Written by R. Todd Mangum Friday, 17 June 2016 09:56

This has been a strange week of horrific tragedies in Orlando, Florida. As if to confirm the superstition that “bad things happen in threes,” first there was the senseless murder of Christian singer, Christina Grimmie, by a deranged stalker fan. No sooner had that news hit the airwaves when news arrived of an ISIS-affirming fanatic taking an assault rifle into a gay bar and killing 50 people in the worst mass shooting in American history. And then, Tuesday night (6/14), a bizarre tragedy struck a family on vacation at Disney World; out for movie night near a man-made lagoon, an alligator snatched and drowned their two-year-old boy; his body was just recovered, found 15-yards from the original attack.

Orlando Shooting

It is ironic that these events all happened at the very place where millions of dollars and scores of advertising specialists have been employed to brand it as “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Should this irony sober us? Sure. The wisdom of Jesus’ admonition in the Sermon on the Mount is made all the more poignant when we ponder the contrast between the artificial superficiality of Disney “happiness” with the cold, cruel reality that has erupted in its midst from just beneath the surface: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

We are wise, though, to not take a “Christian lesson” much beyond that. In other places, Jesus makes clear that it is foolish for any of us to think we are too smart, too righteous, or too special to be victimized by senseless tragedy (Luke 13:1-5). Unfortunately, in a day of instant global communication, we all are exposed to the moronic blaming of the victims that some people engage in when any tragedy strikes. Incredibly, in the wake of the alligator attack that took the life of the toddler, there are people whose first instinct is to chide the parents. Likewise, there are idiots whose first instinct is to question whether Christina Grimmie should have been so accessible to her fans. We surely can see the cruel stupidity of such thoughts, and the oblivious cluelessness of anyone voicing such thoughts publicly.

Are victims from a gay bar a different category of victimhood?

May I suggest that the place to go for sorting through any “mixed feelings” on this may be Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15)? The prodigal engaged in salacious activity when he wandered from home for sure. Had he been murdered during the time of his “wild living,” he would have not thereby been made more virtuous for his being a murder victim. (That may be worth mentioning, as some want to politicize this tragedy in the direction of confirming the righteousness of same-sex relationships; that, too, only adds confusion to the matter.) On the other hand, Jesus clearly demonstrates what the Christian attitude should be – what the attitude of God the Father is – towards the wandering prodigal: it is to hope and wish and pray for his safety and hope and wish and yearn and look for his coming home, safe and sound and in one piece.

It is the older brother in Jesus’ parable who gloats at the prodigal’s misfortune and who looks for the prodigal “to get what he has coming to him” and thinks other such . . . well, unchristian thoughts. And let us not miss the point of Luke 15: it is rebuke of the older brother’s attitude (which was the attitude of the Pharisees toward “sinners beneath them” at the time) that is the point of the parables of Luke 15.

In the three tragedies in Orlando this past week, what is the proper Christian response? Grief. Compassion. Mourning. Kindness. Extension of love, condolences, and comfort.

And, to tell the truth: I am not sure one has to be a missional Christian to recognize that basic Christian principle.

About the Author

Todd Mangum

Dr. R. Todd Mangum

Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean, Director of the ThM, and Professor of Theology at Biblical. He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention. Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and co-author (with Dr. Paul Pettit of the Howard Hendricks Leadership Center in Dallas, TX) of the just-released book, Blessed are the Balanced: Following Jesus into the Academy (Kregel) and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda, and they have three sons.

 

Written by Kyuboem Lee Tuesday, 02 February 2016 10:49

Christian Muslim God

“[Christians and Muslims] worship the same God.”

These words on a Facebook post by a Wheaton College professor, Larycia Hawkins, whose principal aim appears to have been a demonstration of solidarity with Muslims (by wearing a hijab during Advent) at a time when Muslims are increasingly being demonized in the US, have caused much uproar whose ripples have reached far outside the relatively small world of North American evangelicalism (see the latest issue of Time). Since then, Wheaton administration has recommended Dr. Hawkins’s employment be terminated, and Wheaton faculty council has asked the administration to withdraw its recommendation.

I have friends on both sides of this controversy, having graduated from Wheaton myself a few years ago, so I have personal and relational connections to this event, and like many others, I will be observing with concern and prayer as this story unfolds. But more broadly, as someone who is very much interested in the advance of Christ’s mission in the US, I see the Wheaton/Hawkins controversy as serving to highlight the urgent and vital need for Christians in the US to develop a deeper theology of religions, and of our engagement with other religions — in this case, Islam.

Missiologists have called this field of study “Elenctics,” and although it used to be of interest only to missionaries and academics operating “out there,” in the foreign mission fields, current events have shown us that the conceptual divide between foreign missions and home missions no longer holds. The missiologist J. H. Bavinck wrote The Church Between Temple and Mosque many years ago, drawing largely from his missionary experience in Indonesia. That church (between temple and mosque) exists now not only in Southeast Asia but also in the United States and Europe, former hearts of the late Christendom. If that church is going to be faithful to the mission of Christ, we had better get up to speed quickly. (side appeal: Eerdmans, if you are reading this, please bring this book back into print. We continue to learn from Bavinck’s insights for dealing with the challenges of today.)

   

Written by Philip Monroe Thursday, 24 December 2015 00:00

Recently, the seminary held a seminar entitled: From Protest to Process: Law Enforcement, Race, and Trauma--How Can the Church Become a Healing Community? It was a wonderful time of discussion among the panel of experts (including community leaders, law enforcement, and mental health representatives) about the problems making headlines across the country (think Ferguson, NYC, and now Charleston, SC). As you can imagine, there were many questions asked—so many we couldn’t get to them all. Thankfully, we had participants submit written questions and so we want to try to answer a few of those in this forum from time to time.

Consider these two questions:

My church is based in the suburbs of Philadelphia where racial tensions are better hidden. How can churches in suburbia or less racially diverse towns better participate in this justice and mercy ministry that is so critically important but just may not hit close to home?

How can churches removed from the urban setting (i.e., not predominantly African American) participate in the healing process?

I’d like to suggest the problem and solution falls into at least two different arenas: awareness/ownership of the problem and engagement towards solutions. Let’s take them one at a time.

   

Written by Philip Monroe Thursday, 17 December 2015 00:00

World On Fire

Recently I travelled to Amman, Jordan to meet with Christians involved in bringing Scripture-engaged trauma healing curriculum to their communities. Participants represented the countries of Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Iraq. Nearly all are involved in serving both Christian and Muslim refugees. Remember too that while Jordan is a stable country, it is a place where believers number no more than 2 percent of the population.

   

Written by Derek Cooper Tuesday, 15 December 2015 00:00

Islamic Prayer

In my last blog, I talked about my recently published book, Twenty Questions That Shaped World Christian History. Taking our cue from the way that Jesus taught his disciples, this book queries whether the story of world Christianity is best told followed by a series of question marks than by semicolons, periods, or, worse yet, exclamation marks. Out of an endless array of questions from which to choose, this book narrates the history of Christianity by responding to twenty key questions in the church’s past. Each chapter begins with a story that provokes one overarching question for discussion. The remaining chapter provides responses to each question from writers of that century, with a conclusion attempting to shed light on the possible outcomes to the question.

The question we are going to look at today is as relevant today as it was a thousand years ago. In fact, just recently, Liberty University’s President, Jerry Falwell Jr., encouraged students on his evangelical Christian campus “to end Muslims.” How is that possible? Was this how the Crusades began? Read below to find out.

   

Written by Derek Cooper Thursday, 03 December 2015 00:00

World On Fire

In my last blog, I talked about my recently published book, Twenty Questions That Shaped World Christian History. Taking our cue from the way that Jesus taught his disciples, this book queries whether the story of world Christianity is best told followed by a series of question marks than by semicolons, periods, or, worse yet, exclamation marks. Out of an endless array of questions from which to choose, this book narrates the history of Christianity by responding to twenty key questions in the church’s past. Each chapter begins with a story that provokes one overarching question for discussion. The remaining chapter provides responses to each question from writers of that century, with a conclusion attempting to shed light on the possible outcomes to the question.

The question we are going to look at today is one of the most peculiar theological questions ever asked: Who owns newly discovered land? The answer, you might be surprised to learn, were the newly united nations of Spain and Portugal, the superpowers of the Late Middle Ages. How is that possible? Read below to find out.

   

Written by Philip Monroe Tuesday, 01 December 2015 00:00

Not long ago Dr. Diane Langberg (clinical adjunct faculty at BTS) gave a twenty minute challenge to her audience about the dangers of confusing culture and Christendom with Christ. In her talk she explores the deception we fall into when we mistake Christendom as the church. When we do, we fall prey to blind guides and to the temptation to protect institutions over being the hands and feet of Christ to the vulnerable. We fall prey to seeking power (or maintaining it) over speaking and being truth.

And for those who are not tempted to mistake Christendom for Christ, another danger exists. It is easy to become jaded with the church and want to abandon her as unhealthy. We can trust in our shrewd critique of the wrong things within the church. Yet, she calls us not to be toxic or arrogant. That will not serve the church well.

Watch the video and post your thoughts below

   

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Written on 17 June 2016 - by R. Todd Mangum
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