Wisdom beyond the homosexuality debate

Rosaria Butterfield has written an insightful article about understanding homosexuality through the lens of a Christian worldview, but the beauty of her article is that it goes far beyond dealing with questions about homosexuality alone and focuses on the way that the ideas of others can shape our views about theology and set the direction for our life choices. Her article was prompted by a recent student protest at Wheaton College after she was invited to come and share her testimony. In response to this protest, Rosaria set aside time afterwards to meet with those who had protested against her to hear their concerns and discuss their issues. In her article she states that “This may seem a quirky observation, but I know too well the world these students inhabit. I recall its contours and crevices, risks and perils, reading lists and hermeneutical allegiances. You see, I’m culpable. The blood is on my hands. The world of LGBTQ activism on college campuses is the world that I helped create. I was unfaltering in fidelity: the umbrella of equality stretching to embrace my lesbian identity, and the world that emerged from it held salvific potential. I bet my life on it, and I lost.” Rosaria exemplifies how we can truly reach out in love and grace when we are met with opposition without compromising that which we know to be true. While the issue that prompted her article is homosexuality, it is only one of a myriad of issues facing the church today where a similar loving but firm response is needed from the church.


You Are What—and How—You Read by Rosaria Butterfield

Turkey’s government is concerned about deceptive practices of some western missionaries

counterfeit-us-dollarFor several decades some missionaries[i] from organizations like Frontiers, Wycliffe, SIL, YWAM, and others have adopted a form of contextualization known as C-5 contextualization (or “Insider Movements”). These missionaries believe that followers of Christ should remain in the religion of their birth i.e. a Muslim should remain a Muslim, a Hindu should remain a Hindu, etc… Many of these missionaries suggest that asking someone to convert to Christianity is wrong. In Muslim contexts, “C-5 believers” frequently hold views about Christ that mirror the beliefs of the general Muslim population. They may continue to identify themselves as Muslims, continue to affirm Mohammad as God’s prophet, continue to affirm the Qu’ran as God’s word, and reject a belief in the divinity of Christ. Western missionary organizations promoting C-5 contextualization have produced new translations of the bible that harmonize the place and people names with those used and the Qu’ran and replace terms like Father, Son, Baptism, etc.. with alternative language that Muslim audiences find “less offensive.”

For more than a decade the Turkish church has expressed its serious concerns about the methods used and translations produced by these western missionaries. In 2007, Thomas Cosmades[ii] (one of the leading biblical scholars and translators in Turkey), in an open letter, expressed his concerns about a translation being produced by Frontiers. When those concerns were ignored, the Alliance of Protestant Churches wrote a warning letter to the churches in regards to the later published “Muslim friendly” translation.

Today, the pleas of the Turkish church remain unheeded and now leaders (mostly Muslim) in the Turkish government have taken notice of these practices and issued a warning about these missionaries, their practices, and their bible translations. The following is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Turkish news yesterday (January 19, 2014).

TURKEY’S CiA (MIT) warns government (Prime Minister and Ministry of Religious Affairs) about foreign Christian undercover missionaries posing as Muslims operating under a branch named C-5 in a mission agency called Frontiers. Also mentioned by name are Jeff Carvey in Bursa and Bruce Privatsky in Tekirdag. The article also mentions the attempts of creating a Muslim-friendly Bible translation to entice Muslims. ​

The complete article (in Turkish) can be found here.

The news article (in English) is now available here

C-5 contextualization and its accompanying translations are hindering the evangelistic work of our brothers and sisters in Christ in many parts of the world because it is angering the Muslims they are trying to reach; Muslims who believe Christians are trying to deceive them. When Muslims react in anger to the deceptive methods that our western missionaries have employed, it is our brothers and sisters in Christ who live among them that suffer. Please listen to the pleas of our brothers and sisters in Christ and make sure the money you give to missionaries is not being used to promote the deceptive practices of C-5 contextualization, practices that hinder the Gospel and endanger our brothers and sisters in Christ. More information on this issue can be found on the Biblical Missiology website.


[i] While the leadership of these organizations remains supportive of these methods, many of their own missionaries reject these new methodologies and are very concerned about this new direction in missiology.

[ii] Thomas Cosmades went to be with the Lord in September 2010.

The Gospel [not] in our image

There is a growing trend in our postmodern culture to treat “religion” like a buffet line, serving ourselves portions of things we like from each religion and rejecting those things that seem distasteful to us.  Instead of seeking to understand what is true, too often we make our decisions based only on what feels good to us.

Stuart Townend and Keith Getty are to be commended for standing strong against this modern trend. Together they wrote “In Christ Alone” with the intent of sharing the complete Gospel message in song. When they were asked, last year, to allow their hymn to be published with altered lyrics that removed parts of the Gospel message that others were uncomfortable with, they refused because they wanted to ensure that their hymn would continue to communicate the whole Gospel message. Thank you Stuart and Keith for writing such a powerful hymn and thank you for being willing to stand firm when their was pressure to compromise. A complete interview with Stuart Townsand and Keith Getty can be found here.

God, the Cosmic Vending Machine

1like_1prayerThere is an ever growing trend in social media where prayer is equated with clicking “like.” While the accompanying pictures often depict real tragic circumstances, they frequently don’t depict real life situations. They are often very old pictures of situations that were resolved long before the first “prayer request” was ever made on social media.These requests are not made by friends or relatives of the person depicted but by scammers who have searched the internet for images intended to pull on your heart strings. Why do people make these requests? It is not because they are seeking prayers, it is because they are seeking profits. It is one way that internet scammers engage in “like harvesting.”  Each “like” does not equal a “prayer,” each “like” equals an increase in the ranking of their page which allows them to have much broader distribution of subsequent advertising that will come later.

More importantly, each click also represents a tragic misunderstanding of prayer. God doesn’t want our “like,” he wants our heart. The bible tells us that Jesus gave his life so that we might enter into a true genuine relationship with God, the creator of the universe. Real prayer is that time we spend with God communicating with him about those things which most deeply touch our heart and it is a time when we allow God to speak to our heart; it is a time to get to know God more deeply. Real prayer is powerful because it represents a true sharing of our heart with the one who already knows the perfect answer to every problem and has the power to do anything. However, God is not a cosmic vending machine in which we put our spare change and push the button of our choice, he is the Eternal King of the universe to whom we must approach with true respect and reverence. When you pray, please don’t share your “like” on facebook, but instead humbly share your heart with the God and King who loves you and so deeply longs for you to truly know him that he endured the cross for you.


Are Christian Hip Hop artists disobedient cowards?

Holy Hip HopThe response to a question about the legitimacy of “Holy Hip Hop” from a panel hosted by the National Center for Family-integrated churches erupted into a social media firestorm this past week. The views of the panel can be summed up in the following statement made by Geoff Botkin, he said And what concerns me about this so called art form, it is a picture of weakness and surrender on the part of people who think that they are serving God and they’re not. They are serving their own flesh, they’re caving into the world, they’re disobedient cowards! They are not willing to engage in the fight that needs to be engaged.” The panel’s harsh criticism of “Holy Hip Hop” has incited a number of responses from men like Mike Cosper, Ligon Ducan, Carl and Karen Ellis, Paige Patterson, Owen Strachan, Jonathan AkinBrian Davis, and others. What was the heart of this controversy? It was not about the message communicated by these Hip Hop artists (something the panelists acknowledged was doctrinally sound), it was wholly about the style in which it was being presented. The heart of this controversy goes far beyond questions about the legitimacy of “Holy Hip Hop.” At the center of this controversy is a much bigger question, a question that every minister of the Gospel must ask: What are valid expressions of contextualization in Christian ministry?

It is critically important that we do not confuse our cultural standards with the Gospel message. We must be uncompromisingly committed to upholding the truth of the Gospel in all our teaching but we must do so without imposing our own cultural biases on those who come from other cultural backgrounds. We need to remember that we, as Christians, are called to share only the Gospel of Christ. When we elevate our own cultural standards to the same level as the Gospel, we alienate the people around us and draw attention away from the Gospel message we are called to share.

Proper contextualization of the Gospel message is something with which we all must wrestle. Too little contextualization hinders the spread of the Gospel message by imposing barriers that Scripture does not impose. When we suggest that obedience to Christ requires one to abandon a particular style of music, kind of food, style of dress, etc… we have imposed a standard not given in Scripture and have raised an unnecessary barrier to the Gospel. At the same time we must remember that too much contextualization can so compromise the truth of the Gospel that the message of the Gospel itself is lost. While the Hip Hop style of music itself does not compromise the Gospel message, there are aspects of Hip Hop culture that do and we must be willing to abandon those aspects of culture that stand in opposition to the Gospel. For instance, we can praise our Lord with the sound of Hip Hop but the lyrics of many secular Hip Hop songs truly do not belong on the lips of those who proclaim faith in Christ.

The Worship of God Q&A: Holy Hip-Hop from NCFIC on Vimeo.


Assessing ‘Chrislam’

This article was originally Posted at BPnews.net on Nov 25, 2013 | by Rob Phillips. The article contains a lot of very good information but I think it is important to note that the title “Chrislam” is a title that is typically used only by those who are opposed to the practices described in this article. Those missionaries that promote these practices typically use titles like “The insider Movement,” “Messianic Muslims,” or “Muslim followers of Messiah.”

cross and the crecent Christians sharing the Gospel in Muslim-dominated countries take incredible risks. And converts from Islam to Christianity are routinely banished, imprisoned or murdered.

So, how do Christian missionaries teach Muslims about Jesus when Islam denies His deity and death on the cross? And how do new converts from Islam to Christianity worship Jesus without inviting severe persecution?

One attempt is “Chrislam,” the bringing together of Christianity and Islam. Proponents of Chrislam say that because the Qur’an mentions Jesus and affirms certain biblical teachings about Him, Christianity and Islam share at least some common ground.

They further argue that if Christians avoid the offensive term “Son of God” when referring to Jesus and, instead, emphasize His role as prophet rather than divine Savior, Muslims are more open to the Gospel. Once they come to faith in Christ, Muslims may continue to worship at a mosque, pray Muslim prayers and even partake in a pilgrimage to Mecca.

The motives behind Chrislam seem sincere. Believers want to be, like the apostle Paul, “all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). But the problem with Chrislam is that it strips away, or at least masks, the essentials of the Gospel, according to Joshua Lingel, Jeff Morton and Bill Nikides, editors of “Chrislam: How Missionaries are Promoting an Islamized Gospel.”

Their book is a well-researched challenge to so-called “Insider Movements” — Christian missionary efforts that to some extent embrace Chrislam. The premise of their book is that Insider Movements are not a viable strategy for evangelical missions to Muslims.

The authors provide both clarity to the issue of Chrislam and correction to a well-intentioned movement. Christians genuinely want to see Muslims come to faith in Christ. However, the Gospel has always been an offense, and it can be no less of an offense to Muslims than to the Jews and pagans of the apostles’ day.

And, to be sure, Christianity and Islam are incompatible. Consider the following:

First, Allah and Yahweh are different deities. Allah is unknowable and unapproachable; Yahweh is personal, knowable, and invites us to approach His throne of grace. Allah has never spoken directly to a human being; Yahweh has spoken to people throughout history and continues to do so today. Allah reveals his will but not himself; Yahweh reveals Himself in creation, conscience, the canon of Scripture, and Christ — the Word who became flesh (John 1:14).

Second, Muhammad denied the Trinity, the Fatherhood of God, the Sonship of Jesus, the deity of the Holy Spirit, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and many other Christian doctrines.

Third, Christians must not call themselves Muslims for the sake of evangelism. Islam defines a Muslim as one who submits to Allah and Muhammad.

Fourth, Christians must not encourage new converts to Christianity to call themselves Muslims, stay in a mosque, pray toward Mecca or travel there on a pilgrimage. These are religious practices that demonstrate submission to Allah. Rather, new converts should be urged to follow Christ and become part of a fellowship of Christians.

Fifth, Bible translations that deliberately mistranslate the Greek and Hebrew terms for Son, Son of God, Son of Man, or Father should not be used to evangelize Muslims.

Sixth, Christians should not use the Qur’an as scripture. While the Qur’an speaks of Jesus in many places, it teaches another Jesus, a different spirit and a different gospel (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).

Finally, it is impossible for a person to be both a Christian and a Muslim. Despite an ever-growing trend toward syncretism — the belief that all is one — the Gospel stands apart as the only good news for sinful people, and Christ alone is sufficient for forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

The differences between Islam and Christianity as to the person and nature of God and his prophets — and what constitutes scripture — are vast and the similarities are few.

Rob Phillips is director of communications for the Missouri Baptist Convention with responsibility for leading MBC apologetics ministry in the state. This article first appeared in The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.org), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Phillips also is on the Web at www.oncedelivered.net.

All Hollows’ Eve Oct. 31, 1517

Matthew Barrett has written an article describing what “Sola Scriptura” is and what it is not. This is an article that I would highly recommend.

‘Sola Scriptura’ Radicalized and Abandoned

LutherReformation Day reminds us of Luther’s monumental decision to post his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. Luther’s theses would strike into motion an irreversible set of confrontations with Rome, eventually leading to the genesis of Protestantism.

While these 95 theses are important, Luther’s stance on the authority of Scripture over against Rome was not expressed in all of its maturity in 1517. The formal principle of the Reformation would become more and more conspicuous with every passing debate between these two nemeses.

Sola Scriptura

In 1519 at the Leipzig debate with the Catholic debater Johann Eck, whom Luther called “that little glory-hungry beast,” Eck brought the real issue to the table: who had final authority, God’s Word or the pope? For Eck, Scripture received its authority from the pope. Luther strongly disagreed, arguing instead that Scripture has authority over popes, church fathers, and church councils, all of which have erred.

Luther was quickly classified with the forerunning heretics, John Wycliffe and Jan Hus. At first Luther denied such an association, but during a break in his debate Luther realized that Hus had taught exactly what he believed. Eck returned to Rome and reported his findings to the pope, and Luther left the debate only to become further convinced that Scripture, not the pope, is the sole and final infallible authority.

Luther’s sola scriptura principle would be most famously articulated in 1521 at Worms. On April 17, 1521, Luther was told he must recant. After thinking it through for a day, Luther returned and declared:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they often err and contradict themselves, I am bound to the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand. May God help me. Amen.

Luther’s speech is firm and straightforward: Scripture is the norma normans (determining norm), rather than the norma normata (determined norm). As he would explain in future writings, Scripture has priority over the church, for the church is the baby born out of the womb of Scripture, not vice versa. “For who begets his own parent? Who first brings forth his own maker” (LW 36:107; WA 6:561)? Luther rejected the two-source theory that viewed oral tradition as a second, extrabiblical, and infallible source of divine revelation passed down from the apostles to the magisterium. Instead, he argued that Scripture alone is our infallible source of divine revelation.

Continued Here

A glimpse of God’s hand

A couple of weeks ago God prompted me to write a thank you letter to the church that led me to Christ forty years ago. I had attended that church for a very short time while in the second grade and I have had no contact with them since. After writing and sending my letter, I found that they had recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of their bus ministry (the ministry that God used to bring me to Christ) and had produced a video to celebrate it. The video brought back a lot of wonderful memories from that time in my childhood. By writing a letter to bless their church, I found that I too was blessed. Over the last couple of weeks, I had not thought much more about that ministry until yesterday morning at church.

Yesterday morning a friend at my church told me a miraculous story. Last week my friend had finished work early and decided to try and get in a round of golf. He went to the local golf course and asked if there were any groups with upcoming tee times that he might be able to join. He was paired up with an older man and his adult son. As they played and talked they discovered that they were all Christians and after sharing a little about the churches they attended, the older man asked my friend if he knew me. This man, whom I did not know, was the pastor of the church to whom I had just written my thank you letter the week before. The church I attend today and his church are in neighboring cities almost 30 miles apart in an area where 2,000,000 people live. Statistically this chance meeting, apart from God’s design, was impossible! I do not know yet what God is doing but it would take too much faith to believe that this was simply an accident.

Below is the video of the bus ministry and my thank you letter to the church.

Dear Pastor Smith,

I know from the church’s website that you were not at Liberty Baptist church when I attended but I wanted to share with you a little about my brief time at Liberty Baptist church in 1973 and how I came to know my Savior during the time I spent there. I was not raised in a Christian family and had only been in a church a couple of times in my life prior to attending Liberty Baptist Church (once was to a Mormon church). My family moved to the eastside of San Jose when I was in the 2nd grade and shortly after we had moved my brother, sisters, and I (five of us all together) were invited to attend church by a Liberty Baptist bus driver who stopped in our neighborhood. With our parents’ permission we got on the bus each week and went to church. We all enjoyed the time at church each Sunday and our parents enjoyed the free babysitting. I still remember some of the crazy songs we sang like “you can’t get to heaven in an electric chair cause the Lord don’t want no French fries there.” While not the most theologically sound lyrics, they are certainly hard to forget.  During one Sunday service, I answered an alter call and was taken across the walkway from the Sanctuary to a small classroom where one of the church members shared the gospel message with me and where I prayed the sinners prayer. Within months my family moved to South San Jose and the first thing my parents did was find a local church nearby to provide the same free child care that they had become accustom to at Liberty Baptist. That small American Baptist church became my church home for the next 16 years (until it closed) and although I have never been back to Liberty Baptist church, since that first visit in 1973 there has never again been a time in my life where there was not a church I called home. Today my wife and I have six children who all profess faith in Christ. My wife, I, and my four daughters currently serve at Hillview Bible chapel in Cupertino. I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that the seeds of faith planted in my life so many years ago at Liberty Baptist church continue to produce fruit today.  Through God’s sovereign grace and the obedience of those at Liberty Baptist church, I was brought to faith in Christ. While my time there was brief, that time changed the course of my life for all eternity and I wanted to thank those at Liberty Baptist church for their faithfulness in fulfilling the great  commission; especially those who served in the children’s ministries and bus ministries in 1973.

In Christ,

Mike Tisdell

P.S. I was glad to see that you still have a bus ministry that brings people to the church. May God continue to richly bless that ministry and your church.

Thoughtful reflections on “Feminism” from a Christian perspective

Hannah AndersonIn an article published in Christianity Today, Hannah Anderson steps away from the usual “battle between the sexes” arguments that are so frequently entwined in articles about Feminism and Christianity and addresses questions about a woman’s identity and roles from a truly Christian perspective, a perspective that looks at the treatment of women as part of a much broader topic i.e. the treatment of all people, men and women, created in the image of God. Hannah wisely identifies herself as a “Christian” rather than a “Feminist” and desires to help correct misconceptions people hold about what Christianity teaches about women rather than correct misconceptions people might have about what she believes about feminism; the same should be true in many areas of our life. True Christianity should invade every area of our life and the title “Christian” should define us far better than any other title can. Titles like Feminist, Republican, Democrat, Environmentalist, etc… often carry baggage that is decidedly anti-Christian and rather than identifying with a group that requires an explanation about which values that group holds that we accept and which we reject, wouldn’t it be better to identify with Christ and take the time to explain how our faith in Christ has shaped our views on the moral and political issues we face? In doing so, we not only have the opportunity to share a little about our own values, but we also have an opportunity to help people understand the source of those values, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hannah’s article embraces ideas that extend far beyond the topic of feminism and if her upcoming book follows in suite, it will be a valuable addition to every Christian library. Hannah’s blog can be found here.



An Very Unexpected Ally

SCOTUSTwo citizens of Greece, NY filed a lawsuit against the town in response to a prayer given by a clergy person invited during a city council meeting because the prayer specifically mentioned Jesus’ name. The plaintiffs argued that prayers were an establishment forbidden by the First Amendment because some of them were explicitly Christian. The defense has wisely argued that if the government were to censor the prayers of the clergy that it would truly be establishing a state religion. The fact that Muslim, Christians, and Jewish leaders are free to pray according to their own conscious demonstrates that the state is not establishing any religion. The case of “Town of Greece v. Galloway” is now headed to the Supreme Court and surprising almost everyone, the Obama administration as come along side of the defense in this case. While I don’t often find myself in agreement with the Obama Administration, this is one time I believe they are truly making the right choice and deserve our praise. More on this story can be found here, at (surprise) the Huffington Post of all places.