Morning Roundup - July 12, 2012
One of the fascinating micro-trends in the last few decades as been the conversation of evangelicals into Eastern Orthodoxy, particularly the Antiochian tradition. Peter wrote a book I read years ago on his journey, Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith. In it, he describes how he-- a former Campus Crusade staffer-- would be a part of the conversion of several thousand of similarly trained pastors and leaders into Orthodoxy.
Peter Gillquist, the former Campus Crusade for Christ leader who led an exodus of thousands of evangelicals into the Orthodox church in the 1980s, died of cancer on Sunday, July 1, in Bloomington, Indiana. He was 73.
Gillquist, director of missions and evangelism for the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese until he retired this past January, helped revive the Orthodox church's evangelistic roots. "Up until recently, Orthodoxy has been the best-kept secret in America," said Gillquist to CT in 1997. "Those days are over."
Gilcrest and I had communicated over the years he served in his missions and evangelism role. He has high hopes for a mass conversion, but, in my view, the conversions to Orthodoxy slowed and some of the best known (Frank Schaeffer) were not particularly productive in that cause. In other words, the micro-trend was pretty micro and did not take off as some thought.
Thom Rainer has a helpful post for considering church visitors.
In this article, I look at four key areas other than physical facilities mentioned by guests. Though I cannot prove it objectively, the intensity of guests' comments about these other areas tells me that they are more important than those related to physical facilities.
Four areas stood out in the responses of first-time guests. They are listed here in order of frequency of response.
1. Genuine Friendliness of Church Members
2. True Worship
3. Humility and Transparency of the Pastor
4. Joy and Laughter
I was always appreciative of Craig Blomberg. I sat under his as a professor and was blessed and encouraged. He has an excellent interview on the reliability of the gospels.
Can you tell us a bit about your own personal experience in coming to embrace the historical reliability of the gospels? Was there a period of time in your life when you seriously doubted the historical integrity of the gospel accounts?
I was raised in a fairly liberal branch of the old Lutheran Church in America, before the merger that created today's ELCA. I vividly remember being very puzzled in confirmation class when I was taught/shown how the Synoptic accounts of the Last Supper contradicted each other as an illustration of how our doctrine of Scripture should focus on the main points and basic thoughts of the text but allow for contradictions in the details. Even in junior high, it seemed to me that there were plausible ways of combining the texts into a harmonious whole and seeing each as a partial excerpt of a larger narrative, but our pastor didn't countenance that option.
In college, at an LCA school, all five of our religion department professors were ordained Lutheran ministers but not one of them believed that Jesus said or did more than a significant minority of the things attributed to him in the canonical gospels. Our Campus Crusade for Christ director on campus, however, pointed us to a lot of good literature that presented credible scholarly alternatives to the skeptical views on numerous subjects that the religion department promoted. Our college library also included quite a large volume of more conservative religious scholarship from a slightly older era because, until the 1960s it had housed a seminary as well as an undergraduate college, and the real move toward liberalism didn't hit the Lutherans until the 1960s, just one decade before I was in college. So I realized that things weren't nearly as cut and dried as I was being taught in class.
I also discovered that a disproportionate number of the more evangelical works of the 1970s, at least among those written in America, came from profs at Trinity in Deerfield, which is one of the main reasons I went there for seminary. That was a wonderful time as I encountered so many more credible responses to skeptical approaches that I had been interacting with in junior high, senior high, and college. And credible evangelical scholarship has only blossomed in pretty amazing quantities ever since.
I love debunking bad statistics-- and here is another one.
I picked up one of my favorite publications done by a great ministry and started reading a story about churches responding to suffering people. It was a nicely crafted piece about a church caring for a woman with a disabled child by herself - and I braced myself for what I knew was coming. And there it was: "The divorce rate for special-needs families is over eighty percent."
It isn't true. We have to stop repeating that horrible statistic!
Daniel Vance has done a great deal more research on this than I have, and he found studies that show divorce is slightly higher for certain disabilities: from 3.6% to 5.97% higher. For families experiencing Down syndrome the overall divorce rate is actually lower than average. As he points out, divorce rates appear to be higher, but that's a long way from 75% to 85%.
Disability is hard on marriages; we already know that. At least as great a problem as divorce are fathers who stay in marriages but check out from the daily care and leadership of children and wives. Let's not add to the burden by saying marriages will almost certainly fail when a child with a disability is born into it. Abortionists use statistics like that to encourage the killing of unborn babies.
And even if it were a true statistic in general, it does not have to be true for any specific family that leans into the promises of God for provision and help and peace