Bible

“Isn’t the Bible socially, culturally, and sexually out of date? Isn’t it just a product of its time?”

“Isn’t the Bible socially, culturally, and sexually out of date? Isn’t it just a product of its time?”

A response from Barry Cooper in Can I Really Trust the Bible?

 

How can we believe the Bible is God’s word to us when it is so clearly out of step with cultural norms regarding what is good and just? To put it another way, how can we possibly trust the Bible to be God’s timeless word when it is so clearly backward ethically? Don’t we want to be on the right side of history? Barry Cooper thoughtfully examines these questions in an excurses found in his book Can I really trust the Bible? Cooper’s response is worth quoting in its entirety:

The past often embarrasses us. Looking at photos of myself growing up in the 1980s, it’s one fashion car-crash after another. It’s impossible to look away. Why didn’t people spend the entire decade pointing at each other and laughing? The reason, I suppose, is that more or less everyone was dressed the same. It seemed normal to us. We’d built up a plausibility structure of pastel t-shirts, neon socks and snow-washed jeans.

What Books Can Help me Talk to My Friend about Their Questions for God?

What Books Can Help me Talk to My Friend about Their Questions for God?

In the coming months at New Life we are looking forward to stepping into a series called Questions for God. In the series, we hope to openly and honestly engage the most difficult questions people have about Christianity. For some those questions keep them on the outside looking in. For others, it causes them to wrestle with their faith.

We hope that Questions for God invites everyone into the conversation no matter where you are spiritually. It is our aim to address these questions with respect and honesty. And it is our hope that some might lean in to engage their questions in a safe environment. It is hope as well that it might serve as an opportunity for Christians to open the doors for conversations with friends and family members.

As we prepare for this series, I would commend the following books. Maybe one of these piques your interest. I would encourage you to pick it up and start reading it in the next few weeks.

 

Two Books That Engage the Broader Questions

Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin

Deep thinkers have pointed questions for Christianity. “Aren’t we better off without religion?” “How can you say there’s only one true faith?” “Doesn’t religion cause violence?” “Hasn’t science disproved Christianity?” “Isn’t Christianity homophobic?” “How could a loving God send people to hell?”

In Confronting Christianity, Rebecca McLaughlin takes those questions seriously. As a former skeptic, McLaughlin brings both empathy and clear reasoning. She does three things particularly well:

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Poll Shows that Americans Like the Idea of the Bible, but Don't Actually Read it: Lifeway reports, " About half of Americans (53 percent) have read relatively little of the Bible. One in 10 has read none of it, while 13 percent have read a few sentences. Thirty percent say they have read several passages or stories."

2.      More Than a Quarter of the Deaths in Holland are Induced: This sobering report by John Burger finds that, "Fifteen years after the Netherlands decriminalized euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, more than 25 percent of all deaths in the nation are induced, rather than by illness or other natural causes."

3.      My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience: Dr. Wang Yi, Chinese pastor who was imprisoned in December, wrote this manifesto. Please read it. Among the many jewels in the letter, Yi writes, " As a pastor, my disobedience is one part of the gospel commission. Christ’s great commission requires of us great disobedience. The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world."

4.      The Importance of Clarity in Leadership: My friend and pastor Glen Elliott with a great post: " There’s too much noise and too many distractions in our world and anything short of being crystal clear won’t be heard. More than ever, folks want and need the clarity of a compelling vision, mission and purpose. And great leaders provide that."

5.      Hearing His Voice: Please watch this marvelous story of an unreached people group who are introduced to the Word of God. It's 25 minutes of encouragement.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       What the World Says When We Lie to OurselvesStephen Kneale considers how the world responds to the lies we tell ourselves compared to how the Bible responds. For instance: 

"Lie: Everybody hates me
World: I’m sure that isn’t true. I like you.
Bible: ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom 5:8); ‘See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.’ (1Jo 3:1)"

2.       How Would Christ Celebrate Christmas? Erin Davis suggests that, “It's great to spend Christmas with the people we cherish, but I don't think Jesus' Christmas celebrations would only include the people He is most familiar with. I believe He would spend His birthday in service to others.”

3.       5 Pitfalls When Preaching or Teaching on the End Times: Please won't you read this brief but important article before you lead your next Sunday School class on Revelation? Marty Duren reminds us, "Pastors and theologians have long held the importance of accurately dividing eschatological words of truth. Too often though, we see dull knives forced again and again onto the sacred text, resulting in tortured interpretations (the UN Secretary General as the Antichrist) or unbiblical expectations (77 Reasons Jesus Will Return in 1977)."

4.       What Should I Do to Become a Pastor? Derek Heibert offers great advice for anyone who has considered whether they have a vocational calling to pastoral ministry. He reflects on how different that advice is compared to other vocations, "We all know the assumed logic in America for landing a career: 1. Decide what to do with your life. 2. Go to school to learn the skillset. 3. Graduate from said school. 4. Get hired for a job using that skillset. Now substitute “school” with “seminary,” and voilà! You have a career in pastoring … right? You might be surprised to learn that this isn’t the answer I texted back to the aspiring pastor..."

5.       Why Christians Have Always Done Healthcare DifferentlyJohan Tangelder begins by reflecting on the crossroads we currently stand at, "Within a short time span hospitals and medical care have greatly changed. In fact, today a man of seventy can justly claim that more medical progress has been made in his lifetime than in all of previous history. This medical progress forces us to cope with issues our forefathers never faced. The most common and most pervasive issue is how new medical science has transformed medicine: it used to be about caring for a person; now it is about curing a disease. According to this new philosophy, when someone is faced with a medical problem, everything that can be done ought to be done, no matter what – they are treated as an object to be fixed, rather than a person to be helped."

6.       What Would Happen if Every Human Being Suddenly Disappeared? This is an interesting thought experiment.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Why Winning the Lottery is So DangerousJ. Warner Wallace reflects, "Most of us recognize the relationship between satisfaction and duration. The longer something lasts (and the longer we enjoy it), the more satisfying we typically find it to be. In seeking the next big lottery jackpot, most players hope to win enough money to last the rest of their lives. Why? Because they are seeking satisfaction that will last a lifetime. But if the Christian worldview is true, each of us are eternal beings, created in the image of God, and destined to live forever – well beyond the temporal lives in which we could spend our lottery winnings... That’s why winning the lottery can be so dangerous. It takes our eyes off the goal. Not the physicalemotional or behavior goal, but the spiritual goal: to seek and find the true source of eternal satisfaction."

2.      The Math Language of RevelationBarry York talks about how we ought to make sense of all the numbers in Revelation, "When it comes to the book of Revelation, you quickly find the presence of many numbers. These numbers add (no pun intended) to the mystery of the book. Yet, similar to the example above, remembering the Bible has a "math language" of its own can help in understanding the passages containing the use of numbers. Here are five of Revelation's math language rules to follow."

3.      The Crisis of PornTony Perkins sounds the alarm, "What our kids are stumbling on isn’t your grandfather’s pornography... These are raw, violent, and nauseating videos that they don’t have to sneak into a store for. Every child has a world full of porn at their fingertips... Porn is everywhere, and the research is grim... Americans on both sides of the aisle are realizing: this is an actual catastrophe...These sites, the same ones teaching kids a distorted and twisted version of sex, get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined." 

4.      4 Myths About Responding to Spousal Abuse: Three pastors team up to debunk some hurtful pastoral responses to abusive situations. They put their finger on the pastor's tension: "Pastors who wish to support, protect, and counsel survivors of abuse are often left wondering how best to minister to them. They know abuse is a multi-faceted evil. They want to provide the best counsel possible. But several misconceptions around the issue can cloud the thoughts and guide the actions of well-intentioned church leaders."

5.      11 Common Phrases You Didn't Know Were From the BibleThis is fun. Some phrases you might be surprised by: "by the skin of your teeth," "a drop in the bucket," "a leopard can't change his spots," and "bit the dust."

Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

Are You Under or Over the Bible

Are You Under or Over the Bible

If you asked the difference between Evangelical and Mainline churches in America today, most in the media would frame the difference as a political one. Evangelicals are Republicans, Mainline Christians are Democrats. But this is not the defining issue. The question that is at the crux of the division between Christians lies in the answer to this question: how authoritative is the Bible in your life?

There has never been a generation, never a time or place, where Christians haven’t had to come to grips with whether they will bow the knee to the prevailing norms or whether they will serve God alone. And how do we know what God wants? His word to us. When push comes to shove, when the Bible calls me to believe something or act a certain way, will I believe? Will I obey?

The reason, then, that sexuality has become a litmus test for what “camp” you are in has little to do with political leanings, but rather this question of authority. I truly don’t mean to be glib when I say this (and it may well be good fodder for a post later), but there just isn’t a strong biblical argument for sex outside of a heterosexual marriage to be anything other than sinful. That’s not, of course, to say that some don’t try to make such arguments, but rather that those arguments are inevitably grounded in a progressive ideology.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Let's Ban Porn: Ross Douthat with a bold proposal, "[W]e are supposed to be in the midst of a great sexual reassessment, a clearing-out of assumptions that that impose misogyny and impose bad sex on semi-willing women. And such a reassessment will be incomplete if if it never reconsiders our surrender to the idea that many teenagers, mostly young men especially, will get their sex education from online smut."

2.       Ten Lessons on Parenting Big(ger) Kids: Great advice from Tim Challies. All ten are good, but I particularly like his final piece of advice, " Focus more on sharing experiences than exchanging stuff. The things you and your children remember and celebrate as the years go by are far more likely to be experiences you shared together than gifts you exchanged."

3.       Wishing He Were Your Husband: Sabrina Beasley McDonald on the dangers of emotional infidelity and what to do when that wishing begins: " If you're thinking of a man right now and you're wondering if you're in danger of an emotional affair with him, then you probably are."

4.       Vocation in Retirement: Gene Veith, one of the best authors on vocation, considers what vocation means in his retirement: " Retirement underscores two important facets of the doctrine of vocation: the purpose of every vocation is loving and serving our neighbors. And the way we make our living is only one of our vocations and not even the most important one."

5.       Does the Bible Endorse Slavery? This charge is often made against the Bible by atheists and agnostistics that the Bible supports slavery? Is that true? Dr. Matthew Hall responds.

6.       Can a Christian Be Demon Possessed? Dr. Stephen Wellum says no in this helpful video.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       There Goes that Pesky Biological Reality Again: Matthew Hosier on when the trend toward progressive views on gender backfire, " It turns out that when it comes to health men and women are not the same. Contrary to popular opinion, men have a higher pain threshold than women (though older men feel pain more than younger men as their levels of testosterone decrease); women are more prone to knee injuries than men, because of the size of their pelvis; the male brain has more connections within each hemisphere while the female brain has more connections between the two hemispheres..."

2.       4 Reminders for the Weary Mom on Mother’s Day: You are loved, moms! These are healthy reminders. I love this one: “You are exactly the mom they need… Long before you actually had children, even before you rocked a baby doll and pretended to be a mommy, God knew the children He would place in your life. He could see what kind of mom you would be. Our God is not a random god. His works have purpose and meaning, and even before He made you a mother, He shaped you for motherhood. This motherhood.”

3.       How an Ancient Pagan Roman Saved an Atheist: John Woodbridge shares his story of deconversion, and then God's rescuing hand in his life. He shares the pivotal moment of his life, "Like a thunderbolt, the idea struck me that Jesus might very well have existed and walked this earth. After all, I reasoned, Tacitus was no Christian propagandist and had nothing to gain in reporting a myth... As I read the statement by Tacitus, it dawned on me that if Jesus had existed, it had potentially huge implications... Could it be that Jesus not only existed but that his message was true after all?"

4.       Godly People are Happy People: My friend John Starke reflects on this truth, " The longer I live as a Christian the more it becomes apparent that the holy life — a life lived with a conscience before God — is a happy life. Sadly, it takes some misery to see it. Sin not only offends God, it disrupts the Christian’s communion with God and forces him to sense his Maker’s displeasure."

5.       Why Raising Your Children to be Independent is a Bad Idea: Bob Kauflin reflects on why raising your children to be independent is a fool's errand, "...I began to consider the adults I respected. They didn’t do things on their own... Then it hit me. The most mature people in my life were not those who belittled the input and counsel of those around them, but those who welcomed and even pursued it. Their awareness of their weaknesses caused them to seek out other eyes and perspectives. That realization shed new light on our parenting goals."

6.       Billions of Birds Migrate. Where Do They Go? This graphic-rich National Geographic article is a must read even for those, like myself, who don't have a particular interest in birds.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Will You Still Know Me? One of the most beautiful pieces I've read in some time, Sylvia Shroeder shares the story of the removal of her daughter's birthmark and the earnest question her daughter asks her, "Will you still know me?" Shroeder concludes, "Jesus wrote my name in the pages of eternity. He inscribed me on hands wounded by the weight of the sin of humankind. I am bookmarked chosen. When Heidi comes back, a white bandage covers what used to be a brown birthmark. Her eyes are open, searching for me. I lean down, kiss her forehead and whisper, “I know you.”" Read the whole thing, you'll be glad you did. 

2.       When Christians Began Speaking of "The" Antichrist: Did you know that for centuries, Christians spoke of "antichrist" much more frequently than "the antichrist?" Why is that important? Thomas Kidd explains, " For these theologians, antichrist was a power, rather than a single individual, although a single individual might certainly be at the head of world antichristian power."

3.       Does the Bible Teach Generational Curses? Roger Skepple says no. " In Exodus 20:4-6 the subject is idolatry. Regarding those who commit idolatry, we learn that God would visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him. Notice, the text says “generations of those who hate Me.” Therefore, we see that God would punish those who imitate their fathers’ idolatrous actions."

4.       Farewell Bible Readers, Hello Bible Quoters: Russell Moore reflects on a growing problem, "Here’s the end-result according to Nienhuis: 'They have the capacity to recall a relevant biblical text in support of a particular doctrinal point, or in opposition to a hot spot in the cultural wars, or in hope of emotional support when times get tough. They approach the Bible as a sort of reference book, a collection of useful God-quotes that can be looked up as one would locate words in a dictionary or an entry in an encyclopedia.'"

5.       The Amazing Story of Kipchoge Keino "Kipchoge Keino or... just Kip, is a retired athlete who ran for the country of Kenya. Throughout his career, Kip earned almost a dozen medals, half of which were gold, for being an amazing middle to long distance runner... [Once] Kip was almost late for his own race and had to (literally) run to get there, then won a gold medal anyway, despite major adversity in that race. "

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       What the Bible Teaches About Sexuality: David Powlison on the threefold vision of sexuality in the Bible, " The Bible discusses many forms of sexual immorality and sexual victimization. A vision for fidelity does not drive honesty about infidelity and betrayal underground. Prudish? Not Scripture. Squeamish about the sordid details of human life? The biblical authors frequently (though not always) eschew photographic description and details when they speak of sex. They often model a certain delicacy of generic description."

2.       Making Space for your Neighbor: Dexter Culbreath encourages us to reach out to those God has placed near us, " Let’s be real. We are the ones holding ourselves back. We are not fans of failure, nor do we want to subject ourselves to the messiness of investing into the lives of others. So, what do we do? We wait to see how it goes with others before we stick our necks out there. As with many things, fear drives our hesitancy."

3.       Your Smartphone is Making You Stupid, Antisocial, and Unhealthy. So Why Can't You Put it Down? Ouch, this is a painful read by Eric Andrew-Gee. He reports that the evidence is "in a growing body of research by psychiatrists, neuroscientists, marketers and public health experts. What these people say – and what their research shows – is that smartphones are causing real damage to our minds and relationships, measurable in seconds shaved off the average attention span, reduced brain power, declines in work-life balance and hours less of family time. They have impaired our ability to remember. They make it more difficult to daydream and think creatively. They make us more vulnerable to anxiety. They make parents ignore their children. And they are addictive, if not in the contested clinical sense then for all intents and purposes."

4.       6 Ways to Discourage Your Pastor: Paul Levy with a pointed, but accurate list. His fourth reason is, "Speak to others in the congregation, but not the leadership. This way word gets back to leadership through others, 'Some people are saying...'"

5.       Mr. Graham and the Reasonable Man: How do we navigate these incredibly difficult discussions around law enforcement and African American men? The More Perfect podcast takes us back to the beginning of what would become an important precedent in courts' interpretation around how to rule on these cases.