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  • What Is Antisemitism? Evangelicals Favor Different Definitions
    by Jayson Casper on May 16, 2022 at 7:35 pm

    European Evangelical Alliance becomes latest Christian group to sign onto IHRA working definition. Others favor Jerusalem Declaration alternative. In a solemn ceremony last month at the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) laid a wreath of remembrance. It was also a pledge. “In awe and profound shame,” the alliance wrote on its Yad Vashem laurel, “yet with the promise for future solidarity.” Alongside dialogue partners from the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), the EEA warned that antisemitism is rising around the world. Taking a concrete step April 26 in opposition, it announced its adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of the issue. With 37 member nations—including the United States, Germany, and Poland—the IHRA has been building a coalition around the following description: Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities. The EEA was joined in Jerusalem by Thomas Schirrmacher, secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), as well as Goodwill Shana, chairman of its international council. Though the two leaders also laid a wreath, the global organization did not sign onto the IHRA definition like its European affiliate. The vast majority of evangelicals share the goal of combating antisemitism. But not all agree with IHRA’s usage. “Though its specified aim is to provide a guide to help identify antisemitic statements or actions,” said Salim Munayer, regional coordinator of the WEA’s Peace and Reconciliation Network for the Middle ...Continue reading...

  • First Pastor to Defy COVID-19 Lockdowns Wins in Court
    by Daniel Silliman on May 16, 2022 at 3:36 pm

    Following several earlier decisions siding with religious groups, the leader of a Oneness Pentecostal congregation in Louisiana declares, “Devil, you just got dethroned.” Tony Spell, the first pastor to publicly defy COVID-19 lockdown orders, has won his legal battle against the state of Louisiana two years later. The state Supreme Court decided 5 to 2 on Friday that the governor did not have a good reason to block Spell’s Oneness Pentecostal church from meeting for worship while other venues received exemptions from public health restrictions. A 2020 executive order in the Bayou State prohibited gatherings of more than 50, and a subsequent order limited groups to 10, following the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention early in the pandemic. Both orders carved out exceptions, however, for airports, grocery stores, factories, office buildings, and other meetings deemed “essential.” It is a violation of the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion to offer legal exemptions to secular groups and not religious ones, the Louisiana court found. According to Justice William J. Craine, it was also kind of absurd. “An unlimited number of people were allowed to remain in a single conference room in an office building for an unlimited period of time, all in close proximity, talking, eating, and engaging in any other ‘normal operations’ of the business,” he wrote. “However, if ten of these individuals left the conference room, walked across the street to a church, and entered an otherwise empty sanctuary building for a worship service, they were subject to criminal prosecution.” Craine said the government had a legitimate interest in stopping the spread of the coronavirus but couldn’t unfairly disadvantage religious groups. “We interpret Pastor Spell ’s request not as one for special treatment,” he concluded, ...Continue reading...

  • Five Lesser-Known Children’s Fantasy Series That Point to the Gospel
    by Kathryn Butler on May 16, 2022 at 12:00 pm

    Meet a new generation of authors picking up where Lewis and Tolkien left off. When COVID-19 seized the world, and our kids, wide-eyed, first voiced their fears, our family devotions helped assure them that nothing, not even a pandemic, could wrench them away from God’s love. And the quieter moments spent cuddled on the couch, steeped in the magic of Narnia and Middle Earth, reminded them of that truth. In challenging times, stories that point children to the gospel are as vital as air. J. R. R. Tolkien argued that imaginative stories so thrill us because they echo the greatest story of all: our salvation through Christ. Great children’s literature with themes of sacrifice, redemption, love, and radical hope offers families tangible and memorable reminders of the truths they read in Scripture, truths that carry us safely through the storms of this broken, fallen world. Reading and discussing great books with your kids can be a ministry unto itself. C. S. Lewis and Tolkien have offered families rich opportunities for reflection for nearly a century, but over the past two decades another generation of Christian authors has lavished our bookshelves with vibrant stories. These books, imaginative and infused with their authors’ convictions, promise to inspire young minds and nourish old souls for years to come. Peruse the following list, consider incorporating it into your own family routine, and marvel at the hope, the glory, and the happy ending embedded in these stories. The Wingfeather Saga Andrew Peterson Christian musician and author Andrew Peterson wrote the Wingfeather Saga “to tell a story that would strike a little match of hope in a kid’s heart that the light is stronger than the darkness,” as he explained in an interview. His series more than delivers on that goal. ...Continue reading...

  • Elderly Taiwanese Church in California Attacked by Shooter
    by Kate Shellnutt on May 16, 2022 at 5:53 am

    Members showed “exceptional heroism and bravery” as they overtook the gunman, who killed one person and wounded five. A celebratory Sunday luncheon for the former pastor of a Taiwanese congregation in California ended in “grief and disbelief” when a gunman opened fire, killing one person and injuring five others. Visiting from Taiwan, the longtime pastor of Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church knocked down the shooter, preventing the intruder from reloading and firing at more of the aging congregation, according to news accounts. Members were then able to use an extension cord to hogtie the shooter and disarm him. The incident took place at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, where the Taiwanese church has met for the past decade. Sunday’s luncheon—a tradition that had been on hold during the pandemic—resumed in honor of the return of their longtime pastor Billy Chang. According to the Los Angeles Times, Chang pastored Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian for 21 years and left in 2020 to lead a church in Taiwan. Authorities said 30 to 40 members were gathered when the suspect, an Asian man in his 60s, opened fire with two handguns. The church’s current pastor, Albany Lee, told The New York Times that no one recognized the shooter and it was the visiting pastor who subdued him. Several accounts describe Chang hitting the gunman with a chair. Orange County law enforcement applauded the congregation’s response as a display of “exceptional heroism and bravery” that prevented the situation from becoming worse. On Monday, the sheriff called the attack a “a politically motived hate incident” and said the suspect—David Chou, a Chinese American from Las Vegas—held animosity toward the Taiwanese community. Authorities opened a federal hate crime investigation. John ...Continue reading...

  • Vote as a Christian, Not Because You Are Christian
    by Nabil Habiby on May 14, 2022 at 6:10 pm

    Lebanese evangelicals—like believers worldwide—often approach elections torn between hope and despair. But with a major vote looming, do they have a biblical mandate to participate? Lebanon is a mess. A stalled revolution. The Beirut explosion. Economic collapse. But now we have a chance to vote. On May 15, for the first time in four years, citizens can react officially to the disastrous failure of our ruling parties. Even if in limited fashion, ballot boxes can change the course of a country. No matter your nation, elections offer hope. But also uncertainty. In Lebanon, will we renew the mandate of leaders who have led us into this malaise? Will one side of the political spectrum ascend against the other? Will opposition movements and individuals manage to win seats? These elections are of massive importance. But what will happen afterwards, when the excitement of democratic involvement wears off? Lebanon teeters regularly between expectation of upheaval and disillusionment with the corrupt system. Some view this weekend’s vote as our best chance to hold leaders accountable. Others, in apathy or despair, doubt anything will change. Amid these questions, evangelicals are debating their faithful response. Last week, I was the guest of a weekly morning Christian radio show. Given our political season, the host asked me about the believer’s duty to participate in the elections. Sharing a zeal for political change, she offered a softball question inviting me to give a moving speech encouraging Christian listeners to make a difference. I chose my words carefully. I will vote, I replied, and I have a clear preference. The secular movements opposed to our sectarian system offer the best hope for justice and change. But—and it is a big “but”—I told her there is no biblical or theological obligation for Christians to take part in elections. She pushed back, surprised by my answer. Knowing ...Continue reading...

  • Why Taiwan’s Christians Should Support Ukraine: A Theological Rationale
    by Alex Tseng on May 13, 2022 at 7:44 pm

    Christian solidarity doesn’t derive from civil religion, but from the church’s role in redemptive history amid world history. Every year, the people of Taiwan come together on February 28 in remembrance of an event from 1947 that ended with massive police and military crackdowns. In commemorating “228,” we reflect on our nation’s historic and current struggles against tyranny to establish and protect the rights and freedoms that we presently enjoy. This year, I called for my fellow Taiwanese to voice support for Ukraine as a way of commemorating 228. For me, being Taiwanese means standing in solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their fight against invasion and tyranny. A question then arose in friendly theological discussion: Did I post this comment in my capacity as a Taiwanese citizen or as a Christian theologian—or perhaps both? How do I make sense of my Taiwanese identity in relation to my Christian identity? First, I must state unequivocally: I am not “a Taiwanese Christian,” but rather “a Christian from Taiwan.” The notion of a civil Christianity—a Volksreligion—has no room in the biblical worldview. The Swiss theologian Karl Barth, who was forced to leave Germany in 1935 because of his opposition to its mystical nationalism, wrote of his native land in Gottes Gnadenwahl (God’s Gracious Election) in 1936: “There is no such thing as Swiss totality of life [Lebenstotalität], no Swiss religion, no Swiss Christianity.” In a similar vein, German theologian Jürgen Moltmann said to my fellow Taiwanese theologian Lin Hong-Hsin and my Chinese colleague Hong Liang in a 2019 interview: “I am not a German Christian, but a Christian in Germany.” As a neo-Calvinist, I heartily agree with these repudiations of civil Christianity. Of course, it may be argued ...Continue reading...

  • Why Not All Pro-Lifers are Celebrating
    by Hannah Anderson on May 13, 2022 at 7:00 pm

    Like the prophet Jeremiah, a biblical lament for abortion is neither apathetic nor triumphant. Colloquially, English speakers often use two words to mean “indifference”: ambiguity and ambivalence. But if you consult a dictionary, neither of these words actually means a lack of feeling. Ambivalence means “having mixed feelings” while ambiguity signals a general “lack of clarity.” Part of the confusion lies in how we often cope with both mixed feelings and uncertainty. In the first case, you can become indifferent as a way to resolve conflicting or paradoxical ideas. In the second, you can become indifferent because you can't identify your precise feeling about something. And when we feel overwhelmed or uncertain, it’s often easiest to simply ignore our feelings altogether. It seems to me, however, that learning to live with the ambivalence of conflicting feelings and ideas is necessary for spiritual maturity—especially in an era when debates are raging and hot takes are abundant. I recently reread the book of Lamentations and was struck by the prophet Jeremiah’s ambivalence. Recounting the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., the entire book is awash with emotion, gut-wrenching realities, and seemingly disparate truths. For years, the people of Israel had rebelled against Jehovah, disobeying his commandments and “crush[ing] underfoot all prisoners in the land, to deny people their rights before the Most High, to deprive them of justice” (Lam. 3:34-36). Jerusalem finally succumbs to her enemies in judgment. The siege is so desperate that women are driven to consume their own children (Jer. 19:9) in an attempt to survive (Lam. 2:20). Throughout the book, Jeremiah voices the agony of the people as well as his own. He ...Continue reading...

  • How Shall We Now Grieve Abortion?
    by Clarissa Moll on May 13, 2022 at 6:00 pm

    After Roe v. Wade is overturned, we must find new ways to turn our mourning into action. For 15 years, my mother headed each week to the back room of a small office suite to sort baby clothes. A stalwart volunteer at our community’s crisis pregnancy center, my mother processed thousands of donations over her years of service—clothes, car seats, cribs, maternity wear, even infant formula. She had watched in sorrow as Roe v. Wade passed in 1973 and viewed caring for expectant mothers as a way she could make a difference, to give her grief legs. On visits home from college, I’d sometimes accompany my mother to the back room where she worked. I never met the new moms who arrived each week to gather supplies. I never sat and held the hand of a woman contemplating termination. Nonetheless, I, too, grieved for all the lives lost to abortion. My faith had taught me that all life was precious from the cradle to the grave. Unlike my mother’s, however, mine was grief over an intangible loss—of babies I never held and would-be moms I never knew. My sadness, like that of many pro-life evangelicals, was an ambiguous grief, deeply felt but tragically unresolved. For almost 50 years, pro-life evangelicals have grieved abortion statistics, procedures, and court documents. We’ve worked behind the scenes to support women choosing life for their unborn babies, and we’re more than ready for this grief to end. And while the Supreme Court decision might present the illusion that our sad days are over, abortion will remain an ambiguous loss. Abortions past, present, and future will continue to provoke complex sorrow. Like it or not, we’re here to grieve for the long haul. But how do we do it well? Grief Without a Face In the late 1970s, therapist and researcher Pauline ...Continue reading...

  • Here’s What Thousands of Christian WeChat Accounts Reveal About Chinese Internet Evangelism
    by Jerry An on May 13, 2022 at 4:18 pm

    Were rampant commercialism and plagiarism more harmful for Chinese Christians than government censorship? The Chinese government’s latest crackdown on online evangelism has deleted or led to the closure of numerous Christian accounts after new measures took effect in March. Among them are Jonah’s Home, which for years provided Bible study, evangelism, and discipleship resources for Chinese Christians. Jidian, a Christian apologist and influencer on Zhihu, a Q&A platform, lost nearly 300 Christianity and Bible-related questions he had answered on the website. These restrictions have intensified since 2018 and have crushed hundreds of WeChat public accounts created by evangelical organizations and Christians. Those who attempted to reopen would find their “reincarnated” accounts quickly deleted. WeChat is a powerful digital media outlet with more than 1.2 billion users worldwide and tens of millions of “public accounts.” Over the past decade, WeChat accounts have been an important platform for Chinese Christians to speak about their faith and communicate the gospel. Prior to 2018, these accounts offered discipleship materials, inspirational messages, and apologetics resources, attracting followings of millions of Christians and seekers. In 2017, our Chinese team at ReFrame Ministries commissioned a professional company in China to analyze more than 5,000 WeChat public accounts and to study the content and influence of the Christian accounts. This report examined and calculated parameters such as the number of reads, likes, Christian-related keywords, and published articles. Though many individual Christians and Christian media groups have left WeChat or lost their accounts recently, we hope that our study can still be a useful reference for believers, churches, and organizations interested in ...Continue reading...

  • Photos Show Ukraine’s Bible Belt Struck Down But Not Destroyed
    by Jayson Casper and Joel Carillet on May 13, 2022 at 12:00 pm

    After Russia’s withdrawal from Kyiv suburbs, Irpin evangelical ministries emulate the scattered yet persevering church from Acts 8. Ministry had been going so well in Irpin, Ukraine. Over the past decade, the population of Kyiv’s northwest suburb swelled to 90,000, and Irpin Bible Church (IBC) grew with it. The Baptist congregation grew to include 700 adults, with an additional 300 children. And in 2019, 12 members launched a church plant in the “New Blocs” neighborhood, where 15,000 Ukrainians lived in multi-story apartment complexes with no church of any kind. Meeting previously in a basement office, last December the church planters purchased a stand-alone building from a local bank, grateful to have their own location amid a shortage of rental space. With a ground-floor capacity of 200 people, the congregation’s 60 members anticipated additional growth. Three months later, the Russians invaded. Hostomel was the first suburb to fall, being home to the regional airport. The assault on Irpin and neighboring Bucha began February 27, attempting to encircle Kyiv. IBC senior pastor Mykola Romanuk was in the US at the time, while his family relocated to western Ukraine. He returned on March 5, only to leave later that day when tanks first breached the suburb. The next day, a member of his congregation who had returned to Irpin to assist with evacuations was killed alongside a mother and her two young children—a tragedy witnessed and shared worldwide by The New York Times—as Russian forces shelled the humanitarian corridor. By March 14, Russia occupied half the suburb, including the church plant’s quarter. IBC’s sanctuary remained secure, but 200 of its members fled to 20 nations across Europe, while another 500 scattered across western Ukraine. Romanuk was in Rivne, 200 miles west of Kyiv, with about 70 of his congregants. ...Continue reading...