Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Is belief in the Jesus of the Bible needed in order to be rightly related to God?

Here’s a good introductory lecture on the topic by Chad Gross, who blogs at Truthbomb Apologetics.

You can see the footnotes for his article on his blog.

The one criticism I have is that he seems to be quoting from John a lot, and he should have some sort of case for John being reliable. I would maybe cite the scholarly work of someone like Richard Bauckham, who thinks that John is not only based on eyewitness testimony, but was actually written by a disciple of Jesus named John. John is my favorite gospel, but skeptical NT critics critics are pretty hard on it. Of course, Chad was speaking in a church, so it’s understandable why he might not take the time to do that.

For those who don’t want to watch the video, here’s a good thought from J. Warner Wallace at Please Convince Me.

Excerpt:

A “just” God does justice, which means to punish or reward appropriately. In the Western tradition, we punish people for the actions they commit, but the extent of punishment is dependent also on the person’s mental state, and a person’s mental state is reflective of his or her beliefs. Premeditated murder is worse than manslaughter, and is punished more severely, and a hate crime is a sentencing enhancement that adds more punishment to the underlying crime. In both examples, a person’s beliefs are at play: the premeditated murderer has reflected on his choices and wants the victim dead; a hate crime reflects a belief that the rights of a member of the protected group are especially unworthy of respect. So, considering a person’s beliefs may well be relevant, especially if those beliefs have motivated the criminal behavior.

But the challenger’s mistake is even more fundamental. He is wrong to assert that people are condemned for not accepting the gospel. Christians believe that people are condemned for their sinful behavior – the “wages of sin is death” – not for what they fail to do. The quoted challenge is like saying that the sick man died of “not going to the doctor.” No, the person died of a specific condition – perhaps cancer or a heart attack – which a doctor might have been able to cure. So too with eternal punishment. No one is condemned for refusing to believe in Jesus. While Jesus can – and does – provide salvation for those who seek it, there is nothing unjust about not providing salvation to those who refuse to seek it. After all, we don’t normally feel obliged to help someone who has not asked for, and does not want, our assistance. So too the Creator has the right to withhold a gift – i.e. eternity spent in His presence – from those who would trample on the gift, and on the gift-giver.

The quoted assertion also demonstrates an unspoken belief that we can impress God with our “kind” or “generous” behavior. This fails to grasp what God is – a perfect being. We cannot impress Him. What we do right we should do. We don’t drag people into court and reward them for not committing crimes. This is expected of them. They can’t commit a murder and then claim that punishment is unfair, because they had been kind and generous in the past. When a person gets his mind around the idea of what perfection entails, trying to impress a perfect Creator with our “basic goodness” no longer seems like such a good option.

If you want to hear a debate featuring exclusivists versus pluralists, I’ve got a podcast and a summary of a good debate on this issue between Chris Sinkinson and John Hick. You can’t find a more prominent pluralist than John Hick, except for maybe Paul Knitter, who is featured in a debate with Harold Netland in the new “Debating Christian Theism” book that is just out with Oxford University Press.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , ,

Is belief in the Jesus of the Bible needed in order to be rightly related to God?

Here’s a good introductory lecture on the topic by Chad Gross, who blogs at Truthbomb Apologetics.

You can see the footnotes for his article on his blog.

The one criticism I have is that he seems to be quoting from John a lot, and he should have some sort of case for John being reliable. I would maybe cite the scholarly work of someone like Richard Bauckham, who thinks that John is not only based on eyewitness testimony, but was actually written by a disciple of Jesus named John. John is my favorite gospel, but skeptical NT critics critics are pretty hard on it. Of course, Chad was speaking in a church, so it’s understandable why he might not take the time to do that.

For those who don’t want to watch the video, here’s a good thought from J. Warner Wallace at Please Convince Me.

Excerpt:

A “just” God does justice, which means to punish or reward appropriately. In the Western tradition, we punish people for the actions they commit, but the extent of punishment is dependent also on the person’s mental state, and a person’s mental state is reflective of his or her beliefs. Premeditated murder is worse than manslaughter, and is punished more severely, and a hate crime is a sentencing enhancement that adds more punishment to the underlying crime. In both examples, a person’s beliefs are at play: the premeditated murderer has reflected on his choices and wants the victim dead; a hate crime reflects a belief that the rights of a member of the protected group are especially unworthy of respect. So, considering a person’s beliefs may well be relevant, especially if those beliefs have motivated the criminal behavior.

But the challenger’s mistake is even more fundamental. He is wrong to assert that people are condemned for not accepting the gospel. Christians believe that people are condemned for their sinful behavior – the “wages of sin is death” – not for what they fail to do. The quoted challenge is like saying that the sick man died of “not going to the doctor.” No, the person died of a specific condition – perhaps cancer or a heart attack – which a doctor might have been able to cure. So too with eternal punishment. No one is condemned for refusing to believe in Jesus. While Jesus can – and does – provide salvation for those who seek it, there is nothing unjust about not providing salvation to those who refuse to seek it. After all, we don’t normally feel obliged to help someone who has not asked for, and does not want, our assistance. So too the Creator has the right to withhold a gift – i.e. eternity spent in His presence – from those who would trample on the gift, and on the gift-giver.

The quoted assertion also demonstrates an unspoken belief that we can impress God with our “kind” or “generous” behavior. This fails to grasp what God is – a perfect being. We cannot impress Him. What we do right we should do. We don’t drag people into court and reward them for not committing crimes. This is expected of them. They can’t commit a murder and then claim that punishment is unfair, because they had been kind and generous in the past. When a person gets his mind around the idea of what perfection entails, trying to impress a perfect Creator with our “basic goodness” no longer seems like such a good option.

If you want to hear a debate featuring exclusivists versus pluralists, I’ve got a podcast and a summary of a good debate on this issue between Chris Sinkinson and John Hick. You can’t find a more prominent pluralist than John Hick, except for maybe Paul Knitter, who is featured in a debate with Harold Netland in the new “Debating Christian Theism” book that is just out with Oxford University Press.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , ,

What is the meaning of Advent? Why do Christians celebrate Advent?

Calendar of Christian Holidays and festivals

Calendar of Christian Holidays and festivals

Advent is:

Advent is the season that begins the liturgical year. It consists of four Sundays starting with the Sunday closest to November 30th. The word advent is derived from the Latin adventus, which means “coming” or “arrival.” In the societies of the Roman empire, the word adventus referred to the arrival of a person of dignity and great power — a king, emperor, or even one of the gods. For Christians, Advent is the time when the church patiently prepares for the coming of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. On a personal spiritual level, Advent is a time when we should long for a new breaking in of God’s Spirit upon us.

Here is a good post about the story of Advent by Rev. Donald Sensing at Sense of Events blog.

Excerpt:

They were not a wealthy couple. They got by all right in Nazareth because Joseph was a carpenter, a skilled job, but he didn’t make enough money for the finer things of life. Like everyone else in their country, Joseph and Mary relied heavily on their extended families to help them get through the lean times. And when they were doing well, there was always a third cousin or an aunt twice removed who wasn’t, so they helped as much as they could.

To say it was inconvenient to leave Nazareth to travel to Bethlehem would be the greatest of understatements. They had not counted on leaving Nazareth before the child was born. In fact, they didn’t think they would leave Nazareth ever. But a decree had gone out from the Roman emperor that the whole empire would have to pay a special tax. For some reason, the rulers of Judea decided that they may as well take a census while they were at it. Because of the tribal and clannish nature of society, the authorities ordered everyone to go to their ancestral hometowns to be counted and pay the tax.

Protests that some people could not make the trip, such as the aged and infirm, were simply met with rebuff. So Mary, very late in pregnancy, was compelled to schlep down the Jordan River valley on the back of a donkey. The journey by road was about ninety miles, plus having to climb more than 1,300 feet in altitude, so the trip took more than a week. You can’t travel fast leading a donkey on foot carrying a very pregnant woman.

They arrived in Bethlehem on yom rishon, which simply means, “the first day of the week,” the Jews having a specific name for a day of the week only for the Sabbath, the last day of the week. On the Sabbath, they had not traveled because religious law forbade long-distance travel on that day. Besides, they had needed the rest. So on Sunday afternoon, yom rishon, they reached Bethlehem, just one couple among hundreds of families arriving for the census.

Joseph was a lineal descendant of King David, whose hometown had been Bethlehem. Joseph never made too much of his royal ancestry. Certainly, he was not the only descendant of David, and just as certainly, Joseph never thought about claiming the ancient throne. The Jews had lived under foreign domination for hundreds of years, first by the Greeks and then the Romans. The idea of regaining political independence was simply absurd. There was no way successfully to fight the Roman army, as dozens of Mediterranean nations had discovered.

The little town of Bethlehem lacked the infrastructure to cope with a large influx of people needing to stay for several days at a minimum. The early arrivers had gained lodging with relatives, but the small houses filled up fast. There were few inns in the town that had filled well before Joseph and Mary got to town.

Joseph tried to gain lodging at an inn, but the owner was unyielding. He explained that to take them in, he’d have to throw someone else out. He would not have such dishonor on his head, pregnant Mary or no.

“Try the outside of town,” the man said. “There may be a few homes there with space for a kinsman.”

Click here to read the rest. This is a good post to send to people who don’t know what Christmas is about.

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