This is kind of long, (like 10 minutes) but really good. Watch a pretty courageous person walk around the streets of a city in Israel and read Isaiah 53 with Jewish people who don’t believe Jesus was the messiah:
This is kind of long, (like 10 minutes) but really good. Watch a pretty courageous person walk around the streets of a city in Israel and read Isaiah 53 with Jewish people who don’t believe Jesus was the messiah:
I think we’ve all had a conversation like the one that starts off this video. If you don’t know how to quickly summarize the historical evidence (yes, evidence) behind Christians’ claim that Jesus rose form the dead, check this out:
These are great:
Could the universe have been caused by nothing?
Cosmological evidence points to the fact that the material universe is not eternal–in other words, that it had a beginning. And a truth that should be acknowledged by all is this: Whatever began to exist has a cause. Consider…
Is there no evidence for God?
What can we say when people say “there’s no evidence for God”? This one’s fast moving and pretty useful. (It also includes the Kalam idea.)
Does “faith” mean believing in things that aren’t true?
The short answer is “no.” The three-minute answer is nicely put in this video.
A few weeks ago Justin Taylor shared this phenomenal post which I wanted to share in full. I also watched the lecture below. Totally worth your time. Enjoy.
Does the Bible Support Slavery?
By Justin Taylor
What do you think is wrong with the following argument?
Remember that when evaluating an argument
So if you disagree with argument above, you’d have to show that there is
In the lecture below, delivered on October 30, 2015, at Lanier Theological Library, Peter Williams gave a fascinating lecture responding to this argument. Dr. Williams (PhD, University of Cambridge) presides over Tyndale House in Cambridge (one of the finest theological libraries in the world for biblical scholarship) and is an affiliated lecturer at Cambridge University.
His thesis is that using the most common definition of slavery, the Bible does not support slavery.
To make his argument, he examines the key Old Testament and New Testament texts said to support slavery. Along the way, he looks at the biblical words commonly associated with slavery and how their translation has changed over time. He also looks at the logic of the Old Testament world and the way ancient societies were structured quite differently from ours.
The lecture below is under an hour, and then he takes Q&A for around 20 minutes:
Rosaria Butterfield, being awesome, as usual.
Hear her explain why we should not accept the idea that there is anything such as sexual identity. “It’s demeaning,” she says. There’s a lot here, and even if you don’t agree with it all, it’s definitely worth six minutes of your online time today.
On Monday night we took the evening to consider a basic question: What is Christianity? Now, there are two different perspectives you might take to answer the question…
The second perspective helps people who don’t follow Christ understand what they are looking at when they see Christianity, and it helps people who are Christians understand what they’re supposed to be doing now that they are followers of Christ. That’s the perspective we considered on Monday night. Below are the notes:
People born of the Spirit
Mark 1:15 – Jesus preached this message of the kingdom of God.
John 3:1-8 – Jesus said that you can’t enter or see the kingdom of God unless you’re born of the spirit. How does this happen? Faith! (3:9-21) As one commentator explained: “Wind is observable, but it goes sovereignly where it pleases and is untraceable in its origin and disappearance. Also free, mighty, and untraceable in his movements is the Spirit in a person who is born of the Spirit.” (H. Ridderbos, The Gospel of John, p. 129) – Here is the rest of what he said about this passage, paraphrased: The point of Jesus’ teaching is to contrast divine possibilities with human possibilities—and not just to show us that we’re weak, but to invite us to look away from our own possibilities or impossibilities and to look to God for our salvation. Because the freedom of the Spirit to go where he pleases is not just impulsiveness or unpredictability, it’s a power that nothing can hold back; and the Spirit’s untraceability is not just that no one can figure him out, it’s that he possesses means that that humans don’t have—but what is impossible with Humans is possible with God. Only God designed and opened up this way for us to have his life, and this is the way we become participants in this new existence and therefore gain entrance into the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus also calls “eternal life.” And so it makes sense that it is faith in this salvation that is being revealed in Jesus that allows us to participate in these things. (See also 1 Peter 1:23-25, 1 John 5:1, Galatians 3:13-14, 4:6, Romans 8:9)
To sum this point up: Christianity is irreducibly spiritual. The thing that sets Christians apart—the main “identity marker” we have—is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, which has led to our experience of a whole new birth. This can look like a total life change, or a whole new set of desires and interests, or a new freedom from the old things that used to break us down. Primarily it will manifest itself in a new love for and excitement about God and a love for and concern about other people. That’s what makes Christians Christians, and this is what everything else flows from.
Passing along the Apostolic Testimony
So if this is what Christians are, then what distinctive things do Christians do? This is important for Christians to communicate to those who aren’t Christians, and it is important for Christians to reflect on so they don’t get confused about what they’re supposed to be doing.
Here’s the key: Christians are people who have heard and believed a message, and now they simply repeat and pass along that same message. What message is this? It is the message taught by Jesus to his hand-picked messengers called Apostles. See Jesus’ explanation in Luke 24:44-47. (See also Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8, John 20:30-31, 2 Timothy 1:13 & 2:1-2, 2 Peter 1:12-16.)
The Point: Ultimately Christians are not people who innovate. We are people who get very serious about knowing what the message handed down to us is, and repeating it faithfully. We find that message in the bible, and that’s what we say to everyone. (Romans 1:16)
Living lives which match the message
See 2 Timothy 3:10-15 – Paul’s life matched the message.
Four areas where our lives match our message:
Until Jesus Returns
There’s a time element built in to the Christian experience. See Titus 2:11-14. This all lasts until Jesus returns to institute the Kingdom of God on the earth. So Christians do what they do, and say what they say with eagerness about the approaching return of Jesus. They’re life looks like a life of waiting.
Summing it all up:
Christians are meant to be people who live with a lot of direction in their lives, and a clear sense of purpose. We don’t need to guess at who we are or what we’re doing. The details of our lives are all designed to fit into the direction God has given us. It begins with the Spirit, it’s shaped by the message, it aims at spreading, it longs for Jesus to return. Anything that doesn’t fit into that kind of life doesn’t belong. We’re people who constantly repent and look to grow and cleanse our lives of things that don’t make sense based on what we’re learning about Jesus and what he’s done in our lives. And we do it all with a huge, unique kind of Joy, since Jesus has secured everything that truly matters for us for all eternity, and we will soon see him and be with him, together, forever.
My good friend Ben Spector shared this with me the other day. I think it’s a totally helpful meditation for helping us stay fresh in our presentation of the message of Christ. The author meant this originally for cultures outside of the West which operate more in what people refer to as “Honor/Shame” categories than a typical western “Guilt” culture. You may want to do more research on that if it piques your interest, but I think these things are helpful for anyone, and may prove especially helpful if you’re speaking to one of the many people in our area who have recently moved from another part of the world. Enjoy…
The Gospel In Five Words
The problem is Unfaithfulness. People have broken the relationship with God. Our disloyalty dishonors God. (Ez 36:21; Rom 1:21-23; 2:23; 3:23)
The dilemma is Shame. Our dishonor means separation and disunion. We are shameful in God’s eyes, and feel shame. (Gen 3:7-8; Jer 3:8, 25; Rom 1:24)
God’s solution is Restoration. Jesus’ death honored God and bore our shame. His death reconciled the relationship. (Isa 50:6; 53:3; Heb 12:2; Rom 8:14ff)
The response is Loyalty. People must honor Jesus with complete allegiance. We must seek God’s face and name. (1 Sam 2:30; John 12:26, 43; Rom 4:20ff)
The result is Honor. God makes outcasts his children and exalts them to eternal glory. (Zeph 3:19; Isa 54:4; 62:2ff; John 1:12; 17:22; Rom 10:11-12; 1 Pet 2:6-11)
We don’t have to just be negative. That was one of the thoughts that was kicking around in my head as I drove home after Monday night’s study.
I am still mulling over the hugeness of the vision for humanity the New Testament describes. Verses like Ephesians 1:9-10, 2:15, 4:13–this idea of God’s eternal, cosmic, human-race-encompassing plan to unite us (and everything!) to the headship of Christ…it’s the kind of thing that can send your mind reeling if you really start to explore it. What massive things is God merely hinting at when he describes to us why everything we face in this life will be worth it?
So why was I thinking about not being “negative”? It struck me that as Christians in America 2015, we don’t have to get caught in the trap of reacting and responding to what the world outside of the family of God is doing and saying–and spend our time pointing out what we think is wrong with their vision for the human race.
We have a much more powerful thing to talk about.
We have our own positive vision for the world. We have promises and history and a road map that nothing outside of the message of Christ can compete with. It may not be your average, run of the mill conversation piece. It may take a patient listener, say, a friend whose trust you’ve gained, to spend the time to really understand, but…we have the best story to tell. We have a vision for humanity that outshines any other vision. We have enough information about the future to know that pressing on up our road is worthwhile. We offer something that transcends anything this life can throw at a human: healing for every brokenness, pardon for every shame, permanent ratification of human worth…
We have this kingdom to look forward to. To invite people into. To tell everyone about.
We have this king. This perfect man. This God who loves humans. This Spirit of Life who inhabits us.
So sure, there are times to answer critiques, to correct wrong thoughts, for the good of everyone influenced by them.
But better by far, and more worth our time, is the positive proclamation and spreading of the unique, glorious message of the New Testament.
God became a man.
For us, he defeated death.
He’s throwing a feast.
For Christmas my wife bought me Stephen Kotkin’s new biography of Ioseb Jughashvili, otherwise known to history as Joseph Stalin. It’s huge, so I’m nowhere near finished with it, but it has been an excellent read so far, full of tons of background history and information on everything from pre-WWI Europe to the reasons for (and nature of ) the Russian revolution. I guess you have to like history, but really, it’s great. Anyway, like all good books on history, it’s got lessons for our current times, and even more than that, it has food for thought for the Christian. For instance, in this passage, Kotkin discusses how unlikely it seems for someone from the edges of society to ascend to the top and into the center of a nation, from being a seemingly unimportant individual (a “no name”) to the most powerful person in a nation, or even in an era. And yet, it does happen. Kotkin writes:
Stalin’s ascension to the top from an imperial periphery was uncommon but not unique.
Napoleone di Buonaparte had been born the second of eight children in 1769 on Corsica, a Mediterranean island annexed only the year before by France; that annexation (from the Republic of Genoa) allowed this young man of modest privilege to attend French military schools. Napoleon (in the French spelling) never lost his Corsican accent, yet he rose to become not only French general but, by age thirty-five, hereditary emperor of France.
Then plebeian Adolf Hitler was born entirely outside the country he would dominate: he hailed from the Habsburg borderlands, which had been left out of the 1871 German unification. In 1913 at age twenty-four, he relocated from Austria-Hungary to Munich, just in time; it turned out, to enlist in the imperial German army for the Great War. In 1923, Hitler was convicted of high treason for what came to be known as the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, but a German nationalist judge, ignoring the applicable law, refrained from deporting the non-German citizen. Two years later, Hitler surrendered his Austrian citizenship and became stateless. Only in 1932 did he acquire German citizenship, when he was naturalized on a pretext (nominally, appointed as a “land surveyor” in Braunschweig, a Nazi party electoral stronghold). The next year Hitler was named chancellor of Germany, on his way to becoming dictator.
By the standards of a Hitler or a Napoleon, Stalin grew up as an unambiguous subject of his empire, Russia, which had annexed most of Georgia fully seventy-seven years before his birth. Still, his leap from the lowly periphery was impossible.
Consider further that the young Jughashvili [Stalin’s last name by birth] could have died from smallpox, as did so many of his neighbors, or been carried off by the other fatal diseases that were endemic in the slums of Batum and Baku, where he agitated for socialist revolution. Competent police work could have had him sentenced to forced labor in a silver mine, where many a revolutionary met an early death. Jughashvili could have been hanged by the authorities in 1906-7 as part of the extrajudicial executions in the crackdown following the 1905 revolution (more than 1,100 were hanged in 1905-6)…
If Stalin had died in childhood or youth, that would not have stopped a world war, revolution, chaos, and likely some of authoritarianism redux in post-Romanov Russia. And yet the determination of this young man of humble origins to make something of himself, his cunning, his honing of organizational talents would help transform the entire structural landscape of the early Bolshevik revolution from 1917. Stalin brutally, artfully, indefatigably built a personal dictatorship within the Bolshevik dictatorship. Then he launched a saw through a bloody socialist remarking of the entire former empire, presided over a victory in the greatest war in human history, and took the Soviet Union to the epicenter of global affairs. More than for any other historical figure, even Gandhi or Churchill, a biography of Stalin, as we shall see, eventually comes to approximate a history of the world.
As I read this, it seemed to be a powerful illustration of that old cliché, “You never know who you’re talking to.” These very powerful (and powerfully terrible) men had moved through their youth as “normal” non-descript personalities. What if, at some early point in their life, someone had shared the gospel with them, and they had embraced it? It’s a good reminder–everyone we meet is important, and worth sharing with. First because they’re made in God’s image and God has sent his Son for them. And second, as this passage shows, because they will inevitably influence other lives, for good or evil. Even if it’s only friends and immediate family–how much impact does one mom or dad have on their kids? You start to realize how huge it is to influence someone for Christ. So many lives will be affected by each individual.
But how much more when we could be talking to someone who seems pretty normal, but who may one day end up in a position of power we couldn’t even imagine? History tells us this happens. When we take time to really lay out the gospel for that friend or stranger, could we be talking to someone who’s history may shape the history of the world? It’s possible!
I stumbled on this promo for a conference the other day.
Aside from the fact that I hope the conference is helpful, the video contains these three sentences that I think are very profound:
“The Christian Gospel speaks into this confusion with revolutionary clarity. God sovereignly assigns a gender to people created in his image. The powerful grace of Jesus Christ redeems and restores to sanity and our thinking which has been corrupted by sin.”
First, I love the idea of clarity being revolutionary. That’s just interesting. But more importantly, my first though when I heard this was to think of the average person’s reaction, which I would imagine could run something like this:
“Right, but of course, I totally don’t believe that ‘God sovereignly assigns gender’ at all. That’s the whole point. Your statements are meaningless because that’s exactly the issue–I believe no one has the right to ‘assign’ gender. It’s an individual choice. And to say that GOD is doing the assigning is even worse. Now you’re taking your opinions and saying people are disagreeing with God if they disagree with you. That’s just mean. It might be evil.”
I think I would agree with this imaginary commenter in one way–this is the point of the whole thing.
And yet, I don’t think the promoters of this conference did anything wrong by simply, flatly contradicting the culture and everyone who disagrees with them. In other words, this is the essence of Christian witness to the world we live in: we simply state the truth. We understand that the truths we are stating are precisely the things our culture disagrees with. We understand that the ideas which underlie these truths (these foundational truths) are denied just as vigorously. If someone doesn’t think God created humans in any meaningful way to begin with, they certainly won’t think God assigns gender.
And maybe, right here, we Christians can get some clarity as to why we’d continue to keep saying things people disagree with. Maybe we could see that one thing we’re doing for those around us is inviting them to choose–choose the story you want to live in. Choose the story you want to get inside of, define yourself by, interpret the world through, and live out from within.
The world is full of competing, mutually contradictory stories. Are you made by lonely, aloof Allah, from a clot of blood, waiting for the spirit to grab the prophet while commanding him to recite? Are you a chance collection of molecules, coughed up by accident from an impersonal, blind universe, headed toward oblivion while you experience the illusion of consciousness for a few years? Are you a drop from the ocean of the Oversoul, destined to be absorbed back into the Everything? Are you a bag of hormones here to propagate DNA? Are you a mystic being of light who strives to transcend all distinction and boundary on your way to divinity?
See, so many people write off the Christian explanation of the world as absurd (“Who could believe that?”)–but then, let everyone produce their stories. Let’s have them all spoken openly, written systematically, and then lived out consistently. If people have a story that actually describes the whole of our existence, matches our experience, and guides their lives, maybe we’ll listen. But no, what actually happens is that people reject the good news of Christ and then live lives which are inconsistent at best, or consistently wrong at worst.
Which gets us to the real point: we’re not simply preaching that people should pick a story, as if all stories are equal, and it doesn’t matter which one you pick. Only one of these stories can be true, and to truly reject the Christian story, you’ve got to personally appraise and personally reject the historical man Jesus, including his claims, his actions, and most of all his resurrection. So which story you pick is the most important decision a person will ever make.
The strength of speaking about things this way, in terms of “choosing a story” is that it describes what it actually feels like to accept the gospel. It is to hear another narrative which claims to include you, and then to step inside of it and let it become your story. This seems to be exactly what Jesus did with a lot of his parables. He would tell a little story and people would have the choice–does this story include them or not? Would they step inside the story and see things from within its confines? If not, they rejected Jesus as any kind of authority. But then, his life was telling the Big Story, and he was calling all people to acknowledge that it was their story too, and that they were in it, whether they liked it or not. Everything he did was to validate that his story was the story.
And so we continue his work. We know people are living out of other stories. We know their stories are often unexamined. But we preach the Gospel. We invite people to see the power and reality of the True Story. We invite them to finally find their place within what is.
We have found that what is real is better news than any other story that’s ever been told.