Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Did Early Christianity Agree on the Death of Christ?

The "new thinking" on Christ, based on later materials, often likes to debunk the Bible. One theory its promoters try to posit as fact is that there was no cohesion in early Christianity; that there was more division and confusion than unity. Therefore, traditional Christianity is not to be trusted. 

This, however, is untrue, something the advocates of the new materials would know if they actually studied the original sources that predate the new. 

Darrell Bock thoroughly discusses this in his book, The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities. One of the points of contention in the discussion surrounds the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Bock makes it clear, through the citing of the oldest original sources, and comparing when they were written with those of the new, that there was indeed cohesive agreement in the early church that Jesus died for sin:

"One of the core elements is that Jesus Christ came and died for sin--to acquire humanity's salvation through the forgiveness only He could now offer. This is part of the core knowledge of faith. Every major traditional source of the first two centuries notes this teaching." Darrell L. Bock

"As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ," Ephesians 4:14-15

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Reason So Many People Miss Out on the Reality of Christ

Darrell L. Bock, writing in his wonderfully fair, measured and scholarly work, "The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities:

"Part of becoming spiritual for Paul is recognizing how unspiritual we are when we seek God through our own strength and means. Thus, what we need, God completely supplies. Jesus does not point out the way for us to find ourselves; He provides that way as a gift we did not previously possess." 
Darrell L. Bock

(and, I might add, that "finding ourselves" is the gift of Christ to discover, more and more over time lived in Him, not who "I" am, but who Christ is and who I am in Christ. That is often the struggle: giving up my sense of self-righteousness to own "who I am," and relinquishing my opinion of the world, for Christ Himself).

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

"But by his doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, 'LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.'" 1 Corinthians 1:30-31

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Politicization of a Nation

Excellent and much-needed wisdom from National Review Senior Writer David French:

"Over the long term, the politicization of everything is a greater threat to American national life than any single politician--including Donald Trump or any candidate the Democrats nominate to challenge him in 2020. If there is no place for common engagement or common enjoyment, then we face more polarization. And make no mistake, polarization can't continue to worsen indefinitely without placing dangerous strains on the union itself." 
Attorney David French, in the May 17, 2017, National Review

Read the entire article here:

Monday, May 15, 2017

How to Read an Old or Original Text

Quote of the day:

"It is pointed out that the main reason for studying texts, particularly old ones, is to expand the mind by introducing it to the immense possibilities in human actions and thoughts--to see and feel what other men have seen and felt, to know what they have known. Furthermore, none of these expansive benefits comes to the man who simply discovers his own meanings in someone else's text and who, instead of encountering another person, merely encounters himself. When a reader does that, he finds only his own preconceptions, and these he did not need to go out and seek."
E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Validity in Interpretation

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Alleviating Poverty by Including the Poor

A great quote on poverty-alleviation:

"This book (When Helping Hurts) has already explained a number of reasons for the slow progress in poverty alleviation, but another reason needs to be highlighted: inadequate participation of poor people in the process. Researchers and practitioners have found that meaningful inclusion of poor people in the selection, design, implementation, and evaluation of an intervention increases the likelihood of that intervention's success. Unfortunately, the majority of post-World War II approaches to poverty alleviation have been highly non participatory, using a 'blueprint approach' in which the economically non-poor make all the decisions about the project and then do the project to the economically poor. The ultimate goal of the blueprint approach is often to develop a standardized product and then to roll out that product in cookie-cutter fashion on a massive scale. It's 'McDevelopment,' the fast-food-franchise approach to poverty alleviation, and it has resulted in more than 2.5 billion poor people not being well served.
Although the blueprint approach appears to be very efficient, it often fails because it imposes solutions on poor communities that are inconsistent with local culture, that are not embraced and 'owned' by the community members, or that cannot work in that particular setting."
Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, in their book, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Death is not the End of Life

Quote of the Day:

"For believing Christians, never the end which the world thinks it is, which is why the symbol of the cross and crucifix is so powerful for Christians." 
Kent R. Hill, Executive Director of the Religious Freedom Institute, in his editorial, Will Christianity Survive in the Middle East? A Christian Perspective, appearing in the Winter 2017 edition of Providence

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Keeping Oneself Out of Christ's Sheepfold

The three things pride does not want: humility and trust in and submission to God through Jesus Christ.

In both the secular and Christian world, a lack of these can manifest as self-righteousness, impatience and egotistical self-sufficiency.

These missing elements can play out in two ways (probably more, but these have been the most predominant in my experience) and can apply to those who don’t claim to be believers as well as those who do:

1). A philosophical intellectual stance of thinking we are “good to go” as far as Christ is concerned, so we’ll stand over here outside of the fold, separate and distanced from those needy “sheeples” who circle Christ in never-ending emotionalism, religious platitudes and theological ignorance. We are way too advanced in our understanding for that, and smirk at the idea of the Holy Spirit's guidance in daily life.

2). A narcissistic stance that keeps us outside Christ’s fold because we have obsessively focused on ourselves to the point that we’ve told ourselves that we are not good enough to even be one of Christ’s sheep, brought under his forgiveness and care.
We may even understand all the basic tenets of the faith, and have a very high grasp of correct Biblical doctrine; we just cannot apply it to ourselves out of a sense of vain self-loathing.
This is a roundabout way of gaining the confidence and esteem we crave. The only problem is that it is confidence in how unworthy we are, not a confidence in Christ and His ability to transform us (a sub set of this group is those who believe God could regenerate them and remove, for example, their addiction, but since the addiction remains, God must not want to or is not yet “ready” to. Therefore, they are off the hook until God performs His “miracle,” which is only another way of using the apparent lack of God’s action to justify sin that a person is not yet ready to give up).

These stances are quite self-aggrandizing because, in essence, a person is placing themselves outside of and above the power, authority and reach of God. The result of this isolation from Christ is that the person God made them to be is selfishly cheated from ever seeing the light of day.

I need to be clear that this is not about separating oneself from Christian community. It is about cutting one’s self off from Christ. Many of these people attend church regularly and participate in Christian groups and activities. The problem isn’t that they’ve cut themselves off physically from people or Christian community. It’s that they’ve elected to cut themselves off from Christ Himself.

I do not have the answer as to how to live with or influence a person caught in this trap. It’s been my experience that anything I say or do, or don’t say or do, has little to no effect. It requires a huge reliance on the Holy Spirit on my part when I am interacting with such individuals, and the same humility, trust and submission to God in my own life that these folks require in theirs.

Jesus once said, when his disciples asked Him why they could not cast a demon out from a man’s son,
“This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29).

Prayer is always the thing to do, and sometimes the only thing.

In addition, we can all trace the trajectory of our own walk with Christ, remembering how we kicked and screamed, resisted or otherwise delayed our finally opening the door of the sheep pen and walking in, fully committed (but not yet fully sanctified. That process of maturing in Christ is only just beginning).

Those of us who have been in the sheep pen for a while now can recall our early years filled with Peter-like moments of denying Christ, the Godly sorrow and repentance that ensued, and Christ’s always reliable and forthcoming forgiveness.

Through daily life, trials, victories, answered and yet un-answered prayer, we learned—and continue to learn—to walk with Christ.

It wasn’t always pretty: as Christians, we aren’t always pretty. But Christ was. And is. And always will be. He will teach us, conform us to His likeness and, through it all, love us. We know that is true for ourselves. We know it is true for all on the journey.

That is why we are—must be—deeply grateful for—seeking to grasp at all times—the beautiful lifeline of humility, trust and submission that Christ offers to Himself, through Himself. And make it our prayer for others, along with ourselves, to do the same.

copyright Barb Harwood

“I am the Good Shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one Shepherd. John 10:14-16

“rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,” Romans 12:12

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Suffering as a Path to be Walked

Quote for the day:

"...suffering is not an end unto itself but a means to an end of renewing a living hope. Suffering thus becomes a valuable experience of living both immanently and transcendently in, by, and through the God who is both with us and beyond us, and ironically becomes an antidote to the pervasive idolatry of the self on which contemporary American society is so fixated. Such a living hope--founded and exercised in Jesus Christ--thus transforms our suffering from a barrier to be overcome to a path to be walked."
Chaplain (Colonel) Timothy S. Mallard, US Army, writing in Providence: A Journal of Christianity and American Foreign Policy