The church in black and white.
The church in black and white.
“Sanctuary,” edited photograph of the interior of First Baptist Church of Fitchburg, MA. Taken and edited in 2018 by Tim McLaughlin.

Yesterday, The Gospel Coalition published an article by Joe Carter called “Why Evangelicals Are (Still) Divided Over Trump,” the title serving as a reference not only to the enduring fight among Christian conservatives, but also to a similar post Carter wrote before the 2016 election. In yesterday’s post, he attempted to explain the two primary camps he sees among conservative Evangelicals, with a stated understanding that painting in broad strokes must, by nature, mean that he misses some important degrees of nuance. He presents the two primary camps as one prioritizing concern over the impact this election will have on transforming the country, and the other as prioritizing the impact this election will have on our gospel witness. …

This week saw the launch of another bout of drama on the world of Southern Baptist twitter. This time it was centered on a letter written by Paige Patterson in 2012 that called the doctrinal stance of minority pastors into question, with no apparent grounds for the concern except that they were members of minority groups. Now this was almost certainly part of a dialogue and there may be more clarification in sources beyond this letter, but it is hard to see how that clarification could really improve the situation. It is worth noting that this post will not be specifically about that letter or the current discussion surrounding it, but rather on a larger issue that I believe informs this situation as well as many others that have been coming to the front in recent years. …

This week, A Big Gospel in Small Places: Why Ministry in Forgotten Communities Matters by Stephen Witmer was released. It clocks in at around 200 pages, with the main body of the book ending on page 183 with Acknowledgements and end notes following. I received a copy at the Small Town Summits event in October, which gave me the opportunity to read and prepare a review of it for this week. …

During senior year, a witch at school brought in a focusing crystal. It was a solid piece of quartz, about four inches long, and since we had some downtime in choir she was showing it around and answering questions about what she does with it and letting people take a look. I was reading when Rick nudged me and asked if I’d seen it yet. I told him I hadn’t.

“This is the type of thing you’re into, though!” he announced. I mean, yeah, I research magic here and there, but it’s less that I’m into magic and more that I’d like to understand why spirits keep wanting my attention. The nuance had always been lost on him.
“I mean…kinda?”
“You want to see it?” she asked. It was then I noticed we’d drawn the attention of the whole group gathered around the crystal.
“Ah, no, me and magic don’t exactly get along,” I offered.
“Oh don’t be ridiculous,” she said, coming over. “Open your hand.”
“I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“I can tell, there’s something about you, try it. Just hold it for a second and see what happens.” I sighed and opened my hand, and she began to hand the crystal over. As soon as it touched me, it snapped in half, and she was left holding her end of it as the rest fell into my palm. “What the hell?!”
“I did warn you.” When I tried to hand it back to her she refused, stating that I needed to keep it. She wasn’t sure what had happened, but was confident that if I didn’t keep the crystal I would be cursed in some way. There was just something about it. I could have probably told her that this is what happens when I come across magic, but it didn’t seem like she was really listening, so I pocketed it and went back to my book. …

This post will not be as exhaustive as the others for a few reasons, not least of which being that some of the major points that could be explored here have already been covered elsewhere in the series. If the practice of false teachers is contrary to Christianity specifically because is prideful, rejoicing in sin, and unfocused on Christ, then it stands to reason that the appropriate Christian life will be marked by humility, distancing oneself from sin, and focused on Christ. …

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“St. John on Patmos” Gaspar de Crayer (1584–1669), via Wikimedia Commons

I have taken a few discipleship groups or classes where we were asked to find a passage that summarizes salvation, and in every case what was cited were John 3:16 or one of maybe three sections of Paul’s writing. And again, this is fine, Paul did write about this and his writing is super helpful. …

The first thing you must know is that demons cannot, as a general rule, actually purchase human souls in any way that ultimately matters. Whatever happens in the Beyond, no one crosses over led by a demon who has any hold over them. It is enough, however, that humans believe they can purchase souls; as long as one is convinced they are irredeemably damned, the demons seem to get what they want in general.

The second thing you must know is that not all demons have any interest in playing this game, and those that do pride themselves on the difficulty of the ‘purchase’. And one demon in particular is widely regarded by his ilk for refusing to pursue anyone but clergy and the most devout of laypeople. This demon, like all his peers, goes by many names. …

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Photo by Rythik on Unsplash

As one drives north up Rte 18, from Hermitage to Greenville, there is an easily-overlooked side road nestled in the trees. Up this road, past the houses, is a small dirt path leading off to the left, entering a cemetery. The yard has fallen out of use-no grave is marked later than the 1950s-but is kept clean and free from the influence of the forest behind it. Every aspect of the site points to its history as a churchyard, but no sign of the actual church can be found. Just a dark, ancient, and ominous forest, which local lore claims will drive one mad if explored. On autumn nights, when the desire for such things grows, the most adventurous and foolhardy of the local teen population will sometimes risk a visit. Their stories grow more elaborate with each telling, but I have watched as they stood at the edge of the trees, and stared into the void beyond that threshold, and rare has been the child who could step any further. …

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One common theme raised throughout the general epistles is that of false teachers. This seems to have been a fairly constant issue in the early church, as it is referenced by every single author of a general epistle, discussed by Paul, and even briefly described in Acts. Jude, who sought to write a letter about salvation, instead found the need to address false teachers too pressing to delay. Peter, who spent his first letter largely concerned with salvation and Christian living, had to write (or at least dictate) a second that dealt heavily with false teachers. James, in a letter that is almost entirely about living out the gospel, found need to make a point about false teachers his audience needed to avoid. …

During the 2016 election campaign, I expressed concern about Donald Trump for a number of reasons, most of which were fairly widely shared by people who didn’t vote for him. But there was one I said at the time I was concerned about more than any of the others, because I was concerned it offended a more important party than ourselves and would be, I believed, the hardest to counter once he was in office.

I stated that putting Donald Trump in the White House would legitimize a practice calling itself Christianity that has little, if anything, to do with Christ. That his election would not only encourage the false teachers he surrounded himself with during his campaign, but that it would embolden a host of problems that the church was harboring and failing to address. …


Tim McLaughlin Jr

Freelance writer and artist, theology blogger, ministry student, church planter, husband and father in New England.

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