3 - "The Elephant Room" Round 2 unites, divides evangelical leaders
I think this event needs to be included in our top 3 for the week not only because of the high-profile Christian leaders it attracted and the attention it has received, but also because of the challenge it presents to each of us as Christians to evaluate what we believe and the doctrines that the Bible teachers we listen to believe, as well. We recognize that as believers in Christ, we will have our differences, and it can be informative and even challenging to us as we engage in discussion about what we believe. I have stated before that it's important that each of us develops a "personal theology", so that we can not only know what our foundational beliefs are, but be prepared to express them, even to people that don't know Christ.
In the spirit of exploring some of these theological issues that the enemy could us to divide us as Christians, James MacDonald (heard weekdays at 2pm on Faith Radio) and Mark Driscoll (recent guest on FamilyLife Today) developed this concept called, "The Elephant Room", touting discussions that you might not ordinarily hear about a variety of issues that could be considered controversial - i.e., the proverbial "elephant in the room". It would be the hope that from these discussions of issues that could divide us, that we approach differently, perhaps we could gain a greater sense of unity and understanding.
Round 1 of The Elephant Room last year included: Matt Chandler, Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, Greg Laurie, and David Platt, in addition to the hosts. This year, for Round 2, the guests were Furtick, again, as well as Jack Graham, Crawford Loritts, Wayne Cordeiro, and...T.D. Jakes. And, it is the invitation of Bro. Jakes that has raised the most attention. Members of The Gospel Coalition, a group of mainly Reformed pastors who blog regularly and challenge Christians to adhere to the basics of the faith, expressed concern, primarily because of Jakes' background in the so-called "oneness' doctrine, which teaches that God in fact is not the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - they called on MacDonald to dis-invite the bishop, but he refused. As Mark Driscoll questioned Jakes on his current teaching and beliefs, the bishop affirmed his adherence to the doctrine of the Trinity. But, there was such a concern over this invitation that James MacDonald actually pulled out of the Gospel Coalition, of which he was a co-founder.
Here is some insight from Christianity Today.
And, from The Gospel Coalition website, LifeWay's Trevin Wax shares these thoughts.
Wax, in fact, wrote these 4 observations about the latest "round":
1. It is good to celebrate minimal agreement on fundamental doctrines, but even better to pursue a robust affirmation of biblical teaching.
2. It is good to celebrate an affirmation of orthodoxy, but even better to affirm the celebration of orthodoxy.
3. It is good to come together in love, but even better when that love leads us sharpen one another in truth.
4. It is good to recognize that we all have errors that need correcting, but even better to pursue the correction of those errors.
In the process of his analysis, he draws a distinction between TER and TGC:
The Elephant Room aligns more with the ethos of contemporary evangelicalism (public platform-sharing with anyone who confesses Christ). The Gospel Coalition aligns more with the ethos of confessional evangelicalism (public platform-sharing with those who share a common theological vision of ministry).He went on to write:
In the end, I admire James MacDonald’s intention to bring about more civil discourse between believers. We need charity and clarity. But civility is not a love-fest. We will disagree – strongly at times. Why? Because theology matters. The stakes are high. Bad theology hurts people...
So when we engage in conflict, let’s make sure it is out of love for the truth, love for Jesus, love for one another, and love for the people we shepherd. Sometimes we may even stand against a brother on a certain issue, but even when we take an adversarial stance, it ought always to be for the good of that brother and the glory of King Jesus. Let’s take the goal of The Elephant Room seriously and be people who are full of grace and truth.I think something instructive for us is that we should feel comfortable discussing our deeply-held beliefs with those with whom we disagree - it's good to confront the "elephants in the room", and if we do so promote understanding (the "grace" part) and a relentless pursuit of sound Biblical doctrine (the "truth"), we can all benefit.
2 - Court affirms graduate students First Amendment rights
On Friday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a ruling, finding that the First Amendment free speech rights of a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University could have been violated when the school expelled her from the counseling program in which she was enrolled.
Here is the background story on the case from CitizenLink:
Apparently, faculty members who conducted disciplinary hearings had lectured her about her "brand" of Christianity, and she was told that she could only continue earning her degree if she agreed to go through a “remediation” program to change her thinking.
In her graduate-level practicum in 2009, Julea Ward was assigned a client seeking help in reconciling her same-sex relationship in 2009. Ward, who is a Christian, didn’t feel she’d be the best counselor for that case, so she asked her supervisor how to handle it — and her supervisor referred the client to another qualified professional, a standard counseling practice. But afterward, EMU started disciplinary proceedings against her, and ultimately expelled her from the program because of her religious beliefs.
In overturning the lower court’s pre-trial ruling in favor of the university, the 6th Circuit said today that schools cannot force students to violate their religious beliefs, and sent the case back to the lower court for a trial.
The court said that was unconstitutional. It said:
"Why treat Ward differently? That her conflict arose from religious convictions is not a good answer; that her conflict arose from religious convictions for which the department at times showed little tolerance is a worse answer...A university cannot compel a student to alter or violate her belief systems based on a phantom policy as the price for obtaining a degree.”A great line from the court: "tolerance is a two-way street"!
So, the 6th Circuit registers a victory for religious expression - the same lower court that ruled in favor of the university will now have to put this case on trial, and the ruling it made prior to a trial has been set aside. Here is another instance where academicians, acting according to their own version of so-called "tolerance", have mistreated yet another Christian student because of her religious beliefs, which they regard as misguided and wrong. But, when you seek to exclude someone's deeply held beliefs from the conduct of their academic work in the name of tolerance, you end up demonstrating intolerance and disrespect, and acting unconstitutionally toward the practice of someone's faith. And, unfortunately, we see this all too often with regard to Christianity - from which the principles upon which this nation was founded were derived.
This past Monday, the annual March for Life took place in Washington, DC - in fact, events had been celebrated throughout the country during the preceding weekend. The numbers that are being reported are staggering - between 400 and 500 thousand people came out to stand in solidarity for unborn children whose lives have been and continue to be taken. The energy of people, especially young people who are trending pro-life, in encouraging and contagious. Some 2000 students participated in the Students for Life event on Sunday, and the annual Family Research Council's ProLifeCon attracted high profile speakers to participate in a webcast.
The main event, on the National Mall, featured member of Congress and a number of pro-life advocates who shared their perspective on the sanctity of life. To give some flavor about the March for Life, and surrounding events, check out this digest from LifeSiteNews.com.
But, the story went largely uncovered in the national media, as The Christian Post highlighted in this article, which includes this analysis from Kristi Hamrick of Americans United for Life:
(Hamrick) told The Christian Post that "there has been a dwindling in the coverage" of these pro-life rallies.Much the same could be said of the coverage of the San Francisco West Coast Walk for Life, which had over 40,000 in attendance, according to press reports. The co-chair of that event said the coverage consisted of one TV story, one radio segment, and a photo and two sentences in the San Francisco Chronicle. By contrast, she said, "In the past 90 days they have published 415 articles on Occupy Wall Street movement." The media may not be carrying the pro-life message of these events, but the participants certainly are...as they come together with like-minded individuals and groups, they are able to go back in to their communities and affirm the sanctity of life, being equipped and motivated to communicate on a grassroots level.
She keeps tabs on the coverage for AUL and said this year "AP barely mentioned what was going on and had a picture of three pro-abortion supporters in their story." She also said The New York Times had no coverage of it except to say that Rand Paul was arrested at the airport on his way to speak at the March for Life.
Hamrick also noted that CBS news did a photo montage of the Washington, D.C., event and, of the 14 pictures posted, half were of the small number of pro-abortion protesters near the march.