Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Mission of the Church?

In both 2005 and 2011, Christmas Day fell on Sundays. At those times, there were controversies because some churches decided to cancel their regular Sunday meetings. For example, Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, said that church leaders decided organizing services on a Christmas Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources.

Parkinson noted that when the church remained open for service on Sunday of 1994 (the nearest Sunday previous to 2005 that was also on Christmas Day), only a small number of people showed up to pray.

"If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?" she said. [From an Associated Press article: "Some Megachurches Closing On Christmas".]

The question I would like to raise here is this: is the mission of the Church properly defined as reaching the unchurched? Why or why not?

Comments are welcomed.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"You are in danger of going to Hell." Does that statement offend you?

Imagine that you are walking down the sidewalk, a man approaches you and says, "I'm an oncologist, and I suspect that you have a rare form of cancer, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?" After a few minutes of conversation, he says, with apparent concern, "It's just as I thought! You have ten obvious symptoms of the form of cancer that I mentioned; you need to get treatment immediately, or you will soon be dead!"

How would this conversation make you feel? Certainly, you would be upset, and perhaps even offended. You were not planning to be diagnosed, you had thought that you were in perfect health, and the doctor may have been somewhat insensitive and abrupt. Also, you would not necessarily take the random oncologist- a stranger- at his word. You may want to do some more research. But if it turns out that the doctor was correct, then wouldn't your attitude change? Failing to follow up on this diagnosis could be extremely dangerous. Even if it turns out that the oncologist was wrong, you would hopefully not remain offended and upset toward that particular doctor; certainly, you would not turn bitter toward all oncologists: the random oncologist that you met saw apparent symptoms, he was genuinely concerned, and he didn't make any money from the conversation.

I present the above scenario in order to illustrate how people sometimes react to evangelists. The evangelist speaks to a non-Christian, seeks to diagnose the non-Christian's spiritual condition, and then presents the non-Christian with the idea that repentance from sin and trust in Jesus Christ are necessary if one is to escape Hell and gain a right relationship with God. Hearing this, the non-Christian is sometimes upset and offended. The non-Christian was not planning to be spiritually diagnosed, he thinks he is already in perfect health, and the evangelist is often (at least perceived to be) insensitive and abrupt.

When the non-Christian is offended and upset, it is often hard for the evangelist to understand. Evangelists are used to thinking about spiritual things and having spiritual discussions. As someone who has engaged in evangelism, I can say that if a devout Muslim tells me that I am going to Hell if I do not reject the doctrine of the Trinity, I am neither offended nor upset. I think that the Muslim is wrong, and hope to talk with him about why I believe as I do, but I understand where the Muslim is coming from.

The point is, society works best when every group of believers (or professing non-believers) seeks to understand where other groups are coming from. This is NOT to say that the various groups should neglect speaking from their point of view; instead, let us each vigorously contend for our beliefs (or non-beliefs), but without personal offense or rancor.

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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The End of the Road

Do I personally believe in an afterlife? No, but to be honest, I do not find it a particularly important question one way or the other. I am not in the least bit interested in fighting those who believe or hope in it. My own interest is in how we live our lives here below. I am sure that we are called to do the will of God "on earth, as it is in heaven." Heaven, however, I leave up to God. Earth is where our responsibility lies, that is where the Kingdom of God is lost or found. Who Is Jesus? by John Dominic Crossan. Westminster John Knox Press: 1996. 131.

Before starting down a path, it is always wise to consider where that path might lead. Similarly, before adopting a certain belief, it is wise to find out the end of that belief. Historically, the biblical faith has affirmed that "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever" (The Westminster Shorter Catechism). This is much different from the belief stated by Crossan, who (throughout his writings) seems much more focused on on people's relationships to one another than on God's glory. Crossan offers little hope of enjoying God for ever, as he admits he does not even believe in an afterlife.

How can Crossan claim to be a Christian and yet disbelieve in the afterlife, when it is so obvious that Jesus taught the message of everlasting life? For in the Gospel of John chapter 3 Jesus directly connects the message of the Kingdom of God (which Crossan wishes to confine to the time we have on earth) with everlasting life through faith in Him (see John 3:316).

Crossan attempts to get around this clear teaching by denying that the Gospel of John is authentic as historic narrative. What is his basis for doing so? One reason is that the Gospel of John contains so much material that is not found in the synoptic Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark and Luke). The other is that the Gospel account of John contains language that strongly identifies Jesus as God Himself, and Crossan's theory is that Jesus was not identified as God until long after His death.

But are these objections persuasive from a historical standpoint? Are there other explanations for the unique material and the high Christology in John that do not require this book to be a fraud? For the Gospel of John is certainly a fraud if it is not an eyewitness account of historical events, as the author places such emphasis on his veracity as a witness to the events he records, as demonstrated in John 21:24, which I have quoted before, and also in John 19:35, "He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe" (ESV).

But if the author of the Gospel of John had the synoptics before him as he wrote or had a knowledge of these accounts, then it makes perfect sense that he would focus on reporting important information that was not previously recorded. This explanation would make much better sense than the idea that the writer of this Gospel was a liar who hypocritically portrays Jesus naming Himself as the Truth (see John 14:6).

And the idea that the identification of Jesus with God developed over decades is historically bogus as well. For Crossan admits that the Pauline epistles were written in the 50s-60s A.D. (page 126 of his book quoted above) and these letters contian a similarly high Christology (see Philippians 2:5-7,Colossians 1:15-22). In Titus 2:13 Paul even goes so far as to refer to Jesus as "our great God and Savior" (on why it is grammatically certain that these titles both refer specifically to Jesus in this passage, see this essay Granville Sharp's Rule).

And so any reasonable basis for Crossan's rejection of the Gospel of John as true historical narrative has been proven false. It is clear, therefore, that the quote given by Crossan is in direct conflict with this teaching of Jesus as recorded by John.

Please pause to pray for John Dominic Crossan, that he would submit to the teaching of Jesus and be given the gift of everlasting life, which he now denies.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:36-37 NKJV)

[Originally posted on 8/14/05.]