“40 Questions To Ask A Christian” – My Response

So I came across and article entitled “40 Questions To Ask A Christian” which was meant to be a thought exercise on behalf of the Atheists to be taken up by Christians. As the author wrote:

“Asking a difficult question can achieve better results because it taps into the Christian’s desire to share the wisdom they perceive themselves to have. Any reflex for angry disagreement is quashed and replaced by an obligation to think their answer through. Ultimately, thought is what an atheist should be trying to elicit. By asking the right questions, one can determine the direction that such thought takes.”

So I have copied the article’s 40 questions below and I will attempt to answer them to the best of my ability. I have not prepared or done any research before or after reading these questions. I wanted to be as genuine in my answers as possible, and try to respond as I would if I were asked these questions by a random stranger on the street.

40 Questions for Christians

  • (Global Religion)

If a hundred different religions have to be wrong for yours to be right, does this show that people from all over the world like to invent gods that don’t exist?

Not necessarily. Let’s look at it this way, if a hundred different accounts of a historical event have to be wrong for yours to be right, does that show that people all over the world like to invent historical events that don’t exist?  The answer would be no. Most all cultures have some grasp of God or gods no matter how isolated they may be. The problem is usually not “Does God exist” as much as it is “What is God like.”   Having said that I don’t think anyone has to be wrong for something else to be right. I believe Christianity to be true, and by saying that I am also saying that what contradicts Christianity is not true. If a Muslim or a Hindu were to come and say something about God that contradicts Christianity then I would assume they are false. If they says something that is not contradicted, or even perhaps supported by Christianity then I would say they are true. I think that other religions may have false beliefs and an incomplete view of God, but I don’t think thousands of different cultures all over the world just made up God on their own.

If your parents had belonged to a different religion, do you think you would belong to that religion too?

Maybe. It’s really impossible to say since I did not grow up in a home of another faith. I would certainly hope that someone would present the Gospel to me and that I would accept it no matter what religion I was born in. I can say that I believe I would probably always seek after God regardless of what culture I was born into. I would certainly hope that God would not allow me to return from my quest empty-handed.

If people from the five major religions are each told conflicting information by their respective gods, should any of them be believed?

Yes. Just because there are conflicting views on something does not negate that one of them could be true. If I say grass is green and four other people disagree with me we shouldn’t just assume that none of us can be trusted.

  • (Communication with God)

How can you tell the voice of God from a voice in your head?

Does this voice ask you to do anything that would conflict with the teachings of Christ and the Apostles? Does this voice move like a holy fire through your very soul? Does this voice point you towards more loving service or spreading of the Gospel, or is it more self-serving or pointing to sin?

How can you tell the voice of God from the voice of the Devil?

My answer is the same as the above.

Would you find it easier to kill someone if you believed God supported you in the act?

No. I don’t think I could ever kill easily even if there was a divine command behind it. Killing should never come easy.  Also I don’t believe I would ever be commanded to kill another human being by God. In the Old Testament Israel and God’s people were used as a human representation of God’s judgement and so God did use them to kill. The thing is that God’s wrath and judgement on sin was completely poured out on Christ at the cross. We are in a new age of mercy where the old is fading and the new is coming.

If God told you to kill an atheist, would you?

I already pretty much answered this in the previous question.

  • (Morality)

When an atheist is kind and charitable out of the kindness of his heart, is his behavior more or less commendable than a religious man who does it because God instructed him to?

Yes and No. An atheist who does a kindness in order to get a warm and fuzzy feeling or to feel good about themselves is really no different in motive than a religious person who does good simply to please his God. Christians however don’t believe in doing good to appease God, but rather we do good because we are so filled with love for what God has already done that we cannot help but let that love overflow onto others.

If you are against the Crusades and the Inquisition, would you have been burned alive as a heretic during those events?

Maybe. It depends on how vocal I was.

If your interpretation of a holy book causes you to condemn your ancestors for having a different interpretation, will your descendants condemn you in the same way?

I’m pretty loose in what I consider a Christian. If they believe Christ was fully divine and fully man, the messiah, and that he died and rose again for the sake of sinners so that they would be forgiven then I consider them a Christian. Any other interpretations are secondary and are not “deal breakers.” I don’t know the beliefs of my ancestors. I also don’t know whether they would condemn me.

Rape wasn’t always a crime in the Middle East two thousand years ago. Is that why `do not rape’ is not part of the Ten Commandments?

Well it was. Also if you notice a lot of things weren’t mentioned in the Ten commandments. I would say that the 7th commandment “Though Shall Not Commit Adultery”, the 8th Commandment “Thou Shall Not Steal” and the 10th “Thou shall not covet” could all be applied to condemn rape.

Do lions need `god-given’ morality to understand how to care for their young, co-operate within a pack, or feel anguish at the loss of a companion? Why do we?

No. Morality can exist in a secular sense. My problem with secular morality is not that it doesn’t exist, but rather that it is entirely dependent on the individual and the ever-changing opinion of the mass. Secular morality is dangerously close to mob morality. This doesn’t mean it cannot be right or true, but I simply don’t find it sturdy enough for me.

If organized religion requires a civilization in which to spread, how could this civilization exist without first having a moral code to make us civil?

I’m not sure I understand this question. I think religion is one of the first steps any primitive people experience before forming a civilization. Historically civilizations tend to come from and form around temples and religious structures.

  • (The Characteristics of God)

An all-knowing God can read your mind, so why does he require you to demonstrate your faith by worshiping him?

He doesn’t. Worship is a means for us to show gratitude. He knows our heart, but we enjoy celebrating what God has done. Worship is a mutually beneficial act.

If God is all-knowing, why do holy books describe him as surprised or angered by the actions of humans? He should have known what was going to happen.

When we tell stories we are limited by our language. There re truly no words that I believe can accurately encapsulate God. For the narrative structure to work God must be humanized to an extent so that we can fathom what is happening. We anthropomorphize God to better relate to him.

An all-knowing God knows who will ultimately reject him. Why does God create people who he knows will end up in hell?

Hell is the result of man’s free will. God desires that all men would be saved, but he forces no one to follow him. Apart from God there can be no good and complete rejection of God is the absence of good, or Hell. God wants you in heaven one day, but he doesn’t force anyone to come home. God created us to love us and be loved by us, love however requires a choice, and a choice means that it must be possible to reject love.

If God is all-knowing, then why did he make humans in the knowledge that he’d eventually have to send Jesus to his death?

All things for the glory of God. Jesus was not plan B. Jesus was plan A so that God could tangibly demonstrate his love for us and show us grace and mercy while remaining true and just.

Why did a supposedly omnipotent god take six days to create the universe, and why did he require rest on the seventh day?

It’s a narrative story. It’s meant to show the passing of time. In English the word “rest” usually is the result of becoming tired or exhausted. This is a translation problem. The original Hebrew text used a word which simply meant that on the seventh day God stopped creating. It is not that God was tired after six days of work, but rather that his creation was complete.

Is omnipotence necessary to create our universe when a larger, denser universe would have required more power?

As I stated in the previous answer, when the creation was complete God stopped working. I don’t see how a larger or more dense universe would be any more or less necessary than the one we live in. I’m still a little confused by what this question was supposed to be saying?

  • (The Bible)

Why are Churches filled with riches when Jesus asked his followers to give their wealth away?

You should come visit my church. But on a serious note all things are for the Glory of God. Wealth used to honor and glorify God is a way to put God above money. We are to give to all who are in need, and most churches do. Also I’ll point out that those elaborately decorated cathedrals this question was probably pointed to are usually built by donations from the poor that the church supports. If churches never ran shelters, food and clothing drives, hospitals, or orphanages then I could see the problem, but that is not the case.

While in the desert, Jesus rejected the temptations of the Devil. He didn’t censor or kill the Devil, so why are Christians so in favor of censoring many Earthly temptations?

Christ did not openly embrace or allow the devil to prosper either. He tolerated evil only so far before he shut him down. What good could possibly come from allowing evil to go unchecked.

Given that the story of Noah’s Ark was copied almost word for word from the much older Sumerian Epic of Atrahasis, does this mean that our true ruler is the supreme sky god, Anu?

No, but perhaps Anu the supreme sky god and Yahweh are the same God seen through different cultural lenses. Remember my point about how different religions can still all testify to the existence of God? It’s a similar thing going on here. The story of Noah is particularly interesting because it occurs so often in so many different cultures and legends from around the world. It’s a really fascinating tale that seems to have roots all over the world, leaving me to believe that there is truth to it.

  • (Religious Conversion)

If your desire is to convert atheists so that they become more like you; do you think that you’re currently better than them?

My desire to convert atheists is so that they can be with me in heaven one day and come to know the joy and peace that comes from knowing Christ and having a relationship with the father. I do not think I am better than atheists, in fact I don’t know how a Christian could. Any holiness seen in Christians comes not from their own work or merit, but from the holy spirit and the gifts and blessings from God the father. To God be the glory.

If religious people don’t respect their children’s right to pick their own religion at a time when they’re able to make that decision, how can society expect religious people to respect anyone’s right to freedom of religion?

Well that’s a loaded question. A Christian parent should not respect their child’s rejection of Christ because that is the most hateful thing a parent could possibly do. That is literally tolerating someone right into the gates of Hell (God forbid).  Any Christian who actually believes Christ meant what he said cannot easily allow any loved one to reject the truth without putting in a great deal of prayer effort to convince them otherwise. If I love my child I must hate what is harmful for them, and nothing should be hated more than the complete and total rejection of all things good. Notice this is not me saying the child should be hated, but the parent should do whatever is in their power to dissuade their child from what they know is a path away from what is good.

If missionaries from your religion should be sent to convert people in other countries, should missionaries from other religions be sent to your country?

That’s up to them to decide. I’d love to talk to them.

If children are likely to believe in Santa Claus and fairies, does this explain why religion has been taught in schools for thousands of years?

Not really. Religion was taught because it was believed to be true. Although there have always been atheists, the cultural movement has only really been around since the 18th century. For most of history there was not secular education. Churches were the centers of learning and the Priests were the educated people of the day. The shift of separating religion and education and religion and politics is a pretty recent occurrence in the grand scheme of history.

When preachers and prophets claim to be special messengers of God, they often receive special benefits from their followers. Does this ever cause you to doubt their intentions?

I’m not sure what you mean. I know of no rich prophets.

  • (Miracles)

When you declare a miracle, does this mean you understand everything that is possible in nature?

No. When I say something is a miracle it means I cannot see how God was not involved in this. Even if I know how something happens it can still be a miracle.

If a woman was cured of cancer by means unknown to us, and everyone declared it a miracle, would the chance of scientifically replicating this cure be more or less likely?

This is a strange question. If we didn’t know how it happened then I don’t know how science could hope to replicate it.

If humans declared fire to be a miracle thousands of years ago, would we still be huddling together in caves while we wait for God to fire another lightning bolt into the forest?

Fire is pretty miraculous when it is really though about, but I say no. The scientific method was invented by a catholic priest. Isaac Newton, Gregor Mendel, and Galileo were all deeply religious people who believed in miracles. These men were spurred on to discover because they believed that God created an ordered and understandable universe. Miracles doesn’t mean science stops. Miracles means that God still works, whether we understand how or not.

If God gave a man cancer, and the Devil cured him to subvert God’s plan, how would you know it wasn’t a divine miracle? What if he was an unkind, atheist, homosexual?

God has worked through the Devil (see the book of Job) and he has worked through non believers countless times in the Old Testament. If God gave a man cancer and then chose to remove it then it doesn’t really matter to me how it was removed.

  • (Hell)

Should an instruction to convert to your religion upon the threat of eternal torture in hell be met with anything other than hostility?

We aren’t threatening you with hell anymore than the person who sees an eighteen wheeler bearing down on you is threatening you with the eighteen wheeler. We simply see the danger and wish to save you from it. To do anything else would be extremely cruel.

Can a mass murderer go to heaven for accepting your religion, while a kind doctor goes to hell for not?

Yes. No man deserves eternal paradise and communion with God, yet God saw it good to give us admittance into his family free of charge. If a kind doctor rejects this offer and chooses hell then his decision will be honored. If a mass murder chooses repentance and grace then God is good to forgive.

Did the mass murdering Crusaders and Inquisitors make it into the Christian heaven?

I certainly hope so. I also hope their victims have found a home in paradise along side them.

How can we know what is right when we don’t know for sure who makes it into heaven and hell?

This question is written as if good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. There are no good or bad people. There are only redeemed and unrepentant people.

If aliens exist on several worlds that have never heard of your god, will they all be going to hell when they die?

That’s not my call to make, but I would assume no. The reason a man goes to heaven or hell is because of his eternal soul. Unless and alien was given an eternal soul by God I’d assume their fate is the same as a dog or a whale.

  • (The Promises of Religion)

If someone promised you eternal life, the protection of a loving super being, a feeling of moral righteousness, a purpose for living, answers to all the big questions, and a rule book for achieving the pinnacle of human potential… and all in exchange for having faith in something that wasn’t proven, would you be suspicious?

Yes. I was very skeptical before I became a Christian. I was a very difficult person to convince.

If someone promised to give you a billion dollars after ten years, but only if you worshiped them until that time, would you believe them? If someone promised to give you eternal life upon death, but only if you spent your life worshiping a god, would you believe them?

Worshiping a man for money is not a worthy endeavor. Maybe, obviously I said yes to Christianity though I still think you misunderstand the point of worship though. I also think these questions focus way too much on the next life and not enough on the life we have now. Christianity is not just a religion of the future, it is a life to be lived out now.

Why does religion appeal more to poor, weak, vulnerable, young, ill, depressed, and ostracized people? Could religious promises be more of a temptation to these people?

It appeals to these people because they understand what it means to need grace, mercy, healing and a savior. A person who is extremely blessed in this world has many things he can make his God, whether it is money, power, influence, pride, approval, or what have you. The poor and needy are closer to God because they know what it means to cling to him for their needs.

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What is Repentance?

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I think it is pretty safe to say that repentance is a major theme in Christianity. While we are saved by faith, we demonstrate that faith by repenting of our sins. Something I realized recently is that there are a lot of different notions about what repentance means.

Is repentance just saying sorry?

How do we know if we have actually repented?

How do we know that God has forgiven us?

I hope to answer these questions in this post and hopefully give a more clear view of what it means to have a truly repentant heart.

The Bible makes it clear many times in scripture that we are saved by our faith and trust in God rather than in simply doing good or not doing bad. This comes from the belief that man is not worthy of salvation, but that God is gracious, merciful, and forgiving. God is willing and able to forgive you of your sins, but there is some ground work that needs to be done first.

Before anything can be done a person has to believe. Repentance and Belief are two cornerstones in Christianity when it comes to our understanding of Salvation. The Greek word that we translate into “Believe” is “Pisteuo” and it means “to place one’s trust in.”  When we believe in God we are trusting him, and when we believe in Christ we are putting our trust in him and the power he has to save us.

By placing our trust in God we can say that we have trusted him to save us. We can take rest and find peace in the knowledge that God can and will save us, but what about Repentance? If it is our faith/belief in God and what he did through Christ that saves us, where then does Repentance come in?

The Bible makes it clear that if we hope to find salvation then we need repentance:

“No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

– Luke 13:3

So what does it mean to repent and how can we know for certain that we have repented?

When we look at scriptures Belief (Pisteuo) is often paired up with the idea of Repentance (Metanoeo). “Metanoeo” is the Greek word that we often translate to mean “repent” and it’s meaning conveys a “change of mind.”  This is not a purely intellectual change, but also a change in the direction of one’s life.

When we Repent (Metanoeo) we are in a sense turning from our allegiance to self, sin, and unbelief. We are abandoning our old ways and making a conscious effort to change our direction. This is where our Belief (Pisteuo) comes in. Our new direction and focus in life shifts from the self, sin, and unbelief, and is instead is replaced by a focus on service, righteousness, and trusting in Christ.

When faith or belief is mentioned, repentance is implied (if not directly stated.) The opposite can also be said that repentance implies that belief and faith are already present.

Repentance then, is more than just saying “I’m sorry.” It is a conscious effort turn from the old ways that drew you away from God and turn your life in a direction that seeks the Lord.

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

– 2 Chronicles 7:14

Just like the parable of the Prodigal’s son in Luke 15:11-32 our heavenly father does not want us to try to earn his love, and he does not expect us to be able to pay for our sins. Instead he patiently waits for us to turn our hearts back to him, and once we do he is quick to run to us, forgive us, and bring us back home.

Repentance is not some elaborate sanctification ritual, but it is also goes a lot deeper than simply saying “I’m sorry.” Repentance is a heart change and a desire to come home. Just like the Prodigal’s son, we can often times wander far away from the father, but he never stops waiting for us and he is willing to run out and welcome us home when we call out to him with genuinely repentant hearts.

God knows you. Come as you are.

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It can be difficult and frightening to truly examine your heart and soul.

Great courage is required to look at your own reflection and see yourself for who you truly are. Not for who you hope to be, or who you make yourself out to be, or who you wish you were, or who you convince other people you are, but rather who you truly are at your core. Unbiased. Unfiltered. Unedited.

It takes bravery and strength to look yourself in the soul and see every aspect of you. It takes a strong will not to casually justify yourself by saying “I’m only human”  or  “nobody’s perfect” as if that could excuse any wrong. It takes courage to examine your life without any self bias or bending the standard so you look better in comparison to everyone else. To look all your faults, failures, sins, and weaknesses and see them for what they are, that takes real bravery.

It takes bravery because, if we are honest, no one really wants to face up to the person at their core. We want to present our best and gloss over our worst. We want to be judged on a low standard where everyone passes. We want to convince ourselves that the easy road we so often take still gives us room to be a “good person.” We don’t want to face the fact that we spend much more time in sin or apathy than we do actually pursuing goodness or holiness.

One way I like to explain this to people is by asking them to picture their entire life as a movie. When I say this, I’m not talking about your life being presented in some uplifting heavily edited film that captures you in the best light as the conquering inspirational hero. I’m talking about a film that shows every single sin, thought, action, inaction, every deed good or evil, and all the motivations behind everything you’ve ever said, thought, or done. I’m talking about a completely unbiased film that captured every aspect of you. For most people I’d venture to say that this is a scary concept.

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

– John 3:20

No one would ever want that film shown because no one wants their true self exposed to the world. We’re afraid and we prefer the favorable lie. We don’t want other people knowing the things we think, or the decisions we make when we know no one is looking. We don’t want to own up to the truth that a lot of the good things we do are just here to give us some self-serving sense of satisfaction or as a means for us to justify our desire to come off as a good person. We would hate that.

Here’s the thing though, God has seen your film.  God knows every thought, action, inaction, and deed you have ever done. He knows what was done out of pure and loving motivations, what was done out of selfish vain conceit,  and what was not done because you just didn’t care enough to do something about it. He knows every cruel thing you’ve ever done, every moment you passed on an opportunity to do good, and every time you did good so others could see or so you could brag about it later. God knows you better than you know yourself, and what’s even more incredible about all of this is the fact that he loves you regardless.

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. The scriptures are clear about this. God loves us even though we can be completely unloveable.

Really take some time to ponder the Prodigal’s Son parable. Think about the patient father who, when he sees his arrogant, defiled, and filthy son hobbling back to beg for forgiveness, runs to embrace him and welcomes him home before he can even utter an apology.

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

– Luke 15:11-32

We don’t worship a God who waits for us to get clean before he embraces us, we worship a God who runs to us and loves us in all of our filth and failures. He doesn’t wait for us to make the long journey back to him, he runs out to meet us as soon as we are ready to come home. Nothing compares to the love of God.

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The Prodigal Father and Son

This is one of the things that I find most beautiful bout Christianity. We don’t worship a God who expects us to become righteous in order to come to him, he wants us to come to him so that he can make us righteous. God is a God of second chances, new beginnings, and fresh starts. His mercies are new every morning and his desire is that his children would come home.

I can’t stress enough the simple and profound truth that no matter who you are, what you have done, where you are coming from, or how broken you feel you are, God still loves you and is patiently waiting for you to come home.

Easter: My Personal Doubt Killer

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The death of Christ definitely made no sense to those who lived through it. Even today it is a very strange to think that such a foundational religious figure could go out in such an awful way. Even stranger is the way that such a death is not seen as a shameful thing his followers prefer not to speak of, but rather a great victory.

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Muhammad’s Mausoleum

When you look at most respected religious leaders they tend to die in their twilight years as respected and honored leaders. Most died peacefully and surrounded by their devoted followers. Moses got to assemble all the tribes of his people together for a farewell address then he climbed to the top of Mount Nebo and died overlooking his people entering the land of promise. Gautama Buddha died at the ripe old age of 80 surrounded by his followers after reaching the state of Parinirvana. Muhammad lived to be 63 years old and died with his head resting on the lap of his wife Aisha. His death bed is now a beautifully adorned mausoleum.

There might be some pain involved in passing, but most religious leaders tended to go out old, respected, and in a state of peace with some reassurance that they had succeeded. This is not so with Christ. Christ died a criminal, tortured, humiliated, killed, and buried in a sealed tomb. He died alone, hanging nailed to a cross with murderers. His death was humiliating, and left his body broken, and defiled. His death seemed to come too soon, he died just barely into his 30’s with none of his devoted followers (except for maybe John) remaining with him during his suffering.  Jewish onlookers would have taken Christ’s death as a sign of God’s rejection of his so called son of God, and Christ himself experienced the spiritual pain that comes from being completely separated from God when we hear him cry “My God, My God why have you forsaken me!”

This looks, by all accounts this looks like the end of the life of a man who was a complete failure. No “kingdom of God” was built that anyone could see. The temple, as far as everyone could tell was still there, and man was no closer to his maker than he had been yesterday. Christ’s people had abandoned him, his followers had ran in terror, and his heavenly father had given him up to the powers of death and sin that he had come to defeat. If this was the end I guarantee you that we would have never heard of this rebellious first century Palestinian Jew.

Luckily this is not where the story ends.

The cross without the resurrection is just sin taking another victim. A cross with a resurrection is the greatest triumph this world has ever seen. Sin is vanquished, justice is served, death defeated, and a new covenant and the kingdom of God have arrived. It is without a doubt the biggest surprise ending in history.

But how do we know that the resurrection is not a fabrication?  How can we be sure that we are not  following a bunch of swindlers and liars who fabricated a resurrection? Is there any reason to believe the resurrection?

The resurrection is absolutely necessary for Christianity to hold any merit. Without an empty tomb and a risen savior we are forced to see Christ as nothing but some strange spiritual guru who pissed off all the wrong people. Without a resurrection Christ was just some nice guy who died for nothing. Even Paul was aware of this:

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

– 1 Corinthians 15:14

So why do I feel safe believing in the resurrection? I’m going to give an answer to that that might seem strange at first, but hopefully it will make sense eventually. My answer is that Easter is just too strange for me to believe it is a lie. What I mean by this? Well if one was going to fabricate the resurrection of their savior, I really doubt they would have bothered to include some of the strange details that are included in the post-resurrection Christ accounts.

One strange detail that jumps out right away is that no one recognized the risen Christ. If I wanted to JesusKneelstoaWomanconvince you that I had seen someone risen from the dead the first thing I’d want to establish would be that I could recognize him when I see him. Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus and is not recognized right away, he appears to the mourning Mary Magdalene and is confused for a gardener, he appears over and over and everyone always has to do a double take to realize it’s him. Thomas, one of the twelve men who had been in Jesus’ inner circle, had to touch his wounds before he would believe it was actually him. This is a very strange detail if you wanted to describe the triumphant risen son of God, and yet it’s the strangeness of this detail that make it more real for me.

Speaking of Jesus appearing to women, that’s a weird twist of events in and of itself. If you wanted to make up a victorious resurrection myth would you have the risen son of God appear to a bunch of women who didn’t even recognize him at first?  Maybe the strangeness of this isn’t clear to modern readers, but the fact that the risen savior was first seen by women was a big deal in first century Palestine.  Anyone writing this with the goal of fictionalizing an epic narrative probably would have had Christ appear before his loyal male followers, or appearing on top of the synagogue in full glory for all the world to see, or really anything more than some women in mourning. Defying expectations seems to be on a list of Christ’s favorite past times, and similar to how low class shepherds were the ones to first welcome him into this world as he slept in a barn so to was the resurrected Lord greeted first by common women (one of the lowest classes of the day).

Another strange detail is that no one bothered to dig up the body. Obviously I believe there was no body to be found, but surely skeptics were everywhere. The disciples were making radical claims that he had risen from the dead and it’s clear from Acts and other early church  and secular accounts that they caused quite a fuss by doing so. Jews and Roman authorities alike were not fond of early Christianity and when you read some of the extreme persecutions that the early church went thorough it’s amazing that Christianity lived long enough to reach the 2nd century.  Yet it seems like this entire movement could have easily been nipped in the bud. All the Romans had to do was open the tomb and produce a body. Surely if there was a body to produce it would have been easier to dig up a dead jew than put in all the work in manpower it would have taken to try to dismantle the early church.

Critics of this opinion usually point to two counter theories. The first being that Christ’s tomb was lost or that he was buried in a mass grave. I think it’s safe to reject the mass grave theory since the gospel authors were wise enough to mention the name of the tomb giver, Joseph of Arimathea as a means to show that the tomb was not unknown of. People weren’t unclear about where Christ was buried, Joseph and Nicodemus were listed by name almost as witnesses to the tomb. I just don’t think the mass grave theory holds up.

Modern critics have tried a different approach and argued that Jesus was buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb, but the disciples probably stormed the tomb and stole the body to fuel their fantasy. One problem right away I see with this is that this theory is the notion that the disciples would even bother attempting to do something like this. Peter was too afraid to admit that he knew Christ during the trial, and yet after his Lord is dead he would risk raiding his tomb? If Peter would not defend Christ when he was alive, why on earth would he risk doing so when he knew him to be dead. These twelve men that abandoned Christ in his time of need are expected to come together and pull an Oceans 11 heist on a body just to keep their story alive? For what purpose?

There is no reason for the disciples of Christ to continue this charade after their leader was killed. I’m pretty sure, had they not seen the resurrected Lord, these men would have gone back to their old lives and tried to forget the wasted years they spent following the now dead prophet. Until Peter was told by the resurrected Christ to become a “fisher of men” he seems to have done just that. None of the accounts we have of the disciples makes me fell like they were the type to devote their lives to a cause they knew was lost. Heck, they had a hard time devoting their lives to a cause even before their leader was brutally killed. The Bible rarely skims over the flaws of it’s “heroes” and if there is anything I know about the disciples it’s that they were often afraid, skeptical, confused, and in need of constant reassurance. I believe fully that these men knew in their heart that they had seen the risen son of God.

As far as history and tradition can tell us, each of the disciples died in a rather harsh way. Some were crucified, others burned, some beheaded… the only one we know of who lived to an old age was John, and he died deserted on the island of Patmos after several attempts at killing him failed. These people would rather die than deny the resurrection, could this be said of a bunch of grave robbers who wanted to continue a delusion or scam?  I have a hard time believing so. Many early Christians from both church and secular accounts faced death instead of denying what happend on Easter Sunday, if nothing else we can say that these men and women genuinely believed with everything they had.

Easter is very strange. No one saw it coming, no one predicted victory in death, and yet in spite of all of this victory still came. This strange twist of fate that people to this day have a hard time wrapping their mind around, is an event that eye witnesses refused to deny. It was a truth that those who believed were willing to give every fiber of their being in defense of. It was and is a truth that, as strange as it may seem, has stood the test of time and the voices of criticism. It is my personal doubt killer and the most beautiful event in history.

Happy Easter everyone!

Good Friday: Grace Is Not Cheap

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Today is Good Friday.

It’s a day that when Christ was beaten, despised, denied, abandoned, and broken by the world he came to save. It still stands today as man kind’s ultimate rejection of God.

This is the day when the world took their greatest gift and murdered it in cold blood to the roar of applause.

This is the day when God allowed himself to be mocked and shamed by those whom he loved.

This is the day when the father turned his face away, a day when the prayers of his son went unanswered.

This is a very dark day, and yet it is good.

It is the most painful and gut wrenching good imaginable, but it is still good.

This is the day of “not my will but yours be done.”

This is the day when God took the sins of the world upon himself and endured the full wrath of sin and death on our part.

This is the day when God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whomever would believe in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

This is the day when all man’s crimes were paid for.

Best of all, though no one saw it coming, this was not the end of the story. Sunday is only two days away.

As we celebrate the fact that we have been given loving grace and mercy by our father in heaven, let us never forget that grace was not cheap. Let us not forget that in the most unexpected turn of events, God humbled himself, suffered, and died, on our part. As we seek to serve God, let us not forget that he first served us through the horrific beauty of Christ’s sacrifice. This grace came at a greater cost than any of us could ever comprehend.

 

The Professor’s Lesson On Grace

So I am currently enrolled in a very difficult class on the book of Romans. The professor who leads the class is one of the wisest men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, but he is also one of the most hardened and difficult professors I have ever learned under. For the sake of keeping his privacy, and so as not to potentially ruin anything for possible future students, he shall be referred to in this post as “The Professor.”

The Professor has an amazing ability that I cannot fully explain in that he can be the most difficult person to please, and yet he still manages to create a bond with people that makes them seek his approval. I’ve had difficult professors in the past, and most of the time I can say “screw that guy” and walk away, but this isn’t the case with The Professor. I have only cried twice in the past four years, and one of those moments was when The Professor (in a private meeting) told me that he didn’t think I was cut out to be a minister. Had any of my other professors told me this I’d have gotten upset at them and written them off as a nut job that didn’t know what they were talking about, but not The Professor. At the time I valued his opinion of me so much that I believed him and almost gave up. Thankfully I decided not to quit and instead it became my mission to prove him wrong. Years later I wonder if The Professor told me this, not because he believed it, but because he knew I would work twice as hard to prove him wrong. In any case, The Professor was and is a mental and spiritual titan in my life. He is not only one of the smartest men I know, but he is also one of the most Christian men I have ever come across. He is stern, but loving. He is both wise and humble. He will break you and then build you up stronger than before, and I sincerely hope that everyone meets someone like The Professor at some point in their life.

So what is the point of all this you may be asking? Well, last week The Professor gave us our first test in the class on Romans and I spent a great deal of time preparing for it. I really wanted to impress The Professor and earn his approval, plus I knew this test was going to be very difficult if it was anything like the other classes I had taken with him. The test consisted of only two questions and so I gave the most in-depth detailed answers I could think of. I spent nearly an hour on each question, and when I was done only two other people were still working. I thought about waiting and pretending to keep writing so I could be the impressive last one to turn their test in, but I decided against that.

The next class meeting went off like a normal lecture would, but at the very end The Professor ended by saying “Regarding your tests, I have given you all a 100. Class Dismissed.”

Everyone in the class just sat there confused. I knew without a doubt that not everyone in this class had made a perfect score. I don’t think it is really even possible to make a perfect score with The Professor. If it is possible I have never met the man who could pull it off. In all my years with the man I never once made above an 80% grade on anything. I thought perhaps he gave us a grade on a curve, but that seemed very much unlike The Professor. He was not a man who gave a perfect score to anything less than perfection. As I headed out the door I passed The Professor and wished him a good day, for which he thanked me and sent me on my way. I was so terribly confused.

Today we received our tests back, which was very unusual considering it hadn’t even been a week since we took the tests. I assumed that since we all got perfect marks he probably didn’t take the time to grade us. To my surprise when I went up and claimed my paper it had his writing all over it. He wrote detailed notes about how I omitted this, was too brief on that, spent too much time here, and failed to understand that. My paper was bleeding with mistakes, but to my relief on the last page my final grade was an 87. This excited me so much I gave an audible sigh of relief. I was confused about many things, but none of it mattered because I had made an 87 on a test issued by The Professor and that was amazing! I was very proud of myself and, being lost in the moment, I had forgotten anything about his words regarding giving us all 100 grades.

The point was raised as to whether these grades were ours or whether The Professor had given us all 100’s as he had said earlier. I cannot directly quote The Professor, but I will do my best to capture the essence of his words. He said:

“These are the marks you earned. Each and every one of you had the potential to make a perfect score and none of you did. Some failed more than others, but none of you were good enough. Perhaps some of you were good enough by university standards, but you all failed the standard I wanted for you. I have shown you grace, but not without great cost to myself. I spent hours grading each of your papers in great detail, I stayed up late and woke up vert early even though I knew from the beginning that I would give you grace. The sacrifice I made will hopefully make it real to you that grace is not cheap and that failure regardless of size is not without consequences. I did this out of love and hopefully some of you will understand why.”

The professor turned and began to write on the white board behind him, but after a minute he stopped and turned back around to face his audience again and he said this:

“What’s really funny is that out of all of you, only four or five took the time to thank me.”

I didn’t take a single note the rest of the lecture. I had failed to thank The Professor.

Having spent years under The Professor’s guidance I can say that nothing he does is without meaning. While I can never climb into The Professor’s mind I have a good guess as to what he was trying to get across.

I was proud of my 87 grade, it was quite honestly the best work I had ever put into a test. I had the potential for a 100, but when the challenge is so hard 87 is good enough right?

This is how most people approach sin. We are proud of ourselves for being “good enough” and while we all fail miserably at being good all the time, some of us think we are passing. Compared to the world’s standards maybe we are excelling. Perhaps we have earned the noble status of being a “good person.” No one is perfect, but that’s ok right?

The fact is while I might have passed the university standards I failed to meet the standard that The Professor planned for me. This is not unlike my spiritual life. While I may be good by the world’s standards I still fail to meet the standard that God had planned for my life. Like God, The Professor knew this would happen and decided that he would give us grace and mercy, but not without great cost to himself. Both God and The Professor had no need to sacrifice of themselves for the sake of us. If left alone we would get exactly what we deserve and no one would be unjust for leaving us as we stood. In the end though, sacrifices were made and grace and mercy undeserved were given out freely regardless of how poorly we failed to earn it.

Who do you think was more relieved, I who got an 87, or one of the unsuspecting younger students who probably got a 40 or lower? So it was with Christ and the Gospels. It is those who are truly aware of their need for a savior that best understand who Christ is and what he has done. Though I cannot confirm this to be true, I fully believe that those four students who thanked The Professor were the ones who needed his grace the most.

That is what I believe The Professor wanted us to remember. We all find ourselves coming short of the standard, be it that we got a 99 or a 2. We all are in need of a savior, whether we are deep enough in need to admit that or not. God at great cost to himself gave us grace and mercy, undeserved. He made us 100’s though we did nothing to deserve it. After all this, how few of us actually take the time to thank God for what he has done. How few of us really take the time to show gratitude for the one who gave all to pay our price.

Don’t be one of the many who never take the time to thank God.

A Ranting on the Real and Radical Rather than Relevant

The following was pretty much a stream of consciousness post. It’s a rambling rant that I wrote spur of the moment, and decided to publish because I think it hit on some points that are near to my heart and of great concern to me. Future posts will be better organized and structured: 

I’d like for you to be honest with yourself for a moment and seriously contemplate when was the last time you felt the Holy Spirit move you. When was the last time you really hated your sins and repented with a heart that was so hungry for grace that you could not help but be swallowed up in the love of God. If this sounds foreign to you then I hope and pray that this will not remain the case for much longer. Let us be honest.

This thing we call Christianity is not a simply belief, a rationality, a moral compass, or a set of truisms. This thing we call Christianity is a radical rebirth of the soul that calls for death of the old as well as birth of the new. This thing we call salvation is not a simple exchange of words or a singular moment in our life where we pray the sinners prayer (which is not found anywhere in scripture) but rather a life long striving for righteousness.

Let me explain to you something that should be common, but has somehow become lost and forgotten. Christ is freedom. We are completely liberated from the binds of legalism and law just as we are liberated from the binds of sin and death. Do you live a life that reflects the gratefulness that a slave shows his liberator, or do you stay at the side of your old master because leaving is hard?

Do you bind yourself up in legalistic judgementalism so that you can store up morality points and look down on those that don’t meet your standard? If that sounds remotely like you then I’m here to tell you that your morality is crap. Do you think a holy and perfect God is going to love you more because you are slightly less dirty or sick than your brother? A good parent doesn’t love his children on a scale of merit and a healer is not concerned with the fact that you need less healing than someone else. In his eyes you are both sick and he wishes only to make you both well. If anything he is more concerned with the sickest because they need him most. As one who has been the king of false judges, I promise you that no smug morality can ever compare to the reality of seeing someone truly broken and loving them with all your heart. To do this is to momentarily glimpse through the eyes of our creator and it is the greatest sensation I know.

Perhaps you are not the legalist. Perhaps you are the type that scoffs at legalism and instead goes around confident that you are free to do what you want because no man can judge you and God will forgive. If this rings true for you then I’m afraid you are still a slave who never left his master. You must understand that sin is not bad because God gets jollies out of taking away fun things from you. Sin is bad because it defiles, destroys, contaminates, perverts, or corrupts the good gifts of God for you.

God is not here to give you a cheapened and sheltered life, He designed you for a life more abundant and He wants to see you reach your potential. He designed you for a life that is truly life. As one who has had trouble with alcohol in the past I can promise you that a drunken stupor can never amount to the majesty of a purely sober moment spent in awe of the creator. As one who has indulged in more sexually immoral acts than I care to publicize, I promise you that no sexual gratification is a substitute for a pure and chaste love that consumes and envelopes you until you finally are able to love that person with mind, body, and soul. No unhealthy foods or substances can compare to the joy of health, no lies will ever be as liberating as being completely and brokenly honest. No possession will ever compare to the satisfaction of knowing you helped a brother or sister in their time of need. What fools we are to return to sin when such a majestic and full life awaits for us. Christ broke the chains, you just have to choose to walk away. How horrible we must be to have knowledge of the suffering God endured for us to liberate us, and yet in the end we choose to remain in our own filth. Hedonism is the ultimate slavery masked as liberation.

Why am I bringing this up? It scares me how dead many Christians seem to be and it scares me how dead at times I can be. Numb is no way to go through life, and yet so many of us grind our way through like some sad sap at the bank waiting for the line to end. We try so hard to be “relevant” with our bracelets, t-shirts, contemporary music, trendy bible covers, and snappy one liners like and in the end the vast majority of us are fakes and we wonder why people don’t want to come to church. If we continue to try to force Christianity into culturally relevant stigmas then we will never see what the Church is capable of. Christianity will never be culturally relevant because the world will not and cannot understand us until they meet our Lord.

Radical Christianity is not going to manifest itself in a hebrew tattoo, or a jesus t-shirt, or a christian folk band. Radical Christianity should be redundant because Christianity, if it is Christianity at all, is radical by its very nature. If you call yourself Christian you side with those who reject both rigid morality and hedonistic self-gratification. If you call yourself Christian you side with those who do not see good people or bad people, but a world full of sick and dirty people who need the healing and cleansing hand of God. If you call yourself a Christian you side with those who reject revenge and human honor and embrace mercy, grace, forgiveness, and limitless love for all those who cannot and do not deserve it. If you are my brother or sister in Christ you are amazingly radical, so let us live like it.