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Christianity

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.

 

Hidden in Plain View

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Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts revives an argument for the historical reliability of the New Testament that has been largely neglected for more than a hundred years. An undesigned coincidence is an apparently casual, yet puzzle-like “fit” between two or more texts, and its best explanation is that the authors knew the truth about the events they describe or allude to. Connections of this kind among passages in the Gospels, as well as between Acts and the Pauline epistles, give us reason to believe that these documents came from honest eyewitness sources, people “in the know” about the events they relate. Supported by careful research yet accessibly written, Hidden in Plain View provides solid evidence that all Christians can use to defend the Scriptures and the truth of Christianity.

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.

Mordecai Roshwald on Being Laudably Judgmental

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I have been consistently judgmental — a pejorative characteristic these days, but a laudable trait in my opinion. For, to put it bluntly, just as humanity must distinguish between what is true and what is false, so it must discriminate between what is right and what is wrong. ¶ Good and Evil are not merely subjective perspectives of various civilizations. They are basic notions of humanity, even if often erring. They have to be decided by thoughtful exploration and not by public opinion poll. Just as the belief that the world is flat is mistaken, even if at one time most people thought it to be true, so to kill a person who is blameless is wicked, even if in some cultures it may be justified.

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 Then Unbroken

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Unbroken is a well-produced film that tells the story of World War II survivor Louis Zamperini, who survived crashing in the Pacific, interminable weeks lost at sea, and the terrors of several Japanese POW camps. Unfortunately, in the film, the equally remarkable third act of Zamperini’s life is reduced to a footnote. 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 into a film, 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.

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.

Inerrancy and Worldview

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Though the Bible presents a personal and relational God, popular modern worldviews portray an impersonal divine force in a purely material world. Readers influenced by this competing worldview hold assumptions about fundamental issues—like the nature of humanity, evil, and the purpose of life—that present profound obstacles to understanding the Bible. In Inerrancy and Worldview, Dr. Vern Poythress offers the first worldview-based defense of scriptural inerrancy, showing how worldview differences create or aggravate most perceived difficulties with the Bible. His positive case for biblical inerrancy implicitly critiques the worldview of theologians like Enns, Sparks, Allert, and McGowan. Poythress, who has researched and published in a variety of fields — including science, linguistics, and sociology — deals skillfully with the challenges presented in each of these disciplines. By directly addressing key examples in each field, Poythress shows that many difficulties can be resolved simply by exposing the influence of modern materialism. Inerrancy and Worldview’s positive response to current attempts to abandon or redefine inerrancy will enable Christians to respond well to modern challenges by employing a worldview that allows the Bible to speak on its own terms. ~ Product Description

Canon Revisited

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This study of the New Testament canon and its authority looks deeper than the traditional surveys of councils and creeds, mining the biblical text itself for direction in understanding what the original authors and audiences believed the canon to be. Canon Revisited distinguishes itself by placing a substantial focus on the theology of canon as the context within which the historical evidence is evaluated and assessed. In effect, this work successfully unites both the theology and the historical development of the canon, ultimately serving as a practical defense for the authority of the New Testament books. ~ Product Description

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

The Reliability of the New Testament

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This volume highlights points of agreement and disagreement between two leading scholars on the subject of the textual reliability of the New Testament: Bart Ehrman, James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of the best-selling book Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, and Daniel Wallace, Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. This conversation between Ehrman and Wallace allows the reader to see in print how each presents his position in light of the other’s. Contributions follow from an interdisciplinary team featuring specialists in biblical studies, philosophy, and theology. The textual reliability of the New Testament is logically prior to its interpretation and thus important for the Christian religion. This book provides interested readers a fair and balanced case for both sides and allows them to decide for themselves: What does it mean for a text to be textually reliable? How reliable is the New Testament? How reliable is reliable enough? ~ 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