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[Cfamily]Researchers Find Christians in Iran Approaching 1 Million
« Reply #1752 on: September 05, 2020, 02:02:29 AM »

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Researchers Find Christians in Iran Approaching 1 Million

Secular survey may succeed where Christian advocates have failed to convince the world of widespread conversions in the Islamic republic.

Missiologists have long spoken of the explosive growth of the church in Iran.

Now they have data to back up their claims—from secular research.

According to a new survey of 50,000 Iranians—90 percent residing in Iran—by GAMAAN, a Netherlands-based research group, 1.5 percent identified as Christian.

Extrapolating over Iran’s population of approximately 50 million literate adults (the sample surveyed) yields at least 750,000 believers. According to GAMAAN, the number of Christians in Iran is “without doubt in the order of magnitude of several hundreds of thousands and growing beyond a million.”

The traditional Armenian and Assyrian Christians in Iran number 117,700, according to the latest government statistics.

Christian experts surveyed by CT expressed little surprise. But it may make a significant difference for the Iranian church.

“With the lack of proper data, most international advocacy groups expressed a degree of doubt on how widespread the conversion phenomenon is in Iran,” said Mansour Borji, research and advocacy director for Article 18, a UK-based organization dedicated to the protection and promotion of religious freedom in Iran.

“It is pleasing to see—for the first time—a secular organization adding its weight to these claims.”

The research, which asked 23 questions about an individuals’ “attitude toward religion” and demographics, was run by professors associated with the respected Dutch universities of Tilburg and Utrecht.

The general presumption of doubt risked influencing asylum applications by Iranians seeking resettlement in Europe or elsewhere.

“We do not regard it as remotely plausible that there are as many as 1 million ...

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Latin American Pastors Kept Ministering During COVID-19. Now More Than 100 Have Died.

With mixed messages from leaders, evangelicals in Nicaragua and Bolivia have been especially hard-hit by the pandemic.

Some 400 men and women spaced themselves across a sprawling worship hall, praying through face masks with arms raised for the health of friends and family suffering from the coronavirus.

The congregation of Managua’s Bethel Restoration church knew the pandemic’s wrath: Two of its pastors were among the more than 40 evangelical leaders who have died in Nicaragua since March.

Throughout Latin America, a traditionally Catholic region with a surging evangelical presence in nearly every country, evangelical churches have kept spreading the gospel despite government measures meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In many countries, evangelical churches have flouted public health guidelines by holding in-person services, or have personally ministered to church members in homes and other settings.

In at least two countries, evangelical pastors have died in alarming numbers during the pandemic.

In Bolivia, where some 100 evangelical pastors have died, they have maintained close contact with their congregations, ministering, and providing support to the sick even though churches were closed early by government decree.

In Nicaragua, where the government has played down the epidemic and avoided imposing restrictions, evangelical services continued at some churches even as the more hierarchical Roman Catholic churches stopped holding in-person Mass.

“There was too much misinformation,” said Raúl Valladares, who took over Bethel’s congregation after his father and another pastor died June 5. “Just in our denomination, some 20 pastors have died. And at Bethel we have a pastor, my father, and some 25 brothers (members) who died from COVID-19,” though he said the church had tracked the cases ...

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Source: Latin American Pastors Kept Ministering During COVID-19. Now More Than 100 Have Died.

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Interview: Politics Has a Strong Grip on Our Hearts. The Gospel’s Grip Should Be Stronger.

How the church can shape public policy without losing its soul.

All political action tells a story. These stories teach us something about what is good or evil, what is heroic or cowardly, and which ideas—or even people—deserve a public hearing. Immersion in these stories is deeply formative, and that formation, when it goes unnoticed, can subvert our imitation of Christ. How are our politics molding us? And what does it mean to pursue habits of spiritual maturity with politics in mind? Kaitlyn Schiess, an author and seminarian whose formative years in American evangelicalism culminated with graduation from Liberty University in 2016, explores these questions in The Liturgy of Politics: Spiritual Formation for the Sake of Our Neighbor. CT columnist Bonnie Kristian spoke with Schiess about her book.

The Liturgy of Politics begins by looking at the intersection of Christianity and politics in America over the past half century. How would you characterize the problem you see, and what’s the new way forward you’re proposing?

The book’s thesis is that our political formation shapes us in spiritual ways—but also that our spiritual formation should shape us in political ways. We have not sufficiently examined the state of our hearts and the power of the political stories we have taken for granted. We don’t recognize, necessarily, the ways we are shaped on a lower register by the political media we consume and the political habits we practice. That shaping is not content to stay in the political realm; inevitably, it will influence us spiritually.

My goal in the book, then, is to look at that problem and say: Maybe the answer we need is not a new answer. Maybe the answer we need is to return to the historic practices of the church that have always been ...

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Source: Interview: Politics Has a Strong Grip on Our Hearts. The Gospel’s Grip Should Be Stronger.

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[Cfamily]QAnon, Conspiracies, and Discipling the Way Out
« Reply #1755 on: September 10, 2020, 01:00:11 AM »
QAnon, Conspiracies, and Discipling the Way Out

Reflections on my recent article for USA Today

Few articles I’ve written have provoked the response as touching conspiracy theories in 2020. It is an odd mixture of those consumed by fury or derision at my apparent blindness and those derisive of my supposed attempt to generate clickbait.

This is part of the problem I tried to address in my latest article at USAToday on the growing influence of the conspiracy theory known as QAnon in evangelical churches.

In the article, I concluded that “we need pastors, leaders, and everyday Christians to address this conspiracy, and others like it, before others are fooled.” With this in mind, I wanted to address some pushback and offer some steps leaders can take.

The Problem of the Media

By far the most common criticism I get whenever I write about conspiracy theories is that Christians should be suspicious of mainstream media. Many have argued that they are often biased against Christians and conservatives, at times presenting distorted reporting.

I think this is fair criticism—to a point.

As I’ve argued many times, the state of reporting on religion—and particularly reporting on evangelicalism—is poor. Major outlets get obvious facts wrong that betray not only ignorance but laziness in not checking.

I also explained to Terry Mattingly that poor treatment from the mainstream media is, at least in part, to blame for why Christians don’t trust them—they have reasons not to.

It’s not hard to ask a pastor or seminary professor for help, but this is sometimes deemed not important. In the history of journalism, I’d wager that few terms have been as wrongly used as Calvinism. Yet the lesson is never learned.

More distressingly, some outlets seemingly take joy in magnifying outlier ...

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Source: QAnon, Conspiracies, and Discipling the Way Out

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State of Theology: Evangelicals Hold Steady on Doctrine, More Outspoken on Politics

American evangelicals make mostly incremental changes around some common heresies.

In the latest survey of Americans’ theological views, evangelicals stood out for their love of their Savior and Scripture, but like the rest of the country, they still have significant gaps in belief and interpretation.

The biggest change in this year’s State of American Theology Study had to do with approaches to political engagement, with evangelicals half as likely to believe that Christians should be silent on political issues than back in 2016.

LifeWay Research, in association with Ligonier Ministries, released the results today. The two organizations have conducted the study every two years since 2014. While some questions have changed or been reworded, the report provides an opportunity to chart American theological beliefs and awareness.

The results were mixed this year, even among those the survey designates as “evangelicals by belief”—those who agreed that the Bible is the highest authority for Christian belief; that personal evangelism is very important; that Jesus’ death on the Cross was the only way to cancel the penalty of sin; and that trusting in Jesus is the only way to eternal salvation.

God, Jesus, and the Spirit

When it comes to the doctrine of God, evangelicals fare pretty well. Consistent with results from 2016 and 2018, evangelical respondents were nearly unanimous in affirming that God is a perfect being (97%); that God is a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (96%); and that God cares about our day-to-day decisions (87%).

There is still some confusion about whether God accepts worship from all religions, with evangelicals split—42 percent saying “yes" and 49 percent answering “no.” There were also disagreements that are unique to denominational ...

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Source: State of Theology: Evangelicals Hold Steady on Doctrine, More Outspoken on Politics

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Southwestern, Baylor Sue Foundation that Shifted Support After Paige Patterson’s Firing

The schools were stated beneficiaries but say they lost their input in recent restructuring.

Two Baptist schools in Texas have sued a charitable foundation they say is trying to misuse millions of dollars in assets.

Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary filed suit Tuesday against the Texas-based Harold E. Riley Foundation and its board of trustees.

According to the lawsuit, the foundation was set up in 2002 by Riley, a wealthy businessman who died in 2017, for the benefit of the two schools. The schools were granted the freedom to name a majority of the foundation’s board and the foundation’s stated charitable purpose was to provide support for the schools.

In 2018, that changed, according to the suit.

The lawsuit alleges that the foundation’s board of trustees rewrote its bylaws—without notifying Baylor or Southwestern—and changed the charitable purpose of the foundation. As part of the changes, the two schools were also stripped of their ability to name board members.

“In short, Defendants have attempted to remove the Foundation’s only Beneficiaries from any governance roles while simultaneously restructuring the very nature of the Foundation,” according to the suit.

The changes were made without input from either school, according to the lawsuit. Baylor and Southwestern also claim the meetings where the changes were made were invalid.

According to the suit, the changes to the foundation were made a few days after Paige Patterson, former president of Southwestern, was fired by the seminary’s board. Foundation President Mike C. Hughes, who served as vice president for advancement at Southwestern under Patterson, is named as a defendant in the suit.

Complicating matters, the foundation’s offices are located on the campus of Southwestern ...

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Source: Southwestern, Baylor Sue Foundation that Shifted Support After Paige Patterson’s Firing

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[Cfamily]Train Up a Teen: Young Evangelicals Mostly Keep Their Parents’ Faith
« Reply #1758 on: September 13, 2020, 01:00:13 AM »
Train Up a Teen: Young Evangelicals Mostly Keep Their Parents’ Faith

Pew Research finds that even the most devout young believers don’t agree with Mom and Dad on everything. Christian parents weigh in on the challenges of teenage discipleship.

A majority of American teens still follow their parents’ lead when it comes to religion. The trend holds whether families are religious or not—but it’s especially good news for evangelical Protestants, who care the most about their children sharing their beliefs.

Evangelical teens, like their parents, stand out as the most confident and active in their faith when compared to their peers, according to a new Pew Research Center report on the religious practices of 13-to-17-year-olds.

The religious makeup of today’s teens mostly resembles the population overall. About a third are “nones” (identifying as nothing in particular, atheist, or agnostic), the largest category. After that, about a quarter identify as Catholic and 21 percent as evangelical.

Even as teens, over half of evangelicals surveyed say they attend church at least weekly (64%), pray at least daily (51%), and belong to a youth group (64%), compared to a minority of teen respondents from other traditions. (It’s not just parental pressure. In the survey, two-thirds of evangelical teens say they attend church because they want to go, not to appease Mom and Dad.)

Family plays a big part in young evangelicals’ devotional lives. The vast majority say they enjoy religious activities with their families (88%), with 55 percent reading the Bible together, 80 percent saying grace at family meals, and 88 percent talking about religion, Pew found.

These practices correspond with a greater assurance in their religious beliefs. While nearly all teens who belong to a Christian tradition said they believe in God, 71 percent of evangelicals said they are “absolutely certain” in their belief, compared to just under of half of ...

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Source: Train Up a Teen: Young Evangelicals Mostly Keep Their Parents’ Faith

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[Cfamily]In This Fraught Racial Moment, We Need a Refresher on Human Depravity
« Reply #1759 on: September 14, 2020, 01:00:19 AM »
In This Fraught Racial Moment, We Need a Refresher on Human Depravity

We also need a reminder of God’s radical grace.

As a renewed focus on race and justice have dominated the national conversation over the past few months, I’ve watched with sadness as the response among some white Christians has fallen along ideological and political lines. Some conservatives belittle the reality of racism. They acknowledge that racism is a sin, but they see it as mostly a relic of the past or merely the wrong actions of a small, dwindling group of people. On the other hand, some moderate or progressive Christians are overcome with guilt and shame, quick to condemn others, and often unsure of how the gospel of Jesus should impact conversations about our own racial bias and sin.

The failure of white Christians on the Left and the Right to grapple with the sin of racism is rooted in our broader failure to understand the profundity and complexity of human depravity. We fail to acknowledge our depth of sin, so we fail to see the dizzying heights of grace.

Over these past few months, I have frequently thought of an oft-quoted line from the late pastor Jack Miller: “You’re a lot worse than you think you are, but in Jesus you’re far more loved than you could ever imagine.” If we want to come to terms with the horror of white supremacy and racial bias in our country and in ourselves, we must hold to both of these realities simultaneously.

American evangelicals often view sin primarily as the sum of individual, conscious, immoral choices. Historically, however, the church has viewed sin not merely in terms of volitional decisions but also as the disordered state of our hearts: the subtle idolatry that we bear often without noticing it, the way we love the wrong things and fail to love what is most lovely, and the way we worship ourselves ...

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Source: In This Fraught Racial Moment, We Need a Refresher on Human Depravity

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