Archives For Evangelicalism

There are a lot of Santa Claus stories floating around this time of year. Almost all of them are completely based in fantasy. Flying reindeer; a sleigh full of gifts; precarious chimney climbing; a fluffy red suit — all of that is total fiction.

But when my kids used to ask me, “Dad, is Santa Claus real?” I didn’t always say “No.” At least not right away.

(Pause for dramatic effect.)

Santa_Claus

Like any good student of church history, I explained that the real “Santa Claus” was actually a fourth-century pastor named Nicholas of Myra who was later considered a saint by the medieval Roman Catholic Church. He was a favorite of Dutch sailors who called him, “Sinter Klaas” (or “Saint Nicholas”) which then came into English as “Santa Claus.”

Of course, I was careful to point out that the modern American version of Saint Nicholas bears absolutely no resemblance to the fourth-century pastor from Asia Minor. The real Nicholas did not live in the North Pole. He was not Scandinavian. He did not drive a team of magical caribou. He did not work with elves. Nor did he travel the world every Christmas Eve exchanging presents for milk and cookies. Continue Reading…

xmas blocks

I’m all for putting Christ back in Christmas. And there is no doubt that our secularized culture is working hard at surreptitiously ushering the Baby out, without losing the murky bathwater of gift-giving and commercial celebration. But I’d like to address the misinformed concern that the use of “Xmas” as a placeholder for “Christmas” is part of the conspiracy to excise Christ from his holiday.

First, Christmas is not a biblical holiday. There are no New Covenant feast days; besides communion there is no recurring remembrance that is mandated. The Catholics came up with the Christ Mass feast, and global retailers and consumers alike hopped on the bandwagon. So, if Jesus becomes as absent to the secular mindset from Christmastime as he is from Halloween, there is no loss to the New Covenant.

Second, and this is my main point, using “X” to replace “Christ” is not necessarily an indication of anything sinister. I have used Xmas and Christmas interchangeably with a clear conscience ever since learning about the history of its usage.

Some Christians shun the use of Xmas.

In an interview Franklin Graham opined on behalf of evangelicalism:

For us as Christians, this is one of the most holy of the holidays, the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. And for people to take Christ out of Christmas. They’re happy to say merry Xmas. Let’s just take Jesus out. And really, I think, a war against the name of Jesus Christ.”

 

This, I believe, is an understandable but unnecessary overreaction.

Continue Reading…

December 15, 2015

What Would Jesus Do?

by Nathan Busenitz

wwjdReaching the peak of its popularity in the mid-1990s, the phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” used to be the de facto slogan of mainstream American evangelicalism. (Remember the bracelets and wristbands?) And although its prevalence has declined in recent years, a quick internet search reveals that WWJD remains a popular motto.

You can still find the famous acronym emblazoned on a wide array of available paraphernalia: from the expected forms of share-wear (like bracelets, t-shirts, and buttons) to more-surprising curiosities (like baby onesies and pacifiers). There are WWJD books, booklets, bumper stickers, mugs, key chains, and cell phone cases. There are even several films: the 2010 original, and two sequels.

Yet, despite the continuing popularity of this evangelical catchphrase, I doubt the majority of American Christians have ever seriously evaluated whether or not the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” is a biblically-valid mechanism for everyday decision-making.

Upon closer examination, I would suggest that WWJD—at least in terms of its popular application today—is often less than helpful, and sometimes downright dangerous. Continue Reading…

Pope Francis, in a sermon preached in front of many Muslims at a mosque in the Central African Republic, expressed very clearly his thoughts about Islam. He said that Muslims are our brothers and sisters. Later that day he posted this on Twitter:

It is time for born-again Christians to come to grips with the fact that this man worships a different God. Continue Reading…

This week Karen Swallow Prior, part of the Southern Baptist “Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission,” wrote an article for Christianity Today called “Loving our Pro-Choice Neighbors.” She appealed for Christians to be more loving to those who practice abortion, and one practical example she gave was that we should stop referring to abortion as murder.

Here are her words:

Continue Reading…

Today is December 1. That means there are only 25 days until Christmas.

Visit your local coffee shop, take a trip to the mall, or just drive through your neighborhood at night, and it’s easy to see that the so-called “Christmas spirit” is alive and well in American culture.

Some of the ironies of our culture’s fascination with Christmas are especially evident where I live in Southern California.

• It hasn’t snowed in Los Angeles in years, but snowflake decorations are everywhere.

Continue Reading…

Syrian refugee camp

Relevant Magazine recently ran a post called “What the Bible says about how to treat refugees.” To help you understand where they are coming from, remember that Relevant seems to exist primarily to tie Christian ethics to whatever cause célèbre has captured the kids these days. The list was frustrating to read not because of what it said, but what it omitted (to spare you the click, the gist is that Christians should open their borders to refugees).

But the actual refugee problem runs deeper than that, and it is yet further evidence of the juvenilization of evangelical thought that actual theologians think the issue of Syrian refugees should be settled by pointing to Levitical law about letting foreigners reap in your grain field.

At risk of sounding pedantic, this is a complex issue with competing interests and ethics. Namely:   Continue Reading…

10_Questions_2Last week, I posted an article (with an embedded video) about Seventh-day Adventism. As might be expected, not everyone was pleased with my perspective, and some of the responses were quite heated.

In the comments on Facebook, I was called a “counterfeit preacher,” a “Jesuit infiltrator,” an “antichrist,” “one of Satan’s forerunners,” and a “liar and the truth of God is not in him.”

While unfounded name-calling doesn’t bother me, especially on Facebook, a few of the critics complained that I had misrepresented Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. Some accused me of violating the ninth commandment, and intentionally bearing false witness about what Seventh-day Adventists believe.

Since my desire is not to bear false witness, I decided to write one more article regarding SDA doctrine. While I doubt it will appease my critics, I hope it will bring additional clarity to my previous post. Continue Reading…

One of my favorite events that we get to experience in the church age is Baptism. To watch someone courageously declare the Lordship of Jesus in their life is an awesome blessing to witness. It is a declaration of freedom. It is the symbol of being dead to sin and alive to Christ. (Rom 6:11) It is the announcement that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20). That’s why we believe in believer’s baptism. That is someone who knows the difference between good and evil and can declare their commitment to Christ.

Sometimes in our circles (those who do not believe baptism saves) we are tempted to minimize the importance of baptism, but it is of vast importance. Baptism is the way a person declares their commitment not only to Christ but to a local body of believers as well (Acts 2:41). This declaration of commitment is why churches require baptism before membership. I believe that for the sake of obedience to Jesus and for the sake of conscience we should take the practice of baptism seriously.  So, in light of the importance that Scripture places on baptism, here are three reasons which might lead a person to consider getting “re-baptized.”

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Red_Coffee_CupFacebook has been abuzz lately about angry reactions (particularly from a self-proclaimed evangelical named Joshua Feuerstein) to the new Starbucks holiday cup design. In case you’ve missed the controversy, in years past, Starbucks’ festive cups have featured vibrant images of reindeer, snowflakes, Christmas trees, and the like. But this year, the cup is just plain red.

Some concerned folks, particularly in Christian circles, have insisted the lack of Christmas-themed doodles represents a war on Christmas. So is Starbucks playing Scrooge? Or are the naysayers overreacting?

Yesterday, I was asked to give my opinion on the issue. While I generally try to steer clear of seemingly trivial issues (like the design of a disposable coffee cup), I think the hubbub created over this current controversy warrants a response. Continue Reading…