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Culture Articles

  • Barry Corey — 

    Oh! Little town of Newtown, how still and sad we see thee lie. Newtown. About 100 miles from the little town where I grew up. That Connecticut bedroom village where local industries long manufactured fire hoses and folding boxes. The town where the game Scrabble began. The bucolic community where pizza places are called Carminuccio’s and elementary schools are called Sandy Hook. The New England hamlet where names of streets describe its pastoral landscape, names like Head of Meadows, Boggs Hill and Deep Brook.

  • Klaus Issler — 

    The Christmas story is about Jesus being born into the family of Mary and Joseph. Have you ever considered what other options there were for which type of family Jesus could have been born into? We could explore these possibilities by asking, “What early life experiences do we think could best prepare Jesus for his later public ministry?” Let me suggest a context for this kind of musing. Imagine you were invited to observe that special planning session in eternity past when the Godhead considered creating this world and mapping out a plan for our redemption. Of course this couldn’t happen, but pretend this divine session was like one of our committee meetings. The topic on “today’s” agenda is “What is the best early life experience preparation for Jesus to be formed for his distinctive divine-human role as Messiah and Savior of the world?”

  • John Hutchison — 

    This week the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School have grabbed our attention for understandable reasons. The atrocity of killing 26 people, mostly children in their first grade classroom, is inconceivable to all who think about the event. Though I do not know any of the families affected, as a parent and grandparent, I have felt deep sorrow since that time, and have prayed for those who had such great losses. One of the classes I teach for Biola’s School of Education is predominantly elementary school teachers. An assignment was already posted on Friday for interaction in an online discussion group, but I sensed the need to “change the subject” and invite these teachers to talk about the day’s events. One of the elementary school teachers was really struggling that day, and wrote her concerns and questions in the blog. She expressed her heartache for the parents and their children, and her desire to present God as a God of love and compassion. Yet, she was stuck on the question, “How could a loving God allow something like this to happen?” Realizing none of us can fully explain the “whys” of tragedy in our world, I decided to respond with the words that follow:

  • Octavio Esqueda — 

    “Al mundo paz nació Jesús” es el inicio de un popular villancico navideño que resume magistralmente esta temporada de fiesta por la llegada del Hijo de Dios entre nosotros. La navidad celebra el cumplimiento de la promesa de la venida del Príncipe de paz (Is. 9:6). La segunda persona de la trinidad se hizo hombre y habitó entre nosotros para después darnos vida a través de su sacrificio expiatorio en la cruz. Por lo tanto, la navidad es un acontecimiento digno de celebrarse.

  • K. Erik Thoennes — 

    The recent statistics released by The Pew Forum on Religious & Public Life showing a decline among Americans who consider themselves religious are sure to alarm many concerned about the spiritual state of the nation. For evangelicals, the most potentially jarring of these statistics shows that for the first time in its history the United States does not have a Protestant majority. The study found that about 20% of Americans say they have no religious affiliation, an increase from 15% in the last five years. The sobering reality in all this for evangelicals is that, although our churches continue to grow, our evangelistic effectiveness has significantly lagged behind the US population growth. This study is a clear challenge to evangelicals to live up to our name and proclaim the good news in a culture where we can no longer assume common theological foundations. Evangelical Christians have to learn to preach the gospel in a culture where we are no longer part of the Protestant majority. This is not necessarily a bad thing though. A few observations about the data shows that the picture is not as bleak as it may seem.

  • Joy Mosbarger — 

    Halloween is not one of my favorite holidays. Somehow I seem to be lacking the creativity gene necessary to enjoy thinking up and assembling an ingenious costume. For me that process is not enjoyable; it is a laborious chore. It wasn’t always that way. Of course, as a young child, we don’t have much of a choice about whether we dress up for Halloween or what we wear. Our parents make those choices, and their primary criterion for a costume seems to be cuteness. And how hard is it to make a little child look cute?

  • Gary L. McIntosh — 

    While reaching the whole world with the gospel is the mission of the Christian faith, lifegiving churches recognize that the world is made up of many different audiences. Since different groups of people have quite different cultures, needs, and methods of communication, a church that intentionally tries to reach a specific group with the message of Christ, will normally be much more effective than one that tries to reach everyone with a general attempt. Every church should have a sign that says, "Everyone Welcome," but a deliberate strategy must be in place or they will only see accidental growth.

  • Gary L. McIntosh — 

    Jesus often created controversy, particularly when he associated with sinners. He made it a practice of eating in the company of acknowledged sinners, a practice that was in direct contrast to that of the Pharisees. Why did He practice such an unusual form of hospitality for his day?

  • Moyer Hubbard — 

    Many of you have probably heard of The Book of Mormon—not the book itself, but the Broadway musical that garnered nine Tony awards in 2011, including Best Musical, and earned a Grammy as well. It tells the story of two bright-eyed American Mormon missionaries who attempt to bring their good news to a remote village in Uganda racked by war, poverty, AIDS, and famine. (From the summary on Wikipedia). It is a powerful—albeit raunchy—satire of religion from the creators of that epitome of high-brow, cultured entertainment, South Park. I have not seen the musical myself, but I have viewed several segments on YouTube, and found myself (I admit it!) snickering at the delicious lampoon of Mormon doctrine, marveling at the music and vocal performances, and also deeply challenged by the message of the show.

  • Nell Sunukjian — 

    I wince when I look at the photo. Don and I are standing in the sun with our firstborn son, flanked by Don’s elderly grandparents. Grandpa has just lifted up our son toward heaven to give thanks. All of us are beaming with joy. And I am wearing a very short dress.

  • Joe Hellerman — 

    I turn sixty years old this October. Talbot School of Theology has kindly given me the Fall semester off to mourn this milestone in my life. But what’s to mourn? I’m just that much closer to seeing Jesus face-to-face! So, I decided, instead, to celebrate my chronological landmark.

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    Do you remember the “just say no to drugs” campaign waged a number of years ago? (The slogan “just say no” continues to be used in schools across the country.) The assumption of the slogan was that kids could simply say “no” whenever faced with temptation. Is that true? Can we simply say “no” whenever we are tempted?

  • Joe Hellerman — 

    My previous post garnered some lively response, to say the least. Murray Vasser offered the most thoughtful and pointed critique. Since my response would not fit in a comment slot, I’ve posted it separately to contribute to the ongoing dialogue.

  • Joe Hellerman — 

    I am receiving an increasing number of e-mails from persons in my church championing this or that conservative political cause. I recently responded in some detail to a dear brother who sent me a note encouraging his church leaders to become aware of a particular political agenda.

  • Gary L. McIntosh — 

    Have you taken the Wal-Mart test? If not, it is time to do so. One day this week drive to the Wal-Marts in a twenty-mile radius of your church, and see who is shopping there. If you do not have a Wal-Mart in your community, drive to a local mall and check out the people walking around inside. What you find may surprise you. The United States is dramatically more diverse than it was only ten years ago, a fact often missed by church leaders.

  • Nell Sunukjian — 

    How does one raise a daughter? What does a young girl need from her parents? What does she need from her mom?

  • Gary L. McIntosh — 

    What sounds like a simple task at first often turns out to be much more difficult in practice. Such is the situation when attempting to define a multiethnic church. For example, a brief survey of the current literature reveals four words that are commonly used to describe churches where the people come from diverse backgrounds: “multinational,” “multi-racial,” “multi-ethnic,” and “multicultural.”

  • Joe Hellerman — 

    At the intersection of Christian psychology and theology, much has been made in recent decades of our identity in Christ. I am assured that grasping the fact that I am “chosen, holy, and loved by God” (Colossians 3:12) is indispensable to a true view of myself as a Christian. Appropriating my identity in Christ forms the crucial foundation for healthy relationships with others, as well.

  • John McKinley — 

    Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History, Diana Lynn Severance (Ross-Shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2011) 336 pp. $15 ($12 on Amazon; or $11.39 on Kindle) Overall, the book is challenging and informative for me as a male Christian. I have been mostly ignorant of the many deep and lasting contributions of women throughout the history of the church. The fascinating chronicles informed me to be full of admiration for these particular women, and for Christian women throughout the world today who struggle for basic human rights. I recognize that women continue to be disregarded, demeaned, patronized, minimized, and marginalized in evangelical churches and Western cultures today. Severance’s book is the beginning of a helpful corrective for the church to value women as equal heirs of the gift of grace.

  • Octavio Esqueda — 

    These days have been filled with contrasts for me. In a way, we all face these contrasts, but when they are too close to each other, the tensions they produce literally move us from joy to tears. One the one hand, my baby daughter is now two-months-old. My wife and I celebrate the joy of her life and are thankful for the Lord’s blessing upon us. We are tired and somewhat sleep deprived, but her smile brings joy to our existence and reminds us about the goodness of life. On the other hand, however, it was the second anniversary of my dad’s passing and I find myself missing him more every day. Dead is as real as life and both bring deep emotions that flow from the core of our beings. Why can we be so happy and so sad at the same time?

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” How many (hundreds of!) times have you heard that line rolled out? The good part about the alleged saying is that we do need to communicate that we truly believe the gospel through what we do. People need to see the gospel as well as hear it. If you have any doubts about this, please refer to my post from a few days ago on “justice and mercy” ministries. But there are two problems with the way this quote is normally used. First, it is often used by people who are oriented toward social concern but who are less comfortable with verbally proclaiming the good news about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and faith in him alone. Such hesitancy to share the gospel verbally simply will not do if you even remotely consider yourself to be a biblical Christian. Second, Francis of Assisi apparently never said it.

  • Joe Hellerman — 

    In addition to my pastoral responsibilities, I play Hammond B3 on our church’s worship team. Those of you who are musical might appreciate what I wrote to the rest of the band, when we were about to invite a gifted young keyboard player in our congregation (Jacob) to play B3 with our new OCF Gospel Choir:

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    Over the past five months the Overseers (translate: “Elders” or “Pastors”) at Whittier Hills Baptist Church have been thinking and praying about ministries of compassion and justice and the relationship of such activities to gospel proclamation. We have recently completed a position paper in which we collectively lay out what we believe the Bible teaches on this topic. We also address a few practical issues in the paper. We will be using this document in the future to help guide ministry decisions as we interact with those who are poor, oppressed, and marginalized. I’m linking you to our paper with the permission and encouragement of our leadership team. We hope that this paper will be a help to other churches, ministries, and individuals to think carefully and biblically through this important--and sometime controversial--topic. You are free to use this paper (or sections of it) in any way you consider appropriate in your respective areas of ministry.

  • Rob Price — 

    I’m not the only one who’s been reading Billings. Uche Anizor has been at it, too, and he’ll soon be posting comments here on specific chapters of Billings’s book. Meanwhile, I’ll add a few of my own on Billings’s foundational first chapter on union with Christ as the ground of our adoption.

  • Rob Price — 

    Todd Billings is one of evangelicalism’s brightest up-and-coming pastor-scholars. From missions work in Uganda, to a Harvard Ph.D., to an adopted daughter from Ethiopia, Billings is advancing many of the projects dear to evangelicalism. You may have seen his wonderful cover article for Christianity Today (October 2011) on the theological interpretation of Scripture. In November 2011 he published the distillation of nearly a decade’s sustained reflection on a theme that is central to the gospel: the believer’s union with Christ.