Summary–Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers & Skeptics Find Faith

 

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I trust that Os Guinness’ book Fool’s Talk, informed, stirred, and challenged your thought and practice as a Christian disciple. It focused on the dynamics of effective communication toward those who are indifferent or even hostile to the Christian faith.

Alistair McGraths’ Mere Apologetics is an introductory resource focused  on helping seekers and skeptics find faith. As with the Guinness’ book, I’ll provide weekly summaries aimed at gripping you such that you’ll read his book, and not just ingest my summaries. My desire for all who read this material is that Christ would be seen as objectively superior to all other competing treasures, and that subjectively an intimacy with the living God would be truly experienced.

CHAPTER 1: GETTING STARTED (Pgs. 11-25)

According to McGrath, our mandate has been given by Christ in the Great Commission both with content for teaching and power for execution.  Christ’s word is what we teach and God’s presence is what Jesus promised.  That’s why when we are about doing the Masters business never are we to think we’re alone.

We are to understand apologetics as the reasoned defense of the Faith which must be practiced with gentleness and respect toward outsiders—even those who are our persecutors (Pg.16 see section).  Apologetics defends, commends, and translates the Faith to seekers and believers.  When defending we must answer honest questions and be person relative.  When commending we must show the wonder and splendor of the kingdom. And when translating, we must do so exegetically, hermeneutically and humanly explain terms so that a child can understand our meaning.

Christians wanting to grow in their faith need to and must find answers to their questions.  They must mine the riches of the faith and get proficient at explaining it creatively without losing the substance of the gospel.  How desperate we are for church goers to be gospel proclaimers, not just attendees to hear a message.

The distinction between Apologetics and Evangelism is important and not so easy to distinguish.  The former explains the Faith and removes barriers to hearing its proclamation, whereas the latter proclaims the gospel and calls sinners to repentance.  Sometimes these two are neglected—apologetics (pg.22) and evangelism (pg.22).  Either one is not considered as important or it is held that unless one is gifted in said areas, it will not be done

Nevertheless, apologetics and evangelism are necessary conditions for real conversions to obtain, but not a sufficient condition until the Holy Spirits’ activity manifests in the souls of dead people to bring them to life.

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Reflections From 1 SAMUEL 17: “DELIVERANCE COMES SO THAT PEOPLE MAY KNOW ISRAEL’S YAHWEH”

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            This chapter is perhaps one of the most loved and least understood in all of the Bible by both believers and non-believers alike.  It’s the story of David and Goliath, the underdog facing insurmountable odds for success.  It’s a story of courage under fire where the dream is truly impossible to attain.  It’s a story of a boy coming of age in battle demonstrating his mettle.  The above is true.  It’s more than just a story, but one that happened in space time history.  But this story rather than primarily focusing on the characters, the observant reader will note that it’s about the very present Author.

The story unfolds with the Philistine armies set in battle array in Socoh and across the valley Saul and Israel were camped in the valley of Elah.  Goliath, a nine foot specimen of a man, a fierce warrior and ominous presence taunted Saul and Israel’s army’s to come and fight him for forty days (1-7)

He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel and said to them, “Why do you come out to draw up in battle array? Am I not the Philistine and you servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will become your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall become our servants and serve us.” 10 Again the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

Like the scene in the movie “Troy” where one kings’ star warrior challenges the opposing kings’ champion fighter to determine who’s king will be served, so also in this account the same obtains.  But unlike the figure of Achilles—known for his fierce battle skills, David—the son of Jesse—the shepherd youth comes forth as the unexpected and unknown hero—or so it seems (Vv.12-19).

After a month of Goliath’s taunts David comes on the scene and inquires what the problem is, what the reward for killing Goliath is and then takes on the challenge (Vv.20-25).  It seems that for Eliab his brother, David was a despicable nuisance and perhaps sibling rivalry’s obtained growing up (Vv.26-30).  It seems however that David understood something Saul and Israel had forgotten—they were God’s covenant people, the Philistines were not:

“Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” (V.26)

To be circumcised in Israel hearkened back to the God of the fathers who fought many battles for Israel and would continue to do so even that day.  He is Yahweh, the God of the covenant who overthrew Egypt’s mighty armies and is unchanging.  So David recalls Israel’s historical past but recalls his as well.  This youth, the shepherd boy going up against this seasoned warrior, gives a brief biography that’s telling:

32 David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail on account of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 Then Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you.”

God had been preparing David for this fight for many years and through many difficult trials.  It was in said crucible that David the youth learned to trust in the God of Creation and the Covenant.  Thus, this situation would be no different; instead of killing a lion and bear who threatened David’s sheep, he would be killing the elite warrior who for forty days had been threatening and terrorizing his people Israel.

Goliath came out with full battle armor and sword, but David with five stones and a sling.  After Goliath’s many taunts and scorn, David replies with a promise of his doom based on the status and purpose of Yahweh:

45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”  48 Then it happened when the Philistine rose and came and drew near to meet David, that David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.49 And David put his hand into his bag and took from it a stone and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead. And the stone sank into his forehead, so that he fell on his face to the ground.  50 Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and he struck the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David’s hand.51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

David went from being an obscure youth to the champion of Israel, but little did he know what trials his faith in God and courage would bring into his life (Vv.52-58).

David had a relationship with God that was vibrant, not static.  He walked with God from his youth and when the time came he glorified the God of heaven, the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob.  The thrust of this account is not that we need heroes; that underdogs can have their day; that courage requires one to be in battle; etc.  I think God through the Holy Spirit is saying to his people even today that regardless of the opposition (be it great or small) you can trust that I’ll be there to deliver you according to my purposes for the glory of my name so that the nations will know there’s a God in Israel who has ultimately revealed himself in Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

May a youth movement be raised up in these last days LORD who will dare to walk with you and not be distracted with the Goliaths of our day, may they so be filled with an understanding of your word that when the time to act in righteousness arises, they don’t back down but trust in your presence to deliver according to your purposes, not theirs.  And may those saints who have walked with you for years, who have lost a passion for your kingdom, find the fire of heaven they once imbibed to glory of your matchless name!

(SDG)

Reflections From 1 SAMUEL 13-16: “CHRONICLES OF A FOOLISH LEADER/KING”

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As I read these four chapters my attention kept coming to King Saul’s disposition as a man and a leader of God’s people.  First, Saul did not understand the limits of his authority.  This is evident when he chooses to sacrifice offerings to the LORD which is only the duty of Samuel the prophet (13:9-14).  God calls Saul “foolish” because he did not heed the commandment given (13:13) but took matters into his own hands.  He, unlike David, was not a man after God’s own heart—one whose disposition is to love and live according to God’s inscripturated self-disclosure (13:14).

  Second, Saul put confidence in people rather than in God.  The king here has a lapse of faith and disobedience results (13:11-12).  Unlike Jonathan his son, who understood that victory in battle did not come from people or the performance of religious duties, but it came from the LORD (14:6-23), Saul did not get this.  In fact, it was Saul’s fear of people rather than fear of God that proved to be his snare.  To lead as God demands will usually result in angering the crowds / creatures, not the Creator.

Third, Saul was rash in making decisions.  Rash oaths are impulsive decisions made on the spot that increase the burden of leading and a tendency we should guard against.  Saul’s rashness to speak and to act clouded his judgement and often proved detrimental to Israel (14:24-52).  Again, disobedience to God’s word is the downfall of any leader (15:1-29) and Saul’s story is a sad example of said negligence.  Obedience that pleases God is never partial, but absolute (15:20-21).

Who can be totally obedient? For even David, the man after God’s own heart had horrible lapses of faith!  David’s son, Jesus of Nazareth perfectly obeyed.  As such, he is not only the true reigning king, but our assurance of acceptance before a holy God.  That is, because of his obedience, I’m to walk as he did who gave the Spirit to comfort and guide me in His ways.

Fourth, Saul did not delight in obeying God.  The text says, “…to obey is better than sacrifice…” (15:22) and is a loaded truth claim.  Essentially it’s telling God’s people that ritual apart from adherence to His revelation of how He’s to be worshipped and what is to be done, is greater than “mere” acts of religious actions.  Here again, God is exalting and showing the primacy of His word compared to “all other things”.  It’s God’s word that created everything, sustains everything and that gives His people light in their darkness—especially to his leaders.

May God’s word ever be our delight which always leads us to You LORD of heaven and earth, the source of all that is.

(SDG)

Fool’s Talk: CHAPTER 8: SPRING LOADED DYNAMICS (Pgs.149-167)

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In this chapter, Guinness asks the question of how one chooses the proper worldview in the midst of Atheism, Hinduism and Christianity.  Everyone has a worldview and when one is exposed to another worldview it often forever changes the way they perceive their own worldview.

Add to this the issue of pluralization where the choices offered seem to be unending, and we find ourselves in an era where the propensity to change our worldview or paradigm is real.

Guinness explains that apologetically it’s crucial to know this for it points to what kind of unbelief (unbelief is always a rejection of God) we are dealing with, and it points to what kind of arguments we should employ.  When people are closed minded this is especially helpful knowledge.

Reaching the Closed-Minded Person  

Consider the account of the prophet Nathan exposing King David’s adultery and murder.  Instead of confronting the king with the facts, the prophet used a fictitious story to appeal to David as judge and lawgiver of Israel.  The end of that account reveals an infuriated David unwittingly condemning himself when Nathan says, “You are the man”, followed by heart break repentance and cries for forgiveness.  That’s powerful!  Lesson—keep the audience in mind in order to connect with them.

Another way to reach a closed-minded person is to keep the goal of the encounter clear.  That is, depending on their disposition, we must proceed with the truth in such a way that it will meet their need.  Some people don’t need a bunch of arguments to believe (E.g., the Philippian jailor) but others may (E.g., Doubting Thomas).  Regardless, we eventually want to get to the truth of the gospel if possible.

Sometimes there will be the need to reframe the truth properly when God is misrepresented and thus rejected on false premises.  Our duty is to clarify who God is and explain what entails rejecting Him.  After this is done, if one still rejects God, then at least the real has been snubbed, not a phantom caricature (E.g., the disciples on the road to Emmaus [Pgs.166-7]).

Still another way to pry open the closed mind is to ask questions.  When we learn to ask questions properly, we are help people live the examined life, perhaps see the way of their errors and thus enable them to pursue the truth.  Guinness reminds us that questions have the power to engage people because they are indirect and involving.  The greatest questioner in history was not Socrates, but God seen in Genesis 3 and blossomed in the life of Christ.

Yet another way to open the closed minded is through the use of parables, drama and ploys.  For example the Rechabites were used by Jeremiah the prophet to explain Israel’s disobedience through Jeremiah asking the Rechabites to drink wine with him.  He knew they didn’t drink (modern day equivalent to fundamentalists) because they obeyed the word of a man, but Israel refused to obey the word of the LORD God.

Postscript: Guinness ends the chapter by pointing out that in this age words suffer from inattention and inflation. When we speak people are not listening, and when words are used they distort reality so as to sell one’s product to a consumer.  As people of the word, who worship the WORD, words ought to matter to us.  Thus instead of championing technological marvels, Christians should grow deeper in their theology.  This is one way to combat the misuse of words—the suppressing of truth in unrighteousness.

Reflections From JUDGES 3-5: THE CYCLE OF IDOLATRY BRINGS BONDAGE…YET MERCY

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In these chapters the persistent theme is that of God testing Israel’s faithfulness to Him by the pagan nations that surrounded them:

The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, so that He sold them into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years.  When the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel. When he went out to war, the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, so that he prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. 11 Then the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died. (3:7-11)

This pattern repeats itself over and again.  First, Israel is indicted for worshipping demons, not the one true God (3:12; 4:1-2) and God sells them into the enemy’s hands:

Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord.” (3:12)

“Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; and the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim.” (4:1-2) 

If we don’t worship the Deliverer, He will deliver us into the hands of our tormentors.  This is exactly what Paul argues for in (Rom.1:18-32) where God gives over those who exchanged His glory for the creatures: He gave them over in the lusts of their hearts (1:24), gave them over to degrading passions (1:26), and gave them over to a depraved mind (1:28).  The heart, passions and mind were all affected.  It happened then, it happens now.

Second, when God’s covenant people cry out for rescue, He hears their sobs and acts through sending Othniel, Ehud, and Deborah in order to save them (3:9, 15; 4:4).

Third, their slavery to these foreign “gods” and nations is never more than the rest they receive in the land by God’s hand (3:8 eight years of bondage, forty years of rest 3:11), eighteen years of servitude (3:14) followed by eighty years of rest (3:30), twenty years of bondage (4:3) followed by forty years of peace (5:31).  When one generation’s sin plunders them into bondage because of idolatry, the LORD’s rest given to the people is far greater than the time of servitude.

I think this shows us that where sin abounds, God’s grace does much more abound toward vessels of mercy.  God’s mercy endures forever, his wrath is but for a moment.

(SDG)

Fools Talk: CHAPTER 7: TRIGGERING THE SIGNALS (Pgs.131-147)

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Guinness sucked me in with riptide force by the people referenced, their historical milieu and their life experiences which created a “cognitive dissonance” forcing them to reconsider their view of reality—worldview.

Issues like death, suffering, evil, justice, truth, and joy are often the necessary “triggers” that awaken people to rethink their dearly held worldview presuppositions and as a result, it leads them to Christian conversion.  Two of the many examples Guinness considers are W.H. Auden and C.S. Lewis, both former atheists who converted to Christianity.

Consider W.H. Auden, one of the 20th century’s most influential English speaking poets, whose worldview was jolted by the gruesome reality of Nazi Germany and their death camps.  Previously, he thought people were generally good, God was a crutch, and there were no moral absolutes.  However, Auden now faced a two-fold conundrum: first, how could he make sense of the undeniable evil he encountered, and second, how could he justify rightly condemning Hitler for the evils perpetrated if there are no moral absolutes?  These “pebbles” in Auden’s soul caused him to raise this question to his friends and later to a reporter:

“The English intellectuals who now cry to Heaven against the evil incarnated in Hitler have no Heaven to cry to.” And, “Unless someone is ready to take a relativist view that all morals are a matter of personal taste, one could hardly avoid asking the question: If, as I am convinced, the Nazis are wrong and we are right, what is it that validates our values and invalidates theirs? ” (Pg.133)

Auden’s desire for justice in the face of egregious evil could not be realized if relativism was true.  He concluded that the only way to combat such evil was to renew “faith in the absolute”.  Here Guinness explains that although Auden had not yet converted to Christianity, these “signals of transcendence” propelled him to leave his atheism and to become a seeker.  His life experience and the horrors of the holocaust jarred him into reality like no argument could.

Guinness goes on to explain that such jarring experiences act as “signals of transcendence” that cause us to transcend our present awareness to think more deeply, broadly and honestly.  He notes:

The signals message is a double one: it acts as a contradiction and a desire. It acts as a contradiction in that it punctures the adequacy of what we once believed.  It arouses in us a desire or longing for a new answer that is surer, richer and more adequate than whatever it was we believed before—which has patently failed ” (Pg.134)

These signals are pointing to an end that is hopefully more satisfactory then the present state of affairs.  Auden, the former atheist turned into a seeker because existentially his worldview could not satisfy his desire for justice, truth and moral knowledge.

Death is the horn-blast that something’s wrong!  The signal (I.e. the horn-blast) however is not the end but the means through which an answer can be had; it does not conclusively determine the destination.  When the signal is confused for the goal, the search for meaning stops and some commit suicide— seeing no point to life.

Guinness goes on to consider the issue of desire and longing in light of the truth.  Depending on the religious persuasion, desire and longing can be viewed either negatively (Buddhist and Stoic position) or positively (Jewish and Christian tradition).  Negatively viewed, desire needs to be transcended and escaped, positively considered the object of desire determines whether it is negative or positive.

For example, the reason we have desire according to Plato is because we are incomplete essentially because we’ve been “cut-in half” and we long for our other half.   Again, in the Classical Greek and Roman paradigm there’s four major passions: desire, fear, joy and grief.  Desire is yearning for that which we don’t possess; fear is the aversion to the undesirable; joy is the possession of what we desire, and grief is undergoing what we fear.

However, in the Judeo-Christian perspective desire is positive or negative depending on the object desired.  There’s no need to deny, escape, or transcend desire itself (I.e., Buddhism & the Stoics).  However, when it’s directed ultimately toward the creature instead of the Creator, something called “The Fall” occurred (Genesis 3).  As a result of God not seen as our highest good, it’s not that we’ve been cut-in-half (I.e., Plato) but we’ve been cut-off from God, ourselves, each other, and nature itself.  Guinness says,

“So now we live east of Eden…We are all prodigals now, and we are all in a far country.  Yet however far away we go there is always a longing for home that will not go away” (Pg.136-7)

 We are aware that something is missing and there must be something more.  Apologetically, we must prick the soul in its desire factory for “something more/better” secondly, we must appeal to what we know is wrong “fear grief”.  That is, we must point to the desire for joy and the fear of grief, these immaterial drives that trigger a hunger for the transcendent, as evidence for an object that can satisfy such longings, even though some would suppress that truth of God in unrighteousness.

Guinness contends that a strategy to combat such suppression is to use an existential presuppositional approach which presses people to the logic of their own assumptions and shows them that their faith (whatever it may be other than in the Creator) is neither true nor adequate.  In other words, what they profess to be “true” can’t be lived and this realization leaves them thinking, maybe even perturbed.  This happened to Auden, it can happen to our loved ones.

Consider C.S. Lewis, a former atheist and 20th century Christian apologist who was captivated by joy as retold in his biography.  He recalls that this joy was aroused by a flowering currant bush which brought back childhood memories with his brother.  Lewis describes joy not as pleasure or happiness which is conditioned by circumstances or the senses, but as something other worldly.  That is, if this joy could be possessed it was not attainable in this life, but how he knew it was indeterminable.  Regardless, to possess such joy would be incomparable to any experienced pleasure (E.g., The Pearl of Great Price parable).

Here was a signal of transcendence not the attainment of faith, says Guinness, although for Lewis that was its end.  Although joy raised questions it supplied no answers (pg.144).  Among Guinness’ many points, the one made here is that sometimes nonbelievers come to faith as a result of the horrors or joys of life that contradict their present worldview.  This causes a person to search through transcendent signals that point to a reality of life’s true meaning.  Sometimes this pursuit ends in conversions, sometimes in suicide.

Same-Sex Marriage Approval Logically Opens The Door To Darker Realities

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Everyone has a worldview that dictates how they view reality.  That view of reality contains ideas that have real consequences, and those ideas are championed through truth claims (E.g., Same-Sex marriage ought to be tolerated) that seep into the culture.

Unfortunately, when worldview truth claims are not tested through logic, but embraced through emotions, reality becomes twisted.  This results in calling what’s bad good, what’s wrong right, what’s false true, and what’s unrighteous righteous.  For professing Christians who support “Same-Sex-Marriage” I ask on what grounds?  Biblically it’s a twisted view of reality and part of the catalogue of sins for why God’s wrath has been unleashed (Rom.1:18-32).      

Now that same-sex-marriage is legal does it make it moral?  On what grounds is it moral, what’s the basis for it?  Whatever your answer friend, you’ll use words and thoughts to convey your view.  When this happens you and I come into the use of logic (Click for Primer Chart on Logic) whether done well or poorly.  Douglas Groothuis talks about this issue of logic and applies it to the same-sex-marriage decision.

“He argues that If same-sex marriage is moral, then any consensual sexual arrangement (involving marriage or not) is moral. Same-sex marriage is moral.  Therefore: consensual polyamory, incest, pedophilia, and bestiality are moral.  But (3) is absurd, since these acts are immoral. Therefore, it is false that same-sex marriage is moral; it is immoral.”

Part of the way Christians are to love God is with the mind, making proper distinctions and using logic well is one way we follow Jesus friends.  When we don’t use logic well, we fail to properly reflect our glorious God and hinder the cause of Christ rather than advance it. Therefore, how well are you thinking friend?

Check out his article at http://douglasgroothuis.com/2015/07/20/the-real-slippery-slope-logic-fallacy-and-american-decline/comment-page-1/#comment-1809

Reflections From Mark’s Gospel: Chapter 16

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“DON’T BE AMAZED THAT JESUS ROSE FROM THE GRAVE!”   As in every Gospel account, the grave could not keep Jesus bound, but he’s risen from the dead as the angel testified:

And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’”They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

The command “Do not be amazed” from the angel is odd in light of the death of Christ.  No one has ever risen from the dead.  But perhaps the reason for the imperative is because the LORD of life can be trusted to do what he promises (I.e., Jesus told them these events would occur).

The unbelief of the disciples recorded in this account and in the rest of the Gospels shows a bent all humans possess when it comes to trusting God’s word—we don’t!  Their unbelief actually shows us all that we’re more prone to trust the creature over against the Creator.

This unbelief is first seen in the Garden of Eden, exemplified in the history of Israel up to the 21st century.  “Don’t be amazed” was the command to the woman—that Jesus was alive—because Christ’s word can be trusted!  Even death is ruled by the author of life.

Thus, as we go about our day, the challenge to trust God remains.  When we are anxious about life we ought not fret but trust he who is faithful to keep his promises.  And yet unbelief is ubiquitous ready to beat us down.  We will only vanquish it as Jesus did, “It is written…”  We must remember God’s promises are true and they will be fulfilled because he can’t lie.  As one writer has said, “Let God be true, and every man a liar”.

(SDG)

A Question On Love: Does It Have any Ultimate Reference Point?

love-160aWhat is love?.  According to one cable commercial from the  Ad Council which sponsors the “One Love Campaign” it asserts that love has no race, love has no gender, and love has no disability.  But what “is” love?

That’s a metaphysical question about love’s nature, or what-ness.  In our relativistic society, love is what we say it is.  But, if there’s a Creator who grounds all that is true, good, and beautiful, then love has a specific meaning and it’s based on what the Designer and Creator says it is.

See my recent post “realtivism” @ https://answerstotuffquestions.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/true-truth-and-why-it-matters_what-are-the-three-enemies-of-truth_-part-4.pdf.

Also, consider the article, “What is This Thing Called Love?” by Douglas Groothuis who addresses this issue and explains the difference between the love of this world compared to the love of God the Creator.  It’s worth the read, just click on the link: http://douglasgroothuis.com/2015/07/13/what-is-this-thing-called-love/comment-page-1/#comment-1717

Reflections From Mark’s Gospel: Chapter 14 “The Weighty Passion of Christ”

th (2)“THE PASSION OF CHRIST IS WEIGHTY: HE LOVES HIS BETRAYERS” Part 1

            Jesus’ teaching of the end times now progresses into Jesus’ passion.  His enemies were looking for an opportune time to kill him (vv.1-2); a woman anoints Jesus for his burial (vv.3-9); and Judas plots Jesus’ betrayal (vv.10-11).  In the last Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus predicts his betrayal (vv.17-21):

“For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” (v.21)

That statement must have ruined the disciple’s appetite!  Imagine being one of the twelve and hearing these words from the Masters lips.  Perhaps someone’s stomach turned (Judas?) or even fear gripped them that a cold clammy sensation rushed through their bodies?  Yes, perhaps.  Nevertheless, Jesus knowing this continues to break bread with them (vv.22-26):

22 While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.” 23 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (vv.22-25)

Notice that Jesus accentuates this final hour as the end of the old covenant and the inauguration of the new, not through the blood of bulls and goats but with his own blood, which was to be shed not for all but for many. 

This text seems to be pointing to some kind of “limited’ atonement which goes along with (Mk.10:45) and accentuates the personal nature of Jesus’ death; “he laid down his life for his friends”—the disciples—those who will abandon all to follow him shortly (vv.26-31), the thought of which at best must have been unnerving and at worst perhaps horrific.

Jesus tells his trained men that: “you will all fail me tonight; you will all show yourselves to be cowards, just fare weathered friends”.  I can’t imagine how difficult that was for the disciples to hear.  How often do I deny Jesus by my life that tends to stray from the truth?  Don’t I emulate the disciples here when I willfully rebel against my Master?  Sounds like a horribly true contradiction.

What an incredible Savior who knows we will deny him and yet chooses to die on our behalf.  What an amazing illustration of love’s extent: even in betrayal Jesus would still die to ransom those he came to rescue.  Amazing!  Now Mark’s account transitions from the table to the Garden of Gethsemane where unlike in Eden, the second Adam demonstrates a resoluteness to do the will of the Father (vv.32-52).

Here, Jesus’ love for the disciples is evidenced by his invitation for them to enter into his pain by toiling in prayer with him:

32 They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” 33 And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34 And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.”35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” 37 And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. 41 And He came the third time, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”

Jesus’ prediction of betrayal and death were about to be fulfilled.  The gravity of the moment increasingly intensifies step by step.  First, the adjectives of his temptation: “very distressed and troubled”, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death”.  Physical pain is, and can be unbearable, but the pain of soul who can measure, its magnitude is difficult to fathom, and often seems impossible to cure, much less endure.

Second, its stunning Jesus would ask these weak men to enter into his pain, to struggle with him in prayer, but he does.  Here we see the Master telling them to, “keep watch”.  What vulnerability, what a friend!  Solomon writes that it’s better to be in the house of mourning then in the house of feasting.  Why?  Perhaps it’s because grief and trouble alarm us out of the stupor that so easily engulfs us.  Perhaps it’s because on this side sorrow reminds us that things are not the way they ought to be.  Perhaps it’s a reminder of our own mortality and that we too must face death and God who awaits us.

Jesus here invites the three disciples to peer into his darkest hour of mourning, but they could not grasp its gravity—they fell asleep.  So, at table the disciples are informed that they will betray him, in the Garden they are invited to suffer with him, but Jesus had another source for comfort in anguish.

Third, Jesus cries out to God as “Abba, Father”.  He acknowledges his Father in the midst of this horrible experience.  The intimacy revealed in this cry is hard for me to swallow.  Here, Jesus’ relationship to the Father is unveiled for us to see that it’s unlike any other relationship recorded in human history.  The Son in whom the Father is well pleased is crying out to Him.  I’m stunned!  Here’s an ineffable moment for me.

The request of the Son to the Father, “Remove this cup—of God’s wrath—from me”  But Jesus remains faithful even to deaths door, “…yet not what I will, but what You will.”  Note that what results in this most intimate painful encounter is utter submission to Gods plan and desire.  A Godward life of prayer always produces God honoring submission to the /father, not rebellion.

Fourth, the disciples failed to pray three times for Jesus but he did not hold that against them.  Instead of retaliating he gave his life for them.  What manner of love is this?!

(SDG)