Dr. Rick Shrader is the editor of Aletheia a monthly publication which helps meet the need for a balanced conservative voice among Baptists.
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Part 01 Prolegomena
NBC is taking a poll on "In God We Trust" to stay on our American currency.
It was recently announced that Google agreed to list an app created by the Indonesian government allowing users to report alleged “blasphemy” to authorities. The app is called “Smart Grip” (locally known as “Smart Pakem”), and is available in the Google Play store. What does this mean, and what are we to think of this? First, some background, and then discussion of the app.What are blasphemy laws?Blasphemy laws generally prohibit and punish insults to religion. They are often abused when allegations of blasphemy are made against religious minorities—often with no evidence—to settle personal disputes. Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman convicted and sentenced to death for blasphemy after a dispute with a Muslim coworker, was prosecuted after an allegation that she committed the crime (she has since been released, to the tune of much public hostility).How does Indonesia view blasphemy?Indonesia criminalizes blasphemy. Article 156 of the penal code states it is illegal to “publicly give expression to feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt.” Maximum punishment for this crime is four years. Article 156(a) goes further, prohibiting one from “deliberately . . . giv[ing] expression to feelings or commit[ing] an act” which is “at enmity with, abus[es], or stain[s] a religion . . . with the intention to prevent a person to adhere to any religion based on the belief of the almighty God.” Maximum punishment for this crime is five years.What effect have these laws had?Among other cases, Jakarta’s former governor, a Christian, was imprisoned for blasphemy last year, and it was only recently announced he would be released. A Buddhist woman was also convicted of blasphemy after complaining about the noise level of a neighborhood mosque’s loudspeakers.How did the app come into being?Development of the app was requested by the Indonesian government, and it was created by Jakarta’s High Prosecution Office (it has also been reported that a body charged with “religious oversight” in the Indonesia Attorney General’s office launched the app). This is a dangerous, anti-religious freedom office, according to experts, yet it has been approved by Google for listing in its app store.What does the app do?It allows users to report, directly to the government, groups practicing unrecognized faiths or unorthodox interpretations of Indonesia's six officially recognized religions, including Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism.What are the implications?Religious persecution in Indonesia likely to increase if this app is used. No doubt, variations of Christianity displeasing to Muslims and others are likely to be reported. But others will be affected too. One of the groups described as “deviant” on the app are the Ahmadiyah, a peaceful group of Muslims with adherents around the world (including the U.S.), but who are viewed as heretical by many other Muslims. Indonesia has many Muslims—such as those represented by Nahdlatul Ulama—who do not want to see a spread in the use of blasphemy laws. They have even publicly criticized developments like the recent conviction of a Buddhist woman for blasphemy. But hardline, violent Muslims are on the rise in Indonesia, and this app will only aid them. If they are allowed to continue to grow, Indonesia could turn out like Pakistan in the future—with not just one, but many Asia Bibi’s of its own.What has been the reaction to the app?It has drawn widespread backlash from diverse quarters, creating an unusual alliance against it—from Robert Spencer to Human Rights Watch and the “friendly atheist” blog. It does not seem that Google has publicly responded to news inquiries or criticism yet.
There are things about Chau's story that raise questions worth our consideration.Missions, as the world has seen this month, is controversial.John Chau’s missionary journey to North Sentinel Island has captured the attention of the world. Many have written their thoughts, and I’ve done my share as well (see part 1 here and my Washington Post article here).Many hot takes were written, and people were understandably passionate. As this news has faded from its fever pitch, I’d like to think through some of the missiological questions that still need to be addressed.It is important to note that we can still appreciate Chau's passion while we also consider and discuss some of his methodology.We’re going to do that here.My guess is that many missiologists will be doing that for years to come. (Wheaton College missions professor, and former missionary working with tribes in Papuau New Guinea, had an early discussion on a recent Facebook live.)John ChauLet me first begin by saying that Chau's death is tragic and grieves me personally as a missiologist and a catalyst for missionaries. We learn from his social media, journals, friends, family, and preparation that John had a genuine passion for unreached people groups, and he was seeking to share the love of Jesus with people around the world. This is commendable and brave, especially all of his preparation in the many years leading up to this encounter.I wish that so many Christians sitting at home unengaged in God’s mission would be a lot slower to criticize.His passion is a key factor of his story that is important to note, highlight, and celebrate. It takes a brief moment of bravery to do one extraordinary action, but Chau’s deep conviction is evidenced by his years of working toward his engagement of the people of ...Continue reading...
Family Research Council (FRC) and Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) have released our fifth annual comprehensive review of elective abortion coverage under Obamacare on ObamacareAbortion.com. This resource will help any consumer who wants to find pro-life health plans.Premiums have continued to sky-rocket and more locales than ever have no pro-life plans to choose from.It can be tiring to have to choose between your healthcare needs, your pocket, and your conscience.You may have wondered or heard from neighbors saying: “Why do all the good plans include the abortion coverage?” If you are dissatisfied with the insurance choices in your state, you may want to consider a healthcare sharing ministry. While healthcare sharing does not fix the problem of abortion funding in Obamacare, it does provide an option that respects our consciences and moral values.In life, things (including medical emergencies) happen, and those within the Body of Christ should strive to take care of each other just as they did in the Book of Acts, during the early church. One of the ways Christians are continuing to care for one another today is by shouldering the burden of each other’s healthcare expenses. Does this mean that the early church in Acts practiced communism as we know it today, or that the teachings of Jesus promoted government-enforced socialism? No. But we are told that the Christians of that time did share all things in common. They voluntarily engaged in this way of life—serving one another—out of an overflow of the heart, because of what their Lord had done for them. (See here for more discussion on this issue.)These Christian healthcare sharing ministries operate on a system of voluntary contributions of Christian members who are wanting to systematically live out Galatians 6:2 (“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ”) by sharing medical costs among their members. Healthcare sharing ministries are exempt from the individual mandate of Obamacare. These ministries do not support abortion in any way and provide an alternative to the state and federal exchanges: Samaritan MinistriesChristian Healthcare MinistriesChristian Care MinistryThese three ministries have been certified and recognized as healthcare sharing ministries by the Department of Health & Human Services (via the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services).The testimonials of how families have benefited from these ministries are encouraging to see, particularly with those who run their own business. “It’s a great alternative for families who are self-employed,” said one.When another family who was having trouble paying the high premiums of Obamacare switched to a healthcare share ministry, the representatives even prayed with the family. These healthcare ministries are not only ministering to believers physically and financially but also spiritually and emotionally.Today, there are over 1 million healthcare sharing participants with approximately 85 percent of those represented and supported by a ministry that is a member or affiliate of the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries.Believers are using whatever means they have to bless one another. This is not a redistribution of wealth where the government is dictating to us what we should do with our money, which is what Obamacare does by subsidizing the killing of innocent human beings through anti-life health insurance. Instead, participating in healthcare sharing ministries is a form of voluntary stewardship of what God has blessed us with in order to take care of our own bodies as well as the body of Christ.We want to see all human life protected, and certainly do not want to further abortion by paying for it through our insurance plans. As long as health insurance plans cover abortion, and Obamacare becomes less and less affordable, we can pursue healthcare sharing options that have arisen to fill the gap. More options are available at the resources tab of Obamacareabortion.com, as well as information on what progress has been made to protect your conscience in healthcare choices.
From leading meaningful discussions to starting a house church, we're recapping our most popular articles of 2018!
Update: After considering laws to halt training, foreign funding, and missionary outreach, the European nation eases its approach.Following an outcry from evangelicals and other faith groups, Bulgaria opted to revise a controversial proposal to restrict religious activity before putting it up for another parliamentary vote.The initial draft amendments to its Religious Denomination Act would have kept members of minority faiths, like Protestants, from operating seminaries, holding activities outside church, and obtaining legal status. It also regulated foreign missionaries and funding. (See CT’s initial reporting below.)The revised version adjusts the formula for state subsidies so that groups beyond the Bulgarian Orthodox and Muslims—which together comprise 95 percent of the population—are eligible, the Sofia Globereported. The adjustments follow a round of feedback from religious groups and discussion between two political parties in the legislature, after a November 16 deadline.The updated law also would allow greater freedom to foreign missionaries than the first proposal; they could preach in the country as short-term residents or as visitors coming with advance notification. The new amendment also does away with a ban on anonymous donations by foreign groups.As of Tuesday, the parliament had not yet voted on the restrictions, according to the Baptist Standard. Teodor Oprenov, a Sofia pastor and leader in the Baptist Union of Bulgaria, told the site that evangelicals expected “some softening” after the meetings.Thousands of Christians have been gathering before the parliament building each Sunday to protest and pray against the restrictions. They plan to continue rallying this Sunday, November 25, Oprenov said. -----Original post (November 16): A controversial new law before the Bulgarian Parliament would keep Protestants ...Continue reading...
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