On God and Heaven, Americans are All over the Map

Two-thirds of Americans believe God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

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The exception: Americans with evangelical Christian beliefs, according to LifeWay Research’s 2016 State of American Theology Study. Only 48 percent of evangelicals share the belief God accepts all worship.

The study comes in the same year that Larycia Hawkins — Wheaton College’s first black, female professor to receive tenure — parted ways with the evangelical flagship school after she posted on Facebook that both Christians and Muslims worship the “same God.” The controversy stirred fresh debate among evangelicals about whether all religions worship the same God, and whether God accepts the worship of all religions.

That’s not the only theological question on which evangelicals part ways with the rest of America, according to the study.

And the study also suggests Americans as a whole hold seemingly incompatible beliefs: Seven in 10 Americans said there’s only one true God — expressed as the Christian Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the survey foun

“Contradictory and incompatible beliefs are OK for most people,” LifeWay Research Executive Director Scott McConnell said in a press release about the study gauging Americans’ understanding of Christian theology.

Among those beliefs, 6 in 10 Americans said “heaven is a place where all people will ultimately be reunited with their loved ones.” But on a separate question, 54 percent of Americans said “only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.”

And nearly two-thirds of Americans said Jesus is God, it said. But then, more than half said Jesus was a creature created by God.

Other notable beliefs shared by Americans:

  •  Most believe in the power of prayer. Two-thirds (66 percent) said God continues to answer specific prayers. Evangelicals were most likely (94 percent) to agree.
  • Most also see the best in others: 65 percent agreed “everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.” Evangelicals were less likely (54 percent) to agree.
  • Americans are split on whether the Bible is literally true. Nearly half of Americans (44 percent) answered “like all sacred writings, (it) contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true,” while about the same number (45 percent) disagreed. Evangelicals were less likely (17 percent) to agree the Bible contained helpful myths and most likely (95 percent) to say it is “100 percent accurate in all it teaches.”
  • Forty-four percent of Americans agreed modern science discredits the claims of Christianity, while 40 percent disagreed.
  • Less than half of Americans (40 percent) believe hell is an “eternal place of judgment where God sends all people who do not personally trust in Jesus Christ.” Evangelicals were more likely (84 percent) to believe in hell as a place of judgment.
  • Americans also disagree about issues of homosexuality, gender and abortion. About the same number of Americans said Bible verses that seem to condemn homosexual behavior do (44 percent) and don’t (42 percent) apply today. That gap widens when it comes to gender identity: 38 percent agreed it is “a matter of choice,” while half disagree. On abortion: 49 percent of Americans said it is a sin, while 40 percent said it is not.

The 2016 State of American Theology Study asked 47 questions on prayer, the Bible and heaven and hell.

LifeWay Research, a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm, conducted the online survey of 3,000 Americans from April 14-20. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points, though margins of error are higher in subgroups.

It was sponsored by Orlando-based Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian discipleship organization founded by R.C. Sproul.


Courtesy: Religion News Service

Arrest of Christian Workers in Sudan Serves Islamist Regime as Warning to Others

Arrest of Christian Workers in Sudan Serves Islamist Regime as Warning to Others


Christian workers imprisoned under charges related to tarnishing Sudan’s image are innocent, but their arrests serve the Sudanese government as a warning to others against criticizing the Islamist regime, sources said.

Foreign diplomats and international rights activists have taken notice of the case since Morning Star News in December 2015 broke the story of the arrest of two pastors that month. As part of a recent upsurge in harassment of Christians, Sudan accuses the Sudanese pastors and a foreign aid worker of “waging war against the state” and “spying” in the course of allegedly gathering information on persecution of Christians and on bombing civilians in the Nuba Mountains.

Prosecutors in Sudan this week presented flimsy evidence against the two pastors and the Czech medical-aid worker charged with crimes calling for the death penalty, a defense attorney told Morning Star News.

Prosecutors on Monday (Sept. 26) called on officials of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) to present as evidence a video said to be taken from the computer of Czech aid worker Petr Jasek showing a foreigner talking with civilians from the Nuba Mountains area of South Kordofan, where an insurgency is fighting government forces, the attorney said.

“The prosecution presented a video whose content has nothing to do with the case against Jasek – it only showed a foreigner talking to some people in South Kordofan,” he said. “For certain, this shows a NISS policy to intimidate others into refraining from criticizing the government.”

Jasek and two Sudan Church of Christ pastors, the Rev. Kwa Shamaal and the Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor, are charged with trying to tarnish the image of Sudan’s government by collecting information on persecution of Christians and on genocide in the Nuba Mountains. The charges include collecting information for “other parties hostile to Sudan.”

They are accused of conducting intelligence activities and providing material support for Nuba rebels in South Kordofan under two charges that carry the death penalty – waging war against the state (Article 51 of the Sudanese Criminal Code) and spying (Article 53).

After showing an English-language video said to be recovered from Jasek’s laptop, the court on Monday (Sept. 26) postponed the hearing so that a translation into Arabic could be made.

The Voice of the Martyrs released a statement this week saying Jasek’s family has asked the aid organization to bring his case to the attention of U.S. Christians for prayer and advocacy.

“These men are not spies,” Voice of the Martyrs spokesman Todd Nettleton said in the statement. “They were not inciting a revolt. They aren’t pushing a political agenda. These four are simply trying to serve and help. Only tyrants consider helping people a crime, and the four men should be released immediately.”

Also charged is Abdulmonem Abdumawla of Darfur, who was arrested in December after he began collecting money to help a friend, Ali Omer, who had needed treatment for burns suffered in a student demonstration. Abdumawla contacted Abdelrahim Tawor, who donated money for Omer’s treatment, which apparently raised the ire of Sudanese authorities, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Omer had been injured during a demonstration at Quran Karim University in Omdurman last year that left him with severe burns that required regular medical care, according to CSW. A senior member of the student wing of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) died when 150 NCP students attacked Darfuri students at a meeting at Sharg El Nil College in Khartoum in April 2015, CSW reported.

Since then, Darfuri students have been increasingly targeted by the NISS, which has violently suppressed peaceful student demonstrations against government repression, CSW reported. NISS is said to be staffed by hard-line Islamists with broad powers to arrest people the government deems undesirable.

Abdelrahim Tawor, along with other pastors, was arrested after attending a missions conference in Addis Abba, Ethiopia last year. Upset by the conference, NISS official interrogated Abdelrahim Tawor about accusations that those in attendance spoke of Sudan’s government persecuting Christians, a claim church leaders deny.

Shamaal, head of missions for the SCOC, was arrested on Dec.18, 2015, as was Abdelrahim Tawor. Shamaal was released on Dec. 21 but was required to report to NISS offices daily, a requirement that was removed on Jan. 16. Shamaal was re-arrested on May 25.

Most SCOC members have roots among the ethnic Nuba in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan’s South Kordofan state, where the government is fighting an insurgency. The Nuba along with other Christians in Sudan face discrimination, as President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to introduce a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and Arabic language.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir in connection with war crimes in Darfur. Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2016 report.

Sudan ranked eighth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.

4 Evangelicals, 4 Different Ways to Consider Donald Trump

Trevin Wax | Religion News Service | Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Evangelicals are divided on what to do about Donald Trump this November. As I’ve written before, most evangelicals fall into four categories. Some will vote Trump as a protest against Clinton. A few will do the reverse. A large number of evangelicals oppose both candidates. Still others enthusiastically support Trump for president.
On Sept. 16, the National Religious Broadcasters hosted an “evangelical debate” on Trump at the National Press Club in Washington. Two of the speakers at the debate opposed Trump; two of the speakers supported him. Here’s how their arguments played out:
Erick Erickson: ‘God has never asked his people to choose the evil.’
The conservative writer and talk radio host made a distinction between those who will privately vote for Trump as the lesser of two evils and those who use their platforms to support his candidacy. He argued that evangelicals harm their witness by publicly supporting Trump.
Trump’s lack of character disqualifies him from evangelical support, Erickson said.
“We have a man running for president of the United States who has bragged about his affairs, who has bragged about stiffing others with the bill, who has cheated women and widows, who has said he’s never had to ask God for forgiveness, who does not identify Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior but says he is a Christian.”
While some evangelicals see Trump as a leader like the ancient kings of the Hebrew Scriptures — Nebuchadnezzar or Cyrus (men who were not Jews, but who, in the Book of Daniel, were good to God’s people), Erickson rejected this way of thinking. He admitted that God might use someone even as flawed as Trump, but that possibility does not persuade someone to vote in a particular way.
“Between the lesser of the two evils, God has never asked his people to choose the evil. He’s done it for them,” Erickson said.
Janet Parshall: ‘What will you do with the Court?’
For the national radio host, the critical issue is the Supreme Court.
Dismissing the charges against Trump’s character, she set the current candidate’s flaws in perspective, as following a line of many presidents throughout American history with glaring character flaws: from Thomas Jefferson to William Harding, Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton.
“We are not electing a Messiah,” she said. “So I don’t fear for having anything less than a ‘sinner’ in the White House. Last time I checked, we have sinners in the Supreme Court, sinners in the Oval Office, sinners in the Congress. In fact, I myself join you today as a sinner, saved by grace.”
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Parshall also praised the American election system. “Seventeen candidates strutted upon the GOP stage,” she said. “Those who cared voted. The system worked and the final candidate stepped forward. That’s the way the system worked.”
She urged evangelicals to consider how God’s hand has been involved in this election season. “For those who have been praying and fasting through, during, and for this process, have we now believed the sovereignty of God didn’t apply? … God has a track record of using flawed and broken people, even when it doesn’t look right to us,” she added.
Harry Jackson: Multiple reasons minority evangelicals should support Trump
Jackson, an African-American pastor in Maryland and chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, said Trump may be “the only one who is able to bring some substantive healing to the racial divide.” He mentioned Trump’s economic plan for urban improvement, the opportunity for nonviolent offenders to return home from prison, and family tax incentives that are significant for African-American and Hispanic communities.
And he offered three more general reasons for supporting Trump: religious freedom, Supreme Court justices, and support of Israel.
Bill Wichterman: ‘A threat to our democratic republic’
Even though he cares deeply about the Supreme Court, the former congressional staffer and assistant to George W. Bush, does not believe Trump’s potential court nominees justify a vote for a man he thinks may be “a threat to our democratic republic.”
Trump, Wichterman said, “has too often demonstrated contempt for the rule of law. He’s sounded more like a strong man impatient with constitutional constraints.”
Wichterman chastised evangelical leaders who say we need a “bad man” to stand up to bullies on the left.
“It’s almost as if we’re hiring a hit man to play dirty for the sake of good government. … It reflects a lack of faith in the power of virtue to do what needs to be done. We don’t need to do bad to do good. In fact, that’s impossible, if Scripture is to be believed. Ends and means both count in God’s moral accounting.”
Wichterman said he opposes both Trump and Clinton.
“I hate the thought of Hillary Clinton being elected president and she will never get my vote. But I won’t compromise core principle for the sake of party allegiance. … I will not allow Trump to be the face of the nation for the world. I will not stand idly by while our national character is polluted. As Christians, we’re called to do God’s bidding in God’s way, which means doing what we should and entrusting the results to him.”

Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project and author of multiple books, including “Clear Winter Nights: A Journey Into Truth, Doubt and What Comes After

Courtesy: Religion News Service

Young Woman Saves 7-Year-Old Boy from Burning House

A 22-year-old North Texas woman ran into a burning house to save a 7-year-old boy she didn’t even know.
NBC news station 5 reported that the woman, Mariella Medina, saw flames coming from her neighbor’s house a few houses down.
Medina did not even know the family, but she rushed over to help. When she spoke to the mother who had two babies with her and realized that another child was still trapped in the burning house, Medina said she didn’t even stop to think before running into the burning building.
“There’s a kid inside. That’s honestly the only thing that goes through your head,” she said.
Medina had called 911 and while professional help was on the way, the dispatcher told her not to go into the house.
Medina later said she felt bad for disobeying the dispatcher’s instructions, but all she was thinking about was rescuing the boy.
“C’mon, mijo, there’s a fire! I need you to hurry, baby. C’mon, baby. Hurry. C’mon. Hurry. Hurry. Anybody else? Anybody else?” Medina can be heard saying on the 911 recording as she spoke to the boy.
“The main priority is getting someone out. You don’t have to know somebody to want to help them,” Medina said after the boy had been rescued.
Firefighters arrived soon after and were able to put the fire out without major damage to the house.

A Surprising Fact about Tonight’s Debate

Jim Denison | Denison Forum on Truth and Culture | Monday, September 26, 2016
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Tonight’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is expected to be the most-watched political broadcast in American history. One reason is that the race is so close: a new poll puts Clinton ahead of Trump by two points, 46 percent to 44 percent. This is well within the margin of error. Among registered voters, each candidate has 41 percent support.
But another factor is the huge number of “undecideds” at this late stage of the campaign. Nearly 20 percent of voters say they are undecided or plan not to vote for the Democrat or the Republican. What they do on November 8 will likely determine the election.
Pollster Frank Luntz explains that these voters are undecided because they know a lot about both candidates but don’t like either one. As a result, the surprising truth is that the Americans whose impressions of tonight’s debate matters most are those who are least impressed by their options. Luntz likens them to children living through a bitter divorce: they are “watching with a mixture of fear and disdain as their parents argue, knowing they will soon be forced to choose with whom to live—a decision with no good outcome.”
I think such a view of the election mirrors a larger anxiety in our culture today.
We’re worried about the rising drug epidemic after seven people died from drug overdoses in Cleveland last Saturday. We’re worried that attacks such as Friday night’s mall shooting could happen where we live. We’re worried about Zika and superbugs and the global economy.
And beneath our circumstantial fears, there’s something even more visceral. Thomas Kelly: “Over the margins of life comes a whisper, a faint call, a premonition of richer living which we know we are passing by. Strained by the very mad pace of our daily outer burdens, we are further strained by an inward uneasiness, because we have hints that there is a way of life vastly richer and deeper than all this hurried existence, a life of unhurried serenity and peace and power.”
How do we find “unhurried serenity” in a culture of discontent?
God’s peace is directly aligned with his purpose. His Spirit cannot give tranquility to those who are outside his will for their lives. But when we focus our passion and resources on our Master’s call, we experience his empowering peace.
As a result, peace is not a goal but a consequence. When we make God’s purpose the highest priority of our lives, we will say to our Lord, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
Craig Denison notes: “God anoints all he appoints. He will perfectly equip and empower you to accomplish whatever task he has set before you.” And with his equipping power he will give you his peace.
Tonight’s debate will be all about the problems in America and the candidates’ promises to solve them. But the greatest problem in America is one no candidate can solve. Thomas Merton: “We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.”
Are you at peace with God today?
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