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Christianity

Christianity

Dallas Willard on the Reliability of the Bible

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On the human side, I assume that [the Bible] was produced and preserved by competent human beings who were at least as intelligent and devout as we are today. I assume that they were quite capable of accurately interpreting their own experience and of objectively presenting what they heard and experienced in the language of their historical community, which we today can understand with due diligence. ¶ On the divine side, I assume that God has been willing and competent to arrange for the Bible, including its record of Jesus, to emerge and be preserved in ways that will secure his purposes for it among human beings worldwide. Those who actually believe in God will be untroubled by this. I assume that he did not and would not leave his message to humankind in a form that can only be understood by a handful of late-twentieth-century professional scholars, who cannot even agree among themselves on the theories that they assume to determine what the message is. ¶ The Bible is, after all, God’s gift to the world through the Church, not to the scholars. It comes through the life of his people and nourishes that life. Its purpose is practical, not academic. An intelligent, careful, intensive but straightforward reading — that is, one not governed by obscure and faddish theories or by a mindless orthodoxy — is what it requires to direct us into life in God’s kingdom. any other approach is to the Bible, I believe, conflicts with the picture of the God that, all agree, emerges from Jesus and his tradition. To what extent this belief of mine is or is not harmfully circular, I leave the philosophically minded reader to ponder.

Toward the Inquisition

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One of the world’s foremost scholars in the fields of Spanish and Jewish medieval history, B. Netanyahu revolutionized accepted belief concerning the causes of the Spanish Inquisition in his magisterial volume of 1995, The Origins of the Inquisition. Locating that origin not in the supposed persistence of Judaism among the New Christians but in a concession the kings were forced to make to powerfully anti-Jewish popular sentiment, he radically altered the whole landscape of Hispano-Jewish studies. Toward the Inquisition is another major contribution to this historiographic revolution. Made up of seven of Netanyahu’s essays, published over the last two decades and collected here for the first time, it further illuminates Jewish and Marrano history from the mid-fourteenth century to the end of the fifteenth century. The essays throw light on such long-obscured phenomena as the rise of the Nazi-like theory of race which harassed the conversos for three full centuries, or the abandonment of Judaism by most conversos decades before the Inquisition was established. ~ Product Description

Love Your God With All Your Mind

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Prepare Your Mind For Action. The mind plays an important role in Christianity. Unfortunately, many of us leave our minds behind when it comes to our faith. In Love Your God with All Your Mind, J. P. Moreland presents a compelling case for the role of the mind in spiritual transformation. He challenges us to develop a Christian mind and to use our intellect to further God’s kingdom through evangelism, apologetics, worship, and vocation. "This exploration into the mind of evangelical Christianity is one of the most courageous books of our time. In language that is thoroughly erudite but compassionate, theological but practical, and scriptural but entirely relevant to today, the author presents the deeper significance of Paul’s plea to the Christians at Phillipi: ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. ‘". ~ From the Publisher

Jesus and the Gospels

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The intertestamental and first-century background information alone is worth the price of the book. Blomberg offers a concise treatment of critical methodologies (Historical Criticism and Literary Criticism), and then an eminently readable and interesting intro to the four gospels. Blomberg’s survey of the life of Christ is as good or better than anything I have seen. What sets Blomberg’s work on Jesus slightly ahead of that of Robert Stein (Jesus the Messiah) is, again, readability. Blomberg offers a chapter on the external evidence for the reliability of the gospels which seems to be basically a summary of his work from 1987 (Historical Reliability of the Gospels). He sums up this great work with a challenging look at the theology of Jesus. ~ Buddy Boone

Glenn M. Miller on the Holy Spirit

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To illustrate this, consider the contrast between demon-possession and the “control” of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. Inspiration, in the biblical authors’ cases, is not symmetrical with demon-possession at all. Demon-possession as recorded in the gospels suppressed the personality of the ‘host’; the Christian experience of the Spirit of God liberates our person to manifest its true character. We are designed to produce “self-control” (Gal 5.23!). The true dance with God brings our inner robustness and personality out to joyous expression. We become more ‘us’ than we could be otherwise.

Jesus Under Fire

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Are the traditional answers to these questions still to be trusted? Did the early church and tradition "Christianize" Jesus? Was Christianity built on clever conceptions of the church, or on the character and actions of an actual person? These and similar questions have come under scrutiny by a forum of biblical scholars called the Jesus Seminar. Their conclusions have been widely publicized in magazines such as Time and Newsweek. Jesus Under Fire challenges the methodology and findings of the Jesus Seminar, which generally clash with the biblical records. It examines the authenticity of the words, actions, miracles, and resurrection of Jesus, and presents compelling evidence for the traditional biblical teachings. Combining accessibility with scholarly depth, Jesus Under Fire helps readers judge for themselves whether the Jesus of the Bible is the Jesus of history, and whether the Gospel’s claim is valid that he is the only way to God. ~ From the Publisher

The Moral Vision of the New Testamant

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This is an amazing book — solid scholarship and well thought-out interpretation delivered with a sense of urgency and sincerity. If you are at all interested in Ethics or the state of New Testament scholarship, this book is an absolute necessity. Hays sees distinct (though overlapping) tasks in the process of “doing ethics” and is able to explain and apply them clearly. His emphasis on seeing ethical questions through the “focal lenses” of Cross, Community and New Creation is a wonderful guidepost for anyone concerned with faithful, Spirit-driven scholarship. He stresses that an “integrative act of the imagination” is required to be able to apply the Scripture to our world and suggests methods for achieving it. Hays analyzes five theologian/ethicists in light of his approach (including Barth, Hauerwas, and Schussler-Fiorenza) and, in doing so, further clarifies how his approach can be used by others. The final section of the book applies Hays’ approach to contemporary issues. Partly because of his obvious authority in Greek and New Testament scholarship, and partly because of his honest, passionate approach, his conclusions are bold and very persuasive.

David James Duncan on Christianity and Darwin

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Much as she dislikes baseball, Grandawma likes the Bible even less. This is because her hero, Charles Darwin, discovered evolution before God even mentioned it, proved scientifically that men are just apes at heart, and got the Christians all worked up because none of this was in the Bible. That’s what Everett and Peter say anyway. Late one night when we were sitting around yapping, Peter said to Everett that if the Christian had any horse sense they’d just sit down and write themselves a new Bible, sticking some evolution in there this time. He said the biblical creation story was a dud anyhow, especially if you were a girl, since God made everything in the Universe, claimed He saw it was good, and then when the First Lady went out naked for a walk to enjoy all this so-called goodness, a completely evil Devil in snake’s clothing came down out of a tree, lied his head off to her, got her thrown out of Paradise and cursed into having it hurt like hell to have babies, and she was still such a nice person that she didn’t go back with a stick and kill that damned snake. Whose fault was all this? Peter wanted to know. Who claimed it was “good” in spite of the snake, then tried to cover Their tracks with a lot of cockamamie hoodoo about Forbidden Fruit and Trees of Knowledge and Eve’s wicked curiosity? And what harm could a little Darwinian evolution possibly do to a mess of a story like that?

David James Duncan on the Bible

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Everett told Peter it’d be a snowy day in hell before the Christians wrote themselves a new Bible. Too many bugs in the plan, he said. In the first place, who do you ask to do the writing? An Adventist? A Catholic? A Baptist? If you picked just one, he said, the others would kill you. And if you picked one of each they’d kill each other. In the second place, he said, most Christians would refuse to rewrite the Bible anyway, because they’d want God to do it for them, because most of them think it was God who sat down and wrote the one they’ve got.

David James Duncan on Hellacious Church

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And today is Sabbath. And I’m not sick. And the sun is already so hot outside that everything’s all bleached and wobbly-looking, as if the whole world was just an overexposed home movie God was showing Jesus up on their living room wall. And whenever it’s really hot Elder Babcock’s sermon — even if it starts out being abut some nice quiet thing like the poor or meek or weak — will sooner or later twist like a snake with its head run over to the unquiet subject of heaven and hell, and who all is going to which, and how long you’ll have to stay, and what all will happen to you when you get there, and he goes on so loud and long and the air gets so used up and awful that bit by bit you lose track of any difference between his heaven and his hell and would gladly pick either over church. Then the sermon ends, and the long prayer after it, and it comes time to belt out the big hosanna that means it’s almost time to go home. Except that last hymn always has about fourteen verses. And when you stand up to sing it you discover your blood has got stuck down in your feet. And all through the sermon every grownup in the place has had their mouth clamped shut trying not to yawn, so when the glad voices suddenly upraised this tidal wave of pent-up halitosis comes swashing out of them and up your nose and all through the parts of your head where the blood that’s in you feet should have been, till your brain feels like it’s going to barf.

David James Duncan on Christianity

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Personally I’m not sure just who or what Christ is. I still pray to him in a pinch, but I talk to myself in a pinch too — and I’m getting less and less sure there’s a difference. I used to wish somebody would just tell me what to think about Him. Then along came Elder Babcock, telling and telling, acting like Christ was running for President of the World, and he was His campaign manager, and whoever didn’t get out and vote for the lord at the polls we call churches by casting the votes we call tithes and offerings into the ballot boxes we call offering plates was a wretched turd of a sinner voting for Satan by default. Mama tried to clear up all the confusion by saying that Christ is exactly what the Bible says He is. But what does the Bible say He is? On one page He’s a Word, on the next a bridegroom, then He’s a boy, then a scapegoat, then a thief in the night; read on and he’s the messiah, then oops, he’s a rabbi, and then a fraction — a third of a Trinity — then a fisherman, then a broken loaf of bread. I guess even God, when He’s human, has trouble deciding just what He is.

Proper Confidence

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Looking to end the divisive conflict tht has raged between Christians who attack each other either as “liberals” or as “fundamentalists”, Newbigin gives a historical account of the roots of this conflict in order to begin laying the foundation for a middle ground that will benefit the Christian faith as a whole and allow Christians to unitedly proclaim the gospel in a pluralistic world. “A masterful demonstration of the bankruptcy of secularism and all forms of Christian accommodation to it.” ~ Books and Culture “This is an important book for pastors and teachers serving in church settings where the temptation to soften the scandal of the cross is present or where the good news, for all its outward acceptance, is thought (deep down) to be a source of embarrassment…. The book is beautifully written, a powerful statement of faith in God, whose incarnation has changed the nature of human life forever and whose call to the church cannot be altered by the temptation to believe that the human being is the center of the universe.” ~ Princeton Seminary Bulletin

William Lane Craig on the Human Condition

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The Christian religion, [Pascal] claims, teaches two truths: that there is a God who men are capable of knowing, and that there is an element of corruption in men that renders them unworthy of God. Knowledge of God without knowledge of man’s wretchedness begets pride, and knowledge of man’s wretchedness without knowledge of God begets despair, but knowledge of Jesus Christ furnishes man knowledge of both simultaneouosly.

William Lane Craig on the Importance of Worldview

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It is imperative that we turn the whole intellectual climate of our culture back to a Christian world view. If we do not, then what lies ahead for us in the United States is already evident in Europe: utter secularism. Throughout Europe, evangelism is immeasurably more difficult because the intellectual climate and culture there are determined by the conviction that the Christian world view is false and therefore irrelevant. Therefore, Christian missionaries often must labor years to get a handful of converts. If we lose the theoretical issues, then in the end our practical application will be fruitless.

The Seventy-Four “Scholars”

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A major new work of scholarship is raising eyebrows in many quarters: The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say?1 This is the product of six years of extensive consultation by a group of scholars known as the Jesus Seminar (hereafter JS), who have set out to determine the authentic words of Jesus. The result is a book that (1) provides a fresh, colloquial, and at times racy translation of the five gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the noncanonical Gospel of Thomas); (2) colors every saying attributed to Jesus in these Gospels as either red, pink, gray, or black (red means Jesus said it; pink means it’s close to what He said; gray means He didn’t say it in this form but there are echoes of His teaching in it; and black means the saying didn’t come from Him at all); and (3) provides passage-by-passage commentary explaining the JS’s rationale for its decisions. As the book jacket and popular press releases emphasize, only 20 percent of all the sayings of Jesus are colored red or pink and a good number of these come from Thomas!

Brennan Manning on God’s Love

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Justification by grace through faith is the theologian’s learned phrase for what Chesterton once called “the furious love of God.” He is not moody or capricious; he knows no seasons of change. He has a single relentless stance toward us: he loves us. He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners. False gods — the gods of human manufacturing — despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do. But of course this is almost too incredible for us to accept. Nevertheless, the central affirmation of the Reformation stands: through no merit of ours, but by his mercy, we have been restored to a right relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of his beloved Son. This is the Good News, the gospel of grace.

Intellectuals Don’t Need God and Other Modern Myths

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For people who are not convinced by the arguments of classical, rationalistic apologetics, for people who feel that Christianity must have a broader appeal than to reason alone if it is to be persuasive. Alister McGrath shows convincingly that reason is only one of many possible points of contact with the Gospel. In today’s world, nonrational concerns — such as a sense that life lacks focus, an unconscious fear of death, a deep sense of longing for something unknown we don’t have but know we need — are much more effective points of contact for apologetics. In this book, Dr. McGrath (who is both a theologian and a scientist with a Ph.D. in microbiology) combines the clarity of a brilliant scientific mind with a deep commitment to Christ and to reaching non-Christians. Intellectuals Don’t Need God is for anyone who has questions about the validity of Christianity as well as for students, pastors, and lay leaders. Anyone who works with students and young people especially needs to read this book. As McGrath says, “apologetics is not about winning arguments — it is about bringing people to Christ.”

Brennan Manning on Grace and Church

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Often hobbling through our church doors on Sunday morning comes grace on crutches — sinners still unable to throw away their false supports and stand upright in the freedom of the children of God. Yet, their mere presence in the church on Sunday morning is a flickering candle representing a desire to maintain contact with God. To douse the flame is to plunge them into a world of spiritual darkness.

Brennan Manning on Self-Righteousness

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Simple, my dear fellow! Your trouble is you have your halo on too tight. All we need to do is to loosen it a bit. The trouble with our ideals is that if we live up to all of them, we become impossible to live with. The tilted halo of the saved sinner is worn loosely and with easy grace. We have discovered that the cross accomplished far more than revealing the love of God.

Brennan Manning on the God of Grace

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This is the God of the gospel of grace. A God who out of love for us, sent the only Son he ever had wrapped in our skin. He learned how to walk stumbled and fell, cried for his milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross and died whispering forgiveness on us all. The God of the legalistic
Christian, on the other hand, is often unpredictable, erratic, and capable of all manner of prejudices. When we view God this way, we feel compelled to engage in some sort of magic to appease him. Sunday worship becomes a superstitious insurance policy against his whims. This God expects people to be perfect and to be in perpetual control of their feelings and thoughts. When broken people with this concept of God fail — as inevitably they must — they usually expect
punishment. So, they persevere in religious practices as they struggle to maintain a hollow image of a perfect self. The struggle itself is exhausting. The legalists can never live up to the expectations they project on God.

Brennan Manning on the Indignity of Jesus’ Death

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But the answer seems too easy, too glib. Yes, God saved us because he loved us. But he is God. He has infinite imagination. Couldn’t he have dreamed up a different redemption? Couldn’t he have saved us with a pang of hunger, a word of forgiveness, a single drop of blood? And if he had to die, then for God’s sake — for Christ’s sake — couldn’t he have died in bed, died with dignity? Why was he condemned like a criminal? Why was his back flayed with whips? Why was his head crowned with thorns? Why was he nailed to wood and allowed to die in frightful, lonely agony? Why was the last breath drawn in bloody disgrace, while the world for which he lay dying egged on his executioners with savage fury like some kind of gang rape by uncivilized brutes in Central Park? Why did they have to take the very best? One thing we know — we don’t comprehend the love of Jesus Christ. Oh, we see a movie and resonate to what a young man and woman will endure for romantic love. We know that when the chips are down, if we love wildly enough we’ll fling life and caution to the winds for the one we love. But when it comes to God’s love in the broken, blood-drenched body of Jesus Christ, we get antsy and start to talk about theology, divine justice, God’s wrath, and the heresy of universalism.

Brennan Manning on Singing to Grace

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The gospel of grace calls us to sing of the everyday mystery of intimacy with God instead of always seeking for miracles or visions. It calls us to sing of the spiritual roots of such commonplace experiences as a class, forgiving each other after we have hurt each other, standing together in the bad weather of life, of surprise and sexuality, and the radiance of existence. Of such is the kingdom of heaven, and of such homely mysteries is genuine religion made. The conversion from mistrust to trust is a confident quest seeking the spiritual meaning of human existence. Grace abounds and walks around the edges of our everyday experience.

Hans Kung on the Church and Sinners

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Any church that will not accept that it consists of sinful men and women, and exists for them, implicitly rejects the gospel of grace. As Hans Kung say, “it deserves neither God’s mercy nor men’s trust. The church must constantly be aware that its faith is weak, its knowledge dim, its profession of faith halting, that there is not a single sin or failing which it has not in one way or another guilty of. And though it is true that the church must always disassociate itself from sin, it can never have any excuse for keeping any sinners at a distance. If the church remains self-righteously aloof from failures, irreligious and immoral people, it cannot enter justified into God’s kingdom. But if it is constantly aware of its guilt and sin, it can live in joyous awareness of forgiveness. The promise has been given to it that anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Brennan Manning on Authenticity and the Good News

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The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception. It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed, and pride still rages within us. As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me. When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed. God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.

Brennan Manning on Doubting God’s Love

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In my ministry as a vagabond evangelist, I have encountered shocking resistance to the God whom the Bible defines as Love. The skeptics range from the oily, over-polite professionals who discreetly drop hints of the heresy of universalism, to the Bible thumper who sees only the dusty, robust war God of the Pentateuch, and who insists on restating the cold demands of rule-ridden perfectionism.