SPONG DEBATES MOHLER—Liberal retired Episcopal bishop, John Shelby Spong, again revealed his extreme liberalism in a debate Dec. 16 with Southern Baptist Seminary president R. Albert Mohler. Spong argued Christianity must be updated for modern times, that in the 21st century it is not realistic for Christians to believe in miracles such as the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus (12/22 BP). Mohler says we have a choice between the Christianity preached by the Apostles and handed down to us, or Spong's “Christianity” which is devoid of all that is essential to the faith beginning with a supernatural personal God, all the way down to the incarnation of Christ and His saving work on the cross.

HOLLYWOOD'S VIEW OF RELIGION IS NEGATIVE—Television's treatment of religion has become increasingly negative in recent years even though mentions of God are occurring more often, per a study released Dec. 16 by the Parents Television Council and the National Religious Broadcasters. They said Hollywood is not accurately portraying viewers' beliefs (12/31 Baptist Press). The study showed of 2,385 hours of primetime TV shows watched that there were 2,344 mentions of religion. PTC judged 22 percent of the mentions to be positive and 24 percent to be negative and the remainder neutral. Mentions of clergy were twice as likely to be negative as positive. (parentstv.org)

$69,000 SANDWICH HAS IMAGE OF VIRGIN MARY? POPE PRAYS TO MARY— The highest bid on the online E-bay auction site (at the middle of a recent week) for a partially eaten 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich, which, according to its owner bears the image of the Virgin Mary (11/27 World). Catholics ascribe to Mary powers she never claimed. Pope John Paul II recently prayed to Mary for peace in Iraq and the world at ceremonies marking the 150th anniversary of the Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception. (12/10 HT) He called on Mary “to obtain peace and salvation for all peoples.”

SECULARISTS BLAME GOD FOR TSUNAMI DISASTER—The challenge to the Christian faith is clear, even as it is often crudely put forth by secular critics. It goes like this: “If God is both omnipotent and benevolent, how can disasters like this happen?” Playwright Archibald MacLeish posed this theological challenge: "If God is God, He is not good; if God is good, He is not God." An example of how not to give a Christian answer was provided by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, he said: "Every single random, accidental death is something that should upset a faith bound up with comfort and ready answers. Faced with the paralyzing magnitude of a disaster like this, we naturally feel more deeply outraged—and also more deeply helpless. We can't see how this is going to be dealt with, we can't see how to make it better. We know, with a rather sick feeling, that we shall have to go on facing it and we can't make it go away or make ourselves feel good." The newspaper headlined the archbishop's column, "Of Course This Makes Us Doubt God's Existence." After the article ran, the archbishop said the headline and article misrepresented his views. The paper said it may have misrepresented the archbishop's argument, but said he himself must accept much of the blame. It said his prose is so obscure, his thought processes so hard to follow, that his message is often unclear. Jesus warned that natural disasters are part of God's warning, of our mortality, and of the coming judgment. He warned that famines, earthquakes, wars, etc., would be the "birth pangs" of coming tribulation and judgment. A faithful Christian response will affirm the true character and power of God—His omnipotence and His benevolence. God is in control of the universe. His goodness and love are beyond question. Christians must avoid explanations when God has not revealed an explanation. Finally, Christians must respond to a crisis like this by weeping with those who weep, by praying, by offering concrete assistance in Christ's name, and by bearing bold witness to the Gospel.… (Adapted, R. Albert Mohler Jr., 1/04 BP)

CATHOLIC GROUP TO JOIN NEW ECUMENICAL GROUP, SBC DECLINES—The Conference of Catholic Bishops in the U.S., at their fall gathering, voted to join the new ecumenical group, Christian Churches Together in the USA. CCT's goal is to have the broadest ecumenical umbrella to date, bringing together Catholics, liberal and evangelical Protestants, Baptists, Orthodox, Pentecostals and Charismatics. Its steering committee includes a Catholic Bishop and Cardinal (O Timothy). A spokesman for the SBC's No. American Mission Board said “For the most part [emphasis added by CC editor], we don't do ecumenism because you usually have to give up some doctrinal beliefs or ignore or emphasize others to work with folks that really aren't on the same path, share the same doctrines, the same beliefs—particularly about salvation…” (1/6 AB). Such alliances are unscriptural and cause confusion. CCT is set to launch formally next fall and be a broader body than the older NCC.

SOME KEY EVENTS OF 2004—Some notable deaths: Pres. Reagan; Billy James Hargis, anti-communism battler; Garner Ted Armstrong; Carl Henry, new-evangelical theologian, first editor of Christianity Today; Harold Henniger: church growth expert, megachurch pastor; and two key liberal/moderate SBC leaders: Roy Honeycutt, Henlee Barnette. Episcopal Church USA installed an open homosexual as bishop. The Passion of the Christ movie box-office take was $609 million. Jerry Falwell announced plans to resurrect his Moral Majority. Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Life has sold 20 million copies, and he was listed by Time as “People Who Mattered in 2004.” Roy Moore, “the 10 commandments judge,” lost his appeal to overturn court case. Many mainline liberal churches are divided over homosexuality, women pastors, etc. The International Baptist Network (BBF, SBF, and WBF) held its first meeting in Sept. The SBC withdrew from the Baptist World Alliance, citing its leftward drift and liberal theology. [GARBC, Cedarville, and others who have had meetings/ties with various levels of the SBC may join the IBN soon.]

CHINA GIVES RELIGION A NEW NAME: 'EVIL TEACHINGS'—In a sudden wave of Christian arrests last summer, Red China issued a top secret directive to spread Marxism against “Western” attempts to destabilize China with religion, or “evil teachings.” Per our State Department's 2004 religious-freedom report, about 30 million Protestants and at least 5 million Catholics worship in unofficial house churches. Unregistered churches are not allowed to operate, but enforcement of this varies widely from region to region.

DEATH WISH—A Hindu seer almost incited a riot by failing to die on Nov. 17. The chief cleric of Sriguru Ashram in India had predicted his soul would leave his body sometime that morning, and 15,000 people showed up to watch. The crowd was quiet when he sat down to meditate at 6 a.m., but turned violent when he was still alive at noon. The seer says he is sorry and “wanted to leave my mortal body, but I could not.” Unless he becomes saved, both his soul and his body will spend eternity in Hell. Souls are perishing and need the Gospel.

Note: In reporting the deaths of SBC professors (Henlee Barnette and John Drakeford), in the Dec. 2004 CC, we erroneously included the name of Walter Shurden as having died in Oct. He has assured me he is very much among the living!

PRAYER THAT NEW FUNDAMENTALIST LEADERS WILL HAVE SPIRIT & POWER OF ELIJAH—The theme for the recent American Council of Christian Churches meeting in Maine was drawn from Elijah passing his mantle to Elisha who would succeed him as God's spokesman, and the spirit and power of Elijah would rest upon him. An ACCC resolution states: “O that our God would raise up men with such a spirit and with such power. May we be men of courage, boldness and spiritual backbone to stand for truth in these days of apostasy and compromise. May we ever cry: “Where is the LORD God of Elijah?” O that we might see that power displayed in our ministries to the glory of God….The ACCC is burdened for the next generation of Fundamentalist leaders who will be called upon to stand for truth. The conflicts that this next generation will face include a continual battle with New Evangelicalism, an engaging of the post-modern mind in the pew, a contending for the Faith once delivered to the saints, and a faithful proclamation of an exclusivist Gospel in a pluralist society. Today, we need men that will stand up and speak out on the issues that challenge truth and our Fundamentalist position. You may request a copy of all 8 resolutions from the ACCC, P.O. Box 5455, Bethlehem, PA 18015. <accc@juno.com>

OBF RESOLUTION ON DALLAS SEMINARY (EXCERPT)—The Ohio Bible Fellowship at a recent conference passed a resolution on Dallas Seminary. We excerpt as follows: “Dallas Seminary has repudiated ecclesiastical separation and militancy since its inception by advocating continuance in apostate denominations and merely 'giving out the positive truth'…and teaches both pastors and its students new evangelicalism through its professors, chapel speakers and publications….”

GARBC CHURCH VOTES TO LEAVE—Bible Baptist Church of Beaver Dam WI, Carlos Galvan, Pastor, recently voted to withdraw from the GARBC. Reasons given: “…We saw historically the change that began to take place in the 80s, the watershed conference at Niagara Falls, and the Association's continuing to follow a different paradigm of ministry since then. While our church has sought to remain a strong separatist ministry, we have seen the GARBC decide to go a different direction. They are not where we are. Separation was necessary. There are some good men and ministries in the GARBC, but the association in general, and a great many ministries connected with the association, were going a new evangelical direction.”

PROMISE UNFILLED: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism is the title of a new big book by Rolland McCune. Just when we were growing concerned about the dearth of new books on the twin dangers of New Evangelicalism and Ecclesiastical Separation, along comes this refreshing new book to warn and inform—just like an oasis in a thirsty land. Don't let the price scare you. The 29-page index of men and movements alone is much needed and well worth the price. It is important that we stay informed and identify compromisers and deceivers. I look forward to reading the book and possibly excerpting a few snippets from it for the next CC. Dr. McCune is the former president of Detroit Baptist Seminary (now a Professor there), and this book is highly recommended by Drs. David Beale, Robert Delnay, David Doran, and Sam Horn. Order from: Detroit Baptist Seminary, 313/383-6110, $24.99 + $3 postage.

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