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These Times

These Times

A penetrating look at current events in light of Bible Prophecy

Street Evangelism Right Upheld—For Now

The city of Chicago has settled with Wheaton College students who were prohibited from evangelizing in the city’s Millennium Park in 2018. The case pushed the city to change park regulations to allow evangelizing and other public speech.

City rules prohibited “the making of speeches” and passing out of literature in most of the 24-acre park. In 2018, park security asked Wheaton students passing out tracts to stop, which they did, but then in subsequent interactions, security also stopped them from evangelizing. Four students consulted with a Wheaton professor, who reached out to a Christian law firm.

The Wheaton students didn’t have any money to pay a lawyer with expertise in constitutional law, but the firm took the case on its own dime. The firm filed a federal lawsuit in 2019 alleging infringements on the students’ free speech and free exercise of religion.

Finally, in April this year, the city council approved a $205,000 settlement, which includes $5,000 each for the students as well as attorneys’ fees for the five-year litigation.

Street preaching is culturally uncomfortable in the US but not in many other parts of the world, say those who do evangelism.

Public evangelism “causes us to recoil in a way that it would never have done five, ten, twenty years ago,” said R. York Moore in a 2019 interview about the students’ case. At the time, Moore was the national evangelist for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA.

“As the social perception and policy restrictions continue to push proclamation out of view, Christians will eventually have no choice but to pay a higher price for the proclamation—either as lawbreakers or subversives,” Moore said.

He’s right. Are you ready?

Chicago Settles $205K Case to Allow Evangelism in Millennium Park,” Christianity Today, Apr. 19, 2023.

Bible Reading Declining in America

Bible reading in America has fallen to 39% in 2023 from a high of 50% in 2021 during the pandemic according to the American Bible Society. Currently, 24% of American adults read the Bible at least once a week apart from a church service.

The numbers are part of an annual canvas of Americans conducted for the Philadelphia-based group by the National Opinion Research Corporation each January.

It shows women, at 41%, are more likely to be Bible readers than men (36%), and that Black Americans (57%) and older citizens (48%) are most likely to read and engage with the Bible. Asian Americans (27%), White Americans (35%), and members of Generation Z (35%) are least likely to be Bible readers.

When asked why they read the Bible, 47% of active readers responded, “Because it brings me closer to God,” the survey said.

The society, which said it would release subsequent installments of the survey monthly through December 2023, said its research revealed that regular readers of the Bible reported higher levels of hope than other Americans.

Using a ranking called the Persevering Hope Scale, which is derived from research conducted by scholars from several universities, the society survey found the scripturally engaged reporting a 4.1 hope score, versus 3.7 for those who don’t read the Bible.

“No other demographic group scored that high,” the report text said of the “Scripture Engaged” category. “Apparently those who read the Bible regularly, who live and think according to its teaching, find resources that keep them going, even in tough times.”

Tough times are not going to run out anytime soon. Turning to the Bible in tough times as people did during the pandemic is helpful, but the regular Bible readers have found the secret to resilience. 

44% say America would be ‘worse off’ without the Bible, but usage has fallen: Survey, The Washington Times, Apr. 17, 2023.

Hate Speech Charges Defeated, but Appealed

In 2021, after a police investigation, the Finnish Prosecutor General charged Päivi Räsänen, a member of Parliament, with using hate speech because of a tweet to her church leadership. As an active member of the Finnish Lutheran Church, she questioned its official sponsorship of the LGBT event “Pride 2019,” supporting her concern with verses from the New Testament.

Her case was heard in March 2022. Räsänen’s defense argued that finding her guilty would significantly damage free speech in Finland. What Räsänen said, they argued, was an expression of Christian teaching.  

Räsänen received support from a number of church bodies, including the Lutherans. In addition, several US senators wrote, “We are greatly concerned that the use of Finnish hate speech law is tantamount to a secular blasphemy law. It could open the door for prosecution of other devout Christians, Muslims, Jews, and adherents of other faiths for publicly stating their religious beliefs.”

The court issued a “not guilty” verdict, upholding the right to free speech and unanimously concluding that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts.”

The judges recognized that “there must be an overriding social reason for interfering with and restricting freedom of expression.” The court concluded there was no such justification. 

Only a month after her acquittal, the prosecution appealed Päivi’s “not guilty” verdict. Now she faces a second trial at the court of appeals in August 2023. She is willing to fight her case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

In Luke 21:12, Jesus warned His followers of persecution in the end times. They would be “brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.” We will be experiencing more of what Päivi is facing if we stand for truth.

Finnish MP wins on all charges in major free speech trial,” ADF International, Mar. 30, 2022.

Mouse Babies Grown from Male Cells Alone

Japanese researchers have told a genome-editing summit in London that healthy new mice have been born from eggs the team created from male mouse cells. This “achievement” gave a boost to the idea that one day the same might be possible with human cells.

The researchers started with stem cells from male mouse embryos or skin cells from adult male mice that were genetically reprogrammed into stem cells. These cells can give rise to cells that form almost any body tissue.

After culturing the male stem cells for a very long time, the researchers coaxed a few of the cells to lose male chromosomes and duplicate female ones, becoming female stem cells.

Next, the researchers encouraged these stem cells to turn into eggs by culturing them with ovarian cells. Lastly, the team fertilized the eggs with sperm and transferred the embryos into female mice.

Out of the 630 embryos implanted, seven gave rise to healthy mouse pups. This low success rate, about 1 percent, underlies the strategy’s difficulty, and questions remain over whether a similar strategy could work with human men.

Chief among concerns is that the long culturing process could lead to unwanted genetic mutations in the cells. For now, the mice with two fathers appear to be healthy and normal, but time will tell whether that remains the case.

Doing this with human male cells would raise enormous ethical and legal issues. Nevertheless, the prospect of growing human babies from male cells alone has generated both excitement and deep concern.

This kind of experimentation brings to mind what God said at the tower of Babel: “This is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” Gen. 11:6, NKJV. We know what happened next.

Healthy mice born from ‘male’ eggs, Science, Mar. 16, 2023.

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