Os Guinness makes the case for religious freedom as a necessary condition for world peace

Os Guinness was recently interviewed by Baylor President Ken Starr on the assertions of his book, The Global Public Square: Religious Freedom and the Making of a World Safe for Diversity. Guinness makes the case that religious freedom is a necessary condition for world peace and human flourishing. For many years Guinness has added Christian gravity to religion in the public square in a way that does not exude Christian triumphalism but humility and respect, yet with a deep and abiding commitment to Christ. I have read his book for umpteen years and always find him erudite, common sensical, balanced and in all ways a fellow traveler. 

Here is the interview.

The Death of Jerome

Death of Jerome

Jerome

JEROME had a life-changing dream when he was a young man.

The dream came about when he and some Christian friends went into the desert to escape the moral degradation of the Roman Empire. The friends subjected themselves to such rigors that two of them died from excessive fasting and harsh weather.

Jerome, however, survived. The one luxury he would not give up was books. He loved words and delighted in study. One night he had his dream—that he was brought before Christ in judgment. When he claimed to be a Christian, his judge told him he lied, declaring he was a Ciceronian because of his interest in Roman philosophy: “Where thy treasure is, there thy heart is also.” When he could not reply to this accusation, he was flogged. When Jerome woke, his back was bruised. As a result, he renounced pagan learning, even though his knowledge of literature would benefit the church.

Jerome went back to Rome, where he became secretary to Pope Damasus. Although no longer in the desert, he lived an ascetic life in the midst of the great city’s pomp, and spoke sharply against the folly of Roman women and the greed of Roman men. Already he displayed sarcasm and quarrelsomeness, character traits that marred his life. People were only too willing to strike back. When Blesilla, one of his pupils, died from fasting, her death was charged to Jerome and he suffered many reproaches.

Afterward, Pope Damasus asked Jerome to correct the Latin translations of the Bible used by the church. Jerome agreed. The Bible became his life’s work. Although he began the project in Rome, he finished it in Bethlehem, migrating there following Pope Damasus’ death. Blesilla’s mother, a wealthy widow named Paulina, paid his expenses.

In Bethlehem, Jerome learned Hebrew. The more he studied, the more he realized that a complete new Latin translation was needed. The result, while not perfect, was a treasure of literature, the Vulgate–called that because it was written in the popular tongue of the empire. (The Latin word vulgar meant “mob” or “common people.”). He was one of the first to call those books not in the Hebrew canon the “apocrypha” in his prologues to the various apocryphal books.

Jerome spent his life satirizing the sins of Rome. Nonetheless, when the Vandals sacked the city in 410, he lamented its fall.  During the ten years that followed the fall of Rome, Jerome continued his Bible studies, sarcastic quips, and quarrels. He died in Bethlehem on this day, 30 September 420, emaciated from fasting. He had been working on a commentary of Ezekiel.

From The Christian History Institute

George Whitefield’s Last Sermon

George Whitefield’s Last Sermon

George Whitefield

“SIR, YOU ARE more fit to go to bed than to preach,” said Mr. Clarkson, a friend of evangelist George Whitefield. On this day, Saturday, 29 September 1770,Whitefield, worn out from many evangelistic tours and suffering from asthma, was headed for Newburyport, Massachusetts, where he was scheduled to preach in the morning.

“True, Sir,” answered Whitefield, but he turned his eyes upward in prayer. “Lord Jesus, I am weary in thy work but not of thy work. If I have not yet finished my course, let me go and speak for thee once more in the fields, seal thy truth, and let me come home and die.”

He set out as planned. As he passed through Exeter, a large crowd assembled, pleading with him to give them a sermon. Whitefield had led revival in their town some years earlier. As he sometimes did when too ill to speak, the fifty-five-year old Whitefield remained seated, allowing his friend Rev. Smith to address the crowd.

Just a week earlier, Whitefield had written to a friend in London that he knew “the day of release will shortly come.” In that same letter he aspired to even greater dedication: “O for a warm heart! O to stand fast in the faith, to acquit ourselves like men, and be strong!”

Now he showed what it meant to live by that prayer. Indicating that he would speak, he was helped onto a large barrel. There he stood, shaky and weak. “I will wait for the gracious assistance of God, for He will, I am certain, assist me once more to speak in his name,” he said. Miraculously, it was so. Witnesses said that the Holy Spirit seemed to descend upon him and he grew strong enough to preach for two hours on the text “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith.” He spoke also of going to Christ.

Afterward, he continued on to Newburyport. Following dinner, he was somewhat stronger. On his way to bed, he acknowledged the request of a small gathering of people and gave a few words of exhortation by candlelight on a stairway.

In his bedroom he read, prayed, and lay down for the night, propped up on pillows to ease his breathing. About two in the morning he woke, having trouble catching his breath. “My asthma is coming on again,” he told Smith, who replied that he wished Whitefield would not preach so often.

“I would rather wear out than rust out,” answered Whitefield. The evangelist then prayed that the Lord would bless the preaching he had already done and what he was about to do. He asked God’s guidance for where he should spend the winter.

He fell back to sleep about three, but an hour later woke again, saying that he was suffocating. By six he was dead. Hundreds of thousands in America and Britain, both of pastors and of laypeople, owed their spiritual awakening to him.

From The Christian History Institute

Eugene Peterson’s Advice to Younger Christians on Finding a Church

Go to the nearest smallest church and commit yourself to being there for 6 months. If it doesn’t work out, find somewhere else. But don’t look for programs, don’t look for entertainment, and don’t look for a great preacher. A Christian congregation is not a glamorous place, not a romantic place. That’s what I always told people. If people were leaving my congregation to go to another place of work, I’d say, “The smallest church, the closest church, and stay there for 6 months.” Sometimes it doesn’t work. Some pastors are just incompetent. And some are flat out bad. So I don’t think that’s the answer to everything, but it’s a better place to start than going to the one with all the programs, the glitz, all that stuff. – See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/09/27/faithful-end-interview-eugene-peterson/#sthash.UNRbp3uR.dpuf

Twitter Is Like Doing Cut-Rate Cocaine At a Boring Party Where No One Likes You

In defense of Jonathan Franzen: “In his essay, Franzen compares Twitter to cigarettes. This is inaccurate. Twitter is like doing cut-rate cocaine at a boring party where a lot of the guests dislike you. (As I said, I lived in San Francisco in the ’90s.) You’re not having any fun, but it’s really hard to stop.”

from Micah Mattix at Prufrock. See here.

Using the Contemporary English Version for corporate worship readings

The Contemporary English Version was translated with public reading in mind, according to their own account of their translation process.

The fact is that most Bible translations, in mirroring the structure of the original languages, can come up with very tortured and elongated English sentences. Congregations simply get lost in trying to read together Holy Scripture. After two or three commas, a couple of adverbial phrases, and a participle thrown in, the sense of the sentence is lost and the cadence of the reading destroyed. A solo reading can be effective, but a unison reading is another thing.

We begin our services with an antiphonal reading of a psalm. The CEV translation makes this rhythmic, natural and maintains the energy with which the reading begins. I recommend that you try it out in public worship and feel the difference it makes.

My Best First Five Minutes in a Church

First Things posted this reflection by Timothy George last Monday about the goings on at the Crystal Cathedral. It is appreciative of Robert Schuller, though with some distance. George understates the disgust most of us Evangelicals feel, fueled by another example- among so many of mega-ministiries- of serious out-of-control delusion. Who did not know that the Hour of Power was sustained by the magical power of showmanship? Everyone knew. But no one said, at least no one in the power structures of Evangelicalism with its “speak-no-evil” of that which is apparently succeeding. Who didn’t know that Jim and Tammy Faye was “stage Christianity”? I watched the Bakers on TV as a child, growing up in Norfolk VA where they appeared on Pat Robertson’s fledgling TV station, Channel 27 on the UHF dial. I knew then that there was a reason to tune out. Unhinged and goofy come to mind as descriptives. The clock was ticking even then on the Bakkers.

I will say that I visited the Crystal Cathedral once some years ago when I was in LA for a conference. It remains my most memorable experience in visiting a church. The hotel in which I was placed happened to be virtually across the street from their campus. It would be easy to visit. The next morning, a Sunday, I took a jog and decided to run through their campus and see the sights before I got back to the motel, showered, ate and dressed for church. But I didn’t get back from the jog. I, for some reason, stopped at their outside visitors kiosk, and in spite of the outfit, sweat and dishevelment, they convinced me to go in for the early service. They promised there was room for me to sit off a bit by myself so as not to offend any nearby worshipers. I went in.

As I sat and gawked at the wonder of the architecture, a gentleman in a sport coat and tie came and sat right in front of me. I think he meant to. He turned around to me, said hi, and then welcomed me to “the church that saved his life.” In less than three minutes he shared about his divorce, consequent alcoholism, and how he learned at this church about Christ. A powerful story. Short. Succinct. Probably rehearsed so smooth was the telling. And then he closed with the words I will never forget. “Just thought you would want to know. Welcome to the Crystal Cathedral.”

I never let on that I was a Pastor or even a believer. I just listened and smiled. But he saw me as a guest who, as far as he knew, was as lost as a goose and he had only one opportunity to bring grace to my life. And he did it well. I will never forget his look, the story, and the “thought you would want to know.”

I have never felt so welcomed in a church before or since. It was my best first five minutes.