The First Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1777

“The first Thanksgiving Proclamation was issued by the revolutionary
Continental Congress on November 1, 1777. Authored by Samuel Adams [yes the brewer and also a very devout Christian], it was one sentence of 360 words, which read in part:

“Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to him for benefits received…together with penitent confession of their sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor; and their humble and earnest supplications that it may please God through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance…it is therefore recommended…to set apart Thursday the eighteenth day of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise, that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feeling of their hearts and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor…acknowledging with gratitude their obligations to Him for benefits received….To prosper the means of religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth  ‘in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost’.”

— HT: Ben Witherington

Hope everyone has a blessed Thanksgiving!

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City of Man (with Download of Foreword and Preface)

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I recently had the pleasure of editing City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner,  releasing October 1 from Moody Publishers.  In this volume, Gerson and Wehner draw on their experience as former White House staff, journalists, and commentators on religion (especially evangelicalism) to chart a new course for Christians to engage with politics in a post-Religious-Right era.

Rather than focusing on specific strategies for influencing legislation or electing politicians, the authors outline broad biblical principles that should inform believers as they engage the realm of politics—the “City of Man” in the words of Augustine.  Such principles include fighting for human rights, defending life, supporting the family and other character-shaping institutions, and engaging with political and ideological opponents in a civil and respectful manner.

What I most appreciate about City of Man is that it isn’t partisan in its approach, though both authors are well-known conservatives, but that it strives to present biblically and theologically sound first principles that apply to Christians of all political persuasions.  I believe the authors succeed, and I recommend this volume to any Christian looking for a deeper understanding of how the City of God relates to the City of Man.

You can download the foreword (by Timothy Keller) and preface in PDF format here.

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Book Review — Global Awakening by Mark Shaw

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  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: InterVarsity Press (May 2, 2010)
  • Amazon
  • Mark Shaw’s faculty page
  • Q&A with Mark Shaw
  • Global Awakening by Mark Shaw is a work far from the kinds of books I normally read. Normally, one can find me with my nose buried in books on philosophy of religion or systematic theology. While it may not be evidenced in the works on my own site, my undergraduate background is in social studies, social sciences, and history. Global Awakening is one of the few Christian works I’ve read which focuses on historical, sociological aspects of religion.

    Mark Shaw identifies several crucial theses throughout his work, but the primary question he addresses is this: In an age in which secularism is supposed to dominate spirituality, how is it that Christianity has made such leaps and bounds globally? The fact that Christianity has experienced major resurgences in the past century is evidenced in the sociological data: “Africa went from ten million Christians in 1900 to four hundred million in 2000. Pentecostalism went from a handful in 1906 to half a billion worldwide by the century’s end. The center of Christianity shifted from North America and Europe to Africa, Asia and Latin America” (11).

    The book’s layout is interesting in that the conclusions are presented almost immediately within the first chapter and followed by the evidence from various case studies across the world and throughout the 20th century.

    Shaw argues that “[g]lobal revivals . . . are at the heart of the global resurgence of Christianity” (12). Revivals themselves can be viewed as a way of “updating of the church leading to new engagement with the surrounding world” (15). Shaw argues that there are various dynamics and aspects of revivals. These dynamics are: 1) personal liberation: both leaders and followers testify to freedom from spiritual bondage, 2) eschatological vision: a bold vision of God bringing His kingdom, 3) radical community: victims become members of the family, and 4) evangelical activism: spreading this revival to new places (17-18). Shaw notes that revivals often arise out of conflict (19).

    There are also cultural (people, faith, and justice), historical (problem, paradigm, and power), and global and group dynamics to revivals (20ff). The cultural dynamics often link Christianity to racial justice, a newfound faith, or a people group struggling with conflict. Historical dynamics reflect the way the revival grows and becomes institutionalized. Finally, global and group dynamics outline the way the revival integrates new members. Shaw writes, “As historical movements, revivals begin with problems. . . . Out of the ashes of the old springs the new. New leaders emerge and form a movement. . . . If the movement can resolve those clashes, it then moves outward to alter the social, spiritual, and cultural landscape of the surrounding world” (29).

    Shaw then moves into case studies, through which he develops his conclusions and arguments further. He leads off with the Korean revival which started in 1906. This revival, he argues, turned globalization into glocalization (that is, an integration and adaptation of a global faith for a local community) (52). He then turns to revivals in Africa, which demonstrate the importance of leaders in revivals (64). Next, he argues from the revival in 1930s India that “no conversion is complete without the conversion of the church” (90). The revival in Uganda provides a background for Shaw’s interesting argument that “Conservative churches tend to grow over time because they offer more and can therefore demand more of their members” (110); they offer, pragmatically, a “better value.” The revivals brought about in America by Billy Graham show a large problem remaining in churches in the States: pluralism. In a pluralistic society, should all share resources for the sake of “mission and witness” or should each privately conduct her own missions (131)? Brazil demonstrates the “power” dynamic of revivals: the protestant revival and emergence clashing with the Catholic powers that be. The working towards unity in Brazil presents a wildly altered spiritual landscape (156-157). Finally, the reverse mission of Africa (African missionaries going out to other parts of the world, rather than vice versa) and the emergence of China as a Christian powerhouse (estimates of house churches range from 10-80 million members) point to a spirit of missions and growth that may become exponential in the 21st century.

    Shaw concludes from all of this that Global revivals are “charismatic people movements that seek to change their world by translating Christian faith and transferring power” (198). Secularization does not seem to be leading to a destruction of religion, but rather breaking apart of theocracies and church control over governments (211).

    Overall, Shaw argues astutely for his points and brings to light many facts and examples which will be interesting for Christian readers. I believe the most important part of Global Awakening, however, is the feeling of global community Christians can have upon reading works such as this one. Shaw ably demonstrates that Christianity is not in danger of dying, but rather in “danger” of breaking open a new era of spiritual revival. This era will foster social and spiritual renewal on an epic, global scale. The coming decades will see an even greater resurgence of spiritual revival across the world. What can one say to this but “Thanks be to God!”

    — Reviewed by J. W. Wartick.  J. W. writes on Christian apologetics, philosophy of religion, and theology at http://jwwartick.com.

    * Thanks to InterVarsity Press for a review copy of this book.


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    Religious Groups Provide a Quarter of All U.S. Aid to Developing Countries

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    Churches and ministries are making a significant contribution to developing countries.  Ministry Today explains,

    A new study indicates that religious organizations make up almost a quarter of all U.S. giving to developing countries. In fact, churches, ministries and similar entities sowed a whopping $8.6 billion into foreign soil in 2007.

    According to the study by Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Prosperity (CGP), church donations to international relief organizations based in the U.S. jumped 17 percent from 2006 to 2007, with 74 percent of American congregations giving toward global aid agencies. The average church gave $11,960, and more than a quarter of those gave directly to programs in other countries for a combined $3.3 billion. Other means of church giving included short-term mission or service trips (34 percent of all congregations did this), as well as long-term development projects (30 percent) that contributed more than $1.4 billion to aid countries.

    Contrary to what many claim, Christianity is doing a world of good.

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    How the Economy Sank – A Clear, Concise Explanation

    Writing for the Freakonomics blog, economic historian Price Fishback gives a concise, understandable account of how we slid into the current economic mess.  Fishback is also an expert on the Great Depression and makes some comparisons between it and the current crisis.

    The post begins,

    The “greatest financial disaster since the Great Depression” has become the catchphrase for the current situation. In Old Testament fashion, the U.S. appears to be paying for the financial excesses associated with a real estate boom between 2000 and 2006. The reasons for the boom were many. As the stock market dropped at the beginning of the decade, investors sought a new haven for their assets in housing and real estate. The boom was fueled in part by low interest rates stemming from a loose monetary policy and a series of financial innovations that led mortgage lenders to make many more loans.

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    Most U.S. Christians Don’t Believe Satan, Holy Spirit Exist

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    What does everyone make of this?  The Christian Post reports:

    In contrast, about 35 percent of American Christians believe Satan is real. Twenty-six percent strongly disagreed with the statement that Satan is merely symbolic and about one-tenth (9 percent) somewhat disagreed.

    The majority of American Christians do not believe that Satan is a real being or that the Holy Spirit is a living entity, the latest Barna survey found.

    Nearly six out of ten Christians either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil,” the survey found.

    Forty percent strongly agreed with the statement while 19 percent of American Christians somewhat agreed.

    The remaining eight percent of American Christians responded they were unsure what to believe about the existence of Satan.

    Interestingly, the majority of Christians believe a person can be under the influence of spiritual forces, such as demons or evil spirits, even though many of these same people believe Satan is merely a symbol of evil. Two out of three Christians agreed that such forces are real (39 percent agreed strongly, 25 percent agreed somewhat).

    Likewise, most Christians in the United States do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a living force. Fifty-eight percent strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement that the Holy Spirit is “a symbol of God’s power or presence but is not a living entity.”

    Only one-third of Christians disagreed with the statement that the Holy Spirit is not just symbolic (9 percent disagreed somewhat, 25 percent disagreed strongly). Nine percent expressed they were unsure.

    Interestingly, about half (49 percent) of those who agreed that the Holy Spirit is only a symbol but not a living entity, agreed that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches. The Bible states that the Holy Spirit is God’s power or presence, not just symbolic.

    My guess is that this is mainly a matter of biblical and theological illiteracy – rather than, for example, a conclusion arrived at after considering the main hermeneutical positions and then choosing a metaphorical interpretation as the best option.

    It seems anyone in a teaching or preaching position has their work cut out for them.  Maybe we need Theology 101 classes in all of our churches.  Or a Theology 101 series from the pulpit.  I’m an optimist and like to look on the bright side, but those statistics are pretty dismal.

    What do you think?

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