Thursday, May 25, 2023

Church Attendance

 28% of Americans attend church weekly

The latest General Social Survey found 49% of adults in the U.S. say they believe in God with no doubts. Only 6.8% said they did not believe in God while 7.5% were agnostic. The rest of the population expressed some kind of doubtful belief in God or a higher power. 

Over 60% of respondents said they have not experienced a turning point in their lives when they committed themselves to Christ. Thirty-eight percent said they have.

And  28% of Americans attend church regularly, 32% never attend, and 40% attend infrequently. 

Jesus said in Revelation 2:15-16, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Answering Pro-abortion Arguments: “What About the Life of the Mother?”


What is the biblical response to complicated medical situations in pregnancy?

The main thing to consider regarding these rare and difficult situations is how doctors and others can do their best to maintain the lives and health of both the mother and the baby (or babies). All are image bearers of God and deserve respect and care, before and after birth. “Pro-choice” advocates mainly offer one choice for the mother: the death of her child. They want to keep allowing the murder of babies for any reason—even for instance, if the baby is a different sex than what the parents were hoping for (with female babies being more often “selected” for termination in a twisted irony for those who would mistakenly call abortion a women’s rights issue). But we, as Christians, can come alongside these women and families in these difficult circumstances and offer hope and help, while respecting all these precious lives and encouraging their health and survival.  (from Answers in Genesis)

Monday, June 20, 2022

Images of Christ: Reconsidering a Common Exception


Images of Christ: Reconsidering a Common Exception

Larger Catechism question 109 states

What sins are forbidden in the second commandment?

 The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.”

Common Rationale #1

The common objection to this portion of the catechism usually concerns images of Christ. Specifically, men taking this exception will acknowledge that images of Christ should not be used for worship, but they see no problem with images being used for didactic purposes, by which they mean that they see no problem using images of Christ to teach children. This is so common an exception it’s often called the “Jesus Storybook Bible exception.” However, the problem is that images of God will be connected to worship and that education should be connected to worship.

As always, we should begin by considering scripture itself. Exodus 20:4-6 says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

What’s frequently overlooked when considering the second commandment is the fact that it contains two imperatives, not one. In forbidding idols this commandment does not simply say “You shall not worship them.” It says much more than that. It first says in verse four that you shall not make them. Significantly, the language does not say “You shall not make them in order to worship them.” The Hebrew conjunction ‎ לְמַעַן generally translated “in order that” is conspicuously absent. Verse four is a separate sentence in Hebrew as well as English. The second commandment has always been “you shall not make any idols” and “you shall not worship them.” No Israelite could ever make an image of God or any other gods and plead its acceptability on account of its not being used for worship, but only didactic purposes.

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Monday, June 13, 2022

Finnish Member of Parliament is Acquitted of ‘Hate Speech’ for Quoting the Bible


Finnish Member of Parliament is Acquitted of ‘Hate Speech’ for Quoting the Bible

Today in Finland, lawyers for Member of Parliament Paivi Rasanen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola will make their final arguments defending the two against “hate crimes” charges for publicly expressing their Christian beliefs. While intended to suppress Christianity and criminalize the Bible, with ramifications for the entire West, the prosecution has also created opportunities to proclaim Christian theology all over the world, Rasanen told The Federalist in an exclusive interview last week.

“I was happy to have the possibility to also tell the gospel—the solution to the problem of sin—in front of the court and in front of the media,” she said. Speaking about the first day of her trial, which occurred in January, Rasanen said, “When so many people were praying for the day, God also answered the prayers. It was quite a hard day, but I thought it was a privilege to stand for the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion and stand for the truth of the Bible.”

Watch an interview with Paivi Rasanen here.

Paivi is a great example of a Christian standing firm for the truth of Scripture in the public square, using the free speech in her country to speak for Christ.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

The Importance of Gathering for Worship

 The Importance of Gathering for Worship

by Jon Payne January 18, 2022

Is gathered (in-person) worship optional for Christians? The question is a profoundly relevant one, especially in our day of endless online services and superficial views of public worship. The Bible’s answer is unmistakably clear: No, gathered worship is not optional. In fact, it’s a divine requirement for every follower of Christ. Indeed, unless providentially hindered by legitimate impediments such as illness or perilous weather, believers are commanded to assemble for worship in the context of a biblically constituted church (Heb. 10:24–25)—that is, a local body of believers who are under the loving shepherding care and discipline of qualified elders. These elders oversee the souls of Christ’s flock and faithfully execute the preaching of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, and the public prayers (Acts 2:42; 14:23Eph. 4:11–161 Tim. 3:1-13). Gathered worship in a biblical church is, therefore, a nonnegotiable—an essential mark and means of Christian piety, discipleship, and witness. The church is certainly more than the sacred assembling of believers on the Lord’s Day, but it is never less than that.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Ash Wednesday?


Ash Wednesday: Picking and Choosing our Piety

The rise of Lent in non-Roman, Orthodox or Anglican circles is a fascinating phenomenon.

When Presbyterians and Baptists and free church evangelicals start attending Ash Wednesday services and observing Lent, one can only conclude that they have either been poorly instructed in the theology or the history of their own traditions, or that they have no theology and history. Or maybe they are simply exhibiting the attitude of the world around: They consume the bits and pieces which catch their attention in any tradition they find appealing, while eschewing the broader structure, demands and discipline which belonging to an historically rooted confessional community requires.

It’s that time of year again: the ancient tradition of Lent, kick-started by Ash Wednesday. It is also the time of year when us confessional types brace ourselves for the annual onslaught of a more recent tradition: that of evangelical pundits, with no affiliation to such branches of the church, writing articles extolling Lent’s virtues to their own eclectic constituency.

Liturgical calendars developed in the fourth century and beyond, as Christianity came to dominate the empire. Cultural dominance requires two things: control of time and space.  The latter could be achieved through churches and relics. The former was achieved through developing a calendar which gave the rhythm of time a specifically Christian idiom. It remains a key part of Roman, Orthodox and later Anglican church practice.

The rise of Lent in non-Roman, Orthodox or Anglican circles is a fascinating phenomenon. I remember being on the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary a few years ago on Ash Wednesday and being greeted by a young man emerging from Miller Chapel with a black smudged cross on his forehead. That the bastion of nineteenth century Old School Presbyterianism had been reduced to this – an eclectic grab-bag of liturgical practices – struck me as sad. Old School Presbyterianism is a rich enough tradition not to need to plunder the Egyptians or even the Anglicans.

I can understand Anglicans observing Lent. Hey, I can even approve of them doing so when I am in an exceptionally good mood or have just awoken from a deep sleep and am still a little disoriented. It is part of their history. It connects to their formal liturgical history. All denominations and Christian traditions involve elements that are strictly speaking unbiblical but which shape their historic identity. For Anglicans, the liturgical calendar is just such a thing. These reasons are not compelling in a way that would make the calendar normative for all Christians, yet I can still see how they make sense to an Anglican. But just as celebrating July the Fourth makes sense for Americans but not for the English, the Chinese or the Lapps, so Ash Wednesday and Lent really make no sense to those who are Presbyterians, Baptists, or free church evangelicals.

What perplexes me is the need for people from these other groups to observe Ash Wednesday and Lent. My commitment to Christian liberty means that I certainly would not regard it as sinful in itself for them to do so; but that same commitment also means that I object most strongly to anybody trying to argue that it should be a normative practice for Christians, to impose it on their congregations, or to claim that it confers benefits unavailable elsewhere.

The imposition of ashes is intended as a means of reminding us that we are dust and forms part of a liturgical moment when sins are ‘shriven’ or forgiven. In fact, a well-constructed worship service should do that anyway. Precisely the same thing can be conveyed by the reading of God’s Word, particularly the Law, followed by a corporate prayer of confession and then some words of gospel forgiveness drawn from an appropriate passage and read out loud to the congregation by the minister.

An appropriately rich Reformed sacramentalism also renders Ash Wednesday irrelevant. Infant baptism emphasizes better than anything else outside of the preached Word the priority of God’s grace and the helplessness of sinful humanity in the face of God. The Lord’s Supper, both in its symbolism (humble elements of bread and wine) and its meaning (the feeding on Christ by faith) indicates our continuing weakness, fragility and utter dependence upon Christ.

In light of this, I suspect that the reasons evangelicals are rediscovering Lent is as much to do with the poverty of their own liturgical tradition as anything. American evangelicals are past masters at appropriating anything that catches their fancy in church history and claiming it as their own, from the ancient Fathers as the first emergents to the Old School men of Old Princeton as the precursors of the Young, Restless, and Reformed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer as modern American Evangelical. Yet if your own tradition lacks the historical, liturgical and theological depth for which you are looking, it may be time to join a church which can provide the same.

I also fear that it speaks of a certain carnality: The desire to do something which simply looks cool and which has a certain ostentatious spirituality about it. As an act of piety, it costs nothing yet implies a deep seriousness. In fact, far from revealing deep seriousness, in an evangelical context it simply exposes the superficiality, eclectic consumerism and underlying identity confusion of the movement.

Finally, it also puzzles me that time and energy is spent each year on extolling the virtues of Lent when comparatively little is spent on extolling the virtues of the Lord’s Day. Presbyterianism has its liturgical calendar, its way of marking time: Six days of earthly pursuits and one day of rest and gathered worship. Of course, that is rather boring. Boring, that is, unless you understand the rich theology which underlies the Lord’s Day and gathered worship, and realize that every week one meets together with fellow believers to taste a little bit of heaven on earth.

When Presbyterians and Baptists and free church evangelicals start attending Ash Wednesday services and observing Lent, one can only conclude that they have either been poorly instructed in the theology or the history of their own traditions, or that they have no theology and history. Or maybe they are simply exhibiting the attitude of the world around: They consume the bits and pieces which catch their attention in any tradition they find appealing, while eschewing the broader structure, demands and discipline which belonging to an historically rooted confessional community requires. Indeed, it is ironic that a season designed for self-denial is so often a symbol of this present age’s ingrained consumerism.

Carl Trueman is a professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.  This article is used with permission.

Friday, January 28, 2022

The Folly of Humanism


January 28, 2022
The Folly of Humanism
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” (Psalm 14:1)

Despite all their pretense of scientific intellectualism, those who deny the existence of a personal Creator God are, in God’s judgment, nothing but fools. The 14th Psalm, the 53rd Psalm, Romans 3, etc., all describe the inner character of all such people—whether they call themselves atheists or humanists or pantheists or whatever. This repeated emphasis indicates how strongly God feels about those who dare to question His reality. It is bad enough to disobey His commandments and to spurn His love; it is utter folly to deny that He even exists!

The Bible describes the awful descent from true creationism into evolutionary pantheistic humanism. “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools...Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator” (Romans 1:21-22, 25).

Certain atheists/humanists claim to be moral people, though their criteria of morality are often quite different from those of the Bible. No matter how admirable their humane acts of “righteousness” may seem, however, they are guilty of the sin of unbelief, the greatest sin of all. “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is” (Hebrews 11:6). With all the innumerable evidences of God’s reality as seen in the creation and throughout history, and then especially in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, it is utter foolishness to plunge blindly into eternity to meet the God whom they deny. HMM