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Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2008)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
H. Wayne House (ThD, JD) is a Distinguished Research Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Faith Evangelical Seminary (Tacoma, WA). and Adjunct Professor of Law, Trinity Law School of Trinity International University. He is the New Testament editor of the Nelson Study Bible and Nelson Illustrated Bible Commentary, and the General Editor of Nelson Exegetical Commentary (42 vols), Israel: the Land and the People, and Charts of Bible Prophecy, among the 30 books that he has authored, co-authored, or edited.
Dr. House has been a professor of biblical studies, theology or law for more than thirty years at such places as Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon; Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas; Simon Greenleaf School of Law, Anaheim, California; Michigan Theological Seminary, Plymouth, Michigan, and Trinity Graduate School and Trinity Law School, Santa Ana, California, California campus of Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL. Through this internet office we hope to help those who are interested in several topics within apologetics, including Christianity and culture, law, science, cultism, philosophy, theology, and biblical studies. Dr. House also leads Bible study tours to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Turkey.
Visit his Website:
List Price: 13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
In the Broadway play and later film Jesus Christ Superstar, Mary Magdalene asks, “What’s it all about?” as she tries to figure out who this man called Jesus really is. Certainly there are aspects about the song she sings, and suggestions made in the play, contrary to what we know from the canonical Gospels about the relationship of Mary and Jesus. But she does pose some important issues. She is puzzled about how to relate to Jesus as she has with other men, and this association with Him has made major changes in her emotions, actions, and thoughts. The reason she struggles is her perception that “he’s just a man.” If Jesus is just a man, then why does He captivate her so and cause her to evaluate herself to the depths of her soul? Such questions about Jesus and the impact of His ministry, death, and resurrection have been asked for two millennia.
Every year around Christmas and Easter the news media show an interest in Jesus. Rarely do they speak to people who believe in the Jesus who has been worshipped by the church since its earliest period until now. Rather, the fascination is with a Jesus re-imaged by people who have little interest in the historical record preserved in the New Testament.
This interest in Jesus, unconnected to the earliest tradition and history we have of Him, is not a new phenomenon. Toward the end of the first century of the Christian era, perceptions of Jesus began to arise that were different from what He said about Himself as recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and proclaimed by the apostle Paul. Jesus has become the favorite of ancient heretics, founders of various world religions, modern novelists, Hollywood and documentary filmmakers, New Age teachers, adherents of popular religion, and over-the-edge liberal scholars. He is by far the most popular, and possibly most distorted, figure of history.
When Christianity was less than a hundred years old, we find two groups at different ends of the spectrum in their views of Jesus. One Jewish group, known as the Ebionites (late first century), accepted Jesus as the Messiah from God, acknowledged His humanity, but rejected His deity. On the other side were the Gnostics (early second century), who accepted Jesus as a divine figure but denied His true humanity. This rise of Gnosticism coincides with the demise, though not extinction, of Jewish Christianity, toward the end of the first century and beginning of the second century. Such views of the Christ were rejected by the apostolic church, and the view supported by the New Testament was finally put in creedal form, in a number of creeds, by the end of the fifth century.
Since those early centuries various religions have been enamored of Jesus. Eastern religions see Jesus as one of the avatars, or manifestations of God, and Islam considers Him a prophet (see chapter 8 for both topics). In the former, Jesus is an Eastern mystic, sometimes even viewed as having been trained in India, and in the latter as one who promoted Islam.
Muhammad was a pagan who had contact with Jews and Christians from Arabia and finally became monotheistic, in the first quarter of the seventh century after Christ embracing one of the over 300 Arabian deities: Allah, the moon god. In his limited investigation into Christianity, he came to believe, as is recorded in the Qur’an, that Jesus was born of a virgin, was sinless throughout His life, performed miracles, ascended to God, and will come again in judgment. He acknowledged all of these things about Jesus, considering none of these to be true of himself. Nonetheless, Jesus is never considered more than one of the prophets of Islam; He is not God in the flesh. Inside the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, the walls are inscribed with statements that God does not have a Son, specifically addressed against the Christian doctrines of the divinity of Jesus and the Trinity. As we shall see in a later chapter, Muhammad and his followers misunderstood the Christian doctrine of God.
In the eighteenth century, with the Enlightenment came skepticism about Christianity and absolute truth in religion. Biblical scholars and philosophers began to scrutinize claims that Jesus was more than human, and for over 200 years a search, or “quest,” for the historical Jesus has been pursued. We have now entered the third quest. While many within the second quest remain skeptical, there is growing support among some in the third quest for the credibility of the Jesus portrayed in the New Testament. In contrast to those who have little regard for biblical and extrabiblical history, scholars of both liberal and conservative persuasion now agree that within a couple of years following the death of Christ, the church preached a consistent message about His death and resurrection. Christ’s followers considered Him both God and man, Lord and Savior. And those who became believers in the latter part of the first century and early second century continued to accept Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels. The church’s belief in Jesus’ deity and humanity did not begin with the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, as encouraged by the Emperor Constantine; that belief was present from the church’s very beginning.
The Importance of Jesus
Though contemporary novelists and media sensationalists never tire of trying to find some new angle on Jesus to attract an audience, most serious historians and biblical scholars are impressed with the evidence in the Gospels for the Jesus who lived, taught, performed miracles, died, was buried, and rose again from the dead. An early twentieth-century composition by a devoted believer captures the wonder of Jesus:
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself.
He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While He was dying, His executioners gambled for His garments, the only property He had on earth. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life.
But believers in the divine Jesus aren’t the only ones who admire Him. Marcus Borg, a member of the Jesus Seminar and distinguished professor emeritus of philosophy and religion at Oregon State University, speaks as a skeptical historian about the significance and uniqueness of Jesus:
The historical Jesus is of interest for many reasons. Not least of these is his towering cultural significance in the nearly two thousand years since his death. No other figure in the history of the West has ever been accorded such extraordinary status. Within a few decades of his death, stories were told about his miraculous birth. By the end of the first century, he was extolled with the most exalted titles known within the religious tradition out of which he came: Son of God, one with the Father, the Word become flesh, the bread of life, the light of the world, the one who would come again as cosmic judge and Lord. Within a few centuries he had become Lord of the empire that had crucified him.
For over a thousand years, thereafter, he dominated the culture of the West: its religion and devotion, its art, music, and architecture, its intellectual thought and ethical norms, even its politics. Our calendar affirms his life as a dividing point in world history. On historical grounds alone, with no convictions of faith shaping the verdict, Jesus is the most important figure in Western (and perhaps human) history.
These words of exuberant praise from a historian who does not accept Jesus as God in the flesh further indicates the amazing manner in which a human being was able to draw devoted followers by the magnetism of His life and teachings. Jaroslav Pelikan, noted historian of Yale University, has said of Jesus,
Regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost twenty centuries. If it were possible, with some sort of supermagnet, to pull up of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left? It is from his birth that most of the human race dates its calendars, it is by his name that millions curse and in his name that millions pray.
The world would be a considerably different place, with far less progress, peace, and hope than we possess today, had He not lived.
Liking Jesus Without Knowing Him
Just about everyone likes Jesus. How could they not, in view of the outstanding reception He has received throughout history, right? Not really. Much of the fascination with Jesus comes from those who really don’t know much about Him. Were He to confront them with His teachings and call them to a life of obedience to His will, they might be part of the recalcitrant crowd crying out, “Crucify, crucify him!” (Luke 23:21).
Today a large number of people say they are attracted to Jesus but dislike His church. They see within the church people who are inconsistent in their practice of Christian ethics and fail to follow what they understand to be the teachings of Jesus. The church is viewed as judgmental, whereas Jesus said not to judge. The church speaks against sins such as homosexual relationships, whereas Jesus loved all people regardless of their sin, such as the woman caught in adultery. The church has interest in political matters, but Jesus did not involve Himself in politics and worked only to ease people’s burdens. (Whether these notions are true or not will be briefly discussed in chapter 12.)
This attempt to understand Jesus is often done without any reference to what we really know about Him. We simply guess who He is and how He acted—most often, how we think He ought to be and act to be acceptable to the twenty-first-century mind. Apart from the appeal to divine revelation, this is the manner in which He has been viewed over the centuries, including the century in which He lived on earth.
“Who Do People Say That I Am?”
As Jesus traveled with His disciples to Caesarea Philippi, He posed an important question: “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27). The response to this question divides light and darkness, death and life. The disciples said that some believed Him to be an important prophet, but the apostles—specifically Peter—proclaimed His deity, a truth revealed to him by the Father. It is this authentic Christ, based on credible biblical and extrabiblical sources, whom we must encounter.
Each of us is confronted with important questions and priorities in this life. Some are of minor importance, but others have lasting, even eternal significance. The most important issue we must squarely confront is our relationship with God and, consequently, our final destiny. This is true not only for people today, it was also important in the first century when Jesus the Messiah came to earth. This is evident in the words of Christ that if people did not believe that He was “from above” (heaven), they would die in their sins (John 8:21-24).
Jesus the Prophet of God
In general, people liked Jesus Christ, as is true even today. The Scripture says that “the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37). Saying this, however, does not mean they always understood His message (Matthew 13:10-17) or understood who He was:
When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:13-17).
The people during that time enjoyed what so many of us greatly desire—personal communication with the Son of God—yet they failed to understand Him. Many of them were miraculously fed and healed by Him. They heard His word with their own ears and saw Him with their own eyes. No doubt many also touched Him with their hands. To have the opportunity these people enjoyed seems too wonderful to imagine.
But when Jesus asked the disciples who the people thought He was, they cited many important figures of Jewish history, from John the Baptist (apparently thought to have been raised from the dead) to Elijah, who was to be forerunner of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5), to Jeremiah, who confronted the Northern Kingdom of Israel for its sins, or to some other prophet, as seen below:
John the Baptist. John the Baptist would have been a natural choice for the identification of Jesus, particularly by those who had not encountered John personally and maybe hadn’t heard the news of his death. John spent his ministry in the desert, baptizing in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, whereas the people in view here are in Galilee or maybe the Golan. Otherwise it seems unlikely they would have made such a connection, unless they believed that Jesus was the resurrected John, which is what Herod Antipas thought: “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the report about Jesus and said to his servants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him’” (Matthew 14:1-2). In the words of D.A. Carson:
His conclusion, that this was John the Baptist, risen from the dead (v. 2), is of great interest. It reflects an eclectic set of beliefs, one of them the Pharisaic understanding of resurrection. During his ministry John had performed no miracles (John 10:41); therefore Herod ascribes the miracles in Jesus’ ministry, not to John, but to John “risen from the dead.” Herod’s guilty conscience apparently combined with a superstitious view of miracles to generate this theory.
Though Herod’s superstition may be the cause for his comments, such a view is not unheard of in literature that precedes the New Testament. Albright and Mann say, “)The reappearance of dead heroes was a well-known theme in contemporary Jewish thought…[Second Maccabees 15:12-16] speaks of Jeremiah and Onias appearing to Judas Maccabaeus, and [2 Esdras 2:18-19] refers to the coming of Isaiah and Jeremiah.”
Elijah. Identifying Jesus as Elijah may appear surprising, except that Jesus’ ability to do miracles and the expectation of Messiah’s coming might have caused the people to believe He was preparing the way for the Messiah in agreement with Malachi’s prophecy:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
—Malachi 4:5 nkjv
The disciples had similar expectations about Elijah, whom Jesus connected to John the Baptist as His forerunner (Matthew 17:10-12).
There are indeed many similarities between Elijah and Jesus. Elijah exercised control over the forces of nature, telling Ahab his land would have no precipitation for several years (1 Kings 17:1-2).
In the midst of this judgment against Israel, God sent Elijah to the Phoenician city of Zarephath of Sidon, to a widow and her son who were facing starvation. To test her faith, Elijah asked her to make him some bread from the handful of flour and the little oil she had left. After she complied with Elijah’s request, the jar of flour and the jug of oil did not become empty until the famine ended (17:14-16).
Later, the woman’s son died, and the prophet of God brought him back to life (17:17-24). These spectacular miracles performed for a non-Israelite mother and her son reveal not only the power of God but also the love of God for all people.
Those people who saw the ministry and attitude of Jesus no doubt considered Him to be like Elijah because He also controlled the forces of nature. On the mountain near the shore of the Lake of Galilee He multiplied bread and fish (Matthew 15:29-38), and He raised a widow’s son who had died (Luke 7:11-17).
Jeremiah. The last prophet to whom Jesus is likened is Jeremiah. What in the life and character of Jeremiah served as a basis for comparison with Jesus?
Donald Hagner says there are a “number of obvious parallels between Jesus and Jeremiah, such as the preaching of judgment against the people and the temple, and especially in suffering and martyrdom.” The message of Jeremiah was God’s judgment against an unfaithful people (Jeremiah 1:16). Jesus presented a similar kind of message when He pronounced woe against Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matthew 11:20-24).
Jesus offered healing and solace to the sick and downtrodden, but to the proud and rebellious, the words of this “prophet from Nazareth” (Matthew 21:11) were sharp and powerful. Another point of similarity may be Jesus’ cleansing of the temple and His indictment of those there (Matthew 21:10-13), and Jeremiah’s rebuke in his famous temple sermon (Jeremiah 7:1-15). Both texts even accuse the unfaithful of making God’s house a “den of robbers.”
One of the prophets. Even if there was disagreement among the people about Jesus’ identity, one thing is certain: They knew He was special, for He was viewed at minimum as a prophet. Just listening and watching Jesus revealed that He was powerful and insightful. This testimony—that the people identified Jesus with the prophets—demonstrates they held diverse eschatological expectations but there was no mass acknowledgment of Him as Messiah. The occasional reference to Jesus as the Son of David, found several times before Matthew 16, does not contradict the lack of recognition of Him as Messiah.
Fortunately, we also see among some non-Jews a different response. The Samaritan woman at the well first viewed Jesus as a Jewish man, then a prophet, then the Messiah, and finally the Savior (John 4:4-42).
Whether they believed He was God’s Messiah or one of the great prophets of Israel, all thought He was a person of great importance with divine authority and a powerful presence and message.
Messiah, Son of God
After the disciples responded to Jesus’ question about how the people viewed Him, He asked, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29). Would the disciples have a more accurate perception of their master than the general populace? You would think that their intimate relationship with Jesus would have made His identity clear in their minds. Yet this is not what we find. Though Peter correctly says that Jesus is the Messiah (christos, Greek translation of Hebrew mashiach, “anointed one”), the Son of the living God (16:16), Jesus says that the knowledge that gave rise to this confession came from heaven rather than from human insight (Matthew 16:13-17).
Is this confession true? Or is Jesus no more than a man, as the character of Mary sings in Jesus Christ Superstar? The Jesus who came to earth 2000 years ago has spawned a myriad of ideas about who He was and is. No more important subject than this confronts us today. Even among those who do not embrace the bodily resurrection of the crucified Messiah and His claims to deity, there is considerable praise. As Borg said of Him, “On historical grounds alone, with no convictions of faith shaping the verdict, Jesus is the most important figure in Western (and perhaps human) history.”
But is He only this—or is He, as Peter confessed, the Messiah, the Son of the living God? Our crucial quest in this book is to discover the true Jesus among the various visions of Him that have been constructed since His death and resurrection.
It's the 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Non~FIRST will be merging with FIRST Wild Card Tours on January 1, 2009...if interested in joining, click HERE!)
Templeton Foundation Press (September 26, 2008)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Stephen G. Post has spent a lifetime studying love in its theological, scientific, and practical dimensions. He is president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (IRUL) and professor of bioethics and family medicine in the School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Post has published one hundred thirty articles in peerreviewed journals and has written or edited fifteen scholarly books on subjects relating to the dynamic of love in our lives. His most recent book is Why Good Things Happen to Good People, coauthored with Jill Neimark. Dr. Post has chaired nine national conferences in his field and has received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Board of the Alzheimers Association. He lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio, with his wife, Mitsuko, and their two children, Emma and Andrew.
List Price: $12.95
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Templeton Foundation Press (September 26, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
In March 2007 I had the honor of spending several days north of Paris with the great Jean Vanier, then in his early eighties. Jean had founded L’Arche (“The Ark”) some four decades earlier, when he was inspired by an experience of Godly love to invite two men with cognitive developmental disabilities into his home. Over the years, L’Arche homes have flourished worldwide as volunteers dwell with the disabled in communities of faith, prayer, and Godly love. I had attended meals in L’Arche homes in Cleveland on a number of occasions, and I had heard the grace said before eating, the hymns sung, and the energy of love that was palpable in the lives of those caregivers and in the experience of those they cared for and lived with.
Jean struck me as one of the most loving, Godly, and humble men I had ever met. He spoke quietly and brilliantly, and he exuded an infectious sense of fun. On one Sunday evening there was a Catholic Mass in an old renovated chapel from the fourteenth century. About one hundred people had gathered there, mostly L’Arche volunteers and people with disabilities. I saw a volunteer wheel one older man named David up to the priest for communion. That night, at dinner, I asked Jean what he thought David had gotten from receiving communion, for David was probably the most severely disabled and agitated person I had encountered there. Jean said, “Whenever David receives communion, he becomes more peaceful, and that is the power of God’s love. Remember, Stephen, we do not know much about the mystery of God’s love and presence.” Jean’s pure, enduring, and expansive love clearly encompassed such a severely disabled man, and counted him among God’s blessed.
Evil in God’s Name
When I encounter a man like Jean Vanier, I feel that we must all stop thinking of God as the epitome of awesome power and strength in the conventional sense. This convention may be partly true, but we need to set it aside; otherwise, we begin to think of God primarily in terms of might, and human arrogance propels us into thinking that because my God is stronger than your God, violence is justified in God’s name. If we think about God in terms of power, then religions become tainted with human arrogance. Far too many prayerful people are carrying rifles in the spirit of pure hatred and pretending that their hatred is somehow divinely sanctioned. This amounts to shallow religiosity, which only causes pain and undermines Godly love. The Lord of power and might is first and foremost the author and giver of all good things, the Divine Entity who nourishes us in love and brings forth from us good works.
We need to stop thinking that our definitions of God are finite and that our knowledge of God’s will is total. Our definitions, even if divinely inspired, are still products of the human mind, and we can never fully understand the Divine. Religious doctrines, if adhered to arrogantly, tend to separate us from one another and shatter the unifying spirit of Godly love that all spirituality seeks to cultivate. When religions place doctrine and force above love, they foment massive evil—from torture to terror, from coercion to conflict. Religious wars exemplify human tribalism and arrogance, both of which bring out the worst in us.
Hatred, hostility, and revenge are such strong emotions that they can crush our fragile sense of Godly love. The pseudospirituality of hatred runs counter to all genuine spirituality, which is always an adventure in love, an expression of love’s deepest desires.
Countering Hatred with Godly Love
The love of power can sometimes overwhelm the power of love, so we must remain humble and guard against this. No matter how little we know about God, we can still experience Godly love. Only by taking Godly love much more seriously than we do now—even inculcating a profound love for one another among ancient, sworn enemies—can we expect to head off a spiral of widespread destruction.
Most of religion and spirituality is rooted in healing emotions, grounded in love. We will never achieve sustained peace in the twenty-first century unless all religions live up to those intrinsic ideals of Godly love, applying those ideals to all of humankind without exception.
The world shows no signs of becoming any less religious; we as humans will always have a passion for Ultimate Truth that provides safe haven and emotional security in times of distress. Yet we will only have a human future if we infuse universal Godly love into the rituals that religions create, and express through our actions spiritual emotions such as forgiveness and compassion. If our religions fail to promote universal Godly love, violence will sweep us all away in a cataclysmic firestorm.
Promoting Harmony and Peace
Godly love alone can realign the world in harmony and peace. Too many kill in God’s name, claiming that they alone know the destiny God intends for humankind. Our limited human knowledge of any divinely inspired destiny to be played out on the human stage belies this specious—and dangerous—claim.
Love is the source of our greatest happiness and security; therefore love is the Ultimate Good, the Supreme Good. Nothing else comes close, for love underlies the creative energy that propels us from birth to death. The withholding of love drives to destruction those deprived of love’s nurturing, its compassion, and its life-giving blessings. This occurs most notably in critical developmental periods during childhood. And it holds just as true for a child in a nursery as it does for an older adult in a hospice.
Our religions, which offer models of righteous living, must put into practice their visions of Godly love, or they risk becoming sidelined, or, worse, irrelevant.
It's the 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Non~FIRST will be merging with FIRST Wild Card Tours on January 1, 2009...if interested in joining, click HERE!)
Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2008)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Craig Detweiler (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is codirector of the Reel Spirituality Institute and associate professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. He has written scripts for numerous Hollywood films, and his comedic documentary, Purple State of Mind (www.purplestateofmind.com), debuted in 2008. He has been featured in the New York Times, on CNN, and on NPR and is the coauthor of A Matrix of Meanings. Barry Taylor (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary), adjunct professor of popular culture and theology at Fuller, is a professional musician, painter, and the leader of New Ground, an alternative worship gathering in Los Angeles.
List Price: 13.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
How did the culture war begin? Was there a clear winner? Or did it devolve into a long, costly stalemate? What can we learn from the battle? Perhaps we are not as polarized as we presume. Political parties and pundits strive to distinguish themselves from the competition in the starkest possible terms. We use rhetoric to rail against one another while our core positions may involve only a slight divergence. We may be hardly separated rather than deeply divided. Can we move from an adolescent mind-set, shouting across the religious and political divide, into something more thoughtful, productive, and mature?
As a witness to the sixties and seventies, I’ve seen how destructive we can be—even toward ourselves. I’ve also lived through the comparative comfort of the Reagan era in the eighties. He turned back the clock to a prosperous vision of America before the social upheavals of the sixties. Can we uphold the vigorous freedom of the sixties alongside the rigorous responsibility of the fifties?
A purple state of mind pushes past the either/or squabbles of an earlier era. It adopts a both/and approach to following God and interacting with the world. It builds bridges rather than burning them. It seeks common ground rather than points of division. A purple state of mind attains maturity by knowing when and where to apply biblical truths to our blind spots.
John: I think this should be a candid discussion.
Craig: I want it to be first and foremost an honest conversation. Straightforward. Tell the truth. Nothing held back.
Were you alive when President John F. Kennedy was shot? While the world wailed, I was warm in my mother’s womb. She was in the doctor’s office, awaiting a checkup on my status. I was born two months after Kennedy was assassinated. I arrived after the initial shockwave, the outpouring of grief, and the confusion as to why such tragedy happens. But we all continue to wrestle with the conflicts that erupted in the wake of Kennedy’s death.
I entered a world on fire. Throughout my childhood, there were riots in the streets, protests on campuses, scenes from Vietnam in the news. My parents attempted to shield me from much of the conflict, turning me on to Mr. Rogers rather than Walter Cronkite. Yet the palpable conflicts over civil rights, free speech, and the war draft spilled into newspapers, televisions, and casual conversations. The struggle for civil rights was more than a century in the making. Leaders like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King were as patient as possible, given their long walk to freedom. Yet the positive steps created by the Civil Rights Act still moved too slowly for those trapped in the inner city. Riots in Watts and Detroit set cities ablaze. The mistakes of the Vietnam War constitute their own painful book. As images of the war filtered into our living rooms, resentment toward our leaders grew. Chaos reigned among protestors inside and outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
I knew my dad hated the protestors, but I didn’t know why. Something about their appearance bugged him. It may have been their long hair, their scanty clothes, and their flagrant disregard of authority. The hippies seemed equally frustrated by people like my father. They were complaining about the man, the system, anyone over 30. Why were the protestors so angry? What was all the shouting about? A generation gap emerged over the war in Vietnam. The students were ostensibly resisting the draft. They did not want to serve in an endless, misguided war in Southeast Asia.
Behind the political policies were distinct lifestyle choices. The hippies were celebrating free love, plentiful drugs, and raucous rock music. My father was wondering what happened to hard work, paying taxes, and civic responsibility. Teenagers embraced freedom while adults trumpeted responsibility. These dueling notions of the American identity exploded into a full-blown culture war that has been raging ever since. Reporter Ronald Brownstein calls this second civil war “the great sorting out.”
A purple state of mind appreciates the competing ideals that launched the culture war. It recognizes the patriotism that resides behind both visions. It remembers how much capital was created by responsible citizenship in the fifties. It also celebrates the ingenuity unleashed in the freedom-loving sixties. We learned valuable lessons from both eras. A purple state of mind borrows from both, combining freedom and responsibility.
The Fifties Versus the Sixties
I have lived my entire life in the shadow of the 1960s. I’ve heard the stirring speeches of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. I’ve mourned the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in Dion’s song, “Abraham, Martin, and John.” I’ve been taken to the Vietnam War in Apocalypse Now. How many television specials have I seen that retrace the upheavals of 1968? Rolling Stone magazine commemorates Woodstock or the Summer of Love every single year! Was it the best of times or the worst of times? Forty years on, we’re still locked in an adolescent debate. We see it in the childish name-calling of Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter on the right or MoveOn.org and Daily Kos on the left.
Every American presidential election since the sixties has essentially been a referendum on that painful era. There were no clear winners in Vietnam. Like Rambo, we’re still fighting. It is a dark era in American history most of us would rather not review (even though we must learn those lessons so we stop repeating them). The fissure generated in Vietnam lies behind our conflicted feelings over the war in Iraq. We can’t talk rationally as a nation about important issues because of deep-seated, unresolved family dynamics. If you prefer the comparative calm of the fifties, then you know how to vote. If you uphold the progressive hopes of the sixties, then it is clear which candidate represents you. The only problem with this pattern is that many of us missed the fifties and the sixties. We’re ready to move on, to live in this moment, to meet today’s challenges rather than to relive yesterday’s news.
Living with this conflict is comparable to listening to our parents argue. We’ve heard all the lines, all the rhetoric, and all the old grudges. We can recite them from memory, and we’ve been exhausted by the gridlock. We haven’t bothered to speak up because we know our parents were too busy arguing to listen. The shouting match showed no signs of abating, so we let the circus pass us by. Instead of joining the conversation, we elected to start our own companies, clubs, and churches. The creative brain drain from civic activities has been well documented. Those who were turned off by the partisan rancor eventually turned off the pundits on TV. We are on the Internet instead, arguing about the minutia that remains distinctly ours—music, movies, television, shopping. We don’t want to be superficial. But with no creative political options, we opt out. If we hope to engage the next generation in public life, then this culture war, rooted in bitter recriminations, must stop. For the sake of our children and grandchildren, we must call a cease-fire.
Those of us who’ve inherited this war have seen enough casualties. John Marks and I were born at the end of the baby boom and the beginning of Generation X. We understand the majority position and empathize with the minorities who’ve been sidelined by the sheer size of the opposition. Consider this book an effort to bridge the generation gap. I’m here to help those over fifty understand what is coming. I stand between the baby boomers and their children, brokering a truce. As a professor, I’ve invested heavily in Generation Y, hoping that they will enact enough changes to make room for my children—Generation Z!
Seek wisdom, not knowledge.
Knowledge is of the past; wisdom is of the future.
Native American PROVERB
I recount our recent history in an effort to fill in gaps in our understanding. We must comprehend where we’ve been if we hope to figure out where we’re going. I’ve seen the abuses of power represented by Watergate. The special prosecutor’s hearings interrupted hours of my favorite TV cartoons. (Did you realize that Hillary Clinton was part of the legal team investigating Nixon’s White House? Republicans have struggled with her for a looooong time!) I watched Nixon’s sad wave goodbye on the White House lawn. I also understand the faith embodied by the first “born again” president, Jimmy Carter. His Southern Baptist beliefs led him to broker peace in the Middle East. Yet I also endured the 444 days of the Iranian hostage crisis that accompanied his peaceful negotiations. After such international embarrassment, Americans desperately wanted to return to the fifties era of strength and power. Ronald Reagan played the part of forceful leader resisting the Soviet Union. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism was a victory for freedom around the world.
Unresolved tensions about Vietnam, drugs, and the sixties fueled the vitriol hurled at the Clintons and the Bushes. Bill Clinton strapped on the mantle of President Kennedy, declaring himself “A Man from Hope.” His appearance playing saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show sent a clear signal that he embraced civil rights. As “entertainer in chief,” Clinton demonstrated a mastery of the electronic medium. His obfuscations about inhaling marijuana and dalliances with White House intern Monica Lewinsky also sparked latent fears of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. (Did you realize that Monica’s famous blue dress was found in her mother’s apartment—in the Watergate complex?) To his detractors, Clinton represented too much freedom and not enough presidential responsibility. The impeachment proceedings against him were a recapitulation and payback for the embarrassment borne by the Nixon administration.
George W. Bush represented a return to the fifties. He may have engaged in alcohol abuse or cocaine use, but Bush confessed his sins and seemed genuinely contrite. He experienced the dangers of too much personal freedom and welcomed the responsibility he found in his newfound faith. While Clinton parsed verbs, Bush offered plain-spoken surety. He distanced himself from his patrician upbringing, adopting a Texas rancher lifestyle as a populist alternative. To those tired of Clinton’s libertinism and excess, Bush offered a down-home throwback: cowboy boots and pickup trucks.
Yet all the tough talk in the world seemed insufficient in dealing with a nearly unseen enemy. How could a band of terrorists bring down the World Trade Center? They used our strengths against us, hijacking our own planes. They crashed into our most impressive symbols of financial prowess and military might. September 11, 2001, humbled and angered us. We marched into the Middle East with unprecedented firepower. Afghanistan fell almost without resistance. We submitted Iraq to “shock and awe.” Unfortunately, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda proved they could not only run but also hide. We attacked nations, but our enemies were individuals. American technology ended up undermined by insurgents with homemade bombs. We terrorized others with torture at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. We operated like a powerful empire but proved incapable of ferreting out an ideology. We desperately need leaders who can protect freedoms while serving as responsible world citizens. Such nuance has been lost in our prolonged and pointless culture war.
The next generation admires the civic responsibility of the fifties and the progressive art and music of the sixties. They have embraced a both/and view but have been alienated by either/or debates. A purple state of mind embraces freedom and responsibility. It takes the best of history but leaves the worst excesses (on both sides) behind. It blows away the purple haze hanging over our past. This chapter highlights key moments that got us into this mess. It will offer tangible proposals for moving on with maturity.
Nixon Versus Kennedy
For almost 50 years, we have been sorting out the choices represented by the first televised presidential debate, Republican Richard M. Nixon versus Democrat John F. Kennedy. On September 26, 1960, Vice President Nixon and Senator Kennedy squared off under the moderation of ABC’s Howard K. Smith. Over 80 million viewers tuned into the debate, which pitted Nixon’s experience (eight years as Eisenhower’s vice-president) against Kennedy’s comparative youth (one term as a U.S. senator). Both candidates offered hawkish opposition to the Communist threat represented by the Soviet Union. They debated issues of national debt, farm subsidies, welfare, and health care that continue to be unresolved. They drew distinctions about the role of government to stimulate economic growth. But Nixon and Kennedy diverged most significantly in style rather than substance.
Kennedy arrived at the debates looking tan, rested, and energetic. Nixon looked haggard, having recently fought off the flu. He refused to don makeup, figuring his forceful words would rule the day. Those who listened to the debate on the radio found Nixon the victor. Yet those watching the debate on tiny black-and-white televisions saw something else. They saw Nixon sweat while Kennedy smiled. Although Nixon was only five years older than Kennedy, his demeanor seemed comparatively ancient in outlook and energy. Nixon’s noticeable five-o’clock shadow didn’t help either.
Nixon learned the connections between style and substance too late in the campaign. Makeup covered his beard in three subsequent television debates. But Kennedy gained just enough confidence and votes to capture the closest general election of the twentieth century. Just one-tenth of 1 percent of votes separated Kennedy from Nixon. Americans have remained almost equally divided ever since.
The legacy of John F. Kennedy remains remarkably hopeful and progressive. Consider the optimism behind his war on poverty. Having watched the Russians beat Americans into orbit, Kennedy redefined the terms of the space race. How much chutzpah did it take to engage in a race to the moon? His version of American government looks almost absurdly hopeful in hindsight.
When Richard Nixon campaigned for president in 1968 (and for reelection in 1972), he promised an alternative to the vexing Vietnam War. Nixon expanded the Cold War efforts to include Cambodia and Laos. He presented a stronger America that refused to be intimidated. At the same time, Nixon engaged in a remarkable array of diplomatic missions to China and the Soviet Union. He met his adversaries face-to-face, winning surprising concessions and forging unexpected alliances.
Behind their policies, presidents Kennedy and Nixon represented divergent attitudes toward profound social change within America. The Kennedy years brought glamour to the White House. Entertainers like Marilyn Monroe sang sultry birthday greetings to President Kennedy. An air of celebration could also be read as a reign of permissiveness. A Democratic administration presided over the explosion of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Progressive politics coincided with experimentation and unrest. The Nixon presidency offered a return to law and order. Freedom took a backseat to responsibility. In 1971, President Nixon identified drug abuse as public enemy number one in the United States. He created the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention (it became the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1973). We’ve been fighting America’s longest war, the war on drugs, ever since.
Jimi Hendrix’ song “Purple Haze” epitomizes the fuzzy grasp of reality that accompanied drug experimentation in the sixties. The title allegedly arose from a powerful batch of LSD served to Hendrix by Owsley Stanley. Some have also attributed it to a strain of purple marijuana. Hendrix said the inspiration arrived in a dream. Whatever the derivation, “Purple Haze” is rooted in altered states of consciousness. Released in 1967, “Purple Haze” served as the psychedelic anthem for San Francisco’s summer of love. The key to the song’s eerie sound is harmonic dissonance. Jimi’s guitar is tuned in B-flat, while Noel Redding’s bass plays E octaves. Such discordant sounds matched the era perfectly. A clash of cultures resulted in something jarring and new. Jimi didn’t just play rock music, he offered the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Consider the transcendent promises contained in his phrase, “’Scuse me while I kiss the sky.” Some heard it as a sexual provocation, a pledge to kiss a guy. But the sound made it clear that his sights were set in the great beyond. At his seminal appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival, Jimi transported the crowd to a higher state of consciousness. He demonstrated the otherworldly power of raw feedback, playing his guitar behind, above, and beyond himself. Hendrix stepped into the role of sexual shaman, licking, caressing, and stroking guttural sounds from his Stratocaster. In setting his guitar on fire during “Wild Thing,” Hendrix offered his gifts to the rock gods. It is an incantation, sacrificing his most precious possessions to the altar of altered states.
Unfortunately, Jimi’s life ended up in a similar state of self-immolation, falling to pieces just as suddenly and tragically. The Experience Music Project in Seattle serves as a permanent archive for all things Hendrix. EMP founder Paul Allen spent part of his Microsoft millions acquiring Hendrix memorabilia, bringing it back to Jimi’s hometown of Seattle. It is a memorial to a musical messiah. The hall dedicated to Jimi is fittingly called “Sky Church.”
To others, “Purple Haze” demonstrated a world utterly adrift. The idyllic visions of Woodstock were undercut by the horrific murder at Altamont. With Hell’s Angels serving as security, 1969’s other free concert (at Altamont Speedway in Northern California) ended in death rather than musical bliss. Every time Rolling Stone magazine presents another rosy retrospective of the sixties, I wonder why it refuses to acknowledge the dark side of psychedelia. How can it hold up Hendrix, Joplin, and Jim Morrison as departed saints, when they are also exhibits A, B, and C in the perils of drug abuse? They were amazing and stupid at the same time. Great talents squandered by excess. So when parents who lived through the worst of the sixties attempt to spare their children the same amount of destructive experimentation, I applaud. “Just say no” arose from painful, lived experience. It may have been simplistic, but it was preferable to self-destruction.
Recent films like Drugstore Cowboy, Trainspotting, and Requiem for a Dream capture both the allure and the demolition of drugs. They provide an audio-visual approximation of a drug trip. Their images are intoxicating and attractive—the ultimate music videos. Yet their message is clear: Despite the attraction, do not be deceived—drugs will kill you. They serve as cautionary tales for a stylish era. Today’s students have largely learned from the painful past. Rates of teenage pregnancies, drug use, and violence have hit 40-year lows. The parents from a turbulent era raised remarkably respectful, well-behaved kids. Demographers Neil Howe and William Strauss noted the surprising generational shift:
Boomers started out as the objects of loosening child standards in an era of conformist adults. Millennials are starting out as the objects of tightening child standards in an era of non-conformists adults. By the time the last Millennials come of age, they could become…the cleanest-cut young adults in living memory.
To a large degree, Generation Y has embraced the family values of the 1950s. But its rebellion remains wrapped in the profane packages of the 1960s.
Consider the violent, R-rated film Fight Club (1999). It is a scathing critique of consumer culture and middle-class values. We follow Jack, the bored protagonist, on a brutal slide into an underworld of macho self-abuse. Jack longs for genuine feeling, even if he must shed blood to achieve it. So while Jack may be a mild-mannered bureaucrat by day, he rallies his friends for bare-knuckled bar fights at night. Fight Club unleashes the fragile postmodern male id with frightening results. What begins as an invigorating alternative devolves into Project Mayhem, a prescient precursor to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Schizophrenia leads to destructive nihilism.
This is contrasted by the diagnosis offered by the toughest puncher in the club, Tyler Durden. He summarizes the isolation of a generation raised in affluence rather than upheaval:
Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy s— we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war…our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very p— off.
When I showed Fight Club to a class of undergraduate students, they nodded in recognition. They connected with Tyler’s frustration. During a class discussion afterward, a student announced, “We’re rebels.” When I asked what they were rebelling against, he said, “Our parents.” is all sounded more than vaguely familiar, so I pushed further. “What does that look like?” The students answered, “We don’t want to be like our parents. Drinking. Doing drugs. Getting lots of divorces…we’re rebels!” e most rebellious behavior imaginable? Abstinence!
While baby boomers harrumph about presidential candidates’ ancient drug use, their children are begging for them to grow up. Parents complain to MTV about Britney Spears’ kiss with Madonna. Switchboards light up from viewers shocked by Janet Jackson’s nipple slip during the Super Bowl halftime show. Yet the next generation lets out a collective yawn. They’ve already seen it, done it, or dismissed it. They identify with the band Weezer, which recorded a song titled “Tired of Sex.” They are ready to move on, past the provocation to more substantive issues. Rivers Cuomo of Weezer asks, “Oh, why can’t I be making love come true?”
A New Conversation
Craig: My introduction to what it meant to follow Jesus was to be a laughingstock. It meant bad hair, bad makeup, and bad TV. Is this what I signed up for? This whole tension of red state and blue state, this is the tension that I live with—how do I own my own people who so make me cringe on a regular basis? This nomenclature of left and right, red and blue is not helpful right now.
John: It’s not meant to be helpful. It’s meant to do exactly what it does. I’m not happy with what people on the traditional left, or Democrats, say is their worldview. I honestly don’t know if they have one. I’m as weary as anybody in this country of the politically correct dialogue, which basically says, “I’m a victim and you’re not. No, I’m a victim and you’re not.” It’s useless. It’s done. It’s dead. Postmodernism is dead. All those answers on the secular side are basically dead.
John Marks and I stand between generations. We are old enough to understand the boomers’ intra-generational issues, yet we’re still young enough to identify with the discontent of those who followed. We embarked on a purple state of mind because we’re desperate for a new paradigm, hungering for a different set of talking points. We each risked alienating our constituencies. Coming from evangelical Christianity, I am part of the fifties tribe, which is struggling to protect home and hearth. As a journalist, John Marks identifies with the political left and their tattered ideals. We both find ourselves embarrassed by those we represent. I ask how God’s people could have turned Jesus into a hater. John questions why allegedly free-thinking people are so close-minded when it comes to religion. A purple state of mind tries the patience of both sides. It runs the risk of disloyalty for the sake of a larger goal.
We must put the past behind us. We can no longer afford to be divided over issues of sexuality and drug use when global crises demand our attention. To lead the world, we must get past our adolescent fixation on who did what to whom. The rumor mills that trumped up charges against the Clintons in Whitewater or George W. Bush with evasion of the Vietnam War have done nothing but distract us. How much negative energy has been expended on investigations that went nowhere? We’ve been busy digging up dirt when we should have been building roads and schools. We tore down a government in Iraq rather than solidifying our own ability to lead by example. Shame on us for obsessing over the past instead of investing in the future. No wonder voters in 2008 longed for change.
The Gospel According to Austin Powers
Our desperate need for freedom and responsibility rests in the seemingly contradictory letters of the apostle Paul. He applied his godly advice in a unique way for the audience he was addressing. To Corinthian Christians navigating a libertine culture, he preached caution. Corinth was noted for temples dedicated to Apollo and Aphrodite. Worship at these temples often included sex with temple prostitutes. They were thought to serve as conduits for the divine. An intimate sexual encounter on temple grounds was comparable to an experience with the gods. So imagine how confused early Corinthian Christians may have been about what constituted proper worship of Christ. Their understanding of Christian freedom knew no bounds. Paul urged the Corinthian church to exercise spiritual discipline, to get their house in order. He insisted they “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18). To those who claimed, “Everything is permissible,” Paul responded with a chastening, “Everything is not beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23).
In Corinth, even eating meat could involve idolatrous activity. The local cults of Apollo and Aphrodite controlled so much of the public consciousness and economy that new believers were encouraged to examine the sources of their food supply. Food sacrificed to idols may not be contaminated physically, but Paul challenged the Corinthian to demonstrate sensitivity toward those who may have confused or conflated eating with idolatry. Paul urges the Corinthian believers to take responsibility for their Christian brothers and sisters. To a chaotic church, he preaches order, propriety, and maturity.
Yet to the uptight church in Galatia, Paul preaches freedom. The new believers clung too closely to their Jewish roots. Perhaps out of fear of persecution, the local church leaders insisted that new Christians adopt the rigorous (old) rules of Hebraic law. Gentile converts were expected to get circumcised according to Jewish ritual. Paul considers such attempts to bind people to ancient purity laws as a threat to the gospel of grace. He insists, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). He begged the Galatian Christians to loosen up, to relax their standards in the name of Christ.
Was Paul contradicting himself? By no means! In each letter, he concludes with an appeal to love. To the legally minded Galatians, Paul summarizes the law in a single command, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14). To the battling Corinthians who confused sex with love, Paul spells out the attitudes and actions that constitute love. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” (1 Corinthians 13:4). He preaches freedom to Galatia and responsibility to Corinth because they each need to apply the message in a unique way.
Unfortunately, we often fail to identify our particular blind spots. Legalistic churches will often reiterate the call to purity given to the Corinthians. Lax churches will return to Paul’s letter to the Galatians to justify more license. Those who need freedom cling to responsibility. Christians who need to learn responsibility insist upon the freedom Paul grants to Galatia. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery urges us toward maturity. In the comedic conclusion, Austin gets the drop on a surprised Dr. Evil. But Evil remains unflappable and punches Austin’s buttons: “We’re not so different, you and I. However, isn’t it ironic that the very things that you stand for—free love, swinging parties—are all now, in the nineties, considered to be evil?” Austin retorts, “No, man, what we swingers were rebelling against is uptight squares like you whose bag was money and world domination. We were innocent, man. If we’d known the consequences of our sexual liberation we would have done things differently, but the spirit would have remained the same. It’s freedom, baby, yeah!” Austin Powers connects wisdom, experience, and the spirit all in one interrelated package. Dr. Evil offers a challenge: “Face it—freedom failed.” With the sounds of the sixties anthem “What the World Needs Now Is Love” playing in the background, Austin concludes, “No man, freedom didn’t fail. Right now we’ve got freedom and responsibility. It’s a very groovy time.” Even sassy movie stars can capture profound truths.
It is not freedom versus responsibility. It is not the law and order of the Republican Party or the liberal policies of the Democratic Party. We need a strong military to defend our freedoms. We need unregulated markets to encourage innovation. We need social agencies to check our greed and support “the least of these.” We must find freedom and responsibility between the parties. We must learn to listen to Paul’s competing calls. Christian maturity incorporates the whole of scripture and applies it to an integrated life. We must be aware of our history. We must recognize how we’ve become so divided. We must grow up as a nation, moving on to freedom and responsibility rather than dragging each other into ancient history. The radical claims of Paul continue to challenge us. Libertines may need to give up some freedoms for the health of others. Conservatives may need to unwind enough for the Spirit to enter in.
Adolescence is an experiment in self-governance. It is about identifying your own strengths and weaknesses, learning to moderate. Sometimes we fall on our faces from too much excess. At other times, we shrink back from opportunities we should have seized. Highly responsible people may sprint to early success and wake up 20 years later, wondering what all the compliance wrought. They will long for freedom. Those raised in a borderless environment will have to find a roadmap that shows where the blind curves and dangerous precipices are located. Maturity arises when those maps have been internalized, when familiarity with biblical wisdom coincides with personal experience. We appreciate the gift of freedom, but we also recognize when enough is enough. Only with our house in order can we begin to focus outwardly. We do not merely play thought police, checking and correcting others. Rather, we take on the deeper challenge of walking beside others, inviting them to join us on the journey. It’s a very groovy time.
Zondervan (April 1, 2008)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Matt Rogers is copastor of New Life Christian Fellowship at Virginia Tech. Eight hundred students call it home.
FROM THE BACK COVER:
On April 16, 2007, the campus of Virginia Tech experienced a collective nightmare when thirty-three students were killed in the worst massacre in modern U.S. history. Following that horrendous event, Virginia Tech campus pastor Matt Rogers found himself asking and being asked, “Where is God in all of this?” The cliché-ridden, pat answers rang hollow.
In this book, Matt approaches the pain of the world with personal perspective—dealing with his hurting community as well as standing over the hospital bed of his own father—and goes beyond answers, beyond theodicy, beyond the mere intellectual. When Answers Aren’t Enough drives deeper, to the heart of our longing, in search of a God we can experience as good when life isn’t.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (April 1, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Embracing the World That Is
Lately I’ve been walking in the evenings. I tend to do that when stuck on a question. Maybe I’m trying to walk it off. On days when I have time, I drive out to Pandapas Pond in Jefferson National Forest to be in nature. Once there, I set off through the woods or slowly stroll along the water’s edge, deep in thought or prayer.
Most days, because of time, I have to settle for the streets around my home. I can quickly climb to the top of Lee Street, turn around, and look out over Blacksburg, the Blue Ridge backlit by the setting sun. From there, I can see much of Virginia Tech. The stately bell tower of Burruss Hall rises proudly above the rest.
On nights like tonight, when I get a late start and the sun is already down, I head for campus. At its center, separating the academic and residential sides of the school, sits the Drill Field, a wide-open grassy space named for the exercises that the Corps of Cadets practices to perfection there. After dark, old iron lampposts, painted black, blanket the ground in overlapping circles of light.
It was here on the Drill Field, the day after the shootings, that students placed thirty-two slabs of gray limestone rock — Hokie stones, as they’re called — in a semicircle in front of Burruss Hall, to commemorate the lives of loved ones lost. Thousands of mourners descended on the place, bearing with them a flood of condolences, a mix of bouquets, balloons, and poster-board sympathies. They came sniffling, clinging to tissues and to one another, and lifting their sunglasses to wipe tears from their tired, red eyes. The world came as well, vicariously through television, watching us, kneeling with us in grief.
I also came, revisiting the stones day after day, and sometimes at night, drawn to them by a need to connect with the dead whom I never knew. Always there was something new here, some trinket that had been added. At times the items seemed odd: a baseball for every victim, an American flag by every stone, though some of the dead were international students.
People took their time passing by this spot. There was no need to rush; there were no classes to attend. It would be days, dark and long, before there would be any distractions from the pain. For a time, there was no world beyond this place.
By day, soft chatter could be heard around the memorial. After sunset, no one spoke a word. During daylight, masses huddled near the stones, peering over shoulders to read the notes left there. At night, however, mourners passed by in a single-file line, waiting their turn, patient with the people in front who wished to pause at every name.
The masses have since receded. The Drill Field now is vacant (except for these stones) and silent. The semester has ended, most of the students are gone, and only the sounds of insects disturb the stillness of the summer evening air. If I close my eyes and take in the quiet, I can almost imagine nothing happened here.
Almost. Except for the stone reminders that lie at my feet. On one is written a simple, anguished note.
We love you.
Mom and Dad
These stones are more than rocks. Each is all that remains of a son, a daughter, a husband who will never come home again. I picture my mom and dad, heartbroken, kneeling by a stone for me, had I been among the dead. Moreover, I imagine myself by a stone for my dad, had he not survived his fall.
This is a summer of mourning. I am grieving the world as it is. And I am asking, “If I embrace the world as it is, in all its sadness — if I refuse to bury my head in the sand, pretending all is well, but rather think and speak of the world as it actually is — can I, then, still know God as good? Can my experience of him be more consistent than my circumstances, which alternate between good and bad?”
Is this too much to expect?
Before I can know, I must face the world at its worst.
2. Get the Html from the All FIRST Alliances blog if it is one of the Alliance tours or get it at FIRST Wild Card Tours blog if it is a Wild Card. Html is available for you to grab two days before the tour date. Highlight the Html by doing a left click hold and drag until all the words inside the box are highlighted in blue like the picture below. Press your Ctrl button at the same time as the 'c' key. This copies it to the computer.
3. Press New Post on the blog in your dashboard that you wish to paste the html into.
4. IF AND ONLY IF YOU WANT TO PUT YOUR REVIEW IN THE POST, DO IT NOW USING COMPOSE MODE. Be sure to switch it back to the Html mode before adding the Html!
5. In the Edit Html mode, paste in the Html that is available to you on the tour blog. You can put this before or after your review...or even put your review in the middle of the post if you are so inclined. If you wish to see what it will look like, press the blue word 'Preview'...never press 'Compose' to view your post! It messes up the Html. Press your ctrl button along with your 'v' key. This pastes in the html you've copied into the memory of your computer.
6. Now add your title and press the blue words 'Hide Preview'.
7. You're almost there! You can now press your Post Options to change the date to post on the tour date. Change the time as well if you wish. Add a label if you want to sort your posts by topic. Press Publish and you are finished!
8. After pressing 'Publish Post', you should see something like this:
If you go into your list of blog posts called 'Edit Posts' you will see something like the picture below. You can always go back into your posts and edit them. For each tour, create a NEW POST.
Email me if you have any questions on how to post a tour! Always leave a comment on the correct FIRST Alliance blogpost for the book that your are touring for.
Labels: How to Post a Tour
Kregel Publications (April 17, 2008)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Charles Marshall began his career onstage as a singer/songwriter. When his singing voice gave out, he turned to stand-up comedy and was much more successful. He is now a nationally syndicated Christian humor columnist and has contributed to Focus on the Family magazine. He is the author of Shattering the Glass Slipper: Destroying Fairy Tale Thinking Before It Destroys You and has filmed two stand-up comedy videos, I'm Just Sayin' and Fully Animated.
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (April 17, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
My wife and I have been thinking about getting a dog, lately, and discussing what type we might get. For me, there is really only one possibility—and that, of course, is a real dog.
For the uninitiated, there are three basic types of dogs:
1] Real dogs. These are dogs as God originally made them—monstrous, made-for-the-outdoors hunting machines that are perfect for intimidating neighbors and attracting lawsuits.
The ownership rule for guys and dogs is simple: the bigger the dog, the cooler you look. Walk down the street with a Pekingese and you might as well be wearing a tutu.
When you observe a man walking down the street with a massive real-dog, his message to you is clear. “Yes, I’m overcompensating for my insecurities and lack of masculinity but I’ve got a really big dog.”
Now that’s the kind of attitude I can get behind.
2] Mutant rat-dogs, otherwise known as Chihuahuas. These poor creatures are the unintentional result of secret experiments conducted by the Mexican army in a failed attempt to create the ultimate weapon by cross-breeding bats and Great Danes. The only surviving result of these experiments is a group of nervous, angry little rat-dogs that decided to take their revenge on humanity by being annoying on just about every level known to mankind.
If you are approached by one of these aberrations of nature, know that it despises you with a hatred rarely seen outside the Middle East, and that it won’t hesitate to tear your ankles to shreds. These dogs are the piranhas of the canine world and would nuke
mankind tomorrow if they thought they could get away with it. Under no circumstance should one of these animals be allowed to run for public office.
3] Kitty-dogs, which is every kind of dog that does not fall into one of the first two categories. I’m all in favor of this type of dog because, hey, girls have to have dogs, too.
The curse of the kitty-dog is that there are those who take a warped delight in dressing them up like people. Most dogs would rather be subjected to Mexican weapons experiments than go through this type of torture.
I cannot say this in strong enough terms: You should never, ever dress up your dog for any reason whatsoever. Take it from me—even if it were thirty below outside, your dog would rather die with dignity in his own fur coat than live while being seen in a little poochie parka.
If you dress your dog, you need to know two things:
1] The rest of us are making fun of you behind your back.
2] Every day your dog prays for a heaven where he gets to dress you up in humiliating costumes while he and his doggie friends point at you and laugh for all eternity.
If you feel you absolutely must dress an animal, go dress one that at least has a chance of defending itself like a cougar or a wolverine or a Chihuahua.
One of the most amazing things about the three dog types is that for every one of them, there is someone that likes that kind of dog. At this very moment, there are people risking the loss of fingers and eyes while they stroke their vicious little rat-dogs, all for the sake of love.
That’s a mysterious kind of love, isn’t it—the kind that embraces the unlovely, that sees through the imperfect and loves without regard?
Let’s face it, the human heart isn’t very attractive either. Every thought we have is consumed with self. If you peel away the layers of even our most noble deeds and acts of kindness, you will find thoughts that circle back to ourselves like homing pigeons. In our hearts, we are all mutant rat-dogs.
And yet God loves us.
In the Bible, you find that same theme of an indefatigable, undefeatable love reaching out to a vicious, ungrateful humanity over and over again. I’ve found it’s a love well worth pursuing.
And so the great dog debate rages in my household, and I think my wife is coming around to my point of view. But, if by chance, you happen to see me in the neighborhood walking a Pekingese that is wearing a teeny hat and sundress, you may safely assume things did not go my way.
Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2008)
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Dr. John F. Ankerberg is the President and founder of The Ankerberg Theological Research Institute. He is also the producer and host of the nationally televised John Ankerberg Show, a half-hour program seen in all 50 states via independent stations, the DAYSTAR Network, the DISH Network, DirecTV and on the SKY ANGEL Satellite, numerous cable outlets, as well as on the internet. The program can be seen each week by a potential viewing audience in excess of 99 million people. John presents contemporary spiritual issues and defends biblical/Christian answers.
Writer and communicator Dillon Burroughs is author of fourteen books and serves as a staff writer and research associate for the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute. In the past two years, his books have sold over 113,000 copies while his edited works have sold more than two million copies. On subjects related to spirituality and culture, Dillon’s written projects have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Salem Radio Network news, Moody Radio Network, James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, iLife Television Network, Prime Time America, Leadership Journal, NBC affiliates, The John Ankerberg Show, Discipleship Journal, Group Magazine, and many other media outlets.
Dillon Burroughs is a ThM graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary in addition to graduating with a B.S. degree in Communications from Indiana State University. As time allows, he also serves as an adjunct professor at Tennessee Temple University. Dillon lives in Tennessee with his wife, Deborah, and two children, Ben and Natalie.
List Price: $12.99
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Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
What’s the Big Deal About Jesus?
“Christianity is good for you, but it’s not right for me. I think you ought to believe whatever makes you happy and gives you peace.”
“Christianity is the ‘right’ religion—isn’t that being naive?”
The label Christianity covers a broad range of people today. While over 2.1 billion people are statistically considered followers of Jesus Christ, polls by religious researcher George Barna have observed that only four percent of American Christians hold to a biblical worldview (that is, beliefs consistent with the Bible’s teachings), and just 51 percent of Christian clergy hold to such a view. As a result, even many who call themselves Christians have agreed with the quotes that appear above, asking if it is perhaps naïve to claim Christianity is the only way to God.
However, the above quotes are inconsistent with Christianity’s origins and founder. In this chapter we’ll briefly review how Christianity began, consider its early beliefs, introduce its founder, and investigate the reliability of the New Testament, which is part of the Bible.
A Firm Foundation
All of Christianity is built around one basic belief: the resurrection of its founder, Jesus of Nazareth. On Passover Friday around A.D. 30, Jesus was executed on a Roman cross on the accusation of conspiracy against the government. The Sanhedrin (Jewish leaders) had insisted that the Roman leader Pilate condemn Jesus, though Pilate had not found him guilty of any crimes worthy of death. After the crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus in a tomb, the body disappeared three days later. Immediately this was followed by many “Jesus sightings” reported over the next 40 days. A social revolution began ten days later in Jerusalem, Israel, as over 3000 people joined the movement after a street message given by the apostle Peter (Acts 2). Christianity was off and running, and has been growing ever since.
Oxford University theologian Dr. Alister McGrath has noted,
The identity of Christianity is inextricably linked with the uniqueness of Christ, which is in turn grounded in the Resurrection and Incarnation.
How do we know Jesus came back to life? First, the 27 books of the New Testament are based upon this one event—the resurrection of Jesus. Despite the attacks of many, the writings of Christianity have been shown to have emerged during the first century with the courageous message that Jesus, a man executed by the government, was alive. This carried many implications about his life and death and beyond. What other motive did these writers have except that they truly believed all this had occurred?
In addition, many individuals of that day claimed to have encountered Jesus after his death. According to the Gospel writers and the missionary Paul, Jesus appeared a total of at least 12 times after his return from death:
The Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus Christ
# Sighting Source
1. Mary Magdalene--Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18
2. Women returning from the tomb--Matthew 28:9-10
3. Two men walking to Emmaus--Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-32
4. Peter--Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5
5. 10 disciples; two men from Emmaus--Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-23
6. 11 disciples (including Thomas)--John 20:24-29
7. 7 disciples--John 21:1-24
8. 500 people at one time--1 Corinthians 15:6
9. James, the half-brother of Jesus--1 Corinthians 15:7
10. 11 disciples Matthew 28:16-20
11. 11 disciples before Jesus returned to heaven--Luke 24:50-53
12. Paul-- Acts 9:3-6; 1 Corinthians 15:8
In just one of these sightings, over 500 people claimed to see Jesus alive after his death. Did you know that if each of those 500 people were to testify in court for only six minutes, including time for cross-examination, we would have an amazing 50 hours of firsthand testimony? Few other events from over 2000 years ago find this level of support. None offer the number of witnesses the resurrection does for a supernatural event.
Further, the changed lives of the early followers of Jesus supported their report that Jesus was alive. All but one of Jesus’ 11 followers died for his belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Hundreds—if not thousands—of other Christians suffered or died within the first century of Christianity for their beliefs as well. The killing of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, led to the persecution of the Jerusalem church, which eventually forced many Christians to flee the area for safety.
“Could you convince thousands of people in our own day that President Kennedy had resurrected from the dead? There’s no way…unless it really happened.”
The amazing phenomenon of Christianity’s growth also stands as a powerful testimony that this faith is based on a supernatural resurrection. How could a crucified Jew (Jesus), former tax collector (Matthew), Jesus-hater (Paul), and small town fishermen (including Peter) establish a movement that has resulted in the largest religion on Earth? How could this happen?
When Christianity began, the Roman Empire was the greatest government of the time. Yet 300 years later, the Roman Empire had crumbled, and Christianity was continuing to grow. This, in spite of its humble beginning as a grassroots network of individuals who witnessed that Jesus had come back to life. Even though the proclamation of Jesus’ teachings produced persecution of the greatest kind, Christianity continued to spread across the Roman Empire—all the way to the palace of Caesar in Rome, the world’s political and social capital.
So Christianity originated from a group of Jesus-followers who spread the message that they had personally witnessed his three years of teaching and miracles, watched him die on a cross, and then personally met, saw, talked to, ate with, and received instructions from him after his resurrection from the dead. But what are the core beliefs of Christianity? There are six central elements of
First, there is the common understanding of Jews and Christians that there is only one true God—who is infi nite, holy, loving, just, and true. In addition, Christians believe that in the nature (presence) of the one true God there exists three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christianity does not believe in three gods, but one. As Dr. Norman Geisler, bestselling author and cofounder of Southern Evangelical Seminary, has written,
The Trinity is not the belief that God is three personas and only one person at the same time and in the same sense. That would be a contradiction. Rather, it is the belief that there are three persons in one nature. This may be a mystery, but it is not a contradiction. That is, it may go beyond reason’s ability to comprehend completely, but it does not go against reason’s ability to apprehend consistently.
Further, the Trinity is not the belief that there are three natures in one nature or three essences in one essence. That would be a contradiction. Rather, Christians affirm that there are three persons in one essence…He is one in the sense of his essence but many in the sense of his persons. So there is no violation of the law of noncontradiction in the doctrine of the Trinity.
Traditional Christianity also accepts the 66 books of the Holy Bible as revelation from God, perfect and authoritative for all spiritual matters. While Roman Catholicism accepts the additional authority of the pope and church tradition, and Eastern Orthodoxy accepts church tradition as equal in authority to the Bible, the earliest traditional Christianity and later Protestant Christianity have been based solely on God’s written revelation through his apostles and prophets.
Third, Christians believe every person who has ever lived (with the exception of Jesus Christ) has been born a sinner separated from God. It is our sin nature that keeps us from knowing and experiencing God and creates a need for reconciliation through a means only God can provide.
Fourth, in his infinite love, God has provided the solution to the barrier between himself and humanity through Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that the death of Jesus provides payment for our sins, and on the basis of our believing, he is our sinbearer and he will forgive us the moment we believe. All this is confirmed by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead—he has paid the penalty for sin and conquered death. In this way God offers a basis for a person to place his or her faith in Christ and to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, in which he enters your life and you walk through life with his power and guidance.
Fifth, this rescue or salvation God offers through Jesus is based solely on what God has done rather than on what people do. In other words, salvation is a free gift based on God’s grace to us (unearned favor) rather than good works or deeds we can accomplish, though these will accompany a person once he or she becomes a Christian. One of the major points of contention during the Protestant Reformation resulted from the Roman Catholic Church’s unbiblical teaching
that God’s grace consists of humans cooperating with God’s grace to merit salvation, rather than receiving salvation in full as a gift on the basis of faith alone the moment a person believes.
Sixth, Christians believe in an eternal afterlife. God allows individuals the ability to choose or reject him, and after death, that decision is final. Those who have chosen to believe in Jesus will enjoy eternity with him in heaven, while those who decline will spend eternity in hell, separated from God. God will accept every person’s decision and not force him or her to change their mind. While all this may sound politically incorrect in our culture, it has stood as an essential component of Christian teaching from the earliest times. The choice we make here on earth will have eternal consequences.
Jesus: Founder and CEO of Christianity
Christian philosopher Dr. C. Stephen Evans points out that “it is an essential part of Christian faith that Jesus is God in a unique and exclusive way. It follows from this that all religions [that disagree] cannot be equally true.”7 Again, if different religions teach contradictory things about who God is, salvation, the afterlife, and
even Jesus, then one or another could be true, but they can’t all be true at the same time. What are the big super-signs that help us decide which religion is true? According to biblical Christianity, if Jesus claimed to be God and proved his claim by his resurrection, then he is God and Christianity is true. No other religious leader in history has claimed to be God and risen from the dead.
Further, there are at least seven concepts Jesus taught about himself that stand unique to Christianity. First, Jesus communicated that he fulfi lled biblical prophecy, given hundreds of years in advance, that he was the promised Messiah. He repeatedly claimed to be the person that God’s Messiah was predicted to be, and many scholars have created extensive lists of these prophetic connections. Here are some examples of prophecies Jesus fulfilled:
Prophecy--Old Testament Prophecy--New Testament Fulfillment
Born of a virgin-- Isaiah 7:14-- Matthew 1:18,25
Born in Bethlehem-- Micah 5:2-- Matthew 2:1
Preceded by a messenger-- Isaiah 40:3-- Matthew 3:1-2
Rejected by his own people-- Isaiah 53:3-- John 7:5; 7:48
Betrayed by a close friend-- Isaiah 41:9-- John 13:26-30
His side pierced-- Zechariah 12:10-- John 19:34
His death by crucifixion-- Psalm 22:1,11-18-- Luke 23:33; John 19:23-24
His resurrection-- Psalm 16:10-- Acts 13:34-37
Second, Jesus stands as a unique, unparalleled individual among the leaders of various world religions. He made predictions about the future that could only be made by someone who claimed to be God. Further, he noted in advance several of the things that would occur at the time of his death and resurrection. Unlike anyone else, he also promised to one day return to earth to set up his future kingdom.
The Seven “I Ams” of Jesus in John’s Gospel
“I am the bread of life” (John 6:35,48; see also verse 51).
“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).
“I am the gate for the sheep” (John 10:7; see also verse 9).
“I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11,14).
“I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
“I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
“I am the true vine” (John 15:1; see also verse 5).
Further, Jesus is unique in his nature, being fully divine and fully human nature in one person. Jesus was born as a man without sin through a miraculous virgin birth. He challenged his own family, disciples, and even his enemies to prove him guilty of sin, but none could do so. Think of the reaction you would receive if you asked your parents, brothers, sisters, and friends, “Can any of you point to one sin I have committed?” Those closest to us know our faults. We all have them. Yet Jesus lived a perfect life free of sin.
As God’s divine son, Jesus performed miracles, healings, and exorcisms; fulfi lled Jewish prophecies; and accomplished his own resurrection. In these ways he affi rmed his divine nature, displaying power far beyond that of any person who has ever lived. Today people downplay the miracles, but they are documented in careful detail in the Bible, and even Jesus’ enemies did not deny his miracles. They weren’t able to. So they just claimed that he performed them with
the help of evil powers (Matthew 12:24).
The Exorcisms of Jesus
1. Healed a demon-possessed man at Capernaum ---Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37
2. Drove out demons and evil spirits Matthew 8:16-17; Mark 1:32-39; Luke 4:33-41
3. Healed the man possessed by demons at the Gadarenes-- Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39
4. Drove a demon out of a mute man, who then spoke-- Matthew 9:32-34;
Christianity is also the only major religion whose founder sacrificed his life for the sins of those who would choose to believe in him. Jesus’ horrifi c death on the cross stood as proof of his statement that “the Son of Man [Jesus] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The Nature Miracles of Jesus
1. Calming the wind and waves-- Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:39; Luke 8:24
2. Walking on water-- Matthew 14:25; Mark 6:48; John 6:19
3. Money in the fish’s mouth-- Matthew 17:27
4. Withering of the fig tree-- Matthew 21:19; Mark 11:14
5. Miraculous catch of fish-- Luke 5:4-7
6. Turning water into wine-- John 2:7-8
7. Second miraculous catch of fish-- John 21:6
8. Feeding the 4000-- Matthew 15:32-38; Mark 8:1-9
9. Feeding the 5000-- Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:34-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:5-12
Sixth, as mentioned earlier, Jesus also rose from the dead. Those in his time could never account for his empty tomb and the disappearance of his body. Jesus’ followers spanned the known world testifying of his resurrection (his actual bodily appearing to them), teaching his words, and dying for their belief in him.
Finally, Jesus promises, at the end of time, to personally judge every person who ever lived. It would be eternally disappointing to have Jesus look at us, fairly judge us, and conclude, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).
Christianity by the Book
Those who want to investigate the truthfulness of the original Christian message can look to a wealth of manuscript evidence regarding the transmission of the 27 books of the New Testament through the years. The New Testament manuscripts offer more supporting evidence than any other ancient book. Christians also accept the Jewish scriptures (the Old Testament) as part of their holy book, the Bible. Traditional Christianity believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, meaning the original words of the Bible’s books are without error and perfect in every way.
As a result, Bible translation, distribution, and teaching stand as important responsibilities within Christianity. The Bible is the most translated book in history, has been used as the script for the most-watched fi lm in history (the Jesus fi lm), and has enjoyed greater distribution than any book in the world. Over 100 million copies of the New Testament or Bible are sold every year worldwide.
Interesting Statistics About the Bible
The Bible was written over a period of 1600 years,
by more than 40 authors of every sort—kings, peasants, fi shermen, poets, shepherds, government offi cials, teachers, and prophets—
in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek),
on three continents—Asia, Africa, and Europe.11
What Makes Christianity Unique?
“Christianity isn’t about people in search of God, but rather God in search of
Many have suggested that Christianity is about having a personal relationship with Jesus, and not performing good works and following rituals. Religious movements throughout history ultimately hold to a signifi cantly different common thread—that certain actions or works are required to obtain a blissful afterlife. In Christianity, however, the key to reaching God here and now and dwelling with him for eternity is to receive and trust in a gift already provided by its founder, Jesus Christ. As the apostle Paul made clear to Christians at Ephesus, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
God’s gift of salvation also brings assurance. If Jesus’ righteous life and atoning death on the cross is the sole basis for God’s gift, then a Christian doesn’t have to worry about earning or losing that gift. Once the gift is received, it belongs to the Christian forever because it rests on what Jesus did—not what the Christian did or does in the past, present, or future.
Christianity in Summary
As we compare and contrast the beliefs of various religions throughout this book, we hope to make the distinctives of each one as clear as possible. Here, we summarize the key teachings of Christianity:
Belief-- Basic Description
God-- One God in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Holy Book-- The 66 books of the Holy Bible are the authoritative
works of Christianity.
Sin-- All people have sinned (except Jesus).
Jesus Christ-- God’s perfect son, holy, resurrected, divine (second person of the Trinity) yet also fully human.
Salvation-- Obtained only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by human effort.
Afterlife-- All people will enter heaven or hell upon death based on whether they have salvation in Jesus Christ. The Bible does not teach reincarnation, annihilation (ending of the soul), or the existence of purgatory.
Some people assume that biblical Christianity and Roman Catholicism are essentially similar. But is that the case? What differences exist? Are these differences really a big deal, or only minor details? Our next chapter will address these questions head-on.