Thursday, August 25, 2016

Why Can’t God Just Forgive Us? Part 2.

Real Love is a Personal Exchange

Why can’t we just concentrate on teaching about how God is a God of love? The answer is that if you take away the cross you don’t have a God of love.

In the real world of relationships it is impossible to love people with a problem or a need without in some sense sharing or even changing places with them.

Think…of emotionally wounded people. There is no way to listen and love people like that and stay completely emotionally intact yourself. It may be that they may feel stronger and more affirmed as you talk, but that won’t happen without you being quite emotionally drained yourself. It’s them or you. To bring them up emotionally you must be willing to be drained emotionally.

John Stott writes, “The essence of sin is we human beings substituting ourselves for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for us. We…put ourselves where only God deserves to be; God…puts himself where we deserve to be.”

If that is true, how can God be a God of love if he does not become personally involved in suffering the same violence, oppression, grief, weakness, and pain that we experience? …only one major world religion even claims that God does.

To understand why Jesus had to die it is important to remember both the result of the cross (costly forgiveness of sins) and the pattern of the cross (reversal of the worlds values). On the cross neither justice nor mercy loses out – both are fulfilled at once. Jesus death was necessary if God was going to take justice seriously and still love us.

From The Reason for God, Chapter 12, The (True) Story of the Cross, by Timothy Keller.

Don’t take my word for it, read the book, don’t wait for the movie.

Have a little hope on me, Roger

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What is the Difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims?

Taken from here:

The main difference between Sunnis and Shias lies in their interpretation of the rightful succession of leadership after the death of the prophet Muhammad. The declaration of faith to which all Muslims assent is this: There is no God but Allah, whose prophet is Muhammad. However, the Shiites add an extra phrase at the end: and Ali is the friend of God. Because the Shiites passionately attest to Ali being the successor to Muhammad, much feuding and division have been caused in the world of Islam, not unlike the feuding between Protestants and Roman Catholics in Europe during the Reformation. However, the schism that sets up the major sects of Islam is not due to doctrinal issues, as between Protestants and Catholics, but is grounded in the identity of the “true successor” to Muhammad.

Among the close disciples of Muhammad was Ali, his son-in-law, who was most familiar with his teachings. However, when Muhammad died in A.D. 632, the followers bypassed Ali, whom the Shiites claim as the rightful successor to Muhammad. Instead, a cousin of Muhammad’s third successor, Uthman (A.D. 644-656), called Mu’awiya Umayyad, declared himself caliph. When he died in A.D. 680, his son Yazid usurped the caliphate instead of Ali’s youngest son, Hussein. The feud between rightful successors or caliphs was fought at the battle of Karbala. Hussein was slain, but his sole son, Ali, survived and continued the line of succession. Yazid, however, gave rise to the Ummayad line of succession, from which modern-day Sunnism arose.

As for their beliefs, both Sunni and Shia Muslims agree on the five pillars of Islam. While the Sunnites honor Ali, they do not venerate their imams as having the gift of divine intercession. Sunnites conduct community prayers and believe they can have a direct relationship with God. Of the two, Shiite Muslims have a burning desire to engage in martyrdom and believe that suffering is a means of spiritual cleansing. They dwell on the martyrdoms of Ali and Hussein, especially over the ten-day period of Ashura. Also noteworthy is the veneration that Shiites give to the imams, believing they are endowed with infallibility in their interpretation of the Qur’an. In many ways, this mirrors the way the pope is venerated in Rome.

In terms of actual practice, the Sunni Muslims pray five times a day: the fajr, the zohr, the asar, the maghrib and finally the isha (“darkness”). Shia Muslims only pray three times—morning, lunchtime and sunset. Another important difference between the two sects is that Shia Muslims permit fixed-term temporary marriage, known as muttah. Muttah was originally permitted at the time of the Prophet and is now being promoted in Iran by an unlikely alliance of conservative clerics and feminists, the latter group seeking to downplay the obsession with female virginity which is prevalent in both forms of Islam, pointing out that only one of the Prophet's thirteen wives was a virgin when he married her.

Iran is overwhelmingly Shia - 89 percent. Shia Muslims also form a majority of the population of Yemen, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and 60 percent of the population of Iraq. There are also sizeable Shia communities along the east coast of Saudi Arabia and in Lebanon. The well-known guerrilla organization Hezbollah, which forced the Israelis out of southern Lebanon in 2000, is Shia. Worldwide, Shias constitute 10 to 15 percent of the overall Muslim population, but they make up the majority of the radical, violent element of Islam.

For more great resources, go here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

7 Characteristics of a Mature Thinker

Over the years I have had the privilege to interact with people of various beliefs, backgrounds and disciplines.  This has allowed me to observe and identify characteristics that I believe those that are "mature" in their thinking consistently put into practice.  These are characteristics that I desire to emulate and incorporate into my own thinking and work.

Mature thinkers:

1. represent opposing views fairly and charitably.

2. don't overstate their case.

Their conclusions are humble and they let the evidence speak.

3. attack the argument and not the individual making the argument.

4. acknowledge when there is a weakness in their case or argument.

5. can admit when they are wrong.

6. know when to continue a discussion and when to end a discussion.

7. can acknowledge when someone that holds an opposing view makes a good point or argument.

What do you think of my list?  Are there any that you would add?  Please feel free to share in the comments below!

Courage and Godspeed,

Related Posts

William Lane Craig on What Makes for a Good Argument

What I've Learned from Blog Comments

Logic Primers from Apologetics 315

Saturday, August 20, 2016

J. Warner Wallace on Sharing Your Christian Convictions Online

"If you’ve ever interacted with hostile atheists online, you’ve probably been frustrated at times and wondered if your efforts were worthwhile at all. At times like this I try to remind myself of the three reasons anyone “shuns” a truth claim; many of us are committed to our position for other than rational evidential reasons (that’s true for everyone, including Christians). It’s important to see your efforts to reach the opposed as a baseball game rather than a tennis match. The goal isn’t points, it’s advancing people around the bases. You’re not alone on the court, you’ve got help on the field. I’m not always trying to hit home runs with people who disagree with me. Instead, I am simply trying to be faithful to my Master, reflect his image, and leave people with something to think about."

Courage and Godspeed,

Friday, August 19, 2016

Blog Post: Did the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Exist? by Sean McDowell

I had the pleasure of reviewing Sean McDowell's excellent book The Fate of the Apostles.  You can find our review here.  His book is an excellent treatment of the historicity of the apostles and their martyrdoms.

In this featured blog post, McDowell shares a simple case for the historicity of the Twelve.  

His case includes:

1. Multiple Attestation
2. Criterion of Embarrassment
3. Lack of Flowery Details in the Early Church
4. Onomastic Studies

You can read Sean's case here.

Sean recently debated mythicist Ken Humphreys on Premier Christian Radio and you can listen to that here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Why Can’t God Just Forgive Us? Part 1.

Real Forgiveness is Costly Suffering

Why would Jesus have to die? Why couldn’t God just forgive us? The death of Jesus for our sins is at the heart of the gospel, the good news. The Christian God sounds like the vengeful gods of primitive times who needed to be appeased by human sacrifice. Why can’t God just accept everyone or at least those who are sorry for their wrongdoings?

When damage has been done, repayment for repair of the damage must be made. The wrongdoer can make restitution, the wronged party can offer to pay, or some combination of the two parties together can pay for the damage.  But, the cost of the damage must be borne by someone. The repayment does not vanish. Forgiveness means the wronged party bears the cost of the damage.

When one has been wronged and there is a just debt that cannot be dismissed, there are two options. 1) Make the wrongdoer suffer and pay for what they have done. 2) Forgive, which means refusing to make them suffer and pay for what they have done. This means that the wronged party absorbs the debt and takes the cost completely on themselves. True forgiveness is always a form of suffering.

God cannot just forgive us, because no one just forgives. Forgiveness means bearing the cost and absorbing the debt of sin instead of making the wrongdoer do it. God did this for us in Jesus Christ on the cross. The Christian faith has always understood that Jesus Christ is God. God did not, then, inflict pain on someone else, but rather on the cross absorbed the pain into himself. Therefore, God is not like the primitive deities who demanded our blood for their wrath to be appeased. God became human and offered his own lifeblood to offer mercy and honor justice.

Jesus death was only a good example if it was more than an example, if it was something absolutely necessary to rescue us. And it was. Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us? There was a debt to be paid – God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be borne – God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.

From The Reason for God, Chapter 12, The (True) Story of the Cross, by Timothy Keller.

Don’t take my word for it, read the book, don’t wait for the movie.

Have a little hope on me, Roger

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sermon Audio: The Fuse of Racism by Pastor Steve Spuler

I am blessed to be currently sitting under the preaching of Pastor Steve Spuler of "Life in Christ" Church in Dillsburg, PA.  In his message this past week (8-14-16), Pastor Steve offered a biblical response to racism.

I greatly appreciate Pastor Steve's preaching because he understands that issues such as racism must be addressed in the pulpit so that Christians can be ready to offer a biblical response when these topics are discussed in the public square.

Furthermore, Spuler consistently models how to incorporate philosophy, logic and ethics into theologically sound sermons.

Pastor Spuler addressed the following issues:
  • What is the root cause of racism?
  • What is the true Christian teaching regarding race?
  • What can Jesus' parable of "The Good Samaritan" teach us about how we should treat others?
  • How should a follower of Jesus Christ treat those that are "different?"
You can find more of Pastor Spuler's messages here.

Many thanks to Pastor Steve for allowing us to share his sermon on Truthbomb.  As you will hear, this is Pt. 1 in a 4 Pt. series.  We will share the other messages when they are completed.

You can listen to "The Fuse of Racism" here.


Courage and Godspeed,