Religion Today Summaries - January 25, 2012

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - January 25, 2012

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Nigeria Arrests 158 Islamist Militant Suspects After Weekend Attacks
  • Poll: Americans Know What John 3:16 References
  • Chinese House Church Leader Released From Labor Camp
  • Gospel Coalition Council Member James MacDonald Resigns


Nigeria Arrests 158 Islamist Militant Suspects After Weekend Attacks

Three days after bombings and a shooting spree by militant Islamist group Boko Haram left more than 200 people dead in northern Nigeria, a joint military task force arrested 158 suspected members of the group, CNN reports. "A terrorist attack on one person is an attack on all of us," Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan said. A leader of the Christian Association of Nigeria said he believed the attacks were just the beginning of a campaign of religious cleansing of Christians in Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north. He called on the government to take strong measures to protect Christians, but "also pointed out that there are people within the Nigerian government, the Nigerian security, who have collaborated with Boko Haram, and that makes it very hard for the government to protect its own people," said Jonathan Racho of International Christian Concern. In addition to killing hundreds of Christians, Boko Haram has taken credit for murdering many moderate Muslims as well.

Poll: Americans Know What John 3:16 References

A new survey suggests that a majority of Americans know what the popular Bible verse John 3:16 is referencing, Baptist Press reports. The poll, conducted by the Barna Group, asked U.S. adults, "When you hear the phrase 'John three-sixteen' in reference to the Bible, what does the 'three' mean?" Sixty-eight percent of adults correctly said it was a chapter in John, with 6 percent saying it was a verse, 2 percent a book and 17 percent saying they weren't sure. Fifty-nine percent of non-Christians understood what the "three" referenced. Much national discussion has surrounded John 3:16 recently, after Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow passed for 316 yards in a playoff win -- leading to John 3:16 becoming the most searched item on Google -- and when Focus on the Family ran a TV ad showing young children reciting the verse. Despite what many might expect, the poll results show that "most Americans have at least some knowledge of the Bible and connection to Christianity," said David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group.

Chinese House Church Leader Released From Labor Camp

Pastor Shi Enhao, deputy chairman of the Chinese House Church Alliance, was unexpectedly released from labor camp last week after serving six months of a two-year "re-education through labor" (RTL) sentence, and is now safely at home with his family, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports. Pastor Shi, who oversees several hundred thousand house churches with thousands of members, was given the sentence in July 2011 for "holding illegal meetings and organizing illegal venues for religious meetings." Chinese citizens can be sentenced through the RTL system without a trial, and early release is rare. While many house churches in China operate with relative freedom, there continue to be many cases of arrests, disappearances, harassment and confiscation of property among members, and Chinese authorities remain largely immune to international pressure on these issues.

Gospel Coalition Council Member James MacDonald Resigns

James MacDonald, founding pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel and founding member of the Gospel Coalition, has announced his resignation from the Gospel Coalition council. On his blog, MacDonald wrote: "Though never entirely comfortable with the title 'reformed' ... I believe in these important biblical distinctions as protections against a man-centered gospel. I also believe strongly that local pastors benefit from an association that holds a high standard for churches in preserving -- even contending for -- sound theology. Our church's doctrinal statement has only strengthened during this helpful association and will remain unchanged. ... We are resolutely committed to biblical fidelity and gospel proclamation. We are deeply committed to the exposition of Scripture as the centerpiece of our church planting work around the world. ... I believe [TGC's] work will be assisted by my absence, given my methodological convictions. I have very different views on how to relate to the broader church and how the gospel must impact every relationship. I don't want my minor role on the Council to hinder their work as a whole or to give the impression they agree with all God has called me to do."

Publication date: January 25, 2012