Monday, July 30, 2007
McLaren Continues Reading
Can't get enough of Brian McLaren? While I have easily grown tired of his one-note fiddle, I try to keep up with his antics as an apologist.

That is why I won't stop with my previous post of his first two readings from his latest book. He's already posted part three. Maybe he'll read his entire book online and then I won't need to buy it.... But somehow, I doubt it!

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Friday, July 27, 2007
For Whom Did Christ Die? Conclusion
Our study has taken us a long way. We began by asking the question: "For Whom Did Christ Die?" Looking to Scripture for our answer, we examined the atonement's purpose, nature, and result. Then we contrasted our biblical conclusions with the opposing view. Finally, we took the time to consider common objections (Part 1 and Part 2) against the doctrine of limited atonement. Now we have reached the point of concluding our study.

Conclusion

For whom did Christ die? He died for a select group: his people. This precious truth revealed in the Word of God is the doctrine of limited atonement. Examining the atonement’s purpose, nature, and result confirms that the Bible is not silent on the atonement’s extent. Christ did not die for all people equally; his death actually accomplished the salvation of his elect people alone. Even after considering objections, the sufficiency and efficacy of Christ’s death prove its limitedness.

Completely convinced of Christ’s sufficient atoning power, Spurgeon faithfully preached Christ’s death to his people. He proclaimed:

He [Christ] suffered all the horror of hell: in one pelting shower of iron wrath it fell upon him, with hail-stones bigger than a talent; and he stood until the black cloud had emptied itself completely. There was our debt; huge and immense; he paid the utmost farthing of whatever his people owed; and now there is not so much as a doit or a farthing due to the justice of God in the way of punishment from any believer; and though we owe God gratitude, though we owe much to his love, we owe nothing to his justice; for Christ in that hour took all our sins, past, present, and to come, and was punished for them all there and then, that we might never be punished, because he suffered in our stead.[1]

[1]Spurgeon, “The Death of Christ.”

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Thursday, July 26, 2007
Brian McLaren's Latest
Well, Brian McLaren is starting to promote his latest screed: Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope. Publisher's Weekly has released a review as well as an interview with McLaren.

And if that is not enough to make you boycott your Christian bookstore when the book is released, you can watch McLaren read from his book in his YouTube channel.

Here is reading 1:

And reading 2:

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Our Tenth Anniversary
Ten years ago, I was truly blessed by my Lord. He allowed me to enter into the sacred marriage covenant with my wife. While we have been through a lot together over the years, God has given us four wonderful children and a strong, vibrant relationship. May Christ continue to bless us as we seek to glorify Him!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Ed Stetzer Now (Consistently) Blogging
I have come to appreciate the insightfulness of Ed Stetzer. Now he has a blog through LifeWay that he intends to regularly update. It is definitely a blog to check out regularly (or to add to your feed reader). Here is his initial post: "On Better Blogging."

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Monday, July 23, 2007
Lifting the Veil of Polygamy Video Online
The video Lifting the Veil of Polygamy is now available to watch online in its entirety. For those interested in the history of Mormonism or in today's fundamentalist Mormons, you'll want to watch it. Enjoy!


(HT: Mormon Coffee)

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Friday, July 20, 2007
For Whom Did Christ Die? IIIC-E Considering Objections (1 Timothy 4:10, 1 John 2:2, 2 Peter 2:1)
"For Whom Did Christ Die?" We must turn to Scripture for our answer. After introducing the controversial question, we examined the atonement's purpose, nature, and result. Next, we also contrasted our biblical conclusions with the opposing view. Then we began considering objections against the doctrine of limited atonement. This week, we will finish analyzing objections.

C. 1 Timothy 4:10

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” Terry L. Miethe says, “Now certainly those who do not believe are not saved. The Scripture is completely clear on this. Thus, quite obviously, this verse is saying that although Christ died for all men—i.e., the free gift was extended to all—it is finally effective only for those who accept it.”[1] However, Miethe provides no exegetical support for his assertion.

I. Howard Marshall, himself a proponent of unlimited atonement, shows that the usual translation of this verse is misleading. He notes, “The possibility exists that we can translate malista, not by ‘especially,’ but by ‘namely.’ The Pastor makes a statement of the character of God as the Savior of all men, and then he makes a necessary qualification: ‘I mean, of those [among them] who believe.’ Since this translation gives an excellent sense here, it should be adopted.”[2] If this interpretation is adopted, then Paul qualifies his own statement about Christ dying for “all people.” He means that Christ died for believers. This is the doctrine of limited atonement.

D. 1 John 2:2

The Apostle John wrote the following about Jesus’ atonement: “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Of this passage, Norman Geisler observes, “[O]ne need only consult the generic (general, unlimited) usage of kosmos in John’s writings to confirm that he speaks of the fallen, sinful world. . . . It goes far beyond the strain of one’s credulity to somehow conclude that kosmos in 1 John 2 refers only to the elect.”[3] Unfortunately, Geisler is being overly simplistic in his analysis. John uses kosmos or “world” in various ways. Determining its meaning depends on establishing the context surrounding its use.

Should “world” be taken as all of humanity in 1 John 2:2? Ernest C. Reisinger and D. Matthew Allen respond, “Notice first off that Jesus ‘is’ the propitiation for our sins (not that he merely makes propitiation possible). Did Christ accomplish propitiation for everyone who ever lived? . . . Hence, this little word ‘is’ alone refutes the general redemption theory.”[4] Moreover, interpreters should recognize the parallel between this verse and John 11:51-52. In this passage, John wrote, “He [Caiaphas] did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” Comparing the two texts reveals a striking resemblance.

John 11:51-52
1 John 2:2
Jesus
He
would die
is the propitiation
for the nation,
for our sins,
and not for the nation only,
and not for ours only
but also
but also
to gather into one
for
the children of God who are scattered abroad.
the sins of the whole world.


Since the Apostle Paul refers to John as an apostle to the Jews (Gal 2:9), it makes sense that in writing to a Jewish audience he would emphasize the universal scope of salvation as extending to all peoples and nations in the world. First John 2:2 in no way contradicts limited atonement.

E. 2 Peter 2:1

In his second letter, the Apostle Peter warns, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” Geisler says, “Here Peter speaks of Christ purchasing the redemption even of those who are apostate. Since all Calvinists agree that those who have truly been saved will never lose their salvation—and since this passage speaks clearly of lost persons—when Peter affirms that Christ ‘bought’ these lost souls, he means the Atonement is not limited to the elect.”[5]

While 2 Peter 2:1 could be interpreted in this way, it makes more sense to remain consistent with the truths already established elsewhere in Scripture. Thomas Schreiner provides an alternative explanation for Peter’s use of the phrase “the Master who bought them.”

I would suggest that Peter used phenomenological language. In other words, he described the false teachers as believers because they made a profession of faith and gave every appearance initially of being genuine believers. . . . Their denial of Jesus Christ reveals that they did not truly belong to God, even though they professed faith. Peter said that they were bought by Jesus Christ, in the sense that they gave every indication initially of genuine faith.[6]

Phenomenological language is speech as appearance. Peter said that false teachers are “even denying the Master who bought them” because they appeared to be Christians. Nevertheless, their destructive heresies demonstrate the falseness of their faith. Jesus Christ never actually bought them by his death; he only appeared to do so by their false profession. Again, Christ secured the salvation of all those for whom he died. None will be lost. None will face swift destruction.

[1]Terry L. Miethe, “The Universal Power of the Atonement”, in The Grace of God and the Will of Man, ed. Clark H. Pinnock (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1989), 80.
[2]I. Howard Marshall, “Universal Grace and Atonement in the Pastoral Epistles”, in The Grace of God and the Will of Man, ed. Clark H. Pinnock (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1989), 55.
[3]Geisler, Systematic Theology, 3:359.
[4]Ernest C. Reisinger and D. Matthew Allen, Beyond Five Points (Cape Coral, FL: Founders, 2002), 119-120.
[5]Geisler, Systematic Theology, 3:356.
[6]Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2, Peter, Jude, in vol. 37 of The New American Commentary, ed. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2003), 331.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007
"Weird Al" Yankovic is Coming!
I am amazed that it has been so long since I have posted anything on "Weird Al" Yankovic. After all, everybody surely knows how obsessed of a fan that I am. Maybe I was too busy watching the DVD set of "The Weird Al Show." Or maybe I have spent the last several months memorizing his song "Weasel Stomping Day" in Klingon.

In any case, you can rest assured, I am just as devoted as ever. And I am here to report some earth-shattering news: Weird Al is coming in concert! No, not to Louisville--but King's Island is only a couple of hours away. And I can see him live for the first time since his Running with Scissors tour on August 18, 2007 at the Timberwolf Amphitheatre.

Well . . . that is if we can find a babysitter for the day, and if I can get tickets (a not-so-subtle suggestion for a perfect birthday gift, perhaps?).

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Bishop Carlton Pearson, "The Way I See It"
A lot has been in the news lately about Bishop Carlton Pearson. A Pentecostal minister, formerly featured on TBN, Pearson has embraced universalism. The most recent news report was released this month on 20/20: "'Nobody Goes to Hell': Minister Labeled a Heretic."

Now you can read Pearson's so-called "wisdom" on your next Starbucks cup. The Way I See It #250 contains this jewel of spiritual insight:

In reality, hell is not such an intention of God as it is an invention of man. God is love and people are precious. Authentic truth is not so much taught or learned as it is remembered. Somewhere in your pre-incarnate consciousness you were loved absolutely because you were. Loved absolutely, and in reality, you still are! Remember who you are!

It makes me wonder--where in the world does he come up with such foolishness? Almost every phrase of this quote is riddled with error! Pearson yet again demonstrates what happens when people sever themselves from God's truth revealed in Scripture.

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Friday, July 13, 2007
For Whom Did Christ Die? IIIA-B Considering Objections (“All” and “World,” Isaiah 53:6)
After introducing the question "For Whom Did Christ Die?" We have covered a lot of biblical terrain. We examined the atonement's purpose, nature, and result. We also contrasted our biblical conclusions with the opposing view. Finally, we can begin considering the objections of those who deny limited atonement.

III. Considering Objections

Given its controversial nature, numerous biblical arguments have been raised against the doctrine of limited atonement. At the same time, most objections generally revolve around several biblical phrases and texts. Do these verses undermine limited atonement? Since the Bible is God’s Word, answering this question forces believers to examine each passage carefully. After all, Christians are obligated to develop doctrinal truth from Scripture, not read their beliefs into the text. The extent of the atonement must be determined from carefully handling the Word of God.

A. “All” and “World”

The Bible includes numerous texts using phrases including “all” and “the world.” The oft-quoted John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” Many other examples could be cited, but these verses do appear on the surface to teach Christ dying for all of humanity.

Nevertheless, each passage needs to be understood within its own context. While interpreting each of these texts individually is beyond the limits of this analysis, properly examining these statements demonstrate that they do not conflict with limited atonement. David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas explain the usage of such phrases:

One reason for the use of these expressions was to correct the false notion that salvation was for the Jews alone. Such phrases as ‘the world,’ ‘all men,’ ‘all nations,’ and ‘every creature’ were used by the New Testament writers to emphatically correct this mistake. These expressions are intended to show that Christ died for all men without distinction (i.e., He died for Jews and Gentiles alike) but they are not intended to show that Christ died for all men without exception (i.e. He did not die for the purpose of saving each and every lost sinner).[1]

In a work exhaustively examining these verses, John Owen concluded, “in no one place wherein it is used in this business of redemption, it [the word ‘world’] is or can be taken for all and every man in the world.”[2] Later he added, “it is nowhere affirmed in Scripture that Christ died for all men or gave himself a ransom for all men, much less for all and every man.”[3] None of these biblical passages deny limited atonement.

B. Isaiah 53:6

The prophet Isaiah prophesied about the future atoning work of Christ: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Millard Erickson comments on this verse, “This passage is especially powerful from a logical standpoint. It is clear that the extent of sin is universal; it is specified that every one of us has sinned. It should also be noticed that the extent of what will be laid on the suffering servant exactly parallels the extent of sin. It is difficult to read this passage and not conclude that just as everyone sins, everyone is also atoned for.”[4]

Is this the conclusion one should draw? The beginning of the verse says “all we like sheep have gone astray.” Who are the “we” spoken of here? Erickson assumes it is all of humanity since sin is universal. Nevertheless, this verse should not be severed from its covenantal context. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is referred to as God’s sheep (Ps 23, Isa 40:10-11). Whereas their own shepherds had failed them, God promised to become their shepherd (Ezek 34). He fulfilled this promise in Jesus Christ (John 10:1-18). Therefore, the “we” is clearly God’s covenant people. Just a few verses later, Isaiah explicitly states, “he [Christ] was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people” (Isa 53:8b, emphasis added). While his people had gone astray, God laid on Christ the iniquity and transgression of his rebellious people. Furthermore, Jesus spoke of his role as the shepherd of his wayward sheep:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:11-15).

Jesus lays down his life for his sheep. He will loose none of those whom the Father gives him, giving his life for them. Referring to his atoning work, Isaiah 53:5 actually supports limited atonement.

[1]David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1963), 46.
[2]John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1959), 193.
[3]Ibid, 195.
[4]Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 847.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007
Latest Mormon Ad
Over at the Pyromanics blog, Frank Turk reports on the latest Mormon online ad in "So much for 'Hiatus.'" I would love to comment more, but I simply don't have the time right now. So go over and check it out.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Major Conference on Mormons and Evangelicals Announced
Standing Together has just announced a major conference on Mormonism and Evangelicals to take place this fall: The National Student Dialogue Conference. It will occur on October 19-20 at the Salt Lake Christian Center. Check out the Event Poster and the Plenary Sessions (PDF).

I am not sure what to make of this event. Given those involved, I honestly do not know what to think. While I would love to attend myself, I already have the prior commitment of going on the Alpha and Omega Ministries cruise. I hope they'll record it all and make MP3s and/or DVDs available. If anyone plans on going, please let me know!

(HT: John Morehead)

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MacArthur Begins Series on Worldviews
Over at Pulpt Magazine, John MacArthur has begun a series on apologetics that I am really looking forward to: "War of the Worldviews (Part 1)." The following is the conclusion to his first post:

That very narrowness sets Christianity apart from every other world view. After all, the whole point of Jesus’ best-known sermon was to declare that the way to destruction is broad and well traveled, while the way of life is so narrow that few find it (Matthew 7:14). Our task as ambassadors of God is to point to that very narrow way. Christ Himself is the one way to God, and to obscure that fact is in effect to deny Christ and to disavow the gospel itself.

We must resist the tendency to be absorbed into the fads and fashions of worldly thought. We need to emphasize, not downplay, what makes Christianity unique. And in order to do that effectively, we need to have a better grasp of how worldly thought is threatening sound doctrine in the church. We must be able to point out just where the narrow way diverges from the broad way.

In tomorrow’s post, I will overview what I believe to be six key components of a biblical worldview – that is, the worldview that sets Christianity apart from every other worldly viewpoint.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Am I an 80s Nerd?
OK, maybe I am one of the few seminary graduates who thinks that the upcoming movie The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters looks hilarious. I admit it: I am both an 80s nostalgic nut and a classic video game aficionado (even though the Kong arcade game was admittedly a little before my time). Anyway, for the few of you who find my quirky personality interesting, here is the movie trailer:

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Monday, July 09, 2007
Tony Jones
I don't know how else to write this post on Tony Jones--Deny Burk says it all in "Tony Jones: A Gobbledygook 'Orthodoxy'." He concludes:

No doubt Tony Jones and the Emergent Village belong to what has been called the “revisionist” wing of the emerging church. They are among those who are radically redefining what it means to be Christian, which for some is another way of saying that they are not Christian. When a movement or “Christian” community treats the seven ecumenical councils as if they were up for grabs (or otherwise as a plaything to be deconstructed), then that movement or community has crossed over from the ranks of the orthodox to join the JW’s, the Mormons and all the others who do not stand in the life-giving stream.

The danger of Emergent deconstruction is that in many cases its heterodoxy wears an evangelical garb. But this should not be surprising. We received fair warning that this is precisely how the wolves always work (Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29-30).

Jones' latest venture into heresy is also linked in Burk's post (in PDF format). If you have a strong enough stomach, read Jones' entire presentation.

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Friday, July 06, 2007
For Whom Did Christ Die? II Contrasting Views
I began this series by introducing the debate over the extent of Jesus Christ's atonement. Then we examined its purpose, its nature, and its result. Now we have come to the point where we can contrast our biblical findings with the opposing view.

II. Contrasting Views

A. The Problem of Provisional Salvation

The doctrine of limited atonement has always been contested by those who believe that Christ’s death was made for all of humanity. These Christians believe in an unlimited atonement, where Christ’s atoning work makes salvation possible for every person, but it only comes to those who believe in him. H. Orton Wiley, a holiness theologian, advocated this view. In his magnum opus, Christian Theology, he stated, “The atonement is universal. This does not mean that all mankind will be unconditionally saved, but that the sacrificial offering of Christ so far satisfied the claims of the divine law as to make salvation a possibility for all. Redemption is therefore universal or general in the provisional sense, but special or conditional in its application to the individual (emphasis added).”[1] Thus, salvation is provisional. It is dependent upon one’s freely made response to the offer of salvation. Contemporary theologian Norman Geisler also emphasizes the universal provisionalism of Christ’s atonement. He makes such statements as: “all are savable, but only those who believe will be saved,” “everyone is potentially justifiable, not actually justified,” “reconciliation of all (‘the world’) did not guarantee the salvation but the savability of all,” and “reconciliation by Christ makes salvation possible.”[2]

Here is the heart of the debate: did Christ die merely to make people savable, or did he actually accomplish salvation for his people? Does the atonement secure salvation, or does it just make salvation possible? The biblical truths already established readily counter the error of unlimited atonement. Salvation is assured, not provisional. James White observes, “Christ’s death saves sinners. It does not make the salvation of sinners a mere possibility. It does not provide a theoretical atonement. It requires no additions, whether they be the meritorious works of men or the autonomous act of faith flowing from a ‘free will.’ Christ’s death saves every single person that it was intended to save.”[3] White is simply summarizing the consistent teaching of Scripture: Christ saves his people.

B. The Danger of Universal Salvation

If the atonement actually saves those for whom Christ died, then holding to an unlimited atonement necessitates believing in universal salvation. R.C. Sproul explains, “The atonement of Christ was clearly limited or unlimited. There is no alternative, no tertium quid. If it is unlimited in an absolute sense, then an atonement has been made for every person’s sins. Christ has then made propitiation for all persons’ sins and expiated them as well.”[4] The result of an effective unlimited atonement leads to universalism. Sproul concludes, “This means that if Christ really, objectively satisfied the demands of God’s justice for everyone, then everyone will be saved.”[5]

Obviously, universalism is an unbiblical position outside the bounds of the Christian faith. This is why evangelicals holding to an unlimited atonement rightly reject it. Unfortunately, to maintain both orthodoxy and their view of Christ’s death, they have gutted the atonement of its power. Christ becomes a potential Savior of all but an actual Savior of none. Thankfully, Scripture does not reveal Christ’s death in this way.

[1]H. Orton Wiley, Christian Theology, vol. 2.
[2]Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2004), 3:352-353.
[3]White, The Potter’s Freedom, 230.
[4]R. C. Sproul, Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), 164-165.
[5]Ibid, 166.

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NPR on Mormonism and Romney
As I was driving home from work yesterday, I was listening to NPR's show "All Things Considered" (yes, I regularly listen to NPR!).

All of a sudden, I started to hear a segment on Mitt Romney and Mormonism. It was a good discussion centering upon the relationship between Mormonism and historic Christianity. The next segment was an interview with Mormon scholar Richard Bushman. I was amazed with the amount of spin that he used in his answers, but I really wasn't surprised.

In any case, you can listen to or read both segments on the NPR site:

"Romney Faces Uphill Battle for Evangelical Voters"
"Explaining the Underpinnings of Mormonism"

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Watch or Download the Lost Book of Abraham
The Institute for Religious Research produced an important video on Mormonism titled The Lost Book of Abraham: Investigating a Remarkable Mormon Claim. Now it is available in its entirely to view or download online. You should really take the time to watch it:


(HT: Mormon Coffee)

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Monday, July 02, 2007
Worldwide Mormon Mission Work
In Saturday's Salt Lake Tribune, an insightful and troubling article appeared: "Mission metamorphosis." With the subtitle "Today, LDS gospel is not only proclaimed to every tongue and people, but also by them," this article should be read by all of those concerned with the growth of Mormonism worldwide. Here is the introduction:

The LDS Church announced this week that it had called its 1 millionth full-time missionary, but declined to name the candidate who gave the church its symbolic success.

Too bad.

It would have been nice to know if the new face of Mormon missionaries was a Scandinavian-looking Utahn, a dark-skinned Brazilian or an ebony-hued African. After all, the number of Americans among the church's nearly 54,000 missionaries is slowly declining. Today, about a third come from other nations.

While many Utahns are still being sent to far away lands, more and more missionaries serve in their own countries, seeking converts in their language and culture. Instead of heading to Provo to be trained in the art of proselytizing as generations before them did, many now go directly to one of 16 training centers in places like Johannesburg, San Paulo or London.

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How Can We Make the Bible Relevant for the iGeneration?

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About Me

Name:
John

I am a former Mormon who has been saved by Jesus Christ. Now I am a missionary involved with the Africa Center for Apologetics Research (ACFAR). I seek to live in light of Paul's words: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 ESV)

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