Apologetics, the study and practice of defending the Christian faith, has always been a part of the historical church. In fact, it dates back to the New Testament when the Apostle Paul entered the Greek city of Athens and debated the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (see Acts 17). The Apostle Peter even commanded his readers to always be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15; NASB). Defending the faith continued on after the apostolic era with Christian theologians and philosophers developing arguments for God’s existence, defending miracles, and providing good reasons to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he was raised from the dead. Even today, especially in the last several decades, Apologetics continues to thrive as apologists like William Lane Craig and the popular Lee Strobel develop and write about the arguments and reasons for faith in God and Christ. Continue reading
In his little book Should We Use Someone Else’s Sermon? Preaching in a Cut-and-Paste World, Scott Gibson discusses the out-of-control problem of preachers plagiarizing their sermons. One minister, W. Banwell “Barney” Heyward Jr., lost his job after admitting to plagiarizing sermons from Tim Keller, minister of Redeemer Church in New York City. Another minister, Robert C. Hamm of Keen United Church of Christ, resigned when he was confronted with his plagiarism. In this case, Hamm had copied and pasted entire sermons from the internet and preached them as if they were his own. Example after example, Gibson relays how preachers are copying and pasting sermons, and then preaching them as if they are their own. The problem is clear: more and more preachers are plagiarizing their sermons. Continue reading
(This article was co-authored with Dr. Jack Cottrell, Professor of Theology at Cincinnati Christian University.)
In the March 2014 issue of Christian Standard, Matt Proctor, the president of Ozark Christian College, presented OCC’s attempt to set forth a Biblical case for allowing women to teach and/or preach in church meetings “on occasion.” (See Proctor’s article here.) Continue reading
Budding Theologian: I worry that, of all the analogies throughout the Bible, we overemphasize the “sacrifice as payment for sins” idea at the expense of the others. In chapter 6 of The Cross of Christ, John Stott even says the sacrificial system is the best way to understand the atonement, but he doesn’t give any reasons. He just assumes the reader will agree. So, I can’t help but ask, “Why?” Why not look at all the analogies and let them inform each other? After reading other views, especially some within the Christus Victor tradition, I now see them everywhere in the NT. Before, since I was only conscious of PS, I completely missed out on them. Continue reading
(Note: This is the second installment of an on-going dialogue about the Atonement. See the previous post for the first installment.)
Budding Theologian: Thanks for the response. I was glad to see you recommend John Stott’s The Cross of Christ. It’s actually on my very long “books to read” list. I just so happened to have a copy of the book’s sixth chapter, “The Self-Substitution of God,” so I read it after reading your post. Below are a couple of things I wanted to flesh out so you know where I’m coming from.
When you say the atonement is primarily about Christ’s death I think you’re right. But I still can’t separate it from the problem of sin and the incarnation. Without the problem of sin Christ’s death becomes unnecessary, right? Also, not just anyone could have died for our sins. A man could not have died to save us from our sins. This is where I get into cloudy territory in my ability to comprehend God’s nature–but even God, The Father, couldn’t have died to save us from our sins. It had to be Jesus Christ, The Son. Continue reading
(Note: the following is a dialogue that occurred between a budding theologian and me. I hope you enjoy the unique format here in this post. This dialogue will continue in at least two future posts. Enjoy!)
Budding Theologian: I read the article on the atonement you posted [on FB] yesterday. I found it intensely interesting because I’ve been reading up on different views of it all summer.
I judge atonement theories on how well they incorporate the problem of sin, the teachings/life/example of Christ, the incarnation, Christ’s death, and resurrection. If any one of those factors is absent in the theory, then it is inadequate. Funny enough, almost no theory alone incorporates them all by itself. For example, moral influence theories generally do not say anything about the resurrection or incarnation. Even after reading Jack Cottrell’s book Set Free! I get the feeling that the penal substitution theory isn’t good enough by itself either. It accounts for the incarnation, death, and half the problem of sin (hence, Cottrell’s double cure for sin). But to include the resurrection and finish the second part of the problem of sin, Cottrell has to bring in ideas from the Christus Victor (CV) model and the better moral influence (MI) models (some of the MI models are really terrible). Since I approach it this way, it seems to me there is no overarching theory of the atonement. We have to look at each one to see what is worthy of Christ and which ones are lacking. Continue reading
During the 1990s, a movement known as Intelligent Design (ID) budded wings and began to fly. ID arose primarily out of concern that Darwinism could not account for the existence of everything in nature, especially biological organisms. ID theorists essentially called into question Darwinism’s underlying philosophical commitment to materialism—the belief that everything can be explained by mere physical processes. But those who were convinced of the reigning Darwinian paradigm were intent on clipping ID’s wings before it got too far off the ground. How could anything other than materialism be true? How could anyone dare to dethrone the reigning materialist science? Many committed to materialism attacked ID as “creationism” masquerading as science and dragged to court those who taught ID in schools. It was clear to the scientific establishment that ID was religion, not science. Continue reading
In the last post I analyzed arguments against the historical nature of the book of Jonah posed by Brian Jones and found them wanting (see here). There is simply no good evidence that undermines the historicity of Jonah. In fact, there is evidence that points to its authenticity. In this article, then, I will discuss arguments for the historical authenticity of Jonah, i.e., why we should consider the book of Jonah to be an actual historical event. I will begin by looking at the most clear evidence: Jesus’ statements found in Matthew 12:40 and Luke 11:30-32 about Jonah. We will then move on to other considerations. Continue reading
Since the dawn of biblical criticism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it has been a common practice to question the authenticity of the book of Jonah. When it initially came under the microscope of modern theologians, Jonah was criticized for its unbelievable tale of a great fish swallowing a prophet and then spitting him up onto the seashore. Aside from the criticism of Jonah being miraculous, some of the more prominent criticisms launched at the Jonah story included: (1) no historical evidence exists that the entire city of Nineveh ever converted to the God of Israel, (2) the book claims that it took Jonah three days to walk through the city of Nineveh when it covered only about three to four square miles, and (3) the book refers to the “king of Nineveh” and history shows us that there was no king of Nineveh, only a king of Assyria. Continue reading
In my last post (found here), I began discussing how the church has followed the culture in losing its mind: Christians do not know what they believe and why they believe it because they have accepted the idea that faith has nothing to do with knowledge. In this post I will be focusing upon a second reason why Christians have lost and are losing their minds: they are suffering from the “empty self” syndrome just like the culture around them. Continue reading