Monday, October 31, 2011

494 Years Ago Today

Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences
Commonly Known as The 95 Theses
by Martin Luther

Out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.

1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one's heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.

4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward repentance) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed either at his own discretion or by canon law.

6. The pope himself cannot remit guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by God; or, at most, he can remit it in cases reserved to his discretion. Except for these cases, the guilt remains untouched.

7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to the priest, His representative.

8. The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead.

9. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, acting in the person of the pope, manifests grace to us, by the fact that the papal regulations always cease to apply at death, or in any hard case.

10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when priests retain the canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory.

11. When canonical penalties were changed and made to apply to purgatory, surely it would seem that tares were sown while the bishops were asleep.

12. In former days, the canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution was pronounced; and were intended to be tests of true contrition.

13. Death puts an end to all the claims of the Church; even the dying are already dead to the canon laws, and are no longer bound by them.

14. Defective piety or love in a dying person is necessarily accompanied by great fear, which is greatest where the piety or love is least.

15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, whatever else might be said, to constitute the pain of purgatory, since it approaches very closely to the horror of despair.

16. There seems to be the same difference between hell, purgatory, and heaven as between despair, uncertainty, and assurance.

17. Of a truth, the pains of souls in purgatory ought to be abated, and charity ought to be proportionately increased.

18. Moreover, it does not seem proved, on any grounds of reason or Scripture, that these souls are outside the state of merit, or unable to grow in grace.

19. Nor does it seem proved to be always the case that they are certain and assured of salvation, even if we are very certain ourselves.

20. Therefore the pope, in speaking of the plenary remission of all penalties, does not mean "all" in the strict sense, but only those imposed by himself.

21. Hence those who preach indulgences are in error when they say that a man is absolved and saved from every penalty by the pope's indulgences.

22. Indeed, he cannot remit to souls in purgatory any penalty which canon law declares should be suffered in the present life.

23. If plenary remission could be granted to anyone at all, it would be only in the cases of the most perfect, i.e. to very few.

24. It must therefore be the case that the major part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of relief from penalty.

25. The same power as the pope exercises in general over purgatory is exercised in particular by every single bishop in his bishopric and priest in his parish.

26. The pope does excellently when he grants remission to the souls in purgatory on account of intercessions made on their behalf, and not by the power of the keys (which he cannot exercise for them).

27. There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately the money clinks in the bottom of the chest.

28. It is certainly possible that when the money clinks in the bottom of the chest avarice and greed increase; but when the church offers intercession, all depends in the will of God.

29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed in view of what is said of St. Severinus and St. Pascal? (Note: Paschal I, pope 817-24. The legend is that he and Severinus were willing to endure the pains of purgatory for the benefit of the faithful).

30. No one is sure of the reality of his own contrition, much less of receiving plenary forgiveness.

31. One who bona fide buys indulgence is a rare as a bona fide penitent man, i.e. very rare indeed.

32. All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means of letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

33. We should be most carefully on our guard against those who say that the papal indulgences are an inestimable divine gift, and that a man is reconciled to God by them.

34. For the grace conveyed by these indulgences relates simply to the penalties of the sacramental "satisfactions" decreed merely by man.

35. It is not in accordance with Christian doctrines to preach and teach that those who buy off souls, or purchase confessional licenses, have no need to repent of their own sins.

36. Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence.

37. Any true Christian whatsoever, living or dead, participates in all the benefits of Christ and the Church; and this participation is granted to him by God without letters of indulgence.

38. Yet the pope's remission and dispensation are in no way to be despised, for, as already said, they proclaim the divine remission.

39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, to extol to the people the great bounty contained in the indulgences, while, at the same time, praising contrition as a virtue.

40. A truly contrite sinner seeks out, and loves to pay, the penalties of his sins; whereas the very multitude of indulgences dulls men's consciences, and tends to make them hate the penalties.

41. Papal indulgences should only be preached with caution, lest people gain a wrong understanding, and think that they are preferable to other good works: those of love.

42. Christians should be taught that the pope does not at all intend that the purchase of indulgences should be understood as at all comparable with the works of mercy.

43. Christians should be taught that one who gives to the poor, or lends to the needy, does a better action than if he purchases indulgences.

44. Because, by works of love, love grows and a man becomes a better man; whereas, by indulgences, he does not become a better man, but only escapes certain penalties.

45. Christians should be taught that he who sees a needy person, but passes him by although he gives money for indulgences, gains no benefit from the pope's pardon, but only incurs the wrath of God.

46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they are bound to retain what is only necessary for the upkeep of their home, and should in no way squander it on indulgences.

47. Christians should be taught that they purchase indulgences voluntarily, and are not under obligation to do so.

48. Christians should be taught that, in granting indulgences, the pope has more need, and more desire, for devout prayer on his own behalf than for ready money.

49. Christians should be taught that the pope's indulgences are useful only if one does not rely on them, but most harmful if one loses the fear of God through them.

50. Christians should be taught that, if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence-preachers, he would rather the church of St. Peter were reduced to ashes than be built with the skin, flesh, and bones of the sheep.

51. Christians should be taught that the pope would be willing, as he ought if necessity should arise, to sell the church of St. Peter, and give, too, his own money to many of those from whom the pardon-merchants conjure money.

52. It is vain to rely on salvation by letters of indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity.

53. Those are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid the word of God to be preached at all in some churches, in order that indulgences may be preached in others.

54. The word of God suffers injury if, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is devoted to indulgences than to that word.

55. The pope cannot help taking the view that if indulgences (very small matters) are celebrated by one bell, one pageant, or one ceremony, the gospel (a very great matter) should be preached to the accompaniment of a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The treasures of the church, out of which the pope dispenses indulgences, are not sufficiently spoken of or known among the people of Christ.

57. That these treasures are not temporal are clear from the fact that many of the merchants do not grant them freely, but only collect them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, because, even apart from the pope, these merits are always working grace in the inner man, and working the cross, death, and hell in the outer man.

59. St. Laurence said that the poor were the treasures of the church, but he used the term in accordance with the custom of his own time.

60. We do not speak rashly in saying that the treasures of the church are the keys of the church, and are bestowed by the merits of Christ.

61. For it is clear that the power of the pope suffices, by itself, for the remission of penalties and reserved cases.

62. The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.

63. It is right to regard this treasure as most odious, for it makes the first to be the last.

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is most acceptable, for it makes the last to be the first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets which, in former times, they used to fish for men of wealth.

66. The treasures of the indulgences are the nets to-day which they use to fish for men of wealth.

67. The indulgences, which the merchants extol as the greatest of favours, are seen to be, in fact, a favourite means for money-getting.

68. Nevertheless, they are not to be compared with the grace of God and the compassion shown in the Cross.

69. Bishops and curates, in duty bound, must receive the commissaries of the papal indulgences with all reverence.

70. But they are under a much greater obligation to watch closely and attend carefully lest these men preach their own fancies instead of what the pope commissioned.

71. Let him be anathema and accursed who denies the apostolic character of the indulgences.

72. On the other hand, let him be blessed who is on his guard against the wantonness and license of the pardon-merchant's words.

73. In the same way, the pope rightly excommunicates those who make any plans to the detriment of the trade in indulgences.

74. It is much more in keeping with his views to excommunicate those who use the pretext of indulgences to plot anything to the detriment of holy love and truth.

75. It is foolish to think that papal indulgences have so much power that they can absolve a man even if he has done the impossible and violated the mother of God.

76. We assert the contrary, and say that the pope's pardons are not able to remove the least venial of sins as far as their guilt is concerned.

77. When it is said that not even St. Peter, if he were now pope, could grant a greater grace, it is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.

78. We assert the contrary, and say that he, and any pope whatever, possesses greater graces, viz., the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as is declared in I Corinthians 12 [:28].

79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross with the papal arms are of equal value to the cross on which Christ died.

80. The bishops, curates, and theologians, who permit assertions of that kind to be made to the people without let or hindrance, will have to answer for it.

81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult for learned men to guard the respect due to the pope against false accusations, or at least from the keen criticisms of the laity.

82. They ask, e.g.: Why does not the pope liberate everyone from purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls? This would be morally the best of all reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter's church, a very minor purpose.

83. Again: Why should funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continue to be said? And why does not the pope repay, or permit to be repaid, the benefactions instituted for these purposes, since it is wrong to pray for those souls who are now redeemed?

84. Again: Surely this is a new sort of compassion, on the part of God and the pope, when an impious man, an enemy of God, is allowed to pay money to redeem a devout soul, a friend of God; while yet that devout and beloved soul is not allowed to be redeemed without payment, for love's sake, and just because of its need of redemption.

85. Again: Why are the penitential canon laws, which in fact, if not in practice, have long been obsolete and dead in themselves,—why are they, to-day, still used in imposing fines in money, through the granting of indulgences, as if all the penitential canons were fully operative?

86. Again: since the pope's income to-day is larger than that of the wealthiest of wealthy men, why does he not build this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of indigent believers?

87. Again: What does the pope remit or dispense to people who, by their perfect repentance, have a right to plenary remission or dispensation?

88. Again: Surely a greater good could be done to the church if the pope were to bestow these remissions and dispensations, not once, as now, but a hundred times a day, for the benefit of any believer whatever.

89. What the pope seeks by indulgences is not money, but rather the salvation of souls; why then does he suspend the letters and indulgences formerly conceded, and still as efficacious as ever?

90. These questions are serious matters of conscience to the laity. To suppress them by force alone, and not to refute them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian people unhappy.

91. If therefore, indulgences were preached in accordance with the spirit and mind of the pope, all these difficulties would be easily overcome, and indeed, cease to exist.

92. Away, then, with those prophets who say to Christ's people, "Peace, peace," where in there is no peace.

93. Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ's people, "The cross, the cross," where there is no cross.

94. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells.

95. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Law Does Not Sanctify

While I'm on vacation, please enjoy some old posts from the Contemporary Calvinist.

The Law Does Not Sanctify
(originally posted 04/18/2007)

When we received the gift of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, were we set free from the curse of the law only to be commanded to return to the law in order to be sanctified? Some seem to think so.

I recall a blog post by Chris Ortiz at bemoaning the fact that "[s]anctification by the law of God is not likely to be heard within the padded sanctuaries of the mega-church." Well, I would hope that sanctification by the law of God is never heard in any church.

"Sanctification by the law" presents a huge problem for believers. It creates a conflicting message. It makes no sense to condemn justification by works and then turn around and promote sanctification by works. That which is powerless to justify is just as powerless to sanctify. Sanctification comes by grace through faith (Acts 26:18, Hebrews 10:10) and is the ongoing work of the indwelling Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2).

This is not antinomianism by any stretch of the imagination. I believe the law serves the same purpose it always did: it reveals sin. It exposes to the light of truth that which we seek to keep hidden. It shows us just how powerless we are to save ourselves. It also condemns us. As Paul writes in Galatians 3:10, "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.'"

Sin and the law go hand in hand. Indeed, "sin is not counted where there is no law" (Romans 5:13). But Paul reminds us that sin no longer has any dominion over us, since we are "not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14).

Thanks to the cross, we have "died to the law through the body of Christ" (Romans 7:4). More to the point, Christ, the only one capable of satisfying the requirements of the law, "redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13).

So, how then are we to live? We are told to "serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code" (Romans 7:6). In short, it is the Spirit that sanctifies (2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2). The fruit of the Spirit "leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life" (Romans 6:22).

It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that the law is fulfilled. Paul explains in Romans 13:8-10: "Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." He reminds us again in Galatians 6:2 when he says, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."

Note the emphasis Paul places on love. With Christ as our focus, we cannot help but love. But if we believe that sanctification come through obedience to the law, then the law becomes our focus, and it is impossible for us to love our neighbor and bear one another's burdens if our attention is on living up to the law and meeting its requirements. That's an impossible task. However, if we rest in what Christ has already accomplished for us, then we are free to live a life of love as ones who have truly been redeemed from the curse of the law.

What this means is that we will not be able to boast except in the Lord Jesus Christ, "who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). The result is that God alone receives the glory.

I don't know about you, but I find that to be one of the most blessed truths in all of scripture. Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Am an Atheist

While I'm on vacation, please enjoy some old posts from the Contemporary Calvinist.

I Am an Atheist
(originally posted 12/02/2009)

I am an atheist when it comes to the supposed existence of an all-powerful Flying Spaghetti Monster that created everything.

It's true that the existence of FSM is something I can neither prove nor disprove 100%. After all, I am not omniscient. I don't know everything there is to know about everything. But I think I am safe in denying the existence of such a being.

For one thing, there is a lack of credible eyewitnesses. If any person has ever claimed to have seen FSM -- and I'm not aware of a single one -- that claim was never corroborated by anyone else.

There are also no authoritative written accounts of FSM making itself known to its creation, and nothing chronicling FSM's work throughout history backed up by thousands of ancient manuscripts. In fact, most of what has been written about FSM has been written by admitted nonbelievers within the last five years.

Furthermore, I know that spaghetti is a physical creation, and as such it cannot exist outside of the material realm. To conclude otherwise goes against all logic and reason.

(By the way, I would use the same arguments against the existence of the Invisible Pink Unicorn.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Failed Gospel Tract

While I'm on vacation, please enjoy some old posts from the Contemporary Calvinist.

Failed Gospel Tract
(originally posted 03/02/2009)

Friday, October 21, 2011

The World As Seen Through an Atheist's (Irreducibly Complex) Eyes

While I'm on vacation, please enjoy some old posts from the Contemporary Calvinist.

The World As Seen Through an Atheist's (Irreducibly Complex) Eyes
(originally posted 10/14/2008)

"The architect is a true visionary!"

"What a remarkable feat of engineering!"

"An awesome achievement of brilliant scientific minds!"

"Such intricate design is obviously the work of a very talented artist!"

"There is no God!"

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lawsuit Against God Dismissed

While I'm on vacation, please enjoy some old posts from the Contemporary Calvinist.

Lawsuit Against God Dismissed
(originally posted 03/03/2009)

You may recall that Ernie Chambers, a former Nebraska state senator, sought a permanent injunction against God back in 2007 for causing "widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants." A Douglas County District Court judge threw out the suit in 2008 on the grounds that the defendant was never served a legal notice. Chambers appealed, saying that if God was indeed omnipresent and omniscient, then he knew he was being sued, so no legal notice was needed.

As expected, the Nebraska Court of Appeals recently dismissed the lawsuit, but not because it believed it lacked the jurisdiction or the authority to enforce such an injunction against the Creator of the universe. No, the suit was dismissed because the court decided it does not rule on abstract, hypothetical, or fictitious issues.

Mr. Chambers, you will get your day in court, but it will be as the defendant. The question is, will you be left to defend yourself (which you won't be able to do), or will you have Jesus Christ as your advocate?

(I suppose I should also add that the members of the Nebraska Court of Appeals will eventually find out just how abstract, hypothetical, or fictitious God really is.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Onward Christian Soldiers?

While I'm on vacation, please enjoy some old posts from the Contemporary Calvinist.

Onward Christian Soldiers?
(originally posted 05/06/2009)

Consider this report from Reuters:
Bibles in Afghan languages sent to a U.S. soldier at a base in Afghanistan were confiscated and destroyed to ensure that troops did not breach regulations which forbid proselytising, a military spokeswoman said.

The U.S. military has denied its soldiers tried to convert Afghans to Christianity, after Qatar-based Al Jazeera television showed soldiers at a bible class on a base with a stack of bibles translated into the local Pashto and Dari languages.

U.S. Central Command's General Order Number 1 forbids troops on active duty -- including all those based in Iraq and Afghanistan -- from trying to convert people to another religion.

"I can now confirm that the Bibles shown on Al Jazeera's clip were, in fact, collected by the chaplains and later destroyed. They were never distributed," spokeswoman Major Jennifer Willis said at Bagram air base, north of Kabul.
My initial reaction was one of shock. The chaplains were the ones responsible for confiscating these Bibles? How could they do something like that in good conscience?

Despite the official denial of the military, it's obvious the Bibles were intended to be distributed among the local population. Regardless, some may argue that the chaplains should have ignored the order. As the Apostle Peter said, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

But as I reflected further on this incident I found it increasingly difficult to sympathize with those involved. While we are called to evangelize other nations, I'm not sure it's the place of an active duty member of the U.S. military to assume that responsibility, even if all that is entailed is simply handing out Bibles.

I have two concerns. First of all, evangelizing isn't in any soldier's job description. Just as we don't expect to see anyone else in secular employment evangelizing on "company time," we shouldn't expect it from our soldiers.

Secondly, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan on a military mission. Killing people and destroying property was the very nature of that mission, and I don't think the spreading of the gospel should ever be associated with the use of military force.

The war we are called to fight is a spiritual one (Ephesians 6:12-13), and the weapon we have been given is the "sword of the spirit" (Ephesians 6:17). Going out into the world to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19) should be done with the willingness to give our own lives for the sake of the gospel (Matthew 16:25, John 12:24-25), not in the process of taking the lives of others. The military, after all, is a tool of the state, not a ministry arm of the church.

More on this story:

Christianity vs. Atheism: Some Brief Observations

While I'm on vacation, please enjoy some old posts from the Contemporary Calvinist.

Christianity vs. Atheism: Some Brief Observations
(originally posted 08/17/2009)

Christianity is defined by a belief in something -- particularly, a belief in the God of the Bible. Atheism is defined by a non-belief in something -- particularly, a non-belief in the God of the Bible.

Christians choose to be identified by that which they believe to be true. Atheists choose to be identified by that which they believe to be false.

The practice of Christian apologetics is based on defending a belief. The practice of atheist apologetics is based on attacking a belief.

Christianity teaches absolute truth based on the unchanging word of God. Atheism teaches relative truth based on the changing scientific consensus.

Christians look to God's word as their objective moral standard. Atheists have no objective moral standard, so whenever they discuss morality (which cannot be accounted for in their naturalistic worldview) they must steal from Christians.

Christianity offers purpose and meaning in this world and hope beyond. Atheism offers none of the above, yet atheists continue to proselytize.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Two Free Audiobooks by John Piper

John Piper's newest book will help Christians think about thinking. Focusing on the life of the mind helps us to know God better, love him more, and care for the world. Along with an emphasis on emotions and the experience of God, we also need to practice careful thinking about God. Piper contends that "thinking is indispensable on the path to passion for God." So how are we to maintain a healthy balance of mind and heart, thinking and feeling?

Piper urges us to think for the glory of God. He demonstrates from Scripture that glorifying God with our minds and hearts is not either-or, but both-and. Thinking carefully about God fuels passion and affections for God. Likewise, Christ-exalting emotion leads to disciplined thinking.
Think is Christianaudio's free selection for the month of October.

Let the Nations Be Glad:
Why do we do missions? We are told, by Jesus, to preach the gospel and make disciples of all nations. So missions is duty, right? Wrong. If you do missions purely from a sense of duty you will not honor those you are reaching out to, nor will you truly honor God. Duty is the wrong place to look, so where do we find the answer to why we do missions? We turn, according to John Piper, to worship.

In our worship of God we encounter God's glory. The overflow from our worship is a desire to share God's glory with others (the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever), and we naturally become missional. When Jesus was asked what the kingdom of God was like, he compared it to a pearl so valuable that one would sell all they owned simply to possess it. Does that seem like duty to you? Instead, Jesus calls us to a new mindset, which flows from the mindset that worship creates in us. Thus, according to Piper, does worship become the goal of missions and the fuel which makes missions possible.
Just enter GLAD11 as the coupon code when checking out to download it for free.

Friday, October 14, 2011

This Week in Calvinism - October 14, 2011

  • More arrogant words from Roger Olson:
    It seems to me that most 5 point Calvinists I know seem bound and determined to believe anything they think the Bible says regardless of how horrific that may be. In other words, IF they became convinced that somehow they had been overlooking something in Scripture (as they think I do) and, in fact, God and the devil are actually the same being such that God is evil, they would believe it because the Bible says it. I, on the other hand, presuppose that God cannot be evil; that goodness and being belong inextricably together or else there is no ground for basic trust.
    Really, Dr. Olson? You're sticking with the "I'm not sure how to distinguish [the God of Calvinism] from the devil" routine? It's getting a little old.

  • Who's to blame for the rise of usury banking and the inherent greed in capitalism? Why, John Calvin, of course.

  • According to Ed Silva, Calvinism is an "even more sadistic teaching" than the doctrine of Hell, which makes the Calvinist God "far more unjust and cruel than the gods of all other world religions."

  • It seems students at Pensacola Christian College are warned not to speak of Calvinism to one another.

  • Can you lose your salvation? Mark Driscoll and Greg Boyd discuss.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Not a Single Christian Church Left in Afghanistan

Thanks to our meddling, there are no more churches in Afghanistan. CNSNews reports:
There is not a single, public Christian church left in Afghanistan, according to the U.S. State Department.

This reflects the state of religious freedom in that country ten years after the United States first invaded it and overthrew its Islamist Taliban regime.

In the intervening decade, U.S. taxpayers have spent $440 billion to support Afghanistan's new government and more than 1,700 U.S. military personnel have died serving in that country.

The last public Christian church in Afghanistan was razed in March 2010, according to the State Department's latest International Religious Freedom Report. The report, which was released last month and covers the period of July 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010, also states that “there were no Christian schools in the country.”

“There is no longer a public Christian church; the courts have not upheld the church's claim to its 99-year lease, and the landowner destroyed the building in March [2010],” reads the State Department report on religious freedom. “[Private] chapels and churches for the international community of various faiths are located on several military bases, PRTs [Provincial Reconstruction Teams], and at the Italian embassy. Some citizens who converted to Christianity as refugees have returned.”

In recent times, freedom of religion has declined in Afghanistan, according to the State Department.
This just adds to my confusion as to why so many American Christians supported (and continue to support) our government's wars in the Middle East.

(via Libertarian Christians)

Friday, October 07, 2011

This Week in Calvinism - October 7, 2011

  • Mike Horton, author of For Calvinism, and Roger Olson, author of Against Calvinism, will join each other in a friendly conversation at Biola University on Saturday, October 15, 2011.

  • Roger Olson discusses his book on The Paul Edwards Program.

  • The Seeking Disciple isn't a fan of those who call themselves "moderate Calvinists." He writes:
    They clearly have more in common with Arminius than with John Calvin but in an effort to remain in the mainstream of evangelicalism, they have chosen to adopt a term that I believe is poorly applied. ... I will give my true Calvinist friends credit, at least you hold firmly to your beliefs and don’t seek to become a moderate Arminian.

  • The Society of Evangelical Arminians blog has posted a rather accurate chart comparing Arminian and Calvinist beliefs.

  • John Piper recounts his experience with racism and Reformed theology.

  • The eternal wonder of three simple words: He saved us.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Bloodlines Documentary

In this short film, John Piper shares his own experiences growing up in the segregated South.

Piper's new book, Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian, is now available.
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