(RNS) As Christians prepared to mark 500 years since Martin Luther — one of history’s great heretics, or heroes, depending on your point of view — 2016 found them debating theological questions most thought had been settled a millennium ago.
CHR Comment: A helpful summary of theological issues that made headlines, showing that Christians are still quite able and willing to argue about doctrine. Although some might regard this as tragic, one might also note that people argue about things they care about most (which is why religion and politics are often off the menu for family holidays). Ironically, the opening illustration about Luther being either a heretic or hero is going by the wayside as both Roman Catholic and Lutheran leaders discuss the great reformer’s legacy.
Source: Top 5 ‘heresies’ of 2016: ‘One God,’ biblical authority and more
The evangelist (and CT founder) is 98 today. An historian examines the way he shaped the church and the world.
CHR Comment: Grant Wacker takes the occasion of Graham’s birthday to recount how the evangelist’s views have remained the same and how some views have changed over the years. The changes in Graham’s views seem to mirror changes in American Evangelicalism.
Source: The Remarkable Mr. Graham | Christianity Today
Pope Francis is pushing through with an unusually high-powered month of outreach to other Christians, celebrating 50 years of Catholic dialogue with the Anglican Church in between important visits to Orthodox and Lutheran leaders.
CHR Comment: As some denominations have relaxed their standards for doctrine and practice, making them more ecumenical in tone, they have also distanced themselves from other churches since they have adopted doctrines and practices that collide with long held Christian teaching. With one hand they reach out to others while withdrawing the other. As a consequence, the ecumenical movement has had limited success in its goal of broader unity.
Source: Pope, Anglican leader celebrate 50 years of dialogue – The Washington Post
How does your view of God change after you switch religions? HuffPost posed the question to three converts to Islam.
CHR Comment: What I found fascinating about the comments was that most everything they said was in fact characteristic of Christianity and its teaching about God, apart from some reference to some comments excluding the doctrine of the Trinity. In other words, what these converts say they appreciated about Islam was already present in the religion in which they grew up. For some reason they could not hear or see these teachings in their churches. Christians do well to listen to such stories and learn what people are seeking and valuing in religion. It is by and large not new doctrines or ideas but practice that connects with doctrine.
Source: 3 Muslims On How Converting To Islam Changed Their Ideas About God
Pope Francis lays out his case for emphasizing the merciful face of the Catholic Church in his first book as pontiff, saying God never tires of forgiving and actually prefers the sinners who repent over self-righteous moralizers who don’t.
CHR Comment: Based on reviews, Pope Francis is clear that he believes God is merciful and that Christians should also be merciful. However, the book is not clear on another point of doctrine that is essential to that emphasis. It does not provide clear answers about sin, or at least about certain controversial topics. If the doctrine of sin remains unclear, then the doctrine of repentance and forgiveness remains unclear. If forgiveness is unclear, people may be left in self-righteousness or uncertainty and the result is not mercy but malaise. More to come on all this, to be sure.
The second review posted below includes some direct quotations of the book. His comments on the issues of corruption are most interesting.
Source: Francis lays out case for mercy in 1st book as pope – The Washington Post
USA Today Review with Quotations
With all of the many divisions in our world, why wouldn’t people of different faiths want to demonstrate that there is a way for us to come together and pray for peace?
CHR Comment: United Methodist minister, Dave Norman, explains why he thinks interfaith services are good and in keeping with the teachings of Jesus Christ, which means welcoming everyone. He agrees with David Kinnaman, author of “You Lost Me,” that younger Christians are struggling with the idea that Christianity is an exclusive religion.
Source: A Multi-Faith Prayer Vigil for Peace: Why? | Dave Norman
A good essay built from recent church history. The author also points out that Christians outside Europe and the United States—where the growth is taking place—still hold to biblical doctrine and practice as standards.
Must Christianity change its sexual ethics? History may hold the key (COMMENTARY) – Religion News Service.
The biblical teaching that there is a hell still matters to Christians today as Bishop Carlton Pearson learned when he denied the doctrine. A basic question to ask: if we’re going to spend eternity together, what would God do with those who reject His will and lash out at others? Hell is the Bible’s answer for that question.
Pentecostal bishop, in Dallas visit, recounts his epiphany that there’s no hell | Dallas Morning News.
John L. Allen Jr. asks the question in a recent Time magazine article of whether Pope Francis will bring lasting change.
If one means substantive alterations in Church teaching—for instance, acceptance of abortion; gay marriage; allowing couples to use contraception; and welcoming women priests—then the answer is no. Francis has made it clear that he’s not a doctrinal radical and does not intend to upend the catechism (the official collection of Catholic doctrine). On the other hand, if one sees change as a reorientation of Catholicism toward the political center, the geographical and existential peripheries and the heart of the gospel, then it’s possible Francis will leave an imprint on the Church that will outlive his own reign, however long or short it turns out to be.
I understand the bit about geography, that Francis is involving Catholic leaders from outside of Italy and outside of Europe. But the rest of Allen’s comment seems nebulous. You can read the full article here: