Viability Is No Way to Judge a Human Life

As the Supreme Court hears arguments on abortion law, bad rulings should get tossed out for good. So should the “surviveability” standard.

This week, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments about the state of Mississippi’s abortion law. Yet both sides know what’s really at stake: At question is not only whether the Constitution guarantees a right to abortion but also whether the state’s interest in protecting fetal life is determined by the child’s ability to live outside the womb.

This is the moment not just for the court but for all of us to see that viability is no way to judge the worth of a human life.

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court kept the core of Roe v. Wade. However, to determine the state’s interest in protecting fetal life, the court replaced the arbitrary measure of trimesters with a “viability” standard—a scientifically determined idea of whether a child could survive outside the womb.

This idea has led to decades of political and legal debate, but it’s also a cultural issue. Is it right to determine rights and personhood based on such a standard? And how does that affect the way we view human life inside and outside the womb?

In defense of the pro-life position, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat summarizes a key pro-choice assumption enshrined in our law for almost 50 years: that “personhood is often associated with some property that’s acquired well after conception: cognition, reason, self-awareness, the capacity to survive outside the womb.” But this logic cannot be sustained with consistency.

“If full personhood is somehow rooted in reasoning capacity or self-consciousness, then all manner of adult human beings lack it or lose it at some point or another in their lives,” says Douthat. “If the capacity for ...

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Died: Marcus Lamb, Daystar Founder Who Believed TV Opened a Window for the Holy Spirit

After setting himself apart from corrupt televangelists and achieving incredible early success, the Christian network chief lived from scandal to scandal.

Marcus Lamb, the founder of Daystar Television, died on Tuesday at the age of 64.

Lamb and his wife, Joni Trammell Lamb, launched Daystar more than two decades after Paul and Jan Crouch started the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and more than three after Pat Robertson started the Christian Broadcasting Network. But they managed to compete with and eventually rival the older Christian broadcast companies through a combination of business savvy, incredible timing, and the maintenance of an upright reputation.

Later in life, though, Lamb seemed to tumble into one scandal after another. He made headlines for sex, money, and conspiracy theories, not his passion for proclaiming the message of Jesus.

An ordained bishop in the Pentecostal Church of God, Lamb said he had been committed to spreading the gospel as far and fast as possible ever since he preached his first sermon at 15. His official Daystar bios always failed to mention, however, the truth he told newspaper reporters in the early years: The only audience for the first message was a horse in his parents’ barn.

But if he sometimes embellished his history, cut corners, and fell short of his own ideals, that didn’t damper his success at building a Christian television network that reached millions of people around the world.

Lamb, for his part, always explained his mission in the same way.

“Our assignment is to build television stations … so we can reach the most people in the least amount of time,” he said in the early 2000s. “With television, we can curse the darkness and turn on the light.”

As news of his death spread on social media, Lamb was remembered by prominent pastors and ministry leaders for his commitment to evangelism.

“I ...

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Most Pastors Say 2021 Giving Is on Track

But those who waited longer to resume in-person worship, such as in mainline and African American traditions, still see severe declines in the offering plate.

Heading into Giving Tuesday and the year-end giving season, most churches don’t seem to be underwater financially, but many are treading water.

Around half of US Protestant pastors say the current economy isn’t really having an impact on their congregation, according to a Lifeway Research study. The 49 percent who say the economy is having no impact on their church marks the highest percentage since Lifeway Research began surveying pastors on this issue in 2009.

Almost 2 in 5 pastors (37%) say the economy is negatively impacting their congregation, while 12 percent say the economy is having a positive impact. Both positive and negative numbers are down from September 2020, when 48 percent said the economy was hurting their congregation and 15 percent said it was helping. The last time fewer pastors than this year said the economy is playing a positive role for their church was May 2012.

The two years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2018 and 2019, mark the only two times in the survey’s more than 12-year history that more pastors said the economy was having a positive impact than a negative one.

“Most churches are taking a deep breath financially following the uncertainty of the height of the pandemic,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “While the official recession ended quickly in April 2020, economic growth has been uneven, and few churches are feeling actual positive impacts from the economy at this point.”

After many churches faced budget shortfalls and decreased giving in 2020, 2021 saw most churches meet their budget and stop the decline in giving.

Seven in 10 pastors say offering levels at least met the budget this year. Almost ...

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解决名人教会问题,在于让教会仅仅是教会

我们需要重新发现无需我们帮助的敬拜。

里斯·洛克(Chris Rock)曾在一次采访中分享了他是如何开发新的单口相声材料的。像许多成熟的喜剧演员一样,他在小型喜剧俱乐部露面,带着可以讲5或10分钟的笑话上台,一次开发一两个,并将有效的东西拼接到他的下一次巡演或特别节目中。

洛克知道,观众对他就是克里斯·洛克这件事的反应,与他们对实际笑话的反应一样大。因此,当他进行这些非正式演出时,他尽可能不带任何个性地讲述笑话。他想相信它们“可以在幕后做到”,他说。他知道,如果 在这种场合下 能让人发笑,当他在舞台上全力表演这些笑话时,它们就会让人笑得前仰后合。

在制作CT的播客《马尔斯山教会的兴衰》(The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill)时,我经常想到这一点。这是一个关于西雅图那间大型教会的故事,该教会在21世纪初崭露头角,在15个地方吸引了15000人,但是在创始人马克·德雷斯科(Mark Driscoll)于2014年辞职后关了门。在许多方面,马尔斯山教会是一个异类。在许多重要方面,它不是。

德雷斯科是一个独特的有天赋的沟通者、煽动者,但是名人牧师的现象现在在超大型教会中很普遍。马尔斯山教会在使用音乐和视频制作、技术和社交媒体方面进行了创新,但它所开创的东西已被广泛采用,并在很大程度上决定了今天那些有影响力的教会。

建立马尔斯山教会的技术和名人工具在继续传播,它们在小聚会中的诱惑力不亚于在大聚会中的诱惑力。我们已经错过了一个教训,即这些工具搭建的是一个脆弱的架构:在德雷斯科退出后,教会不可能接着存活多久。

这些工具的诱惑力是可以理解的。他们给事工加了个拉链,就像克里斯·洛克用他的(非常不适合教会的)舞台形象所做的那样。虽然技术不一定是邪恶的——印刷术为数十亿普通人提供了《圣经》、《公祷书》和赞美诗——但它也不是中立的。它可以利用我们的身体和想象力,破坏福音的信息,即让自己向死,却谦卑地把别人的需要放在我们自己的前面。

因此,我们采用图像放大的视频投射出有传奇色彩的牧师和敬拜领袖,却从未问过这种主要用于摇滚音乐会和政治集会的技术可能传达的是什么其他信息。我们进口振聋发聩的低音炮和烟雾机。领导人在台上用智能手机和平板电脑阅读。敬拜事工分发风格指南,说明乐队成员在舞台上应该穿什么衣服(这不是我编的),我们在没有窗户、空调调解的环境中聚会,就像在电影院和赌场里一样感到时间停滞。

在这种背景下,如果我们遇到的大多数基督教领袖都是年轻的、有魅力的、牙齿完美的男女,那么当我们遇到一个说话温和、谦恭、不喜欢Instagram的人时,会发生什么?如果他是一个既不具备名人气质,又没有惊人的皈依故事的人,会怎么样?或者是像耶稣那样带着属灵权柄,却不寻求权力或者按人们的要求展示能力,以至于让第一世纪的世人感到困惑,我们又会怎样?

我担心我们会错过它。我们甚至可能直截了当地拒绝和谴责它。也许我们已经这样做了。

德雷斯科经常说,他不喜欢听大多数牧师讲道,因为他们很无聊、没有吸引力。相反,他向包括洛克在内的单口相声演员学习。然而事实证明,他错过了洛克艺术方面更深层次的伦理:材料的实质比表现形式更重要。它必须在没有他的情况下一样也起作用。

奇普·斯坦姆(Chip Stam)在2011年去世前是我的导师,他告诉我:“一个成熟的信徒是很容易被教诲的。”他的意思是,如果基督徒发现自己来到一个地方,那里正在传讲神的话语、正在敬拜耶稣,而且圣灵就在祂的子民心中,那么他们离开时,心中留下的是鼓舞欢欣的感觉——无论这种经历是否肤浅、喧闹或安静,或者是陌生的。

我觉得,这是邀我们回到所谓“单纯的教会”。这种姿态承认教会聚会中最有意义的事情是可以经受住教会的崩溃或文明的崩溃——实际上它们已经发生了。

在十年来经历了基督教领袖们的道德崩溃之后,如果教会重新致力于类似这种单纯教会的愿景,可能会是什么样子?如果我们不是将自己置于人工制造的高价周日聚会体验,而是围绕着道与圣灵、忏悔与确据、饼与杯来聚会,将会怎样? ...

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解決名人教會問題,在於讓教會僅僅是教會

我們需要重新發現無需我們幫助的敬拜。

克里斯·洛克(Chris Rock)曾在一次採訪中分享了他是如何開發新的單口相聲材料的。像許多成熟的喜劇演員一樣,他在小型喜劇俱樂部露面,帶着可以講5或10分鐘的笑話上台,一次開發一兩個,並將有效的東西拼接到他的下一次巡演或特別節目中。

洛克知道,觀眾對他就是克里斯·洛克這件事的反應,與他們對實際笑話的反應一樣大。因此,當他進行這些非正式演出時,他儘可能不帶任何個性地講述笑話。他想相信它們“可以在幕後做到”,他說。他知道,如果 在這種場合下 能讓人發笑,當他在舞台上全力表演這些笑話時,它們就會讓人笑得前仰後合。

在製作CT的播客《馬爾斯山教會的興衰》(The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill)時,我經常想到這一點。這是一個關於西雅圖那間大型教會的故事,該教會在21世紀初嶄露頭角,在15個地方吸引了15000人,但是在創始人馬克·德雷斯科(Mark Driscoll)於2014年辭職后關了門。在許多方面,馬爾斯山教會是一個異類。在許多重要方面,它不是。

德雷斯科是一個獨特的有天賦的溝通者、煽動者,但是名人牧師的現象現在在超大型教會中很普遍。馬爾斯山教會在使用音樂和視頻製作、技術和社交媒體方面進行了創新,但它所開創的東西已被廣泛採用,並在很大程度上決定了今天那些有影響力的教會。

建立馬爾斯山教會的技術和名人工具在繼續傳播,它們在小聚會中的誘惑力不亞於在大聚會中的誘惑力。我們已經錯過了一個教訓,即這些工具搭建的是一個脆弱的架構:在德雷斯科退出后,教會不可能接着存活多久。

這些工具的誘惑力是可以理解的。他們給事工加了個拉鏈,就像克里斯·洛克用他的(非常不適合教會的)舞台形象所做的那樣。雖然技術不一定是邪惡的——印刷術為數十億普通人提供了《聖經》、《公禱書》和讚美詩——但它也不是中立的。它可以利用我們的身體和想象力,破壞福音的信息,即讓自己向死,卻謙卑地把別人的需要放在我們自己的前面。

因此,我們採用圖像放大的視頻投射出有傳奇色彩的牧師和敬拜領袖,卻從未問過這種主要用於搖滾音樂會和政治集會的技術可能傳達的是什麼其他信息。我們進口振聾發聵的低音炮和煙霧機。領導人在台上用智能手機和平板電腦閱讀。敬拜事工分發風格指南,說明樂隊成員在舞台上應該穿什麼衣服(這不是我編的),我們在沒有窗戶、空調調解的環境中聚會,就像在電影院和賭場里一樣感到時間停滯。

在這種背景下,如果我們遇到的大多數基督教領袖都是年輕的、有魅力的、牙齒完美的男女,那麼當我們遇到一個說話溫和、謙恭、不喜歡Instagram的人時,會發生什麼?如果他是一個既不具備名人氣質,又沒有驚人的皈依故事的人,會怎麼樣?或者是像耶穌那樣帶着屬靈權柄,卻不尋求權力或者按人們的要求展示能力,以至於讓第一世紀的世人感到困惑,我們又會怎樣?

我擔心我們會錯過它。我們甚至可能直截了當地拒絕和譴責它。也許我們已經這樣做了。

德雷斯科經常說,他不喜歡聽大多數牧師講道,因為他們很無聊、沒有吸引力。相反,他向包括洛克在內的單口相聲演員學習。然而事實證明,他錯過了洛克藝術方面更深層次的倫理:材料的實質比表現形式更重要。它必須在沒有他的情況下一樣也起作用。

奇普·斯坦姆(Chip Stam)在2011年去世前是我的導師,他告訴我:“一個成熟的信徒是很容易被教誨的。”他的意思是,如果基督徒發現自己來到一個地方,那裡正在傳講神的話語、正在敬拜耶穌,而且聖靈就在祂的子民心中,那麼他們離開時,心中留下的是鼓舞歡欣的感覺——無論這種經歷是否膚淺、喧鬧或安靜,或者是陌生的。

我覺得,這是邀我們回到所謂“單純的教會”。這種姿態承認教會聚會中最有意義的事情是可以經受住教會的崩潰或文明的崩潰——實際上它們已經發生了。

在十年來經歷了基督教領袖們的道德崩潰之後,如果教會重新致力於類似這種單純教會的願景,可能會是什麼樣子?如果我們不是將自己置於人工製造的高價周日聚會體驗,而是圍繞着道與聖靈、懺悔與確據、餅與杯來聚會,將會怎樣? ...

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The Gospel of Advent: Good News for the Season

Daily devotional readings from Christianity Today.

“I bring you good news ...” (Luke 2:10). With these words, the angel began a stunning gospel proclamation: The Savior, the promised Messiah, the Lord, had been born! When we think of the gospel—of the Good News—we rightly think of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We think of our sin, of Jesus’ sacrifice, of the salvation and eternal life Christ offers. In this sense, it’s only natural to think of Easter as the “gospel” holiday—it marks the central events that make our redemption possible.

But in this online devotional resource, we invite you to consider what the season of Advent can teach us about the Good News. Many core tenets of the gospel reverberate powerfully throughout Advent’s traditional readings and themes. In Advent, we reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation, on Christ’s purpose as the long awaited Messiah, on our sin and need for repentance, on God’s promises of salvation and justice, and on our firm hope in Christ’s return and everlasting kingdom. We prepare to celebrate the “newborn King” who was “born that man no more may die,” as Charles Wesley’s beloved carol declares. And we’re reminded again and again throughout Advent that the gospel is not just for us, but it is a message of “great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10)—it’s good news that’s meant to be shared.

As you read and reflect on God’s Word each day during these four weeks of Advent, our hope is that you engage with core truths of the gospel afresh and that, like the shepherds who encountered the Christ child, you glorify and praise God for all the things you hear and see (v. 20).

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Right or Left?

An Advent reading for November 30.

Read Matthew 25:31–46.

In Matthew 24–25, Jesus teaches about his return and uses several parables to describe what “the kingdom of heaven will be like” (25:1). Perhaps the most unsettling element of Jesus’ teaching in 25:31–46 is the surprise of both groups who are being judged. They don’t protest about being judged per se; after all, the Son of Man has come in glory, attended by an immense gathering of heavenly beings, and even his throne is glorious. This entrance confirms and conveys his authority to judge. He has the right to call every nation before him, and come they must.

The surprise is not about the fact of judgment nor the rights of the judge. Instead, both those on the right and on the left are confused about the evidence. The sheep are looking at this King of glory and thinking, Surely we would have known if we had served him. He is unmistakable. The goats were thinking the same, but in reverse. When would they ever have refused such a one? They couldn’t think of an instance.

In response, the glorious Christ reveals the key: He has always been identified, unified, with his brothers and sisters. This is more than mere affiliation; it is true identification. Who are his brothers and sisters? Jesus taught plainly, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:50). No matter a person’s station, ethnicity, gender, or nationality, if they are united with Christ, then caring for them is caring for Jesus himself.

This is not works-righteousness, where each person gets a reward or punishment based on his or her deeds. This is a revealing of allegiance to or rebellion against King Jesus—which is why there ...

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All Things New

An Advent reading for December 1.

Read Revelation 21:1–6.

How have you coped with the pandemic? What has it done to your relationship with God? Some people have drawn closer to God and found the strength to get through difficult times. But for some, who perhaps lost loved ones or who shuddered at the scale of the suffering worldwide, the pandemic raised questions.

How can a loving God allow such things to happen? It’s the age-old “problem of suffering”—at least as old as the Book of Job. The Bible has no single answer to it; instead, it gives us several different angles on it.

Then right at the end of the Bible, we find this message: “‘There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4). God is going to heal his creation of all that spoils and damages it.

People sometimes complain that there isn’t much evidence of God’s love in the Book of Revelation. Some might say the same of the pandemic. But can you imagine a more beautiful image of the love of God than this: God “will wipe every tear from their eyes” (v. 4)?

Revelation certainly does not stint in its portrayals of the horrors of history. But hope runs through it all and blossoms in this final vision that the prophet is given. God will make all things new. God has a new future for his whole creation.

When we think about the future, we most often think of where the past and the present will lead. But this is different. As only God can create, only God can renew his whole creation. It started with the resurrection of Jesus—one new thing that changes everything. In lives transformed by the Spirit of Christ, we have a foretaste of the new future.

That future itself goes far beyond what we can imagine. But John’s ...

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The Ahmaud Arbery Case Equips Me for Advent

As we await full justice with Christ’s return, a guilty verdict only partly satisfies.

As we prepare our hearts for the birth of Christ this Advent, many of us have also been preparing our hearts for another story: the trial of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery. On November 24, a court in Brunswick, Georgia, delivered a verdict convicting them of murder.

“I never thought this day would come,” said Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, outside the courthouse. “Thank you for those who marched, those who prayed.”

Over the past week, as I prepared to move to a new state, I found myself relying heavily on the power of distraction to avoid being anxious about the outcome of the trial. At times, worrying thoughts would creep into my mind, telling me I should prepare myself to hear a “not guilty” verdict. So when I heard the news of a “guilty” verdict, I breathed a sigh of relief, although the court’s decision will not bring Arbery back to life. Even after the good news, I still felt pent up tension and the lament of a life lost.

Arbery was killed on February 23, which happens to be my birthday. So when news of his murder finally became public knowledge, months after his death, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing.

The 25-year-old was chased down and murdered while jogging. I’ve been a runner since middle school—and while I always knew to be vigilant about running alone, I never imagined that “running while Black” would be yet another reason for a Black life to be lost.

Advent reminds us to contemplate the many losses we experience as part of the human condition. The season is defined by the anticipation of Christ’s first coming and also his second. As we wait and draw near to Jesus, we repent ...

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CT Editors and Contributors Respond: What Are You Thankful for in 2021?

After a difficult year, CT family and friends take time to reflect on what they're grateful for.

In a year marked by COVID-19 and other worldwide struggles, we asked several staff members and regular contributors of Christianity Today to share a few things they are thankful for in 2021.

Kara Bettis, CT associate features editor

The verse that has been swirling in my head over the second half of 2021 is Proverbs 16:9: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” I am grateful for the ways that I have witnessed God’s sovereignty in my life this year.

We did not plan for a lockdown, for sickness and death, or for churches and workplaces to halt in-person gatherings. But he knew. I did not plan for the upheavals—both joyous and painful, personal and communal—that I’ve experienced in 2021. But he knew.

My past year was marked by milestones: entering a new decade and graduating with a master’s degree in theology. But among those landmark events, I’m thankful for the divine in-between moments: snowy hikes, a half-dozen weddings, watching my best friend’s baby grow, gospel conversations, baptisms. Life goes on; we can only sit in the paradoxical beauty and discomfort of the already and not yet.

Matt Reynolds, CT’s books editor

In the past, when I’ve pondered the “What are you most grateful for?” question around the Thanksgiving table, I’ve sometimes found myself stumped, either because my brain freezes in the moment or because it’s tough to pick just one blessing among many. No such trouble this year. When you welcome your first child into the world, your contribution to any gratitude exercise comes pretty neatly gift-wrapped.

There’s just so much to praise God for as baby Ezra rounds the three-month ...

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