Wheaton

Thinking about missionaries: Arrogant fools or believers obeying core Christian doctrines?

Thinking about missionaries: Arrogant fools or believers obeying core Christian doctrines?

It didn’t take long for the John Allen Chau affair (see previous Julia Duin post) to make the leap from hard-news coverage to newspaper op-ed pages and other “Culture War” venues.

Before looking at two examples, from the cultural left and then the right, let’s pause for a second for a bit of background.

Faithful GetReligion readers may remember the “tmatt trio,” a set of doctrinal questions that I have, for several decades now, found useful when exploring debates inside Christian flocks or cultural conflicts about the Christian faith. I am convinced that the Chau affair is linked to one of these hot-button questions.

Please remember that the purpose of these questions is journalistic. I have learned that asking them always leads to answers that contain all kinds of interesting information. Here is the “tmatt trio” once again:

(1) Are biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus accurate? Did this event really happen?

(2) Is salvation found through Jesus Christ, alone? Was Jesus being literal when he said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6)?

(3) Is sex outside of marriage a sin?

Now, the Chau story is, in my opinion, linked to question No. 2.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at a Boston Globe piece that ran with this killer headline: “Missionary didn’t die from tribesmen’s arrows. He was killed by his own arrogance.” The author is Globe associate editor and columnist Renee Graham. Here is a crucial early thesis statement:

In the Old Testament, Proverbs 16:18 warns, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Haughty pride caused John Allen Chau’s destruction and fall.

He’s the young man from Washington state who decided that what a small tribe on a remote island needed was his personally delivered taste of that ol’ time religion. What he found was an early grave.

Chau didn’t die from the tribesmen’s arrows. He was killed by his own arrogance.

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Thinking about that 'evangelical' label: Tim Keller on life after this Donald Trump earthquake

Thinking about that 'evangelical' label: Tim Keller on life after this Donald Trump earthquake

What's the easiest way to pick the think piece for any given weekend?

That's easy. All I have to do is look in my email files and note which non-news article (but an article that is directly linked to religion news) was sent to me over and over and over during the previous week. It that article was also all over Twitter, you know you have a winner.

It was easy to spot THAT ARTICLE this past week. It was the New Yorker essay by the Rev. Timothy Keller, the recently retired leader of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City. The timely headline: "Can Evangelicalism Survive Donald Trump and Roy Moore?"

Obviously, the next question that readers have to ask is this: "How do you define 'evangelicalism'?" I've been wrestling with that one for several decades -- all the way back to when I was, well, an evangelical.

There are many key passages in the Keller piece. Let's start with his own story:

When I became a Christian in college, in the early nineteen-seventies, the word “evangelical” still meant an alternative to the fortress mentality of fundamentalism. Shortly thereafter, I went to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, to prepare for the Presbyterian ministry. It was one of the many institutions that Graham, Harold Ockenga, and J. Howard Pew, and other neo-evangelicals, as they were sometimes called, established. In those years, there was such great energy in the movement that, by the mid-nineteen-nineties, it had eclipsed mainline Protestantism as the dominant branch of the Christian church in the U.S. When I moved to Manhattan to start a new church, in 1989, most people I met found the church and its ministry to be a curiosity in secular New York but not a threat. And, if they heard the word “evangelical” around the congregation, a name we seldom used, they usually asked what it meant.

You know what happened next. The word "evangelical" morphed into something else, something cultural and, yes, political. For some reason, Keller left mainstream journalism out of this mix.

The conservative leaders who have come to be most identified with the movement have largely driven this redefinition. But political pollsters have also helped, as they have sought to highlight a crucial voting bloc. When they survey people, there is no discussion of any theological beliefs, or other criteria.

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Major news events among Episcopalians and American Anglicans: Still worth covering?

Major news events among Episcopalians and American Anglicans: Still worth covering?

It’s been more than 10 years since the conservative portions of various Episcopal dioceses began the Great Split-Off. That is, they left dioceses -- some of which had been around since the 18th century -- to form a new entity, the Anglican Church in North America, that billed itself as the truest representation of Anglicanism on the North American continent.

This didn’t go over too well with The Episcopal Church (TEC), as you may imagine, and many were the lawsuits filed by TEC leaders to keep their property, most of which they won. I covered churches in northern Virginia that lost everything in this battle. One church lost property they had already bought on which to build a new sanctuary. Another church lost millions of dollars in property that dated back to colonial times.

This was a big, big story year after year -- receiving major coverage from many major newspapers and wire services.

Take, 2007 for example. I was able to cover one of the ACNA’s formative sessions in Pittsburgh in 2008 and their inaugural assembly in 2009 in Bedford, Texas. As the two sides have drifted further apart and the Episcopal Church has continued losing membership, the secular media has almost stopped covering this story. Religion News Service is the one exception.

This is a shame, in that there’s still news going on.

The conservative Anglican journalist David Virtue, who has followed this story since the beginning, chronicled what happened at a recent gathering at Wheaton College near Chicago.

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is planting one new church a week, Archbishop Foley Beach told delegates to the triennial gathering of some 1400 Anglicans, at Wheaton College, in the heartland of America's Bible belt. The ACNA also officially received The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina as the newest diocese with some 9,000 members -- the largest of 31 dioceses in the orthodox Anglican body. The diocese broke away from the Episcopal Church over the authority of Scripture and TEC's embrace of homosexuality and gay marriage in defiance of Lambeth resolution 1.10. ...

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