The Book That Made Your World: Review and Summary

Photo Cred: http://www.revelationmovement.com

After taking over a month off, I finally have another blog-post finished. Except this one here was commissioned by a friend at my local church, Peace Mennonite Community Church, and this friend, Marjorie, asked me to do a book review, along with a short summary of The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi. To be honest, I had never heard of him or his oddly titled book, but I went for it and thoroughly enjoyed it for the most part. There were a few minor issues I had with the book, but they are too minut to mention every single one in detail.

Primarily, my issues with the book were either grammatical spelling errors (i.e. “bcome” vs. “become”) or jumps in logic to unproven conclusions. Yet, those issues were brief and were my only nitpicks with the book itself. There was also the fact that it reads like an encyclopedia of information as it goes from subject to subject like a textbook of sorts, but I guess there was no way around that problem either considering what this book is actually about in the first place.

Mangalwadi’s The Book That Made Your World is a very informative take on the Bible’s influence in twenty key areas of the human experience. From the origins of science to the concept of compassion and forgiveness in the face of utter barbarism in the early first century. It’s aim was to show how the Bible has shaped and literally made the West in some of the most profound ways imaginable, and even in some ways unexpectedly. In that respect, the book succeeds on that front, but does tend to lack the artistic appeal of more expressive writers.

The book begins with how the Bible was crucial in the conceptual development of the human soul. Comparing both Johann Sebastian Bach and Nirvana’s lead singer, Kurt Cobain, we see a stark contrast in their lives and striking similarities. Bach’s biblical upbringing versus Cobain’s Buddhism which led to his belief in Nihilism later in life.

For Bach, his worldview produced some of the most celebrated classical music of all time that gave a sense of hope to its audience as they admired the art of his compositions. For Cobain, his worldview led to producing music that bears nothing meaningful or worthwhile in substance. The soul can express itself best through music and music allows us to see into the souls of one another. The Bible shapes our souls into redeemed wretches, while its absence allows our souls to rot in utter decay. On the one hand, everlasting life and on the other hand, a life that left too soon.

The next chapter focuses on the biblical value of service when compared to other worldviews. Drawing from his own experiences growing up in India, Mangalwadi explains how someone who lives out the statutes of the Bible in a real-world way will see their whole outlook on life change as they do less for themselves and more for others in the name of Christ. While others worry about getting to the other side where the grass is always greener, Christ compels His followers to seek out those whose grass is not so green and to help them flourish as they soak in the love of the Son. The world promotes self-love for our own good, but Christ commands selfless love as we serve others for the greater good.

Mangalwadi continues into more particular ways in which the Bible has influenced and helped make the modern West by going into the quest of life, along with our role in that quest as free creatures. The Bible helped give humans the ultimate quest in life: to be known by God, to know God, and to make God known. In the same respect, it also gives us a true sense of self as we now know that we are neither equal to God nor to a dog, but rather exist in the middle of the spiritual and the natural as the best of both realms. We are free creatures that create like our Creator and yet are the cherry on top of Creation itself. He asserts that “I am a creative creature” and a free one at that too as we journey on our unique quests into the unknown reaches of what truly makes us human. As we draw close to God, we at the same token draw close to a proper understanding of ourselves in light of His light: the Word of God.

From here, Mangalwadi touches on our humanity and rationality as self-conscious beings. When it comes to humanity in particular, the Bible was the very spark that ignited the Renaissance, along with the reintroduced idea of human dignity. Even in the most cruel cases of people living in rejection to God in history, our human dignity cannot be erased from the human consciousness. It remains an ever-present element in our lives as a mark that we were made for more.

For rationality, the greatest movements post-11th Century Europe all involved in some shape or form a strong emphasis on learning, especially through reading and writing. But this can be traced back to Augustine, Boethius, William Tyndale, and other brights that sought to bring the truths of Scripture to the commoner who lived in ignorance. It was men like these who brought about new generations of free thinkers that could now test the claims of the corrupt and powerful.

When it came to the advancements of technology throughout the ages, a notable scholar, Ernst Benz, clearly pinpoints the four key ways that a Judeo-Christian worldview helped the development of technology on a worldwide scale. His reasoning can be summarized below by Mangalwadi himself in the following quote:

“First, the Bible emphasized intelligent craftsmanship in the world’s design. Second, the Bible suggested that human beings participate in divine workmanship by being good artisans themselves. Third, the Bible taught that we follow divine example when we use the physical universe for righteous ends. And fourth, the Bible challenged the West to use time wisely, because each moment is a valuable, one-time opportunity (P. 97).”

In short, most of the most important inventions of the last several centuries can be attributed to a Biblical worldview that fueled the passion of many inventors over time. These inventions include the lateen sail, the wheeled plow, the horse as a tool in the workforce, the water mill, the windmill, the crank, the wheelbarrow, the flywheel, the pipe organ, the mechanical clock, eyeglasses, and dozens of other inventions that are the basis of Western technological advancements.

The idea of a hero has changed as the culture in Western society has transformed with the passing of time. The classical hero exemplified the traits that would be expected of the Greco-Roman mentality and that meant powerful leverage over others, whether politically, militarily, or any other barbaric means necessary to control those beneath you. The medieval hero was the next idea of heroism and they sought glory, skill, prowess, loyalty, generosity, and courtesy. This eventually led to what is known as religious chivalry and this was basically the equivalent of placing a spiritual mask onto a sinful practice. That is, that fighting for the LORD would guarantee salvation, which was a lie and this idea has evolved into what is known today and what I like to call “good-person salvation.” The idea that because someone “lives a good life” and is a “good person,” that they will inherit eternal life in Heaven. As this idea flourished over the years, it was the Reformers of the 15th and 16th centuries who brought back the idea of true heroism. A heroism based off of Christ himself and His selfless sacrifice for his enemies. This is the backbone behind what most people refer to in Western society as a real hero: someone who is sacrificial, loving, true, and giving to those in need.

A true revolution is one that either goes back to the way things were or changes the culture into something better. The Protestant Reformation was one of the most influential revolutions because it did both. This revolution was different in a sense from other revolutions in that it started from the top and worked its way down. Starting in universities and growing in pubs all across Europe, this revolution stood firmly on God’s Word as its source of reform. It consisted of a team of ragtag “heretics” who just wanted the Word to be the final say in the World, even greater than the Pope. The result of the revolution? Two Bible translations for the commoner, the Geneva and the KJV, along with the most powerful force in any society: an informed public.

The Bible also changed the way the West developed both our language and our literature as time went on. For instance, due to the efforts of several key missionaries like William Carey, Joshua Marshman, and William Ward, India finally had a national language, instead of hundreds of languages and their nuances that were dependent on their geographical or demographic state. When it came to literature, the Bible has influenced countless writers varying from William Shakespeare to even the immigrants on the Mayflower that sailed to find home in the New World. The Book of books forever changed the way we communicate through whatever medium we choose to do so.

In light of this, there was also the profound effect that the Bible had on both the development of the university system and on the scientific method as a whole. As history shows, a good portion of cathedrals and monasteries became universities as Christians at the time believed that we ought to relearn our knowledge of nature. A knowledge that supposedly Adam and Eve had before the Fall as they daily walked with God. Even modern day universities were founded by Christians like Cambridge, Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, and even Yale.

In regards to science, a firm belief in the Bible and God was the very cornerstone of science in general.  John Lennox, professor of mathematics at Oxford University, once said concerning the debate over science and religion that “far from belief in god hindering science, it was the motor that drove it.” At first, science was referred to as natural philosophy and natural history as it branched out from theology. This is because “the scientific perspective flowered in Europe as an outworking of medieval biblical theology nurtured by the Church. Theologians pursued science for biblical reasons” (P. 223).

Francis Oakley has taken the time to observe and validate this claim between the laws of nature (science) and its origin in a Bible-believing culture in his essay entitled Christian Theology and Newtonian Science: The Rise of the Concept of the Laws of Nature (The American Society of Church History, 1961). Later Mangalwadi asserts that “science was born in the university-an institution invented by the church” (P. 229). Some notable founders of science who were also Christians include Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Nicolaus Copernicus, Robert Boyle, Albertus Magnus, Francis Bacon, and many more as pointed out by Elaine Howard Ecklund in her book Science vs Religion: What Scientists Really Think (2010).

Morality is another way in which the Bible sculpted the Western way of living, in that there was a return to a more civilized society every time a movement was led by the Holy Spirit and not by the hearsay of men. One notable time that Mangalwadi points out is John Wesley and his impact on England and the surrounding area as a preacher and social activist. Reminding people that there is a moral law written on the tablet of our hearts. This effect can also be seen when comparing Holland and India in the way the Bible’s influence, or the lack thereof, in both these respective countries.

In this day and age, the idea of family is under serious investigation and scrutiny in the West, due to the rise in awareness of the LGBT+ movement that preaches that all sexual expressions of love are love. That no matter the combination of sexual partners, it still counts as equal to the original idea of what a family looks like. In the Christian worldview, the monogamous family structure is central to what is directly taught in Scripture. Because of this model of the ideal family structure of one man and one woman in a mutually consensual relationship raising the next generation, the West thrived socially as the culture could rightly live in light of the original intent of life on Earth. The Bible gave Western society a firm foundation to build a better world and that foundation was a proper understanding of the most functional family structure: the monogamous family.

Shifting his focus, Mangalwadi then pinpoints another key in the difference between those places that are influenced by the Bible and those that are not with the fact that compassion is an essential outpouring of Christian living. Unlike America for example, India has the karmic belief that the needy do not need to be helped because they have received what they sowed. Justice has had its way and the best thing is to let the needy sort out their karmic threads on their own without the aid of the more fortunate. Yet Christ taught numerously that we ought to love our neighbor as ourselves, to help the poor, to serve the downtrodden, and to not neglect the needs of the weakest links in our own societies. Compassion is a key outpouring of God’s Word penetrating the hearts of humans as they live out what Christ taught. It is for this reason that Christians have made the most homeless shelters, hospitals, and orphanages than any other religious system in history by a long shot.

Concerning wealth, Mangalwadi argues that capitalism is a direct result of the Bible’s influence on the West in the economic sense. He believes that because of this influence, it created brilliant inventors like Cyrus McCormick who grew up in a home that had strong Protestant influences like John Calvin and other Reformers. Later on, he makes the statement that “ambition is good, but it becomes greed when separated from moral absolutes (P. 321).” The idea of a free market economy and saving wealth for later, instead of either hiding it or throwing it away on quick pleasures. This specific chapter covers a lot of other ground too like foreign markets and the history of capitalism in the West.

Jumping off of the free market section of the book, Mangalwadi ends the book going over the biblical ideas of liberty from all forms of oppression, the effect of missions work such as that done for the Hmars tribe, and ends with where the West is going now that these biblical principles are being abandoned in favor of other, more tolerant, worldviews. In summary, the Bible is the most influential book of all time and Mangalwadi does a pretty good job of showcasing that truth in this book. There is a lot of good information in this book and it’s worth the read for any who are curious on the subject matter. Suffice to say, the Bible is the book that made your world. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

What are the Judeo-Christian Essentials?

Photo Cred: The Four Posts of Avila, Spain (1566) by Francisco de Arellano

Through the years of Christian development and especially in recent times, there has been a dwindling of understanding concerning what exactly makes someone a follower of Christ. What is a Christian really? What does someone need to believe and do in order to adopt such a distinct worldview like Judeo-Christianity? What separates a Christian from a Muslim or a Mormon? With all of these questions in mind, let us look at what others have laid out as the absolutely essential tenets of Judeo-Christianity and see if it is a biblical understanding of what makes someone a Christian and others non-Christian.

Most sources you find will list out 5 to 7 essentials that must be affirmed in order to be a Christian. For instance, gotquestions.org says that there are 7 Essentials (1), yet the Gospel Coalition has up to 20 Essentials (2)! Specifically, 10 Essential beliefs and 10 Essential behaviors as written by Kevin DeYoung, respectfully. But are there truly this many Essentials or are we misunderstanding what an Essential actually is in Judeo-Christianity? I think we should start by identifying what an Essential is before pinpointing how many Essentials there are and what they actually entail.

An Essential is a fundamental core value, whether a deed or doctrine, that if removed from the other fundamental core values of any given belief system, would completely cause that belief system to collapse entirely. Islam, for example, has the 5 Pillars of Islam (3) that indicate the basic tenets of the faith that make someone a Muslim as they are the Islamic Essentials. These 5 Pillars of Islam include the Shahada (Profession of Faith), the Salat (Daily Five Prayers), the Zakat (Giving of Alms), the Saum (Fasting of Ramadan), and the Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca). If a Muslim does not affirm the Shahada, the other 4 Pillars are useless. If a Muslim does not affirm all 5 Pillars, then their Islamic belief should be called into question for either heresy or ignorance.

Now can or does Judeo-Christianity have a small list of criteria that distinguishes Christians from other belief systems? Yes and for Christians there are even less Essentials than Islam. In fact, I would argue that Judeo-Christianity has only 4 Essentials. Not 5 Essentials, not 7 Essentials, and certainly not 20 Essentials. These 4 Essentials are the Nature of God, the Hypostatic Union of Christ, the Gospel, and the Inspiration of Scripture. Let me explain each one individually in further detail below and show why there are only 4 Essentials at the root of Judeo-Christianity. I refer to them as the “Four Cornerstones of Christianity,” but we will stick to the Judeo-Christian Essentials for simplicity sake. First of the Judeo-Christian Essentials is the nature of God.

1) The Nature of God

 

The nature of God is comprised of 2 unique doctrines: Monotheism and Trinitarianism. The belief of Monotheism affirms God’s unique oneness and the idea that there is only one God (4), while Trinitarianism affirms God’s tri-unity as three persons, yet one being (5). As Dr. Michael Brown would put it, God is “complex in His unity” (6) and this truth is best known as the doctrine of the Trinity. Now the Judeo-Christian Essential regarding the nature of God also includes His divine attributes as He is omnibenevolent (all-loving), omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (all-enveloping), and omniscient (all-knowing). To be more precise, God is uncaused, eternal, immaterial, non-contingent, non-physical, and personal. I believe St. Anselm of Canterbury sums up God’s divine essence best when he concludes in his Ontological Argument the following:

“Therefore, if that than which nothing greater can be conceived exists in the understanding alone, the very being than which nothing greater can be conceived is one than which a greater can be conceived. But obviously this is impossible. Hence there is no doubt that there exists a being than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality” (7).

Suffice to say, we Christians believe God to be indescribable in His grand majesty that is beyond human comprehension, yet He is near to all who seek Him with sincere hearts. He is the one, true, triune God and His presence is even still so near to our souls in this life, along with the life to come one day for all who seek His face. But how does God, of such glorious splendor and goodness, interact with His Creation? How could a deity bridge the gap between finite minds and His infinite mind? Well, that leads us to the second Judeo-Christian Essential: the Hypostatic Union of Christ.

2) The Hypostatic Union of Christ

 

The hypostatic union of Christ is similarly divided into 2 distinct sub-Essentials: that Jesus is both fully God (8) and fully man (9). Hypostatic originally means “personal,” so the hypostatic union of Christ really means the personal union of Christ. In this case, the personal union of two natures within the person that is Jesus.

At certain points in time (10), Jesus adopted a second nature, a human nature, with the sole purpose of bridging this gap between Creator and Creation. As the ultimate mediator, Jesus inhabits the best of these two natures. He is both the only good God and the only sinless man. He is the mediating messiah who has taken the task of healing the world from the sin in the Garden of Eden and is, at the same time, the ultimate human ambassador for the holy Godhead (11).

If His deity is denied, then you find yourself aligned with cults that deviated from Judeo-Christianity like the Latter Day Saints, Jehovah Witnesses, and large portions of the Church of God Movement. These cults most likely came from early historical heresies like adoptionism, arianism, nestorianism, and the like. If His humanity is denied, then you find yourself conforming to some heretical views such as docetism, apollinarianism, eutychianism, and so forth misunderstandings about the Hypostatic Union (12). Needless to say, Scripture is quite clear that Jesus is both fully God and fully man.

If Jesus was not fully man, then He could not be the unblemished sacrifice that atoned for the sins of the world. If Jesus was not fully God, then He could not be the Messiah that the Old Testament proclaims will enter the world and save it from itself. Jesus fully inhabits both natures and if we do not believe this Essential truth, then Judeo-Christianity collapses as a worldview. Jesus is one person with two different natures that are in complete harmony. These two natures are not contradictory, but complementary. Understanding the God-man is the second Essential of Judeo-Christianity and the next Essential is the Gospel.

3) The Gospel

 

The Gospel is grounded both in the historical reliability of the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead back to life (13), along with the theological understanding that salvation is by God’s grace, not of works, and because of Christ’s atonement on the Cross (14). We will first observe the biblical and theological side of the Gospel, before going into the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus as it is the definitive Judeo-Christian foundation of our faith.

Now there are many quick ways to understand the Gospel, so we will observe the two most common explanations that reveal what the Gospel message is and why it is an Essential in Judeo-Christianity. When it comes to understanding the message of the Gospel, Scripture paints the best picture. The most common Scriptural guide in understanding the Gospel is the infamous “Romans Road.” The “Romans Road” goes as follows:

The Romans Road

  • Romans 3:23 (Everyone has sinned and are fallen)
  • Romans 6:23b (Sin leads to death and therefore everyone who has sinned will die)
  • Romans 5:8 (God gives grace and Jesus pays our sin debt)
  • Romans 10:9 (Salvation to all who confess that Jesus is LORD and believe that God raised Him from the dead)
  • Romans 10:13 (Whoever calls on the LORD will be saved)
  • Romans 5:1 (We are justified by faith and now have peace with God)
  • Romans 8:1 (We are no longer condemned to Hell for our sin)
  • Romans 8:38-39 (Nothing can remove this seal of salvation and our salvation is sealed by the love of God)

Now the “Romans Road” is a great resource to use in evangelistic settings, which many believers do, but not all of us can memorize or remember that many passages of Scripture on the spot. So, how do we Christians explain the Gospel in a shorter and more straightforward way? Well, here is the other way to explain the Gospel that summarizes the truths of Scripture in a briefer way:

The 4-Point Gospel Message

  • Creation: God created everything, including us, and it was good.
  • Condemnation: Adam sinned and we inherit his sin debt now that everything is bad.
  • Propitiation: Jesus atoned and paid our sin debt, making those that repent and believe free from the condemnation.
  • Salvation: We receive new life in Christ and enjoy living for the LORD now until forever.

Because the Gospel in it’s biblical and theological sense is so simple to comprehend, as it should be, we will move onto the historicity of the resurrection since it carries so much weight in the defense of Judeo-Christian thought. For another Scriptural explanation of the Gospel in the form of a video, I would refer you to David Wood’s great YouTube video on “What is the Gospel?” (15). Bottom line: when it comes to the Gospel, keep it Scriptural and simple. That’s what Jesus did and that’s we, His followers, will continue to do until the end of the age.

As Paul the Apostle once said, if Christ did not rise from the dead, then our faith is in vain (16) and thus if we cannot defend this claim, then our faith is in jeopardy. When it comes to defending the resurrection of Jesus, there are many approaches to take and ways to go about supporting this quintessential truth in Judeo-Christianity. Some might use extrabiblical sources or manuscript evidence, but I like to keep this just as simple as a Gospel presentation and use basic logic. I have a three point argument called “The Resurrection Argument From Reason” that concludes the resurrection of Jesus to be the most logical explanation of the historical evidence. This argument goes as follows:

The Resurrection Argument From Reason

  • The empty tomb of Jesus is due to either the apparent death theory, the conspiracy theory, the displaced theory, the hallucination theory, or the resurrection theory.
  • Based off of the historical evidence, it is not due to the apparent death theory, the conspiracy theory, the displaced theory, or the hallucination theory.
  • Therefore, it is due to the resurrection theory.

Now this is a very short argument that is inspired by analytic philosopher William Lane Craig and his “A Case for the Historicity of Jesus’ Resurrection” argument, as well as the contributions of New Testament scholar Gary Habermas. For more information regarding the resurrection of Jesus, I would point you to both William Lane Craig’s book, On Guard, where his previously mentioned argument can be found and to the book, Did the Resurrection Really Happen?, which is the written version of the third and final debate between Gary Habermas and former atheist Antony Flew concerning the resurrection. Last of the Essentials is the inspiration of Scripture.

4) The Inspiration of Scripture

 

The inspiration of Scripture is the final Essential and it is the root belief that guides the belief of the inerrancy of Scripture and at the same time, gives us Christians the other 3 Essentials. In order to understand biblical inerrancy, we must properly understand biblical inspiration. If the Bible was not divinely inspired, then why should we believe the Bible to be inerrant as the infallible Word of God?

The idea of inspiration can be traced far back in history to the Israelites and their beloved fondness for the Torah, as it was the very Word of God that inspired Moses to write those first five books of the Bible. It was the Law that the Hebrews lived by and this was the start of the canon of Scripture. Since then, that understanding of the holy canon of Scripture now includes the entirety of the Old and New Testaments. Once belief in the inspiration of Scripture is established, we can then conclude the inerrancy of Scripture.

We believe the Bible to be God’s inerrant Word for a number of reasons. When it comes to presenting said reasons the Bible must be inspired, I have both an argument and an acronym from Charlie Campbell (17) that will aid in remembering key reasons to believe the Bible to be the inspired and the inerrant Word of God. First, we’ll observe my own argument for the inerrancy of Scripture below:

The Inerrancy of Scripture Argument

  • The inerrancy of Scripture is due to either chance, divine inspiration, or human manipulation.
  • It is not due to chance or human manipulation.
  • Therefore, it is due to divine inspiration.

With this in mind, the divine inspiration of the Bible logically infers the inerrancy of God’s Word. If God was behind the scenes guiding the process of developing the canon of Scripture, then why can we not conclude that it is without error? Can we empirically prove that because the Bible is inspired, that it is also inerrant? Using the Charlie Campbell’s M. A. P. S. acronym, we can do just that. The M. A. P. S. acronym goes as follows:

  • M = Manuscript Evidence
  • A = Authors’ Forthrightness About Failures
  • P = Persecution Endured By The Early Christians
  • S = Son of God’s View of Scripture

In short, we Christians believe the Bible to be God’s inspired Word because Jesus believed it was and not the other way around. Because we believe it is inspired by God, we also believe it to be God’s inerrant Word. We support this claim with the M. A. P. S. method of providing evidence. Our understanding of the other 3 Essentials hinges on our understanding of this final Essential.

Like the above picture, the 4 Essentials of Judeo-Christianity all work together and uphold the very essence of what Judeo-Christianity is as a whole. Everything is built off of these four key pillars of our faith. If you remove one pillar, the whole worldview collapses.

Therefore, just as a Muslim has the 5 Pillars of Islam, we too have the 4 Pillars of Christianity. When you understand the foundation for Christianity, then you will understand the Christian faith. When you understand why you believe what you believe, then defending what you believe is that much easier. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.gotquestions.org/essentials-Christian-faith.html
  2. https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2013/09/12/what-are-the-essentials-of-the-christian-faith/
  3. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/world-history/medieval-times/islam-intro/a/the-five-pillars-of-islam
  4. Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 43:10-13, 1 Corinthians 8:4b-6, Galatians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:5
  5. Genesis 1:26, 3:22-23, 11:7, Isaiah 6:8, Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19-20; 2 Corinthians 13:14
  6. The Real Kosher Jesus (P. 134-135). See also Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus Vol. 2: Theological Objections (P. 3-14) by Michael Brown for a theological understanding of the Christian Trinity in response to Orthodox Judaism, along with The Forgotten Trinity by James White for an exegetical understanding.
  7. https://www.princeton.edu/~grosen/puc/phi203/ontological.html
  8. John 1:1-3, 10:30; 20:28-31
  9. John 1:14, Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:14-18
  10. Genesis 14:17-20, 16:7-14, 18:1-33, 22:11-18,  32:24-30, Exodus 24:9-11, Joshua 5:13-15, Judges 6:11-25, Daniel 3:23-28; John 1:14-18
  11. In his book Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth, John MacArthur & co. make the following statement regarding Jesus being an ambassador or messenger of the Godhead: “When the biblical account associates “the angel of the LORD” with a theophany, “messenger” might provide a better translation than “angel,” because this title denotes the function or office of the individual, not his nature. In addition, the Scripture speaks of him [the angel of the LORD] as actually being God. He bears the name “LORD,” he speaks as God, and he displays divine attributes and authority. Most significantly, however, he receives worship (Matt. 2:2, 11, 14:33, 28:9, 17). Given what John 1:18 says about the Son-that “no one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” -the appearances of God in the Old Testament must have been the Son, not the Father. The phrase “made him known” in Greek (exégeomai) is the word from which we derive the verb exegete and its cognate noun, exegesis. Literally, the Son of God “exegeted” the Father to mankind (P. 241).”
  12. http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/historic-heresies-related-to-the-nature-of-jesus/
  13. John 2:19-22, 1 Corinthians 15:1-22; Galatians 1:6-9
  14. John 14:6, Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9
  15. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0maL4cQ8zuU
  16. 1 Corinthians 15:13-14
  17. Scrolls & Stones: Compelling Evidence the Bible Can Be Trusted (P. 93). See also The Canon of Scripture by F. F. Bruce and From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible by Norman Geisler & William E. Nix for more information on biblical inspiration and biblical inerrancy.

Is the Holy Spirit a girl?: Matriarchal Christianity Examined

Photo Cred: Janet McGrath (1)

 

This question is deeply rooted in a problem that relates to the context of Scripture. By context, I mean to say the historical record, the culture and the time period the text was written in, along with the grammatical prose that reflects the author’s intent. In simpler terms, this question stems from a misunderstanding of the difference between eisegesis and exegesis.

The practice of eisegesis is when one projects their own biases and ideas onto whatever text they are reading or studying. The practice of exegesis is when one finds the original meaning of a text they are reading or studying based on its original context. Eisegesis means “to guide into” the text (subjective interpretation), while exegesis means “to guide out of” the text (objective interpretation). With this in mind, let’s quickly observe what Scripture says concerning the gender or sexuality of God in the Bible and examine the claims of Matriarchal Christianity against God’s Word.

In the Bible, there are certain verses and passages that reveal the nature of God and how He chose to reveal Himself in a tangible way for us humans to comprehend. Now, is God a man? No, God is not a man and neither is He a woman. God is not a physical being, so He does not have the physical characteristics that are typically associated with a man or a woman (i.e. anatomy, chromosomes, cognitive function, DNA, etc). In fact, God is beyond the bounds of His own Creation and is free of those specific characteristics that are distinct to both men and women. God is an uncaused being that is eternal, immaterial, non-contingent, non-physical, and personally caused the universe into existence.

With that said, what we find in Scripture is numerous references to the Holy Spirit in the masculine sense. This can be seen in various places such as Isaiah 64:4, Romans 8:26, and 1 Corinthians 12:11, for instance. Yet, we also find allegory and prose that alludes to God bearing feminine characteristics (2) as well, so how do we reconcile the two differing views of God?

Before answering this, we must deduce some simple truths. First off, is God sovereign over all His Creation? Yes. Okay, did the Holy Spirit inspire the authors of the various books within the Bible to clearly and perfectly relay His message truthfully? Yes. Next, if God is sovereign, if the Holy Spirit is God (3), and He had direct control over the development of the Bible, then why did the Holy Spirit choose to associate masculine terminology to Himself?

Because the masculine sense is God’s preferred gender pronoun and best portrays God’s nature to mere humans like us. Think about it. If God wanted us to attribute the feminine sense to Himself as a tri-unity of persons, then He would have made the distinction clear. But, as Scripture overwhelmingly supports, God has chosen to and prefers to be referred to in the masculine sense. The Trinity consists of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. It does not consist of the Father, the Son, and the Mother.

So for us in the 21st century to incorrectly associate God in the feminine sense is crass and a gross misrepresentation of who God is within all three of the Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Judaism, & Judeo-Christianity). In order to properly understand the text in the Bible, we should allow context to dictate our conclusions, not our culture. In order to know who God is, we should hear and read what He is referred to in Scripture. Projecting our culture onto another culture’s original understanding of God is foolish to say the least.

As believers in Christ, we should have a proper knowledge of God and understand who He reveals Himself to be and the manner He chooses to do so. On the other hand, non-believers should respectfully understand both the historical record and the cultural atmosphere that encompasses the origins of Judeo-Christianity, in order to properly understand who the Christian God is both then and now in this present age. Cultures and interpretations change, but context, the intent of the ultimate author, and meaning will always remain the same when we understand the text. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. http://jmcgrathart.blogspot.com/2013/03/something-new-for-me-my-first-stab-at.html
  2. Judges 14:6 and other references to the Holy Spirit in the original Hebrew of the book of Judges use the feminine verb for “came upon” as we see it in modern English. Also, Matthew 23:37 is another example where those that support the view of Matriarchal Christianity reference as evidence of this idea. Although, this is simply an analogy of how Christ describes his heart for the Jewish people and how He longs to care for them like a mother hen. For more information on Matriarchal Christianity, you can read more here: http://www.theology.edu/journal/volume3/spirit.htm.
  3. Acts 5:3-4

Blog Update: 2017 Q1

Photo Cred: University of New England

Hello people that are reading this blog and want to read more. Just a quick update as to what to look forward to in the future. For those who may be unaware, I am a screenwriter and a huge part of screenwriting is watching a lot of films, in order to sharpen my craft by learning from other artists. So within the next year, you will see some blog-posts related to film analysis and film theory, possibly even screenwriting tips if I feel like it. So there is that to look forward to from me to you.

Also, now that I have finished my time at film school and am in the process of writing both a book and a feature film script, my ability to blog more often should increase if you have not noticed already. My aim is to release two blog-posts a month at the bare minimum, while working on both of those projects for the foreseeable future. Those two projects I mentioned previously I will eventually be posting about as well when I get farther along on them.

On another note, I will be posting about the sport Strongman that I regularly train for and books that I have read that I would recommend to those who are interested. These two avenues of writing will be even less frequent than the film blog-posts as this is primarily a Judeo-Christian blog about a Judeo-Christian, so that will be the central focus of the site. In addition, I have a couple of serialized blog-posts that I will continue like the “Why I Am” series, the “Mentors That Made Me A Man” series, and will start some new ones when the time is right.

For those who may be a bit curious, here is a list of the next few blog-posts you will be seeing in the near future and a rough estimate of when they will be released:

  • The Dark Knight: A Scene Analysis (February)
  • Mentors That Made Me A Man: Joel Wheelersberg (February)
  • Is the Holy Spirit a Girl? (March)
  • Mentors That Made Me A Man: Andrew Morrison (March)
  • What are the Essentials of Judeo-Christianity? (March or April)

So there you have it! A lot of fun and exciting blog-stuff for you all to look forward to reading down the road. I hope that this website points you to Christ as you follow the life of one of His followers just trying to be a good and faithful servant! With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Leaving So Soon?

Photo Cred: Old Cottonwood Church by Todd Klassy

There is an epidemic in the church. This brewing problem has been growing exponentially since the 1950s when the youth culture truly took root in the West. It was a time of peace after WWII when the war for the hearts of the next generation flourished under the guise of prosperity and progress.

Whether that be the technological advancements, the race relations that led to the Civil Rights Movement, or the sexual revolution that changed the way we process perversity versus pleasure. This generation, my generation especially, has been in the process of a mass-exodus of sorts in fleeing the church to join the culture. According to various studies, “70 percent of youth stop attending church when they graduate from high school. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church (1).” As my good friend Andrew Morrison keeps saying, “we are on the verge of a second 1960s counterculture revolution” and this revolution is going to get ugly.

Now who exactly is leaving and why are they leaving so soon? To be precise, the youth from middle school to college are leaving the church. By ‘the church’ I mean that as both Judeo-Christianity specifically and religion in general, as the youth embrace the pressures of society to conform to the inward and outward expressions of sin. This grand departure is happening primarily in the Western part of the world (i.e. North America and Europe), which is due to a number of circumstances.

From personal online investigation to public inquiry with others in this age range, I have whittled down the leading reasons as to why the youth are leaving so soon to 5 options. These 5 options include a) the youth unable to freely question, b) not enough reason to believe in God beyond the morally therapeutic deism prevalent today (2), c) not challenged or tested to do otherwise in their way of thinking, d) objective truths have been exchanged for relevant subjectivism, and e) other undisclosed reasons that are more specific to the individual. Regarding the last option for instance, the problem of suffering has caused a lot of people to leave because of both immense personal doubt and sorrow, along with the theological implications over any given situation of suffering (natural disaster, miscarriage, rape, etc). Another notable example for the final option would be the controversial views of the church as it is both pro-life and for traditional marriage, rather than pro-choice and in support of non-traditional forms of marriage (i.e. gay marriage).

This ‘generation gap’ of the youth rebelling against the truth has been an issue that has always been present within the church as it lies in direct conflict with the culture and its way of thinking. For the youthful in particular, one of the greatest choices one can make is whether to go with the flow downstream (i.e. the culture) or go against the flow upstream (i.e. the church). Once one chooses either option, they must therefore reject the other for we ought to be in the world (the culture), but not of it as the church has always been this way as Christ Himself prayed for us to live in this manner (3).

The question remains: as a young person, how do we avoid leaving so soon or if we have already left, how do we come back home to Christ and in fellowship with His church? As I have thought upon this topic, I believe the answer lies in one of my favorite books in the Bible: the book of Colossians. It is here where I think the young believer, such as you or someone you know or even myself, can find solutions to this inveterate problem in the church.

Just as the prodigal in Luke chapter 15 left to indulge in sin and was still a son of his father, we too are sometimes in a state of being a prodigal, but we do have the hope of always being a child of God as believers. There is always the hope that no matter how far a believer temporarily runs away from God, they still have the opportunity to turn back and ask for forgiveness. In the book of Colossians, we find 5 factors that will guide us on the straight and narrow or for those of us who have already left so soon, a way back home. The first of these factors is a matter of the mind.

 

Protect Our Minds

“I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument… See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (4).”

In this day and age, the battle for the mind has never been a more intense struggle for the youth. Whether we acknowledge it or not, the Enemy, the World, and even our own sin nature desire to corrupt our minds to the point of permanent decimation. Do not give in. Resist and fight back by protecting your mind as you hold fast to the truth of Christ’s victory at the cross and pray for the LORD to do a work within you.

Know what He died and rose again for in the first place. Know with certainty the truths of Scripture in all aspects, whether that be hermeneutically, historically, philosophically, or scientifically. Most importantly, stay on guard spiritually. This is where apologetics is key for personal devotion in the believers life. Apologetics is the sledgehammer of evangelism because it destroys strongholds of skepticism hiding the hearts of men, but also acts as a chisel of continuous refinement as we seek to be better. Apologetics protects the mind, but prayer solidifies that defense like nothing else.

By knowing the truth and consistently learning to be better equipped mentally, the believer is that much more ready for the battle of the mind. Nothing can stop the truth and if Jesus is the truth (5), then we can have full assurance in times of doubt that what we believe is worth fighting for in the end both mentally and spiritually. Fight off the mental warfare of this world system that is intent on crushing you with everything they’ve got.

Get up and brush off those books. Be a student of God by protecting your mind with the truths of God’s Word and His glorious Creation through the avenue of apologetics, while at the same time constantly praying for God to shield your mind from what knowledge cannot protect you from. We live in the information age and we ought to act like it for once as the church. The best offense is a better defense. Be an apologist, not an apostate. Be informed, not uninformed.

 

Purpose In Our Minds

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth (6).”

After the mind is protected, it must be redirected to the things of God. To purpose in our minds and to think upon the spiritually good, rather than the spiritually bad will ensure a sober mind for the backsliding believer seeking to please God once more. Be sober and be vigilant as the Apostle Peter once said (7). Think like Christ thinks. As Daniel purposed in his mind to honor the LORD by obeying the Mosaic Law (8), so too we ought to purpose in our minds to honor God above all else through the process of renewing our minds (9). It will take time to reconfigure the way you think, but it is mandatory as you turn back to God.

 

Purpose In Our Church Body

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (10).”

From the mental to the social, Paul lines out how we should purpose and aim as the church to live as one body of believers submitted to the authority of God and His Word. There must be a deliberate attempt to be in constant fellowship with other believers because it is what unifies the Bride of Christ in a way that glorifies God. We bear burdens, we forgive sins, we wisely teach, we wisely admonish, and most of all love because He first loved us.

As Christians, either we are one or we are none. As was said by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses (11).” Be active in both the local church you attend and the church at large. Pray with believers and seek God. Camaraderie is the key in a community, especially for us as we are the church. As the 1st century Christians lived (12), so we should live in fellowship with one another in Jesus name.

 

Purpose In Our Hearts

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve (13).”

For most, if not all who leave so soon, it is a matter of the heart. By a matter of the heart, I mean to say a combination of internal motivations and external attitudes we may have in our day-to-day living. These things must change as we purpose in our hearts not live like we once did, but to live according to what the LORD insists for each and every one of us. The Israelites had to purpose in their hearts as they chose to love God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength (14). Once you know how to love God, only then will you be able to love.

Later on in history, we find Ezra the priest and scribe displaying this fourth point in action as he “set his heart” on learning the Word of God, living out the Word of God, before teaching others in a like manner (15). Yet before any outward actions took place, Ezra had to fix his heart and aim it towards God. We must do likewise, if we intend on getting right with God before our inevitable prodigal exodus or on the way back from one. We must set both our minds and our hearts on the things above, not on the things below.

 

Purpose In Our Speech

“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person (16).”

Nothing says that you are looking to change quite like the way you transform the way you speak to others. How do you communicate to people? To family? To friends? To enemies? Can you truthfully say that you speak with a courteous and tactful manner that stands out from when you chose to leave God or before you were even with God? Is there a difference in the way you talk from when you were a prodigal to now as another member of the pasture of the Good Shepherd?

Eventually, on the way back to the loving arms of the LORD you should notice a change in the way you speak. Not just in vocabulary, but most importantly the intent of your speech in the first place. Tell me: why do you talk in the first place? What is the intent in what you say when, where, why, and how you say it? Jesus put special emphasis on what we say (17) as it can lead to either our declaration of our salvation in Christ or our damnation away from His grace.

In his book, Fool’s Talk, esteemed author Os Guinness lays out the biblical pattern in which every believer should speak both publicly in social gatherings and even privately in our hearts and minds. He argues that everyone is a fool. Either you are a fool for Christ or a fool of the world. As Jesus put it when preaching on the Beatitudes, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (18), so in all things learn to speak wisdom. Like salt, speak in a way that preserves the humanity of whoever you talk to, while simultaneously expelling the hardheartedness of their sin nature. It’s about time we spoke like fools.

Final Thoughts

It’s a hard road leaving sin to seek the Savior, but is totally worth it in the end. Adjustments will be made both consciously and unconsciously as you grow more spiritually attuned to God’s liking and as the Holy Spirit does His refining within you. As for you, myself, or someone you may know that is in this age group, we will radically change in three main aspects of who we are in life: our minds, our hearts, and our words. This trifecta can be seen in the return home for the previously mentioned prodigal son of Luke 15 and is a pattern that has been seen in every prodigal throughout time.

Be against the flow, not with it! Return to the LORD and all His goodness! Put on the full armor of God and doing all to stand up to sin, stay standing. I pray that God would do a mighty work in you as He guides your mind, heart, and words to be in alignment with Him and His Word.

Why are you leaving so soon? Your life with God in perfect servitude has only just begun! Stay and see what the true, triune God has in store for you! With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. http://www.churchleaders.com/children/childrens-ministry-articles/166129-marc-solas-10-surprising-reasons-our-kids-leave-church.htmlhttp://crossexamined.org/youth-exodus-problem/. See also Galatians 5:7-8 when Paul the Apostle address the same issue in the first century.
  2. http://www.christianpost.com/news/top-3-false-christian-beliefs-leading-americas-youth-astray-american-family-association-172100/
  3. NASB John 17:9-16
  4. NASB Colossians 2:4, 8
  5. NASB John 14:6
  6. NASB Colossians 3:2
  7. KJV 1 Peter 5:8
  8. NASB Daniel 1:8
  9. NASB Romans 12:2-3
  10. NASB Colossians 3:12-17
  11. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community (P. 86)
  12. NKJV Acts 2:42, NKJV 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22, NKJV Hebrews 10:23-25
  13. NASB Colossians 3:23-24
  14. NKJV Deuteronomy 6:5-7
  15. NASB Ezra 7:10
  16. NASB Colossians 4:5-6
  17. NASB Matthew 12:36-37
  18. NLT Luke 6:45

 

 

Isolated Together

Photo Cred: “Isolated Together” in Sheffield, England (2012) by Phlegm.

 

Believe it or not, there once was a time when people had to talk in person. Face-to-face, breathing the same air, in the same space, and hold eye contact. Crazy right? It was a time not to long ago where people did this crazy thing called personal communication. A blissful span of time where when one person wanted to interact socially with another person, they would actually interact with that person socially. But that all changed with one simple, yet immensely influential tool: social media.

Social Media. It is the connective tissue of the 21st century. The webbing of the social spider that travels back and forth across the internet. In today’s world, it is not too hard to go about your day without being confronted by the ripple effect of social media. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Kikme, Pinterest, or whatever the latest app is on the market, their presence is well known to almost everyone. Yet have we ever stepped back and asked “Just as there are good side effects to social media use, can there be bad ones as well?”

Unequivocally, the answer is yes. While social media has paved the way for great advancements in society, such as the expansion of globalization, introducing us to the peak of the information age, a more-informed public, and instant communication, it has also brought with it negative side effects with short and long lasting impressions on modern mankind. For the sake of time, I will focus on three briefly in this blog-post: the physical effects, the sociological effects, and the spiritual effects. First let’s start with the physical effects.

The Physical Effects

If it was not apparent already, social media has over time altered human anatomy and the way we move about in life. This can be seen in how some people have severe curves in the vertebrae due to slouching over a computer desk (or a mobile device)  interacting online, whether in their back or neck to the rise in the population diagnosed with some form of nearsightedness. Various studies on this issue have concluded that “Between 1970 and 2000, myopia — nearsightedness — prevalence in the U.S. rose from 25 percent to nearly 42 percent among people ages 12 to 54” (1) and with the spike of online interaction via social media, the numbers have continued to climb.

Other common symptoms include, but are not limited to obesity, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and even more serious addictions that are directly caused by the abuse of social media. These more serious addictions that stem from the gateway drug of the digital world range from substance abuse to an increase in sexual activity in adolescents due to such variables as the amount of information available online through hyper-networking, the brain seeking different stimulations to hit high dopamine levels, and the addictive nature of social media leading to misconstrued fantasies to feed our own narcissism, yet at the same time appealing to the favor of our precious followers.

The Sociological Effects

Allen and co. in the Australian Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology 31 [(1):1-14 · July 2014] conducted an experiment exploring the effects of social media on adolescents and concluded that

Mixed findings are reported regarding the role that social media plays in fostering social connectedness, which suggests that young people may experience both positive and negative psychological outcomes. As a result, this article argues that online tools create a paradox for social connectedness. On one hand, they elevate the ease in which individuals may form and create online groups and communities, but on the other, they can create a source of alienation and ostracism. (2)

This ostracised generation has formed a socio-conscious isolated togetherness where we are together, but isolated in attention and activity. Similar to how people disengage on an airplane flight. We are all heading to the same destination with the same people for a specified duration of time, but we are completely removed from social interaction whatsoever with our fellow neighbors. Why?

Hard to say, but it is something all of us do in certain situations like riding your local city bus or waiting in line at the DMV, except we do it to our friends and family. Not total strangers, but those closest to us both in culture and community. Doesn’t that seem a bit odd that we would rather stare at blue lit phones, than enjoy the company of our loved ones?

Regardless, social media plays off of this “us vs. them” mentality innate in all of us by giving us an outlet to feed our egos in moments of complete social isolation. We can pretend we are together with someone we know virtually, when in reality we are alone with strangers or even with no one around. Odd how instead of expanding our social circles when introduced to new personalities in our world, we keep our small circles squares and inevitably block ourselves into our own tiny bubble castles with those we would rather talk to, instead of talking to those people.

Gee, and we wonder why evangelism is dead in the West. We chose to preach to the church, instead of the community. We would rather exchange cute quotes with those who believe what we believe, than share worldviews with those whose beliefs delineate from our own ideas regarding what is really true.

The Spiritual Effects

This is the most important effect and I see it a lot. Less praying and more posting. Although social disconnectedness is bad, along with physical deterioration from electronic overuse, nothing is worse than spiritual separation. As we spend more and more of our time online, we spend less and less with God. We prefer tweeting, rather than hermeneutics and serious study of God’s Word. We would rather check Instagram for hearts, then check our hearts for sin.

This spiritual separation is our ultimate devolution and is yet another blockade from connecting with our great God. With all of our attention on ourselves, we blur the line between who we are and who we say we are to the world. As we jump into the matrix of the digital world, we place our masks on and dance along with the masquerade of happiness that so many of us lie about. A lot of us pretend to be content and happy, yet our “good vibes” cannot rebuild this spiritual separation.

The only cure to this disconnect with God is to disconnect from social media and all other distractions that draw us away from God. We then are able to reconnect with God when we are at a distraction-less state and ready to commune with our Maker. For the sake of our spiritual channel of relation to God, we may need to cut down on our consumption of social media and our desire to satisfy ourselves.

Conclusion

By this point, you may think I am some sort of Amish, “technology is Satanic” types of people that completely abstain from anything post-1600 A.D. Well, that could not be farther from the truth. In fact, I use social media all the time! Just ask people that know me. Not only for social reasons, but also for business and marketing reasons as well to further establish my brand I am in the process of developing. The only reason I would be against social media use is when it affects me or others either physically, socially (ironically), or spiritually. If one or all of those factors are hindered, then it is time to unplug and fix those because your body, your social circles, and our God matter more than viral videos.

Is social media bad? No, but it does have both good and bad connotations when using it excessively on a daily basis. Sort of like fitness. The pursuit of being physically healthy and in shape is not bad at all. Indeed, it is really good for you and has lots of benefits. But when someone decides to workout every single day for hours on end they hit a point where their conventional habit turns into an addiction with negative effects. As Dr. Holly Parker, a Harvard University psychologist and certified personal trainer, once said in an article for Fox News, “The benefits you want from working out—getting leaner, stronger, healthier—reverse when you don’t take breaks” (3). Put plainly, too much good can be bad.

In short, it really is a balancing act as you use social media to touch base with loved ones and meet new people, while in the same respect getting instant news and entertainment. With that, there has to be a point where you must decide when you have had enough for one day. Take a break and do something else. There is no need to be online 24/7. Go outside. Read a book (like my Aunt Cortney’s new “The Naked Confidence Cookbook” only on Amazon). Play fetch with dogs. Dogs like to play fetch. You could even talk to real people in real time, which is real fun.

It’s not healthy to stay wired all the time. For once, take a break for not only your own sake, but for the sake of others. Learn to understand the value of life and time by taking moments throughout your day-to-day routine to appreciate the simply astounding things no app could ever capture. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. http://www.thegazette.com/subject/life/health-social-media-affects-the-teens-tweens-physical-and-mental-health-20150226
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260289323_Social_Media_Use_and_Social_Connectedness_in_Adolescents_The_Positives_and_the_Potential_Pitfalls. Also, see both this link http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/social-networks-and-health-communicable-but-not-infectious and this link http://www.med.upenn.edu/chbr/documents/AmyGonzales-PublicHealthandSocialMediaTalk.pdf for more information regarding the effects of social media on our sociological state of being.
  3. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/09/27/how-much-working-out-is-too-much.html

Three Trees

Photo Cred: The Three Trees (1643) by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

This is a tale of three trees.

One tree grants the beholder immortality,

While another gives knowledge of morality.

This tale begins in a garden.

At first there is only a human,

But he becomes accompanied by the mother of women.

As the two wander,

They begin to wonder,

And curiosity begets the female traveler.

For of the three trees, only one came with a warning.

The tree of life being one of the many meant for eating.

But the tree of good and evil symbolized mankind’s future erring,

With the underpinnings of sinning.

For the serpent of old has arrived,

Bringing with him his own pride,

That so happens to be why he died.

With the snake slithering past every leaf,

Is the ever encroaching presence of the prince of thieves.

As the cunning snake dangles downward,

The woman ever so slowly goes forward.

As the Devil invites her to taste and see,

She avoids her chance to run and flee.

With the slither of Satan’s lies,

Came Eve’s enraptured eyes.

As she aspires to be wise,

Her desires begin to rise.

The fruit is within Eve’s hand,

As she is one bite away from being damned.

With the very first bite,

Eve realizes that the Devil was right!

For when she ate of the fruit,

Eve soon discovered this strange compute.

From knowing only good,

The woman has only added fire to wood.

As the decay began that day,

Eve no longer had a say.

Her goodness had been tainted by sin,

And too would it be in all humans built-in.

Once sin took its foothold,

Eve did not want to stand alone in the cold.

So she gave to her man,

And suddenly took his unblemished lifespan.

Pretty soon the two were no longer good,

Yet if they could go back they would.

But it is too late now,

For man is now putting his hand to the plow.

For we are dust,

All because of lust.

To dust we shall return,

Before some will forever burn.

Although a few will get to waltz into a glorious new home,

Far more beautiful than the pinnacle of Rome.

This new home is for the Judeo-Christian,

And with every fleeting moment there is a new addition,

Due to the adherence to the Great Commission.

For Adam gave life to sin in every human,

While Jesus gave His life for sin that we can be born again.

He did this so that we might be grafted into salvation,

In order to bring about the redemption of His Creation.

Since the day we brought forth this ruckus,

The Father has sought to bring about justice.

So the Father sent His Son Jesus,

To save us from the Fall in Genesis.

You see he died on the third tree,

A cross that changed history,

Jesus atoned for all on Calvary.

This all began because of a choice between two trees,

And the choice was left to Eve.

So when the snares of sin come swarming like bees,

Consider the consequences of your actions please.

Discipled and How to Stay That Way

Discipleship. It is the process wherein the knowledge, skills, and teachings of a person or society are passed down onto the next generation, in order to preserve the ideals of a former time. It is an evolution of information from one generation to the next generation that bears great significance in almost every culture. From the śrāvaka system of followers in Buddhism to the traditions of knighthood in the European Middle Ages where a child would work their way from Page to Squire to Knight (1), the passing on of discipleship has always been a key to the advancements mankind has made throughout history.

Even in modern times, academics has become a sort of discipleship for scholars, although instead of strictly studying under only one mentor there is the luxury of accumulating mass amounts of information under many mentors within a short span of time. Yet there are other ways of discipleship, such as craftsmen with a specific skillset like a woodworker or a mechanic. Regardless, discipleship is a key to human development.

So then, what is discipleship in Judeo-Christianity and why is it so crucial to Judeo-Christianity? In simple terms, a disciple is “a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another. (2)” In this case, that would be the doctrines of Church Tradition, which originate with the teachings of Jesus the Messiah that were based off of Judaism. Even then, Judaism was directly instructed by YHWH (God) to the Hebrew people who passed it on through each and every generation. Within a Judeo-Christian context, there are 5 varying levels of discipleship in a pyramid structure set from top to bottom in order of closest followers in relation to Christ: the 1, the 3, the 12, the 70, and the masses. Shown below is an example of this breakdown:

 

  • The 1: Peter (formerly known as Simon).
  • The 3: Peter, James the son of Zebedee (or Jacob), and John.
  • The 12: Peter, James the son of Zebedee, John the brother of James, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (or Jacob) the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot (or the Cananaean), and Judas Iscariot.
  • The 70: the appointed 70 (or 72) sent in 35 (or 36) pairs into the cities that Jesus would eventually go to shortly.
  • The Masses: The crowds that would gather during specific moments of Jesus Christ’s 3-year ministry.

 

If we were to use this template for one of my mentors, Andrew Morrison, it would look something like this for the men he has mentored at our old youth group:

  • The 1: Bailey.
  • The 3: Bailey, Christopher (Me), and David.
  • The 12: Bailey, Christopher (Me), David, Zachary, John (My Brother), Jeremiah, Yomar, Daniel, Jaden, Samuel, Taylor, and Jeffrey.
  • The 70: the youth group of students that he served in a local congregation that we both went to for a number of years.
  • The Masses: all the students that have ever interacted or met Andrew.

So what is expected of a disciple? What does a disciple of Christ do and what did the disciples do when Jesus was still on Earth? In retrospect, the disciples were expected to do a lot from Jesus such as having authority over unclean spirits (3), instructed them to feed the 5,000 (4), commanded them to not rebuke those that cast out evil spirits in Jesus name (5), and even giving up family to follow Him (6). These are just a few examples from the Gospel of Mark, but there are numerous other instances where Jesus expects His disciples through faith in Him to do the remarkable, yet settle for standing on the sidelines.

It was not until later on that the disciples slowly became more adamant in following what Jesus actually taught them. A notable example is when Peter and 120 other believers gathered together to pray. After some time, the Day of Pentecost came where they all began proclaiming the wonderful things of God in the native tongues of the various people groups in the Jerusalem area. When some critics accused them of being drunk, Peter stood up and preached his infamous sermon that led to the conversion of 3,000 people into the Kingdom of God (7).

But what do we do once our mentors leave us and move onto the next calling God has drawn them towards in life? In actuality it is quite simple: do what your mentor did. Now I know that can be a vague answer, so allow me to breakdown what most mentors do by using the greatest example that is Jesus.

In the few years that Jesus publicly led a ministry, He did some distinct things that every mentor does concerning discipleship. He chose His disciples (8), He lived life with His disciples (9), and taught them all that they needed to know before it was time for Him to leave (10). Put simply, the disciples of Christ and the disciple of any mentor is a) selected, b) schooled, c) and sent (11). This third and final point is when the discipleship cycle repeats itself. When Jesus left to go to Heaven, each of the twelve took on disciples to teach what they were taught to bring about the furtherance of the Gospel message. For instance, Peter discipled John-Mark, while John discipled both Prochorus and Polycarp.

Contrary to some, the twelve didn’t choose Jesus, rather Jesus chose His twelve disciples (12). After Jesus chose them, then they chose to answer the invitation and follow Him. Likewise, when your time comes to disciple another, you must choose them first as the disciple-maker. Then that person that you choose, whoever it may be, must decide whether or not to follow you as you follow Christ.

Regarding living life together, Jesus ate with his disciples, had the twelve report back to Him regarding their mission trips and outreaches (13), along with private sermons during their travels (14). It was this intimate exposure and schooling that led to the ultimate martyrdom of 10 disciples, the suicide of Judas Iscariot due to self-inflicted condemnation, and John’s death in exile on the island of Patmos. The effect that Jesus had on those who knew Him best was extraordinary.

This same effect will be present in the relationships that a mentor and a disciple have with each other. An unbreakable bond of friendship or sadly for some, an absolutely heartbreaking end for either the mentor or the disciple. The key to the heartbreak is forgiveness because for you mentors, your disciples will fail you and for you disciples, your mentors will fail you. Forgiveness and grace must always be present in these interactions of learning. Mentors choose wisely and disciples follow discerningly.

Now one more point that must be addressed and that is this: the difference between parenting and mentoring. The two are usually smashed together, but I see them as separate roles that one can have in their lifetime. A parent, whether father or mother, has the role of equipping their children with how to live in life. They teach us how to dress, how to behave, how to talk, how to eat, how to maintain personal cleanliness, how to treat others, and other skills that we all need to know. All the necessities and essentials of life, in order to properly operate in our given society or culture. Basically, our ultimate well-being during our upbringing.

A mentor is someone that chooses you to learn a specific skill, tool, or message to carry onto the next generation. They are the sports coaches, the school teachers, and the managers that we all have had in our lives. They teach us how to perform in our selective sport or how to be the best that we can be at our jobs that may become careers. They may teach us mathematics, science, history, or any other academic pursuit, but nevertheless teach us the specificities of that certain pursuit.

Parenting is a familial, whether biological or adoptive, inherited affair that has the sole purpose of teaching the generalities in life to your child(ren). Mentoring is a non-familial, chosen affair that has the sole purpose of teaching the specificities in life to your student(s). In other words, a parent may teach you how to change the oil in your car or how to change a tire, but a mentor teaches you every facet of what the car is and how to build one to its fullest potential.

Back to the topic at hand, how does one stay discipled? You stay disciplined in the ways of your mentor by living out what was taught to you by your mentor. In this case, follow them as they follow Christ. Do what they did. What did they do? They did their best to emulate what Jesus lived. He selected His disciples, He schooled them in all that they needed to know, and once they were done being schooled were consequently sent out to select new disciples in Jesus name.

Discipleship was and never is easy. It costs a lot. A lot more than you could ever imagine. The role of a mentor is even more costly because you have taken the responsibility to pour everything that you know to be true into this soul that may or may not take in what you have to say. Jesus referred to discipleship as a daily dying of self (15) and this is the best description of discipleship. Die to self to give life to another. The ultimate sacrifice for there is no greater love than to lay your life down for a friend (16). A disciple. A child in the faith.

Press on and stand strong. It may be time to leave your mentor to be a mentor, but do not be afraid because you follow Jesus. Don’t become distracted with the affairs of this life. Be attentive. Don’t attend a church. Be the church. Don’t be a church goer. Be a church constructor. Above all, be a fisher of men by being a disciple-maker.

 

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

 

Footnotes

  1. http://www.lordsandladies.org/steps-to-knighthood.htm
  2. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/disciple?s=t
  3. Mark 6:7-13
  4. Mark 6:33-44
  5. Mark 9:38-40
  6. Mark 10:28-31
  7. Acts 2:1-42
  8. Mark 1:14-20, Mark 2:14
  9. Mark 2:15-17
  10. Mark 4:33-34
  11. My Dad created this three-word description of discipleship: selected, schooled, and sent out.
  12. John 15:16
  13. Mark 6:30
  14. Mark 8:14-21
  15. Luke 9:23
  16. John 15:13

If God exists, then why is there so much evil in the world?

The Question: “If God exists, then why is there so much evil in the world?”

My Response: Well if God exists, then why is there so much good in the world? The question in its very nature is problematic because it relies on a partial-variable. It depends on the assumption that God and evil cannot both exist. If this assumption is true, then God and good cannot both exist. Thus, leaving the universe amoral, which we all know is a flawed, but true conclusion. It is true based off of basic deductive reasoning from our previous premises, yet flawed because evil and good are both quite evident in our universe. For examples of evil look no further than the horrors of war, famine, pestilence, natural disasters, and the like. For instances of good look no further than the sacrificial love of a mother for her child, giving to those that are in need, treating others the way you want to be treated, and so on.

Let me use an analogy to further my point: let’s say I have a coin. You say that if I flip this coin 100 times with it landing on heads every single time in a row, then there must be no coin maker. Now I say if I flip this coin 100 times with it landing on tails every single time in a row, then there must be a coin maker. Let’s surmise that such a scenario occurs where you’re right: the coin lands on heads 100 times in row. Does your conclusion logically make sense that there is no coin maker? No and neither would mine any more so than yours because it is focused on the coin’s mathematical probability of landing on heads or tails. When the focus should shift to “where did we get the coin in the first place?”

That’s the root issue here. Where do objective moral values come from in the first place? For the sake of time, objective moral values will be abbreviated to OMV. In my analogy, the coin represents OMV and likewise each side of the coin represents one side of those OMV (heads = objectively negative moral values -> “evil” and tails = objectively positive moral values -> “good”).

Therefore, as is the case with all things there must be an objective standard to determine what are objectively negative moral values (evil) and what are objectively positive moral values (good). This objective standard can only be 4 things: from something less than myself [nature](1), from something equal to myself [individual](2), from others equal to myself [society](3), or from something greater than myself [God](4).

Now, how am I obligated by something less than me [nature](1) to obey these OMV? There’s no need to be obligated by nature since nature is beneath mankind. Why should I lower my standards to comply with values of nature? When something within nature kills it is survival of the fittest, yet when we kill it is murder. So, should I obligate myself [individual](2) to these OMV? Do I have that absolute authority? If so, I myself can remove that absolute authority if I want to, which throws out the second conclusion all together making it obsolete.

Then can others [society](3) obligate me to OMV? Why does the majority have that absolute authority over the minority (myself)? How does a single variable like majority vs. minority suddenly change who can enforce OMV? If there is a society that can, then which one? And if there is one, what happens when that society eventually crumbles like every society before it has? Thus, this objective standard must be greater than myself [God](4) because it (He) is superior to me and can rightfully demand obedience to these OMV as He is greater than I.

Hence, evil and good can only exist if there is a set of OMV determined by an objective standard (God) that can enforce these OMV onto us. This is the most logical and reasonable conclusion. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

The Value of Time

Time. It is the most valuable resource in the universe and in life. As Charles Darwin put it, “A man who dare waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” It is not quite like other resources, such as water or oxygen, because it is not limited by the boundaries of space. It does not actually inhabit any space for that matter or a certain amount of physical matter like water or oxygen can. It is simply there, but in actuality is hard to comprehend sometimes why it is there. One might argue it is its own dimension or reality.

Why is there a countdown for the universe as a whole? Why is the universe limited by an ever increasing range of numbers that eventually will stop when the watchmaker, God, decides that it is time for a new earth and a new heaven (1)? Why even place this limit upon the universe? Why didn’t God just create an eternal universe, instead of a transient universe? Lots of why’s when it comes to time and the concept therein.

Why is time so valuable you might add? Well, unlike water or oxygen it can never be stored or saved for later. Time is ever ending. It is like a bowl of sand being poured out slowly, but surely until the bowl is completely empty. Once the bowl is empty, that’s it. Time has run out. As scary as that sounds, that is the reality of time.

Another way of understanding time is that it is like throwing a stone or firing a gun at a specific target. Both the bullet and the stone will travel for awhile at their consistent rates before colliding with the target, thus ending their course. Time is like the distance the bullet and the stone travel, the “trigger-man” so to speak is God causing everything into being which includes the starting point of time, and the target is the end of time when God says “Times up!

Then again, is time even linear to begin with? Some say time is linear, while others propose it is cyclic like a cone (i.e. the Big Bang Model), along with a few that say it may even be an ever expanding sphere of sorts (i.e. a balloon being blown up). Now I’m no scholar, so I cannot determine which view is correct, but I can say they all have valid merit to believe in each understanding of time.

For the traditional view of time, that camp argues that there was a first cause and since that first cause there has been a sequential series of events moving on a horizontal plane to an unknown end. Think like a ruler or a simple line with two end points. They can measure things like distance and such.

In the cyclic (cone) group of thinkers, they presume that time is a lot like the way people understand the universe in that both are expanding in the shape of a cone. There was a starting point where the first cause occurred, but since then it has been expanding larger and larger. These thinkers use the phenomena of red-shift stretching across space as proof of this hypothesis for this way of comprehending time.

The third camp does likewise in that they use red-shift as evidence for their view, but to a different extent. They argue that time is a lot like a big ball that is slowly, but surely growing in size until it finally pops. An easy example would be to refer to the way oxygen fills up a balloon until it explodes. In a way, they believe time is a swirling twirl of cause and effect colliding in an incomprehensible pattern that is interwoven like a ball of yarn. A chaotic masterpiece.

Why do I bring up these various ideas of time? Because I want you to understand how much we do not understand about time. How much we barely know about it. Alas, how much we as human beings under appreciate time and undervalue it. Well, I’m here to argue for the importance of time. Life’s most valuable resource.

The Bible, God’s inspired Word, has a lot to say concerning the concept of time. The actual word “time” appears in the NASB translation of the Bible 626 times. To say that time is important to God is an extreme understatement. Some passages of Scripture that come to mind is first and foremost Ecclesiastes chapter 3 where King Solomon reflects on the concept of time and seasons. In the chapter, he asserts that “there is an appointed time for everything.” Essentially, every single moment in time matters, no matter how big or small that moment in the grand scheme of things may be. In life, there is no coincidences, only opportunities. With this in mind, nothing can be random because something caused that “random” effect.

Time is a lot like the wind or gravity. We cannot actually see them, but we can observe their effects on our environment, our dimension. Except, recently a group of scientists did find that gravity waves were detected back in February of 2016, so besides that you get the idea. Time is an effect-full, yet invisible force of nature that affects everything within the universe, including the universe itself.

You see, time is a loan from God. When God first caused and created the universe, along with everything within it, a countdown was started. From that point onward time has been counting down to the moment when the timeline of the said universe ends. With this in mind, everything within the universe also has a beginning, middle, and end, such as ourselves. We are born, live our lives hopefully to the fullest, and then die. It is the cycle of everything in the universe. Unless you are Denzel Washington. Denzel Washington is forever Denzel Washington.

The point is that because we are limited by this variable we have dubbed time, we are also on a countdown to our inevitable end. Eventually, our time here in the material realm will be done as we transition in the spiritual realms of either Heaven or Hell. If you adhere to the Naturalist worldview, then this is it and you have nothing to look forward to. Those who hold a theistic worldview, like myself for example, can look forward to a better or worse eternity. For the Naturalist, nothing. Even in this life there is nothing. From the Naturalist’s worldview, you have no meaning, purpose, or value.

Now let’s observe the other position. That there is meaning, purpose, and value because there is something beyond the material as the theistic worldview asserts. Where does this meaning, purpose, and value come from? Well, just as the meaning, purpose, and value of a work of art comes from the artist giving their artwork these qualities, so too does us as the creation of the great Creator of the universe, namely God.

Since we derive our meaning, purpose, and value from God it would only make sense that those must be fulfilled in this life where we were placed to begin with by God. I mean why would God instill these desires in our hearts, if not to see us follow His plans for our lives and satisfy these desires within our lifetimes? C.S. Lewis once spoke of this predicament when he said “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists” (2).

The question remains: how do we fulfill these desires and how does this tie back into the value of time? Well, let’s go back to what the Bible has to say on the topic of time in a bit more detail. This will clue us in on how to appropriately answer this question in a way that is both emotionally and logically reasonable. If time is a variable in which we are contingent on, how do we use it to our benefit to satisfy our ultimate desires for meaning, purpose, and value? In the book of Exodus, reflection and remembrance is a key theme that carries throughout this book in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Specifically, Exodus 13:10-14 where the LORD instructs the Hebrews on how they are to reflect and remember how God delivered them from the land of Egypt by taking them to the Promised Land. This aspect of reflecting and remembering time is also of note in Exodus chapter 34 where an entire chapter is dedicated to this idea of remembrance, particularly Exodus 34:21 where the Hebrews are commanded by God to rest. The key lesson here is that there is a time and a place for everything. God formulated this philosophy when He created the universe by spending six days working and one day resting. Thus, fulfilling what we would call the work week.

Next, we jump to Nehemiah 2:6 where we can use time as a measurement to map out our lives or God can for that matter (3). Yet at the same instant, as the saying goes, be “a man of our word.” Nehemiah did this when he gave King Artaxerxes accompanied by the Queen a definite time of when he would return. A promise was proclaimed.

There are “God-Moments” when God enters time and accomplishes His will for His glory by allowing us free agents to bring about these so-called “God Moments” (4). Time can peel away inner heartache that can unveil who we are or what we have become (5). Time is a witness of the past (6) and is always brimming with opportunity (7) for us to fulfill our God-given desires.

How do I spend my time? Good question. How should I spend my time? Better question. If time is a loan from God, then how much time has God given me? No one knows. I don’t know and you don’t know. It is what makes this life so interesting and so risky. Our time is set, yet we are not informed of how much time is set.

That is why we must use our time wisely, in order to make the most of the time we are given from God. We must redeem the time (8) as we wait expectantly for the appointed time to be fulfilled and remain alert for that to pass (9). We use our time wisely when we set out to fulfill the God-given desires of our hearts by abiding in Christ, which will in turn satisfy our craving for ultimate meaning, purpose, and value.

Love your loved ones. Fellowship with friends. Work hard and do not become sluggish in what may end up being your final moments. The past grows as the future shrinks, so this is the time to seek God. This life that you and I live is an ever ending marathon. A journey one might say that is not over until time is over and we enter eternity.

This is just a brief summary of why I uphold the value of time and treasure it far above anything that this life can offer because time is what God has given us. How will we use this gift? What will we do with our time? Well, that is up to you now isn’t it? With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

 

Footnotes

_________________________________________________________________

  1. 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1-5
  2. Mere Christianity (bk. 3, chap. 10)
  3. Exodus 9:5; Psalm 75:2; Daniel 2:16
  4. Judges 16:28
  5. Job 36:10, 15
  6. Isaiah 30:8
  7. John 7:6
  8. Ephesians 5:16
  9. Mark 1:15; 13:33