Posted tagged ‘death & resurrection’

Is the Story of Jesus a Story of Divine Vengeance or Love?

December 3, 2018


NT Wright made a statement on Justin Brierley’s new podcast recently, Ask NT Wright Anything, that is worth repeating. He says that people read John 3:16 (“That God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son….”) this way: “that God so hated the world that he killed his only son.”

People, especially today, view God as an angry bully. They interpret the story of Jesus, Wright says, “as if God was looking for someone on whom to take out his vengeance, and His son got in the way – so that somehow makes it right”. But it doesn’t seem right to many people who interpret the story in this way. We recoil from a view of God, the cosmic bully.

Of course, many people who moralize about God are simply refusing to acknowledge God as God. They sit in judgment of God, or at least “the God of the Bible” that they as they perceive Him. At many who hold this view don’t even believe God exists. But, I don’t think that Wright is only talking about a skeptical view of God, though skeptics certainly make interpretation errors. Even believers wrestle with a muddled view of the story.

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God of the Living in Heaven and Hell

September 21, 2018


Interestingly, Jesus directed most of his criticism against the Pharisees, but there were two groups of religious leaders during his time. The other group was known as the Sadducees. In one of the rare encounters with the Sadducees that we read in the Gospels, they asked Jesus about marriage in heaven. This is because the Pharisees believed in resurrection in bodily form (at the end of the age), but the Sadducees did not. In the biblical passage that inspires this blog post, the Sadducess pressed Jesus on the issue of resurrection.

They confronted Jesus with the hypothetical example of a woman married to the oldest of seven brothers. In Jewish culture and tradition, a brother had an obligation to marry the wife of a deceased brother. In the hypothetical, they asked Jesus, if each brother died in turn, with a surviving brother marrying the widow, who would be her husband after the resurrection? (Matthew 22:23-28)

Jesus, in typical fashion, responded that they should know the answer if they know the Scriptures. (Matthew 22:29) Imagine the upstart Jesus putting the respected leaders in their place like this!

But, Jesus didn’t leave them hanging. He answered that people neither marry nor are given in marriage after death because people are “like the angels in heaven”. (Matthew 22:30) And, then Jesus said,

“And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God:  ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.’” (Matthew 22:31-32 ESV)

The statement that jumps out at me in this passage is the last one: God is not a God of the dead, but of the living!

Jesus made it clear when answering the Sadducees that there is a physical resurrection. Indeed, he had been talking about his own death and resurrection multiple times by this point in his ministry. Jesus came for the precise purpose of living and dying and rising from the dead.

And what this means for us is of the very most significance. God is a God of the living, not the dead.

What are the implications for us? While there are some obvious implications, I see some less obvious ones as well.

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Sam Harris Podcast with Bart Ehrman – Part 2 – Wooden Fundamentalism

May 25, 2018


This is a continuation of observations in regard to a podcast interview of self-described agnostic, New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, by the atheist, Sam Harris.  In the first installment, I focused on Ehrman’s personal story about “losing his faith” as he transitioned from high school to Moody Bible Institute to Wheaton College to Princeton Theological Seminary. Along the way, he went from fundamentalist to agnostic. In many ways, though, he never left his fundamentalist view of the Bible.

Ehrman says that he began to shed his fundamentalist views as he learned the original languages and began to read scripture in those original languages. He describes how his rigid, nonintellectual reading of the scriptures began to crumble as he discovered issues with the Bible that didn’t allow such a strict interpretation of a text considered to be inerrant.

As the interview progresses, Erhman relates that he used to believe in a literal rapture, alluding to the Book of Revelations read in light of 1st Thessalonians (being caught up in the air).[1]  Erhman comments, “I not only believed in the rapture, I knew it was going to happen in the late 80’s” (followed by a hearty guffaw).  He goes on to describe that his loss of faith was a long process, but the “rapture was one of the first things to go”.

This was Ehrman’s fundamentalism, but “the rapture” is hardly a point of “doctrine” on which even fundamentalists agree, let alone the rest of the believing world. The verses in the Bible from which the idea of a rapture has been formulated are few, and they are wrought with difficulty in the interpretation, like the visions in Revelations and other apocalyptic writings. Many speculations have been suggested[2], but the whole idea is quite ancillary to the central tenets of the faith.

A person certainly doesn’t have to believe in the rapture or in any particular formulation of the rapture to believe in God or to have faith in Jesus Christ.

We often get the peripheral things inextricably intertwined with the essential things in our minds, and it’s hard to untangle them. This is the danger of placing too much importance on peripheral things, especially peripheral things with as little biblical support as the rapture: when the peripheral things begin to unravel, they are likely to begin to unwind the essential things if we have bundled them too tightly.

Rigid and wooden fundamentalism is brittle for that very reason. It’s an all or nothing way of looking at scripture that cements secondary things into the primary framework of our belief system. We have to hold on tightly to the whole thing to keep the faith. When we allow any part of it to come unraveled, it’s likely to unravel the whole thing. The issue isn’t with Scripture, however; the issue is with the approach.

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The Significance of the Resurrection

October 24, 2017

depositphotos Image ID: 24765707 Copyright: lexmomot

I have written about the central importance of the resurrection of Jesus many times, but I come back to it again. Nothing could be more important. Of this Paul, was crystal clear in his writing.

If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain;

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins;

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are evolved people most to be pitied;

If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”;

What you sow does not come to life until you die.

These are all statements made by Paul in his first letter to the people in Corinth.[1] These statements underscore and highlight the importance of the resurrection in Christian thought.

Jesus is the center of the Christian faith, and the gospel is at the center of Christianity and the resurrection is at the center of the Gospel. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, everything falls apart. The claims of Christianity are bankrupt because they rise or fall on this one point.

If Jesus was raised from the dead, Jesus is who he said he was and no other event in human history is more significant; no  religion or philosophy lays a claim to hope in the present and the future like words of Jesus. Jesus truly is the “light of men”[2] and the “bread of life”[3].

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The Rightness of God

September 9, 2017

ChristianPics.co

For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:2-4)

Paul was writing here of the Jews. Paul spoke with particular authority about this because he was a Jew, trained in the highest Jewish traditions by the greatest teacher of the time, and he had once has zealously protected the Jewish tradition of the law against the upstart followers of Jesus. And then, he dramatically converted to a follower of Jesus after an experience with the living, risen Lord Himself.

Paul is saying that the Jews were ignorant of God’s righteousness because they sought to establish their own righteousness, instead of accepting (submitting to) God’s righteousness.

Another way to look at righteousness is through the lens of rightness. God is right because he is God. When we think we are right, especially in comparison or contrast to God, we are asserting that we are the measure of right, rather than God.

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The Message in the Earliest Creeds in the New Testament

August 15, 2016

According to Dr. Gary Habermas, Paul cites a number of early Christian creeds in his letters, and Peter cites one as well. Of first importance is 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. The other creeds include 1 Corinthians 11:26; Acts 2:22-36; Romans 4:25; Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:8; 1 Timothy 2:6; and 1 Peter 3:18.[1]  Other scholars identify creeds in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29; Romans 1:3-4; Romans 10:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 2:8; and Philippians 2:6-11.[ii]

The importance of these creeds is that they include the earliest message of the church following the death of Jesus. They reveal the most fundamental and central message of the early followers of Jesus. The significance of these creeds, then, can’t be understated, and they all have one theme – the death and resurrection of Jesus. (more…)

Revisiting Life and Death: The Gospel from Beginning to End

July 10, 2015

Chris Frayley On Rock at River Bend


“O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

These familiar phrases from 1 Corinthians. 15:55 (quoting Hosea 13:14) jumped out at me as I read them again. Of course, I know that God has swallowed up death in victory through the resurrection of Jesus Christ! But, what does that really mean for us?

This statement is the tip of the iceberg, and it occurs to me that we cannot understand without remembering and contemplating “how we got here”. Therefore, we must go back to the beginning. (more…)


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