Category Archives: Christianity

Monday poem: “Imitators”

Imitators

My thoughts and poems are plagiarized
But don’t scoff for yours are too
The only difference is I try to copy Christ
My question is how about you?

Do you copy those you meet and hang around?
Is it “fitting in or bust”?
Do you imitate the stockbrokers?
Is it money that you lust?
Do you strive and strain for what can be gained
Or do you just like to complain?
We all bend our knees to something else
What is it you let reign?

Do you wish for greater intellect,
A better body or skill-set?
Do you feel your life would be complete
If these little needs were met?
Surely you must realize
It’s not the glory, gold or sex
That makes a life worth dying for,
No it’s not what you can get.

These things are functional idols
That we worship and pursue.
We all bow to someone,
I’m Christ’s fool, whose are you?

A rare thing: On our depravity, our need for a reboot and the only way

Tonight I saw a rare thing; or rather I heard a rare thing.

We were looking up at the stars in the wee hours of the morning, contemplating the universe, current affairs and the state of mankind. These are all common themes in the wee hours of the morning. Amongst my friends (and I think people in general) there is a general recognition that the universe is grand and big, and that current global events are fairly fickle. These are all “safe” topics, even when you disagree slightly. Our conversation along these lines was not unusual, but it was a rare recognition about the state of mankind that surprised me tonight.

You see the notion of the extreme extent of the sinfulness of each human is something that is oft understated in western culture… especially amongst people as proud as some of my peers. In the past years my understanding of my own depraved heart has given me a type of awe or reverence for sin. Not in an all-consuming way but in a thoughtful sense of urgency I guess. When left alone with my thoughts I appreciate the situation of sin I suppose. When I’m alone I can easily see and confess my condition, my need.

When I’m alone.

But that’s when I’m alone.

As we discussed the world news tonight under the stars we joked about a need for a reboot. A wiping out of all of mankind in some sort of robot-apocalypse, mass-suicide or even a flood. My friend passionately believes the opposite to what I believe regarding the possibility of world-wide floods, Bibles and God. They are a self-described antitheist. When they grimly joked about solutions to the state of the world they were only joking, but then they got serious. They talked about how reboot was the only answer but quickly added how it could never work.

“The problem is mankind,” they said, and they were dead right. “No matter how many times we rebooted we would always fail and stuff things up. The evil is within us, it’s what we do.” My friend used the word ‘we’, an important and rare recognition. The willingness to accept personal responsibility for evil is something I have not come across in many people. The hopelessness of sin and total corruption of the human heart is extreme. How rare it is for this condition to be acknowledged openly? It is all too often downplayed, ignored or excused. Tonight I was invited to discuss and give proper respect to it under those stars.

Even in the Church, where the sinfulness of humans is supposed to be a core doctrine we rarely see confession on the level of total, open acknowledgement. It’s seen as taboo, offensive or old-school to preach or talk about it. There is a lot of talk of relevance, love, friendship, justice and a nebulous version of salvation, but sin is not often mentioned to the extent it was tonight. This is a big problem in itself because without acknowledgement of sin, there is very little power or purpose in Christianity, even in the cross. Sin is the problem in the world and the depravity of mankind is epic and huge. The wrath of God is against us forever because of it, because of our wicked sinful condition. Christ has come to provide amends, to take the punishment of the wrath and offer a better way. Without acknowledging the wrath is there and fair, how do we escape it? It is impossible.

It can be an offensive place to go, to enter into this dialogue about sin. Oh, we say we are an open-minded culture but try bringing that one up. In Australia you can go where you never once would and talk openly about religion, politics and sex. You can say what you like about anyone and anything. You can do anything, and be anyone. But woe to the one to suggest that there is something totally wrong with the world and that it comes from within. We are dismissed as narrow-minded. It is not politically correct, even if it is correct, and is usually seen as residue from a more primitive time when religion ruled the land.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13,14)
If the Church (by Church I mean Christian people not an organisation) declines to offer to the world the concept of sin and total depravity, the importance of Christs sacrifice will be lost on them. People will refuse Christ, not knowing his relevance to them. They cannot call His death and resurrection good news without first knowing the bad news.

Sin is reality and we underestimate its power, here & now and in eternity.

My friend was correct about the need for a reboot, and they were correct about the problem being the hearts of man. It is impossible to reboot things with sin so prevalent. To reboot the world we need Christ, Gods answer to our sin. Though my friend see’s the problem clearly, and in a rare moment at two in the morning is prepared to recognise its fullness, they unfortunately stop there. The rare confession and acknowledgement of sin is merely the beginning though, and although in acknowledging total-depravity my friend is probably closer to life and God than a lot of religious people, they were not ready to reboot. They are off to a good start though, for it is only when we admit our need can we begin the reboot.

God.
Depravity abounds… in this world around me and within me.
Forgive me.
Give me faith to believe and to cling to Christ.
That is what is needed.
He is the only way.

Review: Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem

I’ve got a lot of reference books on the bookshelf near my computer desk. Some I haven’t opened for years but keep around just in case, others I can’t go a week without opening. Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem is one of the ones I refer to all the time. I have given this book away so many times now I have forgotten how many, for me it is just one of those books. It is my favourite reference book and probably the only reference books I could read cover to cover on an ongoing basis if I had the time.

I first came upon Wayne Grudem by accident because I accidently purchased his book Systematic Theology instead of another book I was looking for with the same title. As a relatively new Christian at the time I was impressed with the understandable style that that book explained Christian doctrines. Wayne Grudem has a core belief that doctrine should be biblical, practical and understandable. He always writes and teaches in a way that embodies this belief. As a busy young person with little time I was delighted when I found out that Systematic Theology had been abridged.

Bible Doctrine is a more condense version of Systematic Theology, making it more accessible which is good for people too busy to wade through the textbook style. Despite its condenseness it maintains its depth and thoroughness. It sets out to introduce and cover essential teachings of the Christian faith for people to study once they have decided to become a Christian. Grudem’s style of writing is a nice balance between clear understandable language and complete coverage of the important stuff. He does not compromise depth for clarity but finds a way to manage both.

When I was in youth ministry I would often use this book to “check” my doctrine as I prepared bible studies or messages. I would use the application questions and review questions and adapt for use in the group studies I ran, and I memorised the memory passages at the end of each chapter. I honestly believe I could give this book to my pastor or to high school students and they could both benefit from it.

It is clear that Grudem ascribes to a reformed position of theological issues, although he is not shy to challenge things like infant baptism. Although he does offer various perspectives on issues that have caused divide within Christendom, he is willing to state with authority his own conclusions on the matter. He is able to do this because he teaches from the Bible, using it as his primary source, a radical and refreshing decision for a modern Bible teacher to make.
I love this book. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone but especially to Christians looking for clear communication of core doctrines in a practical but reverent way. As I have mentioned I have given it away countless times, and the price makes it easy to do that. I would suggest getting this book and reading it cover to cover as a study guide and using it as a reference after that. Having correct doctrine is important and Wayne Grudem gives you a passion to study and learn more about the Bible.

Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – The unabridged version (1264 pages). A serious reference book for teachers and preachers, and laypeople who want to go deep deep deep.

Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem- Abridged version of Systematic Theology (528 pages). A great reference book for teachers and preachers, and laypeople of all ages and backgrounds. Great for giving away to serious people who are passionate about learning more about doctrine. Very recommended and probably one of my favourite books.

Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne and Elliot Grudem- very concise, backpocket version abridged from Bible Doctrine (160 little pages). Great for giving away to anyone, and anyone should be able to read it in one sitting or as twenty short daily devotions. I have given away lots of these.

PS – While I am talking about Wayne Grudem, and plugging him really, I might as well mention he has a free teaching podcast where he teaches through the Systematic Theology book. You can find that on iTunes HERE.

The resurection of Christ is the most probable explanation of the facts

When I first believed in God I studied and examined various religions trying to work out which one was the real truth. Christianity wasn’t on the top of my list but one I tried to avoid believing. I think I had a hunch or a built in awareness in my heart that it was truth, but I had to cross off or debunk a few others before I looked into it intellectually because to be honest I was hoping for a religious belief that did not require any commit or life change from me.

One of the main reasons I finally believed with my mind what I knew in my heart was that I became convinced by the evidence that Christ physically rose from the dead. I did not believe as I now do that the Bible was divinely inspired, but rater I just believed it was a religious text and historical document. What I found though was that even if you treat the New Testament as a historical document or even a work of fiction you must still come to a conclusion that resurrection is the most probable explanation of the facts. I became convinced that God miraculously raised Christ from the dead and I saw it as a vindication and sign from God that the Christian message and after that I also believed the Bible was truth. I have received a few questions on my formspring about why I am a Christian, and I have wanted to write about evidence for resurrection for a while. As it is the Easter season and resurection is a topic that comes up a lot during Easter I thought I would take the chance to write a few thoughts about it now.

It is not necessary to believe that God inspired the gospel accounts to conclude that Christ rose from the dead, but if you honestly appraise the historical evidence you might just conclude as I did that Christ and the Bible are indeed from God. There are certain facts about Christ’s resurrection that are commonly accepted by most scholars (both believers and skeptics) of the New Testament. The four facts that are accepted are that Christ died and was buried, that a group of women found an empty tomb, that a large number of people claimed to experience appearances of Jesus & that the early disciples experienced a revolutionary change and passionately believed and preached their message.

Christians believe these facts support their faith, skeptics believe they can be explained without accepting Christianity as truth. These facts must be examined honestly if someone wishes to reject or criticize Christianity as false. If someone is unwilling to examine the evidence then they forfeit any right their right to call their rejection of Christianity an intellectual decision. It is irrational to deny Christ existed (as some now do), because the historical evidence so overwhelmingly proves that he did exist. The best an honest skeptic can do is try to explain away the facts about Christ’s resurrection with alternative theories or explanations. The most common theories to explain the above four facts are as follows- the disciples stole the body, Christ’s enemies stole the body, the disciples hallucinated or Jesus has indeed risen. After examining the theories I concluded at 17 years old that Christ had resurrected from the dead and this conclusion has been reinforced time and time again since as I have heard others articulate the arguments for and against it, and as I have experienced the reality of Christ. I originally heard a debunking of alternative theories in a book by Answers in Genesis (I forget which one) and have recently appreciated the way Dr. William Lane Craig has presented similar ideas. I would like to offer a brief examination of the main arguments against the resurrection conclusion, borrowing heavily from having listened to Dr. Craig a lot and from that original reading of the AiG book.

Theory 1: The disciples stole the body and hid it
This theory is common amongst skeptics despite the lack of evidence to support it. This theory would point to a deliberate lie and conspiracy on the part of the disciples, involving them contradicting their beliefs against lying and stealing, sneaking past armed guards and concocting elaborate stories to try and convince people that Jesus had physically resurrected. It is a pretty big stretch to try and imagine that timid cowardly young disciples who were already disheartened by the death of their leader could sneak past a twenty-four hour watch of Roman guards trained to kill. In the unlikely event that it was possible for them to do this, why would they do it? They believed that knowingly deceiving was a sin in Gods eyes and that he punished sin. They also all underwent extreme difficulties, hardships, ridicule, torture and death for their message.

If the disciples hid the body and knew Christianity was not true, how can the change in demeanor and passionate focus on preaching their message be explained in light of the torture it would bring them? It is irrational to think that the disciples and Church founders would be willing to experience pain and death for something they knew was untrue. Sure people die for false beliefs all the time but those people think they are dying for the truth. Nobody dies for something they know is not true. If the disciples hid the body then Christianity was a fraud and they knew it. They would not be willing to undergo the difficult trials that they did for the gospel if they did not believe it was true.

Theory 2: Christianity’s enemies stole the body and hid it
This theory is often common amongst skeptics when they realize that it is unlikely that Christ’s disciples stole his body. It suggests that Roman soldiers or Pharisees stole Christ’s body to fool or trick the disciples or to further discourage them when their leader died. The problem that this theory has is that the missing body empowered the early Church.

Christ’s resurrection and ascension into Heaven has always been the lynchpin Christianity. The early Church boomed and thrived because of the belief Christ had risen. Christian preachers even taught that Christianity was foolish if Christ did not rise (1 Cor 15:12-19). If Christianity’s enemies had the body of Christ, all they needed to do was produce it and Christianity would have died at its inception. It is clear they did not have the body and were openly frustrated by it being missing. None of the enemies of the early Church believed this theory, it was never suggested. The missing body supported the testimony of the Church, and helped its spread. If Christianity’s enemies had the body they would have produced it.

Theory 3: Christ’s disciples hallucinated
This theory is suggested because the evidence is clear to even a casual passive skeptic that the disciples honestly believed they had witnessed and interacted with Christ after his death. It is unlikely that anyone is serious when they suggest that the appearances of Christ were hallucinated and it is a theory that is easily debunked. Even a basic understanding of psychology tells us that hallucinations are experienced differently by individuals and are not experienced the same collectively. Hallucinations are in an individuals mind and occur to people who hope for or expect them or to people who are open minded. The disciples had scattered and all but folded, they had gone back to their previous professions. They were not prone to belief, but to disbelief, as demonstrated by Thomas wanting to put his finger in Christ’s wounds and Paul encountering Christ despite not being a Christian. Also the hallucination theory does not explain why the body was missing. If the disciples hallucinated it would have been easily demonstrated by the enemies of the Church by producing the body.

Theory 4: Jesus rose from the dead
It seems that the most probable conclusion of evidence is that God raised Jesus Christ from the grave. The resurrection is the best and most plausible explanation. If a miracle occurred it suggests the existence of God. God vindicated Christ and resurrected him showing His approval of Christ and His teachings. This is the conclusion I came to when I was 17 and it is the belief I have held since.

My belief in Christ’s resurrection is not just an intellectual belief, but a heart conviction that God has given me. It is not enough to just believe with your mind, but you need to have a faith in your heart that can only come from God. I hope that as you consider the evidences for Christ’s resurrection you experience this gift from God and He gives you a repentant heart to ask for His forgiveness. While the evidence is overwhelming and gives intellectual permission for belief, it isn’t enough to merely believe with your head. The Easter celebration recognizes the importance of Christ dying on the cross for the forgiveness of sin and rising again. The evidence supports this message. You don’t need to leave your brain behind to believe in Christ’s resurrection, but you do need to leave your sin behind to experience it.