CT Blog

Of Old Testament Haircuts and New Testament Head Coverings

How Scripture records God consistently defending the humanity and dignity of women against sexual violence and exploitation.

Are women human? Dorothy Sayers asked the question in a series of essays published in the early 20th century. For many today, it seems absurd—of course women are human! Yet sub-human treatment of women has endured throughout history, from wife-selling practices in the 18th and 19th centuries to customs today in some parts of Nepal that banish menstruating women to outdoor sheds and expose them to elements that seem harsh for even animals. Any student of history knows that Sayers’s question was relevant for multiple cultures throughout history and remains so for many cultures today.

“So God created mankind in his own image . . . male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).

The opening pages of the Bible teach that woman was created in God’s image (the crucial dividing line between mankind and beast). But after the fall of man, the history of God’s people gives us much to scrutinize on this question. The exploitation of Hagar in Genesis 16 and the rapes of Dinah in Genesis 34 and an unnamed concubine in Judges 19 offer snapshots of a fallen humanity that regularly views women as expendable sexual objects.

God caused such sexual violence to be recorded in Scripture, not to glorify the acts but to show the stark condition of mankind apart from God. Judges in particular tells us that its stories reflect people doing “what was right in their own eyes,” in contrast to what was right according to God’s Law (21:25, NRSV). God did not allow his people to ignore their sinfulness, and he never downplayed its harmful consequences for the most vulnerable in society.

The Bible is also clear: God hates inhumane treatment of women. Survivors of sexual violence can know that God sees their ...

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‘It’ Is Big-Budget Horror with a Surprising Amount of Heart

The latest Stephen King adaptation’s success has more to do with the friendship it celebrates than the scares it delivers. 

An R-rated film about a demonic shape-shifter that satisfies its appetite for children by taking on the guise of a clown just became Hollywood’s highest grossing horror debut.

Hauling in over $123 million on its opening weekend, Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of Stephen King’s sprawling novel It—one of numerous recent King adaptations—proves yet again that contemporary literature’s most recognizable purveyor of the macabre is also one of Hollywood’s most bankable storytellers.

Ironically, if you tend to put a lot of stock in review aggregator sites like Rotten Tomatoes, this scary movie seems to be a very safe bet. Apparently, the widespread fear of clowns hasn’t quelled the enthusiasm of audiences around the nation. Since plenty of Christians consider the horror genre to be anything but safe, though, some initial questions are in order.

When it comes to horror films, the question “Is it scary?” often precedes the traditional “Is it good?” Of course, many seasoned horror buffs will balk at that distinction and simply conflate the two: A good horror film is a scary horror film. The reason that movies like Insidious and The Conjuring keep spawning sequels and spinoffs is because they continue to make our flesh creep.

Press a little deeper, though, and you quickly find that horror isn’t such a simple category after all. Even those who strenuously avoid the genre’s darkened corridors on general principle will recognize a world of difference between M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense and the Saw franchise. For better or for worse, fear is clearly not horror’s only calling card, and while it’s true that plenty of horror fans are lured ...

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The Cautionary Tale of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker

Their sins and scandals were extreme, but it’s too easy to dismiss them as an aberration.

The apostle Paul considered himself the “chief of sinners,” but then again, he never met Jim Bakker.

The latter’s ministry got off to an innocent enough start. Jim and his wife, Tammy Faye, were young, no-name, itinerant Pentecostal evangelists when a puppet show they had developed for children garnered the attention of pioneering televangelist Pat Robertson. Robertson took a chance on the entrepreneurial couple, and they made the most of it, breaking out on their own and developing a signature Christian television talk show program, originally known as The PTL Club (the letters stood for “Praise the Lord”), that endeared them to millions of viewers across the country and world.

The Bakkers hailed from hardscrabble backgrounds. But in the late 1970s and early 1980s they built a Christian entertainment empire that won accolades from the likes of Billy Graham, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan. Until—as historian John Wigger declares in his riveting new book, PTL: The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Evangelical Empire—“it all fell apart.”

Sex and Greed

Drawing on a wide range of interviews, newspaper reports, and court documents, Wigger expertly documents the larger-than-life transgressions that eventually brought the Bakkers and PTL tumbling down. Where to begin a summary accounting? Perhaps with the sex? Jim Bakker’s December 1980 encounter with a young woman named Jessica Hahn in a Florida hotel room—one which she describes to this day as non-consensual, though she prefers not to call it rape—would prove central to his and PTL’s undoing. But as Wigger shows, it was just the tip of the iceberg. Throughout Bakker’s time at the ...

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Go Where The Humans Are: What One Movement’s Small Town Task Force Has Learned So Far

If there are humans in small towns, then they need churches.

“Is Vineyard committed to planting churches in small town America?” Five years later, I still can’t believe I asked the question. It was directed to Michael Gatlin, national coordinator of Multiply Vineyard, Vineyard’s church planting arm. The occasion was the Q&A session at our first Small Town USA conference. We had only met once before this conference. I braced for his answer and he answered in classic Gatlin style: “I thought we were supposed to go where the humans are. If there are humans in small towns, then they need churches. And if there are humans in metro areas, then we need to plant there.”

Go where the humans are. That answer has propelled us these past five years. So what have we learned?

Planters are hungry for someone to talk about small town planting.

Over the past five years, the Small Town USA team has written scores of blog articles, produced 4-6 webinars annually, and led seminars in places as diverse as Mechanic Falls, Maine; Tomahawk, Wisconsin; and San Luis Obispo, California. We’ve hosted two national conferences. While attendance has been modest (75-100), we’ve been amazed that people flew from places like Colorado and drove from places like Minnesota and Missouri just to attend a conference in Ohio dedicated to planting in small towns. We’ve had at least 11 states represented at these events.

The conversation around small town planting took off enough in our movement that one concerned leader asked if Vineyard still cared about planting in large cities. Of course we do! Remember we “go where the humans are.” But so much of the church multiplication discussion has been from the large church and large city perspective (we’re ...

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When Disasters Bring Out the Best in Our Gospel Witness

Start each week with this encouragement to show and share the love of Jesus.

Episode 32: When Disasters Bring Out the Best in Our Gospel Witness

Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center, talks about the role of people of faith during times of natural disasters. In this moment of need, we can speak into their hurts and lend a helping hand. We can also share the hope we have in Jesus and how He is the one who restores and renews all things.

Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.

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Has Christian Psychology Lost Its Place at Southern Seminary?

President Albert Mohler speaks to CT about the controversy over a longtime professor’s departure.

Eric Johnson is a leading Christian psychology professor and a 17-year veteran at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Students praise his compassion; fellow psychologists, his scholarship; colleagues, his faith.

And many of them are confused why he apparently no longer has a job.

Johnson announced at an event earlier this month what he had already told friends in private: He would be leaving the Louisville, Kentucky, seminary at the end of the semester in December. They were shocked to hear his plans to retire, especially when the news came just weeks into his first semester back from a year-long sabbatical and amid the release of a new book.

Johnson was the sole proponent of Christian psychology—a counseling approach that draws distinctly Christian practices from the history and traditions of the faith—in a faculty focused on biblical counseling, which emphasizes the sufficiency of Scripture to shape counseling ministry.

As an online petition in his defense added signatories by the dozens, the seminary kept the details on Johnson’s status hush.

“One of the frustrations of being president is at any moment there are questions, for good policy and structural reasons, I cannot answer,” said Albert Mohler on Thursday night, in his first interview about the situation.

The Southern Seminary president declined to make any comment on Johnson’s employment, but repeated what he said in a meeting the day before: “I have tremendous respect for Dr. Eric Johnson. What I said to the faculty in private, I will say to you in public: I have no reason to doubt his character, his commitment to Christ, or his sincerity in signing our theological documents.”

Mohler’s assurances haven’t helped ...

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Six Ways to Inspire Confident, Contagious Faith in Your Kids

How do we help children and teens contend with the big questions? An apologist offers her take.

Last year in an interview with CT, first-time Olympian and gold medalist swimmer Maya DiRado reported that when she started “questioning [her] beliefs as a teenager,” her Christian parents “were supportive.” She went on to say that “through some investigating and lots of reading and talking with mentors, I came to know and follow Christ and make my faith my own.”

According to William Wilberforce, “authentic faith cannot be inherited,” which means we have to help our kids grow into full ownership of their faith in the same way that DiRado’s parents did. As our kids grow up in a post-Christian age, we need to help them understand what we believe and also the excellent reasons we have for those beliefs.

It’s not a question of if our children’s views will be challenged, but when. My kids both encountered objections from non-Christian peers before the age of 10, and they’re both homeschooled. I’m hearing from public-schooling families that kids tend to start talking to each other about religious beliefs somewhere between third and fifth grade. How should they respond when they encounter a skeptic who thinks the Bible is a collection of legends and fables? That the exclusivity of Christianity is intolerant? That Jesus never existed? Or that modern science has disproven Christianity once and for all? (Incidentally, my nine-year-old son heard one of these from a friend less than two weeks ago.)

1 Peter 3:15 says to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Per this command from the apostle Peter, apologetics—which comes from the ...

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One-on-One with Jamie Aten on the New MA in Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership Program at Wheaton College

New master's degree seeks to prepare the next generation of humanitarian and disaster professionals.

After much planning and preparation, Wheaton College has just launched the first-of-its-kind MA in Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership Program. I recently chatted with Dr. Jamie Aten, founder and executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute, about the program.

Ed: Tell me about the MA in Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership program that the Humanitarian Disaster Institute just launched at Wheaton College Graduate School.

Jamie: The new MA in Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership will help prepare the next generation of humanitarian and disaster professionals to lead with faith and humility, utilize evidence-based practice, and serve the most vulnerable and the Church globally.

Ed: Why would someone pursue an MA in Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership?

Jamie: Disasters and humanitarian crises have been on the rise. Yet few Christian leaders are prepared to effectively and holistically meet the needs left behind in the wake of such catastrophes. We believe disasters and humanitarian crises are biblical justice issues and that Christians have a responsibility to prepare and care; our program is designed to help them do this vocationally.

There is a desperate need for more Christians who are well-equipped to navigate the complexities of humanitarian and disaster aid and to do so with faith and compassion. We built this program to create global servant leaders who live out the call of Micah 6:8 to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly into the most pressing needs in our world today.

Ed: What makes this program unique?

Jamie: We are excited to prepare the next generation of leaders not just in industry best practices and cutting-edge research, but also in a solid biblical foundation that grounds this work in our ...

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Ravi Zacharias Remembers His Young Protégé, Nabeel Qureshi

The late apologist's mentor and “uncle” says his lightning-bright legacy will live on.

The first time I saw Nabeel Qureshi, he sat at a table across from me, his one leg constantly moving almost subconsciously, warming up for a run. It was a habit of his restless disposition.

That was Nabeel in true expression; he hated sitting still. He was a man with a mission, ready to run. Sadly, for us, he finished his race all too soon and our hearts are broken at the loss of one who ran with spectacular passion to do what filled his soul.

He was a thorough-going evangelical. He held dear the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Old and New Testaments and carried the message of salvation. Jesus’ grace for a transformed heart was his message.

For years as a young man, he labored and struggled to gain “righteousness before God” only to find out that righteousness was already met in the cross through Jesus Christ. That was his message in his best-selling book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.

Qureshi was not just an evangelical; he was passionately evangelistic. He desired to cover the globe with the good news that God’s forgiveness was available to all. I have seldom seen a man with such deep conviction and proportionate passion and gifting. When he spoke, he held audiences spellbound.

I invited him to join our team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) four and a half years ago. He placed one condition, and I placed one condition. His condition was that after he joined, he’d travel with me for one year, to observe and learn. I asked that after the year, he’d go to Oxford. I wanted him to complete his doctorate to be better prepared to answer the toughest questions a Christian apologist faces—and to do it with gentleness, respect, and learning. He agreed.

He called me “uncle.” ...

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Missions Sunday: Enhancing Character Development through Soul Care (Part Two)

Soul Care is a lifestyle of regular, ongoing, non-crisis activity that promotes growth and development of the whole person into maturity.

Read Part One (The Importance of Character and Character Development; Understanding Soul Care; Setting the Scene for Soul Care—What Leadership Must Think About).

Three Approaches to Building a Soul Care Movement

The end goal of establishing a Soul Care movement is to shape the mission’s culture by establishing a community of like-minded people who are committed to a life-long pursuit of Christ-likeness. Supported by colleagues, missionaries within the movement strive to continually learn and grow and mentor others toward maturity, independent of coaxing or incentives from outside sources.

Three different approaches to launch movements, each representing different levels of intentionality, have been observed.

First, as part of its ongoing professional development program, one agency offers Soul Care training to regional and local mission leaders via a series of INTERACTIVE WEBINARS. This strategy first asks leaders to put Soul Care into practice and then disseminate the principles to the missionaries under their charge. This approach has both economic and logistical advantages. Furthermore, modeling of the Soul Care lifestyle piques interest and motivates members to learn and practice the principles.

A second and more intentional approach involves an organizational STRUCTURE CHANGE. By dividing the membership into teams consisting of at least three missionary units each, another agency asks teams to form goals which center on building community and promoting personal growth. Team leaders meet annually for training, and work plans require establishing personal goals reflecting Soul Care values. Changes in organizational structure can be hard to implement, but the advantage is the entire membership is regularly challenged ...

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Died: Nabeel Qureshi, Author of ‘Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus’

Popular apologist’s year-long battle with stomach cancer has ended.

Popular evangelist Nabeel Qureshi, who once sought Allah, has now found Jesus face to face. He died Saturday of stomach cancer.

The 34-year-old convert from Islam was an itinerant speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) until his diagnosis last summer. He spent months in aggressive treatment, including the removal of his stomach, all the while praying for a miracle to heal him.

In a September 8 video, the last one posted before his death, Qureshi announced that doctors had “given up” on treating him and put him on palliative care.

“If there’s something I’m wrestling with through all this, it’s ‘Where does my faith need to be?’ vs. ‘I, as a believer, am a real person. Where can I actually find my faith?’” he said.

“In other words, do I need to perform? Do I need to say, ‘I’m going to have this level of faith right now.’ Honestly, I don’t think so. I think God understands where I am right now and he comes alongside us in that and he loves us and gives us the strength.”

Qureshi had been receiving treatment at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where his home faced floods during Hurricane Harvey weeks before.

He was raised in a Pakistani-American Ahmadi Muslim family and came to faith reading the Bible to debate a medical school friend. He shared his testimony in his book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, and in a 2014 issue of Christianity Today.

The God of the Bible “reached me through investigations, dreams, and visions, and called me to prayer in my suffering,” he said. “It was there that I found Jesus. To follow him is worth giving up everything.”

Ravi Zacharias and his team met with ...

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