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Archive for the ‘Other religions’ Category

A few days ago, President Obama stated that America is not a Christian nation.  This has raised the ire of many conservative Christians.  Not surprisingly, Dr. Mohler offers some clarification and some criticism on this controversy by stating:

In this light, President Obama’s statement that America is not a Christian country is also both accurate and helpful, though he is being criticized by many conservative Christians for making the claim.  His clarification, offered in Muslim Turkey, establishes as a matter of public fact the reality that our American constitutional system is very different from what is found in the Muslim world — and even in Turkey itself.

Furthermore, if the United States is to be understood as a Christian nation in the same sense that most nations in the Islamic world consider themselves to be Muslim nations, then America is at war with Islam.

The controversy over the President’s remarks in this context are misplaced.  There is indeed a controversy over whether it is appropriate to call America a Christian nation in the sense that Americans would even make such a claim — but the context in Turkey and the Muslim world is very different.  Do American Christians really believe that Christianity benefits by being associated with all that America represents in the Muslim world?  To many Muslims, America appears as the great fountain of pornography, debased entertainments, abortion, and sexual revolution.  Does it help our witness to Christ that all this would be associated in the Muslim mind with “Christian” America?

Beyond any historical doubt, the United States was established by founders whose worldview was shaped, in most cases quite self-consciously, by the Christian faith.  The founding principles of this nation flow from a biblical logic and have been sustained by the fact that most Americans have considered themselves to be Christians and have operated out of a basically Christian frame of moral reference. America is a nation whose citizens are overwhelmingly identified as Christians and the American experiment is inconceivable without the foundation established by Christian moral assumptions.

But America is not, by definition, a Christian nation in any helpful sense.  The secularists and enemies of the faith make this argument for any number of hostile and antagonistic reasons, and they offer many false arguments as well.  But this should not prompt American Christians to make bad arguments of our own.

I criticize President Obama, not for stating that America is not at war with Islam, but for failing to be honest in clarifying that we do face a great civilizational challenge in Islam.  Islam is, in effect, the single most vital competitor to Western ideals of civilization on the world scene.  The logic of Islam is to bring every square inch of this planet under submission to the rule of the Qur’an.  Classical Islam divides the world into the “World of Islam” and the “World of War.”  In this latter world the struggle to bring the society under submission to the Qur’an is still ongoing.

Mohler concludes his reasoned essay by stating:

For Christians, regardless of nationality, this is the great challenge that should be our urgent concern.  Our concern is not mainly political, but theological and spiritual.  And, all things considered, Islam almost surely represents the greatest challenge to Christian evangelism of our times.

To think thoughtfully about this, I encourage readers to look at the whole article here.

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New age update

Phil Johnson tells us why we need to remain on guard against the new ageism. He defines it as “The New Age movement is a diverse and eclectic approach to spirituality that stresses individual self-exploration through a variety of beliefs and practices borrowed from a wide array of extrabiblical sources and non-Christian belief systems, ranging from astrology to eastern mysticism to science fiction, and beyond.”  Here are four posts that will keep you updated.

What’s new with the new age (pt. 1)

The background of the new age (pt. 2)

Typical beliefs and practices of the new age (pt. 3)

The rise and decline of the new age (pt. 4)

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lutherEvery so often some well-meaning, sincere Christian says to me, “Well, you know the Roman Catholic Church has changed. It is much more like we Protestants are.  Especially since Vatican II, they have really changed some things.”  Well, here is the article I am going to hand out the next time someone says this to me.

This article by Guy Davies appeared in the September/October issue of Protestant Truth. Guy is Joint-Pastor of Penknap Providence Church and Ebenezer Baptist Church in Wiltshire, England.

1. The Roman Catholic Church believes that its traditions and teaching are as authoritative as Scripture. The Reformed value tradition, but accept the Bible alone as their authority, and sole rule of faith and practice.

2. The Roman Catholic Church believes that the Pope, as successor of Peter and Bishop of Rome, is head of the visible Church. The Reformed believe that Christ alone is head of the Church and that no man may claim universal primacy over the people of God.

3. The Roman Catholic Church believes that the Bible cannot be properly understood apart from the official interpretation of Rome (the Magisterium). The Reformed believe that Christians have a responsibility to judge the truth of all teaching by the extent of its conformity to the teaching of the Bible as it has been commonly accepted with the help of responsible exegesis and the witness of the Spirit.

4. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that we are justified by baptism and that justification must be supplemented and improved by works. The Reformed hold that the Bible teaches that justification is God’s declaration that a sinner is righteous in his sight, on the basis of faith in the finished work of Christ, apart from works. We are justified by faith alone. Baptism does not effect justification; it is the sign of it, as well as of the believer’s cleansing from sin and reception of new life in Christ.

5. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Lord’s Supper is a re-offering of the sacrifice of Christ and that the bread and wine are actually changed into the body and blood of the Saviour. The Reformed hold that that in Scripture the Lord’s Supper is a fellowship meal that is to be kept by believers in remembrance of the finished work of Christ. The bread and wine are significant symbols to believers of Christ’s body and blood. At the Lord’s Supper, they enjoy communion with the risen Christ, who is present at the Table by his Spirit.

6. The Roman Catholic Church regards its ministers as priests. They re-offer the sacrifice of Christ at the Mass and act as mediators between God and the faithful, taking Christ’s role. The Reformed teach that all Christians are priests, who offer a sacrifice of praise and worship to the Lord. Some, called to be teachers and pastors, are ministers of the Word. Their task is to give themselves to prayer, the preaching of the gospel, and to care for the flock.

7. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that after death the souls of departed believers who have not made sufficient satisfaction for their sins in their lifetime go to purgatory in order to do that prior to going to heaven. The living can affect how long the departed have to spend in purgatory by observing Mass, obtaining indulgences, and praying for them. The Reformed hold that purgatory is not taught in Scripture. They believe, in accord with Scripture, that at death the souls of believers will depart from the body to be with Christ in heaven, awaiting the resurrection to life, glory and immortality.

8. The Roman Catholic Church believes that Mary can be invoked as mediatrix with Christ and that the faithful should pray to her and show devotion to her. Rome also teaches that believers should pray for themselves and for the dead to the faithful departed whom the Pope has designated as saints. The Reformed honour Mary as the mother of our Lord and see her as an example of obedience and love to God. They maintain that there is only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, and that, despite the protestations of Rome, its teaching takes away from the sole mediatorship of Christ. Prayer and worship is to be offered to God through him alone.

9. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that there are seven sacraments and that these sacraments work ex opere operato, effectively conveying grace to those who receive them. For example, baptism regenerates and justifies, and participants in the Mass actually feed on the body and drink the blood of Christ. The Reformed find only two sacraments or ordinances in Scripture, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These are means of grace that are only effective when received by faith.

10. The Roman Catholic Church regards herself as the one true Church through the apostolic succession of her bishops. Non-Roman Catholic Christians are regarded as ‘separated brethren’ who have schismatically divided the body of Christ. Reformed ministers are not truly ordained to the apostolic ministry. The Reformed define the Church not institutionally, but as a company of believing, godly people where the gospel is truly preached, baptism and the Lord’s Supper rightly administered and Church discipline graciously applied. The true apostolic succession consists not in the physical laying on of hands as understood by Rome, but in believing and preaching the gospel proclaimed by the apostles and recorded in Scripture.

(HT: Reformation Theology)

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