categoryChristianity

Christianity

Os Guinness on the Crucifixion as Comedy

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The dynamics of the cross of Jesus are closer to those of comedy than tragedy. Both tragedy and comedy turn on the deep contradiction and discrepancies between the world as it is and the world as we humans wish that it would be — in other words, on present aspects of the world that are incongruous or ludicrous, and that defy the best pretensions of humanity. But whereas tragedy only reminds us of the iron bars of the prison of reality from which not one of us can ever escape, comedy shows a way to break out. In comedy, the pratfall and the setback are not the end, and in the Christian faith even death, the ultimate setback, is not the end. Because of the cross and the resurrection there is always a way out. Which means of course that when the contradictions are subverted and reality is turned right way up, the outcome can be gratitude, joy and hope, rather than pity and fear. Needless to say, the dynamic of the resurrection and a God who cannot be buried for long is the dynamic of a child’s jack-in-the-box writ large in golden cosmic letters.

 

Making Sense of God

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We live in an age of skepticism. Our society places such faith in empirical reason, historical progress, and heartfelt emotion that it’s easy to wonder: Why should anyone believe in Christianity? What role can faith and religion play in our modern lives? In this thoughtful and inspiring new book, pastor and New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller invites skeptics to consider that Christianity is more relevant now than ever. As human beings, we cannot live without meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, justice, and hope. Christianity provides us with unsurpassed resources to meet these needs. Written for both the ardent believer and the skeptic, Making Sense of God shines a light on the profound value and importance of Christianity in our lives.

Ed L. Miller on the Freedom of the Text

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Certainly for anyone who thinks that Biblical teaching is at least in some ways normative, or that the Bible is in some sense authoritative, or who merely claims to take the Bible seriously, it should be a fundamental principle that the Bible must be allowed to say exactly what it wants to say irrespective of the consequences. We may then freely reject what it says as being foolish, inconvenient, embarrassing, or offensive. But no good is served by acting dishonestly with Biblical texts, that is, turning or twisting or otherwise manipulating and forcing them in the direction of what we want them to say. To be sure, we do not often do this in a deliberate or even conscious way, though this renders the problem even more insidious than it might otherwise be.

Peter J. Leithart on Unwelcome Truth Telling

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We might naively hope that the world would welcome salt-of-the-earth types who are committed to reconciliation, faithfulness, truth-telling, love, and piety. But some worlds are built on vengeance, lust, and hatred; some churches are energized by hostility toward other churches. Some religions turn piety into an honor competition. Such religions and worlds naturally see serious Christians as a threat to their way of life, because Christians are a threat to their way of life. Where mutual hatred determines the structure of social life, lovers are dangerous. Anyone who reaches across the barricades to bless an enemy is tampering with the way the world is, and ought to be. In a world such as ours, where virtually every sexual desire demands respect, disciples who urge the lustful to pluck out their lecherous eyes aren’t just prudes, but dangerous prudes. In a world of lies, truth-tellers must be silenced.

Broken and Unbroken

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Unbroken is a well-produced film that tells the story of World War II survivor Louis Zamperini. Zamperini survived crashing in the Pacific, interminable weeks lost at sea, and the terrors of several Japanese POW camps. Unfortunately, the equally remarkable third act of his life is reduced to a footnote on screen. After being rescued from internment at war’s end, Zamperini spiraled into inconsolable depression, vengefulness, and alcoholism before being spiritually rescued at a Billy Graham “revival”. With the third act missing, as it stands, the movie is false. The number one thing a movie owes us, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, is truth. And Zamperini was in fact not unbroken, but broken. Then, in his brokenness, he was put back together again. In spite of the onscreen epigraph, in so reducing the depth of his brokenness and salvation — not by himself, but by another — the film is not “a true story”. Some ambiguity in the title, “Unbroken”, does, however, permit a truer sense. In the same sense that something done might be undone; Zamperini was broke, and then unbroke. He was restored, reborn, healed … unbroken. Filmmakers deserve a great degree of creative license in turning a story into a screenplay, but the thing they should not do is fundamentally change the meaning of a person’s life. Unbroken is almost entirely a story of human triumph and resilience, and barely gestures at the true story of human brokenness, neediness, and repentance. It is the latter that moved Zamperini to return to Japan to reconcile with his former captors. It is the latter that has the strength to unbreak what has been broken.

Eric Reitan on Grasping God Through Cultural Filters

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I believe in a transcendent creator whose self-disclosure is difficult for humanity to grasp and understand properly given the cultural filters through which that revelation is received. As such, any historical report of revelation will be a distortion, and the task of historical religion is to attempt to work through the distortion by gradually evolving in the light of critical conversation about experience.

Adrian Chen on Soaking Up the Worst of Humanity

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Now that grandparents routinely use services like Facebook to connect with their kids and grandkids, they are potentially exposed to the Internet’s panoply of jerks, racists, creeps, criminals, and bullies. They won’t continue to log on if they find their family photos sandwiched between a gruesome Russian highway accident and a hardcore porn video. … So companies like Facebook and Twitter rely on an army of workers employed to soak up the worst of humanity in order to protect the rest of us. And there are legions of them — a vast, invisible pool of human labor. Hemanshu Nigam, the former chief security officer of MySpace who now runs online safety consultancy SSP Blue, estimates that the number of content moderators scrubbing the world’s social media sites, mobile apps, and cloud storage services runs to “well over 100,000” — that is, about twice the total head count of Google and nearly 14 times that of Facebook.

Seriously Dangerous Religion

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The Old Testament is often maligned as an outmoded and even dangerous text. Best-selling authors like Richard Dawkins, Karen Armstrong, and Derrick Jensen are prime examples of those who find the Old Testament to be problematic to modern sensibilities. Iain Provan counters that such easy and popular readings misunderstand the Old Testament. He opposes modern misconceptions of the Old Testament by addressing ten fundamental questions that the biblical text should–and according to Provan does–answer: questions such as “Who is God?” and “Why do evil and suffering mark the world?” By focusing on Genesis and drawing on other Old Testament and extra-biblical sources, Seriously Dangerous Religionconstructs a more plausible reading. As it turns out, Provan argues, the Old Testament is far more dangerous than modern critics even suppose. Its dangers are the bold claims it makes upon its readers.

Questioning the Bible

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Can a thoughtful person today seriously believe that God wrote a book? There are an unprecedented number of sophisticated attacks on the origin, credibility, and reliability of the Bible. It can be difficult to know what to say when skepticism and secularism take over so many conversations. Additionally, confusion and doubt about the Bible being God’s Word are becoming as common inside the church as they are in the broader culture. The purpose of this book is to respond to these challenges, sound bites, and slogans…and give people confidence that the Bible can be trusted and that it matters for our lives because God really has spoken.

Can We Still Believe the Bible?

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Challenges to the reliability of Scripture are perennial and have frequently been addressed. However, some of these challenges are noticeably more common today, and the topic is currently of particular interest among evangelicals. In this volume, highly regarded biblical scholar Craig Blomberg offers an accessible and nuanced argument for the Bible’s reliability in response to the extreme views about Scripture and its authority articulated by both sides of the debate. He believes that a careful analysis of the relevant evidence shows we have reason to be more confident in the Bible than ever before. As he traces his own academic and spiritual journey, Blomberg sketches out the case for confidence in the Bible in spite of various challenges to the trustworthiness of Scripture, offering a positive, informed, and defensible approach. ~ Publisher’s Description

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Christmas

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God had looked upon the poor of the world and had himself come to help. Now he was there, not as the Almighty One, but in the seclusion of humanity. Wherever there are sinners, the weak, the sorrowful, the poor in the world, that is where God goes. Here he lets himself be found by everyone. And this message goes throughout the world, year after year anew. And it also comes once again to us this year… Perhaps, this year, something wonderful will occur that will help us to celebrate Christmas. Before our eyes stand the crowds of the unemployed, the millions of children throughout the world in hunger and distress, the hunger in China, the oppressed in India, and those in our own unhappy land. All eyes tell us of helplessness and despair. And despite it all, Christmas comes. Whether we wish it or not, whether we are sure or not, we must hear the words once again: Christ the Savior is here! The world that Christ comes to save is our fallen and lost world. None other.

How We Got the New Testament

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A recognized expert in New Testament Greek offers a historical understanding of the writing, transmission, and translation of the New Testament and provides cutting-edge insights into how we got the New Testament in its ancient Greek and modern English forms. In part responding to those who question the New Testament’s reliability, Stanley Porter rigorously defends the traditional goals of textual criticism: to establish the original text. He reveals fascinating details about the earliest New Testament manuscripts and shows that the textual evidence supports an early date for the New Testament’s formation. He also explores the vital role translation plays in biblical understanding and evaluates various translation theories. The book offers a student-level summary of a vast amount of historical and textual information. ~ Product Description

Dr. Trevor on Reason Supplanting Dogma

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We begin to perceive, too, what a powerful lever was afforded by the dualism of Faith and Reason for emancipating the human intellect from the thralldom of Ecclesiasticism; for, leaving out of consideration the legitimacy of the instrument, we cannot deny its unrivaled potency. Never was there a more conspicuous instance of the effectiveness of the ‘Divide et impera’ method. The dogmas of the Church, with their manifold accretions of ignorance and superstition, were found to have lost at least half of their authority and thereby half of the terrorism they had long exercised over humanity. We cannot, I think, feel surprised that the Church from her standpoint of exclusiveness and infallibility should have hurled her anathemas against the authors and propagators of these opinions. Keenness of insight far less prompt than that which has always characterized Romanism might have easily discerned the issue involved in Twofold Truth. It clearly undermined her own position as the divine and sole accredited source of all truth. The verities she chose to stamp with her own brand were to have no longer the exclusive monopoly hitherto assigned them. Philosophy as a rival trader and bidder for the patronage of humanity set up a store of her own, with her own special commodities, authenticated by her own mark, and trader-like did not scruple to boast the superiority of her goods in certain respects to those retailed by the Church. Whatever other effects might attend this rivalry, at least there was opposition — rudimentary free-trade in human dogmas and opinions. A new condition of human liberty was established, which if not destined to bear much fruit for the present was full of promise for the distant future.

Unapologetic

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Francis Spufford’s Unapologetic is a wonderfully pugnacious defense of Christianity. Refuting critics such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the “new atheist” crowd, Spufford, a former atheist and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, argues that Christianity is recognizable, drawing on the deep and deeply ordinary vocabulary of human feeling, satisfying those who believe in it by offering a ruthlessly realistic account of the grown-up dignity of Christian experience. Fans of C. S. Lewis, N. T. Wright, Marilynne Robinson, Mary Karr, Diana Butler Bass, Rob Bell, and James Martin will appreciate Spufford’s crisp, lively, and abashedly defiant thesis. Unapologetic is a book for believers who are fed up with being patronized, for non-believers curious about how faith can possibly work in the twenty-first century, and for anyone who feels there is something indefinably wrong, literalistic, anti-imaginative and intolerant about the way the atheist case is now being made. ~ Product Description

The Question of Canon

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The regnant view of NT canon formation in academic circles holds that the canon is a late ecclesiastical creation, and one that is far removed from the mindset of Jesus, his apostles and even the church for at least the first century and a half of its existence. Kruger takes five major planks on which this view is built, subjects them to historical scrutiny, and, where there are any solid splinters of truth left after inspection, shows how they may be incorporated into a better empirical foundation for canon studies. This important study argues that an ‘intrinsic’ model for canon, which recognizes the canon as the product of internal forces evolving out of the historical essence of Christianity, is superior to the ‘extrinsic’ model that has dominated canon studies for too long. ~ Charles E. Hill

Mark Galli on Being Sick or Dead

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In the New Testament era, by contrast, the big problem was the scandal of the Cross. It’s not hard to see why. Among the many things the Cross says is this: We’re as dead as Jesus. He hangs there as the true human, the sign of all humanity, dead to the world, dead to the future, and especially dead to God, who it seems has forsaken us. The situation is so bad that only the sacrifice of Another—again Jesus, who hangs there as true God — can remedy it. For people like us, who imagine we’re not so much dead as suffering a cold, and that if we take our vitamin C and will ourselves out of bed, we can make a go of it — well, this verdict can sound unnerving. Worse, to be told we can do nothing to revive ourselves, that we are left completely at the mercy of this Other—well, this doesn’t sit well in any culture, let alone in a culture that prizes individual initiative and heroic effort.

The King Jesus Gospel

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Contemporary evangelicals have built a ‘salvation culture’ but not a ‘gospel culture.’ Evangelicals have reduced the gospel to the message of personal salvation. This book makes a plea for us to recover the old gospel as that which is still new and still fresh. The book stands on four arguments: that the gospel is defined by the apostles in 1 Corinthians 15 as the completion of the Story of Israel in the saving Story of Jesus; that the gospel is found in the Four Gospels; that the gospel was preached by Jesus; and that the sermons in the Book of Acts are the best example of gospeling in the New Testament. The King Jesus Gospel ends with practical suggestions about evangelism and about building a gospel culture. ~ Book Description

God Behaving Badly

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God has a bad reputation. Many think of God as wrathful and angry, smiting people right and left for no apparent reason. The Old Testament in particular seems at times to portray God as capricious and malevolent, wiping out armies and nations, punishing enemies with extreme prejudice. But wait. The story is more complicated than that. Alongside troubling passages of God’s punishment and judgment are pictures of God’s love, forgiveness, goodness and slowness to anger. How do we make sense of the seeming contradiction? Can God be trusted or not? David Lamb unpacks the complexity of the Old Testament to explore the character of God. He provides historical and cultural background to shed light on problematic passages and to bring underlying themes to the fore. Without minimizing the sometimes harsh realities of the biblical record, Lamb assembles an overall portrait that gives coherence to our understanding of God in both the Old and New Testaments. ~ Product Description

Barack Obama on Easter

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Then comes Holy Week. The triumph of Palm Sunday. The humility of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. His slow march up that hill, and the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross. And we’re reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world — past, present and future — and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection. In the words of the book Isaiah: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this “Amazing Grace” calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son — his Son and our Savior.

Scripture and the Authority of God

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But what does scripture say?” That question has echoed through a thousand debates in the life of the worldwide church. All churches have officially endorsed strong statements about the centrality of scripture and its authority in their mission, life, doctrine, and discipline. But there is no agreement on what this might mean or how it might work in practice. Individuals and churches struggle with how to respond to issues such as war, homosexuality, and abortion, and especially how to interpret biblical passages that discuss these topics. These disagreements often serve to undermine our confidence in the authority of the Bible. Bishop and Bible scholar N. T. Wright delivers a new model for how to understand the place of scripture and God’s authority in the midst of religious confusion. Wright gives new life to the old, tattered doctrine of the authority of scripture, delivering a fresh, helpful, and concise statement on how to read the Bible today, restoring scripture as a place to find God’s voice. In this revised and expanded edition of the previously titled book The Last Word, Wright provides two case studies that delve into what it means to keep Sabbath and how Christians can defend marital monogamy. These studies offer not only bold biblical insights but also showcase Wright’s new model for how to interpret scripture and restore its role as the church’s main resource for teaching and guidance. Removing the baggage that the last 100 years of controversy and confusion have placed on this doctrine, Wright renews our confidence in the Bible and shows how it can once again serve as the living Word of God for our lives. ~ Product Description

Captive to the Word of God

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Captive to the Word of God: Engaging the Scriptures for Contemporary Theological Reflection is a collection of six of Volf’s essays written over the last sixteen years that show this systematic theologian’s understanding of the role of the Bible for Christians in the twenty-first century. The only essay written for this text is the first: “Reading the Bible Theologically,” which explains how Volf engages Scripture in the other essays and in general. He describes the essays as “theological readings of biblical texts” (p.4) that are not dependent on a single method, but rather build upon the “return of biblical scholars to the theological reading of the Scriptures, and the return of systematic theologians to sustained engagement with the scriptural texts” (p.14) with “hermeneutic of respect” (p.34) that balances its “historicality” (p.16) with an understanding that the text speaks today (p.18). Rather than crafting a new method or defending an existing method of engaging Scripture, readers from many theological perspectives will be enriched through an encounter with a non-methodological dependent exploration of multiple texts. Thoughtful and thought provoking, this theologically moderate and modern text is an invitation to experience Volf’s work while also using it to refine one’s own way of engaging the biblical text. ~ Greg Smith at Amazon.com

After You Believe

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How do you develop a character suited for God’s Kingdom? Practice, practice, practice. That, in a nutshell, is the message of this volume on building Christian character by Wright, a prodigiously prolific Bible scholar and Anglican bishop of Durham, England. In arguing for “this new vision of virtue, which is a vision of Jesus Christ himself,” Wright carefully explores such classical exponents of character as Aristotle. He also acknowledges the existence of other notions of encouraging behavior-based rules, duty, or being “true to oneself.” Drawing on scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, Wright asserts that true transformation comes through the work of the Holy Spirit and through worship, mission, and “following Jesus.” As the habits of virtue grow, the church community will become the royal priesthood it is meant to be, anticipating (one of the author’s favorite words) God’s coming new world. A follow-up to Wright’s Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope, this solid volume will appeal to Christians who appreciate biblical interpretation that hews to tradition but incorporates an emphasis on contemporary social justice as an element of Christian virtue. ~ Publishers Weekly

Regarding Haiti: An Imperative

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Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? … If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. » Give here or here.

C. Michael Patton on Teaching Something To Believe In

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What are “people crying out for”? I don’t think it is too difficult to answer. Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, used to end each class with this admonition: “Men, give them something to believe.” That is what people are crying out for: Something to believe. Truth. Not only this, but an understanding of the truth that they have ownership in. It is a stimulation of their minds, so that their hearts can be satisfied. It is teaching. Real teaching. Biblical teaching. Theologically and historically sound teaching. Teaching that relieves the scandal of their own minds which, in most cases I am afraid to say, have never really had a chance to believe. Like really believe. Not simply because of emotional persuasion. Not simply because they have a deep down feeling. Not because their parents or pastor believe this or that. But because they have seen for themselves, and now they know.

Exploring Kenotic Christology

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This collection of essays, by a team of of Christian philosophers, theologians, and biblical scholars, explores the viability of a kenotic account of the incarnation. Such an account is inspired by Paul’s lyrical claims in Philippians 2:6-11 that Christ Jesus though God in nature, “emptied himself” or “made himself nothing” by becoming human. The biblical support for such a view can be found throughout the four gospels, and the book of Hebrews, as well as in other places. A kenotic account takes seriously the possibility that Christ in becoming incarnate, temporarily divested himself of such properties as omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Several of the contributors argue that this view is fully orthodox, and that it has great strengths in giving us a picture of God who is willing to become completely vulnerable for the sake of human beings, and one that is completely consistent with the very human portrait of Jesus in the New Testament. The proponents of kenotic Christology argue that the philosophical accounts of God’s nature that have led to rejection of this theory ought themselves to be subjected to criticism in light of the biblical data. Some essays test the theory by raising critical questions and arguing that traditional accounts of the incarnation can achieve the goals of kenotic theories as well as kenotic theories can. The book also explores the implications of a kenotic view of the incarnation for philosophical theology in general and the doctrine of the Trinity in particular, and it concludes with essays that examine the validity of the ideal of kenosis for women, and a challenge to traditional Christology to take a kenotic theory seriously.  ~ Publisher’s Description