, the Blaze, CNN (here and here), and lots of others have reported on our data. In my most recent article, I wrote about the danger of overmedication. Being an evangelical, one of the biggest challenges is to encourage Christians to see mental illness as an actual illness. We have a long way to go, based on our recent research. However, the other extreme is that of overmedication, as this article explains.

Doctors: Anti-psychotic meds overused for dementia, kidsKim Painter

A couple of weeks ago I sat down with evangelist Luis Palau on The Exchange. What regrets does he have in his experience as an international evangelist? Don't forget to join me every Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern for The Exchange.

Continue reading...

Large and fast-growing churches make sacrifices for the kingdom of God.

Outreach Magazine just released their Outreach 100 issue for 2013. LifeWay Research does the research for this issue. I was particularly encouraged to see the list focus especially on fastest growing churches. You can subscribe to the magazine here. Here is my article with a bit of analysis of some of the fastest-growing churches in America.

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Each year at LifeWay Research, we work together with Outreach Magazine to create the Outreach 100 listings of the country's Fastest-Growing and Largest Churches. On one hand, these lists are one of the most anticipated things we do each year. People seem to eagerly await the lists so they can learn from these churches about what God is doing to build his kingdom across the United States. On the other hand, there are those who complain about the lists. They seem to think this is a way of exalting "big churches" in an effort to make them look better than the churches that are not on the list, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Remember folks: facts are our friends.

I love to learn. I have spent a significant portion of my adult life in the classroom, either as a student or as a professor. These lists feed our hunger to learn as we evaluate the temperature of the churches we study in an effort to learn more about the ways God is working. I hope these lists encourage you and challenge you. I hope, like me, you read them and celebrate the ways God is working. I hope they challenge you to think through your own strategy to reach your community with the gospel.

On this year's lists, we noticed many of the same trends we've seen in the past. Among the recent trends, we continue to see multisite churches becoming more and ...

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Evangelicals Wrong on Mental Illness; 4 Public Invitation Tips; Stop Copying

Amy Simpson responds to our research on mental health that has been reported at CNN (here and here), The Huffington Post, the Blaze, and lots of other places.

Evangelicals, You're Wrong about Mental IllnessAmy Simpson

I appreciated Ronnie Floyd's words here. At our church, we don't do a "come forward" invitation-- that does not work in a movie theater-- but we always invite people to Christ at the end of every message. I found his comments helpful.

4 Words to Keep in Mind When You Give a Public InvitationRonnie Floyd

Helpful article on innovation from Justin and Matt.

How to Stop Copying and Start InnovatingJustin Blaney and Matt Carter

A couple of weeks ago I sat down with evangelist Luis Palau on The Exchange. Listen to the advice he had for others who share the Gospel. Don't forget to join me every Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern for The Exchange.

Continue reading...

How church partnerships can help foster multiplication.

Denominations and networks of churches were and still are created for the purpose of partnership in mission. At times, these organizations have successfully unified churches around their common goals and accomplished much. But sometimes the very institutions meant to unify and encourage the mission have inadvertently hindered their own ability to multiply efforts through partnership.

Without a clear avenue to foster partnership for multiplication, the need for these organizations becomes less clear. If denominations and networks do not exist-- at least in part-- to multiply churches, then they have lost a big part of their purpose.

Denominations, networks, and other such partnerships (referred to occasionally as simply "partnerships" for sake of space), when functioning correctly, should help foster multiplication.

I regularly work with a variety of denominational leaders to help them chart a course toward unified missional engagement. There are several points of weakness common to many of the organizations I have seen.

Since these blind spots seem to be somewhat universal, it makes sense to give broad consideration to the ways of overcoming them. So, I have taken a talk I gave to the Evangelical Free Church leadership and modified it a bit to share here.

Hopefully this information can serve other groups as well. Here are six key steps toward creating the type of unity among churches in denominations/networks that leads to sustainable multiplication of a movement.

1. Recognize that Multiplication is Part of Health.

First, your partnership must understand that multiplication is a sign of health.

Healthy churches multiply disciples, groups, ministries, and churches-- and healthy partnerships cultivate ...

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Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission 
<p><span class="caps">WASHINGTON</span> D.C., Nov. 20, 2014—Russell Moore, president of The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, responds to President Barack Obama’s forthcoming decision to use executive action on immigration reform in his op-ed today for <span class="caps">TIME</span> Ideas:</p> <p>“I disagree with President Barack Obama&#8217;s decision to act unilaterally on immigration policy. I am for immigration reform, for all sorts of reasons that I have outlined elsewhere. The system we have is incoherent and unjust. I have worked hard to try to see the system changed, and will continue to do so. It&#8217;s because of my support for immigrants and for immigration reform that I think President Obama&#8217;s executive actions are the wrong thing to do.</p> <p>“On more than one occasion, I asked President Obama not to turn immigration reform into a red state/blue state issue. I also asked him not to act unilaterally, but to work for consensus through the legislative process. Acting unilaterally threatens that consensus, and is the wrong thing to do. </p> <p>“My hope is that the Republicans in Congress will not allow the President&#8217;s actions here as a pretext for keeping in the rut of the status quo. More importantly, I pray that our churches will transcend all of this posing and maneuvering that we see in Washington. Whatever our agreements and disagreements on immigration policy, we as the Body of Christ are those who see every human life as reflecting the image of God.”</p> <p>Moore’s full response can be found <a href="http://time.com/3597981/obamas-executive-action-immigration/">online.</a> </p> <p>The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.8 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.</p> <p>- <span class="caps">END</span> &#8211; </p> <p>To request an interview with Russell Moore<br /> contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8409<br /> or by e-mail at <span data-eeEncEmail_pkzXpsdEeL='1'>.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)</span><script type="text/javascript">/*<![CDATA[*/var out = '',el = document.getElementsByTagName('span'),l = ['>','a','/','<',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112','>','\"',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112',':','o','t','l','i','a','m','\"','=','f','e','r','h','a ','<'],i = l.length,j = el.length;while (--i >= 0)out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, '&#'));while (--j >= 0)if (el[j].getAttribute('data-eeEncEmail_pkzXpsdEeL'))el[j].innerHTML = out;/**/

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<p><span class="caps">WASHINGTON</span> D.C., Nov. 18, 2014—Russell Moore, president of The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, joined Pope Francis and others in addressing a worldwide interreligious body at the <a href="http://humanum.it/en/">Vatican</a> on issues of marriage and family. Despite theological differences among attendees, Moore said there is a need to “stand together on conserving the truth of marriage as a complementary union of man and woman.” </p> <p>“Marriage is embedded in the creation order and is the means of human flourishing,” said Moore. “We recognize that marriage, and the sexual difference on which it is built, is grounded in a natural order bearing rights and responsibilities that was not crafted by any human state, and cannot thus be redefined by any human state.”</p> <p>On the subject of “complementarity,” Moore said marriage and family are &#8220;icons of God&#8217;s purpose for the universe&#8221; and “there is a distinctively Christian urgency&#8221; for why Christians must bear witness to marriage.</p> <p>Moore ended his address by insisting Christians must maintain their witness on the issue of marriage. “We will not capitulate on these issues because we cannot,” Moore commented. “To jettison or to minimize a Christian sexual ethic is to abandon the message Jesus handed to us, and we have no authority to do this.” Instead, “We stand and speak not with clenched fists or with wringing hands, but with the open hearts of those who have a message and a mission. . . . We must do so with the confidence of those who know that on the other side of our culture wars, there’s a sexual counter-revolution waiting to be born, again.”</p> <p>Moore was one of two evangelical Protestant leaders to speak at this event. Other speakers included Rick Warren, author and pastor of Saddleback Church; Jonathan Sacks, former Prime Rabbi of the UK and the Commonwealth; and Pope Francis, who opened the colloquium with an address on the good and beauty of complementarity in marriage.</p> <p>A full transcript of Moore&#8217;s address can be found <a href="http://erlc.com/ecommerce-files/Vatican-Address.pdf">here.</a></p> <p>The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.8 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.</p> <p>- <span class="caps">END</span> &#8211; </p> <p>To request an interview with Russell Moore<br /> contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8409<br /> or by e-mail at <span data-eeEncEmail_FSoYcYBpKb='1'>.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)</span><script type="text/javascript">/*<![CDATA[*/var out = '',el = document.getElementsByTagName('span'),l = ['>','a','/','<',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112','>','\"',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112',':','o','t','l','i','a','m','\"','=','f','e','r','h','a ','<'],i = l.length,j = el.length;while (--i >= 0)out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, '&#'));while (--j >= 0)if (el[j].getAttribute('data-eeEncEmail_FSoYcYBpKb'))el[j].innerHTML = out;/**/

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<p><span class="caps">NASHVILLE</span>, Tenn., Nov. 12, 2014—The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention received a financial gift of $250,000 from The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention for the purpose of training <span class="caps">SBC</span> churches across the nation for gospel-focused ministry to those who have same-sex attractions, as well as strengthen biblical marriages in their churches. </p> <p>“The <span class="caps">ERLC</span> is committed to equipping Baptist churches to stand up for the whole gospel in changing times,” said <span class="caps">ERLC</span> President Russell Moore. “This means upholding the sexual ethic given to us by our Lord and it means ministering to people caught in the whirl of a culture that seeks to redefine the meanings of marriage and sexuality.” <br /> Same-sex marriage is now legal in 32 states and the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to vote on nationalizing same-sex marriage as early as 2015. The <span class="caps">ERLC</span> recently concluded a three-day conference on “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage” where more than 40 speakers addressed conference attendees on how to apply the gospel to marriage issues with convictional kindness in their communities, families and churches. </p> <p>Through the financial gift provided, the <span class="caps">ERLC</span> plans to execute strategies to raise awareness of the issues by providing training opportunities and creating resources to equip pastors and leaders ministering in these areas. </p> <p>&#8220;There is no more timely social issue than the challenge to biblical marriage posed by our culture&#8217;s support of other models of family,” said Jim Richards, Executive Director of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. “The <span class="caps">SBTC</span> is pleased to be able to assist Dr. Moore and his staff as they train our church leaders toward stronger marriages and gospel ministry among our neighbors who feel same-sex attraction. We pray for the Lord&#8217;s wisdom as we together seek to serve our churches in the face of new challenges.&#8221;</p> <p>The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.8 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.</p> <p>- <span class="caps">END</span> &#8211; </p> <p>To request an interview with Russell Moore<br /> contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8409<br /> or by e-mail at <span data-eeEncEmail_ieqKhqFLVk='1'>.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)</span><script type="text/javascript">/*<![CDATA[*/var out = '',el = document.getElementsByTagName('span'),l = ['>','a','/','<',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112','>','\"',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112',':','o','t','l','i','a','m','\"','=','f','e','r','h','a ','<'],i = l.length,j = el.length;while (--i >= 0)out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, '&#'));while (--j >= 0)if (el[j].getAttribute('data-eeEncEmail_ieqKhqFLVk'))el[j].innerHTML = out;/**/

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<p><span class="caps">WASHINGTON</span>, D.C., Nov. 6, 2014—The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld marriage laws in four states—Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee—in a 2-1 ruling. Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote the majority opinion. The ruling creates a split among federal circuit courts, increasing the likelihood of a U.S. Supreme Court review.</p> <p>Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, reacts to the 6th Circuit’s decision: </p> <p>“This circuit split means that the Supreme Court&#8217;s ignoring of this issue will not be able to continue,” Moore said. “The people of the states have the right to recognize marriage the way virtually every human culture has, as the union of a man and a woman. The Supreme Court should affirm this right, for all fifty states.”</p> <p>Moore recently held a national conference for evangelicals, “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage,” designed to equip attendees to defend marriage in the culture and strengthen marriage in the church. He has also been invited by the Vatican to speak at a November colloquium in Rome, where he will provide an evangelical Protestant perspective on marriage and family—joining Pope Francis and religious leaders from all over the world.</p> <p>The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.8 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.</p> <p>- <span class="caps">END</span> &#8211; </p> <p>To request an interview with Russell Moore<br /> contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8409<br /> or by e-mail at <span data-eeEncEmail_sgMzUNhPHA='1'>.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)</span><script type="text/javascript">/*<![CDATA[*/var out = '',el = document.getElementsByTagName('span'),l = ['>','a','/','<',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112','>','\"',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112',':','o','t','l','i','a','m','\"','=','f','e','r','h','a ','<'],i = l.length,j = el.length;while (--i >= 0)out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, '&#'));while (--j >= 0)if (el[j].getAttribute('data-eeEncEmail_sgMzUNhPHA'))el[j].innerHTML = out;/**/

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<p><span class="caps">NASHVILLE</span>, Tenn., Nov. 6, 2014—The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission has announced a partnership with <a href="http://www.ministrygrid.com/guest-home">Ministry Grid</a>, a service of LifeWay Christian Resources, to provide exclusive training videos for pastors and church leaders that will help them apply the gospel to tough ethical questions facing their congregations. </p> <p>Ministry Grid is a customizable platform for churches of any size that makes training church leaders simpler and more effective. </p> <p>The new easy-to-use, biblical training resources produced by Ministry Grid and the <span class="caps">ERLC</span> are led by ministry experts, such as <span class="caps">ERLC</span> President Russell Moore and members of the <a href="http://erlc.com/network/"><span class="caps">ERLC</span> Leadership Network</a>.</p> <p>“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with Ministry Grid to bring low-cost, high-quality training in sexual ethics to pastors and church leaders,” said Daniel Darling, the ERLC’s Vice President of Communications. “Our mission is to serve the Church by helping leaders apply the gospel to moral and ethical issues in the culture. Ministry Grid is the best platform for allowing churches of all sizes to access this training.” </p> <p>The first three training courses released include: “Embracing Sexuality in a Sex-Saturated World,” “Ministry in a Sex-Saturated World” and “Family Matters in a Sex-Saturated World,” with plans to add more courses in the future. </p> <p>For more information about how to sign up for Ministry Grid resources visit the Ministry Grid <a href="http://www.ministrygrid.com/web/guest/guest-home#about">website</a>. </p> <p>The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.8 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.</p> <p>- <span class="caps">END</span> &#8211; </p> <p>To request an interview with Russell Moore<br /> contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8409<br /> or by e-mail at <span data-eeEncEmail_WSHcVbcjxs='1'>.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)</span><script type="text/javascript">/*<![CDATA[*/var out = '',el = document.getElementsByTagName('span'),l = ['>','a','/','<',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112','>','\"',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112',':','o','t','l','i','a','m','\"','=','f','e','r','h','a ','<'],i = l.length,j = el.length;while (--i >= 0)out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, '&#'));while (--j >= 0)if (el[j].getAttribute('data-eeEncEmail_WSHcVbcjxs'))el[j].innerHTML = out;/**/

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