Charity and predestination go hand in hand.

Next Thursday, as the rest of us tuck into our turkey feasts, hundreds of needy families in Southern California will open “Boxes of Love.” Delivered by several churches led by Pacific Crossroads in Santa Monica, Calif., the boxes contain ingredients for a Thanksgiving meal for six. They allow impoverished families to skip food lines and neighborhood pantries and enjoy the holiday in their own homes.

What’s unusual about the Pacific Crossroads congregation—and what underpins efforts such as Boxes of Love—is its theologically conservative raison d’être. A member church of the Presbyterian Church in America, Pacific Crossroads is committed to Reformation doctrines such as total depravity (every person is born sinful) and limited atonement (salvation is available only to the elect). These beliefs are typically regarded as ugly and inhumane by American culturati. Yet the church’s pastor, Rankin Wilbourne, is happy to pepper his sermons with references to Bono and “Jersey Shore,” and the church has grown to around 1,500 members from 500 in three years.

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