TIME magazine lists the new Calvinism as #3 of the 10 ideas rocking the world right now.

In honor of the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth, my seminary alma mater has resources online for reading through The Institutes of the Christian Religion in 2009. The Institutes are the masterwork of Calvin.
I commend this essay by Louis Markos in Touchstone for reading by all.

In the essay he delineates and destroys the heresy at the core of Christian advocacy for same-sex practice: a liberal misunderstanding of Jesus as embodying absolute inclusivity.

Note that Christians who insist on the sanction and blessing of same-sex “marriage” are not saying: “Well, society’s changing, and if the Church doesn’t keep up with the change, she will be looked upon as old-fashioned and irrelevant to the concerns of today.” No, they are saying something far more radical and troubling: “ Because we are Christians, we should be in the forefront of those who are currently fighting for gay ‘marriage.’”

How could those who call themselves Christians take such a position? The answer is that many have accepted what I must call, without apology, the heresy of inclusivism. Though rarely stated so baldly, this heresy posits that at the core of Jesus’ life and teachings is a simple, non-negotiable message of absolute love, tolerance, and inclusivism that should determine every aspect of the faith. Any belief or practice that jeopardizes this message is to be rejected, even if it is stated clearly in the Bible, accepted by the historic Church, and believed by nearly all Christians since the founding of the faith. Any statements or doctrines that portray Jesus as exclusivist or intolerant, even if spoken by Jesus himself, must either be rejected or reinterpreted to fit in with his “true” message of inclusivism and tolerance.
Jerry Falwell inherited the older fundamentalist/evangelical outlook: fight hard to save America from liberalism/modernism in all its forms. His innovations included working with Roman Catholics and Mormons in The Moral Majority, and adding military preparedness to the issues list. Today's most prominent evangelical leader, according to some, is Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California. And his approach differs. Warren stresses global issues of compassion such as poverty and AIDS. And he advocates civility in political discourse. Both McCain and Obama are to appear on the campus of Warren's megachurch.

Article from the Los Angeles Times, link from Religion News Headlines.
Story here. From Breitbart.

A jury was seated Wednesday in a lawsuit alleging the wife of nationally known pastor Joel Osteen assaulted a flight attendant.
Opening arguments were set for Thursday in a case Victoria Osteen's lawyer called "silly." But Reginald McKamie, attorney for Continental Airlines flight attendant Sharon Brown, said he hopes the trial will show "that celebrity status doesn't take precedence."

Brown accuses Victoria Osteen of assaulting her before the start of a 2005 flight from Houston to Vail, Colo. Brown alleges Victoria Osteen threw her against a bathroom door and elbowed her in the left breast during an angry outburst over a stain on her first-class seat. The Federal Aviation Administration fined Victoria Osteen $3,000 for interfering with a crew member.

Some evangelicals are becoming increasingly wary of the religious teachings promoted by Oprah Winfrey. Story here from USA TODAY.

Religion writer Marcia Nelson, author of The Gospel According to Oprah, said criticism of Winfrey by conservative Christians dates to 1998 when she included a spiritual emphasis on her TV show.

"Back then she got pretty much lambasted the way she is being lambasted now, for telling us what to believe and telling us the wrong thing to believe in, according to conservative Christians," said Nelson.

But Nelson, who studied a year of Winfrey's shows, differs with those who call Winfrey's spiritual ideas "New Age." She says Winfrey would be more related to the "New Thought" movement, which is more mainstream, focusing on positive thinking as a spiritual tool rather than crystals, for example.

"I absolutely regard her as a Christian but ... she's one of those capacious Christians," Nelson said.

I myself don't have an opinion because I have almost no idea what happens on Oprah or in O Magazine.
In May The Pew Form sponsored another biennial conference on faith, public policy, and politics attended by scholars and journalists. One of the presenters was

D. Michael Lindsay, author of Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite, described eight fallacies or misconceptions he held as he began his book. In the three years of his extensive research, he made surprising discoveries about the true power brokers and centers of power in American evangelicalism.

The book that resulted from his research, Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite was published in 2007 by Oxford University Press, and has been very well received.

He gave a talk on evangelicals that is must reading for everyone interested in American public policy and politics.Transcript.

Here are a couple of excerpts.

And I began to realize that there is a whole segment of the evangelical movement –many of those folks who are in the elite – who were trying to distinguish themselves from the rest of the evangelical subculture. And so I began to think more about this and pay more attention to it. And the real divide, in my opinion, in evangelicalism is not between the left and the right; it’s not between the young and the old. It is between a group that I call the “cosmopolitan” evangelicals and “populist” evangelicals. And these are very, very significant divisions.

You see, populist evangelicals are what we oftentimes think about evangelicals. These are the folks who are culture warriors, who say that they want to take back the country for their faith. They see themselves as embattled against secular society. They are very much concerned that they are in a minority position, and they’ve got to somehow use very strong-arm tactics to win the day.

So that populist evangelicalism is alive and strong, especially in the evangelical subculture: the music, the publishing, the entertainment segment of the evangelical subculture. But there is a whole other segment. The people who I interviewed, by and large, fit more this cosmopolitan outlook. They are less interested in taking back the country for their faith. They really are more interested in their faith being seen as authentic, reasonable, and winsome. So they still have an evangelistic impulse, but their whole modus operandi looks quite different. Because of that they have different ultimate goals of what they are actually trying to achieve. They want to have a seat at the table. They want to be seen as legitimate. They are concerned about what The New York Times or TIME magazine thinks about evangelicals because they [the cosmopolitan evangelicals] are concerned about cultural elites. They want legitimacy. Legitimacy is actually more important to them than necessarily taking back the country. And so that cosmopolitan-populist divide I find to be quite significant.


I think there are some issues that people assume will be huge elements that I think are going to go away: same-sex unions, for example. I think the train has left the station. I don’t think evangelicals 20 years from now will be raising concerns about it. I think same-sex unions will be across the country in 20 years. And I don’t think evangelicals will raise a very big stink because this is one of the issues where you do see very significant generational divides. Older evangelicals are very opposed to it; younger evangelicals are not. And in this way, it mirrors the rest of the country.


The sixth fallacy I had is that faith in politics, if we have to look at how religion fits into politics, it is most centrally about domestic issues. It is most centrally about abortion and about same-sex unions, those kinds of things. When in fact the real story, the real interesting story, is foreign affairs. Fifty years ago, evangelicals were vehemently opposed to foreign aid. They were opposed to interventionism. In fact, some of the strongest opposition that President Woodrow Wilson received for some of his policies when he was in office was from fellow conservative Christians. They said that we should not be involved in multilateral relationships. This was quite upsetting.

The major turnaround that evangelicals have made on issues about foreign aid and foreign investment is quite significant. Today, for example, evangelicals are very, very positive, very high on USAID and the State Department. Why is this? Well, over the last 20 years, we have witnessed a de-professionalization of foreign missions – and that’s a significant development. You see, 50 years ago, evangelicals were sending missionaries by the droves to China, to India, to all over. What has happened is that there has been a paradigm shift within the evangelical community. Now you don’t necessarily send somebody for the rest of his or her life to go and do foreign missions; now you send a lot more people for shorter-term ventures. People go for two weeks, for a month, for a summer, for a year, for two years, and this has changed the dynamic. What it’s done is exposed a lot more average evangelicals to a global culture. So you’ve got 7,000 members of Saddleback Church who have now traveled to Rwanda to go and do development and aid in very interesting ways.

This article from Christianity Today on the growing strength of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention, especially in the seminaries.

Calvinism is not new for the SBC. Baptists in America root back to the Particular Baptists of England. The Philadelphia Confession, the statement of faith of the largest and most influential Baptist association in the colonies, is a Baptist descendent of the Westminister Confession. Sometime in the 1830s-1850s, Calvinism gradually lost its grip on the majority of Baptists in the United States. It is not accidental that the first major split among colonial Baptists resulted in the formation of the Free Will Baptists, taking their name from their rejection of the dominant Calvinism of their fellow churches.

Calvinism always will be attractive to evangelicals looking for a comprehensive world-and-life view. Protestantism has generated few systems of thought that can comprehend science, philosophy, government, etc. to compete with Roman Catholic, especially Thomistic teaching. Calvinism is the most comprehensive system of Protestantism.
It used to be a saying in my Reformed tradition that if someone in a Reformed Church said, "Full-time Christian Ministry," and meant by that only full-time pastors and missionaries, that person had forgotten our theology. We believe all Christians are full time ministers, and that our most significant ministry consists in being good fathers and mothers, gardeners and bakers, political officeholders and janitors. All work is Kingdom work if done for Christ according to Christian principles. We are part of God's work of reclaiming the fallen world, of bringing godly order into the chaos of sinful fallenness, of extending God's Kingdom (God's Kingly Rule) into human life, which will find its fulfillment in the world to come.

The Lutherans believe also that our vocation, our work in the world, is our major service to God. They embed this understanding in the Lutheran Two Kingdoms teaching, but the outcome is pretty much the same as in the Reformed teaching. Here is a very good presentation of the Lutheran position on work, from Christianity Today.

American evangelicals have fallen away from a major Protestant principle when they view pastors as somehow having a higher calling than dogcatchers. We all are priests to God, and exercise our priestly function whether we are handling the bread and wine of the eucharist, or bedpans.
Hell is not popular in contemporary American Christianity. In this post Frederica Mathewes-Green explains and tries to revive Christian belief in hell.

Before reading: Mathewes-Green is Eastern Orthodox and so her approach and explanation reflect the Orthodox understanding, not the Western. In the East, sin and salvation are not primarily understood in forensic terms, never have been. Rather than the law court being the dominant conceptual framework (as in the West, at least since Anselm), the dominant concept for understanding sin and salvation is the family. Also, depravity (fallen and sinful human nature) in Orthodoxy is usually more understood as a "tarnishing" of the image of God, rather than the severly distorted almost beyond recognition image of God in fallen humanity as understood in the West at least since Augustine.

btw, I find it interesting that Orthodoxy, which is a patriarchal form of Christianity--males only as priests and bishops, God is Father and Jesus is the incarnate Son, etc--has recognized some strong women as saints. I'm not nominating Mathewes-Green for sainthood, but she is a strong woman whose writing is usually featured on Orthodox websites.

25/11: Men in Church

For about a century and a half now, women have outnumbered men in American churches. Look over the average American congregation on Sunday morning--more women than men. Even if you mentally remove the widows--women do live longer--and concentrate on the middle-aged and younger the results are the same in most churches.

Why? Perhaps no one answer can be given, but certainly a major reason is the "feminization of Christianity." Beginning in the 19th century, Christianity was feminized: emotion was valued more than reason, hymnody reflected a female perspective ("I Come to the Garden Alone"), and Jesus was portrayed in a feminine manner (Softly and Tenderly, Jesus Is Calling). The God of Wrath and Judgment was eased out he back door, to be replaced by the God of Compassion and Acceptance. The Augustinian/Calvinist God of Command was replaced by the Divine Lover. The "Hard Sayings" of Jesus were not highlighted in devotional literature.

This morning I attended an Antiochian Orthodox Christian church. My daughter and her fiancee were received as catechumens. He was the one first attracted to Orthodoxy. As I looked around at the congregation I noticed at least as many men as women attended. Why? This essay offers some answers.

Here are the first two paragraphs:

In a time when churches of every description are faced with Vanishing Male Syndrome, men are showing up at Eastern Orthodox churches in numbers that, if not numerically impressive, are proportionately intriguing. This may be the only church which attracts and holds men in numbers equal to women. As Leon Podles wrote in his 1999 book, "The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity," "The Orthodox are the only Christians who write basso profundo church music, or need to."

Rather than guess why this is, I emailed a hundred Orthodox men, most of whom joined the Church as adults. What do they think makes this church particularly attractive to men? Their responses, below, may spark some ideas for leaders in other churches, who are looking for ways to keep guys in the pews.

From 1987-1994 I served as pastor of a rural Reformed congregation that was traditional Dutch. We had about equal numbers of men and women on Sunday mornings, including complete families--husband, wife, children. What we had in common with the Orthodoxy of the essay was a conservative theology that emphasized God, strong expectations for the Christian life, relatively little emphasis on the trivialities of pietism (several of our men gathered outside the building to smoke, many of them drank beer at home), male leadership of the congregation, and worship that focused on God and God's Word.