THE AFGHANISTANIZATION OF THE MIDDLE EAST
Frontpagemag.com, 10/3/12, “The Afghanistanization of the Middle East” [Excerpts]: Eleven years after September 11, Afghanistan is nowhere near being stable; instead it is the Middle East that is becoming Afghanistanized. Forget about having only one Afghanistan, after the Arab Spring we can pick and choose from new Afghanistans popping up all over.
Islamist militias are imprisoning unveiled women, mutilating thieves and destroying Sufi shrines in Mali. In Libya, Islamist militias started out by destroying Sufi shrines and, when the authorities made it clear that they would do nothing, escalated their campaign to an attack on the U.S. Embassy.
All it would take is a further meltdown of the already melted political situation for the Salafists to move from terrorizing neighborhoods and villages to making a play for entire cities. The ruling Islamists of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Tunisia’s Ennhada have already shown that, as in Libya, given a choice between letting the Salafists burn churches and beat tourists and authorizing their military rivals to carry out a domestic crackdown, it is safer and easier for them to let the mobs do as they please.
The Muslim Middle East is facing a choice between two paths. One leads ahead to a Westernized society and the other back to the barren deserts of the 7th Century. The Muslim Brotherhood and other political Islamists claim that it is possible to have the best of both worlds, combining high tech and desert morals in a society where every woman is covered and every man is an engineer. But that illusion is under siege as Islamist militias begin fragmenting countries into tribal encampments.
‘HOMOSEXUALITY NOT A SIN' THESIS NOT PERSUASIVE
Christianpost.com, 9/28/12, “Theolo-gians Find Vines’ ‘Homosexuality Is Not a Sin’ Thesis Not Persuasive” [Excerpts]: “Being gay is not a sin” is the mantra that one young Harvard student is trying to promulgate. But while Matthew Vines has attracted a growing following with what some are describing as accessible, scholarly arguments, evangelical scholars don’t believe he’ll make much headway in the Christian community.
“His arguments are not new, and his predecessors failed to win the day within the Christian community,” said Dr. Evan Lenow, assistant professor of Ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Therefore, I doubt he will have significant impact in the long term.”
Vines, 22, grew up in a Christian home and takes his faith seriously. Thus, as a homosexual feeling conflicted with the church’s teaching—that homosexuality is a sin—he decided to take a leave of absence from Harvard University two years ago in order to study Scripture and dozens of scholarly works on the subject.
But the arguments he presents have been rehashed from the work of such scholars as Finnish Old Testament scholar Martti Nissinen, homosexual New Testament scholar Dale Martin (Yale), and homosexual church historian John Boswell, according to Dr. Robert Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, who is considered the foremost expert on the Bible and homosexuality.
“Every one of these rehashed arguments I have refuted in previous work, of which Vines shows not the slightest awareness,” said Gagnon, who studied the issue for 15 years after completing a masters of theological studies at Harvard Divinity and a Ph.D. in New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary. Nevertheless, Vines is challenging the “traditional interpretation” of Scripture, maintaining that Christians who hold this view are misreading the Bible.
[TBC: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature” (Romans:1:26-27).]
THE BIBLICAL LITERACY OF TEENAGE BELIEVERS
Christianpost.com, 9/12/12, “The Biblical Literacy of Teenage Believers” [Excerpts]: Youth ministry researcher Chap Clark says, “I’m convinced that the single most important area where we’ve lost ground with kids is in our commitment and ability to ground them in God’s Word.”
As a result, Barry Shafer says, “The church today, including both the adult and teenage generations, is in an era of rampant biblical illiteracy.” Duffy Robbins takes this one step further when he says: “Our young people have become incapable of theological thinking because they don’t have any theology to think about.… And, as Paul warns us, this…leaves us as ‘infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching’ (Ephesians:4:14).”
At the conclusion of the National Study of Youth and Religion, lead researcher Christian Smith reported: “Even though most teens are very positive about religion and say it’s a good thing, the vast majority are incredibly inarticulate about religion. …It doesn’t seem to us that many teens are being very well-educated in their faith traditions.”
To illustrate his point, Smith refers to teenagers in the study from conservative Protestant churches. “About half of their teens say that many religions may be true; more than one-third say it is okay to practice multiple religions; more than one-third believe people should not try to evangelize others; more than one-third say it is okay to pick and choose one’s religious beliefs and not accept the teachings of one’s faith as a whole, and nearly two-thirds say a person can be truly religious and spiritual without being involved in a church.”
Summarizing the entire study, Smith reports, “The net result…is that most religious teenagers’ opinions and views—one can hardly call them worldviews—are vague, limited, and often quite at variance with the actual teachings of their own religion.”
Duffy Robbins considers possible causes when he says: “The church in general, and youth ministry in particular, has demonstrated more of an appetite for goose bumps than for God’s truth, more interest in how our young people feel than how they think.… But where are Christian teenagers learning basic tenets of the Christian faith? And if they don’t understand those basic truths or doctrines…then how does that impact their long-term faith? I’m concerned that too much of our teaching is reduced to what can…be communicated by a worship band illuminated by stage lighting and well-placed candles.”
Here is some good news. Churches that tend to produce teenagers who can articulate their faith do exist. The Study of Exemplary Congregations in Youth Ministry identified characteristics shared by 21 churches that perennially are effective in youth ministry. Even across seven denominations, one shared characteristic that rose to the top was: “Bible study and biblical literacy are extensive and