Tag Archives: Protestantism

Not a mercy but a sin: Christian tradition vs. euthanasia


Though the following e-newsletter from my days at Christianity Today International opens with an out-of-date reference to the late Terry Schiavo, the topic is as pressing as ever. What should we as Christians think about euthanasia, or “mercy killing”?

Some time after this piece was posted on CTI’s website, it was reprinted as the lead essay in Euthanasia: Opposing Viewpoints, ed. Carrie L. Snyder (Thomson Gale/Greenhaven Press, 2006). The piece was retitled “Christianity Condemns Voluntary Euthanasia,” and it was followed by an essay from the opposite viewpoint: “Christianity Should Condone Voluntary Euthanasia.” The author? Liberal Episcopalian John Shelby Spong.

(Some links in the following are likely out-of-date.)

Not a Mercy but a Sin
The modern push for euthanasia is a push against a two-millenniums-old Christian tradition.
Chris Armstrong

The case of Terri Schiavo, a severely brain-damaged Florida woman who has been on life support for over a decade, has reopened debate by secular and church authorities alike on questions surrounding euthanasia or “mercy killing.”

The matter is admittedly not simple. But the Christian church has, at least until recent decades, spoken on it with a fairly unified voice.

Continue reading

Mary: Exploring the church’s thought on the mother of Jesus


As Christian History & Biography was preparing to put out issue #83 on “Mary in the Imagination of the Church,” I spent some quality time poring over sources on the mother of our Lord. As usual, a few of those were culled out for the issue’s “Recommended Resources” section. Here they are:

[On why evangelical Protestants should even care about Mary in the first place, see here.]

Mary: Recommended Resources
A few good places for Protestants to explore the church’s thought on the mother of our Lord.
Steven Gertz and Chris Armstrong

Those looking for a starting place for a thoughtful modern Protestant reclamation of Mary may wish to browse Blessed One: Protestant Perspectives on Mary, a compact set of scholarly essays on the subject edited by Beverley Roberts Gaventa & Cynthia L. Rigby, eds. (Westminster John Knox, 2002). For those wishing to cut straight to the most highly contested points of Marian doctrine, a stimulating read is Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Brazos Press, 2003), by an articulate and sometimes passionately opposed pair, Dwight Longenecker & David Gustafson. Continue reading

Eight more days till Advent begins–what’s it all about, and what have you planned?


With Thanksgiving just around the corner, so’s the advent season (November 29 to December 24). These days our family is doing a wreath and even (when we can find all the bits & pieces) a Jesse tree. No more advent calendars with chocolate behind the doors, though (my wife’s mother used to send these): the kids just drag it into a dark corner and extract all the goodies at once!

I just find it interesting that evangelicals are starting to do this “liturgical” stuff at all! This year even the increasingly Calvinist Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary has created a set of faculty-written Advent devotionals. I posted on this phenomenon for Christian History & Biography:

Advent: Close Encounters of a Liturgical Kind
‘Tis the season when even the free-ranging revivalist pulls up a chair to the table of historic liturgy.
Chris Armstrong

I confess: as an adolescent, when my parents tried to impress on my two brothers and me the importance and the intricacies of Advent observance, I could hardly keep from rolling my eyes. In a country that spends its cold Decembers in hot pursuit of food, presents, and parties, the historical niceties of an ancient liturgical season seemed … well … irrelevant. Continue reading

How evangelicals have rediscovered the treasures of early Christianity, and what to do next


Further to my previous post on the new center for early church studies at Wheaton: In Spring, 2007, Wheaton College hosted a conference on how evangelicals are re-engaging with the wisdom of the early church. I attended the conference and wrote a feature article on it, published in Christianity Today in February 2008. The trends I describe here are certainly continuing, and the wise encouragements and warnings of the scholars who presented at that conference still apply. Let us rejoice in “treasures old” as well as new, and let us also display and use these treasures with discernment:

The Future Lies in the Past
Why evangelicals are connecting with the early church as they move into the 21st century.
Chris Armstrong

Last spring, something was stirring under the white steeple of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.

A motley group of young and clean-cut, goateed and pierced, white-haired and bespectacled filled the center’s Barrows Auditorium. They joined their voices to sing of “the saints who nobly fought of old” and “mystic communion with those whose rest is won.” A speaker walked an attentive crowd through prayers from the 5th-century Gelasian Sacramentary, recommending its forms as templates for worship in today’s Protestant churches. Another speaker highlighted the pastoral strengths of the medieval fourfold hermeneutic. Yet another gleefully passed on the news that Liberty University had observed the liturgical season of Lent. The t-word—that old Protestant nemesis, tradition—echoed through the halls.

Just what was going on in this veritable shrine to pragmatic evangelistic methods and no-nonsense, back-to-the-Bible Protestant conservatism? Had Catholics taken over? Continue reading