Religion Today Summaries - December 22, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - December 22, 2004

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:

  • Theology Professor: Christmas Is Not A Legend

  • Kentucky Church Promotes Racial Unity Alongside Christmas Season 

  • The Beginning Of The End Of Christianity In Australia?

  • Ex-Muslim Seeks to Transform Iran with Christian Broadcasts

Theology Professor: Christmas Is Not A Legend
Wolfgang Polzer, Assist News Service

Hardly any theology professor at a German university believes that the whole Bible is God's word. According to most liberal theologians many parts of the Christmas story, for instance the appearance of angels, are just legends. Prof. Klaus Berger, Professor of New Testament studies at Heidelberg University, criticized this attitude of his colleagues in an interview with the evangelical news agency idea. He believes that the biblical accounts are true. In his opinion all Gospels claim to stand up to verifiable judicial evidence. The fact that the authors of the Gospels suffered a martyr's death also speaks against the assumption of a legend, says Berger. No one would allow himself to be tortured for something he has only invented. Berger has no doubts that Jesus Christ was born by a virgin. Anyone reading the Bible in a wider context would realize that this virgin birth has nothing to do with Greek mythology where Gods commit adultery with human women. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, says Berger; he sees no parallel to Hellenistic idols. The Professor advises his students and colleagues not just to talk about God, but also to speak with him. Prayer is a matter of credibility for a theologian, says Berger. He himself prays devotions morning, noon and night - a lifelong practice of Martin Luther, as the professor explains.

Kentucky Church Promotes Racial Unity Alongside Christmas Season

A Kentucky church has taken the opportunity of the Christmas season to promote a message of racial unity in Cincinnati.  Alongside the display of a Christmas tree and a menorah in the city square, the church placed a cross and a sign designed to do more than just spread Christmas cheer.  The Christmas cross is colored yellow and features the words "Jesus is God's gift to us."  Next to the cross is a sign that says "red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight."  Both were placed on the Fountain Square by Decoursey Baptist Church of nearby Covington, Kentucky, in a city, according to Pastor Ashley Beagle, with a history of racial tensions.  He cites instances of police brutality, racial profiling, and even a riot in the mid-1990s.  Those tensions, he says, are stirred by yearly holiday displays of ten-foot crosses, erected by the Ku Klux Klan, that prompted fights as well as vandalism.  Beagle says he and the other members of the racial reconciliation group "Transformation Cincinnati" decided a message was needed that would bring people together and mend the races during a season of talking about God's love.  "That was our main objective: to reach to everyone regardless of skin color [or] financial background," the pastor says.  "We want to show God's love in a positive way."

The Beginning Of The End Of Christianity In Australia?
Jeremy Reynalds, Assist News Service

Two Australian Christian pastors have been found guilty of vilifying Muslims. The decision was handed down in Melbourne on Dec. 17. Bill Muehlenberg, the National Vice-President of The Australian Family Association (  said the decision could "could mark the beginning of the end of freedom of speech in Australia, and the official restriction of proclaiming the Christian gospel." The Judge said the two pastors breached section 8 of Australia's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 which says a person cannot engage in conduct that "incites hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of, that other person or class of persons." While exemptions are in place, Muehlenberg said, for "'any genuine academic, artistic, religious or scientific purposes or any purpose that is in the public interest,' the judge found that these exceptions did not here apply, because the person's conduct could 'not be regarded as reasonable and in good faith.'"  However, Muehlenberg, said, section 9 of the Act says a "'person's motive in engaging in any conduct is irrelevant.' "To argue that quoting a religious book makes one guilty of vilification would put 98% of religious discussions out of bounds," Muehlenberg said. "The truth is, probably the majority of what any Christian has said or written about other faiths will be found to be vilifying, based on the decisions of the judge.

Ex-Muslim Seeks to Transform Iran with Christian BroadcastsA
Chad Groening, AgapePress

The head of a California-based ministry aimed at reaching Muslims for Christ says the gospel of Jesus Christ is not the only message he takes to millions of people in Iran. The U.S. evangelist, born in Iran, is also preaching the virtues of democracy to people in his native country at every opportunity. Donald Fareed, a former Muslim himself, came to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior 14 years ago. He went on to become an ordained minister and the founding pastor of the Bay Area Persian Churches of San Mateo and Santa Clara, California. Fareed also began Persian Ministries International, an evangelistic outreach based in San Jose, through which he works to bring others out of Islam and into the knowledge of God through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Today he uses his weekly satellite television program to carry the gospel back to his homeland. But the ministry founder notes that many social and political obstacles to evangelism exist in Iran, and Persian Christians face severe persecution. Fareed makes use of his weekly broadcasts to encourage his former countrymen to push for a new government and at the same time, he tries to educate his listeners, because he wants the Iranian people to learn about the positive values, standards, and ethics of Western culture.