Category Archives: faith

Da Vinci Code vs Early Manuscripts: pt 3 NOBODY chose the gospels!

Almost done with the book

As my time of reading and digesting Dr. Hill’s book “Who Chose the Gospels?”, I’m beginning to lament the last words of the book.  I will be done then, and truth be told I’ve sneak-peaked the end and technically not “done”.  The early history of the church and those who safe-guarded the canon of the gospels is largely not precisely known.  From shadows, and and glimpses, from short little insights into the culture and insight into the situation, we can gather for the most part what was going on.  Like, ok we know Irenaeus was debating Marcion on X, Y, and Z issues, and Justin Martyr wrote Trypho on issues A, B, and C, but what would have been REALLY helpful is if they answered direct questions like “Where did you get your Gospels from?”  Its totally doable, but its like one of those IQ questions where it asks you, “If Susie is older than Mary, and the person standing next to Beth, is 2 years older than the person to their left, and John is their father, how old would he be?”  Its not quite like that, you get my point.

Our man John

As I could not take the suspense I read ahead to the end of the book to read in his conclusion to find out exactly “Who chose the gospels?”  His answer was a bit surprising, but almost as obvious as it was surprising.  First, I want to add that we can trace the origin of the gospels, in its guided composition (not authorship we know who wrote them, we want to know why four, and by what criteria they used).  We can trace it thinly back to the apostle John.  When it comes down to 80-150 AD, hard scientific evidence comes more sparse.  In fact what we have is an early church “tradition” that says John is the one who chose four, and called them the four first (I haven’t read that chapter yet….specifics to come).  From him, it just got passed down to those after him, to church fathers, and eventually to those who defended the gospels, that these four are the four are the ones that the apostles authored, and can be trusted.

But if we had a group of early church fathers in front of us including John, and we asked them, “Why did you chose the four gospels?”

Nobody chose the gospels

The surprising thing about Dr. Hills conclusion was that, in answer to that question… nobody.  He says, it would be like if we asked ourselves “Why did you chose your parents”?  Well you didn’t, they chose you.

“The key realization which best explains our inability to find an ultimate ‘chooser’, which best explains why the church didn’t take the easy way out with some kind of singular Gospel and why it never cobbled together a set of criteria to apply to all the Gospel candidates, is that the church essentially did not believe it had a choice in the matter!”

– Dr. C. E. Hill, p. 231

In addition he says,

“When speaking of the church’s part in the process they instead use words like “receive”, recognize”, “confess”, “acknowledge”….just like the faith itself, which had been “received from the apostles and transmitted to its children” so the Gospels were “handed down” to the church by the same apostles.”

– Dr. C. E. Hill, p. 232

So there we have it.  No one person, comittee, council, or prophet created the criteria for the four Gospels.  We don’t know the significance of four, why God providentially chose the number four.  We don’t know why God chose that point in time to insert Jesus Christ into, historically speaking.  We don’t know when He is coming, like he said he was, but we do know it is good.  It is very good.

The “other”s

I’ve talked about the other self-proclaimed gospels in my other articles, but I want to quickly touch on them in regards to their indirect support of the Gospels.  No “other” gospel, like the gospel of Mary, or the gospel of Thomas, or any of them actually attempt to denounce the authority of the Gospels, or try to persuade their readers that the authors of the Gospels were not who they claimed to be.  They all respected the club that the Gospels were in; they didn’t mess with the club.  Like some outsiders trying to get in, they tried to make themselves look appealing, by opening their gospels with phrases like “These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke…” (gospel of Thomas begins this way), or “The secret revelatory discourse in which Jesus spoke with Judas Iscariot…” (the gospel of Judas).  None of the four Gospels are like that, they were open and public Gospels.  When they were written, they were not challenged, because they were aligned with the actual set of events, and everyone knew that.  Its very interesting that the outsiders didn’t try to topple the castle and build a totally new one, because they knew this castle was real, had a firm foundation and was here to stay.

More to come

I’m not done yet.  I plan on reporting more as I read it.  Sorry if some of this was not as orderly as it could have been.  I had no thinking space tonight…..desktop cluttered, table full of material and a sowing machine (a friend was making a shirt…pretty cool).  I need a “study”.

A very strange man and simplicity

Today as I was coming home on the train I noticed someone peculiar enter the train and sit not too far from me.  He had a confederate style long-coat from the Civil War, army boots from the Vietnam era but fashionably shiny!  Long disheveled hair that came scrunchingly down to his shoulders and the back of his head puffed up like he had just removed his morning pillow and checked it at the El Train entrance.  When he sat down a thought came across my mind, “Why is he wearing a confederate coat?  Oh no…he is probably one of those hyper-southern boys who think the south will rise again.  Daaaang it!  I hope he doesn’t go off on any black people in here.”

Upon sitting down he creased his face with a smile ever so slight, that if he were to relax it at all, it might appear he was more constipated than smiling.  The smile didn’t disappear for the entire ride.  In fact it would ebb and flow from a full out toothy smile to a mere smirk.  Most of the time he was just sitting there with his eyes closed.  At first I thought “Man this guy has to be on crack!  He’s enjoying his lonesome self WAY too much.”  There was just something off about him.

It was then that I noticed something horrible!  His hands were in his confederate coat, with his backpack on his lap, moving towards his “mid-section area”.  He even at one point……never mind, this is a PG rated website.  Suffice to say he was feeling himself up.

That’s where my story ends, and where my introspection started!  I thought to myself…

What if he was mentally simple?

What if in being simple, his world was really really small?

What keeps me from just busting out in an all out smile on the El?

Here are my thoughts.  We all like to feel taken care of, on a very basic level.  We like to have food in the fridge, we like to feel well and not sick, we like to feel loved, we like to feel as if someone, somewhere is thinking about us and cares for us.  We have all those needs, plus needs that we wish we didn’t have.  We wish we didn’t have bills, rent, an ornery teenager to confront when you get home, a leaky faucet your wife has been nagging you to fix, or you just wish you would feel satisfied with yourself, but you don’t because you may be a perfectionist, always SOMETHING to improve on.

Now what if all those went away!!  Yeah, what if there were no bills, no nasty comittments, no uncomfortable appointments….Boom!  Gone!  What if it was just you and your family.

Our ability of satisfaction is deeply connected with our appetite of things we desire.  If a man has a big stomach, it will take a big meal to satisfy him, whereas a small stomach requires less.  A mansion requires much furnishing and decor for it to feel like it was meant to be, a mansion.  You don’t put a studio’s worth of furniture into a mansion.

Are you happy?  Do you constantly feel under-par with yourself?  Our life appetite just may be too big for us!

Coming back to the stomach analogy, it may not be what food we get to fill our stomach, but where we get the food from.  A question of sufficiency!  We are beings that have been created for eternity, therefore we may find ourselves with a life appetite that nothing mortal or perishable can satisfy.  We are in need of something divine, something eternal, something that will LAST!!

Enter into the sufficiency of Christ!!

“You never will”

When I attended Bethlehem Baptist Church a long 10 years ago, I highly enjoyed this mans teaching (Sam Crabtree, Executive Pastor), and it seems he’s started blogging too.  I will look forward to many more posts from him.

______________

by Sam Crabtree

Last week a subcommittee of elders had supper with Al Mohler where he said, “Every day you live there are more things you are never going to do.”

At this stage of my life, I must admit I am never going to be on the high school debate team, play on the college basketball team, pay off that mortgage in my forties, run that marathon in my fifties, and so on. For example, the evaporating number of days remaining in my life implies that I will have less and less time to read many of the great books.

That is not cause for wistful grieving, but thoughtful thanksgiving. In his infinite wisdom God ordains the times and places for each person to dwell.

Two prayers:

  1. Thank you, God, for the providential track my life has taken, a track that no one else in history ever has or ever will take, a divinely designed life for just me, with fruit that will come from only my life, and rewards just for me.
  2. Lord, help me focus on things that could still be accomplished. There remain countless wonderful things I could still do in the strength you supply.

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Original article here.

If woman not hanged, a reward for killing her has been placed

Justice is hard-wired into all of us.  We all have a sense of fairness, and when injustice shows its ugly face, something cries out within us, “NO!  This is wrong!”

As of December 6th, 2010, Asia Bibi a Christian field worker in Pakistan, mother of five children, wife to a Christian husband, is scheduled to be hanged.  Why?  The allegations are more shaky now, as the accusers are being less specific, as it “will complicate matters” worse if they do say exactly what Asia said.  Her crime was speaking against the prophet Mohamad.

There is a possibility that she might be pardoned by the president.  This great news is quickly sombered by a threat shared by many.  A local cleric announced, with the backing and authorization of Pakistan’s second largest local newspaper, that if the judicial system does not hang her, a reward will be given to anyone who can kill her.

“Maulana Yousaf Qureshi, offered a 500,000 rupee (£3,800) reward to anyone who killed Bibi if the court fails to hang her.”

– The Guardian

Canada and other nations have offered asylum to Bibi and her family, if they survive what their kinsmen are threatening upon them.  While Asia is in jail, her family is continuously receiving death threats, saying things like “Wait til we get our hands on you.”

Brothers and sisters, do not be angered too much.  Don’t burn with hate towards the people carrying out these terrifying acts of injustice.  Instead, remember the words of our Savior, Jesus Christ,

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you”

– Luke 6:27-28

Why?  Does it even make sense to love those who hate you?  If this life was all there was, no it would not make sense.  But because we serve a God who has provisioned life after death, a life eclipsing this one in greatness, it makes every bit of sense.  We Christians have an eternal focus, that allows us to truly not be afraid of what mortal man can do to us.

Jesus said, “love those who hate you.”  Why would God want you to love those Pakistanis, or anyone who would hate you?  God want’s them as his own.  God wants to redeem them.  Because God is eternal he works in his eternal scope of work.  It may take a believer loving a very hard to love person for them to hear the good news of salvation.  In God’s divinely perfect plan he has deemed us as messengers to the world, of the good news of Salvation to ALL who believe.

But in this hour, remember to pray for Asia and her family.  Soon she will join her maker in perfect paradise, but her family will be left with a scar of a memory, a testimony of their mothers faith, and a life to live on earth for God’s glory.  Losing a loved one is difficult, and honestly I can’t relate to the Bibi, but much painful struggle must be the theme of days recently.  Pray for strength for them, pray for perseverance, and safety!!

Don’t forget to pray for the Pakistani’s who are carrying out this unjust deed, also.  As Christ prayed on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

Here are some articles to read about whats going on;

The Guardian – Cleric Puts Price on Pakistani Woman’s Head

altMuslim – A sip of water (a Muslims perspective on the event and a look into the blasphemy laws)

His Peace Upon Us – Death for Blasphemy? (a missionary who’s writing I’ve greatly appreciated)

———————————————

UPDATE!: January 11, 2010

Politician working on revising the Blasphemy laws, was asassinated last week.

At a market in Islamabad on Tuesday, Mr. Qadri pumped more than 20 rounds into Mr. Taseer’s back, Pakistani media reported, and yet was not fired on by any other member of the security detail, raising still more questions about whether any of the others knew of his plans in advance.

Mr. Qadri immediately surrendered, called himself a “slave of the Prophet,” and indicated that he had killed Mr. Taseer for his campaign against the blasphemy law.

 

A call to Man Up! and “expose” the darkness!

When two countries are at war with each other, unnoticed and dark conspiracies are made.  Special ops, secret services, undercover agents, and spys are dispatched to different parts of the land in enmity.  Sometimes these forces are noticed by the commoners of the land who dwell there, and when they find a spy an alarm is made.  A telegraph sent, a letter mailed, a general notified, and a decision is made to effectively make a blow to the spy, to hunt him out and find him.  In order for that to happen, the commoner, farmer, doctor, house-wife, or paper-boy, has to spot him first.  When the spy is realized for his threat, he sounds an alarm.  In effect he is yelling, “Here he is, one who is not supposed to be among us.  A threat!  A mole!  Kill him! Get him!”

So it must be with spiritual warfare also.  Colossians calls upon us to kill our sins daily!  Every day we lead spiritual lives, and there are evil forces at work among us to undo us, to upset us, to confuse and frustrate us to the point of uselessness.  The worst weapon the evil one has amongst us subtlety.  He is so subtle in his ways!  So we ought to be vigilant always.

My call to attention today is for men.  Men who have fallen asleep perhaps, or those of us who may need a reminder of whats really happening (as I do also).  Ephesians calls us to be “sober” and to be “awake.”

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.” v. 13

But the verse I have for men everywhere is this!!

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”  Ephesians 5:11

Men, you want to see your homes transformed, you want to be that bright and shining light in the workplace, you want to be a man of God, you want to be the leader God wants you to be?  Call out sin in your own life, and others lives for what it is.  Poison!  You don’t flirt with spies, you don’t get to know spies over the course of a year or two, you don’t cover him up so that no one finds out who he is or where you’re hiding him, lest you become a traitor of your own country.  You don’t deal lightly with sin; you deal harshly!  Because you are treating it for what it really is.  A threat to you and your family around you!

Scripture says not to take part in any darkness.  What is darkness?  In broad strokes, anything that takes the place of the affection God deserves.  If God has to compete for something in your heart, its probably darkness; an idol.  How does Ephesians name darkness?  Sexual immorality, impurity, jealousy, foolishness, drunkeness and theres more.  In fact, the scripture says something very sobering about one who is consumed by these things:

“For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Ephesians 5:5

Now if you are one who is struggling against these tendencies, I would say this does not pertain to you.  But if you still surrender yourselves, so as to give your whole affection, to these things, this verse is for you.

My call?  Man up!  Realize with me, with an ever growing depth and heartiness, what it means to be a man of God in killing sin among us, and not indulging in it, in ANY measure.  Stop playing those mental games while you dance on the edge of the fence.  Stop putting yourselves in situations where you know God is not honored.  Stop…and seek Him, seek His strength, seek His will for you in the Word.  Press in to Him!  Realize who you are.  We are protectors!  Lets protect our family!

Also, as fellow soldiers lets encourage each other and “all the more as we see the day of Christ approaching.”  A lone soldier is sometimes a dead soldier.

Press on brothers and sisters!

"Death is a cruel, brutal, and fearsome trespasser…"


This moving article was published October 5th, on Christianity Today, by Gordon Conwells provost, Frank James III. He lost his brother on a climbing venture to summit Mount Hood and return…he never did. Frank recalls that day in an emotionally stirring article. You can read the whole thing here.

Midnight, it is said, is the portal between this world and the next and is somehow in league with chaos, death, and mystery. It is the moment of dark visitations. So it was for me in December 2006. My sleep was interrupted by a phone call, and I was instantly shocked into full consciousness: My younger brother was trapped in a snow cave on Mount Hood, and an unyielding blizzard prevented rescue.
The mountain proved to be Kelly’s final adventure. Losing my brother on Mount Hood has been a painful reminder of my own spiritual fragility. None of us is immune to the heartaches and sorrows that inhabit this misbegotten world. Though I am a preacher, a professor of historical theology, and the provost of a theological seminary, I have found it agonizingly difficult to come to terms with my brother’s death. It is one thing to talk about death in the abstract. It is entirely another to cope with the death of someone you love very, very much. The truth of the matter is that losing a loved one hurts down to the deepest parts of your soul.
I was the first to learn the news days later. Hearing those words announcing his death was like a blow to the solar plexus knocking the breath out of me, but telling the rest of my family was more dreadful. I had known heartache before, but this transcended every previous emotion I had ever experienced. My vision blurred. My feet were heavy and seemed to resist carrying me to the next room, where my family anxiously awaited the latest news of the rescue mission on Mount Hood. Kelly’s wife, Karen, the children, our mother, three brothers and a sister—they took the news hard. I have never heard weeping like I heard that night in the village at the foot of the mountain. The Bible sometimes refers to “wailing” as an especially forlorn kind of weeping. That is what I heard that night—wailing. I hope I never hear that sound again.
Death is ugly, and we cannot—indeed, should not—try to make it palatable or explain it away with pious platitudes. Death is a cruel, brutal, and fearsome trespasser into this world. It is an intruder and a thief. It has severed an irreplaceable relationship with my brother. We shared the same story, and he knew me in a way no other person did. Kelly would no longer return my calls. Never again would I hear him cheerfully mock me as “Frankie Baby.” Sometimes I see him in a dream, and I reach out to grasp him—but he is not there.
We are created for life, not death. Kelly had a shameless zest for living life to the fullest. When death strikes suddenly from the shadows or claws at us until the last breath, those left behind experience numbness and disorientation. Somehow we know in our hearts that it is not supposed to be this way.

Later in the article he asks the question Why would God let his brother freeze to death on that mountain? In his struggle he says this:

One of the profoundly difficult lessons is that amid all the spiritual consternation in the shadow of Mount Hood, God has manifested himself in my grief. Somehow he is found in the disappointment, the confusion, and the raw emotions. This does not exactly make sense to me, and I’m quite sure I don’t like it. But I have felt the divine gravity pull me back toward God, even while I am dumbstruck by his hiddenness. My conception of faith has become Abrahamic—which is to say, I must trust God even though I do not understand him.

Dying on vacation


This is a re-post I thought very compelling. I find myself guilty of this…”at least” I’m not doing XYZ or ABC, like so’n’so…when if I have the eyes of God, I’ll realize that whatever I do to offend an almighty, is an offense, period. Enjoy!

If it were up to me, you’d be allowed to board an airplane based on how fast you took your shoes off in the security line. Clock a good time? You’re on the plane first! Slowly unlace waist high boots? You’ll board last.

It would be like the Olympics of airport security. And it would be awesome.

These are the kind of things I think about when I fly. If you follow me on twitter, and you really should, you know all of this. You know that last Saturday I tweeted about the four year old next to me who shook his sippy cup like he had just won the NBA Championship. Milk flew on my book and my face. It was a scene man, a real scene.

Eventually the flight attendant stepped in when the kid made a play for the fire extinguisher and the bullhorn. Party time!

But that kid wasn’t even the most interesting thing that happened on that flight. There was an officer in the army sitting on the other side of me. He was flying back to Afghanistan and said something that really surprised me. I asked him what was one of the biggest misconceptions about Afghanistan and here’s what he told me:

“We statistically lose more 18-25 year old soldiers when they go home for R&R than we do in combat in the field.”

That surprised me. If you asked me which was more dangerous, being in the middle of an armed conflict in Afghanistan or going home for a few weeks of rest and relaxation, I’d pick the first option. But the more the army officer explained it, the more it made sense.

“What sometimes happens is that you have folks that go back home after being out of the country for months at a time. They’re flush with cash, haven’t been in a lot of social situations lately and think they’re out of danger.”

They buy motorcycles and crash them. They make crazy financial situations that wreck them. They get in DUIs. In a million different ways they make the kind of mistakes that can ruin you. All at home. All on vacation.

The more I listened to him, the more the story started to sound familiar. In fact, I think we do a similar thing with our faith sometimes.

We all know the “neon sins” we’re not supposed to do. We all know the big things we should avoid like the plague. Adultery, murder, money laundering, robbing banks, chances are if I suggested we shouldn’t do those things you’d agree. There’s nothing groundbreaking about that. But sometimes we play the “at least game.”

My friend reminded me of this a few years ago. I told him I felt like I was struggling with some lust issues. I told him I was feeling pretty wrecked by some decisions I was making. In the middle of our conversation he said,

“Yeah, but at least you’re not sleeping with hookers.”

That’s true, I wasn’t sleeping with hookers. I was avoiding some neon sins in my life. I wasn’t involved in prostitution. I was staying away from the combat zone types of sins, the at war in Afghanistan type of dangers. I was escaping the trenches in my life on the battlefield of my heart.

But I was dying on vacation.

I might not have been sleeping with hookers, but I was slowly wearing myself away with lust and pornography. My death might not have been dramatic or extreme, like a rocket-propelled grenade from an enemy, but it was happening nonetheless. My faith had grown weak and comfortable. I wasn’t growing, I wasn’t being renewed, I was a adrift. And I don’t want that.

I don’t want “at least” faith.

I don’t want to find somebody who is worse off than me in order to feel better about me.

I don’t want to prepare and train and fight hard against the big enemies of my life, only to die in the middle of an ordinary weekday, during an ordinary vacation.

The battlefield is a scary place. We’re constantly reminded of that as pastors and friends alike give in to big terrifying foes. But in our desire to prepare for the battlefield bruises, in our focus on the big, loud, neon sins in our lives, let’s not lose sight of the little things.

Let’s let go of “at least” faith.

Let’s not die on vacation.

Read the whole post here.