Christianity Today Magazine News and analysis from the world's leading Christian magazine.

  • Why Do Some People Think Jesus Was a Racist?
    by Andrew Wilson on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    They point to his dialogue with the Syrophoenician woman. But the story shows the opposite of what they claim. Every few months, it seems, a new article pops up claiming that Jesus was racist. The claim is based on the story of Jesus healing the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman (Matt. 15:21–28; Mark 7:24–30). When the woman asks Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter, he says, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” The woman responds, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table,” at which point Jesus commends her faith and heals her daughter instantly. Until now, the argument goes, Jesus has been racist, dismissing foreign people as “dogs.” Supposedly, this encounter shows him the error of his ways. We could respond at several levels. Theologically, we know Jesus was without sin (Heb. 4:15). Exegetically, the Syrophoenician encounter resembles many other healing stories in the Gospels that take the same broad shape: a request for healing, followed by a dialogue where Jesus raises the stakes (“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Who touched me?” “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”), with the miracle completing the sequence. Canonically, we should note the Gentiles Christ has healed already (Matt. 8:5–13, 28–34), not to mention his conversation with a Samaritan woman, which scandalized his disciples (John 4:1–42). And historically, talking about “race” in this period is anachronistic in the first place. It’s also implausible that Matthew, who opens with Gentile Magi worshiping the newborn King and finishes with a commission to go and make disciples of all nations, would include a story meant to portray Jesus as motivated by ethnic prejudice. ...Continue reading...

  • Will My Lost Neighbor Have Another Chance to Receive Jesus After Death?
    by Rhyne Putman on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    A theologian considers the fate of the unevangelized and the “pseudoevangelized.” What about those who have never heard? Like the problem of evil, the question of what happens to those who die without an opportunity to respond to the gospel can be a thorny issue for evangelical Christians. We wholeheartedly affirm the love God has for all his creatures. We also emphasize the exclusivity of the gospel message—that salvation is found in no one else but Christ (Acts 4:12)—and stress the need for all people everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. But what happens to those we fail to reach with this good news? Theologians usually lump the answers to this question into one of three options: exclusivism, inclusivism, or universalism. Most within our ranks embrace exclusivism, claiming that those who die without placing conscious, personal faith in Christ face eternal separation from God in hell. Our unease with this tragic end serves to catalyze our missionary and evangelistic efforts. Over the past few decades, a minority of evangelical theologians have gravitated toward some form of inclusivism, the idea that some individuals can be saved by Jesus without ever having consciously believed in him. Some inclusivists teach that God saves those who have no knowledge of the gospel on the basis of what they do with general revelation. Others in this group suggest that God saves people according to his foreknowledge of what they would do if they had the opportunity to respond to the gospel. Some self-professed evangelicals are universalists who believe Jesus will eventually save all people, regardless of whether they believed the gospel in this life or not. Insisting that Jesus is the only Savior, these universalists go to great lengths to distinguish their position from forms of religious pluralism ...Continue reading...

  • Mired in Crises, Lebanon Marks 1 Year Since Horrific Beirut Blast
    by Zeina Karam of The Associated Press, and CT on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    First anniversary of port explosion brings prayer and protests as severe need for humanitarian aid and political reform remains. Banks, businesses, and government offices were shuttered as Lebanon on Wednesday marked one year since the horrific explosion at the port of Beirut with a national day of mourning. The grim anniversary comes amid an unprecedented economic and financial meltdown, and a political stalemate that has kept the country without a functioning government for a full year. United in grief and anger, families of the victims and other Lebanese were planning prayers and protests later in the day. The explosion killed at least 214 people, according to official records, and injured thousands. (In May, a Christian street artist dignified the deaths with a bold illegal installation of portraits.) It was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history—the result of hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate igniting after a fire broke out. The explosion tore through the city with such force, it caused a tremor across the entire country that was heard and felt as far away as the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, more than 180 miles away. CT reported the next day how 16 Beirut ministries described the damage, their relief efforts, and the need for a hope beyond politics. In the ensuing weeks, Lebanese evangelicals did their best to address the trauma with creative counseling. Last month, Lebanese evangelicals along with other Christian leaders traveled to the Vatican to ask Pope Francis to help restore their struggling nation. After the explosion, it soon emerged in documents that the highly combustible nitrates had been haphazardly stored at a port warehouse alongside other flammable material since 2014, and that multiple high-level officials over the years knew of its presence and did nothing. A year later, there has ...Continue reading...

  • How Colleges Are Specializing Training for the Next Generation of Worship Leaders
    by Kelsey Kramer McGinnis on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    More Christian music programs are accommodating students who want to play sanctuaries rather than concert halls. For college students preparing for music ministry, new and evolving programs offer more options than ever. Christian colleges, like institutions across higher ed, feel increasing pressure to offer specialty training for lucrative fields like business and science, sometimes with humanities programs taking cuts. At the same time, several major music programs are growing—in part out of a confidence that the student demand and job market is there. The church will always need writers, performers, leaders, and creators. “We feel obligated to develop these resources,” said Michael Wilder, dean of the Conservatory of Music and Division of Arts and Communication at Wheaton College. “I think there’s a need for it, and there’s interest for sure.” While most institutions have preserved their bachelor of arts in music or bachelor of music degrees as traditional routes for performance-oriented students, many students enrolling in those programs are also interested in worship leadership training. They may enter college with a calling to lead but without the same skills as those aspiring to become professional musicians. When the conservatory introduced its worship arts certificate program in 2019 (a credential that can be added to another undergraduate major), faculty saw immediate interest from the students, many of whom were already participating in worship leadership in local churches or the school’s chapel programs. Cedarville University, within its School of Music and Worship, offers separate degree tracks for “music” and “worship” students. Similarly, Colorado Christian University (CCU) has preserved its distinct majors in performance, education, composition, and ...Continue reading...

  • Nine Years, 782,000 Words Later, South Carolina Woman Completes Handwritten Bible
    by Adam MacInnis on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Caroline Campbell’s project aims to inspire Christians to learn Scripture and see disabilities as a gift to the church. Kenny Campbell was doing some spring cleaning when he found a stack of papers with his daughter Caroline’s handwriting on them. He looked at the pages and realized there was something special about them. It was Scripture, copied word for word by hand. The Campbells attend Community Bible Church in Beaufort County, South Carolina, and their teenage daughter, who has Down syndrome, was writing down the verses their pastor preached on. Carl Broggi is an expository preacher, going verse by verse; Caroline had recorded those verses in her own hand. “This is amazing, Caroline, how much you’ve written,” Kenny told her. On a whim, he said she could do the whole Bible. “Yeah, okay,” Caroline said. Those two words kicked off a nine-year project. Starting in January 2012 and finishing in June 2021, Caroline, who is now 28, copied the entire Bible by hand. She started in Genesis and worked her way through Revelation, writing down all 782,815 words from her 1973 New American Standard Bible. Caroline’s mother, Jennifer, estimates the completed manuscript is more than 10,000 pages. It is compiled in 43 binders. Once she started, Caroline said, she just didn’t stop. She persisted out of her devotion to the Bible and her desire to encourage others. “I want to inspire people to learn the Bible,” she told CT. Kenny and Jennifer say this has been key to their experience of having a daughter with Down syndrome. They have had to learn not to put limits on her. When their daughter was diagnosed, they had deep concerns. But they soon decided to treat her like any other child. And then they learned that she would, on occasion, completely blow them away with the amazing ways she was different. Bethany ...Continue reading...

  • ‘They Cannot Burn Jesus Out of Me’: Mozambique Pastors Minister to Survivors of Violent Insurgency
    by Stefani McDade on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Despite the risks in the region, Christians are flocking to camps and targeted villages to provide resources and spiritual care. Back in April, when armed men began attacking his village in the middle of the night, a pastor of a local church in northern Mozambique woke his family to flee. He took his two older sons and his wife took their two younger sons. In the midst of chaos and confusion, shouting and shooting, they escaped in two different directions. The pastor and his sons hid in the surrounding bush all night before returning to the village, near the town of Palma, to look for the rest of their family. The next morning, he found their hut caved in and the remains of his four-year-old son, who had been beheaded by the attackers. All he and his sons could do was dig a hole in the ground to bury the young boy’s body and weep together. To this day, his wife and second-youngest son are still missing. This pastor shared his story with CT through English-speaking ministry partners in Mozambique. He asked that he and his village remain unnamed for security reasons, but his story is not unique as conflict escalates in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. Countless innocent civilians are fleeing the area where insurgents have been burning entire villages to the ground and brutalizing their inhabitants—including beheading, recruiting, capturing, enslaving, and committing sexual crimes against them. The violence has killed thousands of people and displaced upward of 800,000, a number that is growing rapidly and may soon reach one million, United Nations officials warn. “The north of Mozambique, especially Cabo Delgado province … is being affected by Islamic insurgents, who at some stage claim to be linked with Islamic State,” said Mauricio Magunhe, faith and development coordinator for World Vision Mozambique. “For the ...Continue reading...

  • Let Cubans Come to America, by Land or Sea
    by Bonnie Kristian on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The need for asylum seekers’ religious (and other) freedom is as urgent as ever. In mid-July, after thousands of Cubans in multiple cities demonstrated against their government on a scale not seen in the communist nation in decades, US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told them not to look to the United States for sanctuary. “The time is never right to attempt migration by sea,” he said at a press briefing. “To those who risk their lives doing so, this risk is not worth taking. Allow me to be clear: if you take to the Sea, you will not come to the United States.” The Caribbean passage is dangerous, particularly during hurricane season, continued Mayorkas, a Cuban immigrant himself. Any Cubans who attempt it, he reiterated, will risk death for nothing. This isn’t a new policy. Neither is it a good one. Mayorkas is right about the danger of the trip, and perhaps as a practical matter his advice against attempting it is wise. But as a matter of principle and policy, the United States should stand ready to welcome Cubans who flee here. The type of safe haven Mayorkas refused Cubans is called asylum. Asylum seekers meet the requirements for refugees but have a different process for admission to the US. A refugee, per the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is a person who is “unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Refugees apply for entrance to the United States from outside our borders, then undergo a vetting process that takes around two years. Asylum seekers are a smaller category of people. An asylee, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says, is someone ...Continue reading...

  • Mexican Worship Leader Layla de la Garza on the Power of ‘Sung Theology’
    by Interview by Livia Giselle Seidel on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Despite the lingering stereotypes, the Monterrey-based singer and minister set out to prove contemporary worship services can hold to the authority of Scripture. For Layla de la Garza, worship music has been a way to draw nearer to Jesus and the Word. Having grown up in a conservative traditional church, Layla was transformed by listening to Passion’s worship music as a teenager. Many years later, in 2015, she met CCM musician Christy Nockels, who became her mentor and invited her to participate in IF:Gathering. De la Garza has used her talents in this ministry to serve as a worship and teaching leader, multiplying IF’s reach among the international Spanish-speaking community. Back in her hometown of Monterrey, a city of more than a million in northeastern Mexico, some still remain suspicious of contemporary worship, with its bright lights and big stages. But at VIDAIN church, where de la Garza and her husband, Diego, serve as part of the pastoral team, they’ve set out to show that high production value does not mean compromising on the truth of the gospel. She’s also the host of Notas con Dios, a podcast where she discusses finding God and hope in everyday life. CT spoke with Layla about her vision for the church, the role of women in the church in Mexico, and her call to worship, ministry, and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. (This interview was originally conducted in Spanish.) How would you describe the evangelical church in Mexico to people from other countries? Latin Americans in general are very passionate. Relationships and building community are very important to us. Our relationships are very warm: We hug each other and create intimacy easily, even with people we have just met. These characteristics of Latin culture are very present in the evangelical church in Mexico. It is beautiful because I believe we have the potential to be like the first ...Continue reading...

  • Biden Names First Muslim Religious Freedom Ambassador
    by Jeremy Weber and Religion News Service on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    (UPDATED) 12 Christian IRF advocates praise Rashad Hussain, Obama’s OIC envoy, for his credentials and credibility. Two USCIRF commissioners and antisemitism envoy also named. The White House announced Friday a slate of nominations and appointments for top religious affairs roles, including the first Muslim American nominated to be the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom (IRF). President Joe Biden will select Rashad Hussain as his nominee for that post, filling a State Department slot vacant since former Kansas governor and US Senator Sam Brownback—who co-chaired a bipartisan IRF summit for 1,200 attendees this month—left at the close of the Trump administration. Hussain, who would need to be confirmed by the Senate, currently works as director for Partnerships and Global Engagement at the National Security Council. He previously served as White House counsel under President Barack Obama, as well as US special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and US special envoy for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, among other roles. Knox Thames, who served as the State Department’s special advisor for religious minorities during both the Obama and Trump administrations, told CT that Hussain was “a strong pick.” “He knows human rights and cares about religious freedom,” said Thames. “I saw firsthand how he raised these issues when he served as [OIC envoy]. I know he’ll be able to hit the ground running from day one to combat religious persecution.” Judd Birdsall, a senior research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University who served with Hussain at the State Department from 2009–2011, told CT that the nomination is a “fantastic choice” because Hussain has “impeccable credentials, extensive diplomatic and legal experience, ...Continue reading...

  • Died: H. Eddie Fox, Who Urged Methodists to Share Their Faith
    by Daniel Silliman on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The ministry leader believed declining US churches could be revitalized by hearing Wesleyans “with a different accent.” H Eddie Fox, who hoped to renew American Methodism through evangelism and increased connections with global Christianity, died on Wednesday at age 83. Fox led World Methodist Evangelism for 25 years, teaching, training, and empowering Methodists and Wesleyans to share their faith, and encouraging churches to make evangelism a priority. He pioneered several new initiatives that were popular in United Methodist Church (UMC) congregations, and he helped American churches connect with fellow Wesleyans outside the United States, especially in formerly communist countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union. From 1989 to 2014, when Fox directed the world evangelism program, Methodists increased around the globe by about 1 million per year, even as the US membership of the UMC declined by about 2 million overall. Fox saw a direct link between the theology of the church and its vitality. “Wherever the church is faithful to the doctrine, the sound teaching, the Discipline, the way of life—which is the way you order your life—and the spirit, openness to the Holy Spirit, you'll find a church that's dynamic, contagious and alive,” he said when he retired. “And where that is not true, you’ll find a church to be a dead sect, having the form but not the power thereof. That’s been a focus of my ministry. It’s been a call we’ve stood on for many, many years.” Fox taught more Methodists how to share their faith than any one else in his lifetime, and became, for many, the evangelistic face of Methodism. He also taught at the Billy Graham School of Evangelism at Wheaton College for 15 years. “He was dynamic and alive with his passion for the gospel, especially evangelism,” ...Continue reading...