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Christianity Today Magazine
News and analysis from the world's leading Christian magazine.

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The Future of the Church Is Analog, Not Digital

New communications technology lets us preach to millions. It's time to unplug most of it.

‘It is time,” the founder of this magazine once said, “for the church to use technology to make a statement that in the midst of chaos, emptiness, and despair, there is hope in the person of Jesus Christ.” It was classic Billy Graham, who was born two years after the invention of the condenser microphone. There was no technology he didn’t find of use in his evangelistic efforts. The Hour of Decision radio show immediately became one of the country’s most popular. He created a television version and a film production company in 1951, when most conservative Christians were still skeptical of both media. His 1954 London crusade experimented with relay transmissions to hundreds of venues across Britain. Four decades later, he was similarly testing the limits of satellite broadcasts.

This magazine, too, is a result of Graham’s passion to bend every possible communications medium toward that “statement of hope.” In the mid-1950s, magazines like Life and The Saturday Evening Post literally cast a vision for what it meant to be an upwardly mobile American. Newspapers had long relayed the important events of the day (Graham has been there too; his “My Answer” column still appears today). Television was just starting to come onto the scene. Magazines were where the country went to talk about itself, and the 1950s saw a boom of launches of idea-driven magazines, from the hedonism of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy to the conservatism of William F. Buckley’s National Review. Like Life, liberal Protestant magazine The Christian Century was much older, but its influence was broad. “While its circulation is small, its influence is tremendous,” Graham lamented ...

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Azerbaijan's Ambiguous Bible Breakthrough

After 20-year struggle, will new Bible society even be allowed to print Bibles?

A restrictive majority-Muslim country is getting good news—or rather, the Good News.

The recent registration of a Bible Society in Azerbaijan, after a 20-year fight, has brought fresh optimism to the country’s minority Christians. But there remains some confusion about the types of books it will be allowed to print, with even Bibles potentially falling foul of the country’s strict regulations.

Terje Hartberg from United Bible Societies called it “a great development, which will start a new chapter in Bible ministry for all Christians in Azerbaijan.”

However, all literature either printed or imported by the Bible Society will remain subject to approval by the government. Every publication is labeled with an official sticker, and distribution is only allowed at state-approved venues.

Those who distribute any religious literature outside these strict limitations face administrative or criminal punishment, reports Forum 18, a news agency focused on religious freedom in Central Asia.

The Old Testament and Hebrew Bible, meanwhile, remain on the list of banned books. Texts from these parts of the Bible have been confiscated in police raids, according to Forum 18.

Asked whether the prohibition of the Old Testament in effect bans the Bible too, Forum 18’s Felix Corley told World Watch Monitor by email: “Well, you can't publish, print, import, or distribute any religious publication without prior permission from the State Committee, which will also set numbers allowed. So nothing is approved until it is approved.

“Then it can only be distributed in a state-approved venue with a sticker from the State Committee. It appears these stickers have not been available since April. As for the Old ...

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Red Tape: China Wants to Constrict Christian Activities with 26 New Rules

Both official and house churches now face bigger threat than cross removal campaign.

This week is the last chance Chinese Christians have to tell their government what they think of its latest religion law.

They have an awful lot to comment on.

China released a draft of new religious restrictions in September, including the prohibition of online religious services, running religious events in schools, and organizing people to leave the country to attend religious training or conferences.

The State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) then opened up a one-month window for responses to the 26 new rules in its Regulations on Religious Affairs. The final day for public response is Friday, October 7.

The draft law opens with the assurance that all Chinese citizens are free to believe whatever they want and to engage in religious activity—as long as it’s within the tighter limits. One Chinese religious policy expert, who asked to remain anonymous, summed up some of what the regulations include:

  • No religious activities that are not approved by SARA.
  • No one may provide a venue for religious services that are not approved by SARA.
  • No one may use their home for religious practices that are not approved by SARA (including home or family Bible studies).
  • No publishing religious materials without approval from SARA.
  • No foreign or domestic donations may be made to any religious organization that hasn’t been approved by SARA.
  • No one may call themselves a pastor without the approval of SARA.
  • No international religious exchanges may happen without the approval of SARA.
  • No one may study theology at school without the approval of SARA.

“As you can imagine, these amendments to the administration of religion in China by SARA would in effect leave no space for the house or unregistered church in China, and will ...

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News: Now Kazakhstan Christians Can Prove Their Faith Isn't Foreign

Archaeologists discover that Christianity existed along Silk Road long before the Russians arrived.

A team of archaeologists uncovered seven Christian gravestones late this summer in the ancient Silk Road city of Ilyn Balik near the Kazakhstan-China border.

The historic find is rare archaeological evidence that eastern Christianity was established along East-West trading routes hundreds of years ago, not brought in by the Russian Orthodox Church as many had believed.

“This discovery supports the understanding of ancient Kazakhstan as a multicultural center between the East and West with Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians living among the local herdsmen and nomadic tribes,” stated Thomas Davis, a member of the field team and archaeology professor at the Tandy Institute for Archeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) in Fort Worth, Texas.

“[It] reinforces so much of what we already knew about the church of the East in central and eastern Asia,” said Philip Jenkins, author of The Lost History of Christianity.

“It is strange to think that at the time those places flourished, they might have been on the same scale as the famous Christian cities of Europe,” the Baylor University history professor told CT. “There is nothing new in the world except the history we have forgotten.”

Kazakh evangelicals hailed the discovery. “Nobody can tell me that I don’t have Christian roots,” one believer told the Tandy Institute.

“It proves that Christianity was present here in Kazakhstan before Islam,” said a prominent Kazakh pastor who requested anonymity.

“It is a door opening for evangelism and talking about Jesus,” he told CT. “History tells me what my fathers believed, as we as a nation consider what we should believe. God is going ...

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We're Not Getting Any Younger

Our culture loves youth and fears age. Here's what faith has to say.

As I approached my 30th birthday, my cousin assured me, “You’ll be fine.”

My dad said, “You’re not even in the game yet!”

My friend said, “It’s actually kind of nice.”

I didn’t believe any of them. Hitting my third decade was definitely going to make me feel old.

I’m hardly alone in feeling stigmatized. Like many of my peers, I grew up watching the TV show Friends and vividly recall “The One Where They All Turn 30” in which each character, on their birthday, crumbles in disgrace over their lost youth. Friends epitomized the rising cultural belief that life is best lived by the young and beautiful. Shows like New Girl, Gossip Girl, and How I Met Your Mother have since followed suit. They adhere to the Friends standard by depicting groups of independent young people who seem neither to age nor require mentors of any kind.

In this cultural milieu, some of us predictably panic at the prospect of exchanging the “good years” for the “inevitable” deterioration and obsoleteness of aging. Some of us attempt to slow down time, like those 57 percent of millennials who use anti-aging products daily, or those Americans who last year spent $400 billion on beauty products and an unprecedented $13.5 billion on aesthetic plastic surgery.

Meanwhile, the professional sphere isn’t helping. “This is the time to be young and ambitious,” Forbes wrote in an introduction to their “30 Under 30 list.” “Never before has youth been such an advantage.” Statements like these convey a twisted message to young adults: If you’re not on the list, you’ve already failed. As blogger Maude Standish wrote, “A ...

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Evangelical Views of the 2016 Election: Not the Lesser of Two Evils, Choose Candidate Evan McMullin Instead

Editor-in-Chief of Christ and Pop Culture wants to lay a foundation for a future conservative party

I support Evan McMullin’s campaign for President. For the first time in my life, I even donated to a political campaign, and I did so knowing that McMullin would almost certainly not win, or even come close to it.

I have been informed by many concerned citizens that I am throwing my vote away, or voting for Trump by not voting for Clinton, or voting for Clinton by not voting for Trump. Others have accused me of being too elitist to vote for Trump, as if voting for McMullin were merely a way to ease my conscience or feel morally superior.

The truth is I support McMullin for President because I believe that doing so is the best chance we have for cultivating an influential, vibrant conservative party that promotes human flourishing and defends life into the future.

I’ve come to this position begrudgingly, but driven by a few principles.

One is that it is possible for a candidate to be so unacceptable that they do not deserve our vote regardless of how bad the other major candidate is. The minimum standard is opposed to the more popular, pragmatic idea that the acceptability of a candidate is relative to who they’re running against.

It is not that I believe in only voting for perfect candidates, or even only for good ones. My objection is to the idea that I must vote for one of two candidates when I believe either will be profoundly harmful to my neighbor. When an election has come to this point, the answer is not to “hold my nose and vote,” as I have been admonished to do. It requires a drastic action that calls attention to the political and societal rot that brought us here and advocates for a new way forward. And I believe the best action in this situation is to vote and advocate for Evan McMullin. ...

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88 Minutes of Film That Could Save a Life

That's the power of 'The Station Agent.'

You try walking across Seattle alone. At night. Barefoot.

My college roommate did all the time. I didn't understand it, just as I didn’t understand his quiet demeanor, his watchfulness from the edges, or his aversion to typical college-life distractions. His after-dark disappearances intrigued me. So I took to walking with him. I wore hiking boots, and still I struggled to match his incredible stride. As I did, my own pace—in walking and in living—permanently changed. I came to value the rewards of adventures off the beaten path, of being quiet in good company. And I found a compassionate friend.

I think of Michael when I watch Tom McCarthy’s large-hearted 2003 comedy The Station Agent.

And I watch it frequently. I see myself in Joe: the talkative food-truck barista (Bobby Cannavale) who sets up shop next to an obsolete train depot in Middle-of-Nowhere, New Jersey. I think of Michael when I watch Fin (Peter Dinklage): a soft-spoken loner who moves into that depot for the solitude, and who eventually surrenders, accepting Joe’s gregarious, uninvited companionship.

It’s remarkable: Watch how Joe and Fin, like an oversized puppy playing with Grumpy Cat, become complementary. Watch how they transform one other through the simple, shared experience of long walks and short silences.

How might the world be changed if we went strolling, in quiet attentiveness, with those we would rather avoid?

My comparison of my roommate and Fin only goes so far. I don’t know where Michael’s quiet nature came from, but it’s obvious what made Fin so disinclined to talk with anybody: He’s been mocked, abused, and avoided for his dwarfism. He has every reason to withdraw from society, to forget ...

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How Science Became a Weapon in the Mommy Wars

Peer-reviewed research intensifies parenting debates' and can leave us even more confused.

In the shifting battle lines of the mommy wars, scientific studies have become an increasingly common weapon. Research gets employed by both sides and on nearly every issue. Whether breast-feeders versus formula-feeders, anti-vaxxers verses vaccine advocates, or a range of other issues, parents rely on a wave of child development scholarship to defend their positions—and often add fuel to the fire.

We have the Internet to thank, mostly. Young moms have all done it. We Googled our parenting questions or relied on information posted by our friends on Facebook. According to a Pew Research report, 66 percent of mothers and 48 percent of fathers say they have found useful parenting information on social media. About a third said they asked a parenting question of their social network sometime in the last month.

Reflecting on her first six years of parenting, Jennifer Richler writes on The New York Times blog Motherlode: “Google was my parenting manual and my What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”

With all that searching, scientific studies and claims ranging from shoddy to sound inevitably appear in the results. A simple query generates everything from data gathered at the Center for Disease Control to industry-funded organizations to grassroots websites and mommy blogs, all citing peer-reviewed studies and quoting doctors. For each study claiming to be evidence supporting one thing, there’s another study on the other side.

Discerning pseudo-science from bona fide science takes some work and forces us to realize that research isn’t as straightforward as we might hope. Along with the rest of a generation of Googling parents, Christian mommas seeking wisdom for the right strategies for raising healthy ...

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Evangelical Views of the 2016 Election: "There are No 'Must' Candidates!" -Darrell Bock

Professor of New Testament Studies articulates the dilemma many Christians face in this election cycle

Many Christians have it right.

There is a real dilemma for their vote in this election. The choice we have before us is no real option. It is like choosing between facing a tornado rolling through your home or a hurricane. Both will do real damage in different ways. The only possible check on this regrettable situation involves the considered selection of legislators put around the poor choice the nation faces. Our votes for other offices now count for more.

The dilemma we face is one we have given ourselves. Our votes created our choices. We have opted for decades to step back from reflection on character, teaching our children the skills and economics of life but not judgment, discernment, and wisdom. A soulless child rearing produces what we face today.

T.S. Eliot spoke of hollow men, people without chests, without souls. So we get what we pay for at the ballot box. We will not get a mulligan on our choice now, but we can prepare to do better next time.

Some will argue that one choice now is a must because of future Supreme Court justices, choices that will last decades in their significance. This is the best argument one side has. It is worth serious consideration, giving me more than one night's pause, especially when the argument comes from friends whose judgment I respect. But further reflection makes me wonder if that argument is good enough.

Consider what comes with the red pill in this current configuration. Most acknowledge he is a candidate who lacks character. He never admits to a wrong, breeds hate, speaks against women, Hispanics, people who are different from him, and advocates violence as a solution to many problems.

Every time I read the Scripture, those are not the values I see my Lord advocating. Christ ...

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What Americans Think of What Evangelicals Think of Religious Liberty

How both sides of the debates over same-sex marriage, transgender bathroom access, and employer-provided contraception feel about each other.

On two of three contentious issues at the intersection of religious liberty and nondiscrimination concerns, Americans remain evenly divided.

Though most Americans believe employers should be required to supply birth control in their health insurance plans, they are split down the middle on whether businesses should be required to provide wedding services for same-sex couples, as well as on whether transgender people should be allowed to use the restroom of their choice, says a study released this week by the Pew Research Center.

As expected, most evangelicals take a strong stance against making businesses provide wedding services to same-sex couples or allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. They’re more comfortable with requiring employers to offer birth control to employees.

Pew also asked whether Americans sympathized with one side or the other—or both—in each debate.

In order to facilitate that, researchers asked the questions in an unusual way.

Instead of the normal phone survey, Pew asked respondents to read the questions. The purpose was both to make people feel more comfortable answering sensitive questions and to allow them see all of the options when weighing where their sympathies lie, senior researcher Jessica Martinez told CT. The survey was mostly done by email (more than 4,000 respondents), with a few (343) answers coming in by snail mail.

While most people are firmly in one camp or the other, roughly 3 to 4 out of 10 Americans either sympathized with both sides—or with neither—on issues of whether employers should be required to provide birth control (43%), transgender people should be able to use the bathroom of their choice (37%), or businesses should be ...

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What Politics Can (and Can't) Do to Prevent Another Holocaust

Good governments can slow the spread of genocide, but they can't stop people from becoming genocidal.

Today, when we think Holocaust, we imagine “extravagant anti-Semitism,” says Timothy Snyder, a Yale historian. But what if the Holocaust wasn’t propelled by racism so much as by politics? That’s the claim Snyder makes in Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, and it’s an unsettling one. A society might take measures to reduce racism. But it can hardly purge itself of politics. So Snyder’s proposal comes as a blow to our tacit historical assumptions—and to our sense of moral immunity. While the particular political circumstance that made the Holocaust possible may have expired, Snyder warns, its kind lives on; in fact, we know it well.

Snyder awakens us to the political dimensions of the Holocaust with an array of little known facts. To wit: prior to World War II ten times as many Jews lived in Poland as in Germany; most Germans, in fact, didn’t know any Jews and had to be taught how to recognize them. Ninety-seven percent of the Jews the Nazis killed lived beyond pre-war Germany. Only 700,000 were citizens of Germany’s allies. Three-quarters of France’s Jews survived; 80 percent of Italy’s. What does this mean?

It means—and this case Snyder persuasively builds, chapter by chapter—that while Nazi politics were thrusting the Final Solution forward, the political structures of other states proved able to stop it. “Nazi malice stopped at the passport,” he concludes. “They did not proceed with killing Jews until states were actually destroyed or had renounced their own Jews.” Even Nazi Germany, with all its vaunted bureaucratic precision and efficiency, found itself stalled in the face of structures designed to protect ...

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