Pursuing Lost Roots

Have Anabaptists abandoned their evangelical roots? Those behind a new publication, The Kingdom Quarterly, are disturbed by leftward trends within Anabaptist churches, exemplified in part by an emphasis on social justice at the expense of an emphasis on Scripture and the nature of personal salvation.

One of the purposes of the new publication, whose first issue is scheduled for this spring, is to provide an evangelical/Anabaptist perspective on current events. In so doing, according to managing editor Rick Murphy, the group hopes to establish greater contact with the larger evangelical community.

Murphy noted that Anabaptists can be a source of information and support to help evangelicals who of late have become more interested in social action. Conversely, he said, “The evangelical community can contribute to our need for strengthening the foundations under that social action.”

Man Bites Dog

Predominantly white suburban churches have started many black urban churches. But when an all-black church in Oakland, California, planted a church to reach Caucasians in nearby Castro Valley, it was front-page news in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jesse Davis, Sr., pastor of the 1,500-member Shiloh (Southern) Baptist Church located in a low-income area, knew it was unlikely that those living in the affluent Castro Valley would attend his church. So the church last year launched a home Bible study in Castro Valley, eventually sending 12,000 notes inviting property owners there to the inaugural service of the Canyons Community Church.

The new church has been averaging about 80 at weekly services; at least 15 families have joined. Tom Kelly, director of church development for the California Southern Baptist Convention, said this is the first time in California—and possibly anywhere else—an all-black church has given birth to a totally white church.

Born Before His Time?

A recently released scholarly work argues that Jesus of Nazareth most likely was born in 12 B.C., not in 5 B.C., as is commonly held among scholars of biblical history. Jerry Vardaman of the Cobb Institute of Archaeology at Mississippi State University, in “Chronos Kairos Christos” (published by the West German publisher Eisenbrauns), maintains additionally that Christ was crucified in A.D. 21, also roughly 10 years earlier than is commonly held.

Vardaman’s conclusions, as reported in the Religious News Service (RNS), are based on various bits and pieces of historical and archaeological evidence. He believes that Jesus began his public ministry in A.D. 15, arguing that either the renowned historian Josephus or an early scribe confused the abbreviation for 25 with that for 15. The two, according to Vardaman, are similar.

Vardaman notes that Roman historians refer to a census conducted under Emperor Augustus in 12/11 B.C. He maintains this is the census mentioned in the biblical Nativity story. He also cites astronomical calculations establishing that Halley’s Comet passed near Earth in 12 B.C., suggesting it was the Star of Bethlehem.

As for archaeological evidence, Vardaman points to ancient coins, including one struck in A.D. 16 in Damascus under the ruler Aretas IV and containing a reference to “Rex Jesus” (King Jesus). Vardaman said that Jesus is also mentioned on a coin minted in A.D. 44 in Palestine during the reign of Agrippa I. Microletters on this coin include the words “year 23 of Jesus’ death,” which would date Christ’s death at A.D. 21.

Interviewed by RNS, Paul Achtemeier, president of the Society of Biblical Literature, said he was skeptical of Vardaman’s theory, but that he would withhold judgment until examining Vardaman’s evidence in detail.

Briefly Noted

Approved: By the Lynchburg Circuit Court, Liberty University’s proposed bond issuance of up to $60 million to purchase its campus from the Old-Time Gospel Hour. The circuit judge dismissed opponents’ arguments that the bond issue unconstitutionally provided public aid to a religious institution (CT, Feb. 19, 1990, p. 36). An appeal is being contemplated.

Resigned: From his pastorate at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, John Guest, effective June 1. Guest will now devote himself to full-time evangelism. His week-long efforts in Cincinnati last month drew over 67,000.

Destroyed: In a March 9 fire, the South Carolina church parsonage formerly inhabited by Jim and Tammy Bakker.

Awarded: To Australian biologist-geneticist Charles L. Birch and to Indian Hindu lawyer Baba Amte, the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. Birch was recognized for his contributions to science and faith; Amte, for his work among lepers and untouchables in India.

Moving: Author and renewal leader Bruce Larson, from the University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, which he now serves as pastor, to the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. Beginning sometime this summer, Larson will join Robert Schuller as copastor.

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