The Waning Influence of the American Church

The sub-christian pietism, social pacifism and cultural docetism that pervade the American church might be the primary reason for her waning influence.

People can’t believe a gospel of no consequence. Jesus’ gospel carried an immediate effect upon all of life. Without that, it becomes a merely theoretical gospel accurate in sentences but devoid of power. A lively faith is reduced to the singing of songs and a series of rituals. A reading of dusty books and dead theologians.

Some set James and Paul at odds and war against Luther’s gospel “with hands and feet”; Calvin’s gospel productive of a “Christian life”. We can’t have Paul without James or James without Paul if we demand the full counsel of God.

James wrote, “…If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”

Our Justification is by grace alone through faith alone – but faith is never alone in the truly regenerate soul; neither in a true Christian church, where there are duties to attend in the temple of God and we share in the sufferings of Christ.

And this makes us happy…

Neiswonger

There is Grain in Egypt (Sermon)

This sermon looks at the story of Joseph’s brothers who came to buy grain from him in Genesis 42. Like the brothers, even when it seems all things are against us, we must remember that there is grain in Egypt.

The audio file for this sermon can be downloaded here.

It is also available in the Bethel Grace Baptist Church Podcast.

God Bless,

Doug

Prior restraints upon speech are presumptively unconstitutional

Please remember this phrase; we might be seeing it more and more in the days to come as people of faith and good will are threatened by the courts with criminal sanctions for speaking, videos, books, blogs, online publications, (eventually perhaps Facebook posts and Tweets).

The phrase is: “Prior restraints upon speech are presumptively unconstitutional.”

It means that if they tell you you can’t speak, or what you can’t speak, or how you can’t speak it, they are breaking the law. This applies to law enforcement, courts, governmental agencies and presidents.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Amendment 1

“The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity.” Blackstone (4 Bl. Com. 151, 152.)

Immediately, the accurate and lively preaching of the gospel requires freedom of speech because it is offensive to just about everyone and effective through its great offense. The pulpits are the thunder of the future, if we are still salt and light.

Otherwise we will be of no offense but also of no consequence.

“Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.”

“What of Christ and Culture” The Conference 2015

DaVinci Bahnsen Conference

The days are ripe with turmoil and tragedy. It would be easy to interpret the faith through despair and regret.  But is that the call of Jesus? Fear and trembling? The United States has entered into a difficult time in regard to the Christian faith.  Many feel an oppression building; a change in the wind and waves of history.  That might be true.

A generation ago Greg Bahnsen asked, “By what standard”. Francis Schaeffer asked, “How should we then live?” Most Christians find themselves still grappling with those questions. Some say there’s nothing for the Christian to do. Some say prayer and fasting as we dwell in exile. Some say speak truth to power while some say that the Gospel demands an active Christian participation.

Assembling many of the world’s finest Christian scholars on the issues of faith and culture this conference will take seriously the call to every Christian to be “Always Ready” with an answer to everyone that asks.  To what kind of a faith and practice are we called by Christ who has overcome the world? Is our hope and faith only for the world to come?

Speakers and Topics Include:

Thursday Evening October 22nd:

“Understanding and Debating Atheism” (a live debate)- Sye TenBruggencate, (Absolute Apologetics)

“Understanding Evangelism and Culture” – Jeff Durbin (Apologia Radio)

Friday, October 23rd:

“Understanding Cornelius Van Til” – K. Scott Oliphint Ph.D Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary

“Understanding Gary North” Joel McDurmon Ph.D (American Vision)

“Understanding R.J. Rushdoony” Mark Rushdoony (Chalcedon)

“Understanding Greg Bahnsen” – Kenneth Samples, PhD (Reasons to Believe)

“Understanding Gordon H. Clark” – E. Calvin Beisner, PhD (The Cornwall Alliance)

“Understanding Meredith Kline” – Lee Irons M.Div, Ph.D (The Upper Register)

“Understanding Art & Culture” Lindsay Brooks (MI, Apologetics.com)

“Understanding Francis Schaeffer” Christopher Neiswonger JD, MA (World Vision International, apologetics.com, Branch of Hope OPC)

Saturday October 24th:

Morning Sessions: Homeschooling methods, practices and success

“Understanding C.S. Lewis and “Great Books” Education”– Donald McConnell JD (Rivendell Sanctuary, Trinity Law School)

“Understanding the Pastoral Consequence of Faith and Culture” – Pastor Paul Viggiano (Branch of Hope OPC)

“Understanding Faith, Family and Education” – Kevin Swanson (Generations with Vision)

Panel Discussion with Swanson, McDurmon, McConnell, Viggiano and Neiswonger on contemporary and future issues for the church.

Panel Discussions and subsidiary lectures:

“Understanding de-christianization by law – A history of the United States Supreme Court”

“Understanding Obergefell v. Hodges – The legal and ecclesial consequences gay marriage”

“Understanding the place of the moral law in informing the Christian social conscience”

Register now!

Conference main website, click here!

“Strategies for Child Protection in Churches and Ecclesial Organizations”

“Strategies for Child Protection in Ecclesial Organizations”
(Notes from a presentation at Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, Christopher Neiswonger JD, MA)

The old presumption in ecclesial Child Protection strategy was that “Protective Information” was sufficient and effective. Churches are shifting to a perspective of “Protective Practice” partially in response to the Clergy Abuse Scandal of the Roman Catholic Church. Protective practice protocols minimize the value of information and increase safety without dependence upon character or “trust” as the means of predicting future bad acts. Churches tend to be very poor at predicting child predation but very good at negating the opportunity for harm.

California law has a 7 year restriction on all criminal background checks in relation to employment.
http://www.transparentme.com/california-background-check-law
http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2009/07/16/california-sex-offender-search-employment-screening-background-check/
http://www.littler.com/new-california-laws-restrict-discretion-employers-have-inquire-and-use-criminal-record-information-0
http://www.calaborlaw.com/background-checks-what-are-my-rights/
http://www.jonesday.com/the-megans-law-web-site-california-employers-beware-02-11-2009/
https://www.hrscreeninghelpdesk.com/documents/hrcalifornia.pdf
http://www.usinformationsearch.com/content/guidelines-california-employers
https://law.resource.org/pub/us/case/reporter/F3/356/356.F3d.955.02-15586.html

The limitations of protective information have always been:

1) They rely on the presumption that if a person is dangerous they will have displayed that tendency through a past activity, have been caught, tried and convicted.
2) That the church has a means of finding the information about prior bad acts regardless of their time, place and conditions.
3) That a person will not always act consistently with past behavior.
4) That those that receive that information have the background and training to understand and act upon the threat in a meaningful way.

Sections of code relevant to the use of differing kinds of background information.

Notice the code in regard to the use of the sex offender list:

California CA Civil Code §47(c): Employer reference immunity
California CA Labor Code §432 and CA Code Regs. 2 §7287.4(d)(1): Inquiries into and use of applicant’s criminal history
California CA Labor Code §980: Requesting social media account information
California CA Labor Code §1024.5: Credit report use notice and right to copy
California CA Penal Code §290.4(d)(1): Use of sex offender list

“(2) Except as authorized under paragraph (1) or any other provision of law, use of any information that is disclosed pursuant to this section for purposes relating to any of the following is prohibited:
(C) Loans.
(D) Credit.
(E) Employment.
(F) Education, scholarships, or fellowships.
(G) Housing or accommodations.
(H) Benefits, privileges, or services provided by any business establishment.”

Concerns:

1. Churches have a very difficult time responding to not only criminal or harmful actions by employees, staff and clergy but perhaps an even more difficult time acting to avoid dangers before they occur.

Churches are not designed or organized with child protection or law enforcement in mind as a legitimate concern.

2. Churches have been called to act in regard to their special status. They are not a “state”, a “business” or a “family”. Their special status as places of grace and forgiveness are not well suited to being shouldered with legitimate child protection concerns. There is a natural aversion to addressing issues of danger or social discomfort.

Churches teach theology, administrate the sacraments and provide material care for the community. They have no intrinsic child protection strategy other than a general desire for the well-being of children. They generally need to be convinced that attending to the protection of children while those children are in their care is a moral and legal duty.

3. Because of changes in society, the church and the culture the only more dangerous places for children might be in the public schools, cohabitation of an unrelated adult male with a minor female, and dangers from other children in foster care, orphanages or juvenile incarceration.

This is a relatively new issue for the church and lightly understood. Prior, children spent very little time at churches or church functions and churches were not perceived to be central to the social life of the community (youth groups, youth events, Sunday school and church family events are of recent invention). Churches had no caregiving function in regard to children and these matters were almost completely relegated to the family, law enforcement and the community. With the breakdown of these traditional institutions the responsibilities of care fall upon other institutions like the school and the church.

Thus the role of children in the church was minimal and the risk relative to the role.

There are Three things we don’t want people to do children: Touch, Tell or Traffic:

(Prohibitions that greatly reduce the opportunity for abuse)

1. A prohibition against any adult being within a confined space with a child without another responsible adult present. No adult and a child not related by blood, law or marriage shall be in a closed room, car, or other space without a third party present in regard to their service to the church.
2. A prohibition of confidential, secret, or private communications of any kind between an adult and a child within the scope of their work in or for the church. A parent or responsible third party must be included in all such communications by writing, phone, text, email, voicemail messages or any other kind of communication.
3. An adult or minor staff member volunteer or employee, including the clergy or any officer of the church shall not touch a child on any part of their body commonly considered “private” or open to sexualization including but not limited too, the mouth, buttocks, breasts, genitals, other areas considered personal or sensitive or to have the child touch them in any such way.
4. A prohibition against any volunteer, member of the church, staff, clergy or officer to use their position, influence, bribes, threats, violence, force or threat of force to gain sexual contact of any kind.


A draft of volunteer, staff, clergy or employment questions prior to qualification for ministry or hiring:

(This kind of list should be taken as subject to the particular temperament and culture of the given church, and revised accordingly. Not everything works within the context of every church.)

1. I have never been charged with a crime in regard to the safety or well being of children.

2. I have never as an adult desired or acted upon a desire to sexually contact a child

3. I have never molested a child.

4. I am not currently nor have I ever been a registered sex offender.

5. I am not currently under any state or court mandated supervision in regard to a sexual offense.

6. I shall not have any private contact or communications (including private conversations, texts, messages, notes, phone calls, or any other mode of communications) with a child without their parent or legal guardian’s immediate permission within the context of my role in the church.

7. I have not nor shall I have physical contact with any part of a child’s anatomy considered sensitive or “private” including but not limited too the buttocks, breasts and genitals.

8. If I know or have good reason to believe that an illegal or immoral relationship exists between a child and any adult member, visitor or child care worker at (church) I will report this information immediately to a member of the Session and whatever other authorities I might have a legal or moral obligation to contact (including law enforcement and Child Protective Services).

9. I do not have knowledge of any illicit, illegal or immoral contact between an adult and a child that has occurred at or in relation to (Church).

10. I do not use, own, intend to use, create or to distribute child pornography or pornographic materials.

11. Because as a staff member, volunteer, helper, officer or employee of the church I in a lesser sense “represent” the Church to others I shall make every effort to increase the honor and respect due the Church (and (church) as an individual instance of the visible church). I will be careful in regard to public or private statements, social media, communications or activities that would be discouraging to the faith or practice of children. I will make every effort to present my life to them as a Christian life free from doubt, moral or spiritual confusion. I shall not speak or communicate with them in worldly or profane ways that are inappropriate but as salt and light building them up in love, faith and goodness.

12. I shall be personally chaste or faithful within the context of marriage (as one’s calling demands) as an example of Christ to those that observe my faith and life.

C. Neiswonger © 2015

And The Peace of God Will Guard Your Hearts and Minds

http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=51015155010

The Holy Ghost: A Ghost Story…

“The Holy Ghost: A Ghost Story…”

Christopher Neiswonger at Branch of Hope OPC