Central to Christianity is an invitation to connect with the Teacher of the teaching.
“They are teachers who point to their teaching or show some particular way. In all of these, there emerges an instruction, a way of living. It is not Zoroaster to whom you turn. It is Zoroaster to whom you listen. It is not Buddha who delivers you; it is his Noble Truths that instruct you. It is not Mohammed who transforms you; it is the beauty of the Koran that woos you. By contrast, Jesus did not only teach or expound His message. He was identical with His message. ‘In Him,’ say the Scriptures, ‘dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily.’ He did not just proclaim the truth. He said, ‘I am the truth.’ He did not just show a way. He said, ‘I am the Way.’ He did not just open up vistas. He said, ‘I am the door.’ ‘I am the Good Shepherd.’ ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ ‘I am the I AM.’ In Him is not just an offer of life’s bread. He is the bread. That is why being a Christian is not just a way of feeding and living. Following Christ begins with a way of relating and being.”
― Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message
I imagine it’s hard for someone, generally, to understand when another person talks about “having a personal relationship with Christ”. The quotation by Ravi Zacharias from his book noted above provides some explanation for a statement like that, but I suspect it isn’t enough.
Continue reading “The Difference between Following a Teaching and Following a Teacher”
God is a communicator, and He made us for communication with Himself.
The parallels between Genesis 1 and John 1 are obvious. Genesis 1 reads:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
John 1 reads:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)
These parallels convey the idea that God is “verbal” by His very nature, and He communicated the universe into existence. Indeed, the creation story as it unfolds in Genesis bears this out:
- And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (gen. 1:3)
- And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” (Gen. 1:6)
- And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” (Gen. 1:9)
- Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation…. (Gen 1:11)
- And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night….” (Gen. 1:14-15)
- And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” (Gen. 1:20)
- And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds…” (Gen. 1:24)
- Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness….” (Gen. 1:26)
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that a plural pronoun is used for God in Genesis 1:26. To be verbal by nature, communicative by His very essence, God must have relationship within Himself. In John 1, we read that “the Word was with God, and the Word was God”, and then John goes further to say this:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1:14)
Of course, he is talking about Jesus – God who became like us, the creatures He created in His own image. Of God and Jesus, John said,
“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God….” (John 1:11-12)
Continue reading “And God Said”
Some people urge Christians to take the Bible literally. I don’t think taking the Bible literally is taking the Bible seriously enough. I think it’s a far more important matter to take the Bible seriously.
Consider John 1:1-3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
John Lennox, the brilliant Oxford mathematician, relates a conversation he had with Peter Atkins, the prolific atheist scholar. When Lennox referred Atkins to John, Chapter 1, Atkins called Lennox naïve to believe that God has lungs, a voice box and a voice. Of course, that isn’t how Lennox (or anyone who takes the Bible seriously) understands those words at all.
I find it interesting that both atheists and fundamentalists tend to adhere to a literal reading of the Bible. The only difference between them is that one believes all of it, and the other believes none of it.
A literal reading of John 1:1-3 clearly misses the point. No one believes that God has lungs, a voice box and a voice. Rather, God is so “Other” from us that we must use devices, like metaphors, to conceptualize God. Metaphor conveys meaning in ways that meaning cannot be conveyed literally.
People often misunderstand what it means to read something “literally”. Lennox suggests that understanding the metaphor is reading the Bible literally. The metaphor is the literal meaning that is intended.
We have to take the Bible very seriously in order to understand this and to see the actual meaning that is there. When we read the Bible always “literally”, we are not taking the Bible seriously enough! (Not to mention that no one actually read every verse of the Bible literally, not even the literalists!)
Continue reading “Taking the Bible Literally? Or Seriously?”
Once we were conformed to the world, but now we seek to be conformed to Christ.
“This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people: ‘Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear….'” (Isaiah 8:11-12 NIV)
“When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19 NIV)
These verses from Isaiah hit home with me today. Some people might call me a believer. I am a believer, but I’m also a skeptic. I am skeptical of the world and the various pressures and ways in which it “gets in my face” and “urges” me to conform.
Of course, I am being inappropriately anthropomorphic. The world doesn’t do these things. Or does it? Paul says,
“[W]e do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
If there are forces pressing upon us to conform, they aren’t always human forces. Being anthropomorphic isn’t entirely accurate, but it’s the best we can do, perhaps. We are the unwitting pawns in the battle. Some of us play our parts with gusto.
Continue reading “Forces and Influences”
We should attempt to be more led by the Spirit than by our capacity to debate when we engage with non-believers. Like Jesus did.
Larry Hurtado wrote this in his blog:
Debating is a win/lose contest, little subtlety or complexity allowed. It doesn’t make for the sort of careful consideration of matters that is most often required. It certainly doesn’t allow for people to grow, develop/alter their understanding of matters[…]
via A Plea for Round-Table Discussion, not Debates — Larry Hurtado’s Blog
I’ve often been frustrated with debates as a tool for advancing knowledge and understanding. Many times, maybe even most often, both sides claim a victory, but wins and losses are hard measured in debates. Debates are seen as win/lose propositions, but they rarely deliver that kind of satisfaction.
Listen to any political debate, and both sides will claim victory. Listen to any debate of atheist and theist, and both sides will claim victory. The after debate responses are continuations in kind of the debate – both sides trying to convince the other and the world of their victory. The claims usually fall flat and ring hollow to anyone who makes an effort at remaining objective.
If we want to get at truth and understanding, debates are not the way to do it. Respectful discussion and dialogue are much better platforms for truth and understanding.
Since this is a faith-based blog, a little reference to Jesus is in order. Jesus didn’t debate people, ever. He often asked questions. He spoke in parables. He connected with people where they were – healing them, addressing them at a personal level, touching on their psychological, emotional and physical and spiritual issues.
Jesus treated everyone with respect, even the spiritually high-minded Pharisees. He took everyone seriously.
We can not get “inside” other people’s heads like Jesus could – knowing the thoughts and intents of their hearts – , but we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. We should attempt to be more led by the Spirit than by our capacity to debate when we engage with non-believers. Like Jesus did.