The Gospel Coalition and that heresy hunting thing they do

The Gospel Coalition and that heresy hunting thing they do

The last execution of a heretic occurred in Valencia on 26 July, 1826. After a two-year trial, the Spanish Inquisition convicted the schoolmaster Cayetano Ripoll of deism and sentenced him to hang for his unorthodox beliefs. Today, heretics are tried via blogs and executed with a tweet. And most of the modern-day heresy hunting seems to be conducted by a network called The Gospel Coalition.   Gospel Coalition Canada investigates Bruxy Cavey Recently, the Gospel Coalition’s Paul Carter decided to undertake an exhaustive examination of the theological views of Bruxy Cavey, the teaching pastor at The Meeting House, a megachurch just outside Toronto, Canada. Apparently, Carter had heard some bad stuff about Cavey’s teaching (maybe from this brutal assessment that he’s a “false teacher” by Jacob Reaume) and decided to interview him in order to make his own informed determination. Fifteen-thousand words later (not counting footnotes), Carter brought down his verdict that, “Bruxy Cavey is not a heretic. He’s an Anabaptist.” Cavey and Anabaptists everywhere must have breathed a collective sigh of relief [sarcasm alert]. Nonetheless, Carter went on to damn him with faint praise, “I have no interest in bringing the Anabaptists into my metaphorical bed, I am merely arguing for their right to exist within our ecclesiological neighborhood.” I know, it sounds smug, patronising, and sanctimonious, but I

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5 Ways Jesus Would Respond in Today’s World

5 Ways Jesus Would Respond in Today’s World

Russia probes, nuclear summits, refugee crises, #MeToo, and more—these days it feels like everything is in flux. How would Jesus respond to the political and social upheaval we’re currently experiencing? Not with acquiescence and passivity. Not by giving in to the arresting powers of conformity and privacy. But by building a new world order—what Jesus called the Kingdom of God. Here are five things I’m pretty sure Jesus would do in today’s world.   Side with the poor, not with a party It has been claimed that partisan politics is an even more divisive issue in America today than race. Whether left or right, Democrat or Republican, each side lives in its own echo chamber, with its own preferred TV news networks, talk show hosts, newspaper columnists, social commentators, blog writers, conventions, etc. We all seem to exist in huge feedback loops, squelching dissent and growing more extreme in our thinking, blithely ignoring evidence that our respective positions might be wrong. In fact, we want little to do with each other. In a recent Pew Research survey, it was found that 68 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of Democrats say they identify with their political party primarily out of their opposition to the other party. Indeed, 45 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats felt that the other

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Hey Church, you’re not Serena so stop losing like her

Hey Church, you’re not Serena so stop losing like her

Recently, the church has to learn how to lose with dignity, and we don’t like it. After several self-inflicted losses, as well as a groundswell against the church even having a voice in society, a lot of Christian leaders feel like they’re fighting a losing battle for the hearts and minds of Western society. Not accustomed to losing, a lot of white church leaders don’t do so very graciously at all.   In fact, often when the church loses it does so like Serena Williams in the US Open. We kick and scream and accuse others of orchestrating our downfall. We say the umpire of secular humanism isn’t fair, that it doesn’t treat us the same as others. We claim discrimination and bigotry. Our language become intemperate. We sound irrational and impetuous. Everything that Serena Williams’ critics are saying about her now. But actually, the situation couldn’t be more different. Despite her spectacular success, Serena Williams has had to overcome sexism and racism throughout her career. She had to fight alongside other female players for pay parity, with Wimbledon becoming the last grand slam to offer equal prize money in 2007. But that tournament still refers to women by designations like Miss and Mrs on the scoreboard. Still, outside the major tournaments, the gender pay gap in tennis is a chasm.

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Exactly how xenophobic are Christians allowed to be?

Exactly how xenophobic are Christians allowed to be?

This week in the Australian parliament a newly minted senator called on the government to stop accepting any immigrants who do not reflect “the historic European Christian composition of Australian society and embrace our language, culture and values as a people.” In particular, he wanted to ban all Muslims from entering the country, a return to what was termed the “White Australia Policy”, a discriminatory immigration policy dismantled way back in the 1960s. Of course, this doesn’t sound too different to the stated desires of Mr Trump regarding US immigration policy, albeit a less sophisticated version (although when you think about it, being less sophisticated in policy to Donald Trump is quite an achievement). Britain has its own versions in Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson. What might surprise some is that Fraser Anning, the Australian senator in question, and the US president, both claim to be committed conservative Christians. Indeed, in the case of the senator from Down Under, he wants a discriminatory immigration policy precisely because he is a Christian. Farage, who has confessed to only praying “sometimes”, nonetheless wants the UK to stand up for Judeo-Christian culture and values. So, is it appropriate for Christians in Western countries to call for the banning of Muslim immigration to their shores? These attutides are usually characterized as xenophobia, a term that comes

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How one religious idea gave us integrated lunch counters (and so much more)

How one religious idea gave us integrated lunch counters (and so much more)

Sure, religious zealots have done some terrible damage throughout history, but some beautiful religious ideas have also shaped history for the better. This post is part of a series looking at some of the ways religion has changed the world. I look at how the Benedictines figured out how to make amazing beer here, how a Calvinist preacher created a world where John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme was possible here, and how an 18th century renewal movement unleashed the abolition movement here. Here’s a fourth religious idea that changed the world.   THE IDEA: THAT HUMAN SUFFERING CAN BE REDEMPTIVE The idea that the suffering of one Christian can be used by God for the benefit of others is as old as the Christian movement, but one regularly ignored or forgotten by believers and nonbelievers alike. Christians believe that Jesus’ suffering on the cross pays the penalty for their sins, but even before his death Jesus taught his followers that their own suffering could have a redemptive power. In Matthew 5:38-39, he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” It’s a well known saying, but its meaning

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How one religious idea produced the greatest activist you’ve never heard of

How one religious idea produced the greatest activist you’ve never heard of

We often hear about all the harm caused by religious people in the name of their religion, but good religious ideas have continually made the world a better place. I can think of plenty of simple religious ideas that have created such a ripple effect that they changed the course of history. In an earlier post I looked at how the Cistercian idea of work created an economic boom. In a second post looked at how the idea that beauty is the key to understanding God led to some of the world’s most magnificent architecture, film and music. Here’s the third in this series. How a single religious belief unleashed a remarkable activist and a global movement.   THE IDEA: THAT EVERY PERSON CAN HAVE A SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE OF GOD’S GRACE In the 17th and 18th centuries, there arose a Protestant movement referred to as Christian Enthusiasm. We don’t use that term much these days but its adherents were so transformed by its central idea that they turned the world upside down. Today, we use the word enthusiast to refer to someone who’s really passionate about a hobby or interest. Hence we have car enthusiasts and football enthusiasts, etc. But in around 1700 that term was used in a very specific way. The Greek from which we derive term, enthusiasm, connotes being taken

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How one religious idea gave us the best album of all time

How one religious idea gave us the best album of all time

Recently, I met a gentleman who, upon discovering I taught theology, asked me what was the good of studying religious ideas in our secular world today. When I told him religious ideas have continually made the world a better place, he challenged me to name one. I told him there are plenty of simple religious ideas that have created such a ripple effect that they changed the course of history, and shared a few of them with him. I’ve decided to turn my response into a series of blog posts. The first one, about how the Cistercian idea of work created a Europe-wide economic boom in the 12th century (and helped produce some amazing beer), is here. Here’s the second of those world-changing ideas.   THE IDEA: THAT BEAUTY IS THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING GOD The Christian doctrine of creation is a bit different to that of other religions. Christians don’t believe that God created the world and then sat back and admired his creation from a distance. Instead the church teaches that while God is separate and beyond all creation, he is nonetheless integrally involved in that creation, sustaining the universe from moment to moment. Theologians and writers from Irenaeus to Thomas Aquinas to Julian of Norwich wrote about how creation is an ongoing process, with God actively involved in the

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How one religious idea gave us the best beer in the world

How one religious idea gave us the best beer in the world

Recently, I met a gentleman who, upon discovering I taught theology, asked me what was the good of studying religious ideas in our secular world today. When I told him religious ideas have continually made the world a better place, he challenged me to name one. I told him there are plenty of simple religious ideas that have created such a ripple effect that they changed the course of history, and shared a few of them with him. In coming weeks I’m going to share a series of posts on a number of them. Here’s the first of those world-changing ideas.   THE IDEA: THAT RELIGIOUS DEVOTION CAN BE EXPRESSED THROUGH MANUAL LABOR In the 11th century, a group of extremely devout monks withdrew to a monastery in Cistercium, near Dijon, to live under the strictest interpretation of the Rule of St. Benedict. They embraced a severe form of asceticism, seeking to be purified and strengthened for a life-long labor of prayer. They also refused to accept any feudal revenues, believing it to be sullied by the church’s collusion with the state. We’re talking about hardcore monks here. They combed the writings of Benedict, looking for ever-more demanding ways to submit themselves to God, when they came across this reference in the forty-eighth chapter of the Rule, which states: “…for then are

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One of the reasons I’m a feminist is in this urn

One of the reasons I’m a feminist is in this urn

When my mother passed away 18 months ago we undertook that sad task of dividing her possessions and dispensing of those we didn’t want. She didn’t have much left, frankly, having downsized to a room in a nursing home a year earlier. Jewelry, photograph albums, trinkets, a few paintings. And a big old brown urn that she’d had in her home since I was a kid. As we were going through the old photos and jewelry, my youngest daughter Fielding asked if she could have the urn. No one else wanted it, so of course we agreed. On our way to the car with the few items we’d retained from my mother’s long life, I asked my daughter why she wanted the urn. I mean, it’s not the most appealing object I’ve seen. I couldn’t imagine why a young woman would want it in her home. “You don’t know the meaning behind this urn?” Fielding replied. “There’s a meaning behind it?” I asked, baffled. When I reflected on it, every time my mother moved house, from our large family home, to a smaller seaside home after my father died, to an even smaller mobile home, to a room in a nursing home, that urn made the transition with her. Of all the vases, bric-a-brac, and keepsakes that had disappeared over

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The Beast in Me and the Monstrosity of the Cross

The Beast in Me and the Monstrosity of the Cross

The beast in me/ Is caged by frail and fragile bars,/ Restless by day/ And by night rants and rages at the stars,/ God help the beast in me.   If you’ve heard Johnny Cash’s tortured version of Nick Lowe’s The Beast in Me you’ll know he was destined to growl those aching lyrics. God help the beast in me, indeed. The beast in Johnny Cash imagined all sorts of depravity, like senseless violence (“I shot a man in Reno/ just to watch him die”) and petulant arrogance, like shooting a woman because she was lowdown and trifling (“First time I shot her in the side/ Hard to watch her suffer/ But with the second shot she died”). Recently, a friend gave me an old LP version of Cash’s At San Quentin live album. The record opens with the beast in Johnny Cash ranting and raving about how annoying the recording crew were by getting in his way. He swears like a sailor and boasts about his own stints in jail, and his drug use, all the while fulminating about the cruelty of the American criminal justice system. This is Johnny Cash at his most beastly. In fact, this is the concert where Cash was snapped flipping the bird in that now-famous photograph. Little wonder then that Cash was attracted to

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Two apostles walk into a bar…

Two apostles walk into a bar…

Two old men meet in a tavern in a small, unremarkable village. They embrace, their heavy, solid hands slapping each others’ broad backs affectionately. They kiss twice, on each cheek. They sit and drink, hunching over the shared table in a conspiratorial way. The dust that coats their faces highlights the deepening lines around their eyes. Their graying beards betray the years. They are like two old lions, warriors who’ve fought many a battle, but live to fight another day. Wiping crimson wine from his moustache with the back of his hand, one says with a smirk, “You’ve gotten old quickly.” The other looks up and raises his eyebrows. “I just mean,” continues the first man, “I haven’t seen you for a while and you seem to have aged quite a bit in that time.” Another smirk. The other man goes to defend himself or make some equally rude comment, but finally waves his hand dismissively at his friend. “Why do I even bite at comments like that?” he smiles. “You’re not exactly the strapping young fellow you used to be either, you know.” They both smile and the first man reaches across and places his hand on his friend’s arm. The tone turns serious. “It’s the travel that wears me out,” he confesses. “Agreed. And the disappointment. I could

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Men in their 60s – afflicted by hope

Men in their 60s – afflicted by hope

Anthony Bourdain’s suicide at age 61 has got me thinking. I know suicide isn’t the exclusive domain of any particular age group, but recently I’ve been troubled by the number of well-known and highly successful men who have ended their own lives in their 60s. Maybe that’s because I just had a birthday and, well, frankly, I’m closing in on 60 myself. The reasons for Bourdain’s suicide aren’t yet known. He was working on a new series of his television show when he died. He was in a new relationship, was exercising, and had given up his two-pack-a-day cigarette habit. All good signs. And yet… I won’t speculate on a topic I know nothing about. But, as I said, Bourdain’s is just one of a long list of self-inflicted deaths of successful 60-something men. In 2004, writer and actor Spalding Gray, 62, drowned himself after suffering from depression that resulted from the debilitating effects of a severe car accident some years earlier. Legendary Chilean footballer Eduardo Bonvallet, 60, hanged himself in 2015 after struggling with stomach cancer for several years. Likewise, Tony Scott, 68, the director of such films as Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, and Crimson Tide, jumped from a bridge in LA in 2012 after fighting a lengthy battle with cancer. And comedian and actor, Robin Williams,

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