How much has Arizona wet its appetite for precipitation?
March 16, 2019
National Weather Service cites sharp turnaround in precipitation throughout state.
Powerful U.S. storm impacts supply, prompting urgent call for blood donors
March 16, 2019
Blood donors needed in Phoenix area
The Anvil of the Evangelical Mind
March 16, 2019
Schools and scholars can help the Christ-centered movement become all the more Jesusy.
Historian Mark Noll’s prophetic call in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind launched a thousand more laments about the shallowness of evangelical scholarship and thinking.
The judgment remains accurate as far as it goes. American evangelical Christians are American Christians, and Americans have never valued the life of the mind as much as they might. But where Noll’s 1994 volume lamented the dearth of intellectual commitment among evangelicals, he now wonders if there is much evangelical thinking among the evangelicals committed to the life of the mind.
In a recent lecture, he said that institutions like Christianity Today and Wheaton College, among others, “sustain Christian seriousness about intellectual life.” He went on to say, however, that among the high level of evangelical learning on display among leading educational institutions and publications, “not much of it seems particularly ‘evangelical,’” but displays learning that draws on broadly Christian sources, like Reformed Protestantism or Roman Catholicism.
“That work is often obviously Christian, but with incredible variety, reflecting a huge mélange of influences,” he said. “For tracing broad trajectories of historical development, the word evangelical is probably still useful. But for contemporary evangelical effort, not so much.”
At the same conference at which Noll spoke, James K. A. Smith of Calvin College went on to argue that evangelical scholars should abandon the attempt to discover and explore the evangelical mind as such, but instead to draw on these broadly Christian resources to shore up their intellectual efforts.
I basically agree with Smith—that is, I believe Christian …
Court Overturns Atheist Victory Against Pastors’ Best Benefit
March 16, 2019
Seventh Circuit rules Clergy Housing Allowance is constitutional, despite challenge by Freedom from Religion Foundation.
For the second time, a popular tax break for pastors has been judged permissible under the US Constitution, despite efforts by an atheist legal group to prove otherwise.
Today the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s 2017 ruling that the Clergy Housing Allowance violates the First Amendment.
Offered only to “ministers of the gospel,” the 60-year-old tax break excludes the rental value of a home from the taxable income of US clergy, CT previously reported. GuideStone Financial Resources has called it the “most important tax benefit available to ministers.”
The allowance is currently claimed to the tune of $700 million a year, according to the latest estimate by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.
The October 2017 decision by Wisconsin district judge Judge Barbara Crabb had been a victory for the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), which “jeopardized the benefit for clergy in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin … and many predicted similar consequences nationwide,” wrote CT’s sister publication, Church Law & Tax (CLT) in an analysis.
In today’s ruling, a panel of three judges again refuted the claims of FFRF attorneys, deciding that the allowance passes muster according to two related Supreme Court rulings, Town of Greece v. Galloway and Lemon v. Kurtzman.
“FFRF claims Section 107(2) renders unto God that which is Caesar’s,” wrote circuit judge Michael Brennan. “But this tax provision falls into the play between the joints of the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause: neither commanded by the former, nor proscribed by the latter.”
The FFRF told the Associated Press it is reviewing its options. …
The Disturbing Temptations of Pastoring in Obscurity
March 14, 2019
Leaving the limelight didn’t heal my pride; it only disguised it.
Gregory the Great, so tradition tells us, was a reluctant pope. Well-educated and from a wealthy family, Gregory experienced inner tension between his longing for the contemplative life and his sense of calling toward secular responsibilities. After converting to the monastic life and transforming his house into a monastery—the happiest years of his life—Gregory often was called into service of the church in public ways, including serving as Pope Pelagius II’s legate to Constantinople. When troubles gathered around Rome, Gregory was called from his monastic life to the city to help. Soon afterward, Pope Pelagius died of the plague sweeping through Rome at that time, and Gregory was elected to succeed him. Gregory tried to refuse the office, preferring his monastic life, but once elected, he accepted his duties faithfully and worked hard to serve God in his new position. The best leaders, according to the old proverb, are reluctant leaders.
Of course, as my own story shows, reluctance is not an inherently laudable trait.
My calling into pastoral ministry came when I was in high school, in a small Presbyterian church in the Mississippi River Valley of western Illinois. I hoped to be a music minister of some sort, though I wasn’t sure if churches hired people to do that. Following my internal inclinations and external affirmations toward pastoral ministry, I studied at a Christian college where my eyes were opened to some of the great ministry leaders of that time: Billy Graham, John Stott, Dallas Willard, John Piper, Elisabeth Elliott. Many of them spoke at my college. I prayed, God, use me however you want—even like these great women and men. I didn’t want to be a big deal in peoples’ …
Power and Pastors: Part 1
March 14, 2019
Recovering A Biblical Understanding of Power
The Billy Graham Center recently hosted a conversation at the GC2 Summit about sexual assault and abuse, harassment, legal issues, consent, responses to abuse, the important role of governmental authorities, the rule of law, and additional topics vital and urgent to discuss in today’s culture. Church leaders—women in particular—are gaining a prophetic platform to call out injustices and abuses, both inside and outside the church, that have long been ignored, covered up, and even accepted.
During the conversation, I had the opportunity to address the summit about the proper use and the abuse of power in the church. Now, I want to take a deeper dive into the concept of power. In this first article, I want to help church leaders recover a biblical understanding of power by discussing the subtlety, scope, and stewardship of power.
The subtlety of power
Power is all around us, and in fact, it is within us. Yet, when it comes to the general public, both inside and outside the church, people don’t typically think of power as something they possess. People tend to think of power as holding a particular position (politically or organizationally), standing on a certain platform, having prosperity, or being popular.
In To Change the World, James Hunter notes that the concept of power is closely associated with the roles of elites in society. Power, therefore, is more associated with who a person is or what he or she has acquired—especially in relation to others.
However, according to Andy Crouch, power—in its simplest definition—is, “The ability to make something of the world.”
Couple this definition with the theology of the imago Dei and the creation mandate, and you arrive at the conclusion …
Developer behind Mountain Shadows and Montelucia resorts charged in college bribery case
March 14, 2019
Robert Flaxman, founder and CEO of Crown Realty & Development, is accused by the Justice Department of mail fraud charges in the national case.
Man arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after attacking girlfriend, neighbor in Cottonwood
March 14, 2019
The neighbor’s 10-year-old son threw rocks at the man in an effort to stop the attack on his mom.
Richard Mouw Wrestles with Evangelicalism, Past and Present
March 13, 2019
Reading his book is like enjoying a cup of tea with a wise elder statesman.
Among my favorite books is Catholic activist Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness. When asked why, I often reply, “Because it’s like enjoying a cup of tea with a wise older woman who lived an astoundingly courageous life and led some of the most important movements of her generation.” Day’s book is conversational in tone and might mention names or historical events I don’t recognize. But I tolerate these quirks—in fact, I find them delightful—because I know she has something to teach me.
Richard Mouw’s Restless Faith: Holding Evangelical Beliefs in a World of Contested Labels has a similar appeal. The book wrestles with questions of identity: What is this ever-changing movement called “evangelicalism?” How do we deal with conflict over the meaning of this term and over the direction of the movement itself? And should we even use the “E-word” anymore? As an elder statesman of Reformed evangelicalism, Mouw engages these questions (and others) through stories and reflections from a lifetime of ministry.
He discusses topics as wide-ranging as contextualization and the doctrine of sin, church unity (and disunity), and the importance of mystery, even including a whole chapter on hymnody. But, like tea with an older saint, moments that at first seem like digressions are often where treasure is found, and they all wind back to the book’s main theme: why Mouw remains an evangelical, by name and belief—and why he is “restless” about it.
Though not a memoir, the book walks through Mouw’s own story. As a brainy kid, Mouw found in evangelicalism a nourishing tradition of Christian scholarship that rescued him from fundamentalist anti-intellectualism. …
Why Augustine’s ‘Come to Jesus’ Moment Tells an Incomplete Story
March 13, 2019
The same church father who experienced a radical turn to faith also preached a gospel of continual conversion.
My parents bought me my first copy of Augustine’s Confessions when I was a young teen. In this classic of the Western literary canon, the church father Augustine describes his sometimes wayward youth, his eventual conversion to Christ, and how God transformed his way of seeing the world. The book has captured the imagination of countless spiritual and intellectual seekers and shaped the ethos of entire literary, theological, and cultural traditions. But I did not take up and read. While most other books my parents recommended made it to my nightstand, this one sat on my shelf and collected dust. It stayed there through high school, through college, and as I took my first full-time job. I knew a little about this fourth- and fifth-century titan of the Christian tradition but not enough to tempt me to read him for myself.
Truth be told, despite now having devoted years of my life to the study of Augustine, I have never enjoyed the easy familiarity with Confessions that so many people talk about. “This could have been the story of my teenage years; I know just how he felt here,” I have heard umpteen times.
To me, Augustine’s specific temptations and preoccupations seem as foreign as the geographical, cultural, and philosophical worlds he inhabited. And the climax of the entire narrative—his dramatic conversion—is something the likes of which I have never experienced myself. Only after years have I come to see Augustine’s story as in some sense “mine,” and this understanding has been hard-won by listening to master interpreters and squinting through the lens of scholarly analysis.
Whereas most people know Augustine through Confessions, I most identify with him through his …