In the 2,000 years Christianity has been around, its history has been somewhat turbulent but overall it has been an astonishing success. Christianity has so deeply permeated the world we live in its pervasive influence has become nearly imperceptible to most people today. Christianity has obviously profoundly affected religion but also ethics, society, art, literature, politics, philosophy, law, science and economics as well. Since Christianity has been so thoroughly woven into the fabric of modern civilization, most Christians today are unaware of just how utterly bizarre their faith is, especially in the context of world history.
For our brothers and sisters around the world who live as minorities in countries where they are directly harassed and persecuted, they are fully aware of just how crazy it is to give your allegiance to King Jesus. For those of us in living in more comfortable circumstances we remain largely blissfully unaware of how weird it is to be a Christian. This is something as a church we desperately need to be reacquainted if we are to properly maintain our identity, accurately represent it in the world as well being able to circumspectly navigate challenges to the church in the world in whatever form they take. Unless you are informed, it is hard to tell just how unique a historical phenomenon Christianity is. There are some wonderful presentations by Larry Hurtado and John Ortberg, which you can find here and here, that provide a wonderful introduction to this topic. For this piece, I wish to briefly refamiliarize ourselves with the most bizarre aspect of Christianity, which is simultaneously the cornerstone of our faith and that is the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Continue reading “A Strange Faith”
In the video below, Eric Chabot at Think Apologetics goes over the minimal facts argument for the resurrection of Jesus made famous by Habermas and Licona. Continue reading “Revisiting the Minimal Facts about the Resurrection”
There is a popular view among some Christians that the COVID-19 pandemic is some kind of apocalyptic plague. Now the world is seeing some unprecedented things because of the virus. However, if it really is an apocalyptic judgment then God must be losing his touch because there have been far worse disease outbreaks in human history. There are other significant problems with this view but the reflex to read major contemporary global events as signs of the apocalypse is not new among Christians. In fact, this kind of apocalypticism has made its way into pop culture, especially in film and television over the last decade. While I do recognize the biblical premises that have inspired such views, it actually reveals a fundamental failure in how the church has taught eschatology, that is, what the end of the world will be like.
Because of their highly symbolic language, apocalyptic texts tend to be quite difficult to interpret. This is what makes them such excellent fodder for rampant speculation. Those who go down the apocalyptic rabbit hole end up missing the forest for the trees. In my experience, Christians who get swept up in uncritical apocalyptic speculation tend to get bogged down with the details of apocalyptic visions in the Bible and tying them to world events and current affairs. They therefore miss the big picture of what the New Testament says about the end. Of course, the exact meaning of apocalyptic passages in the Bible matters but they exist in the larger context of the Bible’s general vision of the end. According to the New Testament, the end is not primarily marked by global disasters, mass deception and sinister conspiracies. In fact, we are already in the end times and have been for two thousand years. Continue reading “The End is Already Here!”
In the second part I outlined how “hell” fits in to the ancient biblical worldview. In this part will briefly trace how the biblical language and beliefs surrounding “hell” developed.
The Jews had been conquered by their enemies and the temple, which was the central symbol of their identity as the people of God, had been destroyed. This crisis in national identity forced new readings of the Scriptures and also spurned the production of new texts all together. Ideas about judgement naturally came to centre of the discussion. They understood God was judging them for their failure but they knew if they repented and were once again faithful to the covenant, God would vindicate them and punish the nations he used as instruments of his judgement. Now a vindicated Israel could fulfil its mission to the world. Continue reading “Different Degrees of Hell (Part III)”
Jesus was executed for insurrection. Crucifixion was a punishment the Roman empire reserved for rebels. In the trial accounts we have in the gospel, the principle charge against him was claiming to be the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God, which was the title of the King of Israel from the long fallen Davidic dynasty. Independently claiming to be king, without the approval of the emperor, was an act of sedition against the imperial government. It was Caesar who installed client kings like Herod the Great over Israel. So when the Jewish leaders were goading Pontius Pilate, a representative of the imperial government, to execute Jesus they said,
“If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” (John 19:12 ESV)
From this we can see, as I have said many times before, that the death of Jesus was a political issue. Continue reading “The Politics of the Resurrection”